Saturday 3 August 2013

(60) Robertson-Aikman of Ross House

Aikman of Cairney
The Aikmans of Lordburn were prominent in the affairs of Arbroath for many generations before John Aikman (1613-93) bought the Cairney estate on the outskirts of the town.  This seems to have had a very modest house (later divided into cottages and demolished in the 19th century), but lands stretching out into St. Vigeans parish.  His son, William Aikman (d. 1699) was sheriff of Forfarshire and married a daughter of John Clerk of Penicuik.  Their son, William Aikman (1682-1731), although intended for a legal or mercantile career, instead sold his parental estate in 1707 to fund artistic training in Italy, and became one of the the leading British portrait painters of his day, based latterly in London. 

The brother of William Aikman (d. 1699) was Thomas Aikman, who pursued a successful legal career and became Keeper of the Records of Scotland.  In 1704 he bought the estate of Ross House (alias The Ross) and Broomelton near Hamilton in Lanarkshire; the main house on this estate seems to have been the farmhouse at Broomelton until a new house was built at The Ross by John Forbes Aikman.  The estate passed in turn to Thomas’ sons John and William, the latter of whom founded the Aikman Hospital in Hamilton in 1775 and died without issue in 1784.  None of Thomas Aikman’s eighteen children having produced surviving issue, the Ross House estate then passed to John Forbes (1737-1821), the grandson of William Aikman the artist, who took the surname Aikman on succeeding to the estate, and who seems to have built the core of the present house on inheriting.  He also died without issue and Ross House passed to Capt. George Robertson (1760-1844), the son of his sister Marian, and then in turn to his sons George Robertson Aikman (1817-79) and Hugh Henry Robertson Aikman (1819-82), who was a runholder in Australia from 1842-49; another son, Col. Frederick Robertson Aikman (1828-88), won the VC in the Indian Mutiny.  Hugh married Mary Stokes, the heiress to her father’s New Parks House estate near Leicester, which came into her possession on his death in 1867.

Hugh and Mary’s two elder sons, Lt-Col. Thomas Stokes George Hugh Robertson-Aikman (1860-1948) and Maj. Hugh Harry Robertson-Aikman (1866-1964) each inherited one of their parental estates.  Thomas received Ross House, and employed Alexander Cullen to massively extend and aggrandize the house in Scots Baronial style in 1888-90.  At the age of 64 he also captained the British curling team at the first Winter Olympics held in Chamonix in 1924, and he and his son William Hamilton Robertson-Aikman (1902-78) were successively Presidents of the Hamilton Curling Club for nearly a century.  On the death of William Robertson-Aikman in 1978 the Ross House estate passed to his first cousin, Lt-Col. Sir John Forbes Inglefield-Watson, 5th bt. (1926-2007) and then to his cousin, Robert John Graham-Campbell (b. 1964), the present owner.

Maj. Hugh Harry Robertson-Aikman inherited his mother’s New Parks House estate at Leicester in 1887, but sold it c.1933-37 for housing development to Leicester City Council and moved to the Manor House at Dunton Bassett (Leics).  

Ross House (alias The Ross), Hamilton, Lanarkshire
Ross House.  Engraving published by Alexander Cullen in Academy Architecture, 1894.

At the core is a classical house of 1783, which may have been given a light Baronial dress about 1830.  In 1875 Alexander Cullen (1856-1911) designed a new Renaissance-style fireplace for Hugh Henry Robertson-Aikman (1819-82), but in 1888-96 the house was much more extensively remodelled and expanded by Cullen in the full-blooded Scots Baronial manner of David Bryce for Lt-Col. Thomas Stokes George Hugh Robertson-Aikman.  It was Cullen's first major work, and a remarkable achievement for a young man who had been trained only as a builder. The house was widely published and admired and established Cullen's reputation: for his plans and elevations see here. The design also incorporates elements that derive from the style of John James Burnet, and Cullen may have used as an assistant Andrew Robb Scott, who had worked for both Bryce and Burnet, and was then hiring himself out to whoever had need of him. The house was seriously damaged by a fire in November 1910, that destroyed the roof and the top floor, but was subsequently restored.

Ross House: location map

Ross House, from a postcard of 1904

The site of the house is bounded on two sides by rivers (the Clyde and Avon), and on the south-east by the railway; its long drive now crosses the M74 motorway, and the tower of the house is visible from the road. The Georgian house forms the north-west corner of the present much larger building, but has been altered out of all recognition. Cullen created a west-facing garden front with a six-storey corner tower on the left and a projecting bay on the right with bartizans and a first-floor oriel.  The house has elaborate Craigievar-style stepped stringcourses, canon spouts, gabled dormers, strapwork and pediment overthrows to mullioned windows, and a half-columned porch with a cantilevered balcony.  An enclosed service courtyard has another tower.

Ross House from an early 20th century postcard

The entrance hall on the west front opens through an elegant early Renaissance screen of slim balusters into an inner hall in the north-west angle of the house. Both rooms have beamed ceilings and the entrance hall has a hooded chimneypiece. From the entrance hall a doorway leads into the entrance hall of the 18th century house, which retains its original curved staircase at the inner end. Beyond this hall are the business and smoking rooms, the former part of the 18th century house and the latter an addition. To the south of these rooms is a service corridor, and the whole southern part of the house is given up to service accommodation. The neo-Jacobean main stair leads up from the entrance hall to a very grand suite of first-floor apartments comprising a large dining room with an inglenook, a ballroom, and a drawing room and billiard room.

Descent:  Thomas Aikman, who bought in 1704; to son, John Aikman (1679-1752); to brother, William Aikman (1695-1784); to first cousin twice removed, John Forbes (later Aikman) (1737-1821), who built a new house; to nephew, Capt. George Robertson (later Robertson-Aikman) (1760-1844); to son, George Robertson-Aikman (1817-79); to brother, Hugh Henry Robertson-Aikman (1819-92); to son, Lt-Col. Thomas Stokes George Hugh Robertson-Aikman (1860-1948); to son, William Hamilton Robertson-Aikman (1902-78); to cousin, Lt-Col. Sir John Forbes Inglefield-Watson, 5th bt. (1926-2007); to nephew, Robert John Graham-Campbell (b. 1964).

New Parks House, Leicester, Leicestershire
New Parks House, Leicester
The New Parks was in origin an area of Leicester Forest which was separated from the rest and surrounded by a pale in 1526.  It contained a lodge, Bird’s Nest Lodge, which was rebuilt in 1377-78 and extensively repaired in 1525-26; it was then a moated building with a drawbridge.  It was still standing in 1560 but had disappeared by 1790, except for the moat, which survived until the area was built over about 1950.  The New Parks passed out of Crown hands in the late 16th century and by 1781 belonged to a Mr Clarke.  The Clarke family remained the owners until 1843, when a good deal of the northern part was acquired by Thomas Stokes, a Leicester hosier, who built New Parks House in 1845-46.  This “undistinguished brick mansion” (so described by the VCH) seems to have been acquired by Leicester City Council in 1933-37 when it was buying up the New Parks for housing development.  It was stuccoed with superficial Tudor details.  A large housing estate was built after the War, but New Parks House itself survives and is used by the City Council as education offices, after a period as part of a school.

Descent: Thomas Stokes (d. 1867) who bought the estate in 1843 and built the house in 1845-46; to daughter, Mary Joyce (1823-87), wife of Hugh Henry Robertson-Aikman (1819-82); to second son, Maj. Hugh Harry Robertson-Aikman (1866-1964), who sold to Leicester City Council c.1933-37.

The Aikmans of Ross House and New Parks House

Aikman, George (1560-1625) of Lordburn.  Son of John Aikman of Lordburn, Arbroath (Angus), born 1560.  He married and had issue including:
(1) John Aikman (1613-93) (q.v.)
He lived at Lordburn on the outskirts of Arbroath.
He died in 1625.

Aikman, John (1613-93) of Lordburn and Cairney.  Son of George Aikman (1560-1625), born 1613.  He married first Margaret Hamilton and second Euphemia Ochterlony and had issue:
(1.1) William Aikman (1646-99) of Cairney (q.v.); 
(1.2) Thomas Aikman (c.1649-1741) of Ross and Broomelton (Lanarks) (q.v.).
He inherited lands at Lordburn from his father and purchased the adjoining Cairney estate in 1661.
He died in 1693, aged 80, and was buried at Arbroath Abbey.

Aikman, William (1646-99), of Cairney.  Elder son of John Aikman (1613-93) and his first wife, Margaret Hamilton, born about 1640.  Lawyer; sheriff depute of Angus.  He married Margaret (d. after 1729), daughter of John Clerk of Penicuik (Midlothian) and had issue including:
(1) William Aikman (1682-1731) (q.v.).
He inherited the Cairney estate from his father in 1693.
He died in 1699.

Aikman, William (1682-1731).  
William Aikman (1682-1731),
Second but eldest surviving son of William Aikman (1646-99) and his wife, a daughter of John Clerk of Penicuik, born 1682. Educated at Edinburgh University with the intention that he should follow his father into the law, but he resolved to become an artist.  He studied first under John de Medina in Edinburgh and then at one of the London academies, but finding that an Italian training was essential for success, he sold his paternal estate to fund study in Italy. Having visited Florence and copied the works of Carlo Maratta in Rome, he travelled to Turkey and Smyrna, went back to Rome, and then visited Naples before returning to Scotland in 1711.  On his return he became one of Britain's most noted early 18th century portrait painters, based latterly in London; a representative selection of his work can be viewed here.  JP for Angus, 1707.  In 1707, before setting off on his continental journey, he married without his family's knowledge, Marion Lawson of Cairnmuir (Peebles) and had issue:
(1) John Aikman (1714-31), died aged 17 a few days before his father;
(2) Margaret Aikman (1716-1800) (q.v.).
(3) A daughter (fl. 1731), died young.
He inherited the Cairney estate from his father in 1699 but sold it c.1707.
He died of tuberculosis, 4 or 7 June 1731.

Forbes (née Aikman), Margaret (1716-1800) of Edinburgh.  Only surviving child of William Aikman (1682-1731) and his wife Marion Lawson of Cairnmuir, born 1716.  She married Hew Forbes of Pittencrieff, Principal Clerk of Session in Edinburgh, and had issue:
(1) John Forbes (later Aikman) (1737-1821) (q.v.)
(2) Ann Forbes (1745-1834), artist, studied under Gavin Hamilton and James Nevay in Rome 1768-72 but was unable to achieve success as a commercial portraitist; lived in Edinburgh as a teacher of drawing and occasional portrait-painter; died unmarried;
(2) Marion Forbes (fl. 1760), m. David Robertson of Loretto and had issue a son (Capt. George Robertson (1760-1844) (q.v.).
She may be the Margaret Forbes who was buried in Edinburgh, 17 February 1795.

Aikman, Thomas (c.1649-1741) of Ross House.  Second son of John Aikman (1613-93) and his first wife, Margaret Hamilton, born about 1649.  Lawyer; Keeper of the Records of Scotland.  JP for Lanarkshire, 1707.  He married and had issue eighteen children who all died young or childless, among whom were:
(1) John Aikman (1679-1752), born 22 April 1679; Leghorn merchant and banker; died without issue, 8 April 1752; buried in English cemetery at Livorno, Italy
(2) William Aikman (1695-1784), Leghorn merchant; endowed Aikman hospital at Hamilton (Lanarks), 1775; died without issue.
He purchased the Ross and Broomelton estates in Lanarkshire in 1704.  At his death they passed in turn to his sons John (fl. 1763) and William Aikman (d. 1784) and then to his kinsman, John Forbes (later Aikman) (1737-1821).
He died in 1741.  His will was proved 8 May 1741.

Aikman (né Forbes), John (1737-1821), of Ross House and Broomelton.  Only son of Hugh Forbes of Pittencrieff and his wife Margaret, daughter of William Aikman (1682-1731) (q.v.), born 1737.  He married Marion Naysmith (d. 1825) of Haughhead but had no issue.
He inherited the Ross and Broomelton estate in 1784 from his first cousin twice removed, William Aikman (d. 1784), but may have been in possession of the property earlier; at his death the estates passed to his nephew, Capt. George Robertson (1760-1844) (q.v.).
He died in September 1821, and his will was proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 31 October 1825.  His widow died 9 April 1825 and her will was proved in the PCC, 19 November 1828.

Aikman (né Robertson), Capt. George (1760-1844), of Ross House.  Only son of David Robertson of Loretto and his wife Marion, daughter of Hugh Forbes and his wife Margaret (née Aikman), born 11 January 1760.  Educated in Scotland; served in East India Company's navy, 1773-1805, rising to the rank of Commander.  JP for Lanarkshire, 1817-44.  He changed his name to Aikman on inheriting Ross House in 1821.  In 1820 he married his mistress, Sarah (d. 1865), daughter of William Cumby, a marriage which had the effect of legitimating the previous children of the couple under Scots law.  They had issue: 
(1) Georgiana Robertson Aikman (1816-1904); died 16 March 1904; will proved 27 August 1904 (estate £13,442);
(2) George Robertson Aikman (1817-79) (q.v.); 
(3) Hugh Henry Robertson Aikman (1819-82) (q.v.); 
(4) John Robertson Aikman (b. 1820), born 19 December 1820 and baptised 8 June 1822; solicitor and JP; contested the legitimacy of his elder brothers in the courts, 1859-61, a final ruling in their favour being given by the House of Lords; died 3 November 1882; will proved 23 December 1882 and 22 May 1914 (estate £11785 and £1080);
(5) William Robertson Aikman (1822-1903), died unmarried, 15 October 1903; will proved 22 December 1903 (estate £582); 
(6) Rosabella Robertson Aikman (c.1825-76), died unmarried, 25 October 1876; will proved 4 December 1876 (estate under £600);
(7) Col. Frederick Robertson Aikman VC (1828-88), born 6 February 1828; served in the army (4th Bengal Native Infantry); awarded the VC for an action during the Indian Mutiny where with a party of a hundred men he routed a a group of 500 armed rebels and was wounded in the face; a member of the Company of Gentlemen at Arms, 1865-88; married, 4 March 1862 at St Stephen, Paddington (Middx), Louisa Grace Hargreaves but had no issue; died suddenly during the County Ball at Hamilton (Lanarks), 5 October 1888 and was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery;
(8) Sarah Eliza Robertson Aikman (1829-1913); born 5 December 1829 and baptised 13 May 1831; died unmarried, 9 September 1913; will proved 6 November 1913 (estate £31,543);
(9) Jessie Robertson Aikman (b. c.1830).
He purchased a small estate at Whitehill (Lanarkshire) in 1810, and rented Auchingramont House nearby from 1812-18.  He inherited the Ross and Broomelton estate in 1821 from his uncle, John Aikman (1737-1821).
He was buried at All Souls, Kensal Green, 1 February 1844, and his will was proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 12 September 1845.  His widow died in 1865.

Aikman, George Robertson (1817-79), of Ross House.  Second son of Capt. George Aikman (né Robertson) (1760-1844) and his wife Sarah, daughter of William Cumby, born 22 January 1817 and baptised 12 September 1817.  He was unmarried and without issue.
He inherited the Ross and Broomelton estate in 1844 from his father.
He died 22 March 1879.

Aikman, Maj. Hugh Henry Robertson (1819-82), of New Parks House, Leicester. Third son of Capt. George Aikman (né Robertson) (1760-1844) and his wife Sarah, daughter of William Cumby, born 5 March 1819 and baptised 28 July 1819.  Runholder (sheep farmer) in Australia 1842-49, where he built a house called Broomelton; returned to England in 1849; JP for Lanarkshire and Leicestershire; Capt. in 1st Royal Lanarkshire Militia.  He married, 21 September 1858, Mary Joyce (1823-87), only child of Thomas Stokes of New Parks House (Leics) and had issue: 
(1) Lt-Col. Thomas Stokes George Hugh Robertson-Aikman (1860-1948) (q.v.); 
(2) Henrietta Mary Joyce Robertson-Aikman (1861-1949), born 18 August 1861; died unmarried, 21 May 1949; 
(3) Jessy Forbes Robertson-Aikman (1862-1945), born 12 December 1862; died unmarried, 13 December 1945; 
(4) Flora Macdonald Robertson-Aikman (1865-72); born 26 January 1865; died young, 5 October 1872;
(5) Maj. Hugh Harry Robertson-Aikman (1866-1964) (q.v.); 
(6) Lt-Col. Duncan Forbes Robertson-Aikman (1867-1920), born 26 July 1867; served in 13th Hussars; m. 1903 Susan Evelyn (d. 1908), daughter of John Jarvie but died without issue, 7 December 1920; will proved 22 April 1920 (estate £9,358).
He inherited New Parks House in right of his wife in 1867, and the Ross and Broomelton estate from his elder brother in 1879.
He died 22 January 1882 and his will was proved 10 March 1882 (estate £5400).  His widow died 27 January 1887 and her will was proved 17 March 1887 (estate £9470).

Robertson-Aikman, Lt-Col. Thomas Stokes George Hugh (1860-1948), of Ross House.  Eldest son of Maj. Hugh Henry Robertson Aikman (1819-82) of New Parks House and his wife Mary Joyce, daughter of Thomas Stokes of New Parks House, born 25 February 1860.  Educated at Eton and Brasenose College, Oxford (matriculated 1879); Lt-Col. and Hon. Col, 4th Bttn, Highland Light Infantry; Commandant of Royal Defence Corps.; matriculated arms at Lyon Office 1893; CB 1923; DL and JP for Lanarkshire; President of Hamilton Curling Club and Captain of British Curling Team at Winter Olympics, Chamonix, 1924 (Gold Medal).  He married, 29 April 1899, Constance Henrietta (c.1874-1932), daughter of Capt. John Archibald Middleton of Kilmaron (Fife) and had issue: 
(1) Margrett Georgina Robertson-Aikman (1900-95), born 31 March 1900; m.1, 1925 (div. 1939) Sir Derrick William Inglefield-Watson, 4th bt (1901-87) and had issue (including Lt-Col. Sir John Forbes Inglefield-Watson, 5th bt. (1926-2007), who inherited Ross House in 1978); she m.2, 1945, Capt. Eric William Crawley Savill (d. 1995) of Tunbridge Wells (Kent), son of William Montagu Savill; 
(2) William Hamilton Robertson-Aikman (1902-78) (q.v.); 
(3) Cmdr. Hugh Forbes Robertson-Aikman (1903-83) RN, born 9 December 1903; joined the navy, 1917; m. 28 July 1932 Jocelyn, daughter of William Purves-Smith of Melbourne (Australia) but died without issue 4 July 1983.
He inherited the Ross and Broomelton estate from his father in 1882.
He died 18 April 1948.  His wife died in 1932.

Robertson-Aikman, William Hamilton (1902-78), of Ross House. Elder son of Lt-Col. Thomas Stokes George Hugh Robertson-Aikman (1860-1948) and his wife Constance Henrietta, daughter of Capt. John Archibald Middleton, born 23 November 1902.  Educated at Eton and Brasenose College, Oxford; President of Hamilton Curling Club, 1948-78.  He married, 4 April 1951, the Hon. Pamela Helen (1908-77), daughter of James Cecil Arthur, 2nd Baron Glenarthur (1883-1942) and formerly wife of Jack Drummond Rudd and Lt-Cdr. John Hamilton RN, but died without issue.
He inherited the Ross and Broomelton estate from his father in 1948.  At his death it passed to his nephew, Lt-Col. Sir John Forbes Inglefield-Watson, 5th bt. (1926-2007).
He died 30 September 1978.  His wife died in 1977.

Robertson-Aikman, Maj. Hugh Harry (1866-1964), of New Parks House, Leicester.  Second son of Maj. Hugh Henry Robertson Aikman (1819-82) of New Parks House and his wife Mary Joyce, daughter of Thomas Stokes of New Parks House, born 17 February 1866. Educated at Eton and Oxford Military College; entered the army (Capt, 1st Bttn, Royal Dragoons; Major, 4th Bttn, Highland Light Infantry); retired 1900.  JP for Leicestershire.  He married, 23 January 1895, Ethel Blanche (1870-1954), daughter of George Whitehead of Deighton Grove, nr. York and had issue: 
(1) Thomas Frederick Duncan Robertson-Aikman (1895-1982) of Steyning (Sussex), born 19 November 1895; educated at Eton and Bradfield College; m. 31 January 1915, Ethel Janet (d. 1973), daughter of A.E. Leggett of South Kensington and had issue one son and two daughters; died 4 October 1982.
(2) Jean Robertson-Aikman (1897-1990), born 27 January 1897; died without issue, September 1990; 
(3) Hugh Henry Robertson-Aikman of Harrogate (Yorks) (1903-68), m. 1945 Joyce Madeline (d. 1985), younger daughter of Rev. George Atkinson of Harrogate and had issue a son; 
(4) Myrtle Joan Robertson-Aikman (1909-45), m. 1934 Brian Garfit, son of Dr. Charles Corringham Garfit and had issue; died 7 July 1945; will proved 12 September 1945 (estate £146);
(5) Violet Marian Robertson-Aikman (1910-21).
He inherited the New Parks House estate, Leicester from his mother, 1887, but sold it to Leicester Corporation c.1933-37; lord of the manor of Dunton Bassett (Leics); lived latterly at The Manor House, Dunton Bassett.
He died 23 January 1964, aged 97.  Will proved 25 June 1964 (estate £172,584).  His wife died 21 September 1954.  Her will was proved 4 December 1954 (estate £21,766).


Burke's Landed Gentry, successive editions; Glasgow Herald, 16 July 1856; J.M. M'Bain, Eminent Arbroathians, 1897; VCH Leicestershire, vol. 4; R.M. Bailey, Scottish Architects' Papers: a source book, 1996, pp. 118-19; Architectural Heritage, vii, 1997, p.40; M. Coventry, The castles of Scotland, 2006, p. 556;;

Location of archives

Robertson-Aikman of Ross Housedeeds, family and estate papers, 17th-20th cents. [Privately held; enquired to NRA Scotland]

Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published 3 August 2013 and was updated 2 December 2016, 6 February and 17 August 2017, and 10 March 2019.


  1. Some photos of Ross House can be found here:

    If you look through the whole set, you will see a kangaroo in one of them.

  2. I met my great uncle with his wife Ethel in the early 1970s at his brother in laws 50th wedding anniversary . He was quiet, she was lively. Curiously, the family knew him as Derek. (?)
    (Thomas Frederick Duncan Robertson-Aikman (1895-1982) of Steyning (Sussex).

  3. When first married I lived the top flat, Ross House for a year. Mr Robertson - Aikman was a kind, interesting gentleman, passionate about his vegetable patch, and was happy to sell his produce to me.


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