History of the house: Cammo House

In 1977, a fire ripped through Cammo House and the house that had been in disrepair for many years, was sadly no more.

Built in 1693 by John Menzies of Cammo, the house had over the years built up a strange and mysterious story.

It had seen many owners through the years, each making additions to the house. One of the owners was brewer Alexander Campbell whose city residence was number 6 Charlotte Square, now Bute House, the official residence of Scotland’s First Minister.

Over the years he would go on to collect memberships to the boards of various organisations in the city including being made an ordinary director of the Commercial Bank of Scotland in 1851.

Alexander Campbell died on 12th June 1887 at Cammo House, his retreat on the edge of the city near Cramond which his beer fortune had enabled him to purchase.

In the 1900s it had been bought by the Clark family. Margaret Louisa Tennent was born in Edinburgh in 1859. She married David Bennet Clark in 1887. Their first son Robert was born in 1892 and his brother Percival in 1898. By 1900 there was trouble in the marriage and they later divorced in 1910. When Margaret’s father died in 1891 his estate was valued at £80,000 (which equates to £10 million in 2020) Her father Robert Tennent had accumulated his fortune from sheep farming in Australia. When her mother died in 1914, her will stated that the trust set up by her father was to be left to Margaret.

After separating from her husband in 1909, Mrs Clark, continued to live at Cammo with her son Percy and adopted the name Maitland-Tennent. She dismissed almost all the staff and rented a portion of the estate to Cramond Brig Golf Club, moving herself and Percy into a caravan nearby. She left behind a house full of valuable paintings and antiques.

Stories began to spread about the family, with Mrs Maitland-Tennent being called by locals the Black Widow, as she was only ever seen being driven in a black car, on regular visits to the bank in Davidson’s Mains.

In 1955, Mrs Maitland-Tennent died aged 95, and was buried under the lawn to the west side of the house. After she died, her estate was estimated to be £500,000.

Between 1955 and 1975 Percy lived in a farmhouse located near the main gate. The farmhouse was home to the tenant farmers a Mr and Mrs Little, who looked after him and cooked his meals.

Cammo Tower – 1960

Percy stayed on becoming more and more of a recluse, only being seen with his pack of dogs that were given free run of the house. Cammo House was deteriorating fast, and the furniture and floors were collapsing.

Over the next few years Cammo suffered several break-ins where paintings and silver were stolen.

Percy died in 1975 and is buried in the family plot in Dean Cemetery. The estate was passed on through his will to the National Trust for Scotland. In 1977 Cammo House was destroyed by fire and in 1980, the NTS feud the estate to the district council. By this time, it was so severely damaged that most of the house was demolished.

In 1980, Cammo Estate became the UK’s first Wilderness Park and was handed over to the public in an official ceremony involving representatives of the National Trust, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, the local MP and local residents.

Although little remains of the house itself, one remainder of Cammo House still remains, the early 19th century fresh water tower built to supply water to the house.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Cammo Estate nowadays, visit Friends of Cammo.

Read more articles in this ‘History of the house’ series:
History of the house: King’s Wark
History of the house: Bowhead house
History of the house: Nicolson Square and Marshall Street
History of the house: White Horse Close
History of the house: 94 and 96 Grassmarket
History of the house: Stockbridge Colonies
History of the house: Milne’s Court
History of the house: Melbourne Place
History of the house: Falcon Hall
History of the house: North British Hotel

 

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