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Castle Newe: Lost Treasure

Updated: May 18, 2021

Enlarged from a medieval stronghold to a stately mansion house, Castle Newe was once a showplace and a stop for the British Royal Family. Due to heavy financial losses the early twentieth century, the Forbes of Newe were forced to sell off their estates and to demolish the castle.

The lands of Newe (pronounced “nee-ow,” similar to a cat’s “meow”) were owned by two successive branches of the House of Forbes. The original Forbes of Newe is a cadet branch of the Forbes of Pitsligo. William Forbes of Daach (1467-1513) was the second son of William Forbes, son of Sir Alexander Forbes, 2nd Laird of Pitsligo (died 1477.) He married Elizabeth, daughter of John Forbes of Brux. Their son Alexander Forbes, 1st Laird of Newe (died 1561), inherited the estate of Newe from his mother. His grandson, John Forbes, the 3rd Laird (died 1616), built the first house of Newe in 1604 with an old stone bearing his arms and those of his wife, Isobel Burnett of Leys. Unfortunately, the 9th Laird of Newe, Major John Forbes of the British 29th Regiment, became bankrupt. He sold the estate to another member of another branch of the House of Forbes, James Forbes of Seaton.

In the late 18th century, John “Bombay Jock” Forbes (1743-1821) amassed a sizeable fortune from trading, shipping, and banking through his firm Forbes & Company, Ltd., in India. In 1796, he returned to Britain and purchased the estates of Newe from James Forbes of Seaton. When “Bombay Jock” died in 1821, he left his estates of Newe to his nephew Charles Forbes (1773-1849), the eldest son of the Rev. George Forbes of Lochell. “Bombay Jock” also bequeathed Charles funds for the specific purpose of enlarging the family home at Newe, originally built in 1604.

Charles also selected Marischal College architect Archibald Simpson to greatly expand what was to become Castle Newe. In 1811, Simpson had obtained his first country house commission from James Ochoncar Forbes, 18th Lord Forbes, to expand the ancestral Putachie House into the current Castle Forbes. In 1831, Simpson incorporated the old 1604 stone house into a Z-plan castle with square towers similar to Glenbuchat Castle, a 16th-century tower house located in Strathdon. The castle was constructed of reddish Kildrummy freestone in a Jacobean baroque style with round towers and turrets bearing pointed domes.

Sir Bernard Burke reported that: “The architecture is highly appropriate to the situation and the circumstances of the house being in the simple and massive style of an old Scottish mansion, with many gable ends slender towers with pointed roofs and solid and substantial round towers at the corners.” (A Visitation of the Seats of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland, 1855.)

In 1863, Sir Charles Forbes of Newe, 3rd Baronet (1803 – 1877) decided to expand the garden and build a new wall. During the excavation, workers uncovered an underground earthhouse. Inside was a pair of bronze Roman armlets with yellow and red glass crafted 200 AD. The armlets were acquired by the British Museum in 1946.

The Forbes of Newe began to have financial difficulties at the turn of the twentieth century. Sir Charles Stewart Forbes of Newe, 5th Baronet, sold several of the estates in 1900: Delnadamph went to J.J. Moubray , Candacraig to A. F. Wallace, and Deskry to Col Leith of Glenkindie. In 1908, he sold Edinglassie was sold to H.J. Tenant and in 1911 part of Newe itself was sold to A.F. Wallace. Eventually, the Castle Newe and the most of the remaining lands were sold in 1924 to Provost Donald Munro, Banchory. In 1927, the castle was sold to Charles Brand Dundee for demolition.

On the March 15th, 1927, the Aberdeen Press and Journal carried this notice: “Demolition of Castle Newe. For sale – 200 splendid doors of all sizes, 120 windows, wood and marble mantelpieces with grates; stained glass: panelled shutters and other wood fittings: baths: wash hand basins: w.c.sets: NP. Towel rails: radiators; fire hoses: heating and other pipes, boilers and sinks. Large quantity of woodwork of all classes: slates linings pavements: slabs and dressed stonework, sills, lintels, corners etc.”

Fortunately, the slabs and dressed stonework, sills, and lintels corners of Kildrummy freestone were bought by the University of Aberdeen and used to build Elphinstone Hall at Kings College in Aberdeen.

The Forbes family moved into Newe House, which was once the estate’s laundry building. The stone bearing the date '1604' of the original house was preserved and mounted above the doorway of the house.

Sir John Stewart Forbes of Newe, 6th Baronet (1901 – 1984) succeeded to the title in December 1927. Sir John had five daughters with his wife Agnes Jessie Wilson-Farquharson. He died in 1984 before the Succession to the Crown Act 2013 abolished male-preference primogeniture. Therefore, the title of 7th Baronet was inherited by the closest living male, Major Sir Hamish Stewart Forbes, MBE, MC, KStJ. (1916–2007), the great-grandson of Sir Charles Forbes of Newe, 3rd Baronet. Sir Hamish’s son currently holds the title as Sir James Thomas Stewart Forbes, 8th Baronet (born 1957.)

While Castle Newe has not survived, another great tradition has lived on. In 1823, Bombay Jock’s nephew and heir Sir Charles Forbes, of Newe and Edinglassie, 1st Baronet, founded the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society. The Society’s mission is preserving Highland dress and “supporting loyal, peaceful, and manly conduct; and the promotion of social and benevolent feelings among the inhabitants of the district.” The Society was named for the traditional war cry (“Lonach!”) of the House of Forbes. This cry would gather the clan to Lonach Hill, then one of the highest points in the region once called Forbes. The Society produces the annual Lonach Highland Gathering & Games on the fourth Saturday in August.

Learn more about Castle Newe, discover more photographs, and explore its guest book at the online Glenbuchat Archive Library.

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