Socialist gives his home to the nation: Paxton House, on the Tweed, opens to the public

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The Independent Online
BEING landed with the gentry can be a disadvantage, particularly if your political beliefs are at the opposite end of the park.

John Home Robertson's family home is surrounded by acres of beautiful gardens, park and woodlands north of the river Tweed. But Mr Home Robertson is also a committed socialist and Labour MP for East Lothian. This weekend should help put the popular image of a landed gentleman behind him for good.

Mr Home Robertson has given Paxton House, which lies a few miles west of Berwick-upon-Tweed, to the nation, with its gardens. He, his wife Catherine and their two sons, Alexander and Patrick, will be accommodated in a converted garage and garden store. Should the family ever want to sell the house, they will only be entitled to a nominal pounds 1.

The National Heritage Memorial Fund, aware of the history of the house and its collection of Chippendale furniture, gave some pounds 2m for renovation of the main house and the spectacular picture gallery, which is located in a separate building. This weekend, the house and gallery will be on view to the public, and they will remain open daily until October.

The pounds 2m from the fund was split between a long-term endowment and restoration. The renovated gallery has provided space for the National Galleries of Scotland's first outstation for exhibits.

The house, designed by the Adam brothers in the Palladian style and built in 1758, is regarded as one of the finest of its type in Britain.

Mr Home Robertson has always believed homes such as his should be more accessible, and he once invited a group of miners to dine off his Chippendale table. He is regarded as a devout home ruler and, in 1988, was briefly dropped as a spokesman on Scottish housing because of his sympathy for non-payment of the poll tax. But, despite 800 acres of farmland, the financial headache of renovating Paxton House would have been impossible without the help of the heritage fund.

'We could cope with the house but the problem was going to become worse and worse. I entered into negotiations some time ago and always wanted the house and gallery to be fully restored,' Mr Home Robertson said.

'I have heard all the stories about class traitor from the Tories but I have never had, at any level whatsoever, any problems within my constituency. They accept me for who I am and what I am.'

(Photograph omitted)