On our registers: Crathes Castle

Blog post by Laura Brown, social media manager at RoS.

In 2017 we’re celebrating the 400th anniversary of the General Register of Sasines, the world’s oldest national land register (which started right here in Scotland!) To showcase its history, we decided to sift through the sasine archives to discover the stories of some of Scotland’s most iconic buidings.

Using our digital system, Registers Direct, we were able to research hundreds of years’ worth of tangible land registration history. Our next stop – after our first visit to Aberdour Castle in Fife – was the National Trust for Scotland’s Crathes Castle, a beautiful pink building in Aberdeenshire. Yet again David Weinczok (@TheCastleHunter) joined us to tie in the property’s whole history with our sasine documents… Discover what we found below!

 The lands and Barony of Leys, comprehending the whole lands in the Forest of Drum… and the lands and Manor Palace of Crathes… with the Salmon Fishing in the River Dee…

This description, coming directly from the sasine register, does well to sum up Crathes’ peaceful history! Built in the late 1500s – a time of turbulence as Mary Queen of Scots’ reign crumbled – Crathes Castle was crafted with six-foot-thick walls and tiny windows. Yet its rather fashionable defences were never breached, or even touched, and its owners the Burnetts lived in peace for over 350 years.

Thanks to the Burnetts – who were clever political operators – Crathes was never besieged, even during the volatile Jacobite period. Like many Aberdeenshire castles, this place is almost perfectly preserved in its seventeenth-century state, meaning visitors can imagine the luxurious lives of its inhabitants even more easily as they explore.

Feu. Disp. by Sir Thomas Burnett Bart of Leys to the Nordrach-on-Dee Sanatorium Limited of (as an addition to Nordrach-on-Dee Sanatorium) 1 rood 3 poles 13 squares yards of ground…

General Register of Sasines, 1905

As the sasine register search sheets show, the Crathes estate stretched far beyond the castle. With all this land – forest, palace and fishings – it was inevitable that generations of Burnetts would start to let parts of the estate off to others. That’s exactly what happened in the early twentieth century between 1905 and 1907, when Thomas Burnett leased ‘1 rood, 3 poles and 13 square yards’ of ground to the Nordrach-on-Dee Sanatorium.

The sanatorium was an ‘open air’ sanctuary for tuberculosis victims, benefitting from the Aberdeenshire air and kind climate. At its height, the sanatorium took 75 patients who no doubt benefitted from the location of the hospital…. Now, it’s an abandoned building. Sir Thomas Burnett also sold ‘2 roods’ (or half an acre) of his land to a local merchant in 1907.

 Disp. by Sir James Lauderdale Gilbert Burnett, Bart., of Lays – to National Trust for Scotland for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty…

General Register of Sasines, 1952

The preservation of this perfect Aberdeenshire castle continued in 1952, where our archives show that Thomas’s son – Major General James Burnett, thirteenth Baronet of Lays – gifted the property to the National Trust for Scotland.

To this day, the National Trust for Scotland maintain the castle and its gardens, ensuring that its ‘natural beauty’ is preserved for generations to come.

As we approach our goal of completing Scotland’s land register by 2024, even more of Scotland’s iconic properties will be entered onto the electronic Land Register. As this happens, we’ll continue sharing these intriguing stories from our archives, which throw light on another element of Scottish history.

We’ll be celebrating the 400th anniversary of the General Register of Sasines, the world’s oldest national register of property ownership, on 28 June 2017. Get involved with the stories on social media using #RoS400 and let us know what properties YOU’D like us to research next!

3 thoughts on “On our registers: Crathes Castle

    1. Hi Lauren! We can certainly look into it 🙂 We have some interesting history with Edinburgh Castle, as this was the place where Scotland’s first inventory & registers were held in 1286. So we will see what we can find! Thanks for commenting. Have a good day! Laura // RoS

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