View of Auchorthies from Blaeu's Atlas, 1654.
The House from Blaeu's Atlas c.1654.
© National Library of Scotland
Aquhorthies House, 19th century.
Aquhorthies House, late 19th century.
Aquhorthies Stone Circle, 2005.
Aquhorthies Stone Circle, 2005.
The Seton Collection © 2005
Aquhorthies, silver Montrance, 2001.
Aquhorthies, silver Montrance, 2001.
The Seton Collection © 2005

A History of Aquhorthies

The lands of Auquhorthies (Achorties/Achorters) were located within the Barony of Balquhain which was created a burgh of barony by David II in 1340.  It had generally remained in the hands of the Leslie family from this time until 1919, when their estates were broken up, following the death of Colonel Charles Stephen Leslie in 1916. 

John Seton of Auquhorties received a charter in 1610 for Minnies [Menie] (Reg. Mag. Sig.)> shortly afterwards (1614) erected into a free barony (Reg. Mag. Sig.)> the grant was made " cum privilegio de infang thief, outfang thief, sok, sak, thole/ thame, pitt and gallows." Those who resigned these lands and rights when John Seton acquired them from the King, were William Udny, Senior, of that Ilk ; William Udny, Junior, feudatory of the same ; Robert Udny of Tulliquhortie ; Alexander Udny, son of the said William Udny, Senior ; William Seton of Muny (Mounie), and Alexander Blackball of that Ilk. Minnies is in the parish of Foveran, and nearer Barra than Blackhall.

John Seton of Aquhorthies and Menie was Chamberlain at Fyvie Castle to Alexander Seton, 1st Earl of Dunfermline and Chancellor of Scotland.  He was descended from Alexande Seton, 4th of Meldrum, and leased the lands and farm of Aquhorthies through his father's assistance.  He leased the House of Aquhorthies from the Leslie's of Balquain, and which was his private residence when he was not stationed at Fyvie Castle.  He married Helen Leith, daughter of John Leith 2nd of Harthill (d. 1625) and Helen Auchinleck, and had several children.  He is remembered in the family papers of the Skene's of Rubislaw: "Letter from John Seton to Laird of Tibertis (Tipperty) sending wood to aid cure for the gravel for his cousin John Skene's wife, dated at Auchquhorty, 17 June 1638".

The papers of the Leslie's of Balquain hold the following records for Aquhorthies:  The Titles and teinds to the lands of Abirsnethok, parish of Monymusk, 1560s - 1592; Achorthies, Knokcollachie, Pitcaple and Drummis, and the superiorities of Woodhill and half lands of Blairdaff, lordship of Garioch, 1680 - 1708; Auchorthies, 1594 - 1708; Auchquhortheis and Blairdaff, 1391 - 1616; Mains of Aquhorthies, 1638 - 1654; Overtoune of Auchquhorthies; Inventories of writs for the lands of Auchorthies, 1622 - 1637, 1671 - 1683, 1688; Legal papers re. Leslies of Balquhain, 17th c; Leslie family and Gordon of Brakko, 1589 - 1636; Gordon of Haddo, 1670 - 1672; Robertson of Achorties, 1670 - 1673; Forbes of Tolquhan, 1674; Forbes of Acquorthies, 1638 - 1674;

Aquhorthies Roman Catholic College was situated at Aquhorthies, Inverurie, Aberdeenshire from 1799 until 1829. In 1829 it was united with the Catholic seminaries of Chapeltown and Lismore, and moved with them to Blairs Estate, Maryculter, Aberdeenshire, gifted to the Church shortly before for this purpose by John Menzies of Pitfodels. The college which they formed was called St Mary's Roman Catholic Training College, but came to be known more commonly known as Blairs College.

The College has its roots in the fourteenth-century Scots College in Paris, which was established by David, Bishop of Moray, in 1325. It had a difficult early history, but prospered during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, becoming famous for its library, which came to possess, in addition to many valuable books, a large collection of historical manuscripts relating to Scottish history. These records were brought to Paris for safekeeping during the Reformation, although many were lost subsequently during the French Revolution. Some of the library's contents were salvaged and brought back to Scotland by Abbe Paul MacPherson in 1798, with the remainder being removed from Paris and deposited at Blairs College in 1837. Most of these records were subsequently deposited in the Scottish Catholic Archives, 16 Drummond Place, Edinburgh, in 1958.

An account of the foundation and early history of the College is given by Major Hay of Seaton, in The Blairs College Library in Library Review 17 (1931) 2 - 6., and a poem preserved in the paper of Aquhorthies, entitled The Boobie , contains a reference to Boneparte's coming here , signed Aquhorthies February 14th 1817.


Aberdeenshire Courts records for 1634 note an Exhibition:

John Seaton of Auquhorthies and George Seton, his eldest lawful son by his wife Helen Leyth v. Mr. Alexr. Davidson, Advocate in Abd. and Wm. Seton of Udny, for his interest. The writing of which exhibition was sought was a contract dated 30 May, 1634, whereby Wm. Seton (younger of Mounie, Udny and of Menie), with consent of his wife, Margaret Grahame, bound themselves for onerous causes to convey to the Pursuer and his son in liferent and fee respectively, the "Maines of Udny with the towr fortalice maner place ;" &c. , the lands of Kilmortoun, Milne of Udny, the " heretabill richt libertie & priviledge of the mercat callit Crystes fair and the advocatione donatione and richt of patronadge of the Kirk of Udny callit Crystes Kirk and Chappellenrie of Udny," &c. The deed was exhibited but a motion made for registration was resisted and the case seems to have been subsequently advocated to the Court of Session.

Later, Aquhorthies became associated with: Thomas Forbes, 1661 - 1673; William Fordyce, Baillie of Aberdeen; and Bishop Hay, RC. The bishop was buried on the Leslie estate of Fetternear, having died nearby at the Aquhorthies seminary (which replaced Scalan).  During his funeral procession, "his body was taken from Aquhorthies with the students ‘all dressed in mourning accompanied the hearse and made a very decent appearance.’ The House eventually became a Roman Catholic College. It is interesting to note that the three JK paintings of the region: of Scalan, Aquhorthies and Blairs, are all attributed to James Keenan 1844-1932. The ‘Scots Colleges in Catholic Europe’ exhibition [Edinburgh City Art Centre].

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    House Description
    Aquhorthies Gallery
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        The Interior
     Chamberlain J. Seton
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     Aquhorthies Seminary
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