Today this compact, panelled room is painted a smooth green. It is being used as an office space and lucky are those who work there with the presence of past centuries so tangible. In its heyday the room was panelled with paintings of decorative landscapes. When Anne, Duchess of Buccleuch bought Riddle’s Court in 1714 she commissioned a leading painter of the time, James Norie, to transform the Jacobean room with rural vistas.
The height of fashion then and a talking point over cups of tea at the Duchess’s salons, a generation or so on and the fortunes of Riddle’s Court in decline, the panels were seen as gloomy and dated. They were painted over – many times! At some point, several were wrenched from the wall and used as firewood one dark, icy night. The panels were rediscovered in the 1960s when The City of Edinburgh Council were renovating the building. They have now been restored and some are on display at the National Museum of Scotland.
Sir Roderick Mackenzie
Of older origin and amazingly intact is the plastered ceiling. We believe it was commissioned by Sir Roderick Mackenzie of Prestonhall, who bought the house in 1684.
Sir Roderick was a monarchist and a supporter of the Stuart King, Charles II, who was restored to the throne in 1660 after Oliver Cromwell’s rule as Protector.
The royal cypher ‘CR2’ can be seen in the central circle. It is flanked by the crown and the Unionist symbols of the English Rose and the Scottish Thistle. There is some question over the date in that the way it is written could read 1648. But it’s more likely to be 1684 as that’s when Sir Roderick bought the Court.
Norie Room Ceiling
The Norie Room is best known for the ‘Norie Panels’, commissioned by Anne, Duchess of Buccleuch in 1714 which can be found in a recreated room at the National Museum of Scotland. In situ remains the equally important earlier plaster ceiling which remarkably remains nearly 350 years later.
The Royal Cypher CR2 can be seen in the centre circle. Sir Roderick was a monarchist and support of the Stuart King, Charles II, during Oliver Cromwell’s rule as ‘Protector’. Charles was returned to the throne in 1660.
The unionist symbolism of the crown, Scottish thistle and English rose may mark Mackenzie’s position. Although the Act of Union was passed 13 years later, there were other attempts to unite the countries – including in 1688 following the Gloroius Revolution that saw James II disposed by William of Orange.
‘84 or ‘48?
Whilst open to interpretation, our research leads us to believe this is 1684 when Sir Roderick Mackenzie of Prestonhall bought the house and commissioned the ceiling.
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