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Scottish Family History - Orchil Castle




The original house at Orchil was built in the early 18th century for the Graham family and is traditional harled laird's house with a gothic tower and great hall. In 1815 the famous architect James Gillespie married Margaret Graham of Orchill, a member of the cadet branch of the family of the Dukes of Montrose, and he adopted her family name. James Gillespie Graham inherited the Orchill estate in 1834 and expanded the house and designed the North Lodge and the cottage opposite it.

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The estate was bought by Thomas Greig in 1865 but then sold again at auction in 1867. It was bought by Rev John McDougall of Dundee and his wife Margaret Wright McDougall for £34,000. They immediately set about building a new house at Orchil - the present Orchil Castle. They commissioned the well-known architect Andrew Heiton and it is considered his most ambitious and successful country house. The estate was sold on their deaths to Sir Samuel Smith, an MP and cotton broker from Liverpool but native of Kircudbrightshire. Samuel Smith bought the estate to benefit his wife's health but she died of Bright's disease in 1892 and their only son died suddenly of typhoid in 1898. Smith wrote his autobiography at Orchil and talks about being here as the happiest times of his life (obviously prior to the tragic loss of his family).
When he died The Rev Thomas Crawford bought the estate in 1907 (for £28,000) but in 1913 a beam in the house caught fire - the fire engines came from Perth but they forgot their hoses so the house was gutted. The Crawfords rebuilt the interior including adding the stained glass windows in the hall which have the initials TC (Thomas Crawford) and his wife EJC (Elizabeth Jane Crawford) as part of the design.

Orchil was sold again in 1927 to the Dawson family who lived here until 1947. The then Duke of Kent was a frequent visitor to the house. In 1947 the estate was sold to a member of the Drummond Moray family, who had extensive estates in Perthshire. Maj Andrew and Mrs Norah Drummond Moray were returning to their roots in Scotland from London, where he was a stockbroker. The estate was heavily mortgaged and resold in lots between 1949 and 1953 - Orchil Castle is described in the sale particulars as 'the finest country house in Scotland'.

From 1949 onwards the history of the house is a chequered one. It was used as a foster home for a few years. Then a farmer, Mr Fotheringham, bought the house to keep his chickens and pigs in whilst he lived in the former laundry (the cottage behind the house). The animals roamed around amongst marble fireplaces and fine carved oak panelling! In 1967, when Mr Fortheringham had finished with farming, the house caught fire but on this occasion the fire brigade arrived in time and only the central roof was lost. The house was sold to an organisation for drug rehabilitation and then to the Elim Pentecostal Church from America who wanted to make it their Scottish headquarters. They brought over hundreds of young workers from America each summer to try to restore the house but despite their best efforts they made little progress.

It was sold to a "developer" in 1993 who let it stand in its ruinous state. The house was then listed which gave it protection against demolition. We bought it in 1995 and have begun the long process of restoring this beautiful house to its former glory.

Orchil House was home to the Graham family, Greig family, McDougall family, Smith family, Crawford family, Dawson family, Drummond Moray family and the Fotheringham family. If you are researching your family tree and are interested any of these families we may be able to help. The Orchill estate was home of James Gillespie Graham, who married a relation of the Duke of Montrose.

There are many Perthshire family attractions which cater for all age groups.