Haddo House, Methlick Building: Historic Aberdeenshire Property

Haddo House Methlick, Historic Aberdeenshire Property, Location, Architecture, News

Haddo House, near Methlick, Aberdeenshire, North East Scotland

Historic Aberdeenshire Building, northeast Scotland, UK

23 Aug 2011

Haddo House

Archaeological dig uncovers long-lost castle site at Haddo House

Archaeological excavations currently underway at the National Trust for Scotland’s Haddo House near Methlick, Aberdeenshire are revealing substantial remains of the Place of Kelly, the seat of the Gordons of Haddo prior to the construction of Haddo House in the 1730s.

The structure’s precise location has long been a matter of speculation, as no historic drawings or detailed descriptions of the site have survived.

Haddo House archaeological excavations:
Haddo House
picture from The National Trust for Scotland

Kelly is first mentioned in 1261 as the dwelling place of Alexander Comyn, Earl of Buchan. The Gordon family acquired the estate in the 1460s-80s, and added comfortable new accommodation about a century later. The Place of Kelly was sacked in 1644 by the Covenanting forces of the Marquis of Argyle, but remained occupied until the construction of Haddo House by William Gordon, 2nd Earl of Aberdeen.

The first indication that the Place of Kelly had at last been revealed came during a project to insert a fire main to upgrade protection of Haddo House. Archaeologists from local firm Murray Archaeological Services Ltd (MAS) were supervising works on the early 18th-century terrace in front of the William Adam mansion when they discovered a major wall buried deep under the turf, and a well close to the house.

The Trust’s Archaeologist for Eastern Scotland, Dr Shannon Fraser, emphasized the importance of the find:

“People have been speculating about the location of the Place of Kelly for more than a century…it has been described as almost the Holy Grail of local archaeology.

“Having found the site at last, we are taking the opportunity to conduct further investigations to better understand this historic site.”

A ground-penetrating radar survey carried out by Rose Geophysical Consultants has revealed what seem to be ranges of buildings surrounding an extremely large courtyard. MAS’s follow-up archaeological excavations have identified walls still standing to a height of almost 2m, which probably formed part of a building with several vaulted rooms at ground floor level, as well as other sections of the courtyard structure.

Excavation co-director Dr Hilary Murray said:

“It is amazing to realise that when the terrace in front of Haddo was created in the 18th century, the earlier buildings were simply partially demolished and filled in with rubble before the lawn was planted”.

The terrace lawn is also an important site for nature conservation, as it is home to a wide variety of fungi that grow in old, unimproved grassland. Some of these are extremely rare, including various types of beautiful ‘wax-cap’ fungi. Special precautions are being taken to ensure that as little damage as possible is done to the lawns during the excavations, to protect this valuable habitat.

The archaeological excavations will come to a close on Wednesday 24 August, after which the trenches will backfilled.

Haddo House image / information from The National Trust for Scotland


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Another National Trust for Scotland property in Aberdeenshire:

Craigievar Castle

Scottish Castles

The National Trust for Scotland is one of Scotland’s leading conservation charities, which relies on the financial support of its members to fund its important work of caring for the natural and cultural heritage of Scotland for everyone to enjoy.

You can join the National Trust for Scotland for as little as £5 per month for a family. To become a member, visit http://www.nts.org.uk/Join/Benefits/.

The National Trust for Scotland for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty is a charity registered in Scotland, Charity Number SC007410

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