The double upper at 1a Mountjoy Terrace, Musselburgh is a splendid looking late Victorian house.
Owners Duncan and Gitta Sharrocks bought it in 2005, looking for a characterful home with lots of room, which is certainly is.
Duncan says: “We were living in a modern flat in Granton and didn’t want to be in the city. Moving out to Musselburgh gave us access to so much more space. And the views of the sea and the Edinburgh skyline were a big draw.”
The house is in a quiet position on the edge of Fisherrow Links and has almost 360 degree panoramic views that span across the Firth of Forth to the hills of Fife in the north, Edinburgh to the West, including direct views to Arthur’s Seat and The Pentland Hills to the South, from almost every room in the house.
It is also just minutes from the city by car, with convenient bus routes and a cycle path on the doorstep.
The house needed work, the previous owners were three generations of one family with small children, but the Sharrocks were able to tackle the renovations needed room by room without too much disruption because of the luxury of space.
The basement is a separate home, meaning when complete this would have been a very substantial house. Even without the lower floor, there is a dining kitchen, upstairs drawing room and five further good sized rooms which could all make bedrooms, if required. At the moment one is used a sitting room, and the other a utility room, and there is also a family bathroom plus a shower room.
Duncan says of the house when they moved in: “It needed redecoration throughout but we also wanted to replace any features that weren’t fitting to a late Victorian home such as the 1970s louvred doors on the Edinburgh presses which we replaced and fireplaces that had been covered up - they are all restored and in working order now.”
One thing that they soon discovered was that the scale of the rooms here, which are both large and high - with 12 and a half foot ceilings - swallowed up the furniture brought from their modern flat. Duncan says “We were really dealing with a completely different scale so the refurbishing, redecoration and furnishing was a huge task, but a real labour of love.”
They tackled it each room in turn, with a team of tradesman including a joiner, throughout the project.
Each room’s decor was considered separately and has a very distinctive look. “The first floor drawing room is vast and I think it has 11 windows, so really light and airy and we opted for a dark green in there because it could take a darker colour being so sunny.”
Conversely, the sitting room on the ground floor is a dark red, with an open fire and chandelier; the couple use it in the winter when the warm colours enhance its cosiness.
The kitchen, like the drawing room above, has a turret style bay of five windows which fits a dining table - ideal for enjoying the views across the Links to the Forth of Firth.
The house has some wonderful Victorian touches throughout, from the conservatory at the entrance and the terrazzo tiled flooring in the hall, to the William Morris pattern wallpaper and blinds that the couple have hung, which is utterly in keeping with its age.
The garden in 2005 was a bit overgrown and had to be strictly cut back, including the removal of four trees. Two beautiful flowering cherry trees remain at the front and at the side of the house the garden is sheltered, sunny and private. The house overlooks the Loretto school playing fields so Duncan has enjoyed free rugby and cricket spectating on Saturday afternoons over the years.
The plaque on the wall outside has the date 1898 and the initials JD for the builder John Downie, who constructed the whole terrace. A matching grand house was planned for the other end but apparently when he came to build it, it was found that he didn’t own the land and so number one is unmatched in the row.
Duncan says in its early days it spent time as a Temperance Hotel, although it has been a much more sociable centre in the Sharrocks’ time. He says “We have loved having plenty of room for guests to come and stay or having the neighbours in for a drink. We always seem to end up back here.” That is particularly so in the summer or at Hogmanay, when the parties have extended up on to the roof, via a ladder. “It is great on a summer’s night or for watching a free firework display above Edinburgh.”
A move to Australia means that it is time to leave, but Gitta in particular will miss the house that they have put so much work into. Duncan says “I suspect that if we could move this house to Australia, that would be our ideal.”