Hallyburton House

Coupar Angus, Blairgowrie, Perthshire

Completed in 1903, for W.D. Graham Menzies (1857-1944) and his wife Cecilia Wombwell (1865-1948). Dating back to the 1680s, the original Hallyburton House at the core of this 19th/20th century Elizabethan-style mansion was built to replace the nearby ancient ancestral seat of the Hallyburton family, Pitcur Castle. Situated in Kettins Parish south of Coupar-Angus at the foot of the well-wooded Sidlaw Hills, it was remodelled and enlarged beyond nearly all recognition from 1880, first started by the whisky magnate Graham Menzies who died within the year. His eldest son, Robert, continued with the project but he died unmarried in 1889 and left the estate to his brother, W.D. Graham Menzies, who commissioned the final embellishments, finished in 1903....

This house is best associated with...

Graham Menzies

Distiller & Owner of the Caledonian Whisky Distillery, Edinburgh


Robert Stewart Menzies

Robert Stewart Menzies, M.P., of London & Hallyburton House, Forfarshire


William Dudgeon Graham Menzies

W.D. Graham Menzies, Chairman of the D.C.L., of Hallyburton House, Coupar Angus


Cecilia (Wombwell) Menzies

Mrs Cecilia Clementina (Wombwell) Menzies


William Neil Graham Menzies

William Neil Graham Menzies, of Hallyburton House, Coupar Angus


Joan Noelle (Murray) Lindsay

Mrs Joan Noelle (Murray) Menzies, Lindsay


Cynthia (Menzies) Llewellen Palmer

Mrs Cynthia Lindsay Graham (Menzies) Llewellen Palmer, of Hallyburton


William Murray Lindsay

William M. Lindsay, of Hallyburton House, Coupar Angus


Graham Menzies was a native of Paisley who in 1855 built the hugely successful Caledonian Distillery in Edinburgh that ran until 1988. In February, 1880, he paid Charles Hallyburton, 11th Marquis of Huntly, £235,000 for the 5,700-acre Pitcur estate - comprised of Pitcur, Hallyburton and Newhall - that had been in their family since 1432.

To design and oversee the massive rebuild of Hallyburton, Menzies wasted no time in employing Andrew Heiton, a local architect who made a name for himself building railway stations and station hotels and who just four years before had rebuilt Vogrie House for another whisky magnate, James Dewar. Sadly for Menzies, he was dead within the year but his eldest son, Robert Stewart Menzies, continued where his father left off and Heiton completed the first phase of the works in 1884 at a total cost of £13,000. A description was published in the American Architect confirming its international interest and appeal.

Coupar's Cotswolds Castle

The original Hallyburton House was a modest five-bay structure of two-stories over a raised basement with a flight of steps leading up to the front door. It can still be made out (see images) from the southeast garden but has been dwarfed by the sprawling mass of new stone, albeit built of an extremely high quality. The interior remains one of the best surviving examples of Heiton's work, but the exterior drew criticism from the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland who called out its complete lack of Scottish features and they perhaps bitingly reflected that, "apart from the quality of its stone, the house could be in the Cotswolds". That may be, which makes Hallyburton refreshingly different and a rare example of the English Tudor-Elizabethan style in Scotland.

Observing (and Creating) Tradition

Five years later (1889), Robert died unmarried and the estate now devolved to his younger brother, W.D. Graham Menzies, the Chairman of the Distiller's Company Ltd. (DCL) that held a virtual monopoly over the British whisky business for much of the 20th century. He lived here with his family and 13-live-in servants including two footmen, a butler, and a piper (Donald McDonald). The family were careful to maintain a, "keen observance of Scottish traditions, ceremonies, and feast days," wearing red and green tartan for hunting, red and white tartan for evening dress, and black and white tartan for mourning.

Having acquired a vast estate and built a sprawling castle, the Menzies of Hallyburton began to focus on forging a link between their family and that of the clan chief, but despite giving the most money to see the "Red and White Book of Menzies" published in 1894 (documenting the history and genealogy of the clan chief) and with William elected in the same year as President of the Menzies Society, neither the clan genealogists nor the Lord Lyon King of Arms could draw upon or confirm any such claim. Somewhat inconveniently, the Menzies of Hallyburton had to wait until 1904 to be granted their own coat-of-arms, so in the meantime they borrowed some artistic license by carving the chief's arms, with the suitably ancient but otherwise unexplained date "1609," over the newly built Jacobean Renaissance fireplace that centred the baronial entrance hall.

Lorimer's Last Licks

The final significant additions to Hallyburton were finished in 1903 by the "prolific Scottish architect" Robert Lorimer who added the portico, gateway to the arboretum, large canted windows, and Dining Room wing. Lorimer was also a furniture designer noted for his sensitive restoration work in old country houses and he accompanied Mr and Mrs Menzies on a trip to Paris to advise them on their purchase of the five "very fine" 16th century tapestries around which the richly decorated Dining Room was designed.

Into the 21st Century

"Billy" Menzies died in 1944 leaving a fortune of £1.4-million. He'd buried his eldest son who was killed in France in 1915 and his youngest son had been declared bankrupt at the age of 27 before changing his surname to "Wombwell" on inheriting his maternal grandmother's estate, Newburgh Priory. His successor at Hallyburton was his middle son, William Neil Graham Menzies, who survived his father by less than a year.

From 1945, Hallyburton was managed by William's widow, Joan, until their daughter, Cynthia, came of age. In 1962, Cynthia married Col. Tim Llewellen Palmer and lived between here and Wiltshire, but ran the estate up until her death in 2018. She was the last descendant of Graham Menzies to reside at Hallyburton and as per the terms of her late father's will that allowed for Hallyburton to also pass to any children born to his wife, the estate passed to her half-brother, William Lindsay. Aside from the demolition of the Dining Room wing in 1988 and although some of it has recently been converted into individual apartments for rent, Hallyburton House continues to be a private family home.

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Contributed by Mark Meredith on 13/01/2023 and last updated on 31/01/2023.


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