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Forest of Birse, Birse Castle, Including Boundary Walls and Cheese Press

A Category B Listed Building in Birse, Aberdeenshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 57.0037 / 57°0'13"N

Longitude: -2.7915 / 2°47'29"W

OS Eastings: 352019

OS Northings: 790560

OS Grid: NO520905

Mapcode National: GBR WQ.DZF1

Mapcode Global: WH7NX.27Z7

Entry Name: Forest of Birse, Birse Castle, Including Boundary Walls and Cheese Press

Listing Date: 16 April 1971

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 334078

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB3097

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Birse

County: Aberdeenshire

Electoral Ward: Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire

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Description

Circa 1600; restored George Bennett Mitchell, 1905; E wing and SE angle turret by Dr William Kelly, 1930. 3-storey and attic, Z-plan tower house. Pink granite rubble finely finished to margins. Boarded timber doors; long and short dressings; key corbelling to angle turrets; roll-moulded eaves course to turrets; crowstepped gables.

S ELEVATION: asymmetrical; 3-bay; small bipartite window to centre of ground floor, flanked to left by arrow-slit opening, regular fenestration to ground and 1st floors of 2 bays to left, with round-arched niche to centre, angle turret to outer left with window and 3 elliptical openings below eaves course; circular angle tower corbelled to square to bay to right, dated "19 AC 30" (Annie Cowdray), door to ground floor surmounted by heraldic panel bearing thistle, rose and crown, irregularly placed arrow-slits with leaded diamond-pane glazing, regular fenestration to 2nd and attic floor; irregular fenestration to gabled right return, cheese press to ground floor; angle turret to re-entrant angle to right with regular fenestration and elliptical openings below eaves. 1930 addition adjoining to outer right (see below).

E ELEVATION: 1905 restoration obscured by 1930 wing; near symmetrical; advanced gabled 2-bay wing; single window off-centre to right of ground floor, regular fenestration to ground floor; tooled heraldic panel to centre of 3rd floor, window set in centre of gablehead, 2-storey angle turrets to left and right; left return 3-bay regular fenestration to ground, 1st and 2nd floors; Single storey addition to outer right with 2-leaf door, flanked by narrow openings, gabled to outer right with steps leading to rear.

N ELEVATION: asymmetrical; gabled bay to outer right; irregular door and window openings; single storey addition to N adjoining boundary walls (see below), with covered porch adjoining main block, irregular window and door openings.

W ELEVATION: asymmetrical; 4-bay; 2 gabled bays to right: panelled timber door flanked to left by window to bay to outer right at ground floor; regular fenestration to 1st floor, window off-centre to left of gablehead, symmetrically placed angle turrets to left and right. 2 recessed bays to left: near-regular fenestration to ground 1st and 2nd floors; 2-pane skylight to attic.

Variety of small-pane replacement timber sash and case windows. Grey slate roofs with stone ridges; conical roofs with lead spherical finials to turrets; decorative ironwork weathervane to re-entrant turret to S. Coped gablehead stacks with circular cans. Cast-iron rainwater goods.

INTERIOR: not seen 1999.

BOUNDARY WALLS: battered granite rubble boundary walls to N, S and E, decorative angle bastions to S wall, stone steps to S and E.

Statement of Interest

B-Group with Birse Castle Kennels (see separate listing). The Forest of Birse was originally Royal hunting forest. Sir William Gordon of Cluny feued the forest from the Bishop of Aberdeen in 1585 and built the original castle as a hunting seat or summer retreat; in 1636 it passed to Sir William Douglas of Glenbervie, then in 1666 to the Earl of Aboyne. The original castle was thought to have been "a plain keep in plan, with the addition of a round tower at one angle only" (M & R, p49), however its condition in 1892 was "a fragmentary ruin" (M & R, p49) with only E and N side walls surviving, and remained as such until it was restored by George Bennett Mitchell for J R Heaven, then Dr William Kelly for Annie, Lady Cowdray.

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