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Pitmedden House

Country House (17th Century)

Site Name Pitmedden House

Classification Country House (17th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Pitmedden Castle; Pitmedden House Policies

Canmore ID 19625

Site Number NJ82NE 33

NGR NJ 88444 28055

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/19625

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

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

Recording Your Heritage Online

Pitmedden House and Great Garden, 17th-century house. An apparently guileless building, but substantial, plain, part-harled, part corbiestepped, with pedimented windows rising above the first-floor wallhead. Fire-damaged, 1818; c.1853 (?)William Henderson; remodelled, 1954-5, A G R Mackenzie.

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

NJ82NE 33.00 88444 28055

NJ82NE 33.01 NJ 885 280 Great Garden

NJ82NE 33.02 NJ 88121 28152 Limekiln

NJ82NE 33.03 NJ 8843 2834 North Mains

NJ82NE 33.04 NJ 8856 2748 South Mains

NJ82NE 33.05 NJ 8846 2812 farmhouse (Museum of Farming Life)

NJ82NE 33.06 NJ 8852 2797 Orchard Cottage

NJ82NE 33.07 NJ 8896 2785 and 8899 2785 South Mains Cottages

NJ82NE 33.08 NJ 8870 2838 North Lodge

NJ82NE 33.09 NJ 8867 2845 Ivy Cottage

NJ82NE 33.10 NJ 8863 2831 Woodlands Cottages

NJ82NE 33.11 NJ 8866 2825 Beechgrove

NJ82NE 33.12 NJ 8808 2817 Woodside Cottage

NJ82NE 33.13 NJ 8845 2812 Well

NJ82NE 33.14 NJ 8880 2822 Smithy House

See also:

NJ82NE 27 NJ c. 885 280 Stone Mould; Coins

NJ82NE 80 NJ 8862 2827 Quarry

NJ82NE 81 NJ 8812 2812 Quarry

NJ82NE 82 NJ 8822 2825 Quarry

Not to be confused with Pitmedden House (NJ 8622 1478) and associated buildings in Dyce parish, for which see NJ81SE 52.00.

(NJ 8844 2805) Pitmedden House (NAT)

OS 6" map, (1959)

A fortified house so much altered as to have little of the early work visible.

N Tranter 1962-70.

The Pantons raised a house here about 1430.

R J Prentice nd.

No external evidence of a castellated structure at Pitmedden House, a modern mansion still occupied. According to a painting in a building in Pitmedden Garden, the house was burned in 1818.

Visited by OS (RL) 6 April 1972.

A fortified house so much altered that there is no external evidence of a castellated structure.

Air photographs: AAS/84/14/S9/1-20, flown 6 September 1984.

[Newspaper references cited].

NMRS, MS/712/80.

NJ 885 280 Comprehensive landscape survey and analysis was undertaken between January and December 2005 of the surviving core of the Pitmedden Estate, extending to selected areas sold to surrounding farms by the NTS in the 1950s.

The principal discovery was that the well-known formal walled garden of c 1675 at the core of the historic estate did not exist in isolation. The present Pitmedden House incorporates fragments of earlier structures, particularly to the N, and the uppermost garden terrace adjacent to the E side of the present house was probably the site of an earlier mansion that itself likely incorporated predecessor structures. The early complex was found from contemporary

accounts to have been burnt in 1807 (not 1818 as secondary sources have it). A drawing of the ruins in 1838 suggests a U-shaped courtyard open to the W ; this arrangement is now reversed.

On the N side of the house an existing court of offices was recognised to be of early date (late 17th or early 18th century); this includes a stable to the NW and a single-storeyed cottage to the NE, the latter subsequently given an additional storey. Between these two buildings was a flanking wall and gateway. A wall seems likely to have extended S from the SE corner of the cottage to close off the court, meeting the N side of the lost main house. It is possible

that the early cottage had been a gardener's house.

Outwith the main walled garden, the remains of a very extensive network of early drystone enclosure walls, laid out on a rectilinear grid with the walled garden at the centre, were identified and mapped (both by fieldwalking and map-regression exercises). These early walls, which were of exceptionally fine construction, were respected and often cut by all other features in the landscape ; quarries, turnpike roads, etc. On the basis of such evidence, the enclosure network was deduced to date close to the period of construction of the walled garden itself. The early walls form a

network of enclosures very suggestive of the formal laying-out of a small estate as described in contemporary treatises and following contemporary Continental practices.

Notably idiosyncratic details of the two early garden pavilions ; rusticated window surrounds and flat ogee lintels - were found, in common with similar details at the late 17th-century Hatton House terraced garden, to the W of Edinburgh. There can be little doubt that the same hand was involved in their construction.

The monumental E entrance of the walled garden seems not to be original to its present location. These may have been the gates at the W side of the original mansion court and are very similar to those shown in the 1830s drawing. The house was rebuilt in the 1850s and the gate piers relocated. The early estate appears to have evolved with additional plantings and other features in the 18th century and, in particular, the early 19th century. The latter was in large part in response to the layingout of turnpike roads that converged upon and cut through the Pitmedden Estate ; the modern B9000 (in 1805), B999 (in 1825) and the A920 (early 19th century). Many of the existing plantings, shelter-belts and drives appear to date from this time, as do most of the secondary estate buildings, farms and outlying field walls.

Sponsor: NTS.

T Addyman 2005.

NJ 8844 2805 In response to a proposal to build a new conservatory we undertook an excavation on 28-9 March 2007.

The excavation sought to establish the footprint of a Victorian conservatory that had been formerly attached to the wall of the house and is documented in photographs. The foundations of the 19th-century conservatory were exposed and recorded.

Report deposited with NTS, Aberdeenshire SMR and RCAHMS.

Funder: National Trust for Scotland.

H K Murray and J C Murray, 2007.

Architecture Notes

Not to be confused with Pitmedden House (NJ 8622 1478) and associated buildings in Dyce parish, for which see NJ81SE 52.00.

NMRS REFERENCE:

Owners: National Trust for Scotland. (Source - Aberdeenshire 3rd Statistical Account. pub. 1960)

Architect: James F Beattie - stables 1863. Duck House 1861.

Activities

Field Visit (6 April 1972)

No external evidence of a castellated structure at Pitmedden House, a modern mansion still occupied. According to a painting in a building in Pitmedden Garden, the house was burned in 1818.

Visited by OS (RL) 6 April 1972

Publication Account (1986)

When King James VII met opposition among the Scottish law lords to his catholicism, one of the Lords of Session that he had removed from the bench was Alexander Seton, Lord Pitrnedden. Seton retired from public life to pursue a major project that he had begun in 1675, the creation of a formal or 'great' garden. A date-stone recording the garden's foundation (Fundat 2 May 1675) can still be seen in the garden wall, the initials standing for Sir Alexander Seton and his wife, Dame Margaret Lauder. In creating a large formal garden, 145m square, with two main sections on different levels, Seton was following a well-established English pattern.

Seton's garden consisted of an upper and lower enclosure, divided by a wall with pavilions to north and south. The lower garden contained four large rectangular borders or parterres, ornamented with box hedging, which were viewed from terraces to north and south, and elegant garden furniture such as fountain and sundial. The restoration of the garden since 1952 was designed by Dr J S Richardson and others and carried out by the Trust's head gardener (the Beechgrove gardener), George Barron.

Three of the parterres follow designs shown on Gordon of Rothiemay's 1647 view of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, while the fourth, in the south-west, contains the arms of Sir Alexander Seton. The legends Sustento Sanguine Signa (With blood I bear the standard) and Merces Haec Certa Laborum (This sure reward of our labours), the bleeding heart in the centre of the arms and the 17th century soldier on the pavilion weather vanes all refer to the death of Seton's father, John, fighting on the royalist side against the Covenanters at the Bridge of Dee in Aberdeen in 1639.

In the middle of the lower garden is a fountain containing seven stones from the cross fountain in Linlithgow and three from Pitmeddeni they were possibly all cut by Robert Mylne for the restoration of Charles II. The pavilions are two-storeyed garden shelters with ogee roofs very similar to one at Bruce's Kinross House. In the upper garden is a herb garden, for cookery, perfume and medicine, and another fountain, Sir Alexander's own.

Another feature of Pitmedden is the Museum of Farming Life, with farmhouse and ancilliary buildings containing an important collection of 19th and early 20th century farming implements. The dark, cold little Bothy gives a good impression of the living conditions of the hired help a generation or so ago. Across the road is an excellent example of an estate limekiln and quarry pit of the early 19th century.

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

Aerial Photography (19 February 1999)

Ground Survey (January 2005 - December 2005)

NJ 885 280 Comprehensive landscape survey and analysis was undertaken between January and December 2005 of the surviving core of the Pitmedden Estate, extending to selected areas sold to surrounding farms by the NTS in the 1950s.

The principal discovery was that the well-known formal walled garden of c 1675 at the core of the historic estate did not exist in isolation. The present Pitmedden House incorporates fragments of earlier structures, particularly to the N, and the uppermost garden terrace adjacent to the E side of the present house was probably the site of an earlier mansion that itself likely incorporated predecessor structures. The early complex was found from contemporary

accounts to have been burnt in 1807 (not 1818 as secondary sources have it). A drawing of the ruins in 1838 suggests a U-shaped courtyard open to the W ; this arrangement is now reversed.

On the N side of the house an existing court of offices was recognised to be of early date (late 17th or early 18th century); this includes a stable to the NW and a single-storeyed cottage to the NE, the latter subsequently given an additional storey. Between these two buildings was a flanking wall and gateway. A wall seems likely to have extended S from the SE corner of the cottage to close off the court, meeting the N side of the lost main house. It is possible

that the early cottage had been a gardener's house.

Outwith the main walled garden, the remains of a very extensive network of early drystone enclosure walls, laid out on a rectilinear grid with the walled garden at the centre, were identified and mapped (both by fieldwalking and map-regression exercises). These early walls, which were of exceptionally fine construction, were respected and often cut by all other features in the landscape ; quarries, turnpike roads, etc. On the basis of such evidence, the enclosure network was deduced to date close to the period of construction of the walled garden itself. The early walls form a

network of enclosures very suggestive of the formal laying-out of a small estate as described in contemporary treatises and following contemporary Continental practices.

Notably idiosyncratic details of the two early garden pavilions ; rusticated window surrounds and flat ogee lintels - were found, in common with similar details at the late 17th-century Hatton House terraced garden, to the W of Edinburgh. There can be little doubt that the same hand was involved in their construction.

The monumental E entrance of the walled garden seems not to be original to its present location. These may have been the gates at the W side of the original mansion court and are very similar to those shown in the 1830s drawing. The house was rebuilt in the 1850s and the gate piers relocated. The early estate appears to have evolved with additional plantings and other features in the 18th century and, in particular, the early 19th century. The latter was in large part in response to the layingout of turnpike roads that converged upon and cut through the Pitmedden Estate ; the modern B9000 (in 1805), B999 (in 1825) and the A920 (early 19th century). Many of the existing plantings, shelter-belts and drives appear to date from this time, as do most of the secondary estate buildings, farms and outlying field walls.

Sponsor: NTS.

T Addyman 2005.

Excavation (28 March 2007 - 29 March 2007)

NJ 8844 2805 In response to a proposal to build a new conservatory we undertook an excavation on 28-9 March 2007. The excavation sought to establish the footprint of a Victorian conservatory that had been formerly attached to the wall of the house and is documented in photographs. The foundations of the 19th-century conservatory were exposed and recorded.

Report deposited with NTS, Aberdeenshire SMR and RCAHMS.

Funder: National Trust for Scotland.

H K Murray and J C Murray, 2007.

Watching Brief (27 September 2011)

NJ 8845 2806 A watching brief was conducted on 27 September 2011 during the construction of four new interpretation panels. The only significant find was made from a trench facing the Cottage, on the site of the 17th-century Court of Offices, where a Bronze Age flint thumb-nail scraper was recovered from the base of the pit at a depth of c0.6m.

Archive: RCAHMS (intended)

Funder: The National Trust for Scotland

The National Trust for Scotland, 2011

Watching Brief (27 November 2012)

NJ 8844 2805 A watching brief was carried out on 27 November 2012 during the replacement of a sewer pipe. It was considered possible that the line of the trench might cut across foundations relating to the 17th-century wings that existed prior to the burning of the house in 1807. However, the ground had been disturbed by the earlier services and no foundations were observed.

Archive: RCAHMS (intended). Report: Aberdeenshire Council HER

Funder: The National Trust for Scotland

HK Murray, Murray Archaeological Services Ltd, 2013

(Source: DES)

Watching Brief (13 January 2017)

NJ 88440 28050 A watching brief was undertaken, 13 January 2017, on a cable trench for a new fire alarm system. A dismantled wooden stair was revealed below floor boards in the cupboard at the N end of the corridor leading to the Wicken Room.

Archive and report: National Trust for Scotland

Funder: National Trust for Scotland

(Source: DES, Volume 18)

References

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