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Williamston House


The mid-20th-century enclosed gardens at Williamston House are a rare example of the garden design work of the artist Theodore Haughton. The planting scheme emphasises the architectural effects of structure and foliage rather than flower colour. The designed landscape also includes mid-19th-century parkland.

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:

Location and Setting

Williamston House lies on a gentle, south-west facing slope above the River Urie, about 12 miles (19.5km) north-west from Inverurie. The A96 runs along the southern boundary and the A920 to Oldmeldrum borders the policies to the north. The soils are neutral to acid and the climate is affected by the cold north-easterly winds. The surrounding landscape is now predominantly in arable use, although there is still some grazed pasture, and the nearby hills are mainly covered by woodland. There are long views south to Bennachie and Suie Hill in the southern Grampians and west to the Hill of Foudland above Kirkton of Culsalmond. The designed landscape situated on rising ground provides some significance to the scenery especially from the nearby major roads.

The house is situated in the centre of the policies which are bordered by one minor and two major roads. The final extent is shown on the 1st edition OS plan as the policies gradually grew throughout the 19th century. Although the site was probably chosen for its relatively sheltered position, the long views south were used and framed in the 19th century designs. The extent of the designed landscape is about 284 acres (115ha).

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Williamston House is a two-storey Grecian-style house with columned porch. It is listed category B and was originally built in 1825 by the Aberdeen architect Alexander Fraser. The wings were added in 1850s. Williamston Home Farm is listed category B and surrounds an early 19th century courtyard with a threshing mill turned by horses, kennels with a dovecot above, a separate guest stables and the usual byre and farm buildings; most of the farm buildings are in some disrepair.

St. Michael's Well is a pre-Christian sacred well now used as a garden ornament. The Statue of St. Michael is by Barbara Austin Taylor, completed by Richard Robertson in 1952. There is also a Statue of St. Francis, and a Sundial mounted on a column decorated with four cherub heads.


The parkland was laid out during the mid-19th century; it runs down to the river and rises up the far side to the A96. The lake was made by Mr Haughton c.1930. The remnants of the clumps of trees, mainly beech, were planted c.1830 and frame the magnificent views to the south. The entrance drive which sweeps up the slope along the side of the woodland, is bordered by ornamental conifers and Rhododendrons planted in the 1870s.


Charles Fraser planted the first woodland of over 250 acres (101ha) on the Hill of Skares from c.1804. From 1831, his son planted the shelterbelt strips and the woodland protecting the house with beech, oak and some sycamore. Edward Fraser planted some Douglas fir in the plantations and extended the woodland above Kirkton. The disastrous gale in January 1953 blew down over '90%' of the mature timber in the shelterbelts and woodland near the house. Most of the plantations have since been replanted with conifers.

The Gardens

The lawn around the house was extended c.1914 when the ha-ha was built. Edward Fraser began planting the Rhododendrons c.1872 and a bill from Benjamin Reid, dated 1873, has an entry for over 1,400 Rhododendrons as well as many other trees and shrubs listed on his invoice. He also opened up the woodland to make the sheltered garden and cut a strip between the house and the garden which he planted with exotic conifers. Some of his evergreen shrubs, the large Douglas firs and Wellingtonias remain. Between 1900-1910 the garden was so neglected that when the Haughtons returned they cleared the tangle of Rhododendrons and levelled the ground creating the framework of the present garden, including the vista through the woodlands to the Hill of Foudland.

As Theodore Haughton was an artist and had trained in France, he was interested in the design of the garden and texture of the plants. Except in specific areas, colour was avoided and, instead, the rich foliage of the plants was used to create strong contrasts between bright sunlight and dark shade. The shape and form were more important than the plant species so there are no particularly unusual or rare plants in the garden.

The 'Broad Walk' leads from the house to the garden, and on either side, behind a line of Irish yew, shrubs and small trees were planted following the gale. Narrow, intimate grass paths weave through and round them producing continual changes and contrasts. The garden is entered between two old stone pillars, once the entrance to a field, and the path leads to the 'magic' circle and to the statue of St. Francis in the Fountain Garden beyond. The circle is crossed by the main allee surrounded by a hedge of clipped yew and box with openings for four other vistas across the garden. The broad herbaceous borders on either side of the allee were filled, amongst other plants, with delphiniums, phlox, lilies and lupins. The allee leads to the Statue of St. Michael standing in a simple semi-circular lawn at the end of the long vista.

Behind the hedges are a series of small gardens including the Rose Garden which is bright and colourful, the Rockery, and the Water Garden around the ancient well. Here Primulas, lilies and other moisture-loving plants grow surrounded by a beech and hornbeam hedge. Some fruit and vegetables are still grown in their own compartment. The garden was highly individual and its structure shows a strong French influence.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts


Williamston Estates Ltd.


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:

Reason for Inclusion

A rare example of the artist Theodore Haughton's garden design. Heavily influenced by early 20th century continental style, the gardens rely more on structure and foliage texture than flower colour.

Site History

A plan surveyed in 1770 shows Williamston Farm divided into small fields. The designed landscape was created during the 1830s and was 'improved' and extended during Edward Fraser's ownership. It was added to by his niece and her husband between 1895-1915. The enclosed gardens were created by W.T.H. Haughton and his wife from the 1930s.

There has been a farm at Williamston since the 13th century when it was attached to the Abbey of Lindores in Fife. Feu-duties were paid until 1969. During the 18th century the property belonged to two families and finally in 1797 it was sold to Charles Fraser, ancestor of the present owner. Charles Fraser built a small house which is now the farmhouse and began planting the woodland. In 1831, his son Charles built the centre of the present house in the 'Grecian' style and also laid out the policies. In 1870 the estate was inherited by Charles's second son Edward who also undertook many 'improvements' to the land, built modern buildings for the farms and started planting a range of exotic conifers and Rhododendrons.

On his death, the property was left to his great nephew, W.T.H. Haughton, the artist. Theodore Haughton's parents managed the estate and garden until his marriage in 1921 when he and his wife came to live at Williamston for part of the year. They created the garden which was later devastated by the effects of the 1953 gale, as the majority of the surrounding shelterbelt was uprooted and fell onto the garden. Whereupon they started again and created the present garden. Mr Haughton died in 1973 and left the estate to his niece, the present owner.


Victorian (1837-1901)

Features & Designations


  • Historic Environment Scotland An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland


  • House (featured building)
  • Description: Williamston House is a two-storey Grecian-style house with columned porch. It is listed category B and was originally built in 1825 by the Aberdeen architect Alexander Fraser.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Statue
  • Description: Statue of St Francis
  • Statue
  • Description: Statue of St Michael by Barbara Austin Taylor and Richard Robertson
  • Kennels
  • Description: Kennels surmounted by a doocot.
  • Water Feature
  • Description: St Michael's Well used as a garden feature.
Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential


Victorian (1837-1901)





Open to the public


Electoral Ward





  • Historic Scotland