Saturday, 10 August 2013

(62) Ainslie of Delgatie Castle

The Ainslie family which is the subject of this post, and the Ainslies of West Torrington (see the next post), shared a common ancestor in the 16th century.  

Robert Ainslie WS (1734-95) moved from Darnchester near Coldstream to Berrywell House, Duns to take up the post of land agent to Lord Douglas’ Berwickshire estates.  His eldest son, Robert Ainslie (1766-1838) was a friend of the poet Burns, who left an account of a visit to the Borders in the company of Ainslie, during which he stayed several times at Berrywell and enjoyed the company of the latter’s sister, Rachel.  Robert senior's second son, Sir Whitelaw Ainslie (1767-1837) became medical superintendent of southern India, and was knighted in 1835, the year he published a materia medica for the sub-continent.  The third son, Douglas Ainslie (1771-1850) became a land surveyor and agent in succession to his father and bought Delgaty Castle in Aberdeenshire and Blervie House (Morayshire) towards the end of his life.  Having no children of his own, he bequeathed this to his niece, Jane Catherine Grant-Duff (1801-66), the daughter of Sir Whitelaw Ainslie and wife of James Grant-Duff (1789-1858), on condition that her second son took the name of Ainslie and named his eldest son Douglas. 

Jane died in 1866 and her second son, Ainslie Douglas Grant-Duff (1838-1929),  duly took the name Ainslie later that year.  He gave up a career in the Diplomatic Service and took up residence at Delgatie Castle, later qualifying as a barrister in the English courts.  He sold Blervie in c.1907 to Capt. Harold Bessemer Galloway, who built a new house on the estate in 1909-11 to the designs of J.M. Dick Peddie, but Delgatie passed to his eldest son Douglas Ainslie (1865-1948), a contemporary and friend of Oscar Wilde at Oxford, who also associated with Aubrey Beardsley and Walter Pater.  He became a poet, translator and critic, and in 1922 published a lively volume of autobiography, Adventures Social and Literary, but remained unmarried; he moved to Hollywood and died there after the Second World War.  Unfortunately, by then Delgatie was seriously affected by dry rot.  Six years of wartime occupation by the army left it derelict and in the opinion of some surveyors, beyond saving.  Ainslie’s executors sold it in 1948 to the Countess of Erroll, whose Hay forbears had built it and owned it until 1762, and she presented it to Capt. John Hay (1906-97) who successfully restored it.

Delgatie Castle, Turriff, Aberdeenshire
A five storey L-plan tower house built (perhaps by the Catholic Conn family of Auchry) in 1570-79 for the Hays of Erroll, with a corbelled parapet, bartisans, crowsteps and harled walls; it belongs to the same group of castles as Towie Barclay, and may incorporate some earlier work.  It was repaired after damage in 1594 (the masons marks on the upper part are different to those lower down) and the earlier interiors are of that date; it was extended in the early 17th century with a crowstepped wing, and further wings were added in c.1768 and extended in c.1800 in the Gothick style for the Hon. Sir Alexander Duff.  

Delgatie Castle, showing the original tower and later Gothick extensions

The house is entered through a splendid groin-vaulted vestibule, and the rooms within retain their original proportions, although redecorated in later times.  A notably wide turnpike stair provides access to the rib-vaulted solar on the first floor, and several rooms with magnificent tempera-painted ceilings of 1592-97 on the second floor.  The hall was remodelled as a ballroom c.1830, and other interiors including the North Drawing Room are about the same date; the ballroom bay window is about 1850, perhaps by A. & W. Reid.  The circular dovecote is 16th century, and the park contains a bridge, a circular icehouse, and a well with a lion’s head, all built in 1815 to celebrate Waterloo.  The north lodge of 1830 is classical with a pyramid roof and Doric columns; the Greengate Lodge of 1854 by A. & W. Reid, has urns, pretty diagonal chimneys, and a three-storey crowstepped tower.  

Delgatie Castle: a painted ceiling restored in 1957-59.

The house became badly infected by dry rot in the early 20th century and after six years of army use 1940-46 was derelict.  The Countess of Erroll bought it back in 1948 and it was restored for Capt. John Hay (chiefly in 1957-59 by Leo Durnin (architecture) and V. Sozonov (painted ceilings)) and opened as a Clan Hay Heritage Centre.  It has been open to the public since 1994.

Descent: Hay Earls of Erroll until after ’45 when James Hay, 15th Earl of Erroll (1726-78) sold 1762 to Peter Garden of Troup; to son, who sold 1798 to James Duff, 2nd Earl of Fife (1729-1809), who let to The Hon. Gen. Sir Alexander Duff (d. 1851)...sold c.1843 to Douglas Ainslie (1771-1850); to niece, Jane Catherine Grant-Duff (c.1801-66); to son, Ainslie Douglas Grant-Duff (later Ainslie) (b. 1838); to son, Douglas Ainslie (1865-1948); sold after his death to Diana Denyse Hay, 23rd Countess of Erroll (1926-78); to Capt. John Hay (1906-97), who restored it.

Blervie House, Forres, Morayshire
There have been three successive houses at Blervie, all of which still stand, at least in part.  

Blervie Tower: the surviving element of the first house on the estate.
Image: Anne Burgess.  Licenced under a Creative Commons licence.
The earliest is Blervie Tower, a ruined late 16th century, 5-storey square tower built for the Dunbar family, and formerly part of a castle of earlier build (said to have been dated 1398), which was taken down in the 18th century to provide building materials for the new Blervie House.  It is built of rubble with ashlar dressings and has a circular stair turret on the south side.  The late 16th century chimneypiece of the former first floor hall is exposed; the vaulted undercroft has some early gun loops.  

Blervie House (now Blervie Mains)
This house was replaced in 1776 by Blervie House (now Blervie Mains House), a south facing symmetrical two storey five bay house built for The Hon Major Lewis Duff.  It is built of squared rubble with ashlar dressings including rusticated quoins, and has a slightly advanced centre gabletted bay with rusticated doorcase and small attic window.  There is a later single storey, three bay rear wing.  Inside, the hall contains a cantilevered staircase rising the full height of the house around a square stairwell; the stair treads with moulded risers are reused.  The twisted wrought-iron balusters between ground and first floor give way to turned wooden balusters above.  The rooms have simple moulded ceiling cornices, raised and fielded panelled doors and window shutters. The dining room has a black marble chimneypiece, the drawing room a later 19th century carved chimneypiece with white marble slip; an attic room has a late 17th century moulded chimneypiece from Blervie Castle.  

Blervie House: entrance front in 2012

Blervie House in turn was superseded in 1909-11 by a new house of the same name on a different site, designed by J.M. Dick Peddie for the new owner of the estate, Capt. H.B. Galloway, who bought Blervie c.1907, and subsequently remodelled by Michael Laird.  It is a substantial Edwardian classical mansion of two storeys, with a twelve bay entrance front and ten bay garden front. Like its predecessor it is built of coursed rubble stone, with tooled and polished ashlar dressings and margins. The east-facing entrance front has angle pilaster strips, a slightly advanced centre of two bays and two bay projecting ends, giving a 2-3-2-3-2 rhythm.  The centre has a wide segmental pediment and a porte cochere supported by two pairs of Roman Doric columns; the first floor windows have moulded lintels and Gibbsian detailing.  

Blervie House: garden front in 2012

The west-facing garden front has six segmental dormer windows and wide advanced outer bays each with a shallow projecting bowed three-light window rising the full height of the house; the centre two bays have giant channelled angle pilaster strips under a wide segmental-headed pediment, and there are French windows in bays three and eight.  A lower two storey serving wing dated 1907, and thus presumably built first, is attached to the south gable.  

Blervie House: hall and staircase in 2012

Blervie House: drawing room in 2012

Inside, there is a spacious but austere interior with simple moulded cornices, window shutters and door frames. The central vaulted top lit stairhall has an arcaded screen supported by paired Roman Doric columns and a wooden staircase with balusters and a wide moulded handrail.   The drawing room has a simple chimneypiece at each end with the mantel shelf supported by paired slender columns, and sliding doors to divide the room.  At the end of a long driveway are a pair of gatepiers, probably of 1776 and moved to their present site from Blervie Mains House.

Previous owners: Dunbar family… The Hon. Maj. Lewis/Ludovic Duff (d. 1811); perhaps to nephew, Gen. Sir Alexander Duff (d. 1851),  sold c.1843 to Douglas Ainslie (1771-1850); to niece Jane Catherine Ainslie (c. 1801-66), wife of James Grant-Duff of Eden (1789-1858); to son, Ainslie Douglas Grant-Duff (later Ainslie) (1838-1929) sold c.1907 to Capt. Harold Bessemer Galloway (kia 1915)...sold 1985 to present owners; for sale 2012.

The Ainslies of Delgatie Castle

Ainslie, Robert (1734-95), of Berrywell House, Duns (Berwicks).  Second son of Robert Ainslie (1683-1762) and his wife Magdeline, daughter of Gilbert Elliot of Stonedge, born 8 January 1734.  Writer to the signet; land agent to Lord Douglas in Berwickshire.  He married, 20 March 1765, Katherine (d. 1803), daughter of John Whitelaw of Whitelaw, and had issue:
(1) Robert Ainslie (1766-1838) of Darnchester (Berwicks) and Edinburgh, born 13 January 1766; friend of the poet Burns and accompanied him on a tour of Teviotdale and Berwickshire, 1787; writer to the signet, 1798; in later life an elder of the Church of Scotland, he published two devotional works and a defence of the Scottish system of banking; m.1, 3 January 1799, Jane (1781-1817), daughter of Lt. Col. James Cunninghame of Balbougie and had issue; and m.2 18 October 1837, Isabella (1789/90-1862), daughter of Rev. Robert Munro of Ullapool; died 11 April 1838;
(2) Sir Whitelaw Ainslie (1767-1837) (q.v.);
(3) Rachel Ainslie (1768-69), born 19 March 1768; died in infancy, 14 November 1769;
(4) Douglas Ainslie (b. & d. 1769), born 23 October 1769; died in infancy;
(5) Douglas Ainslie (1771-1850) (q.v.);
(6) James Ainslie (b. 1772); served in Royal Scots Greys at Battle of Waterloo, 1815, but later emigrated to Australia where he established a settlement at Duntroon; lived with an aboriginal woman by whom he had a daughter (Nanny); returned to Scotland, 1835;
(6) Rachel Ainslie (d. 1828), admired by the poet Burns; died unmarried, 14 December 1828.
He owned a small estate at Darnchester in Berwickshire, but moved to Duns to act as land agent to Lord Douglas.
He died 10 April 1795. His widow died 18 December 1803.

Ainslie, Douglas (1771-1850), of Delgatie Castle.  Fourth son of Robert Ainslie (1734-95) and his wife Katherine, daughter of John Whitelaw of Whitelaw, born 6 May 1771.  Land agent in Berwickshire in succession to his father.  He was unmarried and without issue.
In 1843 he purchased the Delgatie (Aberdeenshire) and Blervie (Morayshire) estates and he bequeathed these to his niece, Jane Catherine Grant-Duff (q.v.).
He died 19 August 1850, aged 79.

Ainslie, Sir Whitelaw (1767-1837), kt. Second son of Robert Ainslie (1734-95) and his wife Katherine, daughter of John Whitelaw of Whitelaw, born 17 February 1767.  After qualifying as a surgeon he joined the East India Company's service as an assistant surgeon in 1788 and was appointed garrison surgeon at Chingleput; promoted to surgeon, 1784 and superintendent surgeon, 1810; retired 1815 with a gratuity of 600 guineas from the company, and returned to Scotland, where he devoted himself to writing on medicine and the history of India.  His major work was published as the Materia medica of Hindustan, 1813 and expanded to the Materia medica Indica, 1826, and was the first full-length study of Indian medicines to appear in English. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1829 and was knighted by King William IV, 10 June 1835.  He married Janet Mary (1780-1840), daughter of Lt. Col. James Cunninghame of Balbougie (the sister of his older brother's wife) and had issue:
(1) Jane Catherine Ainslie (later Grant-Duff) (1801-66) (q.v.).
He died 29 April 1837.  His widow died 27 March 1840.

Grant-Duff (née Ainslie), Jane Catherine (1801-66), of Delgatie Castle.  Only child of Sir Whitelaw Ainslie (1767-1837) and his wife Janet Mary, daughter of Lt. Col. James Cunninghame of Balbougie, born 1801.  She married, 1827, James Cunninghame Grant-Duff (1789-1858) of Eden and had issue:
(1) James Grant-Duff, died in infancy;
(2) Mary Cunninghame Grant-Duff (1828-45), died unmarried;
(3) Sir Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant-Duff (1829-1906) of Eden, CIE, GCSI; educated at Edinburgh Academy, Balliol College, Oxford (matriculated 1847; BA 1850; MA 1853) and Inner Temple (called to the bar, 1854); MP for Elgin Burghs, 1857-81; Under-Secretary for India, 1868-74; Under-Secretary for the Colonies, 1880-81; Governor of Madras, 1881-86; sold the Eden estate, 1875 and lived at York House, Twickenham, 1875-96 and later on a small estate near Colchester (Essex); Rector of Aberdeen University, 1866-72; President of Royal Geographical Society, 1889-92 and of the Royal Historical Society, 1892-99; trustee of British Museum, 1903-06; m. April 1859 Anna Julia (d. 1915), daughter of Edward Webster and his wife Hannah Ainsworth [see post 65 on Ainsworths of Smithills Hall], and had issue five sons and five daughters; died in London, January 1906;
(4) Margaret Grant-Duff (1833-35)
(5) Ainslie Douglas Grant-Duff (later Ainslie) (1838-1929) (q.v.)
(6) Alice Jane Grant-Duff (d. 1891), m. 1859 in Switzerland, Dr. Gaspar Obrist of Zurich and had issue two sons.
She inherited the Delgatie Castle and Blervie House estates from her uncle, Douglas Ainslie, in 1850, on condition that her second son took the name of Ainslie and named his eldest son Douglas.
She died 1 May 1866.  Her husband died 23 September 1858.

Ainslie (né Grant-Duff), Ainslie Douglas (1838-1929), of Delgatie Castle.  Second son of James Cunninghame Grant-Duff (1789-1858) of Eden and his wife Jane Catherine, daughter of Sir Whitelaw Ainslie, born 9 July 1838.  Educated at Balliol College, Oxford In HM Diplomatic Service in Paris, 1859-66, but resigned and changed his name to Ainslie on coming into the Delgatie and Blervie estates.  Called to the bar at the Inner Temple, 1874.  JP and DL for Aberdeenshire. He married, 1863, Frances, daughter of Edward J. Morgan of St. Petersburg (Russia), and had issue:
(1) Douglas Ainslie (1865-1948) (q.v.);
(2) Percival Ainslie (1867-94), m. 1891 Beatrice Stewart Marion Brabazon (d. 1904), daughter of C.W. Moore (who m.2 Capt. Cecil Henry Hunt), and had issue one daughter;
(3) Julian Ainslie (1870-1937), m.1, 1893, Florence (d. 1897 in a carriage accident), daughter of Sir Nicholas Elphinstone and had issue two daughters; m.2, 15 December 1898, Juliet Molesworth and had issue a daughter; and m.3, Gertrude Mayne; died 1937;
(4) Edith Fanny (known as Rachel) Ainslie (later Grant-Duff) (1873-1934);
(5) Edward Ainslie (1876-79), died young.
He inherited the Delgatie Castle and Blervie House estates from his mother in 1866, but sold Blervie in 1908.
He died 15 December 1929.

Douglas Ainslie as a diplomat
Ainslie, (Grant Duff) Douglas (1865-1948), of Delgatie Castle and Hollywood (USA).  Eldest son of Ainslie Douglas Ainslie (1838-1929) and his wife Frances, daughter of Edward J. Morgan of St. Petersburg (Russia), born in Paris, 1865.  Educated at Eton and Exeter College, Oxford (matriculated 1884; BA 1886); served briefly in the diplomatic service; poet and literary critic; friend and briefly lover of Oscar Wilde (whom he met while an undergraduate at Oxford) and also an associate of Aubrey Beardsley and Walter Pater; translated twelve volumes of the works of the Italian philosopher, Benedetto Croce, into English, 1909-24, and also Dandyism, by ; published Escarlamonde and other poems, 1893; John of Damascus, 1901; The Song of the Stewarts: Prelude, 1909; Mirage, 1911; Adventures Social and Literary, 1922; Chosen Poems, 1925 and The Conquest of Pleasure, 1942. He also revered the Indian sage Sri Ramana Maharshi and visited him in 1935 at his ashram in Thiruvannamalai in Southern India. He later emigrated to America and lived mainly in Hollywood.  He was unmarried and without issue.
He inherited the Delgatie Castle estate from his father in 1929 but never occupied the house, which was requisitioned for military use and which had become derelict by the time of his death.
He died 27 March 1948; his will was proved in London, 22 December 1949 (estate in England £260).

Burke's Landed Gentry, successive editions; A. & H. Tayler, The book of the Duffs, 1914, vol. 2, pp. 495-99; D. Howard, The architectural history of Scotland, 1560-1660, 1995, p. 215; Neil McKenna, The secret life of Oscar Wilde, 2003.

Location of archives
Ainslie, Douglas (1865-1948): literary papers, 20th cent. (British Library, Add. MSS. 55165, 56654); correspondence, 1884-1931 (UCLA Charles E. Young Reserch Library, Los Angeles, 703)

Revision and acknowledgements
This post was first published 10 August 2013 and was updated 11 February 2022. I am grateful to Merlin Holland for a correction.

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