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St Meddens, Cothal, Fintray, Aberdeen

A Category C Listed Building in East Garioch, Aberdeenshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 57.2306 / 57°13'50"N

Longitude: -2.2165 / 2°12'59"W

OS Eastings: 387029

OS Northings: 815559

OS Grid: NJ870155

Mapcode National: GBR XJ.J39N

Mapcode Global: WH9Q8.XJQB

Plus Code: 9C9V6QJM+6C

Entry Name: St Meddens, Cothal, Fintray, Aberdeen

Listing Name: St Meddens, excluding conservatory on the south elevation and detached garage to the east, Cothal, Fintray

Listing Date: 11 September 1984

Last Amended: 17 February 2020

Category: C

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 345973

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB13001

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Fintray

County: Aberdeenshire

Electoral Ward: East Garioch

Parish: Fintray

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire

Find accommodation in
Hatton of Fintray

Description

Dating from the early 19th century, St Meddens is a detached two-storey, three-bay, roughly T-plan, symmetrical former farmhouse. There is a two-storey, two-bay rear wing with a lower, rectangular-plan outshot attached to the south side of this rear wing. The building is constructed in coursed, snecked and harl-pointed granite blocks with granite dressings and quoin strips. St Meddens is on an elevated site within wooded and landscaped grounds, that is bounded by the River Don to the south.

The principal (west) elevation has two bay windows with dressed granite base flanking the central entrance. The entrance has a timber door, a glazed fanlight above and a granite cornice on console brackets.

St Meddens has a mixture of window designs. The first floor windows in the front elevation are predominantly in a four-pane glazing pattern in timber sash and case frames. The remaining timber sash and case windows are predominantly nine and 12-pane glazing patterns.

The pitched roofs are slated with angled skews and block skewputts. There is a chimneystack on each gable, with a pair of diamond-set shafts (square shafts set at an angle) topped by clay.

The interior of St Meddens, seen in 2019, has some 19th century features, such as deep skirting, picture rails, and moulded cornicing in the principal ground floor rooms. The staircase has timber balusters and a polished timber handrail. At the landing it divides into two to access the front and back parts of the house. The rectangular-plan outshot attached to the rear wing is lower in height and stylistically plainer than the remainder of the house, suggesting this may have been service quarters. This part has a narrow curving staircase and is close to the rear entrance door.

In accordance with Section 1 (4A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 the following are excluded from the listing: conservatory on the south elevation and detached garage to the east.

Historical development

In the 19th century the economy of the parish of Fintray was split between farming and the manufacture of woollen cloth (New Statistical Accounts, pp.169-170). The land around Cothal and Hatton of Fintray was part of the tenanted farm holdings of the Forbes (later Forbes-Sempill) family of Craigievar and Fintray. Sir William Forbes, 8th Baronet of Craigevar (1836-1905), was a principal heritor in the area and owned many farms and crofts of varying sizes in the parish, including St Meddens, Tillykerrie, Knaggan and Wester Disblair.

In the 19th century St Meddens was known as Oldmanse. The date of construction is unknown. The house was built by 1841 as it is recorded in the 1841 and 1851 census records. These records show Old Manse was lived in by tenant farmers, including agricultural labourers and domestic servants. The design and form of the house, with its symmetrical front elevation, evenly spaced openings and square first floor windows are also indicative of an earlier 19th century date.

St Meddens was lived in by the Crombie family between 1851 and 1861. John Crombie was a wool and tweed manufacturer and the owner of the nearby Cothal Mills (now demolished). The New County Directory for Fintray (1853-54) records John Crombie as a farmer at Old Manse and as the manufacturer at Cothal Mills (under the company name of J and J Crombie).

St Meddens is first shown on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1865, published 1867), and is labelled as Oldmanse. It shows the footprint of to the house as roughly T-plan and with bay windows at the front, within its own wooded and landscaped grounds. and a large steading and walled garden to the north. The bay windows appear to be later additions, but they are not significantly later because they are shown on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map. The garden area, to the immediate southeast of the house, is labelled as the site of an old manse and this is likely to be where the name Oldmanse originated (OS1/1/30/65). The ruins of St Meddan's Church and its graveyard are shown to the east about halfway between St Meddens and Cothal Mills.

St Meddens belonged to the Forbes-Sempill family until 1952. By 1960 the house was known as St Meddens when it was advertised for sale and described as having a pantry, gun room and maid's room, laundry, double garage and outhouses (Aberdeen Evening Express).

Statement of Interest

St Meddens meets the criteria of special architectural or historic interest for the following reasons:

In accordance with Section 1 (4A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 the following are excluded from the listing: conservatory on the south elevation and detached garage to the east.

Architectural interest:

Design

St Meddens is a restrained and well-proportioned, classical style house that is typical of Improvement period farmhouses of the late-18th to mid-19th century. The scale, architectural details and setting indicate it was a house of some status in the parish. Its symmetrical front elevation has been little altered externally, except for the removal of harling, and the building has good stonework detailing, in particular its angled skews and distinctive chimneystacks with the diamond-set shafts. The architect of St Meddens is unknown.

The granite rubble construction is characteristic of the northeast of Scotland and is traditional for this area. Highly decorative stonework would not be expected on an early 19th century farmhouse, especially one built in granite.

The early-19th century interior plan form is still largely retained by the survival of the central stair and large principal rooms. The plan form is typical for its building type and date with large, symmetrical rooms at the front leading off a central hallway. The 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey map shows the irregularly-shaped rear section of St Meddens appears to have been slightly reduced in size from that shown on the 1st Edition map, however it is not a substantial reduction and the overall footprint remains largely unaltered from that shown on the 1st Edition map.

The lower, rectangular block attached to the rear maybe a later addition because of the difference in height. Its depiction on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1865) dates this rear section to within around 50 years of St Meddens being built, so it is not significantly later in date.

The interior retains some features from the early-19th century which are typical for houses of this date and adds to the interest of the building. These features include moulded cornicing, deep skirting and picture rails within well-proportioned principal rooms.

The lack of substantial later alteration, especially to the building's principal elevation, contributes to its special interest which largely retains its earlier 19th century form and character.

Setting

St Meddens is located within the village of Cothal, near Fintray. The house is located off a branch road off the B977 and accessed via a track. It is not visible from the main road.

The immediate setting of St Meddens is largely unchanged from that shown on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map which indicates the scale and importance of the house as the residence of a mill owner and as a high status farmhouse. It remains within its own garden extending down towards the River Don with mature trees surrounding the site. There have been some minor changes, for example the detached outbuilding to the east of the house (shown on the 1st, 2nd and later Ordnance Survey maps) is no longer there and a detached double garage was added in the late 20th century (and later replaced), but these do not adversely affect the setting.

The wider setting of St Meddens has changed by the loss of the former Cothal Mills and the later housing built on this site. However, this does not significantly detract from the 19th century layout and rural setting of St Meddens.

St Meddens remains part of a coherent and readable former agricultural complex that was once prevalent in this area of Aberdeenshire. The visibility and survival of the associated steading and walled garden to the north of the house allows us to understand their former functional and historic relationship to St Meddens. The largely unaltered setting is of special interest in listing terms.

Historic interest:

Age and rarity

The late-18th century/early-19th century was a period of significant improvement in farming practices across Scotland as small-scale subsistence farming gave way to the creation of larger, commercial farming practices. This radical change in farming, known as the Improvement or Agricultural Improvement period, saw innovations in land drainage, use of lime as a fertiliser, introduction of new crops and crop rotation, improved understanding of animal husbandry and increased length of farm tenancies. As a period of significant improvement in farming practices across Scotland, many farmhouses and agricultural buildings were constructed in this period.

The Craigevar estate had a long association with farming throughout the 18th and 19th century with a number of medium-sized farms including St Meddens and Cairnton Farm (unlisted) (Glendinning et al., p.51).

The older a building is, and the fewer of its type that survive, the more likely it is to be of special interest. St Meddens is a good example of an Improvement period farmhouse with a largely unaltered 19th century front elevation, plan form and setting.

Social historical interest

Social historical interest is the way a building contributes to our understanding of how people lived in the past, and how our social and economic history is shown in a building and/or in its setting.

Farmhouses are a common building type in Scotland, and all have some social historical interest. St Meddens has further social historical interest because it may incorporate building material from the earlier manse, the site of which is reportedly in close proximity to the house, and it was the residence of a prominent Aberdeenshire mill owner.

There were once a large number of farms operating in Fintray parish and the survival of early-19th century farmhouses directly illustrates the area's agricultural and social history.

Association with people or events of national importance

There are no known associations with persons or events of national importance.

John Crombie was the owner of Cothal Mills and lived at St Meddens (then known as Oldmanse) until his death in 1858 (as noted on the Crombie family headstone in Hatton of Fintray graveyard). While John Crombie is not a person of national importance, he was a prominent mill owner who had a significant impact on Aberdeen's 19th century textile industry. The association with St Meddens is of local interest.

In 1810 the Crombie company received an award from the Board of Trustees for Fisheries and Manufactures in Scotland for the exceptional standard of its cloth. John's son and grandson, James and Theodore, took over the family wool manufacturing business, and the business moved to the larger Grandholm Works in the north of the city of Aberdeen in 1859.

The Crombie company continued to set up sales around the world and moved towards designing its own clothing. J and J Crombie Limited is best known for its thick wool 'Crombie overcoat' which became very popular in the late 19th century and throughout the 20th century (The Scotsman).

Statutory address and listed building record revised in 2020. Previously listed as 'St Meddans'.

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