Thursday 28 February 2013

(6) Abercromby of Tullibody and Airthrey, Barons Abercromby

Abercromby of Tullibody
coat of arms
Abercromby, Baron Abercromby
coat of arms
Alexander Abercromby, the second son of Sir Alexander Abercromby of Birkenbog, settled at Tullibody in Clackmannanshire, which he inherited from his cousin George Abercromby of Skeith, and also bought Menstrie Castle (Clackmannanshire) in 1719.   His son, George Abercromby (1705-1800) purchased the Brucefield (Clackmannanshire) estate in about 1758.

George had two distinguished soldiers among his sons.  The elder was Lt-Gen Sir Ralph Abercromby, who died from wounds received in the Battle of Aboukir in 1801, and whose widow was created Baroness Abercromby in his honour later the same year.  In 1827 the 2nd Baron inherited Airthrey Castle (Stirlingshire) from his uncle, General Sir Robert Abercromby, who had acquired it in 1797.[1]  It was sold by the his grandson between 1883 and 1905.  Tullibody seems to have been sold by the 4th Baron in 1906, and on the death of his brother in 1924 the title became extinct.  Tullibody House, which consisted of a main block and two wings, was burnt and demolished c.1961.  Airthrey Castle is now the University of Stirling. Menstrie Castle belongs to the National Trust for Scotland.

Sir Ralph's third son, James Abercromby, became Speaker of the House of Commons and was created Baron Dunfermline in 1839, but this title became extinct on the death of his son in 1868.  Both Lords Dunfermline lived at Colinton House in Midlothian, now the home of Merchiston Castle School, which was built to the designs of Richard Crichton for Sir William Forbes in c.1801.

Tullibody House (Clackmannanshire)
Tullibody House from an old postcard

The house sat on a magnificent site by the shore of the River Forth.  A house was built here in the 1650s by Robert Meldrum, but was rebuilt about 1710 by Alexander Abercromby (1675-1753), who also laid out fir plantations and formal gardens around it after 1725.  The house had a main block of three storeys and six bays, with a tall hipped roof, joined by curved one and a half storey links to two-storey pavilions at right angles to the entrance front.  William Stirling carried out unidentified alterations in c.1803 at a cost of around £2,109.  In the 19th century the setting of the house became industrialised, and it was demolished in 1963 as a result of railway works and a fire.

Descent: sold 1648 to Robert Meldrum; to brother, Maj. George Meldrum, who sold 1662 to William Sharp, who sold 1679 to George Abercromby (d. 1699) of Skein/Skeith (Aberdeens); to cousin, Alexander Abercromby (1675-1753); to son, George Abercromby (1705-1800); to son, Sir Ralph Abercromby, kt. (1735-1801); to widow, Mary Anne Abercromby, 1st Baroness Abercromby (d. 1821); to son, George Abercromby (1770-1843), 2nd Baron Abercromby; to son, George Ralph Abercromby (1800-52), 3rd Baron Abercromby; to son, George Ralph Campbell Abercromby (1838-1917), 4th Baron Abercromby; to brother, John Abercromby (1841-1924), 5th Baron Abercromby, who apparently sold the house before 1923; Major Hugh Carlisle Campbell Forrester DL (fl. 1939)

Menstrie Castle (Clackmannanshire)
Menstrie Castle, 2008. © John Lee.  Licenced under a Creative Commons Licence
Menstrie Castle before restoration.
A sturdy, picturesque three-storey L-plan castellated house with steep roof, crowstepped gables, dormer windows and pepperpot turrets, probably the remaining part of a full quadrangle, entered through a wide-arched gateway.  The house was burnt by the Marquess of Montrose during the Civil War, and later in the 17th century a new laird’s house (Windsor House) – now demolished – was built opposite.  After centuries of neglect and misuse, it was saved from demolition by a campaign led by the actor Moultrie Kelsall in 1960-64 and converted into flats, a museum and coffee shop.  It is a wealthy manor house rather than a defensible castle, and is now surrounded by a simple square of housing designed by W.H. Henry, 1957-60.  The castle now contains a commemoration room to the baronets of Nova Scotia administered by the NTS, in recognition of the fact that Sir William Alexander, 1st Earl of Stirling, founder of Nova Scotia, was born here.

Descent: Built c.1560 for William Alexander (d. c.1574); to Sir William Alexander, 1st Earl of Stirling (c.1576-1640); Robert Murray of Woodend (Perths), mortgagor foreclosed before 1640; burnt 1645; sold 1649 to Maj. James Holborne of Menstrie; to son, James Holborne of Menstrie; to son, Sir James Holburn of Menstrie, 1st bt. (d. 1737), who sold 1719 to Alexander Abercromby of Tullibody (1675-1753); to son, George Abercromby (1705-1800); to son, Sir Ralph Abercromby, kt. (1735-1801); to widow, Mary Anne Abercromby, 1st Baroness Abercromby (d. 1821); to son, George Abercromby (1770-1843), 2nd Baron Abercromby; to son, George Ralph Abercromby (1800-52), 3rd Baron Abercromby; to son, George Ralph Campbell Abercromby (1838-1917), 4th Baron Abercromby; to brother, John Abercromby (1841-1924), 5th Baron Abercromby; sold 1924 after his death.

Brucefield (Clackmannanshire)
A plain three storey house in the earliest classical manner introduced to Scotland by Sir William Bruce, built c.1724 for Alexander Bruce of Kennet.  The central block has a tall hipped slate roof and prominent chimneystacks and four widely-spaced windows, and to either side are lower hipped-roofed wings.  The two storey south wing was added c.1760 and the three-storey north wing in the early 19th century.  The entrance is now through a Doric porch on the west front, but was formerly at first floor level on the east.  The house was restored by James Shearer of Dunfermline in the 1930s for the 7th Lord Balfour of Burleigh.

Descent: Alexander Bruce (d. 1747); to son, Robert Bruce (1718-85), Lord Kennet, who sold c.1758 to his father-in-law, George Abercromby of Tullibody (1705-1800) who leased it to his brother James (d. 1775) and then to his son, Capt. Burnet Abercromby (d. 1792); to son, Gen. Sir Robert Abercromby (1740-1827); ??to great-nephew, Robert Bruce (1795-1864) of Kennet; to son, Sir Alexander Hugh Bruce, 6th Lord Balfour of Burleigh (1849-1921); to son, George John Gordon Bruce, 7th Lord Balfour of Burleigh (1883-1967); to son, Robert Bruce, 8th Lord Balfour of Burleigh (b. 1927)

Airthrey Castle (Stirlingshire)
Airthrey Castle.  © roger4336.  Licenced under a Creative Commons licence.

A D-shaped castle-style house, which however employs mainly Classical forms, designed by Robert Adam in 1790-91 for Robert Haldane (whose brother-in-law, Richard Oswald, had employed Adam thirty years earlier at Auchencruive).  Haldane dismissed Adam after the plans had been supplied, and redirected the money for architects’ fees to building in ashlar instead of rubble.  Haldane sold the house to Sir Robert Abercromby in 1798 when it was not quite finished, and went off to be a missionary in Bengal.  The house was enlarged, the north-facing entrance front rebuilt in a dull, loosely Baronial style and the interior extensively altered by David Thomson for Donald M. Graham in 1891.  The hall has a lavish late 19th century interior with panelling and a massive timber fireplace.  The lodges, one of which has been demolished, were designed by William Stirling for Sir Robert Abercromby in 1809. The park was landscaped by Thomas White c.1798 and by Alexander Nasymth, c.1802, and now accommodates the main Stirling University campus: the lake survives, but a late 18th century hermitage on a clifftop overlooking Airthrey Loch is now only a pile of rubble.  The house was used as a maternity hospital from 1939-69, and an incongruous nurses’ home was built extending east from the Victorian service court.  In 1966 it was acquired by the University, which has effected considerable refurbishment.

Descent: Robert Haldane; sold 1798 to Sir Robert Abercromby (1740-1827); to nephew, George Abercromby (1770-1843), 2nd Baron Abercromby; to son, George Ralph Abercromby (1800-52), 3rd Baron Abercromby; to son, George Ralph Campbell Abercromby (1838-1917), 4th Baron Abercromby, who sold 1889 to Donald M. Graham (d. 1901); to widow, Mrs. Graham and her Trustees; leased as maternity hospital 1939; sold 1946 to Stirling County Council; transferred 1966 to University of Stirling
Colinton House (Midlothian)
Colinton House in 1880

A distinguished five bay villa, built for the Edinburgh banker, Sir William Forbes of Pitsligo in 1801-06.  It is built of polished Craigleith ashlar, with a front of broad, relaxed proportions.  There is a large central porch with coupled Ionic columns, and the wide segmental fanlight is repeated in each wing beneath a plain attic panel.  Forbes bought the estate from the Foulises in 1800 and first consulted John Fraser of Colinton, who suggested the repair and extension of the existing castle.  Plans by an unknown architect in the castellated manner of Adam were accordingly produced, but at the same time Thomas Harrison, Richard Crichton, Robert Burn, John Paterson and others produced plans for a new house.  A letter of 1801 confirms that Harrison’s design formed the basis of what was built, and the bowed rear elevation resembles that of his Kennet (Clackmannanshire, 1793; dem. 1967), with the addition of a continuous balcony, suggested by one of Forbes’ many advisers.  The final drawings for the front were executed by Crichton, suggesting he may have amended the original designs.  Forbes himself managed everything and everybody.  For the house John Fraser was the mason, John Young the carpenter, William Scott the plumber, Charles Stewart the slater, John Baxter the glazier and James Bryce the painter, the work being measured by Hugh Cairncross.  Forbes died before work was completed and the house was finished by his son.  It was sold after the latter’s death to James Abercromby, Speaker of the House of Commons, who commissioned W.H. Playfair to make alterations to the interior in 1840-41; these included remodelling the staircase.  The house has been part of Merchiston Castle school since 1929, and was adapted as its science laboratory by W.J. Walker Todd, with a Venetian-windowed addition to the west.  The interior has fared badly.  The entrance hall and Ionic pilastered corridor survive, both groin-vaulted.  The staircase is a simple dog-leg, but its network balustrade has been damaged.  The house sits in parkland created by Forbes, who in 1801 obtained a plan from Matthew Stobie and recommendations from William Alexander, but who attributed the result to his own gardener, James Rintoul.

Previous owners: sold 1800 to Sir William Forbes (1739-1806), 6th bt.  of Pitsligo; to son, Sir William Forbes (1773-1828), 7th bt. of Pitsligo; sold after his death to James Abercromby (1776-1858), 1st Baron Dunfermline; to son, Ralph Abercromby (1803-68), 2nd Baron Dunfermline; to daughter, Mary Catherine Elizabeth Abercromby (d. 1908), wife of Lt-Col. John Moubray Trotter (1842-1924); sold after his death to Merchistoun Castle School.

The Abercrombys of Tullibody and Airthrey, Barons Abercromby

Abercromby, Alexander (1675-1753) of Tullibody (Clackmannans), advocate and MP.  Born in 1675, the second son of Sir Alexander Abercromby (1608-84), 1st bt. and his third wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir James Baird of Auchmeddan.  MP for Clackmannanshire 1703-07.  He married Mary, daughter of Alexander Duff of Braco, and had issue:
(1) George Abercromby (1705-1800) (q.v.)
(2) Alexander Abercromby, of Alloa, married, 1732 Rebecca, daughter of Alexander Colquhoun;
(3) Helen Abercromby, married, 1739, her cousin, Sir Robert Abercromby (c.1699-1787), 3rd bt. of Birkenbog.
(4) James Abercromby (1707-75) of Brucefield; educated at Westminster, University of Leiden, Lincolns Inn (called to bar, 1738); attorney general of South Carolina, 1731-44; member of South Carolina Assembly, 1739-45; agent in London for North Carolina and Virginia, 1745-71; MP for Clackmannanshire 1761-68; deputy auditor-general of plantations 1757-65. Lived on his brother George’s Brucefield estate (Clackmannanshire), 1757-75, and owned substantial property (nearly 7,000 acres) in South Carolina.
He inherited the Tullibody estate in Clackmannanshire from his cousin, George Abercromby of Skeith, in 1698.  He also purchased Menstrie Castle (Clackmannans) in 1719.
He died in 1753.

Abercromby, George (1705-1800) of Tullibody House, advocate.  Elder son of Alexander Abercromby of Tullibody (1675-1753) (q.v.) and his wife Mary, dau of Alexander Duff of Braco.  He married Mary, daughter of Ralph Dundas of Manour (Perths) and had issue:
(1) George Abercromby (b. 1728), baptised at Logie (Fife), 19 August 1728; perhaps died young;
(2) Sir Ralph Abercromby (1735-1801) (q.v.)
(3) Capt. Burnet Abercromby (dsp 1792) of Brucefield, Capt. in HEICS; MP for Clackmannanshire; m. [name unknown] (d. 1795) who m.2 [forename unknown] Barclay.
(4) General Sir Robert Abercromby (1740-1827), a General in the Army; commander-in-chief in India, 1793; Governor of Edinburgh Castle; MP for Clackmannanshire 1798-1802; purchased Airthrey Castle in 1798 before it was fully completed and was responsible for landscaping the park and building the lodges; died unmarried and the estate passed to his nephew, George Abercromby (1770-1843), 2nd Baron Abercromby;
(5) Alexander Abercromby (1745-95), advocate; lord of sessions as Lord Abercromby; died unmarried;
(6) Helen Abercromby, married, 1754, Robert Bruce (1718-85), Lord Kennet and had issue;
(7) Mary Abercromby, married Maj. Alexander Joass (d. 1794), Governor of Stirling, and had issue.
He inherited from his father the Tullibody House and Menstrie Castle estates, and c.1758 purchased Brucefield (Clackmannanshire).
He died 8 June 1800, aged about 95.

Maj-Gen. Sir Ralph Abercromby
Abercromby, Maj-Gen. Sir Ralph (1735-1801), kt.  He was born 25 October 1735, the eldest son of George Abercromby (1705-1800) of Tullibody and his wife Mary, dau of Ralph Dundas of Manour (Perths).  He entered the army in 1756 and was appointed Col. of the 103rd Foot in 1781 and Major-General in 1787.  In August 1795 he was Commander-in-Chief of British forces in the West Indies; in 1798 he was given command of forces in Ireland, and shortly afterwards of those in Scotland, with the governorships of Fort Augustus and Fort George.  Early in 1801 he had command of British forces in Egypt and at the famous second battle of Aboukir he received a wound of which he died shortly afterwards.  He was appointed a Knight of the Bath in 1797 and was a member of the Privy Council.  He married 17 November 1767, Mary Anne (1747-1821), second dau and co-heir of John Menzies of Ferntower, Crieff (Perths), who when an account of the triumph and death of her husband reached England, was created Baroness Abercromby in his memory, and awarded a pension of £2,000 a year for herself and the next three inheritors of the title.  They had issue:
(1) George Abercromby (1770-1843), 2nd Baron Abercromby (q.v.);
(2) Lt-Gen. Sir John Abercromby (1772-1817) GCB, a Lt-Gen. in the Army; colonel of 53rd Regiment; captured Mauritius 1809; died unmarried at Marseilles;
(3) James Abercromby (1776-1858), 1st Baron Dunfermline (q.v.);
(4) Anne Abercromby (d. 1844), married, 1795, Donald Cameron (d. 1832) of Lochiel;
(5) Catherine Abercromby (d. 1841), married, 1811, Thomas Buchanan
(6) Lt-Col. Alexander Abercromby (1784-1853), served in the Peninsular War and at Waterloo; MP for Clackmannanshire 1817; died unmarried “at his country seat in Clackmannanshire”, 27 August 1853;
(7) Mary Abercromby (d. 1825).
He inherited his father’s estates in 1800 but was killed shortly afterwards.  It is not clear what property if any he inherited from his wife’s father.
He died 28 March 1801, and was buried in the burial ground of the Commandery of the Grand Master under the walls of the castle of St. Elmo at Valetta (Malta).  He is commemorated by a monument in St. Paul’s Cathedral ordered by the House of Commons.

Abercromby, George (1770-1843), 2nd Baron Abercromby.  Born 17 October 1770, the eldest son of Maj-Gen. Sir Ralph Abercromby (1735-1801) and his wife Mary Anne, 1st Baroness Abercromby (1747-1821), daughter of John Menzies of Ferntower, Crieff (Perths).  MP for Edinburgh 1805-06, Clackmannanshire 1806-07, 1812-15; Lord Lieutenant of Stirlingshire 1837-43.  He married, 20 January 1799 at Edinburgh, Montague (1772-1837), daughter of Henry Dundas (1742-1811), 1st Viscount Melville, and had issue:
(1) George Ralph Abercromby (1800-52), 3rd Baron Abercromby (q.v.);
(2) Montague Abercromby (1807-53), married, 1831, Rt. Hon. Fox Maule (later Maule-Ramsay) (1801-74), 2nd Baron Panmure (and after her death 11th Earl of Dalhousie);
(3) Mary Anne Abercromby (1811-98), married, 1857, Col. N.R. Brown (d. 1870).
He inherited Tullibody House from his mother in 1821 and Airthrey Castle from his uncle, Sir Robert Abercromby (1740-1827) (q.v.) in 1827.
He died at Airthrey Castle 14 February 1843 and was buried at Tullibody.  He was succeeded in his title and estates by his son.

Abercromby, Col. George Ralph (1800-52), 3rd Baron Abercromby.  Born 30 May 1800, only son of George Abercromby (1770-1843), 2nd Baron Abercromby, and his wife Montague (1772-1837), dau of Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville.  MP for Clackmannan & Kinross, 1824-31, Stirlingshire 1838-41 and Clackmannanshire and Kinross-shire 1841-52; Lord Lieutenant and Sheriff-Principal of Clackmannanshire 1840-52.  Served in the Army (Major 1826; Colonel).  He married 3 April 1832, Louisa Penuel (c.1810-82), daughter of John Hay Forbes, Lord Medwyn, and had issue:
(1) Montagu Abercromby (1835-1931), m. 1856 George Frederick Boyle, 6th Earl of Glasgow (d. 1890) and had issue;
(2) George Ralph Campbell Abercromby (1838-1917), 4th Baron Abercromby (q.v.);
(3) John Abercromby (1841-1924), 5th Baron Abercromby (q.v.);
(4) Ralph Abercromby (1842-97), died unmarried.
He inherited Tullibody House and Airthrey Castle from his father in 1843.
He died at Airthrey Castle, 25 June 1852 and was buried at Tullibody.

Abercromby, George Ralph Campbell (1838-1917), 4th Baron Abercromby.  Born 23 September 1838, eldest son of Col. George Ralph Abercromby (1800-52), 3rd Baron Abercromby and his wife Louisa Penuel (d. 1882), daughter of John Hay Forbes, Lord Medwyn.  He was  a JP for Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire and DL for Stirlingshire.  He married 6 October 1858, Lady Julia Janet Georgiana Duncan (d. 1915), a lady of the bedchamber to Queen Victoria, dau of Adam, 2nd Earl of Camperdown, but had no issue.
He inherited Airthrey Castle and Tullibody House from his father in 1852, but sold the former between 1882 and 1905.  He lived at Tullibody House.
He died in London, 30 October 1917, when his title passed to his younger brother, John Abercromby (1841-1924), 5th Baron Abercromby (q.v.).

Abercromby, John (1841-1924), 5th Baron Abercromby, antiquarian.  Born 15 January 1841, second son of Col. George Ralph Abercromby (1800-52), 3rd Baron Abercromby and his wife Louisa Penuel (d. 1882), daughter of John Hay Forbes, Lord Medwyn.  Lt, Rifle Brigade.  President of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland; Hon LL.D, Edinburgh Univ.  He succeeded his brother as 5th Baron Abercromby, 30 October 1917.  He married 26 August 1876 (div. 1879) his cousin, Adele Wilhelmine Marika, daughter of Chevalier Charles von Heidenstam, Swedish Minister at the Court of Athens and had issue:
(1) Edla Louisa Montagu (b. 1877), married, 1906, Georges N. Nasos, director of the conservatory of music at Athens and officer of the Order of the Saviour, Greece.
He apparently sold Tullibody House and lived at 62 Palmerston Rd, Edinburgh in 1923.
He died 7 October 1924, when the barony of Abercromby became extinct.

The Abercrombys of Colinton, Barons Dunfermline

Abercromby, James (1776-1858), 1st Baron Dunfermline.  Born 7 November 1776, third son of Maj-Gen. Sir Ralph Abercromby (1735-1801) and his wife Mary Anne (1747-1821), 1st Baroness Abercromby, daughter of John Menzies of Ferntower, Crieff (Perths).  Called to the bar in 1800; commissioner of bankruptcy; appointed judge-avocate-general in 1827 and chief baron of Scotland, 1830; master of the mint and a member of the cabinet, 1834; speaker of the House of Commons 1835-39; created Baron Dunfermline of Dunfermline (Fife) 7 June 1839.  He married 14 June 1802, Marianne (d. 1874), dau of Egerton Leigh of West Hall, High Legh (Cheshire) and had issue:
(1) Ralph Abercromby (1803-68), 2nd Baron Dunfermline (q.v.).
He purchased Colinton House (Midlothian) after 1828 and in 1840-41 commissioned W.H. Playfair to remodel the interior.
He died 17 April 1858.

Abercromby, Ralph (1803-68), 2nd Baron Dunfermline.  Born 6 April 1803, only child of James Abercromby (1776-1858), 1st Baron Dunfermline and his wife Marianne, daughter of Egerton Leigh of West Hall, High Legh (Cheshire).  An eminent diplomat.  He married 18 September 1838 Mary Elizabeth (d. 1874), eldest dau of Gilbert Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound (1782-1859), 2nd  Earl of Minto and had issue:
(1) Mary Catherine Elizabeth Abercromby (d. 1908), married, 1876, Lt-Col. John Moubray Trotter of Colinton (Midl.) DL and had issue.
He lived at Colinton House (Midl.), which passed to his daughter and son-in-law at his death.
He died 12 July 1868, when the barony of Dunfermline became extinct.


Burke's Peerage & Baronetage, successive editions; A. Swan, Clackmannan & The Ochils: an illustrated architectural guide, 1987; J. Gifford & F.A. Walker, The buildings of Scotland: Stirling & Central Scotland, 2002;;;;;

Where are their papers?

Abercromby family of Tullibody, Barons Abercromby: household and estate papers, National Archives of Scotland, GD124/17/656-674;
Abercromby family of Colinton, Barons Dunfermline: personal papers, National Library of Scotland MSS 24725-24774

Revision and Acknowledgements

This account was first published on 28 February 2013 and was updated 3 June 2015, 22 September 2017, 13 October 2018 and 16 July 2021.

1 comment:

  1. Many years ago, I was told a story about Sir Ralph Abercrombie as follows.
    After his victory and death at Aboukir, the grateful Egyptians decided to award Cleopatra's Needles - there were two - in memory of Sir Ralph. The Needles were encased in something (lead?)and towed by 2 ships towards Britain. One was lost at sea but the other arrived safely in London and was erected on the embankment. This was supposed to be a temporary resting place, to allow Londoners, MPs, Royalty, etc. a chance to view the ancient relic before it was transported to Scotland to sit outside Menstrie Castle - Sir Ralph's home.

    In the event, all of the many entireties, protests, petitions, etc. asking/demanding that the Needle shoil come 'Home' to Menstrie, were ignored and to this day The Needle remains on the Embankment in London.


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