Mid 17th century, 3-storey and attic, L-plan tower house; 3-storey NW wing with bell gable added circa 1690; SE wing probably late 17th to early 18th century, remodelled and raised from 2- to 3-storey with piend roof, 1808; porch (dated 1833) to SW front, NE water and stair (dated 1830) towers, and interior largely remodelled in classical style by John Smith, Aberdeen City Architect, 1830-33. Restoration of 1964 by Vespen, and 1977 and 1994 by Rhind of Inverurie. Interior with early 18th century panelling retained to 1st floor room of NW wing, and ground floor SW room this also with painted panels by Norie family. Harl with stone margins; granite ashlar water tower and porch. Band course and jettied blocking course to water tower, and band course to stair tower. Vaulted ground floor. Corbels.
NW (ENTRANCE) ELEVATION: 2-bay dominant bell gable projecting at outer right with symmetrical fenestration to 1st and 2nd floors, left return with door and arrowslit to ground, 2 vertically-aligned windows above and blocked window to outer right at 2nd floor; 2 bay original tower house at left with blocked, segmental-headed doorway retaining decoratively-astragalled fanlight as window, small window to each floor above that to attic with tiny pedimented dormer window breaking eaves; re-entrant angle beyond with small stair window at ground and corbelled turret stair to 2nd and attic floors. Set-back bays at left with single window to ground and 2 windows to each floor above, projecting conically-roofed stair tower beyond with blocked roundheaded opening at ground giving way to shield with incised date and narrow light at each floor above, that to attic roundheaded. Water tower to left with roundheaded door (converted from window) at ground and window to each floor above, slightly advanced bay to outer left with arrowslit to each floor.
SW (PRINCIPAL) ELEVATION: altered symmetrical 5-bay block projecting at right with granite porch to centre at ground, windows in flanking bays and regular fenestration to each floor above; gunloop to each floor of narrow rounded stair tower in re-entrant angle to left at junction with set-back NW wing comprising 2 regularly-fenestrated bays.
SE (REAR) ELEVATION: largely symmetrical-fenestration to elevation with advanced outer bays; tall 1st floor windows including round-headed window to left of centre and segmental-headed tripartite window to outer right.
NE ELEVATION: gabled elevation with garage extension at ground, window to right at 2nd floor and small attic window to left; water tower to outer right angle.
Largely multi-pane glazing patterns in timber sash and case windows. Grey slates. Coped ashlar gablehead stacks and paired diamond-aligned wallhead stack to SE. Ashlar-coped skews.
INTERIOR: fine interior detail retained and good decorative scheme in place. Decorative and plain moulded plasterwork; timber and marble fire surrounds with cast-iron grates. Original main door (NW) leading to broad wheel stair. Vaulted kitchen with large segmental-arched chimney and evidence of 3 wheel multiple jack (as at House of Dun). Vaulted gunroom with marble fireplace, and vaulted wine cellar with dirt floor. Remodelled SW wing (1830) comprising front hall with flag floor and window opening (with chamfered reveals) of original building; panelled dining room with series of 10 painted panels (see Notes); stone dog-leg staircase with decorative cast-iron balusters leading to first floor drawing room with adjacent small drawing room, dining room with timber dado and library retaining original (1830s) wallpaper. Panelled principal bedroom (former great hall).
Statement of Special Interest
The original tower house was built for Sir Thomas Crombie, and was subsequently purchased by Thomas Burnett 1st Laird of Kemnay from Sir George Nicholson in 1688. George Burnett, the third laird, undertook estate improvements which included '130 acres laid out with woodland and enclosed fields?, as well as planting The Avenue. George married Helen, daughter of Sir Alexander Burnet of Leys, and their son (also Alexander) continued the agricultural improvements. John, the 5th laird, took over from his widowed mother in 1814 on his marriage to Mary Stuart of Dunearn in Fife. Remaining in the same family, Kemnay was inherited by the 9th and current laird, Susan Letitia Burnett or Milton, in 1948, though her mother had life rent. During the 1964 renovation, Mrs Milton discovered the original window in the front hall, and subsequently unearthed the Norie grisaille panels from an attic. Further investigation has led her to believe that the panelling of the ground floor dining room, into which the Norie panels have been reinserted, was imported from the original building?s 1st floor suite of three low panelled parlours, two where the current dining room is and the third on what is now the landing for the John Smith staircase. The principal bedroom with its fine original panelling, is thought to have been the great hall. Further discoveries have included a well (fed from a spring to the SW) near the base of the original wheel stair, and a blocked door in the front hall, which would balance the John Smith 'classical? design. Letters in the family archive concerning the remodelling and building work undertaken by John Smith are dated 17th June, 1830 and 20th July, 1830. Interestingly the latter is mistakenly addressed to 'John Gordon Esq of Kemnay? instead of John Burnett. Details also exist of a plan to re-locate the kitchen to the small 'woman?s room? (maid?s pantry) at the base of the stair in the water tower, this would have been convenient for the new first floor dining room. The family retains the 'muckle? key of Crathes, taken after an inheritance dispute between the Burnett and Burnet of Leys families. In 1830 John Burnett opened a granite quarry at Paradise Hill, which was subsequently leased to John Fyfe and stone from here was used in building the Thames embankment. The gatepiers flanking the entrance to Kemnay House are built of stone from the local railway station (demolished in 1964) with ball finials (tourie) from the 1830 porch. A monument to George Burnet (died 1780) who 'Planned, Planted and brought to Perfection this Grove? was moved to the garden of Kemnay House from the 'Wilderness? in 1964.
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