IN a sign of the times, a live-in butler’s flat at an 18th century Borders country house is now surplus to requirements.

The flat, which once formed part of the servant’s quarters at Mertoun House, beside the River Tweed near St Boswells, is to be converted into an office after a planning bid submitted to Scottish Borders Council (SBC) was rubber-stamped.

A submission with the application says: “Mertoun House has always had a primary residential use.

“The estate office has long been sited on the application site in an arrangement that provided office floorspace on the ground floor and residential floorspace on the first floor.

“However, as patterns of life evolve so too do the demands on the use of buildings. Specifically, there is no longer a requirement for a live-in butler and space required to provide an appropriate residential apartment.

“At the same time, the effective management of the estate and other interests has evolved to require more office staff and space to accommodate them.

“It is proposed to change the use of the first floor and those parts of the ground floor that form part of the butler’s flat, as well as the game larder, to office use.”

In her report approving the application, SBC lead planning officer Julie Hayward, says: “The proposals would not harm the character of the listed building.

“The external alterations are minimal and so the proposal would not harm the special qualities of the designed landscape or visual amenities of the area.

“Mertoun House is set in extensive grounds, with houses within the estate in the same ownership. The nearest houses are some distance away and so the proposals would not harm residential amenities.”

Mertoun House is a category A listed building of special architectural and historic interest as an early 18th century classical house.

Originally built to the designs of Sir William Bruce, it was subject to later phases of alteration, including by Burn and Bryce in 1843-47, Gibson and Gordon in 1913-16 and Lindsay in the 1950s.

The service wing affected by the proposals was constructed as part of the Gibson and Gordon phase of works.