Aberdeenshire HER - NJ52NW0004 - LEITH HALL

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Main Details

Primary ReferenceNJ52NW0004
NRHE Card No.NJ52NW4
NRHE Numlink 17673
HES LB No. 9183
Site Form Standing Structure
Site Condition Complete 2
Details Mansion house, built in c.1650 by James Leith on the site of the medieval Peill Castle, and extended in the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries, set in a 286 acre estate with scenic gardens (NJ52NW0068). The earliest part, which dates to 1650, is a simple rectangular block of three storeys with angle turrets at all four corners. The East wing dates to 1756 (when the stables were also re-sited to a new curved block to the N) and the South wing, containing the fine principal rooms, was built c.1797 by General Alexander Leith-Hay. These apartments, as normal, on the first floor, are lit by flush-pedimented Venetian windows. The drum towers date from 1868. Home to the Leith family, later the Leith-Hays, from 1650 until 1945 when the Hall was gifted to the National Trust for Scotland. The Leith family became the Leith-Hays at the end of the 18th Century, when the last of the Hays of Rannes died without heirs, and the Hay family estates were left to Alexander Leith, 5th Laird of Leith Hall, on condition he also take on the Hay name. The initial connection between the two families dates back to the marriage in 1730 of John Leith, 2nd Laird of Leith Hall, to Mary Hay, daughter of Charles Hay of Rannes, and in 1745, Andrew Hay of Rannes hid at Leith Hall after the Battle of Culloden where he fought for Bonnie Prince Charlie, later escaping to France. During World War I the house was used by the Red Cross as an officer's hospital with associated army offices. A collection of prehistoric artefacts is on display in the house. A watching brief was carried out by M. K. Greig in 1989 during the laying of pipes to install a central heating system recorded. No archaeological deposits were evident. In March 2002 a watching brief was undertaken by MAS to report on findings during the excavation of a culvert and the installation of drainage pipe along the short road between Leith Hall and the stable block. Four trenches were excavated. Three of the trenches demonstrated that poor drainage had been a recurring problem - each trench had several field drains either cutting across them or running along their length. The fourth trench cut across the road and showed its construction to be a single hard clay-bonded stone and pebble metalled surface. There were no other archaeological features or artefacts discovered. A watching brief was carried out by MAS in 2003 during the installation of a new water filtration system to the N side of the N wing of the Hall. No archaeological features or artefacts revealed and ground disturbance to the N side of Hall was revealed to be quite extensive. In 2007 traces of an earlier entrance were located when gardeners noted stones and other marks in the grass. Murray Archaeology Services excavated the area and uncovered the footings of a building which may have been a porter's lodge or a garden pavilion. It is thought to be the west pavilion shown on an estate map of 1758. A watching brief was carried out by MAS in July 2013 during hand excavation of a cable trench around the S and E sides of the interior of the courtyard. With the exception of a small portion of a possible wall foundation at the W end on the S side of the courtyard, no features or artefacts were recorded.A watching brief was carried out by MAS in 2015 during installation of a new fire water main where it crossed the lawn to the N of the hall in an area for which there is documentary evidence for the former existence of 17th century gardens. Preliminary test pits had been dug in October 2013. Five test trenches were also dug in 2015 across the main west drive to assess a proposed route for the main. Only one of the five trenches contained evidence for an earlier road surface, which could not be dated. Three features of interest were uncovered on the N lawn; one was a wide pathway around the building which is first shown on the 1797 plan, and also on an 1858 Estate plan and the 1st and 2nd edition OS maps, but which appears to have been grassed over in the later 20th century. An edging or wall may have been the edging of a possible garden bed on the 19th century maps. A feature c.18m N of the wall of the hall could not be identified with any features on the 1797 map; it may have been a bedding trench for a hedge.
Last Update27/04/2020
Updated Bycpalmer
Date of Compilation 

Easting: 354080.83356251, Northing: 829792.188365728

Google Map for NJ52NW0004

National Grid Reference: NJ 5408 2979

Event Details

Event DateEvent TypeOASIS ID
1989 Watching-Brief
2002 Watching-Brief
2003 Watching-Brief
2007 Excavation
1986 Building Recording
2013 Watching-Brief mas1-206854
2015 Watching-Brief mas1-220824

Excavations and Surveys

Date MDate YTypeDurationDirector / OrganisationAuspicesFundExtent
 2007 Excavation  MASMASNTS 
 1989 Excavation  MKGGRCGRC 
 2002 Excavation  MASMASNTS 
 2003 Excavation  MASMASNTS 

Artefact and Ecofact

Date MDate YArtefact TypeFinderRecovery MethodConditionStorage LocationAccess No.
00 BATTLE AXE Stray Find Personal Possession  
00 STONE AXES Stray Find Personal Possession  
00 QUARTZITE PEBBLES Stray Find Personal Possession  
00 AXES Stray Find Personal Possession  


Ecofact Notes

Monument Types

Monument Type 1Monument Type 2Monument Type 3OrderProbability