Family Ownership History

The descendents of the Stewart family have owned Bonskeid House until it was sold to the YMCA in 1951, and even now some of the land that was part of Bonskeid is still owned by the descendent Barbour family.
The local family geography developed so that there became one set of Stewarts of Bonskeid (later Free Church) and their cousins the Stewarts of Fincastle, higher up than Bonskeid (later Episcopalians). It is good to keep in mind this family development as the history is tracked and the two overlapped.
The first Charter of 1494 gave land to Alexander Stewart, great grandson of the Earl of Buchan, otherwise known as the Wolf of Badenach (buried in Dunkeld Cathedral), who was himself the great grandson of Robert the Bruce.
The original Bonskeid House was higher up than today and after a fire it was rebuilt in 1688 by John Stewart, the 7th Laird. The rebuilt house itself was burnt in the mid 1700's, but John Stewart, the tenth Laird, could not afford to rebuild it and settled for a farmhouse. His son Alexander was bought up at Fincastle, after the death of his father at the hands of his father's brother in law (who was eventually pardoned). Alexander became a doctor and introduced the smallpox vaccine to the area (but it killed his son).
On a trip to the Duke Of Atholl's residence, Blair Castle, Sir James Pulteney and his wife Lady bath decided they would like to buy Bonskeid House. Alexander refused but offered a 25 year lease after which he would take back the house, the stables, the contents, the grounds and, of course, all improvements. When Lady Bath unexpectedly died, Sir James Pulteney was able to make changes more to his liking, including its use for shooting. When he obtained his gun at his own gunsmith's, he shot himself by accident. The furniture on the way was stopped but Alexander got one delivery and the whole improved estate back sooner than he had expected.
His daughter married Glas Sandeman against his will and lost all right to inherit the property. However, they came to the rescue of the financial downfall of James Stewart of Fincastle by buying Bonskeid House from Alexander which allowed him to bail out James. So Mrs Stewart Sandeman got back into the house, while Fincastle was sold off.
Her daughter Margaret married George Freeland Barbour, a cotton manufacturer from Manchester. After a railway accident injuring them and killing their eldest son, the Stewart Sandemans suggested that Bonskeid become their home, a place to recover and live better. Although Glas Sandeman would have sold Bonskeid House to anyone, the Barbours bought it and thus it was kept in the family.
In 1859 and 1863 the house was enlarged and improved by George Freeland Barbour and looks much as it does now, except for the dining room extension with its large glass viewing window.

Bonskeid House 1873
The House in 1873

The next Laird Robert Barbour bought back Fincastle. He was a Free Church minister. He died in his 30's. Their son Freeland married Helen Hepburne-Scott, daughter of the eighth Lord Polwarth, in 1919. Freeland was a Liberal, supported the League of Nations, believed in ecumenical Christianity, and the YMCA.
He rebuilt the stables and built a billiard room but took the view that his grandfather had been over elaborate with Bonskeid House and in 1921 invited the YMCA to lease it. The Barbours moved out to Fincastle in 1922.
After several needed uses during the Second World War the YMCA bought the property and 25 acres of the grounds in 1951. In 1960 the YMCA built the dining room with its views across the valley.


Adrian Worsfold

Pluralist - Liberal and Thoughtful