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Mar Lodge

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Mar LodgeMar Lodge - early 20th century

Mar Lodge is the (rebuilt) 19th century shooting lodge, and principle building, on Mar Lodge Estate, Aberdeenshire.

Mar Lodge stands on the north-bank of the Dé, at the foot of Beinn a' Bhuilg.

The photograph shows the 3rd Mar Lodge in the early 20th century with the original veranda and original carriage drive alignment.

The early history of the site is obscured by the nature of the feudal land-holding system, but before the Jacobite Rising of 1715 the name of the 'original' laird's house on the site, and the surrounding flat land was Dalmore.  As a place name Dalmore is from An Dail Mhór - meaning the big haugh.

The exact nature of the relationship between any feudal superior 'landlord', and his feuar 'tenant' is obscured by the very nature of feudal land-holding, but the best information suggest that Dalmore was held directly from the Crown by the McKenzies since the 15th century.  In Wyness (1968) the author tells how the McKenzies acquired Dalmore - writing :

The dail mhor is first mentioned in the 15th century when it was granted by King James IV to Kenneth Mackenzie, elder natural son of Kenneth Mackenzie of Kintail in Wester Ross.  Mackenzie of Kintail who was killed in a skirmish with the Buchans of Atholl, was a close personal friend of the king who, out of regard for his companion, made the gift to his son.  The first ''lodge'' to occupy the dail mhor was built by Kenneth Mackenzie soon after he took possession of the land

- Wyness (1968) (p194)

Taking Fenton Wyness at face-value, the fact that James IV reigned from 1488 to his death in 1513 suggest that Kenneth Mackenzie probably built the first laird's house of Dalmore in the last decade of the 15th century.

In 1565 the Earldom of Mar, including the upland of Mar, was restored to the family of John Erskine by Mary Queen of Scots.  Nothing I've read is clear about whether the McKenzies continued to hold Dalmore directly from the Crown after the restoration, or whether the restoration of the earldom was 'complete', with the Earls of Mar regaining the superiority over the whole of the upland of Mar, and the McKenzies became fuars of the Earls of Mar.  Either way - the McKenzies continued on as lairds of Dalmore into the early 18th century.

In 1726 a letter to James Farquharson of Balmoral suggests that a McKenzie, James McKenzie, is still the laird of Dalmore.  Nothing I've read is clear about when, or why the McKenzies left Dalmore, but they appear to have sold Dalmore to James Erskine, Lord Grange, and David Erskine, Lord Dun sometime in the decade after 1726.

The 1st Mar Lodge

By 1735 James Erskine, Lord Grange, and David Erskine, Lord Dun had already sold Invercauld, Auchendryne, and Inverey to their lairds - they then sold what was left to William Duff, Lord Braco, who soon after built the 1st Mar Lodge.  In Dixon & Green (1995) the authors refer to its construction - writing :

In the 1730s, Lord Braco built the first lodge, a modest three-bayed, two-storyed house with attendant wings

- Dixon & Green (1995) (p30)

In spite of building Mar Lodge William, 1st Earl Fife apparently did not spend much time there.  An idealised engraving of this - the 1st Mar Lodge is shown in Cordiner (1780).

In 1763 William, 1st Earl Fife died, and by 1766 James, 2nd Earl Fife had begun to spend much of the summer at Mar Lodge.  In Tayler & Tayler (1925) the authors quote a letter of the 5th of February 1766 written from Paris, where James, 2nd Earl Fife writes :

... You will mind the little things about Mar Lodge, as I hope to be there some time in the Summer ...

- Tayler & Tayler (1925) (p27)

The 1st Mar Lodge survived well into the photographic age, so we know how it looked before it was demolished to make way for the 3rd Mar Lodge in 1895.

Throughout the 19th century the 1st Mar Lodge was occupied by the shooting tenants of the 'old' Mar Forest including the Duke of Leeds through the 1840s and 1850s.  In Andersons (1850) the authors refer to Mar Lodge, and its occupation by the Duke of Leeds, in passing - writing :

on the north side of the river, and in the bottom of the valley, is seen Mar Lodge, a commodious hunting-seat of the Earl of Fife's, the long low wings of which give it a length of front which makes it a very conspicuous object.  It is rented, with the adjoining deer forests, by the Duke of Leeds

- Andersons (1850) (p278)

The 2nd Mar Lodge

By 1850 the 2nd Mar Lodge - was at least partly built.  Known as New Mar Lodge, or Corriemulzie Cottage this Mar Lodge was a sprawling complex of buildings, as shown on the old 6-inch map (1869).  In Andersons (1850) the authors refer to this Mar Lodge in passing - writing :

Corriemulzie Cottage is a pretty sporting villa, occupied during the season by General Duff and his family

- Andersons (1850) (p279)

The 3rd Mar Lodge

In 1895 the 2nd Mar Lodge was destroyed by fire, and the 1st Mar Lodge was demolished in preparation for its replacement by the 3rd Mar Lodge.  That work began soon, the foundation stone of the 3rd Mar Lodge was laid by Queen Victoria on 15th October 1895.

In 1991 the 3rd Mar Lodge was severely damaged by a fire caused by workmen during renovation work. The fire damage was so extensive, and the reconstruction work so thorough, that I consider the result to be the 4th Mar Lodge. 

The 4th Mar Lodge

4th Mar Lodge (Summer 1995)Early in 1993 I visited the 4th Mar Lodge while the reconstruction work was in progress.  The exterior appeared complete, the building was weather proof, but the interior work had only just begun.  Some of the exterior stonework had been replaced, and newness of it was evident.  Inside, the main staircase was still bare concrete, and the interior stonework was still visible behind the completed stud-work of the walls.

In 1995 the 4th Mar Lodge entered a new era when it, and the rest of Mar Lodge Estate, was acquired by the National Trust for Scotland.