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Forfarshire
Chapter 21. - Architecture—(c) Domestic


The year of the Union of the Crowns may be taken as marking the change from dwellings designed for protection to those aiming at convenience, health and comfort; and within the seventeenth century accordingly, proprietors of wealth and enlightened taste began to add to their castles or to transform gloomy fortalices into residences better suited to their requirements. As the eighteenth century advanced, the love of the classic, or pseudo-classic, in art was modified or superseded by a passion for the romantic and a veneration for the past; and hence proprietors and architects sought to give prominence, in at least the outward appearance of edifices, to those characteristics for which the older parts had teen distinguished and to harmonize as far as might be modern alterations and additions with architectural ideals of more primitive times. Of this blending of the new with the old there are many excellent examples in Forfarshire.

Cortachy Castle exhibits the mingling of architecture of different dates—it was not completed till after the middle of last century—but all the parts unite in one superb whole. The interior also is full of interest. The vaulted Charter Room holds the family records, and the “King’s Room” was occupied by Charles II on his memorable “Start” from his austere covenanting supporters in 1650. In the magnificent grounds is the “Garden of Friendship,” where notable visitors have from time to time planted trees.

To the north of Kirriemuir stands the mansion of Kinnordy, purchased by the Lyells from the Ogilvys of Inverquharity. The old part of the house was built over a century ago and was that in which Sir Charles Lyell, the geologist, lived and studied; but his nephew, Sir Leonard Lyell, M.P., had it entirely reconstructed in 1880, so that it is now one of the most ornate mansions in the county.

The ancestors of Admiral Duncan, who defeated the Dutch fleet off Camperdown in 1797, purchased the estate of Lundie. Finding the castle that belonged to the estate unsuitable as a dwelling, the first Earl of Camperdown built the modern mansion in 1828, naming it after the scene of his father’s great victory. Camperdown House, situated in the midst of magnificent and spacious policies, is built of white sandstone in Grecian style, and has a fine portico supported by noble Ionic pillars. An interesting relic in the grounds is the figure-head of the Dutch admiral’s ship, a lion rampant.

Alike on architectural and historic grounds, Glamis Castle is undoubtedly the most interesting edifice of its kind in the county. When Sir Walter Scott first visited Glamis in 1793, the castle had around it seven circles of defensive boundaries ; but before his second visit “ down had gone many a trophy of old magnificence, courtyard, ornamental enclosure, fosse, barbican, and every external muniment of battled wall and flanking tower ”—all this to make the place more parklike! There he had seen “ the very door from which, deluded by the name, one might have imagined Lady Macbeth issuing forth to receive King Duncan.” But mistaken as the “improvers” of the castle may then have been, Glamis is far from being entirely shorn of its antique feudal pomp. “It conveys,” writes an expert, “no distinct impression of any particular age, but appears to have grown, as it were, through the various periods of Scottish baronial architecture.”

The princely demesne in which it stands is worthy of the venerable pile. Approaching it from the south, the visitor enters by an antique gateway adorned with carved lions, rampant opposant. After traversing a broad avenue nearly a mile long, and for the greater part absolutely straight, one advances to the chief doorway at the base of a quarter-circle tower, flanked at right angles by the two main wings of the building. The great tower, 90 feet high, which forms the central portion of the castle, is crowned with a rich cluster of cone-capped turrets, amidst which are abrupt roofs, stacks of chimneys, and railed platforms. Within the massive door is a heavily grated iron gate, four hundred years old.

Within the castle particularly interesting are the old baronial hall, now the drawing-room, with its pargeted ceiling; the dining-room with its valuable portraits, including one of Claverhouse; and the private chapel adorned with fine paintings by the Dutch artist, De Witt, and carved stalls centuries old. The castle contains a very notable collection of paintings, old armour, richly carved old oak furniture, and other priceless curiosities. In the grounds is a remarkable sundial, 18 feet high and supplied with eighty-four dials. The pedestal is supported by four lions, twice life-size and facing the cardinal points. The view from the tower of the castle is one of the finest in the district, commanding as it does the richly wooded and well-watered Strathmore with its noble environment of mountains.

Panmure House and Brechin Castle are seats of the noble family of the Maules, Earls of Dalhousie, whose extensive possessions, 138,000 acres, make them the greatest landowners in Angus. The former mansion is near Carnoustie. The estate came into the possession of the Maule family early in the twelfth century, and though the Earl of Panmure wTas attainted as a Jacobite in 1715, the lands were subsequently bought back by the family and the attainder was reduced. The nucleus of the present splendid mansion with its great central tower was erected for the second Earl in 1666, on a spot some little distance from the site of the old castle. It was completed by Earl James, who afterwards suffered attaint. The unfortunate Earl has two memorials in the grounds, one the fine iron gates never opened since he passed through them on his way to exile, the other a tall pillar half a mile distant from the house. Panmure House, as we now know it, was reconstructed when Fox Maule, for some time Secretary of State for War, succeeded to the estates.

Brechin Castle, however, is the chief seat of the Earl of Dalhousie. If devoid of the architectural adornments of Panmure and other homes of the Angus nobility, Brechin Castle, as we have already seen, can vie with any in historical interest. The west front of the castle is its main fa9ade; its centre is characterised by a fine pediment; and the corners of the building are adorned with cone-capped towers. The square tower which forms the highest portion is surmounted by the flagstaff' of the Redan fort at Sebastopol, which was presented to Fox Maule, War Secretary at the time of its capture. A fine battlemented wall tops the cliff on whose summit the castle is built and faces the river. In the castle are valuable paintings and a still more valuable library. The exquisite grounds and gardens extend westwards along the banks of the South Esk.

Hospitalfield, near Arbroath, apart from its many intrinsic merits, has the double interest of being an adjunct of the ancient abbey of Arbroath, and most likely the original of Scott’s “Monkbarns” in The Antiquary. The Hospitium—for such was the first building—is now gone ; but portions of the walls of the barns erected at the requisition of Bernard de Linton, fifteenth abbot, the friend and counsellor of Robert the Bruce, are incorporated in the mansion house. Hence the appropriateness of Scott’s name “Monkbarns.” Transformed into a residence, the Hospitium at last became the property of James Fraser,

minister of Arbroath, whose descendant Elizabeth Fraser married the late Patrick Allan-Fraser in 1843. The structure remained unaltered until Mr Allan-Fraser’s knowledge and taste made of it the romance in stone and lime it now is. It is Scottish baronial in its every characteristic and detail. The lofty square tower with its bartizan is flanked by oblong buildings adorned with oriels and alcoves, buttresses and battlements ; and the crow-stepped chimneys and corbelled turrets and the rich ivy with which parts of it are adorned contribute to the antique effect of the whole. The proprietor bequeathed his houses and his means for art education ; and after his death in 1890 Hospitalfield became a residence for art students. The house contains rich treasures of art in pictures, statuary, and objects of vertu, and is set in the midst of spacious and artistically laid out grounds.

Situated on elevated ground within a park of 1500 acres bounded on the north by the South Esk, Kinnaird Castle, the home of the Carnegies, with its fine skyline of lordly towers, is a striking object in the wide landscape that it commands. Brechin to the north-west, Montrose and its broad Basin in the east, and even the sparkling waters of the ocean are visible from its central tower, which rises 115 feet above the lawns. The modern castle is the new-modelled and enlarged reproduction of the older edifice of 1790. It is built of a delicate pinkish freestone characteristic of Forfarshire. While Scottish baronial in many of its features, the general lightness and elegance of its architecture are due to the harmonious intermingling of French, Italian, and classical forms. The structure occupies a square with sides over 200 feet long. The principal elevation, a magnificent facade of grounded towers, corbelled turrets, lofty roofs, and spacious oriels, faces the west. Separating this front from the great deer park is a splendid balustraded terrace extending the whole length of the castle. A double flight of steps near the centre communicates between the terrace and a stone balcony that runs within the projections of the north and south terminal towers. If Glamis is the most antique and interesting of the mansions of Forfarshire, Kinnaird is unquestionably the most ornate specimen in the county of modern domestic architecture.


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