Country houses for sale

The magnificent apartment that hosted Lloyd George, Churchill and Conan Doyle

This exquisite apartment within a ‘splendid mansion of Grecian architecture’ was once owned by Arthur Balfour – and hosted everyone from King Edward VII and Winston Churchill to Lloyd George and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Whittingehame House was the home of Arthur Balfour, prime minister from 1902 to 1905.

Commissioned by James Balfour (1773-1845), the property was designed by architect Sir Robert Smirke, who was also responsible for a number of neo-classical buildings including the Royal Mint Court at Tower Hill and the British Museum in Bloomsbury in London. The New Statistical Account called it a ‘splendid mansion of Grecian architecture’ and to this day it is regarded as one of the finest neo-classical country houses.

Whittingehame House

James Balfour’s grandson, A J Balfour, was born at Whittingehame and succeeded to the estate in 1856, aged 7. Later, he lived there during the summer and parliamentary recess.

In 1917 he made the Balfour Declaration, a statement of British support for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Some reports suggest the papers were signed in the library at Whittingehame House. Against this background, Balfour’s nephew and heir, Viscount Traprain, decided to offer Whittingehame House as a haven for Jewish children fleeing from the growing anti-Semitism in Europe. As a result, between 1939 and 1941, the house became Whittingehame Farm School for Jewish refugee children coming to Britain through the Kindertransport rescue programme. The school sheltered 160 children between the ages of seven and 17.

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The Balfour family sold Whittingehame House in 1963 and it became Holt School for Boys, which originated in Lockerbie. The school closed in 1980, after which it was split into apartments.

For sale through Strutt & Parker for offers over £1.85m, the exquisitely refurbished Apartment 1 is the largest (9,022sq ft) in this magnificent Grade A-listed neoclassical mansion  which sits in a very attractive part of East Lothian.

Highlights include three opulent state rooms, a secret door in the library and a conservatory which has been converted into a stunning bathroom.

Whittingehame House

The public rooms included within Apartment 1 have played host to a remarkable roll-call of eminent political figures including William Gladstone, Winston Churchill, David Lloyd George and Joseph Chamberlain as well as authors H G Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle. During Balfour’s premiership, he was also visited by King Edward VII who planted a commemorative oak tree in the grounds.

Malcolm Leslie, Partner in Strutt & Parker’s Edinburgh office, said: “The period elegance and splendour of this, the principal apartment at Whittingehame House, must be one of the finest examples of its kind and is deserving of the ‘best in class’ epithet. It is redolent with history but equally offers very comfortable contemporary living.”

“It is particularly unusual in offering the benefits of a stately residence but without the overheads associated with a house of this nature. For the owners, it has been a much-loved family home for the past six years. Prior to that, they lived in one of the first-floor apartments. The fact they bought again within the same building is demonstrative of just how special Whittingehame House is.”

Whittingehame House

The house sits in 16 acres of grounds, which form part of the sale of Apartment 1, including a lime walk, a terraced garden within a balustrade, a six-car garage block and a tennis court.

“Whittingehame is also an excellent home for golf lovers,” continues Leslie, “with several courses dotting the county including Muirfield Golf Club, as well as those interested in a variety of outdoor sports such as sailing. Balfour himself called East Lothian a ‘paradise for golfers’ and he kept a boat in Dunbar.”

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