The Barony and Castle of Pittarrow

The following is an extract from a book entitled “History of The Carnegies, Earls of Southesk and their Kindred” by William Fraser (1867):

The lands of Pittarrow, previous to their becoming the property of the Carnegie family, belonged to the family of Wishart. The Wisharts acquired them at an early period, and continued the proprietors for centuries. Of the Wisharts of Pittarrow, several rose to eminence in the service of the State, and one of them was distinguished as the precursor of John Knox, and as a martyr for the Reformed faith. George Wishart, who was burned at the Castle Green of St. Andrews, on 1st March 1546, for the new opinions which were then beginning to spread in Scotland, belonged to the Pittarrow family, having been, it is probable, a younger brother of Mr. James Wishart of Pittarrow, Clerk of Justiciary, and King’s Advocate, who died towards the end of the year 1524. Cardinal Beton, who was the chief instrument in the martyrdom of Wishart, well knew the respectable position of the family to which the martyr belonged, having had transactions with them as Abbot of the Abbey of Arbroath, which was the feudal superior of certain lands held by them in part of the barony of Pittarrow. This appears from various documents relating to Pittarrow, but it is only necessary to quote two. These are two precepts of sasine granted by David Beton, as Commendator of Arbroath. One of them is dated 10th May 1525, being the year after he became the head of the abbey, and the other is dated twenty years later, long after he has been supposed to have ceased to be Abbot of Arbroath. The first precept is directed to James Strathauchan of Monboddo and others, for infefting John Wishart as heir to his father, Mr. James Wishart of Pittarrow, in the mill and lands of Conveth, in the shire of Kincardine, which were held of the abbey in chief. This precept is not sealed with the official seal of the abbey, as was usual, but with the Abbot’s own private seal, on which his family arms were engraved. It is also signed by the Abbot thus : –

The other precept was granted for infefting Mr. James Wishart and Elizabeth Wood, his spouse, in the town and lands of Balfeith, which were then laboured by William Wishart in the barony of Redhall, regality of Arbroath, and shire of Kincardine.  The precept bears that the lands formerly belonged to John Wishart of Pittarrow, and were resigned by him into the hands of the Cardinal, as Commendator of Arbroath, at the Castle of St. Andrews. It is dated at the Monastery of Arbroath, on 14th April 1545, not quite eleven months before the martyrdom of George Wishart, and is subscribed by the Cardinal, and twenty-one of the religious men (religiosorum virorum) and convent convened in chapter. It is also sealed with the round seal of the Cardinal, which is counter-sealed with his privy seal, and sealed with the common seal of the monastery. Both seals are much broken; but the Cardinal’s signature is one of the fullest that we have ever seen affixed to any of his charters, and the designations attached to his name show the increase which, during the course of the twenty years that had elapsed between the date of this precept and the one previously mentioned, had taken place in the plurality of the offices he had acquired. The signature is in these words:

The first connection of the Carnegie family with Pittarrow began on the decline of the family of Wishart. King Charles I. granted to David Lord Carnegie, by gift under the Privy Seal, on 30th July 1631, the nonentries of the lands of Pittarrow, with the manor-place, tower, and fortalice thereof, etc., of the lands of Carnebeggs, with the wood called Wishart’s Forest, the lands of Woodtouns and mill of Convethe, in the shire of Kincardine, for all the years that the same have been in the hands of the Crown as superior, since the death of Sir John Wishart of Pittarrow, Knight, who last died, or of the deceased Sir John Wishart of Pittarrow, his uncle.  About the same time, the lands of Pittarrow, and others above mentioned, were purchased by Lord Carnegie for the sum of fifty-nine thousand merks, or £3277, 15s. 62/3d. sterling. The price was paid to Mr. James Wishart, then of Pittarrow, who, with his spouse, Elizabeth Bickertoun, and his brother-german, Sir John Wishart, sometime of Pittarrow,  Knight, disponed the lands to Lord Carnegie in liferent, and to John Carnegie, his third son, in fee.

On the death of David Lord Carnegie, eldest son of the first Earl of Southesk, Sir Alexander Carnegie, the fourth son, was afterwards provided to Pittarrow. That estate continued to be inherited by his descendants for three generations. Sir James Carnegie of Pittarrow, great grand- father of the present Earl of Southesk, purchased the Southesk estates, as heir-male of the family, as shown in the Memoir of the Pittarrow Branch. The testamentary trustees of Sir James Carnegie sold the estate of Pittarrow to enable them to pay the purchase price of Southesk.  Pittarrow was purchased by George Carnegie, a younger brother of Sir James, as is fully stated in the Memoir of George.

The mansion-house of Charleton, near Montrose, which was acquired by George Carnegie in the same year as Pittarrow, was a modern house, built by Mr. Strachan of Tarrie, the former proprietor. It became the principal residence of Mr. Carnegie, who made to it considerable additions.

The old mansion-house of Pittarrow, which now no longer exists, was generally used by the family at that time as a residence for only a few months in summer. Mrs. Gordon of Knockespock, the only surviving daughter of George Carnegie, remembers that in her youth she resided in it for several months in that part of the year. She also remembers that the house had a very castellated appearance. There were many small turrets in the building. The entrance was vaulted and large, having at the sides stone seats for the accommodation of retainers of the family. The old house, like most other mansions, had the reputation of having its full share of ghosts and evil spirits, who haunted it during the night. Captain John Fullerton Carnegie, having, as the eldest son, on the death of his father, George Carnegie, in the year 1799, become proprietor of Pittarrow, unfortunately gave directions in the year 1802 for demolishing the old mansion-house of Pittarrow, having a more modern residence at Kinnaber, adjoining to Charleton, which was liferented and inhabited by his mother. This was much regretted in the county of Kincardine, as the mansion was a fine specimen of an ancient baronial castle, and might have lasted for centuries to come, as it had lasted for many bygone centuries.

The following description of the discovery of various paintings which had been allowed to remain suspended on the wall of the great hall when it had received a covering of wainscot was given by the late Rev. Dr. Leslie, minister of the parish of Fordoun:


When the old mansion-house of Pittarrow was pulled down in 1802, there were discovered on the plaster of the great hall, to which access was had by a flight of steps, some paintings in a state of high preservation, the walls having been wainscotted, at what period is not known. The air and dust having thus been excluded, the colours in the paintings were as vivid as if they had been done only a year before. The only one of the paintings that may be noticed here was that which represented the city of Rome, and a grand procession going to St. Peter’s. The Pope, adorned with the tiara, in his full robes of State, and mounted on a horse or mule, led by some person of distinction, was attended by a large company of cardinals, all richly dressed, and all uncovered.  At a little distance near to where the procession was to pass, and nearly in front of it, stood a white palfrey, finely caparisoned, held by some person, also dressed and uncovered. Beyond this was the magnificent cathedral of St. Peter, the doors of which seemed to be open to receive the procession.

Below the picture were written the following lines:

In Papam:
Laus tua, non tua fraus : virtus non gloria rerum,

Scandere te fecit hoc decus eximium;

Pauperibua sua dat gratis, nee munera curat

Curia Papalis, quod more percipimus.

Haac carmina potius legenda cancros imitando.

The then proprietor of Pittarrow was totally ignorant of these paintings when he gave orders to pull down the house.

Several oak parmels from Pittarrow House, carved with the armorial bearings of the Wishart family, came into the possession of a cabinet-maker in Montrose as late as the year 1851. He worked them into a cabinet, which was purchased by the late Patrick Chalmers of Aldbar. Mr. Chalmers wrote the following careful explanation of the carvings :


The coat of arms is three piles, or passion nails, meeting in a point (the tinctures are not shown) ; the shield has a narrow ledge around it, but too narrow for a border, and it has, most likely, been added by the carver solely for ornament ; the shield is surmounted by a tilting helmet, having for its crest what seems to be a feather ; supporters, two horses saddled and bridled.

I have a seal of Sir John Wishart of Pittarrow, Knight, attached to a charter by him, dated 10th August 1442 ; three piles, or passion nails, meeting in a point crest, a lion passant; no supporters.

Nisbet says that the name of Wishart carried argent, three passion nails meeting in a point, gules.

Wishart of Logie and Wishart of Pittarrow seem to have been the principal families of the name after the extinction of Wishart of Brechin, if indeed this last family ever existed distinct from the others. Mr. John Wishart, a commissary of Edinburgh, repurchased the estate of Logie and got his arms registered, argent, three passion nails joining in their points, gules, and distilling drops of blood, proper crest, an eagle displayed, sable, armed and membered, gules, wounded with an arrow through the body, proper.

William Thomas Wishart, only son and heir of Dr. William Wishart, Principal of the University of Edinburgh, who claimed to represent the family of Pittarrow, got his arms registered by patent dated 22d February 1769, argent, three piles or passion nails, meeting in a point, gules ; supporters, two horses argent ; saddled and bridled, gules ; crest, a demi eagle, wings expanded, proper.

There can be little doubt that the carving in Messrs. Japp’s possession represents the arms of Wishart of Pittarrow, crests are assumed and changed at pleasure by those entitled to bear arms, and in early times (much before the date of this carving, however) supporters were often changed so as to distinguish the seals of successive generations bearing the same christened name in a family. The Maules in France, in the 13th and 14th centuries, changed their supporters regularly from father to son, the son generally assuming his grandfather’s supporters, as appears from authentic drawings of their stained windows and tombs in the churches of St. Denis and of St. Germain-en-pré. I have not seen a Wishart seal with supporters, but if this carved pannel can be traced to Pittarrow House, it may afford evidence, though of late date, of the right of the family to bear them. The other pannel in Messrs. Japp’s possession bears most of the emblems of the crucifixion, and might well have been found in the old house of Pittarrow, pulled down in 1802, the hall of which had been adorned with paintings of religious subjects, afterwards covered over with wooden pannels, or more correctly, perhaps, boxing.

The Wisharts are said to be descended from a natural son of David Earl of Huntingdon, and it is certain that one of his three illegitimate sons had a grant of the lordship of Brechin, and assumed the surname of Brechin, and either gave to, or assumed from it the armorial bearing of three piles, or passion nails, meeting in a point.

While proprietor of Pittarrow, Sir Alexander Carnegie acquired from James Douglas of Stoneypath, in 1649, the lands of Mondynes, then called Moneyethen, in the barony of Moneyethen and shire of Kincardine. With these lands Sir Alexander Carnegie acquired several old charters, two of which, one granted by King David II., and the other by Thomas Sybbald of Monyethen, are printed in the Appendix.

The lands of Balfeith were a part of the estate of Pittarrow, as formed by the Carnegie family. At a more remote period these lands were the property of Umfrid de Berkeley; and by him they were gifted to the Abbey of Arbroath by a charter, which is without date, but which must have been granted between the years 1204 and 1211. The granter, for the welfare of the souls of the Kings David and Malcolm, and of Earl Henry, father of King William, and for the welfare of the king and queen, and of Alexander, their son, and their other children, and for the welfare of himself, his wife, and heirs, gave and confirmed to the Church of Arbroath, and the monks serving God there, the whole land of Balfeith. The charter narrates that, according to an assize of the kingdom in the presence of Matthew Bishop of Aberdeen and Gilbert Earl of Strathern, by Angus

MacDunecan and Malbryd Mallod, and Dufscolok of Fetheressau, and Murac, and Malmur MacGillemechel, and Gillecrist MacFadwerth and Cormac of Nug, and other of our lord the king’s good men of Angus and Moernes, the land of Balfeth was perambulated for the granter, and was sworn to belong to the land which the king gave him for his homage and service ; between the rivulet of Munbodachyn and the water of Beruyn, and as the Beruyn runs on one side and the rivulet of Fewth on the other side when it falls into the Beruyn, and the divisions of the land of the son of Sibald. The charter also grants common pasture of the granter’s wood beside the buildings of the monastery, and those of their tenants in that land, and other conveniences of peatery and pasture from his fen of Kirkell and Cuneueth, so that the monks and their men may have grazing for one hundred beasts with their followers, and for as many swine, and as numerous a breed of horses as the monks may choose to have on the foresaid land; and there is also granted to them and their men a right of shealing from Pasch to the Feast of All Saints, for maintaining the foresaid beasts in Tuberlach, Crospath, or Glenferkaryn, as it shall please them. All these grants are to be held in free’ and pure alms, without any service or exaction whatsoever.

This old charter affords some curious and interesting illustrations, obscure and imperfect though they may be, of the history of the early in- habitants of Angus and Mearns. It is worthy of notice that the names of the jury who sat on the perambulation of the land of Balfeith are all Celtic, whilst the names of the witnesses to the charter are Norman or Saxon, indicating the Celtic descent of the former and the Teutonic ancestry of the latter. This charter also shows the early period at which the boundaries of lands and the minutest circumstances relating to them were fixed.