Drum House, Edinburgh | Rectory Lane Cemetery, Berkhamsted

Rectory Lane Cemetery, Berkhamsted

Drum House, Edinburgh

Drum House, Edinburgh
Gilmerton, Edinburgh

Drum House (“The Drum”) is an elegant country house at Gilmerton, about on 4 miles (6.4 km) south-east of Edinburgh.

From the 14th to the 19th centuries, it was the family seat of the Lords Somerville. The present Palladian-style house dates from the 18th-century; it was designed in 1726 by the renowned Scottish architect William Adam  (1689–1748)  for James Somerville, 13th Lord Somerville (1698–1765).

The Somervilles had many connections south of the border; the manor of Aston Somerville in Worcestershire was in the Somerville Family for over 600 years, and John Southey, 15th Lord Somerville, was Lord of the King’s Bedchamber to King George III. John died unmarried in 1819, and the title passed to his half-brother, Mark, who became 16th Lord Somerville (or 15th Lord, depending on the peerage authority).

In 1838, Mark’s younger sister Frances (“Fanny”) Somerville (1782- 1849) married into English minor nobility when she was wed to William Booth Grey, the second son of the 5th Earl of Stamford. Fanny moved to Berkhamsted, where she and William resided at The Hall, a large Georgian mansion that once stood at the east end of Berkhamsted High Street.

At some point in 1842, Mark probably went to visit his sister and brother-in-law in Berkhamsted.  William Booth Grey was a respected member of the Parish of Great Berkhamsted and was a churchwarden of St Peter’s Church. Lord Somerville was persuaded to support an important parish fundraising project: the establishment of a new detached cemetery for St Peter’s Parish Church, as the old churchyard was almost full. The land had been donated by a local English noblewoman, the Dowager Countess of Bridgewater, and her connections in high society doubtlessly encouraged generous contributions from the nobles and landed gentry.  The inscription on the large foundation stone in Rectory Lane Cemetery, Berkhamsted, records donations by Mark, Lord Somerville and William Booth Grey of £25 each (the equivalent of approximately £1500 each in today’s money).

Lord Somerville’s act of generosity was to be his last. On 3 June 1842 he died at The Hall. His entry in The Scots Peerage, Vol. VIII (1904) is as follows:

“Mark, fifteenth Lord Somerville, born 26 October 1784, was sometime an officer in the Royal Artillery. On 21 February 1820 he was served heir of conquest in special to his brother consanguinean John Southey, fourteenth Lord, in the lands of Nunbank, Redpath, part of the lands of Gattonside, Easter Langlee, Gateside and others in Berwickshire and Roxburghshire. He died, unmarried, at The Hall, Berkhampstead, Hertfordshire, 3 June 1842, and was buried at Berkhampstead.”

Rectory Lane Cemetery did not open until October of that year, and so Mark, Lord Somerville was buried in the old churchyard of St Peter’s Berkhamsted, one of the last burials there. His grave is thought to be marked with a headstone inscribed only with a single letter ‘S’. Inside St Peter’s Church, a marble wall monument was erected in his memory.

Mark Somerville died aged 57 without any children. The Somerville title passed to his younger brother, Kennelm Somerville, 17th Lord (1787-1864). The last Lord Somerville was Aubrey John Somerville, 19th Lord Somerville (1838–1870), after which the title became extinct. Drum House and estate were sold off in the 1860s. Today “The Drum” at Gilmerton still stands and is in use as a private house, an elegant vestige of a Scottish noble family. Although perhaps only a brief visitor to the town, Mark, Lord Somerville’s name is inscribed on the monuments of Berkhamsted as a reminder of his generosity.


Cemetery connections

Discover the memorials in Rectory Lane Cemetery with historical links to Drum House, Edinburgh

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