Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Story of Ferntower House

There has been considerable  discussion  recently regarding the   state of decrepitude of  many of the older  and better  known  buildings  in Crieff . The Drummond Arms , the old Parish Church in Church Street ( aka the Community Hall ) , the George or Strathearn Hotel and the old Crown Hotel in East High Street . One  does  not  to travel too far back in time  to recall  the  fate of  many other fine buildings in Crieff and indeed in Strathearn on a wider basis .

Although I devoted  a small space  some  months  back to Ferntower House  I find  it  so fascinating that I have  decided  I am going to elaborate further  and  include  more information  about it and  its most  celebrated occupant General Sir  David Baird  whose monument dominates so much of the Strath . It was a building not renowned  for  any great architectural merit  but rather for its part in the overall  tapestry of  life in the Strath over two centuries .

Once the home of the Preston family in the 15th century the lands of Ferntower were forfeited to the Crown .These lands  seemed separate from the main Strathearn lands and changed hands frequently .Moray of Abercairney, Maxtones of Cultoquhey and Murray of Dollerie all held them at various times .Lord John Drummond an uncle of the last Duke of Perth acquired them in 1743.The ’45 proved disastrous to the Perth family and their lands were forfeited  with the Duke dying on board ship attempting to escape to France after Culloden.

Lord John Drummond entertained Bonnie Prince Charlie at Ferntower house on February 2nd 1746  and the bedroom he occupied in the older  part of the  house was very much as it  was  right  up until the eventual demolition of the building in the 1960s .In 1751 Lord John Drummond sold the Estates of Ferntower to Patrick Campbell of Monzie who became Lord Monzie one of the Senators of the Court of Justice in Edinburgh .His daughter Ann Campbell married a Captain Menzies Their daughter Catherine Menzies  succeeded to her mother and married Major Patrick Preston of Valleyfield Fife  .Their daughter Ann Campbell Preston succeeded to Ferntower and married General Sir David Baird one of the most distinguished  Generals under the Duke of Wellington in India and Egypt .

There is an oft told  tale that in the early days  of the war in India  was taken prisoner and the prisoners  were chained in couples .When the news reached his mother , she  exclaimed “ God help the man who is chained  to oor Davie ! ”Sir David and Lady Baird  resided at Ferntower House for many years  and  added a wing and a tower to the mansion house .On Lady Baird’s death she was succeeded  by her sister created Baroness Abercromby , the widow  of Sir Ralph Abercromby , the hero o the Battle of Aboukir .

 Queen Victoria was received  by Lady Baird at Ferntower House on September 12th , 1842 .





The sad remains

The Estate of Ferntower  was sold  in 1911 and the  sale details prepared  by the Agents , Messrs T & RB Rankin of Edinburgh make interesting  reading as it defines what the Bairds  had owned and managed in their time . The  house itself  had  an entrance hall, dining room ,double drawing room ,two sitting rooms , 12 bedrooms , 2 dressing rooms  and ample servants’ accommodation . At one time  Ferntower had  eight gardeners  to tidy the borders and cut the grass ! The area noted  in the sales particulars extended  to some  3300 acres  and with  a number of  lodges dotted  around ( these are still in existence and are now private residences ). A plus point for a sale was the shooting available and the 1911 list would nowadays have the conservation lobby up in arms! Listed were roe deer, black game, capercailzie, pheasant, partridge, snipe, wild duck, golden plover, hares and rabbits!



The Estate  was  not  restricted  to the  lands around the house  but included  many farms and properties  which many of you will recognise .The Crieffvechters, Colony , Greenhead , Peathills , Tomaknock, Laker  and Callum’s Hill Quarry all near  Crieff ,Lochlane to the south west , Knockieston , a pendicle at Dallerie , and various shootings and near Madderty Parkside, Westbank , Muirmouth and the land at what was to become St Davids !



Prior  to the  1911 sale the house had  been rented out  to Dr Meikle who had  built and established the Hydro . It was indeed apposite that the  Hydro should  purchase Ferntower , an act  which has proven beneficial to them and indeed the town as a whole .. Sadly the ravages of time took their toll and  the  old building  was  demolished or  rather  blown up in the early 1960s . The stable   part  with servant’s  accommodation survived and indeed  was used  up until the early  1990s as Hydro staff quarters . Although  not  perhaps  the grandest of  mansions in the style of  the also demolished Abercairney , it was a fine  example of a rural Perthshire “ big hoose  “and its  demise  is lamented ,



I will follow this “ Blog “ later with a synopsis  of the life story of Sir David Baird , who lived  the retirement years of his life in the heart of Strathearn .






2 comments:

  1. It is fascinating. I am going to Innerpeffray next week and would love to call in here, could you give me directions please?

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