It played host to an opera-singing Mohawk chief, its tower was rumoured to house spies and its owner built Scotland’s first chocolate factory.
Brunswickhill is an imposing Victorian mansion in Galashiels, set looking out towards Abbotsford and the Eildons, and commissioned in 1874 by industrialist Charles Schulze.
Currently up for sale by the present owner, Moira Sloss of Edinburgh, the property is also home to a fascinating historical archive relating to the extraordinary Schulze family.
Portobello historian and author Archie Foley’s recent book on Portobello and the Great War, co-authored with Margaret Munro, features a section on the city’s Continental Chocolate Company factory, built by Mr Schulze in 1906.
Archie’s recent letter in The Southern Reporter seeking information on the Schulzes resulted in Brunswickhill caretakers Frank and Trish Daly contacting Archie to reveal the existence of the Brunswickhill archive.
Last week, Archie travelled to Galashiels from his home in Edinburgh to peruse the collection of old documents and photographs for himself.
“After writing the book on Portobello and mentioning the chocolate factory, I had wanted to see what the Schulze family actually looked like,” Archie told us.
“I found out about Brunswickhill and got intrigued by Mr Schulze and found out he lived till he was 90 and so thought there might be an obituary in The Southern Reporter archives.
“I submitted the letter to the paper because I also thought there might be people who knew the Schulzes.”
The Continental Chocolate Company factory was erected in 1906 near to King’s Road in Portobello. Mr Schulze, who hailed originally from Brunswick in Germany – hence the name of his home in Galashiels – was a already a prosperous cloth merchant in the Borders.
He had wanted to establish a business making luxury chocolate products like those produced in Belgium and Germany – a first for Scotland.
The factory was of a radical design and construction. Four storeys high with exterior walls of red fire brick, it was constructed mainly of reinforced concrete.
People often remarked on the extreme depth of the foundations, the thickness of the floors and roof, and the strength of the reinforced iron pillars and beams that had been used.
Mr Schulze funded the construction and outfitting of the factory, which was then leased to the Continental Chocolate Company – a partnership formed by his three sons, Charles, Hugh and William.
Production of chocolates got under way in 1911 after delays with machinery and the need to train staff, but it was short-lived as the outbreak of the First World War just three years later saw the factory eventually requisitioned by the military.
This had been made easier by the anti-German feeling stirred up by the war, rumours the factory had been so strongly built so it could be used by German military forces and the fact Mr Schulze had never applied for British citizenship, despite living here for more than 50 years.
“Charles Schulze had married into the Lees family in Galashiels and his last surviving child was Dorothy, who lived at Brunswickhill until her death in the 1980s,” explained Frank, who has worked at Brunswickhill for 18 years and met Dorothy Alwynne just once, when he was a youngster of about 12.
“She was a concert violinist and after the First World War had toured Canada and the United States. But she used her middle name of ‘Alwynne’ due to anti-German feeling caused by the war.”
The opera-singing Mohawk chief she met on her travels, Oskenonton, actually came to Galashiels and stayed at Brunswickhill, giving concerts locally and visiting schools.
Tragically, it was not just the chocolate factory that Mr Schulze lost, two of his three sons being killed during the Great War – one with the Cameron Highlanders and the other with the Dorsetshire Regiment.
They were survived, however, by their siblings – Charles Frederick, Nora, Mary and Dorothy.
In 1922, their father had a replica of the door to Amiens Cathedral added to the porch of Old Parish and St Paul’s Church, Galashiels, in memory of his two dead sons.
After the war, the chocolate factory was converted into a technical college and in the 1990s it was turned into flats.
Archie added: “I had hoped to find documents about the chocolate factory here at Brunswickhill, or perhaps even some packaging or advertising materials the factory had used, but there is nothing.
“But now that I have stumbled across all this archive material, my quest for information about the Schulzes has turned into a bit of a quest to ensure all this historical documentation is properly preserved for future generations.”
And it looks like this will now become reality with confirmation this week that Mrs Sloss has agreed to the archive being donated to Scottish Borders Council museums service.