Thursday 9 May 2013

(37) Adamson of Careston Castle and Stracathro House

John Adamson (1813-93), the son of a Dundee whaling captain, became an entrepreneur and owner of the Erichtside linen works at Blairgowrie.  In 1871 he purchased the Careston Castle estate from the 5th Earl Fife.  His son, William Shaw Adamson (1851-1936) married Nora Jane, daughter of the Rt. Hon. James Alexander Campbell of Stracathro House, and through her his grandson, Lt-Col. William John Campbell Adamson (1914-91) inherited that estate in 1934, two years before succeeding to his patrilineal properties at Careston, Nathro and Navar.  He leased and later sold Stracathro House to the Government for wartime hospital purposes, and it remained in hospital use until 2003, since when it has been restored as a private house.  The family continues to live at Careston Castle.

Careston Castle (Angus)

Careston Castle, c.1890. Image: Living Memory Association

Sir Henry Lindsay, 13th Earl of Crawford, built ‘the new place of Carraldstone’, a tall L-plan house, by 1592, and his nephew, 2nd Lord Spynie altered the interior in the mid 1620s.  Further changes were made by Sir Alexander Carnegy in the 1630s and the house was recast c.1700 when the south front was made a symmetrical U by the addition of a south-east wing.  The house now appears as a four-storey block of five bays with short projecting gabled wings at either end, and dormers breaking through the eaves line into the roof.  The enormous coat of arms above the front door was added by John Stewart in 1714.  About 1790 a grandiose staircase hall was added at the rear and the 16th century corner-turrets were embellished with crenellations in the Gothick style.  Further additions at the back and a loggia across the front of the main block were made for John Adamson after 1880.  Inside, the room spaces have been reorganised and reshaped in successive remodellings, but the house preserves a remarkable series of chimneypieces – perhaps made for Lord Spynie and Alexander Carnegy – which are derived from engravings in du Cerceau’s Livre d’architecture of 1561.  The drawing room and dining room have high quality panelling of c.1700 with a broad cornice and the two finest chimneypieces, but there is another in the west room of the second floor of the main block and a fourth in a corridor on the second floor.
Plans and aerial photographs of the building can be found here.

Descent:  Sir Henry Lindsay, 13th Earl of Crawford (d. 1623), sold 1612 to Adam Rae, an Edinburgh merchant... sold 1623 to Alexander Lindsay, 2nd Lord Spynie (d. 1646), who sold c.1627; sold c.1630 to Sir Alexander Carnegy (d. 1657) of Balnamoon; to son, Sir John Carnegy (d. 1662), who sold c.1660 to Sir John Stewart of Grandtully... John Stewart of Grandtully, who sold 1720 to Maj. George Skene of that Ilk...James Duff, 5th Earl Fife (1814-79), who sold 1871 to John Adamson (1813-93); to son, William Shaw Adamson (1851-1936); to grandson, Lt-Col. William John Campbell Adamson (1914-91); to widow, Mrs. Margaret Josephine Campbell Adamson (d. 1996); to son, James Shaw Campbell Adamson (b. 1948).

Stracathro House (Angus)

Stracathro House in an engraving of 1850. 

A Greek Revival mansion designed by Archibald Simpson in 1827 for Alexander Cruikshank, who had made a fortune in Jamaica.  It consists of an eleven bay two storey main block with a service wing behind and low single storey wings of c.1850 continuing extending beyond the house on either side.  

Stracathro House, 2012.  Image: cisco via Geograph.  Licenced for reuse under a Creative Commons licenc

The main block has slightly projecting two bay ends with balustraded parapets and in between a screen of giant Corinthian columns in front of the recessed centre; from this in turn projects a three-bay pedimented porte-cochere of giant Corinthian columns.  

Stracathro House in 2012: rear elevation.  Image: cisco via Geograph.  Licenced under a Creative Commons licence

Inside, the entrance leads through a plain vestibule to a double height inner hall with yellow scagliola decoration.  It is oblong but the east and west walls are divided off by Corinthian-columned screens. and the square space between them has a shallow dome on pendentives, the centre of which is glazed to admit some light to what would otherwise be a very dark space.  Three state rooms – drawing room, ante room and dining room – fill the whole length of the garden front, and all have coffered and painted ceilings with rosettes at the intersections of the beams and almost identical plasterwork to the coffers.  The drawing room opens at the west end to a conservatory added c.1850, with a cast iron hammerbeam roof.  The boudoir, off the south side of the drawing room, has a coffered quadripartite vault painted with birds and stylised foliage.  West of the inner hall is the library, with painted decoration on the ceiling and above the bookcases.  Between the library and boudoir is the main staircase, with painted decoration on the walls (panels of birds and flowers) and a wrought iron balustrade.  The first floor landing has a trabeated ceiling rising as a glass-walled rectangular lantern.  The main first-floor corridor has quadripartite vaulting.  The stables and walled garden are also of c.1830.  The house now stands on the edge of a hospital complex (of which it was part until c.2000) developed from 1939 onwards, and by the south drive, which leads through this, is a three-span cast iron footbridge, again of c.1830.  The house itself is now in private ownership and was restored in 2003.  The Adamson family retains the Stracathro estate.

Descent: Rt. Hon. James Alexander Campbell (1825-1908); to grandson, James Hugh Campbell (1889-1934); to first cousin once removed, Lt-Col. William John Campbell Adamson (1914-91), who leased and later sold to the Government 1938; sold 2003 and returned to private ownership.

The Adamson family of Careston Castle

Adamson, John (1813-93) of Careston Castle.  Son of Capt. William Adamson of Dundee, born 1813.  Owner of the Erichtside linen works at Blairgowrie.  DL and JP for Angus.  He married 9 April 1848 Susan Miller (d. 1851), daughter of Capt. William Shaw of Newhall and had issue:
(1) William Shaw Adamson (1851-1936) (q.v.).
In 1871 he purchased the Careston Castle estate. He made additions to the rear of the castle after 1880.
He died 28 February 1893 and was buried at Careston.

Adamson, William Shaw (1851-1936), of Careston Castle.  Only son of John Adamson (1813-93) and his wife Susan Miller, daughter of Capt. Shaw of Newhall; born 20 November 1851. Educated at Cheltenham College and Edinburgh University.  DL and JP for Angus; vice-convener of Angus County Council.  He matriculated a coat of arms at the office of Lord Lyon King of Arms, 1900.  He married 20 June 1883 Nora Jane (d. 1932), daughter of Rt. Hon. James Alexander Campbell of Stracathro and had issue:
(1) John Alexander Shaw Adamson (b. & d. 1885), died in infancy;
(2) Capt. William Campbell Adamson RFC (1886-1915) (q.v.);
(3) Annie Peto Adamson (1890-1963), born 24 April 1890; m. 1915 Brig-Gen. John Harold Whitworth Becke CMG DSO (d. 1949), son of James Henry Becke of Beckingham (Lincs) and had issue; died 4 November 1963.
He inherited Careston Castle from his father in 1893.
He died 12 March 1936 and was buried at Careston.

Adamson, Capt. William Campbell (1886-1915).  Only surviving son of William Shaw Adamson (1851-1936) and his wife Nora Jane, daughter of Rt. Hon. James Alexander Campbell of Stracathro, born 5 November 1886.  Educated at Fettes College and Trinity Hall, Cambridge.  He married 28 May 1913 Margaret Stancombe, daughter of William John Mann JP of Highfield, Trowbridge (Wilts) and had issue:
(1) Lt-Col. William John Campbell Adamson (1914-91) (q.v.).
He was killed in action near Zandvoorde, 5 September 1915, in the lifetime of his father; buried at Harlebeke War Cemetery, Belgium.

Adamson, Lt-Col. William John Campbell TD (1914-91) of Careston Castle and Stracathro House.  Only son of Capt. William Campbell Adamson (1886-1915) and his wife Margaret Stancombe, daughter of William John Mann, born 13 March 1914.  Educated at Eton and Trinity College, Oxford (MA 1945).  Commissioned in the army (Black Watch), 1935; served in WW2 with 51st Highland Division (wounded in Sicily); commanded 4th/5th Battalion, Black Watch, 1953-56.  Fellow of Chartered Land Agents Society.  JP (from 1949) and County Councillor (from 1951) for Angus.  Member of the Royal Company of Archers.  He married 10 June 1947 Margaret Josephine (1923-96), youngest daughter of James Helme of Halton (Lancs) and had issue:
(1) James Shaw Adamson (b. 1948), born 14 March 1948; educated at Trinity College, Glenalmond and Westminster Hotel School; now of Careston Castle, born 1948; m. 6 June 1986 Carol Louise Marion (1950-2002), daughter of Col. E.F.H. Key of Yorkshire and has issue two daughters;
(2) Flora Margaret Campbell Adamson (b. 1949), born 16 August 1949; m. 5 March 1977 Hugh Ramsey Rose (b. 1946), son of Lt-Col. David McNeil Campbell Rose (1912-2010);
(3) Ruth Anne Campbell Adamson (b. 1952), born 14 May 1952; m. 1980 Bryan E.G. Oates and had issue;
(4) Hugh Alexander Campbell Adamson (b. 1954); born 9 July 1954; now of Stracathro; married, 1985, Hon. Alison Mary Elliott, daughter of Robert William Elliott, Baron Elliott of Morpeth, and has issue one son and two daughters;
(5) Mary Janet Campbell Adamson (b. 1957), born 21 September 1957; m. 1980 Archibald John Miller-Bakewell and had issue two sons and one daughter.
He inherited the Stracathro estate in 1934 from his first cousin, once removed and the Careston Castle estate from his grandfather in 1936; at his death they passed to his elder son.  Stracathro House and some land was leased and later sold to the Government as a hospital in 1938 but the estate was retained.
He died in November 1991.


Burke's Landed Gentry, 1925, p.5; N. Tranter, The fortified house in Scotland: vol. 4, 1986, pp. 102-03; J. Gifford, The buildings of Scotland: Dundee and Angus, 2012, pp. 409-14, 671-74

Where are their papers?

Adamson of Careston Castle & Stracathro: no significant archive is known to be in public custody.

This account was first published 9 May 2013 and was revised 27 March 2015 and 21 April 2017.


  1. Stracathro was passed to the second son Hugh Alexander Campbell Adamson

  2. I the elder son inherited the Careston estate and have dropped the Campbell from our names

    Stracathro estate was inherited from the Campbell's, and as such my brother keeps the Campbell name

    1. Thank you for this correction, which I have incorporated.

  3. Careston Castle and estate were offered for sale by Savills 2 or 3 years ago. An article in Country Life in 2023 stated that the Castle had been bought by a "European buyer" and the estate by other buyers


Please leave a comment if you have any additional information or corrections to offer, or if you are able to help with additional images of the people or buildings in this post.