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The History of Fettercairn
Chapter XXII.—Modern Buildings


FETTERCAIRN HOUSE is partly ancient and partly modern. The old part is a plain three-story building, long and narrow, but commodious for its time, and midway in dimensions between the cramped old castle and the modern country-house. With the flower garden in front, it faces the south, and on the door lintel are the initials of John Earl Middleton and Grizel Durham, with the date 1666. An elegant addition, in the Elizabethan style, forming a new frontage to the north-west, was built in 1829 by the late Sir John H. S. Forbes, Bart. A handsome and convenient suite of rooms and offices on the east side was added by Lord Clinton in 1877; and now Fettercairn House is, perhaps with one exception, the most commodious mansion in the county. That exception is Fasque House, a superb building in the English baronial style, and of a castellated form, with towers and battlements, and a stately dome and cupola rising from the centre. Facing the south, and standing on a gently rising ground, it commands a most extensive and beautiful view of the Howe and the surrounding country. It was built by Sir Alexander Ramsay in 1809, at a cost, it is said, of 30,000; and some idea of its dimensions may be formed from the fact that the masons' and builders' wages were only Is. 6d. a-day. The fire, in 1872, which threatened to destroy the whole of the mansion, has been already noticed.

The Burn House, erected by Lord Adam Gordon in 1791, was for many years the largest, most elegant, and best mansion in the parish. Of plain but substantial appearance, it is nevertheless, with the natural beauties of the situation, the most delightful residence in the county.

The Royal Arch, In commemoration of the Queen's visit to Fettercairn, as described in a former chapter, the leading inhabitants of the village and the gentry of the district set about the erection of a fitting memorial. Owing to the lamented death, in the interim, of the Prince Consort, a difference of opinion arose as to the form the memorial should take. It was finally determined that an arch, to span the roadway at the west end of the bridge crossing the burn and right in front of the Ramsay Arms Hotel, would be the most appropriate. A sum of nearly ,250 was raised by subscription. Free cartages of stones from Brechin were promised and subsequently performed by the farmers of the jdistrict. A Gothic design, furnished by Mr John Milne, architect, St. Andrews, in competition with others by architects in Edinburgh, Arbroath, and Aberdeen, was adopted. Mr Milne, being a native of Fettercairn, entered into the matter with much spirit. He ably and liberally contributed to carry out the views of the subscribers and their committee. His design, with that from Edinburgh, was submitted to Her Majesty, and it received her gracious approval. The foundation-stone was laid with ceremony by Sir John H. S. Forbes, Bart., who all along took a lively interest in the progress of the work. The structure is of Rhenish Gothic, and consists of a semi-circular arch flanked by two massive octagonal towers, each about seven feet diameter, and supported by buttresses, which are about sixty feet high. The top of the towers have high-pitched gablets on the four cardinal sides of the octagon with metal finials, and are crowned with a low octagonal spirelet having a carved foliage terminal surmounted by a gilded metal finial. The arch itself is semi-circular, rather more than eighteen feet in the span, and upwards of sixteen feet in height to the keystone. The arch stones are deeply moulded on each side, and terminate in long diminishing lines against the sides of the octagon. Above the arch, on one side, there appears the inscription, "Visit of Victoria and Albert, September, 1861," in raised letters of old English character; and on the other side the date of erection (1864). Between the arch and the cornice are spandrels on either side, and above these is a cusped projected course which is continued round the towers. Above the cornice on each side, in the centre, -is a royal crown, which is coped between the towers with embrasures terminating against the weathered intake of the octagon, and on the angles of the latter are cut the national emblems in high relief; and in the centre, over the crown, is a semicircle supporting four intersecting gablets with a gilt metallic finial. To be in keeping with the design, the bridge was widened on both sides, and in place of the old stone parapets a handsome iron railing was erected—the whole costing about 60; of which sum a considerable part was borne by Mr Milne, who also, in graceful compliment to his native village and in excellent taste, designed and superintended the whole work without fee or reward. To celebrate the completion of the undertaking, the subscribers met and dined in the hotel, when, in the absence of Sir John H. S. Forbes, convener of committee, Colonel M'Inroy presided. The Koyal Arch and the event which it commemorates have attracted many visitors to the village. The workpeople, especially of Montrose and Brechin, on their annual pleasure trips, generally make Fettercairn a halting-place. And the writer has often in the calm stillness of the summer morn stood at his own door and listened with delight to-a group of joyous excursionists gazing with admiration at the royal monument and giving vent to their loyal feelings by loud huzzas or joining to sing in chorus-God save the Queen.

Forbes Memorial Fountain. Shortly after the lamented death of Sir John H. S. Forbes in May, 1866r a public meeting, presided over by the late Sir Thomas. Gladstone, was held in the village to consider the propriety of providing a suitable memorial of the deceased baronety and to be acknowledgment of the esteem and respect ini which he was held in the district. A subscription was-set on foot, and the sum of 140 was eventually raised for the erection of a fountain in the village, for which a pure and abundant spring of water, half a mile distant on Nethermill farm, was kindly granted by Sir Thomas-Gladstone. The watercourse was in due time engineered gratis by Mr Johnstone of Auchcairnie; but that course had, a year or two afterwards, to be abandoned for another adopted by the Local Authority to supply the fountain and distribute the surplus over the village, then formed into a water and drainage district. The site of the fountain was fixed by approval of the late Lady Clinton, who took a deep interest in that token of respect to the memory of her beloved father. The foundation-stone was formally laid by Colonel M'Inroy in presence of the managing committee and others interested. The design of the memorial, which was supplied free of cost by the late David Bryce, R.S.A., Edinburgh, is in the early English Gothic style, richly ornamented; and it was executed in Redhall freestone by the late John Rhind, sculptor, Edinburgh. It rises to a height of twenty feet, the base being about six feet square. On the top of the plinth is-the drinking basin, which is of polished Peterhead granite, with the following inscription:—"Erected to the memory of Sir J. H. S. Forbes, Bart., of Pitsligo and Fettercairn, by his neighbours and other friends, 1869." The upper portion of the fountain consists of an octagonal tower, with gablets ornamented, the centre spire being richly decorated with crockets, and terminated with a Gothic finial. On each of the eight sides is a deeply sunk niche filled in with cusps, and surmounted by a finial.

Public Hall. For a number of years the want of a hall large enough for public meetings, which for lack of better accommodation had to be held in the Public School, was much felt. This led to the getting up of a Bazaar to raise funds for the enlargement of the old hall or the erecting of a new one. A committee of the leading inhabitants was appointed; the ladies of the parish and district set to work, and in August, 1888, the Bazaar was held for two days in the Public School, by which a sum of 550 was realised. With this sum on hand, and the free gift of the old hall from the Honourable Charles F. Trefusis, the committee resolved to erect a new building on the same site. Mr John Milne of St. Andrews, with his wonted generosity, provided plans free of charge; but the committee finding that the probable cost of his design would exceed their resources by at least .300, they hesitated, and obtained plans from other architects, but with no better result. At this juncture the writer, being then secretary, on his own account appealed to Mr Andrew Carnegie of New York, who replied, that "for the sake of the cradle of the Carnegies" (as Fettercairn was termed to him), he would remit one half, 150, if the other half were raised in the locality. This was speedily accomplished. Mr Trefusis undertook to pay for materials to the amount of 50; Sir Thomas Gladstone contributed, in cash and supplies from Caldcotes quarry, about ,50; Mr Milne, architect, gave 20; the Rev. William Anderson, Messrs Don, James J. Murray, and others, in addition to former contributions, subscribed smaller sums; and thus the committee were enabled to proceed with the work, which, during its execution, was zealously superintended by the late Robert Milne, Inch gray, who acted on the spot for his brother as architect and clerk of works. The building, with its internal furnishings complete, cost over 900. English in style, with a leaning to Scottish baronial, it is surmounted by a massive and elegant tower. Over the front door is the date, 1890. Besides the hall proper, sufficient for 400 people, with its spacious platform and convenient ante-room, the adjuncts are a keeper's house, a reading and library room supplied with two or three daily papers and other periodicals. From the library, which contains over 700 volumes of general literature, books are lent weekly at a very moderate charge. There is also a billiard-room, the table being presented by Sir John R. Gladstone, Bart. To show that the Hall has proved a public benefit and has fully realised the expectations of its founders, it may be stated that every year the receipts from concerts and public meetings, the library readers and billiard players (in 1893 about .90), have exceeded the outlays by a considerable amount.

Among other modern buildings of the village that may be noticed are the Parish Manse, built in 1869 upon the site of the old one erected in 1774 and enlarged in 1822; the School-house, built in 1864 on the site of the house and "teaching-room," so called by Mr Foote, and which had done duty since 1747, that is from the time of the burning of the older house beside the churchyard. Mr Don's house, shop, and bank office were built in 1857, from designs by Mr Milne; Mr Macdonald's house and shop in the same year; also about the same time the house and shop now occupied by Mr Neil were enlarged for the late Mr James Dakers. As to houses and population, the village stands, one half on the estate of Fettercairn and the other half on that of Balmain ; but in the olden time, and till the end of last century, it was almost wholly on the former. It mostly consisted of clay built and thatched huts, which, about a hundred and fifty years ago, were replaced by the strongly built two-story houses facing the market square, those of the "Townhead" and the old one recently repaired, which by the people of a former generation was yclept "the provost's mansion at the east brig-end." The Burnside houses and villas are feus off the lands of Balmain, the older ones dating from the second and the villas from the fourth decade of the century. Durie's cottages were built about 1860 by the late David Durie, distiller, for his workmen, and are vulgarly designated "The Whisky Raw." The latest change has been the extension of the Ramsay Arms Hotel by the Edzell Hotel Company, and it now affords more than ample accommodation.


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