Castle Menzies 717

Aberfeldy, Scotland

Brief Description

The designed landscape at Castle Menzies dates from the 19th century and includes parkland and a terraced walled garden with an arched stairway linking two of the terraces. Coniferous woodland now occupies the site of extensive 19th-century mixed planting. A few specimen conifers remain from an arboretum.

History

Menzies Castle has been associated with Clan Menzies for over 500 years. The castle dates from the late-16th century. The parkland was laid out between 1823 and 1860. Between 1844 and 1903 Sir Robert Menzies is said to have planted nearly two million trees. These have now been replanted with coniferous forest that is managed by the Forestry Commission.

Visitor Facilities

The site is open from 1st April (or Easter) until mid-October.

Detailed Description

The following is from the Historic Environment Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Environment Scotland website:

http://portal.historic-scotland.gov.uk/hes/web/f?p=PORTAL:DESIGNATIONS:0

Type of Site

Partial survival of a designed landscape of parkland, woodland, arboretum and walled garden developed in the 19th century, affected and altered in the 20th century by the fragmentation of the estate, by private housing development and the introduction of commercial forestry.

Location and Setting

Castle Menzies is situated on the north bank of the valley of the River Tay on the western edge of the village of Weem, about 1 mile (2km) west of Aberfeldy. The B846 forms the southern boundary of the site, and just over 0.5km beyond it lies the River Tay. The floodplain of the Tay forms the setting for the parkland of Castle Menzies and the agricultural land which lines the north bank between Aberfeldy and Kenmore. To the north of the Castle, the land rises steeply to the Rock of Weem on Weem Hill 1,637' (499m). Views out from the park and around the Castle are confined to the Tay Valley; on a clear day the outline of Drummond Hill and Ben Lawers can be seen to the west. In the past, walks were taken in Weem Wood to the hill from which point more distant views could be gained from the higher elevation. The Castle and woods are highly significant in the landscape from the B846 although the parkland is today less significant than in the past since most of the parkland trees have gone.

Castle Menzies is situated within some 333 acres (135ha) of designed landscape which extends north to Weem Wood, south to the B846, west to the lodge and east to the village of Weem. A wall forms the boundary between the East and South Lodges but, between the latter and the Home Farm, the enclosure is formed by a ha-ha, allowing uninterrupted views to and from the Castle. Documentary map evidence of the development of the designed landscape is confined to General Roy's map of c.1750, a 'Plan of the River Tay and Adjacent Grounds between Castle Menzies and Bolfracks' dated 1823 (SRO RHP 963/2) by James Jardine, the lst edition OS map of c.1870 and the 2nd edition OS of c.1900. They indicate that the landscape was extended between the mid-18th and mid-19th century when the present layout was established.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Castle Menzies, listed category A, is a Scheduled Monument dating from 1571-77. The original Z-plan Castle is a three-storey building with sculptured dormer heads and angle turrets. Alterations and additions were made to the design of William Burn in 1839-40 but his west wing was separated from the main structure during the course of recent major repair and treatment work. The building is intended to be open to the public as part of the country's historic heritage.

The walled garden, listed category B, is a large terraced rubble-walled enclosure thought to date from the 18th century. A large arched stairway forms a central feature within the garden linking two of the terraces. The Home Farm and Steading are listed B for that group. The former is thought to date from the late 18th century whilst the latter dates from c.1830-40 and is a Gothic, rubble-built construction. The East Lodge Gatepiers, listed category B, are ashlar and date from the 18th century. Each is surmounted with vases with pineapple finials. The West Lodge stands at the entrance to the west drive which is flanked by curved walls and may once have been the main access to the Castle. An additional Lodge stands midway on the west drive.

Parkland

The parkland of Castle Menzies was laid out between 1823 and c.1860 as can be seen by comparison of the 'Plan of the River Tay and Adjacent Grounds between Castle Menzies and Bolfracks' (SRO RHP 963/2) and the 1st edition OS map. In fact, the work was probably carried out after the William Burn additions to the house. The parkland provided a fine setting to the house and its approaches. To the east, a drive swept through the park to the village of Weem past the walled garden and the large curling pond. A branch of this drive swept down to the South Lodge. West of the Castle, a drive extended to a lodge on the edge of the Park. The drive continued west to the Home Farm and also to another lodge at the junction of the west drive and what is now the B846. In the late 19th century, an area to the south of the walled garden appears to have been developed as woodland but it has now reverted to agriculture, along with the rest of the parkland with the exception of the area between the east drive and the curling pond which has been developed for private housing. The west drive is now only a farm access track between the mid lodge and the Castle. The east drive provides access to the private housing. Access to the Castle and walled garden is gained from the south drive.

Comparison of the 1st & 2nd edition OS plans indicates that the park was once well stocked with trees. A distinct double avenue is indicated on the 1st edition OS map along the southern boundary of the policies, which could be that indicated on General Roy's map of c.1750. An account of 1883 records that the Avenue trees to the Castle could still be seen but that the trees within it were not as large as they could be as they had been narrowly spaced. Individual trees, however, were of a great size. The OS Gazetteer of 1883 describes the park as containing some of the finest trees in Scotland. In that year, avenue planting to the old Castle of Weem is said to have existed. By c.1900 this avenue planting had become less distinct and has now gone, as have most of the parkland trees with the exception of a few Copper beeches, dating from the mid-19th century.

Woodland

The woods were largely established in the early 19th century, firstly by Sir Neil Menzies and subsequently by his son, Sir Robert. The New Statistical Account of 1840 describes c.190 acres of wood around the Rock of Weem. Species included largely oak and larch with some ash, beech and elm. It notes that much attention is paid by the proprietors to the management of their woods.

Sir Robert Menzies is said to have planted nearly two million trees between 1844- 1903. His plantings were of both deciduous and coniferous species, much of which were planted in Weem Wood to the north of the castle. 'Woods and Forests of Perthshire' (1833) describes within this wood 'an avenue of large sized beeches c.150- 200' above the castle which appeared to be connected with the old Castle'. Otherwise, species were largely oak, beech, larch and Scots pine; measurements of particularly large specimens are recorded in the article. Sir Robert also planted some of the new coniferous introductions, including Pinus nigra maritima, Pseudotsuga menziesii and Tsuga heterophylla. Rhododendrons were also planted as cover for game. The 1st edition OS map indicates paths and rides through Weem Wood which appear to be less accessible nowadays. Much of Sir Robert's planting has now been felled. The woods, planted c.1950, are now largely coniferous and are managed commercially by the Forestry Commission.

Sir Robert also established an arboretum at Castle Menzies, based on seed collected by Jeffrey and Browne and other plant collectors on their expeditions to California and British Columbia. Through these sources, he acquired Pseudotsuga menziesii, Tsuga heterophylla and Abies grandis, as well as Thuja gigantea and Calocedrus decurrens which were established on an experimental basis as possible future forest tree stands. In addition to these, many splendid specimens were established including Cedrus deodora, obtained in seed from India, Cryptomeria japonica and Sequoiadendron gigantea. One of the most curious trees is a specimen of Arbutus menziesii which was planted c.1870 and by 1883 had reached a height of c.12 feet. Near the Cottage is a large Gingko biloba and a good specimen of Thuja dolobrata planted at the same time. It is one of the few specimens of Sir Robert's arboretum which remains today. Specimens of Pinus jeffreyi, Thuja plicata and two Chamaecyparis lawsoniana were measured by Alan Mitchell in 1983.

Walled Garden

The present walled garden was laid out between 1823 and c.1860 on a site directly north of an earlier garden which was indicated on the Jardine plan of 1823. The existing garden was remodelled by 1860, probably around the time when the second garden was built. It is enclosed by a magnificent stone wall, the height of which ranges from 12' (south side) to 18' (north side) and to 24' at the highest points of the west and east sides. The garden was both ornamental and practical, filled with flowers, fruit and vegetables; only a little remains to indicate the past glories.

The 1st edition OS map provides an indication of the combined layout of the garden c.1860; showing that it was by then made up of three compartments which were terraced; however, no plans indicate the grandeur of the space. The highest compartment, the 'new' addition, was rectangular in form with a regular grid pattern of intersecting paths. The central compartment is also basically rectangular but has an additional small triangular area at its south-west corner. It was linked to the upper compartment by a grand arched stairway which is now clothed in ivy originally leading to a sundial. A walk ran beneath this arch separated from the north wall of the central compartment by shrub borders enclosed by box hedging. Both compartments are now derelict. The lowest, southern compartment appears on the 1st edition OS to be cultivated in a form similar to the central area. However by c.1900, the 2nd edition OS map indicates it planted with trees, possibly as part of Sir Robert's arboretum. Today, it has reverted to agriculture and is visually perceived as part of the park. The enclosure indicated around it on the early OS maps has gone, except for the east wall. A gate through this wall was aligned on a former walk to the curling pond.

Features
  • Castle (featured building)
  • Earliest Date:
  • Tree Feature
  • Description: A few specimen conifers remain from an arboretum.
Terrace
Access & Directions

Access Contact Details

The site is open from 1st April (or Easter) until mid-October.

Directions

Castle Menzies is at Weem, one and a half miles from Aberfeldy on the B846.
History

Detailed History

The following is from the Historic Environment Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Environment Scotland website:

http://portal.historic-scotland.gov.uk/hes/web/f?p=PORTAL:DESIGNATIONS:0

Reason for Inclusion

A 19th century designed landscape most notable as a setting for Castle Menzies which was built between 1571-77 and has been associated with the Menzies family for more than 500 years.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

1823-c.1860 with mass tree planting 1844-1903, with alterations mid to late 20th century.

Site History

The original home of the Clan Menzies, Comrie Castle, was situated in Glen Lyon, some distance from the present site. It was burnt down in 1487. The Old Castle of Weem was built to replace it in 1488 on or near the present site by Sir Robert de Menyrs and the lands associated with it were formed into the Barony of Menzies. In 1502, this Castle was burnt out by Neil Stewart of Garth after a quarrel over the lands of Rannoch. The feud between the two families continued for much of the 16th century but in 1571 Sir Robert's great-grandson, James Menzies, married Barbara Stewart, daughter of the Earl of Atholl. From her dowry, which may have been, in part, compensation for the loss of the Clan Home, the present Castle was rebuilt. Barbara Stewart is thought to have been greatly influential in the design of the Castle. The state of the landscape associated with it is uncertain but modern aerial photographs indicate the presence of what may have been a barmkin wall around the Castle at that time.

During the 17th & 18th centuries, the Castle was occupied several times by garrisons; the last time, in 1746, by Cumberland's forces who, it is recorded, were responsible for pulling down 'a large Office House at the back of the Castle and a high garden wall on the east of it that might have proved inconvenient in case of an attack' and that 'the Garrison did destroy the whole front in the orchard ...... and destroyed a great number of the fruit trees ....'. The extent of the designed landscape around that time is indicated on General Roy's map which shows two avenues converging on the Castle and what appears to be the walled garden to the east of it.

Sir Neil Menzies, the 6th Baronet (1780-1844) was responsible for the planting of much of the wasteland around the Castle and, in the last years of his life, commissioned William Burn to design additions to the Castle. His son, Sir Robert, was even more influential; in his time as laird, he is said to have planted at least two million trees. The structure of the designed landscape which remains today was established by c.1870 but Sir Robert's planting resulted in some further changes to the landscape which can be seen on the 2nd edition OS of c.1900.

Sir Robert died in 1903. His successor lived for only seven years more and, on his death in 1910, the Menzies family line expired. Thereafter, the estate was split up; some of the family archives are held at Register House although some papers are kept at Blair Castle. The present Chief derives from the collateral line of the Menzies of Culdares.

The Castle then passed through the hands of a number of owners when it was subjected to several alterations, particularly during World War II when it was used as a medical stores depot for the Polish Army. After 1945 the Castle was neglected and was in a very dilapidated condition when it was purchased by the Clan Menzies Society in 1958. The small resources available to them at that time were used to prevent further deterioration of the fabric. Surveys carried out in 1971-72 indicated the need for major action in order to save the building. Grants were obtained from the Historic Buildings Council for Scotland which, along with fund raising events and a public appeal, financed the first phase of restoration work. The next two phases of the work continued during the 1970s & 80s. In 1984 the walled garden became available for sale and, following a successful appeal to Clan members, sufficient funds were raised to enable its purchase by the Society. The gardener's cottage remains in separate ownership and the woodlands are now owned by the Forestry Commission. The major part of the parkland and Home Farm is owned by a local farmer although the eastern end has been developed in recent years for private housing.

Associated People

People associated to Castle Menzies

Contact
References

References

Contributors

  • Historic Scotland