A question of symmetry

Sir James, 3rd Baronet, was a firm believer in symmetry, so Penicuik House was designed with two staircases of equal importance leading up from the front hall – a somewhat dated treatment as the fashion of the time was for a grand state staircase with a smaller secondary stair for servants.

Penicuik House was designed with two staircases of equal importance leading up from the front hall

Penicuik House was designed with two staircases of equal importance leading up from the front hall

The resulting elevated central portico, and the positioning of the bedroom floor on the attic storey under a platform roof attracted criticism from both Sir James’s family and the architect Robert Adam, whose sister Susanna was married to one of Sir James’s brothers, John Clerk of Eldin.

However the consciously outmoded design and the four-square planning of the rooms delighted Sir James and echoed the vision of his father, Sir John Clerk: “Above the attic floor a platform roof may be extended like a spacious field from when the many pleasant landskips [sic] round may be with ease and delight survey’d.” (“The Country Seat”, 1720s)