The Eagle Gates (pictured above) and Eagle Gates Lodge (shown below) are situated at the south east entrance to Largo House. This is a great example of a gate lodge which has outlasted the country mansion which it once served. A gate lodge is a small building at an entrance to a grand country house, where originally a gatekeeper would have lived and controlled access to the property. While many large mansions fall into disrepair, associated lodge houses can still survive, being of a much more manageable scale.
Situated where the road to Upper Largo from Lundin Links meets the top of the Serpentine Walk (see map above) both the lodge and the gates were listed in 1984. In its listing, the lodge is described as follows:
Late 18th/early 19th century, with alterations. Single storey. Pinned whin rubble with large droved long and short ashlar dressings. Bowed south end, originally with tripartite, now narrow outer lights blocked. East elevation with door and 3 windows (enlarged to right of door). Piended slated roof and 2 corniced ashlar stacks. Rubble and harled.
The gate piers are described as follows in their listing:
Later 18th century. 2 large square vermiculated ashlar piers with Greek key pattern bands below cornices capped by eagles. Very low rubble quadrant walls housing cast-iron railings.
The dates given for the lodge and gates are estimated but the Greenwood and Fowler map below (which was surveyed 1826-7 and published in 1828) clearly shows a building on the site of the lodge and a driveway from it up to the main house.
It was circa 1830 that James Durham (1754-1840) made a number of upgrades to Largo House. He had married for the second time in 1827 and shortly afterwards had two rear wings added to the main house as well as the conservatory built to the west. The Durham Coat of Arms was added above the main entrance (shown in the Canmore image above). This has a date of 1830 just visible to the lower right beneath the word 'terras'. It seems likely that the Lodge would have been upgraded around this time too. This may have included the addition of the pair of eagles - shown below as they were in 1973 (image from the Canmore collection) when both eagles were still in place. In recent times the eagle on the right has gone missing.
The question is - why were eagles chosen to cap the gate piers?
The use of the eagle as a decoration for gate piers was not uncommon. The eagle symbolises power and strength and is visually striking. Duff House in Banff, Coneyhill House in Bridge of Allan and Thirlestane Castle near Lauder in the Borders had similar examples. However, there is usually a rationale for their use. The example shown below, at Thirlestane Castle, has gate piers capped with eagles for a specific reason. The Castle is the historic home of the Earl of Lauderdale, whose Coat of Arms includes two eagles with wings inverted as supporters.
Is it possible that a similar reason applies at Largo? While there are no eagles on the Durham Coat of Arms, a pair of falcons appear on the Anstruther Coat of Arms - see image below. James Durham's 1827 marriage was to Margaret, eldest daughter of Colonel John Anstruther. Conceivably, Durham may have wished to represent her family in this way. In the absence of an obvious reason for the choice of eagles, could the stone carvings at Largo House actually portray falcons? What do you think? Do you have further information about the origin of the stone carvings or their meaning? Please leave a comment. Likewise, if you know when one of the birds disappeared and where it went, please comment. The next post will look in more detail at the Eagle Gates Lodge and the people who inhabited it over the decades.