Countess of Rothes' old home to be restored

May 12, 2005
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Good news (hopefully!) on the fate of Noelle, Countess of Rothes’ former home, the 17th century Leslie House, in Fife, which is soon to be restored for residential purposes after serving for several decades as a senior citizens retirement facility operated by the Church of Scotland.

Leslie House was recently the center of controversy when the Church forced its elderly residents out of their apartments in order to place it on the market in 2004. The mansion, once part of a 10,000 acre estate that included three parishes, 20 farms and hundreds of tenants, now sits on a mere 26 acres of lawn, garden and woodland.

A few weeks ago, private individuals purchased Leslie House from the Church of Scotland, which had owned the historic property for over 50 years, having received it as a gift from Sir Robert Spencer-Nairn. Leslie House, built by the Duke of Rothes in 1670, was the ancestral seat of the Leslie family, Earls of Rothes, until 1919, when it was sold by Noelle’s husband, Norman, the 19th earl, to a Captain Crundall, a London investor. He later sold the property to the Spencer-Nairns.

As heiress to millionaire Thomas Dyer-Edwardes, Noelle Rothes’ wealth provided for an extensive refurbishment of the 5-story, 30,000 square foot manor beginning in 1904, after Norman inherited it from his uncle. Noelle’s personal touches were an Italian garden and a conservatory. The latter remains in tact, according to the realtors, though it’s in need of restoration. Rhododendrons, which Noelle’s late grandson, Ian, the 21st Earl of Rothes, said were planted by her as part of her original garden scheme, are also still growing on the estate.

On the grounds of Leslie House is the family cemetery, containing the grave of Noelle’s husband. It’s possible that Noelle is also interred there, but this has yet to be confirmed.

Leslie House is located 4 miles west of Glenrothes and 34 miles from Edinburgh. The extent of the present owner’s plans for restoration are not yet known.
 
Mar 15, 2001
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Its good to hear that the home is being restored. I am kind of puzzled that its not known whether or not the Countess is buried there however.
 
May 12, 2005
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Darren wrote: "I am kind of puzzled that its not known whether or not the Countess is buried there however."

Hi, Darren. Noelle Rothes remarried after her first husband, Norman, died, although she retained her title. This, along with the fact that she is not interred in Fairford, Gloucestershire, where she lived her last years, leads one to wonder if she chose to be buried at Leslie House beside Norman. I’m embarrassed to admit I forgot to ask her grandson where she’s buried when I interviewed him. I am hoping to have this info confirmed one way or the other before my article on Noelle is posted here. If any of you out there have this info and you wouldn’t mind sharing it for the article, I would be very appreciative, and more than happy to credit you in the acknowledgments.

Randy
 
Mar 15, 2001
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Randy, I am really surprized that there isn't a photo of her gravesite somewhere on ET, after all she was one of the most well known and fascinating passengers aboard the Titanic. I am interested in learning about her final resting place. Did her grandson have any sons or daughters that you might could ask? You mentioning the home made me think of Charlotte Cardezas home in North Carolina. Greedy developers tore that house down so fast before anyone could make a big deal out of it. It was the most magnificent looking house with fireplaces in every single room of the house what what I was told. Huge oak trees were all over the property.
 
May 12, 2005
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Hi, Darren:

I’m surprised Noelle’s grave isn’t known as well but it’s not. A while ago, I suggested to some researchers that it might be a good idea to look into the possibility of Leslie House as her final resting place, but as far as I know they haven’t done so. (And I mean no criticism — hey, we all lead busy lives, and it’s not like I offered to pay their expenses!)

As to Noelle’s descendants, there is another Rothes grandson still living, I believe, and he may be able to help.

On the other hand, Craig Stringer, who has looked into Noelle’s life quite extensively, thinks it’s possible she’s buried wherever her second husband is buried, but the location of his grave hasn’t been established either. He died in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, so perhaps he (or they) are buried there (?). I’m not much of a gravestone hunter, unlike so many researchers, so it won’t likely be a mystery I will personally solve. But I am anxious to know where her final resting place is. I tend to believe she’s buried at Leslie House, where she and her family were so happy, and where her first love was buried. Have we any Scottish ET members who could help, or someone in England who would like to check this out?

Randy
 
Apr 27, 2003
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Randy - Hi - From my Book 'Titanic Memorials World-wide - Where They Are Located' I have the following:
Rothes, Countess of, Noelle Lucy Martha, (later Mrs. Claude Macfie). First Class passenger. Survivor. 33 years old. Born 25th December 1884 and died on 12th September 1956 and has a memorial in St. Mary's Church, Fairford, Gloucestershire.
also there is a plaque in Prinknash Abbey, Prinknash Abbey, Cranham, Gloucester, GL4 8EX. The memorial reads: ''Noelle Widow of the 19th Earl of Rothes and beloved wife of Col. Claude Macfie DSO of Fayre Court, Fairford - at rest 12 Sept. 1956. Holiness is an infinite compassion for others - Greatness is to take the common things of life and walk truly among them - Happiness is a great love and much serving.''

Fairford is also in the county of Gloucestershire.
Incidentally the book now has over 1,000 memorials listed in 34 countries.
Cheers Brian
 
May 12, 2005
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Hi, Brian:

Thanks for that information. Can you clear up a question for me? I’m confused —— is the plaque inscription you quote on the memorial at Prinknash or in Fairford? I have it down as Fairford.

A thousand memorials? Wow! I had no idea there were so many. Hopefully, you will soon be able to add another to your list. As I understand it, plans are underway at Fort Lee, New Jersey, the original home of America’s movie industry, to unveil a plaque in honor of film pioneer Jules Brulatour and his wife, Dorothy Gibson, whose escape from Titanic may be referenced

I will keep you posted.

Best wishes,
Randy

PS) Hi, Darren -- don’t worry, I’ve made worse spelling goofs!
 
Apr 27, 2003
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Hi Randy The plaque is a Prinknash Abbey and the quote is on the plaque.
I deduce that she Died at Fairford and is remembered at Prinknash.
Its a possibility that she was cremated? I will try and check and let you know.
Good news about the Brulator and Gibson memorial - please keep me informed - I am always delighted to receive any information at all on any memorials new or old.
Best regards
Brian
 
May 12, 2005
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Hello, Brian:

Thank you very much indeed for the clarification! I’ll be honored to credit you in the article.

Which reminds me — didn’t you interview Lord Rothes? I ask you because I seem to recall his mentioning your name. If you did, may I contact you privately and ask you a few questions about your impression of him? I got the idea that while he was very proud of his grandmother, he was a bit uncomfortable (or maybe just surprised?) with people’s interest in her.

By the way, my article, being submitted to ET in two parts, is called "A Matter of Course: The Story of Noelle Rothes, Titanic’s "Plucky Little Countess." It contains my original research but also the work of Craig Stringer, who is a brilliant detective, and without his hawk eye for details and honest advice, I would’ve been stuck in the mud on this subject! I’m pleased with the collaboration and I hope people will enjoy this first in-depth appreciation of the countess, who was a truly remarkable woman.

Again, thanks for your kind help, which I’m happy to acknowledge in the story.
Randy

PS) Here are some links for those interested in Noelle Rothes. This first is a website where you can buy incense from the order of monks who now reside at her childhood home, Prinknash Park:
http://www.prinknashabbeyincense.com/

And here’s a site to order rosary beads and incense made at the abbey in Prinknash:
http://www.shadesoftime.net/gifts/prinknash_abbey_incense_rosary_beads_rosaries.php

And finally, a feature about the abbey itself:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/gloucestershire/content/articles/2005/08/22/prinknash_abbey_feature.shtml
 
Apr 1, 2005
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interesting, but when are property developers ever sensitive to the significance of a building!!. they will only be after the maximum grants involved.i will check it out
 
May 12, 2005
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Hi, Malcolm:

Yes, you’re right about the developers.
It is sad to see this happening to such
an extraordinary historical building.
Thanks for promising to look into the
situation, and your offline offer to take
photos of the estate and (hopefully) of
Noelle’s final resting place there.

Randy
 
May 12, 2005
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Many thanks to Malcolm John Cheape, the maritime artist and grandson of J. Bruce Ismay, who recently visited Leslie House and took the following pictures of the former Rothes estate, now undergoing conversion to modern flats. Other photos will be part of my pending E-T article on the countess:

Leslie House entrance
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"Grip Fast" arms over entrance
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Side view of manor house showing path leading to gardens
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May 12, 2005
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Some more shots courtesy of Malcolm Cheape:

Rear view showing house and conservatory, installed as part of Lady Rothes’ 1904-06 restoration
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The countess’ heavily damaged and vandalized conservatory will fortunately be fully restored as part of the sale agreement
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Another shot of the conservatory
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Sadly, vandals have also had a go at the countess’ Italian garden
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Jul 23, 2008
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Hi Randy

It's far better for this house to be converted for flats than demolished.

Where I live in Surrey so many beautiful old Edwardian and Victorian mansions have been (recently) demolished to make way for the usual crappy 'luxury deveolpments' for the very wealthy. At least with conversion, the essential structure remains. Better that than nothing!
 
May 12, 2005
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Not much remains of Leslie House’s fantastic interiors and decorations, the family’s paintings and other very valuable pieces having been sold over the years (some pictures were auctioned as recently as 2004). Malcolm may want to add more details about the state of the interiors. The following image gives only a dim idea of the home’s former grandeur.

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May 12, 2005
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Hey Anthony:

I’ve come around to your point of view.
Here in America things are torn down and
nobody cares. England and Europe have a
couple hundred years on us when it comes
to appreciating and maintaining beautiful
buildings. The grounds will probably be
substantially altered but the main structure,
as you say, will be saved.

Randy
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
>>The grounds will probably be
substantially altered but the main structure,
as you say, will be saved. <<

That and there's always a chance for the building to be restored to what it once was. A possibilty that exists only as long as the building itself does. It's a shame that it's suffered the damage and neglect that it has.