History of Kincardine Castle

A brief history of Kincardine Castle

First let us be clear. This is not an ancient castle that has seen many centuries of history wash around it. Instead this is a late-Victorian fantasy castle. You can easily tell this because any building with so many large windows would be impossible to defend. The building incorporates features from much older building styles so, while there are allusions to building styles from 1350 – 1890 the whole structure was built in the space of two years in 1894-6.

The castle was occupied first by Mary Pickering whose ancestors over the preceding five centuries include many notable Aberdeenshire and North-East families – Gordons, Innes, Black, Bannerman, Keith, Lindsay, Ogilvie, Grant, Leslie and many more.

Mary Pickering bought the estate of Kincardine in 1888 and in 1890 added the adjacent Stranduff Estate. She caused the present castle to be built. She lived there with her children – a girl, Ursula, born 1879 and a son, Francis, born in 1881.

Francis left Eton in 1900 and went immediately to fight in the Boer War in South Africa where he was wounded. He returned to Kincardine to recover. Then in 1914 he fought on the Western Front, in 1915 he fought at Gallipoli and in 1916 he was given a safe staff job which would have seen him through the war. This was not to his liking and he volunteered to go back to the front and, as Commanding Officer of 9th Rifles, he was killed two days before Christmas 1917 at Passchendaele.

During the Great War (WWl) the castle was used as a hospital.

After the war, on the death of Mary PIckering, it passed to Ursula. She had married a landowner with a big estate in Somerset and so Kincardine became their holiday home which they used for two or three months a year. They had two daughters, Mary (b. 1915) and Susan (b. 1918).

By the late 1930s the two daughters filled the castle with guests and friends. So much did they do this that their mother retaliated by selling all the furniture from one floor of bedrooms – so as to limit the number of people that could come to stay. It remained largely that way for the next 50 years.

During the Second World War the castle was again a hospital. The empty floor was quickly equipped with beds for nurses accommodation while the patients lived in three wards, in the Dining Room, Drawing Room and Billiard Room. They used the Great Hall as their Common Room.

In 1951 Susan married a war hero, Bill Bradford, and they moved into the castle. They had four children, Robert, Margaret, Andrew and Ronald. The period from 1950-1979 was an austere time where money was in short supply, inflation took off and peaked at just under 25%, interest rates and taxes were very high. The condition of the castle slowly deteriorated.

In 1979 Andrew took over the management of the estate and, a few years later, moved into the castle with his wife Nicky and their children Edward, Louisa. Their second son Charlie came along a few years later. Andrew’s first task was to try and save the estate and he invested almost everything in refurbishing its housing (work that is ongoing today). In 1985, somewhat by accident, they got into providing hospitality in the castle. In 1990 they added bathrooms ( they’ve added 14 since they moved in) and later modifications include meeting Fire Regulations.

In 1996 they started renovating the gardens.

The castle is now a venue for exclusive-use events – house parties, meetings, weddings and so on. The estate provides 61 affordable rented houses (compare that with 13 provided by Aberdeenshire Council) plus shops, workshops, offices and stores. It also has a food business. In all the castle and estate employ some 33 full-time, part-time and casual workers.

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Some kind words from our previous guests…

With great gratitude for your welcome! I truly felt at home.  June 2018

S. Conrad, Palm Beach, FL