Property of the Week: Gillespie Road, Colinton

Colinton is a delightful village in a city - highly sought after among Edinburgh buyers; when people move here they tend to stay. But Monkwood, a detached house in Gillespie Road has retained owners more than most over the years.

Monkwood, Colinton
Monkwood, Colinton

Built in 1906, it has changed hands only twice since, making Jennifer and Tom Wishart just the third owners.

They bought the beautiful period property in 1978 - attracted, Jennifer says, by “a house with a great character and in a unique location with privacy, within easy reach of everything you would ever need and with Colinton Dell on the doorstep”.

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The house is indeed a splendid example of its era, and when first built, it featured in the venerable design magazine, Academy Architecture - in same issue as the iconic Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Hill House. Where Mackintosh’s creation was Art Nouveau however, Monkwood is very much Arts and Crafts architecture with its steep roofs, tall chimneys, box bay windows and a turret and a tower adding to the romance.

Its provenance is not all turn of the century however, the second owners, who bought the house in the 1930s, also added their mark in the form of a substantial remodelling and extension of Monkwood during this decade.

They brought in Whytock & Reid, the renowned Edinburgh cabinetmakers responsible for interiors such as the former bank which is now The Dome in the city‘s George Street, to redesign the interiors of the house.

The work, although sympathetic to the original architecture, certainly updates the theme. The two main reception rooms were panelled with the doors of the house replaced, and a spectacular wrought iron central staircase was installed with a stained glass window to light it. All of these features have been kept immaculate over the nearly hundred years since they were installed and have charming quirks, such a the little carved owl to be found on the staircase.

The sitting room in particular, with its triple aspect windows, period fireplace, warm wood panelling and intricate parquet flooring just takes your breath away.

Tom and Jennifer were amazed by parts of the house, but perhaps not so much by others. She says “Although it had been very well maintained it really needed substantial modernising. There was no real kitchen for example, basically just a scullery with a boiler and an old range. There was also no central heating but it was a different era, they had two live-in maids to set fires.”

The couple set about modernising, room by room, taking their time to get it right. They also added their own mark in the form of the lovely conservatory, which, as well as being a fine asset to the house, also solved a problem - of what to do with a very substantial air raid shelter, complete with toilet and phone, which was detached but alongside the house.

Jennifer says “It was used as the headquarters of the home guard in its time. To get rid of it we would probably have had to use explosives and we were worried about damage, so this was an easier solution.”

The underground part is now a fantastic wine cellar, entered from the conservatory which links it to the house. The conservatory brings the number of public rooms here to four, so ideal for entertaining - the drawing and dining rooms both have french doors onto a terrace so summer parties always spill outside, or there is always the conservatory for wet weather gatherings.

There is a spiral staircase in the turret leading from the sitting room to the master suite’s huge dressing room upstairs. There are four bedrooms in all on the first floor, although more rooms could be used for sleeping if necessary. One would have been for a maid, accessed by its own stair from the kitchen, and it has a private sitting room too so would be ideal for live in staff or relatives.

Outside the half acre garden has been a boon to the couple’s two English Pointers, Coco and Minnie. The garden space is pretty - and low maintenance to fit with Tom and Jennifer’s careers in dentistry and child psychology - but someone with more free time could make it more formal if they wished.

As retired people now, Jennifer says “We weren’t planning to move yet but we were out with the dogs and went to take a look at what turned out to be a terrific new-build apartment only 700 yards down the road from where we currently are, and right beside the Colinton Dell walkway for the dogs. It just seemed to be the right decision to make and the right time to make it.”

And after 37 years, they feel it is time to let a fourth owner take their turn in this spectacular house.

Monkwood, originally built in 1906 in on the market for offers over £1,050,000, contact Knight Frank on 0131 222 9600.