Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape

FORGLENGDL00398

Status: Designated

Documents

Where documents include maps, the use of this data is subject to terms and conditions (https://portal.historicenvironment.scot/termsandconditions).

Summary

Date Added
30/06/2011
Local Authority
Aberdeenshire
Parish
Forglen
NGR
NJ 69645 51567
Coordinates
369645, 851567

Forglen is an all-round, outstanding designed landscape that makes a major contribution to local scenery through the sheer extent of its wooded policies and striking architectural features. It provides the setting for Forglen House, a category-A listed mansion, and contains two scheduled monuments. A good archival collection helps document the history of the estate, while specimen and champion trees lend further horticultural interest to the garden grounds.

Type of Site

A large and intact Victorian country seat with several champion trees and many notable garden and architectural features, developed from an 18th-century improvement period landscape.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

18th century, 1830s-90s

Importance of Site

A site included in the Inventory is assessed for its condition and integrity and for its level of importance. The criteria used are set out in Annex 5 of the Scottish Historic Environment Policy (December 2011). The principles are represented by the following value-based criteria and we have assigned a value for each on a scale ranging from outstanding value to no value. Criteria not applicable to a particular site have been omitted. All sites included in the Inventory are considered to be of national importance.

Work of Art

Value
Outstanding

Forglen is an excellent example of a large and intact 18th to 19th-century designed landscape. The improved policies of the Lords Banff attracted great praise in the late 18th-century Statistical Account, while later gazetteers highlighted the 'beautiful and romantic situation' of Forglen House (eg. Forsyth 1806: 474).

Historical

Value
Outstanding

Sketches and a detailed estate plan of 1835 provide a valuable snapshot of Forglen in the earlier 19th century. Many other surviving documents and letters held in the National Archives shed light on issues such as the construction of the Deveron bridge, and the relationship between the Abercrombies and their tenants (NAS GD185; NAS RHP46019 etc.)

Horticultural, Arboricultural, Silvicultural

Value
Outstanding

Three county champion specimens are among the rich variety of trees that adorn the garden grounds of Forglen (www. treeregister.org).

Architectural

Value
Outstanding

The park, garden and woodland policies provide an attractive setting for the 19th-century Forglen House, a mansion of exceptional architectural and historical interest by Aberdonian architect, John Smith. A Gothic-style mausoleum is among the many other varied architectural features.

Scenic

Value
Outstanding

The extensive woodland and forest canopy contrasts with the agricultural plains beyond the Deveron valley, while prominent architectural features such as Eastside Lodge and the Old Tollhouse lend interest and variety to the local landscape.

Nature Conservation

Value
High

Although there are no designated nature conservation areas, Forglen offers significant value in this category on account of the diverse habitats contained within the boundary, including the River Deveron and its banks, the mixed woodlands, open pasture, veteran trees and Glen Burn valley.

Archaeological

Value
Outstanding

Two late prehistoric enclosures in the vicinity of the river are scheduled on account of their national archaeological importance.

Location and Setting

Forglen is an extensive designed landscape set along the Deveron valley immediately to the north-west of Turriff in Banff and Buchan, Aberdeenshire. The river here meanders northwards in a broad and shallow valley, with the core woodlands, parks and fields of Forglen occupying the gently rolling valley sides to the west. The designed landscape makes a major contribution to the quality of the surrounding landscape due to the visual prominence of several architectural features, including Forglen House itself, and the sheer extent of woodlands and well-structured forestry plantations. These stretch along the higher ground above the river and contrast with the intensively farmed plains beyond. Within the designed landscape, views from the house extend upstream along the valley floor, while the higher parts of the policies such as around Forglen Home Farm and the Mausoleum, afford wider panoramic views northwards down the Deveron valley, and eastwards across the agricultural lands north of Turriff. The designed landscape boundary encompasses some 961ha (2375ac.). To the east, the boundary includes the open meadows of the valley floor, bounded by perimeter woodlands north of Knockiemill, while to the north, a stone-dyke divides the Forglen and Mountblairy estates and forms the parish boundary. To the south-west, the designed landscape includes the rolling farmland either side of the B9025, which leads from Turriff to Aberchirder. Once part of the Forglen estate, these former outer policies retain designed features, including strips of perimeter woodlands, and the striking mature beech trees which line the road.

Site History

The present design of Forglen dates from the 18th and 19th centuries, and is associated with two prominent families of the era; the Ogilvies of Banff, who improved and planted the policies, and from 1803, the Abercrombies, who funded the more lavish building projects, including Forglen House itself.

Prior to this, the earlier history of Forglen is known mainly via a sequence of writs and charters. From 1211 until the 15th century, the lands were part of the estate of the Abbey of Arbroath. The Irvines of Drum then held Forglen until 1624, when they sold the lands to the Urquharts of Craigfintry (Caldwell 2001). A residence stood on the banks of the Deveron during this time, which incorporated both late medieval fabric and subsequent additions (New Stat. Acc. 1845: 88). Surviving inscribed panels and coats of arms dated 1578 are built into the wall of the present house.

The Ogilvies of Banff acquired the estate of Forglen in 1637, possibly through marriage (New Stat. Acc. 1845: 87). Key players in the turbulent military and political landscape of the north-east during the 17th century, the family had secured land, wealth, and recognition through hereditary titles. The sheltered Deveron valley formed prime terrain for the development of an attractive and productive country seat, and in the 18th century, Forglen became the chief residence of the Lords Banff (Burke 1853: 187). It is from this period that major improvement work commenced on the estate.

Early efforts to improve Forglen were instigated by Sir Alexander Ogilvie, 7th Lord Banff, (d.1771). Unlike his cousins, from whom he inherited the estate, and who had not survived beyond their twenties, Alexander lived long enough to exert a greater influence on Forglen (NAS GD185/29/3/3). Tree-planting began in earnest, an initiative that established large areas of enclosed plantations by the 1750s. This was a long-term project continued by Alexander's son, William Ogilvie, 8th Lord Banff, (d.1803) (Anderson 1967: 559: Roy 1747-55; Stat. Acc. 1795: 534).

Both Alexander and William are credited in the Statistical Account as prime movers in the drive towards improved land practices and management in the parish, and the author observes a well-organised estate at Forglen complete with thriving mixed plantations, fields divided with ditches and hedges, and 'neat houses and convenient crofts' that accommodated 'all his Lordships people; grieve, gardener, and farm servants, wright and smith, and labourers' (Stat. Acc. 1795: 534). William was also conscious of landscape fashions. The Statistical Account goes on to report, 'His Lordship has done much of late to beautify his seat. The workmen were sorry to put the first hand to change some of the improvements of his father, which they thought well enough, and to undo their own workmanship; but the execution pleased their eye so much, that they forgot their sympathy' (ibid. 534-5). In the space of two generations during the 18th century, Forglen had been transformed.

In 1803, William, 8th Lord Banff died without issue and the estate passed into the ownership of the Abercrombies of Birkenbog via his sister's marriage. New farm offices, a dovecot, and ice-house followed, while the new laird's son and local MP for Banffshire, Sir Robert Abercromby (1784-1855), lent a strong voice of support for a new bridge to be built over the Deveron (NAS GD185/3/35), thus vastly improving local communications for the estate. Robert inherited Forglen in 1831. A large, detailed estate plan of 1835 and surviving pencil drawings of the old house with its lawns and trees in 1836, provide valuable snap-shots of his estate during these years (RCAHMS C12849-51). They show an instantly recognisable designed landscape, with much of its essential structure in place, yet also on the brink of further major change.

The Abercrombies continued to invest heavily in Forglen and the character of the earlier improvement landscape assumed a new Victorian grandeur. While the name Lord Banff persisted (Lord Banff's well, Lord Banff's pool, and Lord Banff's rock), the Abercrombies made a significant material impact on the existing design. The large, Tudor-style Forglen House, built 1839-40 by John Smith was the extravagant new centrepiece, complemented in turn by a landscaped lawn (T. Russell pers. comm. 2009), a new walled garden and glasshouse suite, new gates and lodges and the careful arrangement of exotic specimen trees. Close family members who died during the 1840s and 50s were commemorated within the grounds by an ornate white marble monument, and were interred within a new family mausoleum.

Succeeding generations maintained the impetus for developing Forglen during the second half of the 19th century. Maps show that by c.1870, the older cottages and steadings at Cottownpark were gone, replaced by newly built estate cottages dispersed around the grounds (1835 estate plan; 1864-71, OS 6”). Records also testify to the enlargement of the wider agricultural estate, with the incorporation of lands to the east of the Deveron (GD185/31/205-17). The efforts of the landowners were duly noted. Robert Abercrombies son, George Samuel (1824-72) was reported as 'a man of highly-cultivated tastes [who] greatly improved the estates' (Aberdeen Journal 1909: 234). He was in turn succeeded by his son Robert John, (1850-95) who 'applied his mind to farming' and 'renovated and enlarged the gardens' (ibid.). By the end 19th century, all the key garden and estate features were in place, except for the Glen water garden which was probably still under development at this time. In the first decade of the 20th century, the young new landowner, Sir George William Abercromby attained his majority. A surviving letter of c.1908 reveals good relations forged with the numerous tenants, whose rents had been deferred that year on account of a poor harvest (GD185/29/3). George lived on until 1964 and was succeeded by his brother, Robert Alexander Abercromby 9th baronet, who died in 1972.

Forglen was purchased in 1974 by the present owners. Working with the existing 18th and 19th-century structure, they have restored and maintained principal garden features, most notably the garden grounds of the walled garden. Although Dutch elm disease has now claimed many of the elms, the woodland policies retain a very good species mix. The woodland garden and Glen water garden also feature young specimen trees and a wide range of flowering shrubs, planted by the present owners in the opening decade of the 21st century.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Forglen House was built in 1839-40 to designs by John Smith of Aberdeen. It is a large, 3-storey Tudor mansion of harled rubble whinstone with dressings, and was built to replace an older residence on or near the same site. Arranged around a central courtyard, it features an off-centre, square tower rising behind the principal, south-east elevation, a 4-storey octagonal corner tower, which incorporates older armorial panels, and a projecting Tudor porch. The harled coachhouse and stables stand in woodland to the south, and were developed c.1840s from an existing structure (estate plan 1835). Built to a quadrangular plan, they feature an entrance pend with central tower. Forglen Home Farm is more prominent within the designed landscape. Located uphill and to the west of the house, this early 19th-century, quadrangular farm steading with 2-stage pedimented tower is also harled with Turriff sandstone margins. It stands among other mid 19th-century farm cottages and out-buildings. In a field to the south-east is an early 19th-century dovecot of square plan with pyramidal roof. Lord Banff's Well on the river bank near the house comprises an upright, semi circular-topped stone, inscribed around the upper stone band, and with a metal sun motif spout on the lower third of the stone.

The Gothic-style Forglen Mausoleum was designed by the Elgin practice of A and W Reid. Built in 1865 on higher ground to the south of Forglen Home Farm, it is of cruciform plan and features pinnacles, buttresses, stone gargoyles and a large rose window. Other buildings attributed to the same practice include the distinctive, French-style Eastside Lodge c.1865, at the main entrance to Forglen, with gates and gatepiers, and the contemporaneous Forglen North Lodge, with linked ashlar quadrant walls and gatepiers. The mid 19th-century kennels, may also be an A and W Reid design, and comprise a 2-storey cottage and piend-roofed kennel range.

Notable structures in and around Glen Wood include an early 19th-century, rubble ice-house built into steep banks above the Glen Burn, and the mid 19th-century walled garden featuring an approximately three metre high, ashlar coped rubble whinstone wall, with dressed sandstone around the doors, lean-to potting sheds and lean-to glasshouse range. Mid 19th-century, single-storey estate cottages in this area include Garden Cottage and Walled Garden Cottage. Similar cottages elsewhere include Crossbrae, Westwood and Ivy Cottage. Intertwined, hooped cast-iron railings and gates adorn both cottage garden paths, and other paths and walks around the pleasure grounds. The 2-storey, former laundry stands in woods to the N of Forglen House. Immediately east of the walled garden is a white marble monument in the form of an octagonal tower with tracery and finial, erected on a grassy mound in 1858 to commemorate Sir Robert Abercromby (1784-1855) and his two sons. Near Bogton at the western edge of the designed landscape is the Forglen Memorial Hall, built 1921, and war memorial.

Significant architectural features in the south west part of the designed landscape include the remains of the Old Church of Forglen, rebuilt on the site of an earlier structure in 1692, and the Manse of Forglen Kirklands, dating mainly from the mid to later 18th-century building and thought to have been developed from a late 17th century structure. At the south west of the designed landscape, the 3-arched sandstone and granite Deveron Bridge and single-storey and basement, octagonal Old Tollhouse were both built in 1826. On the east side of the Deveron, the Mill of Ashogle, c.1800 stands by an old fording point across the river. Among trees to the south, Knockiemill is an early 19th-century, 2-storey farmhouse.

Drives & Approaches

Many routes lead through the designed landscape. Some originate from old fording or ferry points on the river, thus preserving the memory of a landscape prior to the construction of the Deveron Bridge in 1826. The present principal drive to Forglen House is that which enters just west of the bridge at Eastside Lodge, built c.1865. Curving northwards above the river through mixed woodland, this is a long entrance drive that affords glimpses of adjacent parks before arriving at the garden grounds of the house. Close to the drive, a Grand fir (Abies grandis) is the county champion for Aberdeenshire (www.treeregister.org). Another, shorter drive enters the core policies at North Lodge. From here, this straighter, oak-lined drive crosses Glen Burn, and then leads past the conifer specimens and rhododendrons of the woodland garden before terminating at the gravel sweep of Forglen House. Elsewhere, numerous service roads, tracks and paths afford access to estate buildings, cottages and other areas of the policies.

Paths & Walks

Ornamented walks through the pleasure grounds of Forglen include a secluded woodland path along the Glen Burn valley through the water garden (see under 'Water Features'), and a curving, tree-lined path that connects the grounds around the house to the south entrance of the walled garden. Both are clearly marked on the first edition Ordnance Survey maps, and can probably be attributed to the main phase of landscape and building development of the 1830s and 40s. Another long-established walk follows the wooded west bank of the Deveron, affording fine views of the house and park. An improved drainage system and newly planted limes were established c.2008-9.

Parkland

The inner park is adorned with mature individual specimen trees on the sloping ground above Forglen House and on the opposite bank of the Deveron. Although Dutch elm disease has now killed the elms, the surviving trees remain important in landscape views both to and from the house. They include limes, larch, sycamore and Douglas fir. The open meadows east of the Deveron also contribute to the setting of the house. A mid-late prehistoric circular enclosure located in these grounds is one of two such monuments within the designed landscape, both scheduled on account of their national archaeological importance (www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/index/heritage/searchmonuments).

An estate plan of 1835 suggests that formerly, parkland extended over a greater area around Forglen House, the coachhouse and stables, and east of the north drive. The development of parks and the construction of ha has (which survive along the north drive and around some outer fields) were probably part of the later 18th-century improvements of the Lords Banffs – a landscape fashion partially eclipsed by the 19th-century planting and garden schemes of the Abercrombies.

Woodland

The extensive Forglen woods and forestry are a strong scenic component of the designed landscape and make an important contribution to this part of the Deveron valley landscape. Mixed deciduous woodlands in and around the core pleasure grounds seclude the inner park and key buildings and provide the immediate setting for much of the main drive and other policy tracks and walks. Tall conifer specimens, particularly in Forlgen Wood to the west of the house, protrude above the woodland canopy and are distinctive in landscape views towards the centre of the estate. Narrow strips of perimeter woodlands help define the designed landscape boundary along the Cunning Burn to the south-west and by Knockiemill to the east, with the latter also serving to frame and seclude the park and meadow views across the river from Forglen House. The larger swathes of forestry plantations on the upper grounds, meanwhile, are sensitively managed and are distinctive in their contrast with the surrounding agricultural heartlands of Banff and Buchan.

A report of 1723 reveals that some plantations were already in place around Forglen and Todlaw at this time (Anderson 1967: 559). Cartographic evidence also indicates significant tree-cover in the estate from the mid-18th century, with Roy's Military Survey depicting large, enclosed plantations to the north, south and south-west of the house (Roy 1747-55). The Statistical Account refers to a 'variety of fine old wood' covering the river banks and planted hill-top, 'which shuts the fields and houses below finely in, and screens them from the winds and storms' (1795: 534). According to this account, much of the plantation work was initiated by Alexander Ogilvy, 7th Lord Banff, with further additions by William, 8th Lord Banff (1795: 534).

Water Features

Paths from the woodland garden link up with the Glen water garden, a well-defined circuit of burn-side, woodland paths that lead up and down the secluded, deeply-incised Glen Burn valley. Judging from earlier editions of the Ordnance Survey, the path and some planting were already in place by c.1870, with further trees and a footbridge established by c.1900 (1864-71 OS 25”; 1899-1901 OS 25”), and the burn manipulated to form several pools by the 1920s (1923-25 OS 25”). The still water of the pools and the rushing sound of the burn and waterfalls are key components of the garden experience. Rhododendrons and azalea ornament the paths, while tree specimens on the steep banks include Dawn Redwood, deodars, Grand fir, spruce, beech, copper beech, and Western Red Cedar. Over recent years, the owners of Forglen have initiated a project to clear burgeoning vegetation and to plant new, young shrubs along the path. Further newly planted trees just north of the walled garden include Monkey Puzzle and Dawn Redwood.

Walled Gardens

The large walled garden of Forglen is situated among trees between Forglen House and Glen Wood. It was built sometime during the mid-19th century, replacing an earlier kitchen garden that appears to have once stood further to the east (estate map 1835). The main part of the garden is a rectangular walled enclosure that retains much of its original internal organisation, with central and perimeter paths, and a fine lean-to glasshouse range on the north wall. To the south, there is an enclosed area of a similar size that once contained a more informal, shrubbery–style garden, also with perimeter walks, and a free-standing glasshouse or conservatory on a raised terrace to the west (1864-71 OS). A stand of larches now occupy this western part of this garden, while the eastern half is grassed. The surviving central shrubbery walk, however, remains an impressive feature and a fine approach to the main walled garden. Lined with shrubs, trees, and vivid red Japanese maple, it leads up to and through the high garden wall via an arched entrance-way of dressed sandstone. Inside, working with the historic structure of the garden, the present owners and estate staff have created striking planting schemes. Path-side box hedging, symmetrical beds and trees bestow unity to the whole, while the garden is also large enough to accommodate some distinct areas, including a group of ornamental trees in the south east corner, a central avenue of pleached limes leading towards the east door, cottage-style borders in front of the glasshouses, and a lawn with colourful island beds in the west compartment. Older fruit trees still adorn several areas of the garden walls.

References

Bibliography

Maps, Plans and Archives

c.1636-52 Robert Gordon, Aberdeen, Banf [sic], Murrey [sic] &c. to Inverness : [and] Fra the north water to Ross / Robertus Gordonius a Strathloch describebat 1640

1654 Johannes Blaeu, Duo Vicecomitatus Aberdonia & Banfia, una cum Regionibus & terrarum tractibus sub iis comprehensis / Auctore Roberto Gordonio à Straloch. Description of the two Shyres Aberdene and Banf, with such Countreys and Provinces as are comprehended under them

1747-55 General Roy's Military Survey

1776 G. Taylor and A. Skininer, Survey and maps of the roads of North Britain or Scotland, 1776

1820 John Thomson, Northern Part of Aberdeen & Banff Shires

1835 Estate plan, Forglen (in private ownership)

1864-71 survey Aberdeenshire, 1st edition OS 1:2500 (25”) and 1:10,560 (6”), published 1874

1899-1901 survey Aberdeenshire, 2nd edition OS 1:2500 (25”) and 1:10,560 (6”), published 1902-4

1923-25 survey Aberdeenshire, 3rd edition OS 1:2500 (25”) and 1:10,560 (6”), published 1928

1865-70 survey Banffshire, 1st edition OS 1:2500 (25”) and 1:10,560 (6”), published 1871-4

1896-8 survey Banffshire, 2nd edition OS 1:2500 (25”) and 1:10,560 (6”), published 1902-3

NAS GD185 Papers of the Abercromby Family of Forglen and Birkenbog

NAS RHP93246 1. Architectural sketch elevation of family monument erected in grounds of Forglen House: 6 March 1858, 2. Description from 'Banffshire Journal', 24 August 1858

NAS RHP46019 Plans and south elevation of proposed bridge over river Deveron at Ashogle, with estimated expense (book of reference attached), 1824

NAS RHP46029 Plans and south elevation of proposed bridge over River Deveron at Eastside, with plan showing location of bridge (book or reference appended), 1824

NAS RHP40623 Plan and section of proposed turnpike road from near Aberchirder to Bridge of Whitefield, with branches to Turriff via Mill of Ashogle and Kirktown of Forglen, with estimated expenditure and description of routes (book of reference attached), 1824

RCAHMS: National Monuments Record of Scotland (NMRS) and photographic and manuscript collections

Sources

Printed Sources

Aberdeen Journal Notes and Queries, vol 2, 1909, 'The Abercrombies of Forglen' 233-5

Anderson, M L 1967, A History of Scottish Forestry vol.1, London

Burke, J B 1853, A visitation of the seats and arms of the noblemen and gentlemen of Great Britain, London: Hurst & Blackett

Caldwell, D 2001, 'The Monymusk Reliquary: the Breccbennach of St Columba?' Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 131, 267-82

Donaldson, J 1794, General view of the agriculture of the County of Banff

Forsyth, R 1806, The beauties of Scotland: containing a clear and full account of the agriculture, commerce, mines, and manufactures; of the population, cities, towns, villages, &c. of each county Vol.4, Edinburgh: For T. Bonar & J. Brown

Imlach, J 1868, History of Banff and familiar account of its inhabitants and belongings, Banff

McKean, C. 1990, Banff and Buchan, Edinburgh: Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland

Sale particulars 1974, Forglen Estate, Aberdeenshire, Bell-Ingram, Edinburgh (RCAHMS collection)

The New Statistical Account of Scotland 1845, Statistical Account of the Parish of Forglen, [1836], vol.13, Edinburgh, 83-94

The Statistical Account of Scotland 1795, Statistical Account of the Parish of Forglen, vol. 14, Edinburgh, 530-31

Internet Sources

Champion Tree Database Search: The Tree Register, www.treeregister.org [accessed 27 July 2010]

Historic Scotland on behalf of Scottish Ministers, The Lists of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historical Interest, HB13603, HB13608, HB13597, HB13599, HB13600, HB13602, HB13606, HB16416, HB16417, HB16419, HB12875, HB12873, HB13598, HB 13601, HB13604, HB13609, HB13610, HB13611, HB13607, HB16408, www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/index/heritage/historicandlistedbuildings.htm [accessed 27 July 2010]

Historic Scotland on behalf of Scottish Ministers, The Schedule of Monuments, SM5782, SM5781 http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/index/heritage/searchmonuments.htm [accessed 27 July 2010]

Note of Abbreviations used in references

NAS: National Archives of Scotland

RCAHMS: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland

About the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for the designation of buildings, monuments, gardens and designed landscapes and historic battlefields. We also advise Scottish Ministers on the designation of historic marine protected areas.

The inventory is a list of Scotland's most important gardens and designed landscapes. We maintain the inventory under the terms of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

We add sites of national importance to the inventory using the criteria published in the Historic Environment Scotland Policy Statement.

The information in the inventory record gives an indication of the national importance of the site(s). It is not a definitive account or a complete description of the site(s). The format of records has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

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Find out more about the inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and our other designations at www.historicenvironment.scot. You can contact us on 0131 668 8716 or at designations@hes.scot.

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