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Leith Hall

Country House (17th Century), Hospital (First World War)

Site Name Leith Hall

Classification Country House (17th Century), Hospital (First World War)

Alternative Name(s) Peilside; Leithhall; Leith Hall Policies; Leith Hall Auxiliary Hospital

Canmore ID 17673

Site Number NJ52NW 4

NGR NJ 54086 29789

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/17673

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
© Copyright and database right 2017.

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Aberdeenshire
  • Parish Kennethmont
  • Former Region Grampian
  • Former District Gordon
  • Former County Aberdeenshire

Recording Your Heritage Online

Leith Hall, from 1650. The complete château effect came late, the quadrangular plan being finally achieved only in 1868 with the building of the west wing, which visitors see on their approach. The main elements are the north wing, a severe

rectangular block of 1650; the east wing of 1756 and, containing the fine principal rooms, the south wing, built around 1797 by General Alexander Leith-Hay. These apartments, as normal, on the first floor, are lit by flushpedimented

Venetian windows. Drum towers date from 1868.

Taken from "Aberdeenshire: Donside and Strathbogie - An Illustrated Architectural Guide", by Ian Shepherd, 2006. Published by the Rutland Press http://www.rias.org.uk

Archaeology Notes

NJ52NW 4.00 54086 29789

NJ52NW 4.01 NJ 54013 29923 Walled Garden

NJ52NW 4.02 NJ 54043 29980 Offices

NJ52NW 4.03 NJ 53677 29894 West Lodge

NJ52NW 4.04 NJ 54758 29057 East Lodge

NJ52NW 4.05 NJ 5435 2938 East Drive, Railway Bridge

NJ52NW 4.06 NJ 5422 2954 Ice House

NJ52NW 4.07 NJ 53998 29744 Shed containing fragments and stones

NJ52NW 4.08 Centred c. NJ 53708 29940 Old Enclosed Garden

For Home Farm (NJ 5460 3011), see NJ53SW 24.

For East Mains (NJ 5528 2970), see NJ52NE 102.

For rig within the area of the policies (at NJ 5459 2933), see NJ52NW 139. For quarry at NJ 5391 3000 and former cottage at NJ 5360 3002, see NJ53SW 82 and NJ53SW 83 respectively. For quarry at NJ 5506 2918, see NJ52NE 166.

For Kennethmont township (centred NJ 5370 2990), see NJ52NW 216.

For pre-improvement village (centred NJ 5500 2900) within Leithhall policies, see NJ52NE 199.

(NJ 5418 2979) Leith Hall (NR) AD 1650.

OS 6" map, (1959)

Leith Hall, generally as described.

Visited by OS (RL) 19 September 1967.

A watching brief was maintained during the laying of pipes to install an oil-fired central heating system. No archaeological deposits were evident. Observations made are in Grampian Regional Council SMR.

Sponsor: Grampian Regional Council.

M K Greig 1989.

(Additional bibliography, newspaper references and GRC/AAS photographic cover listed).

NMRS, MS/712/52.

NJ 5407 2979 A programme of building recording was undertaken between November 2001 and February 2002 during an extensive rewiring exercise when numerous sub-floor structures were exposed. The exercise permitted a reconsideration of the evolution of this quadrangular structure. Many details of the earliest surviving parts of the house were revealed within the N range of c 1650. It was discovered that the majority of original common joist floor structures survive within the rooms on either side of the central stairwell. No evidence for painted ceilings was seen within the range, interiors perhaps having been lined out and plastered at a relatively early period. However, some of the interior walls had been plastered on the hard and had apparently been painted, and the wooden ceiling structures themselves displayed some soot-blackening suggesting that they had been exposed for some duration before being lined out. The stair had seen considerable modification at each landing level. The fragmentary remains of what appears to be a mid-17th-century wine bottle were observed, pressed into contemporary plaster lining the walls of the uppermost chamber at the head of the stairwell - possibly the evidence for a 'topping-out' ceremony at the completion of the phase 1 tower.

Floor structures were revealed at first-floor level throughout the E and S wings. Differences in their construction demonstrated that the suite of well-appointed rooms in the E range were the earlier (late 18th century), followed by the re-casting of the existing S range with a further, complementary, suite of rooms (c 1800). The latter work necessitated the creation of a linking corridor along the E side of the inner courtyard that connected the S, E and N ranges. In the latter area, the eastern first-floor room in the phase 1 tower was sub-divided to permit direct connection through to its stairwell.

Archive to be deposited in the NMRS.

Sponsor: NTS.

T Addyman 2002

NJ 541 297 To improve the drainage on the E side of the roadway N from the Hall to the 18th-century stable block, four trenches were machine-excavated in March 2002. In three of the trenches it was evident that poor drainage had been a recurring problem, as each trench had several 19th- and 20th-century field drains either cutting across them or running along their length for several metres. A trench across the roadway showed its construction to be a single, hard, clay-bonded stone and pebble metalled surface with no evidence of earlier phases.

Archive to be deposited in the NMRS.

Sponsor: NTS

J C Murray 2002

NJ 541 297 A watching brief was carried out in October 2003 during excavations to install a new filtration system to the water supply to the Hall. The discovery of drainage inspection hatches and amorphous blocks of concrete in the trench showed the ground on this N side of the earliest wing of the Hall to be heavily disturbed. No archaeological features or finds were evident.

Archive to be deposited in the NMRS.

Sponsor: NTS.

J C Murray 2003

Architecture Notes

Leith Hall has been the home of the head of the Leith family since 1650 when the oldest part of the house, the north wing, was built by James Leith of New Leslie on the site of an older property, Peill Castle. Anciently it was defended by a strong wall, having a turret at each angle, enclosing an area of two acres. The south, east and west wings were added in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was presented to the National Trust in 1945.

A L Hay 1849; National Trust for Scotland 1959.

NMRS REFERENCE:

Owner: The National Trust for Scotland

Tenant: The Hon. Mrs Leith-Hay of Rannes

Date: 1650 with 18 & 19c adds

NMRS (Sch. Scott Plans) Survey drawings.

NMRS Print Room

W Schomberg Scott Photograph Collection Acc no 1997/39

1 exterior view

1 interior 'Picture at Leith Hall signed D Wilkie'

Activities

Publication Account (1986)

Leith Hall was in the same family, the Leiths and Leith-Hays, for 300 years. The house forms a pleasing whole, built of four wings on a square, like a modest chateau, but with a complex architectural history as a result of the additions of successive lairds.

The modem visitor approaches the west and most recent wing; to the left (north) is the oldest wing, built in 1650 as a plain rectangular turreted block with a courtyard and laich biggins (brew-house, bake-house, stores and stables) to the south. (There is an excellent NTS guidebook with useful reconstructions of the different phases.) Conventional and unadorned, this block had none of the exuberance of Craigievar or Castle Fraser which date from the more peaceful times at the beginning of the century.

In 1756, John Leith, the fourth laird, built up the east wing, re-sited the stables (the curved block to the north), inserted kitchens on the south side and added little pavilions at each corner. This house had, for its time, the inconvenience of looking into the kitchen courtyard. Around 1797 General Alexander Leith-Hay instituted major changes, turning the house back to front and creating a new south wing for the principal apartments. These five provincial Georgian rooms are the best in the house, particularly the oval Drawing Room, the Dining Room and the Library. In heightening the east wing he also added little turrets to the south wing to harmonise with those on the original north wing. In 1886 the Billiard Room was built above the arch to the courtyard on the west side by the eighth laird, Alexander Sebastian. This was later changed to a Music Room; drum turrets were also added to the north-west and south-west corners and the projecting entrance hall at the east.

A major element of Leith Hall's appeal is the quantity of objects, paintings and furniture that relate directly to the various lairds. For example, in the Dining Room that he created is a portrait of General Alexander Leith-Hay, the sixth laird, with whom the family's fortunes revived, thanks to his Jacobite uncle Andrew Hay of Rannes and a cousin who left him a sugar plantation in Tobago which he sold for a not inconsiderable £29,000. The pardon that Andrew Hay eventually received from George III in 1780 as an act of 'compassion of our special grace' can be seen in the Library, along with Prince Charles Edward Stewart's shagreen writing case. There is also much military memorabilia; three lairds, the sixth, seventh and eighth, saw service overseas, so a characteristic sample of much of British imperial history is preserved here, including Col Alexander Sebastian's booty from the sacking of Oudh.

Several lairds were improvers, albeit not in the van of the movement. The fourth laird, John, built the curved stables (which are not unlike the Aden Round Square, no. 4); his second son, General Alexander Leith-Hay, took advantage of the opening of the Aberdeenshire Canal in 1805 to send carts to Inverurie for lime. He also introduced (40 years pfter Grant of Monymusk)potatoes, pease, turnips and clover.

In the policies, the walled garden, largely created by the second last laird, contains two important Pictish symbol stones, notably the Wolf stone from Percylieu. The garden opens through a delightful 19th century Moon Gate on to the old turnpike road that ran over the hill to Huntly. To the south-east of the house are two ponds created for boating, fishing and duck shooting and an icehouse, the Victorian country house refrigerator.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Grampian’, (1986).

Publication Account (1996)

Leith Hall was in the same family, the Leiths and Leith-Hays, for 300 years. The house forms a pleasing whole, bui lt of four wings on a square, like a modest chateau, but with a complex architectural history as a result of the additions of successive lairds.

The modern visitor approaches the west and most recent wing; to the left (north) is the oldest wing, built in 1650 as a plain rectangular turreted block with a courtyard and laich biggins (brew-house, bake-house, stores and stables) to the south. (There is an excellent NTS guidebook with useful reconstructions of the different phases). Conventional and unadorned, this block had none of the exuberance of Craigievar or Castle Fraser which date from the more peaceful times at the beginning of the century.

In 1756, John Leith, the fourth laird, built up the east wing, re-sited the stables (the curved block to the north ), inserted kitchens on the south side and added little pavilions at each corner. This house had, for its time, the inconvenience of looking ino the kitchen courtyard. Around 1797 General

Alexander Leith-Hay in stituted ma jor changes, turning the house back to from and creating a new south wing for the principal apartments. These five provincial Georgian rooms are the best in the house, particularly the oval Drawing Room, the Dining Room and the Library. In heightening the east wing he also added little turrets to the south wing to harmonise with those on the original north wing. In 1886 the Billiard Room was built above the arch to the courtyard on the west side by the eighth laird, Alexander Sebastian. This was later changed to a Music Room; drum turrets were also added to the north-west and south-west corners and the projecting entrance hall at the east.

A major element of Leith Hall 's appeal is the quantity of objects, paintings and furniture that relate directly to the various lairds. For example, in the Dining Room that he created is a portrait of General Alexander Leith-Hay, the sixth laird, with whom the family's fortunes revived, thanks to his Jacobite uncle Andrew Hay of Rannes and a cousin who left him a sugar plantation in Tobago which he sold for a not inconsiderable £29,000. The pardon that Andrew Hay eventually received from George aII in 1780 as an act of 'compass ion of our special grace' can be seen in the Library, along with Prince Charles Edward Stewart's shagreen writing case. There are also many items of military memorabilia; three lairds, the sixth, seventh and eighth, saw service overseas, so a characteristic sample of much of British imperial history is preserved here, including Col Alexander Sebastian's booty from the sacking of Oudh.

Several lairds were improvers, albeit not in the van of the movement. The fourth laird, John, built the curved stables (which are not unlike the Aden Round Square, no. 4); his second son, General Alexander Leith-Hay, took advantage of the opening of th e Aberdeenshire Canal in 1805 to send carts to Inverurie for lime. He also introduced (40 years after Grant of Monymusk) potatoes, pease, turnips and clover.

In the policies, the walled garden, largely created by the second last laird, contains two important Pictish symbol stones, notably the Wolf stone from Newbigging, Leslie. The garden opens through a delightful 19th-century Moon Gate on to the old turnpike road that ran over the hill to Huntly. To the south-east of the house a re two ponds created for boating, fishing and duck shooting and an icehouse, the Victorian country house refrigerator.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Aberdeen and North-East Scotland’, (1996).

Nts Note (July 2008)

Proposals for the replacement of a chimney lining within the flue of the east wall of the tower-house in the north wing of Leith Hall, Kennethmont, Aberdeenshire led to the removal of two small areas of plasterboard in Rooms 60 and 68.

Information from NTS (SCS) March 2014

Watching Brief (16 July 2013)

A watching brief was maintained during the excavation by hand of a new cable trench around the S and E sides of the interior of the courtyard at Leith Hall which dates from 1650. With the exception of a small portion of possible wall foundation at the W end on the S side of the courtyard no other features or finds were evident.

Information from OASIS mas1-206854 (J C Murray) 2013.

Project (March 2013 - September 2013)

A project to characterise the quantity and quality of the Scottish resource of known surviving remains of the First World War. Carried out in partnership between Historic Scotland and RCAHMS.

Watching Brief (14 October 2013 - 21 April 2015)

NJ 54080 29780 A watching brief was undertaken, 14 October 2013 – 21 April 2015, on the line of a fire main trench across the N lawn at Leith Hall. A shallow trench, possibly a hedge line, 18m N of the wall of the hall, may relate to gardens shown on an estate plan of 1758. The edging wall of a 19th-century garden bed and a path shown on plans of late 18th- and 19th-century date were also recorded.

Archive: The National Trust for Scotland. Report: Aberdeenshire SMR and the National Trust for Scotland

Funder: The National Trust for Scotland

Hilary and Charlie Murray – Murray Archaeological Services Ltd

(Source: DES, Volume 16)

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