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 .
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 .