Manderlea is a substantial building on Links Road, Lundin Links, overlooking the 18th green of Lundin Golf Course. The above postcard view shows Manderlea in the inter-war years. Note the many large windows facing towards the sea. Below is a photograph showing the building today (on the far left), next to its neighbours to the east. Like several other large dwellings in the village, it began life as a boarding house, before being restyled as a 'private hotel' and ultimately undergoing conversion into flats.
Back in 1905, when Lundin Links was experiencing a spell of development, as a fashionable summer resort, a Mr Robb commissioned Walter Horne to build an eight-bedroomed house immediately to the west of Westhall (a villa built in 1894 which had stood alone for a decade). The small insert from 11 August 1905 East of Fife Record below pinpoints the date.
The work on this house kept Mr Horne's men busy all through the following winter and an update appeared in the 15 February 1906 Leven Advertiser (below) as the work neared completion. This specified that the house was to be a boarding house to be run by Miss Robb. In fact, the establishment was run by sisters Janet Dall Robb and Mary Ann Robb. They were the daughters of ploughman James Robb (who was born in Kilconquhar but whose mother Janet Dall was from Largo).
The sisters had previously worked in domestic service in Edinburgh but some change in fortune seems to have enabled them to establish their own enterprise. Manderlea was ideally situated, close to the station, the golf links as well as the beach. The Misses Robb remained at Manderlea throughout the First World War, although it was unclear how the boarding house was used during that period. Perhaps the premises were used as accommodation for soldiers, as was the case at nearby St Catherine's and Fir Park. However, soon after the war ended, the boarding house passed into new ownership.
Interestingly, the electoral register of Fife for Spring 1920 shows both Mary and Janet Robb and future owners of the boarding house, John and Jane Balmer, living at Manderlea. After this brief handover spell, the Robb sisters moved on. John Balmer and his wife Jane (nee Short) became long-term proprietors of Manderlea. The advert below appeared in the 1925 Post Office Directory.
The Balmers had married in 1904 at Coates House in Newburn, where Jane had been born in 1880. Her Dorset-born father William Short had long been the gardener there. John Balmer was born in Westmorland Cumbria and it was there that the couple initially settled there after their marriage. Eldest daughter Nora Jane Fernie Balmer was born there in 1907, followed by second daughter Phyllis in 1909. At the time of the 1911 census, John was a 'confectioner' in Cumbria.
Several years later, the family returned to Jane's Largo roots, where John and Jane ran Manderlea for the rest of their lives. Over the decades many visitors enjoyed their hospitality and the view from Manderlea. During the Second World War Polish soldiers were billeted at Manderlea, as they were at other large houses and boarding houses in the village, such as Lindisfarne. The Misses Balmer became regular attendees at the Scottish-Polish Association events, held from the 1940s onwards.
John Balmer died at Manderlea on 17 November 1954 aged 75, with Jane passing away just two months later, also at Manderlea, on 14 January 1955 aged 74. While daughter Nora went on to marry in 1956, to Robert Gemmell, younger daughter Phyllis remained at Manderlea and was still living there when the large house was converted into five flats and renamed 'Manderlea Court' around 1974. Phyllis died in a car crash on the Leven to St Andrews road on 5 August 1989, aged 79. Nora had died in 1984 aged 76. A few years ago two of the Manderlea Court flats were combined back together. Below are images of the building from the 1970s (in black and white) and as it is today, looking very fresh and modern for a building that is now well over a century old.