Gruline House Owners

Gruline House Owners

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The Macquarie Family Era (1803 - 1845)

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 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 1803 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 situation underpinned 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.

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 1825 -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 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 of the colony. 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 ensignancy 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 the 'Jarvisfield' estate whenever she wanted to stock her farm.

In 1827 she had given 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 old Gruline House on 11 March 1835 (at 2 pm) aged 56.

The ownership of the Jarvisfield estate passed to Lachlan Macquarie Jnr. in 1835 and remained his possession until 1845 when he died prematurely at the age of 31. Controversy and court challenges over the provisions of his Will complicated the transfer of ownership until November 1851 - when William Drummond, 9th Viscount Strathallan was confirmed as the owner of the estate. Isabella Macquarie [nee Campbell of Jura and Craignish], widow of Lachlan Macquarie Jnr, retained Gruline House as a dower house until 1860.

The Mather Era (1961-1990)

Mather, Eric James (Bob) (1907-1992) - MBE, TD.



Portrait of E. J. Mather. 
Held in private collection. 
Used with permission.

Eric (Bob) Mather joined Radnor Estates in 1933 and worked in their office at Folkestone, Kent for about a year. After this he became Resident Agent at Longford Castle, Salisbury, Wiltshire. However, with the outbreak of war in 1939, he joined the British Army and served with the Royal Regiment of Artillery [Service No: 86533].

Commissioned: 2nd Lieutenant (Royal Regiment of Artillery); Captain: 25 August 1939; Major (Acting): 23 September 1943; Major (Honorary): 11 February 1949.

During WWII he was on active duty in North Africa (Algeria and Tunisia) and Italy. He was awarded an MBE (Member: Order of the British Empire) for gallantry and distinguished service in the protection from attack of Allied aircraft, runways and facilities. Later he received the Territorial Decoration (TD) - a United Kingdom medal awarded for long service in the Territorial Force (and its successor, the Territorial Army).

After the war he returned to Longford Castle as Chief Agent. In 1961 he acquired the ownership of the Gruline Estate on the Isle of Mull from Mrs. Sheila Riddell Martin (nee Lewis). At this time the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland was preparing an inventory of historic sites in Argyll. As a result an historical analysis (with drawings and photographs) of the original Gruline House was completed for publication:

Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. 
Argyll: an Inventory of the Monuments. Volume 3: Mull, Tiree, Coll & Northern Argyll.
Edinburgh: HMSO, 1980.

In 1965, after representations from the NSW Government and the Bank of New South Wales, Bob Mather offered, as a gift, the walls and fittings of the original parlour room of old Gruline House to Macquarie University. As a consequence, the oak panelling, windows, doors, shutters and fireplace were removed from the building, and after conservation work in Edinburgh the consignment was shipped to Australia in 1967.

In 1990 the ownership of the Gruline estate passed to Nichola Harmer, daughter of Bob Mather.

Gruline House Owners c1785-2011
- a listing of the history of ownership of Gruline House for the past 200 years.

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

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