At first a small garden pavilion
The Pineapple, perhaps the best known of all the Landmark Trust’s buildings, was built by John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore. It seems that at first he built the garden with a small central pavilion of only one storey (up to the line of the string course below the existing windows) on its central axis in 1761, the date that appears on the keystone. It has been suggested that it may have been a somewhat belated wedding present to his wife after their marriage in 1759.
We do not know who the architect was for this pavilion, but a likely contender is Robert Mylne, who had family connections with the Dunmores and who came from a family of master masons near Edinburgh. The walls are of double construction with a cavity through which hot air could be circulated to encourage the ripening of the fruit - the garden sits over a coal outcrop.
The Pineapple itself is now thought to be a later addition to this earlier pavilion. There are various physical clues that support this - the walls have been heightened and there are differences in the masonry; and it fits in with the sequence of events in Lord Dunmore’s life. He left for America in 1770 and became Governor of Virginia. Here pineapples had acquired an association with hospitality - sailors returning home would stick a pineapple or two on their gateposts to tell the community they were back and would welcome visitors. From this, the fruit had become very popular as architectural decoration.
It seems likely that on his return to Scotland he decided to build his fruity extravaganza. No doubt he had developed a taste for pineapples and wished to grow them in his walled garden, and determined to outdo anything that he had seen in America, he built a pineapple 37 feet high! The walls containing the six windows were raised and the heating system made more sophisticated with the chimney pots disguised as decorative urns. Gardeners would then have been housed comfortably in the bothies on either side.
Frustratingly, the architect of this triumph of folly remains unknown despite numerous candidates being put forward. The Pineapple was never engraved or described in letters, diaries or travel logs of the period. The estate was not on any major tourist route, and perhaps the Georgians found it over the top and avoided it. There is a local tradition that it was built by Italian workmen because the standard of craftsmanship is so high. The drainage is ingenious - the stones are graded in such a way that water cannot collect anywhere. The base of each leaf is in fact higher than it appears when viewed from below, so that the rain water drains away easily from these higher parts. At one time it seems that The Pineapple was painted.
Lord Dunmore’s son, the 5th Earl wrote how "hothouse fruit ... was sent every fortnight from Dunmore Park, where my father had no house, but an excellent garden". This situation changed when the son commissioned William Wilkins to design him a new house in 1820. It was built in the Tudor Gothic style. Wilkins went on to design such buildings as the National Gallery and the old St George’s Hospital on Hyde Park Corner - now the Lanesborough Hotel. The 8th Lord Dunmore was the last member of the family to live in the house, which he sold in 1911. It ended up as a girls’ school and today the house is an empty shell. The Earl and Countess of Perth purchased The Pineapple and the walled garden in the late 1960s with plans to turn it into a house.
They decided not to go ahead with this and instead it passed to the National Trust for Scotland from whom the Landmark Trust, as a charity which specialises in the rescue of unusual historic buildings giving them a future by letting them for holidays, took a lease in 1973.
For a short history of The Pineapple please click here.
To read the full history album for The Pineapple please click here.