Kinnordy House was owned by the Ogilvy family in the 1700s, but was put up for sale in 1780 and sold in 1782 to Charles Lyell, an entrepreneur who made a fortune supplying the Royal Navy at Montrose.
The house was large, with a front entrance facing south. An ordinance survey map shows it to have been a solid building with a large courtyard in the centre, probably accessed from the north.
This was the house in which Charles Lyell II lived. He translated the work of Dante, and was a notable botanist of his time. Money became an increasing issue, and he insisted that his sons needed to support themselves. Charles II died in 1849 in his eighty first year, and his son Charles III, the famous geologist inherited the house, and the estate was managed by the Trustees of the late Charles Lyell, who were the seven Lyell children. Sir Charles (as Charles III then was) appears not to have moved in to it, but to have rented the property to various people, including a Mr Webster who, having taken the house, then refused to pay and was taken to court, and a Sir George Beresford who was pretty mean to his staff.
Sir Charles Lyell died in 1875, and left the house to Leonard Lyell, a nephew. He moved in in July that year, and was welcomed with a triumphal arch built from evergreens in a hurry, a band, dancing, cake, wine and great celebration. The Kirriemuir Annual Games took place a few weeks later in front of Kinnordy House.
In 1876 Leonard Lyell unexpectedly inherited Pitmuies estate to the east. With the house came a large sum of money, and by 1879 Leonard started to demolish most of the existing house – described as making extensive additions and alterations – using Mr Wardrope, architect, of Edinburgh, and local tradesmen. The building work took two years, and in August 1880 all 150 people engaged in the rebuilding sat down to an excellent meal, know as the “Founding Pint”. The date on the top of downpipes of the new house is 1881. The new entrance is at the east of the house, the main room is the very grand south facing library, and internally there are two courtyards. The builder, Mr Watson went to law because he claimed he had not been fully paid for ‘extras’. This case went to the highest court in Edinburgh, where the case went against the builder.
The new house was on the same footprint as the old one, and the back of the courtyard was retained. Although the house was lavish, some old doors were reused, and some of the tiles around the fireplace were also old.
The family spent a great deal of time in Kinnordy, and were part of the local scene. Lady Lyell was very keen on the Kirriemuir Young Women’s Christian Association as well as the anti-drink organisations. She was instrumental in raising money to employ a local district nurse and supported many local groups. Leonard Lyell became MP for Orkney and Shetland for 15 years. Three children were born to the Lyells, Nora, who emigrated to Canada, Nellie who married Archibald Langman and inherited the Balintore Castle and Estate, and Charles, the grandfather of the present Lord Lyell and Patrick Gifford who currently lives in Kinnordy House.
During the early part of the twentieth century the young Charles Lyell became liberal MP for East Dorset, and then later, South Edinburgh. He enlisted at the beginning of the first world war, was badly injured in 1916, and was sent to America as the assistant military attaché where he died in 1918. He left a widow, a son, Antony, and daughter, Letty who all took an active part in the activities of Kirriemuir.
Leonard Lyell died in 1926, Antony married Sophie Trafford in 1938 and their son, the present Lord Lyell was born in March 1939. Antony Lyell was killed in action in 1943, and mother and son lived at Kinnordy House for the next 70 odd years, continuing to be involved in the life of Kirriemuir.
In October 2013 Lord Lyell moved from the Mansion House, and Patrick and Mary Gifford moved in, to be joined in 2016 by Antony, Jo, James and Rory Gifford. The house has undergone great changes recently, with the introduction of central heating and potable water. The walled garden is being restored, and the house was enlivened by what is hoped will be the first of many Chamber Music Festivals in April 2016.
Sadly Lord Lyell passed away in January 2017.