Gruline House

Gruline House

Library Lachlan & Elizabeth Macquarie Room Banner

Lib_LER_GrulineHouse           Photograph: Robin Walsh (June 1996)

History of Gruline House

Ownership: Lachlan & Elizabeth Macquarie

List of Gruline House Owners 1785-2011

Groundfloor Plan of Gruline House


Within the grounds of the original land purchase stood a small house built of local whinstone rubble known as Gruline House. It was erected c.1780 and is shown as an improved farmhouse on George Langland's map of Argyll published in 1801. The building still stands beside the modern Gruline House, built in 1861, but is no longer able to be used as a dwelling - its principal use has been as a storage area for farm implements, paint, and general hardware.

We know from a letter of Elizabeth that the condition of the building was quite unsatisfactory:

'At last on 19th January (1824) we went home to our truly uncomfortable house, which did not afford one dry room and of so small dimensions that it did not admit of a room which could be appropriated to the General's exclusive use; he sat in the dining room where he was constantly disturbed by us all so that he could not even write a letter in comfort. The rain and wind blew in at the door and sometimes the fire was blown out of the grates.'

Click here for a transcript of more complete extracts from the original 1825 letter by Elizabeth Macquarie.

It was not until Lachlan Macquarie's absence in London on business in April 1824 that Elizabeth was able to start making improvements to the house and the estate. These included the erection of an entrance-porch (now removed), and the addition of a south wing, which was roofed in May 1824. It was probably at this time that the parlour was lined with oak and pine panelling.

In the original arrangement the ground floor appears to have contained two main rooms: the parlour room, and the kitchen, flanking a central staircase. However when the south wing was added, one end of the kitchen was partitioned off to form a corridor. Upstairs there were four main rooms, as well as a smaller one located near the rear of the staircase.

Unfortunately all this activity to improve the living conditions of the house was largely in vain - Lachlan Macquarie died in London on July 1st, 1824 without ever seeing the results of his wife's efforts:

'I commenced building, making new roads, clearing ground, new plastering, furnishing the house inside, and attempting to repair it so as to keep out the wet; but all that had failed. I never saw such a house, the walls are like wet sponge; in winter, everything from the most minute to the most important, was all done in the happy anticipation of his return. I had the rooms and porch built-little thinking that the body only of my beloved was to occupy the apartment, I was so busy preparing for his use. Had he lived to come home I think he would be better pleased with me than he ever was before, for considering the season of the year, the distance from every material, and the shortness of the time, certainly the exertion that was used and the success that attended it was extraordinary.'

His body was taken by ship to Mull and buried on his estate. The family tomb is now administered by the National Trust of Australia (with assistance from the National Trust for Scotland).

Ownership: The Mqcquarie Family Era

The ownership of Gruline House and the 'Jarvisfield' estate in the period from Lachlan Macquarie's death in 1824 until the mid-nineteenth century is a convoluted tale of indebtedness and legal controversy. For while Lachlan Macquarie made adequate provision for his's wife Elizabeth and his son Lachlan, the land purchases that had been built up by Lachlan Macquarie and his younger brother Charles nevertheless left a legacy that led to legal disputation between various branches of the family; and in the fullness of time resulted in the loss of all the land holdings outside the family, and the dispersal of Lachlan Macquarie's personal papers and effects.

In 1802 Lachlan had acquired 12,063 acres for £10,060 and this land included Gruline House and the 'Jarvisfield' estate surrounding it. When he left Britain in 1809 to take up the position of governor of New South Wales Lachlan had granted his brother discretionary powers regarding their adjoining estates. During his absence Charles acquired (in 1817) at Lachlan's request an additional 10,000 acres (approx.) for £20,500. This brought his total land holdings to 21,128 acres and meant that Lachlan had spent £33,000 to become one of the principal landowners on Mull. However when he returned to Britain in 1822 he discovered that in fact he possessed only a paper fortune - the land that had been acquired on Mull was largely infertile, and the tenants were too impoverished to pay their rents. Bitter and disillusioned Lachlan realised that he had been ill served by his brother's financial judgement and that he would be unable to carry out the improvements that he had long envisaged for his 'Jarvisfield' estate. From the outset it had only been his intention to reside in Gruline House temporarily - while he built himself a new mansion-house, or a small castle, at an estimated cost of £5,000 to £6,000. Now, however, with his fortune dissipated, he was forced to live in the damp and leaking stone cottage known as Gruline House.

The frustrations over his financial state underpin much of the determination with which he pressed his case with the Colonial Office for the provision of a pension for his retirement; and it was for this reason that he travelled to London in April 1824. Unfortunately, he died there, on July 1, without the issue being completely resolved.

Lachlan Macquarie's last Will was written in Sydney on 28 March 1815, with two codicils of 28 September 1816 and 10 February 1822. It was registered for probate on 25 September 1824 (Scottish record office: SC 51/32/2) Probate was granted on 29 November 1824 to Elizabeth Macquarie, Charles Macquarie, and Sir John Campbell of Airds.

In the Will Macquarie settled all his estates on his son Lachlan and his successors He further stipulated that any man who married a female heir was to assume the surname Macquarie and to bear no other. If there was no direct issue from his son, the properties were to devolve upon Charles Macquarie and his children. Then in turn to the Maclaine cousins at Lochbuie, followed by whomsoever was next of kin. The Will named Elizabeth, Charles, Sir John Campbell (Elizabeth's brother) and James Drummond (8th Viscount Strathallan) as executors and also appointed Strathallan as guardian of Lachlan Jnr.

In 1824 Macquarie's assets were estimated at £4962. This included arrears of rent, stock, farm implements, buildings, furniture, household items, bank deposits and accumulated interest. Lachlan had stipulated that Elizabeth would receive an annuity of £300 per annum for the rest of her life, and that Gruline House belong to her as a Dower House. In addition he left her the £700 bequeathed to her by her father Sir John Campbell of Airds (She also received £4,500 from the sale of Macquarie's military commission to a son of the Duke of Sussex).

The Will also provided:

  • £100 to Jane Jarvis Maclaine (daughter of Murdoch Maclaine, Laird of Lochbuie)
  • £100 to Charles Macquarie Jarvis (his godson, the son of his brother-in-law Major George Ralph Jarvis)
  • £30 per annum for his sister Betty Macquarie (wife of Farquhar Maclaine)
  • £20 per annum for his sister-in-law Margaret Campbell (widow of Lt. Col. Campbell of Glenfeachan)
  • £25 per annum for his servant George Jarvis (who had served him as his personal servant since 1795), as well as the guarantee of lifetime accommodation at Jarvisfield.

The Will provided no benefit to his tenants, to any charitable institution, or to any colonist in New South Wales.

Three months after his death Elizabeth sought legal advice concerning a number of matters arising from her husband's Will. This advice was noted within two memorials. The second memorial prepared by John Hope the Solicitor-General for Scotland (dated 6 October 1824) and referred to as the 'Supplementary Memorial and Queries for the Executors of the late General Macquarie' lists eight issues that needed to be resolved regarding the estate and the concommitant legal responsibilities and entitlements.

One section is of particular note (pp10-13) in that it confirms evidence available elsewhere that the extensions and renovations carried out on Gruline House in May - June 1824 were completely on the initiative of Elizabeth Macquarie and that her husband Lachlan was completely unaware of this expenditure and activity.

"While Mrs Macquarie is satisfied that she has no claim either in Law or in equity to the beforementioned sum of £700 there is another sum to which she conceives she has some right, the particulars of which shall soon be mentioned previous to their leaving New South Wales - Mrs Macquarie disposed of a valuable Gold Watch, a diamond ring, and other trinkets for which she had then no farther occasion she had also while abroad two riding horses for her own exclusive use which were sold and the price of which General Macquarie desired that his Wife should consider as exclusively her own property - the General having received the proceeds of these horses and trinkets immediately on his arrival in Great Britain insisted on Mrs Macquarie's acceptance of £450 to be appropriated to her own exclusive use and actually paid that sum into a Bank upon a receipt in her name which he delivered over to her and desired her to use as she thought proper - - The use which Mrs Macquarie made of this sum was this as they had soon the prospect of removing to Mull she wished to give her husband the agreeable surprise of funding their Cottage at Jarvisfield suitably furnished and ready for his acceptance & accordingly the whole or nearly the whole of the above sum was expended by her in this way & and it will be satisfactory for her to know whether she has now any Claim against her husband's Executors either for the above sum or for the furniture at Jarvisfield in the purchase of which it was expended."

The claim for reimbursement of £450 for the extensions and renovations to Gruline House was disallowed by the Solicitor-General, but he did agree that there was a claim entitlement for the cost of the furniture.

A claim was made for the provision of funds for the erection of a new mansion house and offices at Jarvisfield (Query 5) but this was disallowed. However two other claims in the document were allowed: (Query 6) funds could be drawn to finance improvements to the estate, such as fences and roads; and (Query 7) the sum of £300 was permitted for the erection of a family mausoleum at Jarvisfield.

Between 1824-1828 Elizabeth lived a frugal existence in Surrey, and later, Middlesex, while Lachlan Jnr attended school at Woodford. Each summer she took him back to the estate on Mull. At the same time she was engaged in a protracted battle with the officials in the Colonial Office concerning the allocation of a widow's pension and the publication of her late husband's rebuttal of the charges made against his administration of New South Wales in the Bigge Report. As a matter of principle she steadfastly refused the pension offered until there was official acknowledgement of her husband's governorship. Finally on 25 June 1828 the documents that had been prepared by Macquarie in 1822 and 1823 and sent to Earl Bathurst were published as a Parliamentary Paper (Report and a Letter Relating to the State of the Colony of New South Wales 1828 (477) Vol XXI pp1-68) and she accepted a pension of £400 per annum.

In the same year she learned that her favourite friend Miss Henrietta Meredith had bequeathed her £2000 as well as a small house in London at 58 Upper Charlotte St near Portland Place. She lived here throughout 1828-1829 while Lachlan attended school in Finchley. In 1830 she moved to Aberdeen where she rented a house for six months at Sunny Bank (at 7 guineas a month). In 1831 Lachlan (now aged 16) insisted on joining the army and Elizabeth purchased an ensigncy for him in the 42nd Regiment. He joined his regiment at Birmingham and she returned to Mull to take up residence at 'Jarvisfield'. She found that conditions on the estate were far from ideal; for although she had the use of Gruline House for life, James Drummond (8th Viscount Strathallan, and guardian of Lachlan) insisted as a trustee that she buy her cattle from Macquarie's estate whenever she wanted to stock her farm.

In 1827 she gave power of attorney to Richard Fitzgerald over her shares in the Bank of New South Wales and the livestock that she had left on Henry Antill's property at Picton. He ascertained that she had £500 in the Bank and that her stock stood at 950 head of cattle. Between 1829 - 1835 Fitzgerald sent her £869 (approx. £145 per annum).

Elizabeth Macquarie died peacefully at Gruline House on 11 March 1835 (at 2 pm) aged 56.

List of Gruline House Owners 1785-2011

Copyright © 1996-2011 Macquarie University. All rights reserved.

Back to Main Menu

Content owner: Library Last updated: 05 Sep 2019 11:23am

Back to the top of this page