In 1990 Wardhouse, a mansion near
Insch, Aberdeenshire, was named in Scotlands Endangered Houses (Marcus Dean and Mary
Miers). The houses decline started in 1898 when death duties caused the tenth laird,
Rafael Gordon, to lease out his inheritance. Family connections with the Gonzalez Byass
sherry company, and his friendship with King Alfonso XIII, made Spain his chosen home but
he often returned to Wardhouse to shoot over the nearby moors.
Wardhouse, in the parish of
Kennethmont, replaced the ancient castle of Wardas. It is a legendary place, with Jacobite
associations recalled in The Lays of Strathbogie, yet at the millennium
local poets L. and R. Donald wrote:
Twa grand hooses roon aboot,
Leithhall yell ken, withoot a doot, bit Wardhouse, farrer roon the brae
tells little o its finer day.
Press cuttings, and a sale catalogue
held in the National Library of Scotland, help bring to the minds eye something of
the houses finer day before 1898.
On two fine days that April special
trains from Aberdeen carried crowds to the sale at Wardhouse. Throughout Scotlands
north-east there must still be relics of the mansion, perhaps unrecognised by their
present owners, while a few may be in Scottish museums as bequests or long-term loans.
High on the mansion s central
block visitors could see a stone incorporated from an earlier building dating from the
days of Arthur Gordon, the second laird. It bore the legend Arthurs Seat,
built in the year 1757 and. . . Ann Dean, co-author with
M. Morrison of The Spanish Gordons and Huntly (2001) has traced
details of a sale held at Huntly in 1749 when Arthur Gordon acquired many items including
silver work, perhaps the nucleus of Wardhouses renowned silver
This extract from a new work on Wardhouse
by Jean Matheson is available from :