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 Wardhouse

In 1990 Wardhouse, a mansion near Insch, Aberdeenshire, was named in Scotland’s Endangered Houses (Marcus Dean and Mary Miers). The house’s 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, Leith—hall ye’ll 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 mind’s eye something of the house’s ‘finer day’ before 1898.

 On two fine days that April special trains from Aberdeen carried crowds to the sale at Wardhouse. Throughout Scotland’s 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.

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 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 ‘Arthur’s 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 Wardhouse’s renowned silver collection.

 

This extract from a new work on Wardhouse by Jean Matheson is available from :

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