The history of Aden Country Park is a fascinating one. In this section we will look at early Aden, the Russell family, neglect and rebirth, and Aden Country Park today. A brief overview can be found in the “An Introduction to Aden” leaflet.
The name Aden (pronounced Aa-den), meaning bonnie burn or brae, is first recorded in a New Testament manuscript written by the Celtic monks of Deer Monastery, known as the Book of Deer. King Robert the Bruce gave the Barony of Aden in 1324 to Robert Keith, the Earl Marischal, as a reward for loyal service during the War of Independence and these lands remained in the hands of the Keith’s for almost 400 years. But Aden’s present appearance dates from the ownership of the Russell family.
The Russells (1758-1937)
Alexander Russell, a Banffshire laird from Montcoffer, purchased the estate in 1758, along with the village of old Deer, from James Ferguson of nearby Pitfour. Filled with current ideas of farming ‘Improvement’ he re-organised his tenant farms, planted woods for shelter and built a modest house overlooking the South Ugie River. Succeeding generations of Russells completed the transformation by building the unique steading in 1800, enlarging the mansion (rebuilt in the neo-classical style by Aberdeen architect John Smith) and adding a coach-house and gate lodges in 1832-33.
By late Victorian times, the estate included the lands of Kininmonth and Ludquharn and covered 31 sq. Miles. At Aden, a small army of staff (some of whom you meet in the exhibition!) serviced the mansion house, estate, and needs of the laird. Remains of this lavish lifestyle are still visible in and about the mansion house include an ice house, laundry and even a gasworks!
After the First World War, despite the sale of three quarters of the estate, spiralling maintenance costs combined with falling farm income became a growing burden. Finally in 1937 the last resident laird, Sidney Russell, reluctantly sold Aden, much of Old Deer and the estate’s remaining 52 farms.
Neglect and Rebirth
New owners used the estate mainly for shooting and the home farm and policies were let to local farmers. Instead of the care lavished on the estate by the Russells and their staff, the grounds were neglected and the buildings became derelict. In 1974 Banff and Buchan District Council purchased the Aden site and in 1975 Aden was designated a Country Park. With considerable support from the Countryside Commission for Scotland the mansion house was consolidated and in 1983 the renovation of the steading as a Farming Museum was completed.
Aden Country Park Today
The park also regularly plays host to a variety of different equestrian events and school outings. Children’s play groups enjoy picnics and the play area facilities and there is an annual pipe band competition, vintage tractor working day, Easter egg hunt and Halloween events. Other activities include an orienteering course, feeding the ducks at the lake, and occasional vintage car and bike rallies. The Countryside Rangers Service of course has its natural history cabin and organises frequent activities such as ‘bug hunts’ and ‘fungi spotting’ where they look at the various wildlife habitats throughout the park.
Apart from all these ‘organised’ uses the park itself provides beautiful surroundings simply for enjoyable walking for local residents and visitors to the area. The ruined mansion house creates a great deal of interest as does the fascinating Victorian arboretum which is now being complemented with its 21st century equivalent.
There are a range of photographs available depicting the various stages of the Aden Country Park history and restoration. Some images illustrating the Neglect and Rebirth are embedded below. To see more photos please visit us on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/adencountrypark