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This page contains an edited extract from the following book. You are advised to read the original publication if you are seriously researching the content.

The text of several additional book pages, together with current photographs, have been added as at November 2003.




The Church of Adel (Edzell) was a rectory in the diocese of St. Andrews, and was probably dedicated to St. Laurence. In early times it had its Abbe or Abbot, and, in 1870, when the old walls of the graveyard were being renewed a sculptured stone with interlaced and other carvings, which are believed to belong to Pictish and Celtic times, was discovered. This interesting stone has disappeared, and no trace of it can be found.

The Abbe and the stone show that the district had been place of ecclesiastical importance in the early days of Christianity in the land, but it is uncertain if it had been of old a seat of learning, or only a religious house, or of both combined. There is some question to whom the church was dedicated, but the spring near the kirkyard is called St. Laurence Well, and the old skellach or bell was known as St. Laurence. It is therefore probable that the church was dedicated to this saint.

The new church was erected in the village of Edzell in 1818, and since then the old Church has become ruinous. From what remains it appears to have been in the early English style of architecture. The Church consisted of a nave and aisle, separated by a graceful arch. The nave was the pew or seat of the lairds of Edzell. The family vault, below the aisle, is reached by a few steps. The lordly halls of Edzell Castle do not now ring with the joyous tones of the lightsome Lindsays. They have long gone from the district where they once ruled supreme, and even in the burial vault of the ancient lairds of the domain scarcely a trace of them is now to be seen.

The Kirk of Neudos (Newdosk) was dedicated to St. Drostan, Abbot. It was, like that of Edzell, a rectory belonging to St. Andrews, and a place of early ecclesiastical importance. The district was a thanedom. The kirk and parish were annexed to those of Edzell some time before 1662. The foundations of the church are still visible. It had been about twenty feet wide by nearly sixty feet long. To the east of the graveyard is a spring known as St. Drostan’s Well. Interments are still made in the burying-ground. Newdosk, though united to Edzell, is in the Mearns.

The village of Edzell was formerly called Slateford. Fifty years ago Lord Panmure granted building leases of ninety-nine year’s duration. This gave an impulse to building operations, and within a few years a considerable number of good houses were erected. They were built as a regular plan, the streets running parallel, and intersecting each other at right angles. The village now contains hotels, good shops, and comfortable dwellings, with modern requirements, bank, post office, water, gas, etc. The new church and enclosed churchyard are in the centre of a large level common. The soil being dry, the air pure and salubrious, and the scenery in the neighbourhood splendid, the village is deservedly a great resort for summer visitors, and a few weeks’ change from the coastal towns must be beneficial.

The earliest known proprietors of Edzell were also lords of Glenesk, and they took their surname from the latter. When the family acquired these properties, from whom, in what manner, or for what service they obtained them, are entirely unknown. The first time the name appears in writing is as a witness to a grant by Christian, widow of sir Peter Maule of Panmure, of Balbinny and Panlathie, to John Lydel, 1256. John de Glenesck (Glenesk) miles, is also witness to a charter to Walter de Rossy, about the year 1260. In 1289, the same person, or his son, is a subscriber of the letter to King Edward i., consenting to the marriage of the Princess Margaret of Scotland to his son, Prince Henry. Sir John de Glenesk swore fealty to Edward at Montrose on 10th July, 1296, and he again took the oath of allegiance to that monarch at Berwick-on-Tweed on 28th August, same year, along with Morgund de Glenesk and others.

Another family named Abbe had proprietary rights in Edzell at an early period, and John, son of Malise, with consent of Morgund, his son, in 1204, granted right to the Abbots of Arbroath to cut and burn charcoal in their wood of ‘Edale’. After these events the Glenesks and the Abbes pass off the stage. Whence they came, and how and where they went, are alike veiled in the mists of antiquity.

The next proprietors of Glenesk of whom we have any knowledge are the Stirlings. It is not known whether they followed immediately after the other owners we have noticed, or if there was an intermediate proprietary race. The family whence they sprung is not certainly known, but it is probable they were of the same stock as the family of Keir, the armorial bearings of both having points in common. In what manner, or from whom, they acquired Glenesk is also unknown. Besides possessing Glenesk, Edzell, and Lethnot, they were also the proprietors of large estates in Inverness and Moray shires, and they were sometimes designed ‘de Moravia’. In Ragman Rolls they are so styled, and several others of them swore fealty to Edward I at same time, as did ‘de Glenesk’.

About the middle of the fourteenth century the male line of the Stirlings of Glenesk failed in two co-heiresses. One of these ladies, Catherine Stirling, was married to Sir Alexander Lindsay, third son of Sir David of Crawford, and she was the mother of the first Earl of Crawford. The other daughter was married to Robert de Atholia, grandson of Angus - Lord of the Isles. He succeeded to the Inverness and Moray portion of the Stirling estates; Sir Alexander Lindsay inherited the Angus section of them, and they formed a noble domain. Catherine Stirling died some time before 1378, as Sir Alexander Lindsay had married his second wife, Marjory Stuart, cousin to Robert, Duke of Albany, prior to that date.

Local tradition says Catherine Stirling had a deformed brother known by the sobriquet of ‘Jackie Stirlin,' who was heir to the property. He was to marry the daughter of a neighbouring baron, but this union did not approve itself to Sir Alexander and his lady. Remonstrance proving of no avail, the laird was despatched at a place a little to the north of the Castle, and the body was buried in the family vault. The crime embittered the latter days of the Lord of Edzell, and he made atonement for the murderous deed of his youth by large gifts to the Church. He rebuilt the Church of Finhaven, and gifted it to the Cathedral of Brechin, then went on a pilgrimage to Palestine.

The prebendary had a stall in the choir of Brechin, and said mass daily for his safe conduct. Gifts to the Church and penance have ever been Rome's panacea for crimes, even of the blackest dye. We are told of a better way. The blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin."

Sir Alexander Lindsay profited little by his pilgrimage and the daily masses for his soul. They did not stay the hand of the avenging angel, he having struck the penitent down long before he reached Palestine.

By the heiress of Edzell Sir Alexander had two sons, . . .

November 2003. Added text to that above.

By the heiress of Edzell Sir Alexander had two sons, Sir David, who was created Earl of Crawford, and Alexander, the Lindsay. He with his cousin Sir Thomas Erskine, and others, attacked the English, under the Duke of Lancaster, near Queensferry, in 1384, on their landing from their ships, and though greatly inferior in numbers, they completely routed the invaders. Wyntown graphically describes the fight in his own quaint way. The two brothers and their followers attended their chief, Sir James, to the famous battle of Otterburn, in 1388, and both returned in safety.

About the middle of the fifteenth century Sir Walter Lindsay possessed the lands of Aird and Strathnairn, in Inverness-shire. He prevailed on his nephew, Earl David, to take these lands and give him Fern (in Angus)  in exchange for them. He was a grasping, avaricious, tyrannical man. He added Invereskandye, Edzell, and other lands to his estate of Fern. He used his cousin, the chief of the Ogilvys, very badly, and among other wrongous acts, clandestinely wrested the Sheriffship of Angus from him.

For some wrong, the laird of Drum, at the head of sixty armed men, horse and foot, under silence of night, attacked him in his Castle of Edzell, but there was little injury done, as the Lindsays were more frightened than hurt. It cost Irvine much, as Sir Walter succeeded in depriving him of the hereditary Sheriffship of Aberdeenshire.

Sir David succeeded on the death of his father, and he was the first to take the designation 'of Edzell'. He was little better than his father, and was often arraigned for offences. His only son fell, with many of his kinsmen, on (the battle of) Flodden Field. He left four sons. Sir David tried to disinherit them, and give the estates to a son of his own by a second marriage, but (King) James V., famed for his love of justice, would not permit it. Sir David died an old man in 1528, and his sons by his second wife, Elizabeth Spens, obtained; Alexander, Vayne, in Fern; and David, Keithock, near Brechin. His grandson, Sir David, succeeded to Edzell and Glenesk, and ultimately became ninth Earl of Crawford.

The aged Earl of Crawford had been so grieved with the unnatural conduct of his son, "The Wicked Master", that he left the family estates and honours to Sir David Lindsay of Edzell. He was a worthy man, and did honour to the name. Although he had sons of his own, he applied for and got the Royal consent to restore the honours, at his death, to the rightful heir, the son of "The Wicked Master." Instead of gratitude for this magnanimous act, the future Earl almost immediately took part with others in spoiling the Castle of his venerable benefactor, harrying his lands of Glenesk, etc. On the death of Earl David, his eldest son, Sir David, who, but for the noble act of his father, would have been tenth Earl of Crawford, succeeded to Edzell.

In his early days Sir David was thoughtless, and engaged in frays which were not to his honour or profit, but by the salutary admonitions of his worthy brother, Lord Menmuir, he became a new man, learned and accomplished, equally at home with the sword, the pen, or the pruning hook.

It was he who adorned the garden wall at Edzell (Castle) with the sculptures and other architectural decorations, which continue to the present day to be the admiration of visitors to the Castle (photograph below). He was knighted in 1581, was a Lord of Session, and took the title of Lord Edzell, and in 1603 was chosen a Privy Councillor.

On 8th February, 1588-9(?), a precept charter, feudifermœ, to Sir David Lindsay of Edzell, Knight, of the ecclesiastical lands of Wester Edzell, with pendicles, viz., Dirahoill, Meikill Margy and Littell Margy, with pertinents, etc., in the lordship of Rescobie, and regality of St. Andrews; lands of Unthank, with pertinents, etc., in the barony of Keithock; tenements in Brechin; lands of Drumgrane, with pertinents. This, charter was granted at Holyrood House. This charter, and many others in the Reg. Ep. Br., is imperfect in numerous places.

His son, young Edzell, harassed his latter days. In 1606 he and his followers fought with young Wishart of Pitarrow in Edinburgh, when many were wounded, and one slain. Shortly after the inadvertent slaughter of his kinsman, Lord Spynie, 8th July, 1607, and other frays, shortened his days, and he died on 18th January, 1611.

On 17th March, 1638, David Lindsay of Edzell, heir of Alexander Lindsay, portioner of Edzell, filli, was retoured (No. 242) in the lands, barony, and lordship of Glenesk, comprehending the lands in the parishes of Lochlee, Lethnot, Edzell, etc., A.E., 50 ; N.E., 200.

The heavy fine imposed upon Lord Edzell for the misdeeds of his son, rent and burdened the estate, and the unfortunate murder of' his kinsman haunted poor Edzell, and made his life unhappy. The death of his son and heir added to his despondency but he lived to a long age, and died in 1648.

On 2nd June, 1648, John Lindsay of Edzell, heir of David Lindsay of Edzell, was retoured (No. 303) in the same lands, etc., as in No. 242, above. John Lindsay, who thus succeeded to Edzell, was previously designed 'of Canterland'. He is called, in the service, the son of David, but we think it should be nephew instead of son. He held the important office of Sheriff of Angus, and died in 1671, when he was succeeded by his son, David Lindsay of Edzell.

On the death of George, the third and last Lord Spynie, in 1671, the same year in which John of Edzell died, the chieftainship of the Lindsays, involving the representation of the original House of Crawford, devolved on David Lindsay of Edzell. He claimed the Earldom before Parliament in 1685, and rested his claim on the transactions between the son of "The Wicked Master" and Earl David of Edzell in 1646, and on the admitted fact that by the extinction of the Spynie branch he had become heir male of the ancient Earls of Crawford. . As Earl Ludovic had resigned his honours to Charles I., and that King had restored them to him by patent with an altered limitation, which precluded his claim, it was dropped.

Sir David, the elder brother of Lord Menmuir, had been extravagant, but during the twenty years subsequent to his death, his successor had relieved the estates of their burdens, and in 1630 they were worth ten thousand pounds a year, which was a very large income in those days. The civil war brought the fortunes of the family to the dust. The declension began when (the Duke of) Montrose invaded Angus.

John of Edzell, grandson of Sir David, and father of the penultimate laird, was compelled to petition Parliament on 16th March, 1649, for exemption from contributing to the new levies then raised, the rebel army having been for a long time encamped and quartered upon the lands of Edzell and Glenesk, to the utter ruin of the tenants and of the lands, the corns being burned in the barnyards, and the cattle and goods killed or driven away. The lands of Glenesk, worth nine thousand merks yearly, had since then been lying waste, the tenants not having been able to work them, and his losses were eighty thousand merks. This sum did not include his loss on his Edzell and other properties. He had also been forced to maintain, for a long time, three several garrisons to defend his tenants, and many of these garrisons had been cruelly killed. He had also to keep a constant guard of forty men for defending his lands and tenants from the daily incursions of enemies and robbers.

An Act was passed on 17th July, 1649, alluding to a previous award of 20,000 Scots for his relief, which had not been paid, and exempting him from part of his monthly assessment, in consideration of the hardships complained of. This petition shows the deplorable condition to which peaceably disposed people were reduced by the forces of Montrose during his repeated invasions of Angus. Glenesk was again and again traversed by him in his marches northward and southward between Angus and Aberdeenshire in support of King Charles.

Two years after, John of Edzell again complained of his losses. His Castle of Edzell was occupied by Cromwell's troops. The Parish Register mentions that there was no sermon at the Church from the 28th September until the last day of November, by reason the English army had taken up their quarters at Edzell, and scattered the people of God to gather corn and forage for their horses.

John of Edzell was a good Presbyterian, and a firm adherent to the Covenant. After the Restoration he was fined three thousand pounds for his adhesion to the Covenant.

These successive misfortunes compelled Edzell to burden his lands with debt, but nevertheless the old dignity of the name was still nobly maintained at the Castle. The rents were chiefly paid in kind, which made money of less consequence to the lairds, and enabled them to uphold the old name. From the generous, hospitable character of the respective proprietors, Edzell Castle had long been called the "Kitchen of Angus," which it maintained nearly to the days of the last of the Lindsay lairds.

The lands of Glenesk, Edzell, and Lethnot, were infested by the caterans in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but Edzell was chief over a numerous set of small tenants on these properties, who were trained to repel the inroads of those marauders, and their lords were ever ready in assisting their vassals to carry out this necessary duty.

John of Edzell was succeeded by David, his son, who was succeeded by his son, David Lindsay, the last of the race who were proprietors of Glenesk, Edzell, Lethnot, and the other properties which had remained for many generations in the family.

David Lindsay of Edzell, the last Lindsay laird of Edzell, was, on 25th April, 1699, retoured (No. 553) heir of his father, David Lindsay of Edzell, in all the lands of the family in the parishes of Edzell, Lethnot, Lochlee, etc.. The various lands are detailed at length in the service, the valuations being the same as given above, viz., A.E., 50; N.E., 200.

His history is a very mournful one. Owing to the depression of his fortunes, and a disappointment in love by his cousin, Jean Maria Lindsay, he would never marry. He was wayward and wilful, went from one excess to another, was extravagant and reckless, and was soon utterly ruined, and forced to quit his extensive and magnificent properties, which were purchased by James, the fourth Earl of Panmure, in 1714, who succeeded the last of the 'lichtsome' Lindsays in their great estate.

With the reversion of money which came to him after the incumbrances were paid, David bought the small property of Newgate, where he resided for some years. This property he was constrained to sell to Balcarres, when he went to Kirkwall and in 1744 became hostler at an inn. He was then aged about eighty years, a landless outcast, yet de jure "Lord the Lyndessay", as representative of David the third, and of Ludovic the sixteenth, Earls of Crawford. After his death, Earl James of Balcarres became chief of the Lindsays.

In 1725, David settled the remnant of his property on Alexander, Earl of Balcarres, his nearest male relation, and next in succession to the chieftainship, and failing him, on Earl James, his younger brother. It came to nothing. David was an Episcopalian and Jacobite, and so long as he retained the property, no Presbyterian minister could gain entrance into his country.

Edzell had two sisters, left motherless at an early age. Margaret, the eldest, was long traditionally remembered as "the proud Lady of Edzell." She was married (to) the laird of Aitherney, in Fife, who was ruined by her extravagance.  Janet, the youngest, was a lovely and graceful girl. She fell a victim to the arts of a younger son of a noble Scottish family, who ruined and deserted her. A daughter was the fruit of this illicit love, of whom descendants still exist, or did not long ago, in England. The faithless lover left the country, and was killed at the battle of Almanza, in Spain, in 1707.

In (the book) Lord Lindsay's 'Lives of the Lindsays' he gives a touching account of the last visit of the laird to what was his Castle of Edzell. "He was attended by only one of all his clan. There was none to welcome him, and he sat all night in the hall. Next day he and his attendant left, and turning round he took a last look of the old towers, and wept, and was never seen there again!" The castle and grounds were permitted to go to ruin, and the 'lichtsome' Lindsays were soon all but forgotten by the new generation which grew up in the district after they left Edzell.

Lord Lindsay says "a lady one day arrived in her coach and drove to the Castle. She was tall and beautiful, and dressed in deep mourning. She went into the chapel in the burying-ground (still to be seen to the southwest of the current castle ruins, almost opposite the mound on which the original motte and bailey castle probably stood - photographs below), sat down among the mouldering bones, and wept sore. She then went through as much of the Castle as its ruinous state permitted. In one room she stayed long and wept sadly. She said the place was very dear to her, but she had now no right to it, and she carried some of the earth away with her. It was Margaret Lindsay, the lady of Aitherney. This visit tamed her haughty manner, and turned her proud look to sadness. She left it (as) a young bride, crowded with merry friends, and now the mouldering house was tenantless, and she was friendless."

Of the many ancient baronial castles, the ruins of which are still to be seen in the county, there is none which surpasses in extent, magnificence, or grandeur the Castle of Edzell. It is situated in the parish of the same name, about six miles north of Brechin, on the confines equally of Strathmore and of the Grampians, and the scenery around is neither wholly Lowland nor Highland in its character, but rather the connecting link between the two. The Castle stands on a small plain on the north side of the West Water. On one side hills rise into mountains, on the other knolls sink into champaign fields. Here brawling mountain torrents are transformed into smooth gliding rivers, and the rugged shaggy heath is changed into fertile, grain producing plains.

The ancient owners of this famous castle were Lowland noblemen as well as Highland chieftains, and the lordly Castle of Edzell, with its noble halls, and the vast accommodation it afforded, was fitting residence for them in either capacity. It could, and often did, on festive occasions, contain many noble knights and ladies fair, whose melody and mirth resounded the day long throughout the Castle, while in the great baronial hall there was feasting and carousing from early morn till late at even. On other occasions, when the chieftain sent forth the fiery cross to summon his clansmen, the baron's retainers crowded the courtyard and hall, ready to march forth and obey the behests of their feudal lord in attack or defence, regardless whether the enemy was a neighbouring baron, or the King himself.

Of the ancient Castle of Edzell , which is supposed to have stood at a little distance from the spot on which the more modern castle was erected, no trace exists (? see photo below). Of its successor enough still remains to show its grandeur in the days of its prosperity, and some parts of the ruins have still an imposing and noble appearance.

The lofty great donjon or keep, called the 'Stirling Tower', is about sixty feet in height, is admirably built, had been of great strength, and is still in some parts pretty entire. It is traditionally said to have been built by the family of Stirling, but there is no certainty of this, or of the era of its erection. The name, however, which it bears is, to some extent, confirmatory of the popular belief of its erectors. On an exceedingly stormy October night in 1838, considerable damage was done to the upper parts of the structure, which has accelerated its destruction. The walls are nearly five feet thick, and they are perforated with windows, and with oblong and circular loopholes, for use in defending the Castle from the attacks of enemies.

As was customary in such buildings the ground storey was arched, above which, and communicating with the vaults by a private stair in the south-east corner of the wall, was the great baronial hall, which occupied nearly the whole area of the keep, and must, when entire, have been a grand apartment worthy of the magnificence and might of its noble owners. It is about thirty-six feet long by twenty-four feet wide. Above the hall were two floors of dormitories, surmounted by a spacious bartisan and cape house. More modem buildings, two storeys in height, extended from the donjon, the whole forming three sides of a parallelogram, having a circular tower in one of the angles. Some of these buildings were erected by David Lindsay of Edzell, who afterwards succeeded as ninth Earl of Crawford. These ranges, including the round tower, are much dilapidated, but they had originally been very ornate.
The wall of the flower garden, re-built by Sir David Lindsay of Edzell, was ornamented with rich architectural decorations and many interesting sculptures, most of which are moderately entire (photo below). The outer courtyard was one hundred feet in length by seventy in breath, and the space occupied by the Castle, including the gardens, was fully two Scotch acres. The unfortunate Queen Mary visited the Castle on her return from the expedition in the north to quell Huntly's rebellion, on which occasion she held a Council, and remained a night there, on 25th August, 1562.

The entrance to the Castle is by an arched covered way passing through the ground floor of the building north of the great tower. It is seven feet in width, with a stone bench or seat along each side, and there are arched rooms on the north and south side of the covered way for the use of the guard on duty. Passing through this entrance the courtyard is reached, and on the right hand or south side is the hall, opening upon the grand staircase, by which the baronial hall and dormitories over it are reached. To the left of the covered way the more modern buildings extend northward and then eastward around the courtyard. Many noble trees rear their lofty heads around a beautiful field extending eastward from the courtyard, through which the modern approach to the Castle runs.

The following account of the last of the Lindsays of Edzell, taken from the Registrum de Panmure, is so interesting that, though it is to some extent a repetition, we cannot withhold it.

"The Laird of Edzell was so borne down with debt in the early part of the eighteenth century that he was obliged to part with his splendid highland properties of Edzell, Glenesk, and Lethnot, and in 1714 they were exposed at auction in Edinburgh, by order of the Court of Session. (The Laird of) Edzell was then so poor that when requested to go to Edinburgh with the title deeds he besought the intending purchaser, the Earl of Panmure, to give him, on his own "line", enough to pay his expenses, and also a protection for his person against his creditors, who would have seized him. He did not use either, as he was taken ill of gout at Balgavies at the time his uncle Strachan died.

"Instead of proceeding to Edinburgh the needy laird proceeded to collect the rents of his old tenants, and cut down the trees. The moveables were sold out of the Castles of Edzell and Invermark, and the keys given up, in presence of the laird, to the factor of Panmure, but not until he had been persuaded to give up one of the gates of Edzell Castle to Lindsay, and that he might take it with him and place it where he might be able to say that  he 'lodged within the gates of Edzell.'  Not content with one gate, he, a few days after giving up the keys, took several people with a horse and cart, ostensibly to remove a meal chest, but really to take away another gate, which he did, threatening the gardener, who opposed the proceedings, that 'he should disable him from gaining a bannock of bread before Lammas.' Legal proceedings followed, but the matter was compromised, and the gates returned. Such were the concluding scenes enacted by the last of the Lindsays at his own mansion."

The parish of Edzell lies in the north-eastern district of the county. It is bounded on the north by Strachan and Birse, in Kincardineshire; the portion of the parish in that county by Fettercairn on the east; on the south-east and south by that parish and by Stracathro; in the lower portion by Lethnot on the west; by Lochlee on the west in the upper portion.

The main body of the parish is a peninsula between the North Esk and the West Water, which unite in the vicinity of the Church of Stracathro. In the lower part of the parish these streams are locally known as the North Water and the West Water. The West Water is also called the Dye. The lowland portion of the peninsula is about three miles in length by two in width; but further to the north, in the Highland district, it stretches out from four to six or seven miles in width.

The land in the Strathmore or peninsula section of the parish varies in quality, some parts being of good loam, while others are light and somewhat gravelly soil, but with good husbandry excellent crops are raised. Portions of this district are planted, the trees being of various ages. In the Highland district the mountains attain a considerable altitude, and they are generally clothed with rich heath, or coarse grass, upon which large numbers of sheep and cattle are reared.

The mountains in Edzell present no striking features, being mostly huge rounded lofty mounds. In some of the dividing glens, each of which has its living stream, a little bubbling rivulet in summer, but a brawling torrent in winter, the waters have scooped out for themselves a deep rocky channel which time has clothed with natural wood and other luxuriant vegetation. Such scenes are picturesque and beautiful.

The North Esk, in its passage through the parish, presents a succession of scenes, which for grandeur, magnificence, and variety can hardly be surpassed. These have been described in the chapter on the rivers of Angus.

The portion of the parish in the Mearns extends from the Doulie Tower up the left bank of the Esk for several miles; the arable land, with sections of the hill pasture being let out in small farms. In some parts of the district  . . . 


The gardens and part of Edzell Castle in April 2001.

The ruins of Edzell Castle in the distance, and the mound of the original castle.
The 'chapel' referred to above - in the distance.

You may visit the castle and surroundings.  There are plans to develop the site of the original, ancient castle.  More from

Extracts of historical interest from old books.


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