James Gordon



1812 - 1874






James Gordon of Manar, kindly sent to us by the Fowler family

Elizabeth Cruger (Lumsden) Gordon, wife of James Gordon - photo kindly sent to us by the Fowler family

Elizabeth Cruger (Lumsden) Gordon - photo taken in early 1860s by Camille Silvy

Elizabeth's own handwriting, identical to the writing in the back of the Manar Bible

Elizabeth Cruger (Lumsden) Gordon - photo in the National Portrait Gallery

Believed to be Elizabeth Cruger (Lumsden) Gordon in the 1870s

Elizabeth Cruger Gordon's travelling toilet box

Larger picture of the same

Henry Lumsden 1856 document - father of Elizabeth Cruger Gordon (nee Lumsden) who is mentioned below

James Gordon's wife Elizabeth - her father's will mentioning them both

Details from the 1841 census for Manar

Details from the 1851 census for Manar

Details (foot of page) from the 1861 census of Manar

Details continued (top of sheet) from the 1861 census of Manar

Midmar Castle, where Elizabeth Cruger lived until her death in 1911

Her unmarried daughters, Annie and Alice, lived with her there

When James Gordon of Manar died in 1874, his wife Elizabeth moved out

James's widow Elizabeth in old age at Midmar Castle




James Gordon

James Gordon was the first child to be born at the newly-built Manar on 10th September 1812. He was in fact the second child of Hugh Gordon and Elizabeth (Forbes) Gordon, but the first child - Hugh (1808-1809) - died in infancy.

A further son William also died in infancy in 1815, but the fourth son Hugh (born in1816) would go on to emigrate to Australia and establish the 'new' Manar in New South Wales in 1841, as well as the huge family of Gordons descended from him, who can be viewed on the family tree. This branch of the family is described in great detail in 'The Gordons of Manar in Australia' by Mac Gordon and Simon Kelleher. A further son William died at school at Elgin Academy in his teenage years. James also had four surviving sisters, and a fifth who died in infancy.

Before turning to James Gordon of Manar, it is interesting to consider his younger brother Hugh. When Manar was inherited by James at the age of 21 in 1834, Hugh followed the example of his father Hugh Gordon of Manar and looked abroad for a new life of his own. As mentioned on the page about his father, there was a growth of trading links and family networks that operated in India, China and Australia. The period from the 1790's to around 1840 were years of special opportunity, before industrial British trade started to dominate.

The sons of the neighbouring Leslie family of Wardhill followed these routes of opportunity overseas, with the eldest son William Leslie going to Canton, and the younger son Patrick setting sail for New South Wales in 1835. The next year, 1836, the young Hugh Gordon set sail for Sydney with letters of introduction, and befriended Patrick Leslie there. Three years later, in 1839, the two youngest Leslies, George and Walter, arrived in the colony. A few months later Hugh Gordon sailed temporarily to China for his health, staying first in Manila, and then with William Leslie in Macao. Back in Australia, two of the Leslies and Hugh all married daughters of Hannibal Macarthur. These women were grandchildren of a New South Wales Governor, so the young Scots were marrying into influential positions in the young colony. In 1841 Hugh Gordon had the new Manar built, and from these beginnings, hundreds of Gordons have subsequently been descended.

Turning to the eldest Manar Gordon, James, he attended Marischal College in Aberdeen but did not take a degree. For a while he worked in a writer's office in Edinburgh, which may have trained him in good future business habits. he seems to have been a generally serious-minded and assiduous man, gaining respect in the farming community. Having said that, the Leslie Papers - letters collected by William Leslie of Warthill - suggest another side to him, enjoying the good life and "hunting in style with Lord Kintore". In 1836, though he had by then inherited Manar, we know he was a Land Tax Commissioner for Aberdeenshire. That year, on 13th September he married Elizabeth Cruger Lumsden (born on 22nd June 1816), from the well-established family of the Lumsdens of Clova and Auchindoir. The two families - Gordon and Lumsdens - had a close association and kinship through the these years. James' sister Anne married Elizabeth's brother Harry Lumsden of Clova in 1841 (he died in Hastings in September 1851 at the age of 33 and Anne died there the next month aged 29).

In 1841, the Census of that year shows James and Elizabeth living at Manar with two children and seven servants on site. The family of one of these servants, William Gordon, contacted me recently, telling me he worked for many years on the estate variously as a coachman and butler. James' mother Elizabeth (wife of Hugh Gordon of Manar) is not present, so may have moved away in widowhood to live with her own (Forbes) family.

James and Elizabeth endured many family tragedies, with one child dying in infancy, one in childhood, and two in the teens. The family was also devastated by the death of the eldest son and heir Hugh, who fell ill (as an Ensign in the 90th Light Infantry) at Lucknow in India and is believed to have died from a severe bout of sunstroke on 26th May 1858 at the age of 19. With the death of their son James two years later, this meant that the inheritance of Manar would one day pass to the only other surviving male - Henry Gordon (of Manar) who was born on 21st January 1848.

James was often not in good health, and from 1842 to 1844 he resided in Madeira, where his son James was born (sadly this son died seventeen years later). After that he lived chiefly among his tenants and took a keen interest in agriculture. He was a Conservative in politics and a member of the Established Church of Scotland.

We know that, like his father, James Gordon of Manar was supportive of relatives in times of trouble. James's sister Anne had married Harry Lumsden, and both had died in 1850. So James took in the orphan infant, Catherine Lumsden (Kitty) and she grew up at Manar, before going to Clova to keep house for her brother later on (see Kitty's recollections here ).

In 1851, the Census of that year shows James and Elizabeth living at Manar with daughter Elizabeth (10) and son James (7) being educated at home (sadly both of them were to die in their teens), and Anne and Henry were also present in the house as infants. The eldest son Hugh is not present, and may have been away at Elgin Academy. Also present on the day of the Census were a governess, a nurse, a cook, a housemaid, a nursery-maid, a stable boy, and a gamekeeper.

In 1861, the Census of that year shows the butler and his wife living in the Gatehouse, and in Manar House itself, James Gordon of Manar and his wife Elizabeth (now in their late 40's), along with Anne, Henry, Mary and Alice, all of whom would live for many years to come. Also staying at the House on census day were two visitors, and nine servants. In separate accommodation the census reports four more servants, and at Home Farm a shepherd and four ploughmen.

James is reported (unclear whether this was hagiography, but the reputation sounds genuine) to have been a devoted and respected landowner and agriculturalist. His estate was extensive and productive. By 1845 it consisted of 2883 acres, of which 664 were first quality arable, 1043 were second quality arable, 391 were pasture, 384 were moor, 280 were moss and moor, and 59 acres were wood. These lands brought in a rent of £1185 a year. Labourers pay was about £30 a year. Each year the Manar Estate produced on average 2188 quarters of oats, 650 bolls of potatoes, 190 acres of turnips, 5299 stones of hay, and 484 bushels of rye-grass. On the estate there were 82 horses, 468 cattle, and 60 sheep.

He continued his father's protective care of relatives and gained a reputation for the good husbandry on the estate. However, his health deteriorated and he and his wife Elizabeth spent periods abroad to try to improve his health. We have photographs of them both, taken in Menton on the French Riviera. The publication of Winter and Spring on the Shores of the Mediterranean (1861) by the English doctor James Henry Bennett had a profound effect on Menton, making it a popular destination for sufferers of tuberculosis. Whether James Gordon of Manar had tuberculosis is not known, but the book may have influenced their decision to go there.

James Gordon of Manar died on 17th June 1874 and was buried in the Polnair Burial Ground on the Manar Estate.

Inscription on Tombstone: "To the beloved memory of JAMES GORDON of Manar whose remains lie here Born 10 Sept 1812 died 17th June 1874. His chosen motto was “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” To God whose grace made him a joy and blessing to his family. And an influence for good in a wide circle be the praise and glory through Jesus Christ."

His wife Elizabeth survived him for many years, living at Midmar Castle with two of her daughters who looked after her. Kitty (Catherine Lumsden) the Lumsden orphan who had been grown up under James Gordon's kindly guardianship later said: "Henry Gordon had succeeded his father at Manar. I do not remember hearing if Aunt Gordon (James's wife, a Lumsden), and her two daughters Annie and Al, went at once to Midmar Castle... or whether they went abroad for some years." In fact, three weeks after his father's death, Henry Gordon had got married, so it was a time of change at Manar. From a distance, Elizabeth Cruger (Lumsden) Gordon took a continuing interest in the servants at Manar. We have a letter written by Elizabeth in 1910 - the year before her death - to James Fowler who had been a servant at Manar, in which she reports her poor health but writes religiously about salvation and grace, and takes a kindly interest in her former servant's family. She finally died on 2nd January 1911 and was taken to Polnair in the snow for burial there. The Aberdeen Journal on Wednesday 04 January 1911, p4, reported:

"GORDON - At Midmar Castle, Aberdeen on 2nd January 1911, Elizabeth Cruger Lumsden, widow of James Gordon of Manar, in her 95th year. Funeral to Polinar burial Ground, Manar on Friday 6th January. Friends will please meet at Bridge of Don, Inverurie. Carriages at Inverurie Station on arrival of 2.06 train. No flowers, by special request."

The two unmarried daughters, Alice and Anne, moved from Midmar Castle that year, to Craigrannoch in Torphins, where Colonel James Morrison (in an article in 'The Leopard') recalls them being religious, retaining "a fairly high standard of Victoriana" in dress and lifestyle, with a cook, housemaid, table maid, and gardener. They vividly recalled the death of their brother at the siege of Lucknow, and in later years championed and locally organised the Poppy Appeal, inviting local children to tea to receive their collecting tins: "A dozen boys and girls would be summoned to Craigrannoch for the distribution of tins and poppy boxes and for a delectable afternoon tea - scones, crumpets and cream cake, made by the magic hands of the resident cook. Miss Anne poured tea from beautiful silver teapots into Meissen teacups which, dispensed with a certain amount of vibration, caused our childish minds an element of mirth." They would send Christmas parcels to their nephew Henry Robert Gordon and his family, into the 1940's, dying in 1942 within 12 weeks of each other. They were the last surviving members of James Gordon of Manar's children who knew Manar in its heyday, and they are buried in the Gordon Burial Ground at Polnair, alongside their mother and father.

Collated and summarised by Susannah Clark, 15th October 2017

(Great-great granddaughter of James Gordon of Manar)






Aberdeen Press and Journal - 24th June 1874



Mr Gordon was undergoing business training in a writer’s office in Edinburgh, when the sudden death of his father, in 1834, called him to the duties of a landed proprietor. He cultivated taste for agriculture, farming a considerable extent of land near his mansion-house; and his practical education fitted him to take an active share in the public business of the parishes with which he was connected, of the Garioch district, and of the county. In politics he was Conservative, but some of those most antagonistic to him in their views of public questions were his most attached friends. In his early years he was keen sportsman, few equaling him in skill and in knowledge of the habits of wild animals. He continued to be game preserver, but was no unpopular one. His game did not go to the market, and a large share of it went to his tenants, his numerous work-people, and sick or otherwise needy families about Inverurie.

Mr Gordon was married to the eldest daughter of the late Henry Lumsden, Esq. of Auchindoir, and had a large family. Several of their children predeceased him, his eldest son (Mr Hugh Gordon, of the 90th Regiment), having died of fever at Lucknow during the suppression of the Indian mutiny. He is succeeded by his third and only surviving son, Mr Henry Gordon, who, as has been mentioned, was immediately to have been married to a daughter of Vice-Chancellor Sir Charles Hall, when the sudden illness of his father called him to discharge first the most painful of filial duties. Mr Gordon was interred yesterday within the ruined walls of the old Chapel of Polinar, which stands in a retired spot by the side of the Don on his own estate of Manar. The great esteem in which he was held was evidenced by the large number who assembled from far and near to pay the last tribute of respect to his memory. As they laid him in his quiet resting-place, it was felt by all that truly "a good man had gone home.”


The New Statistical Account of Scotland (1845)

Volume XII - Aberdeen

Parish of Inverury


'The Earl of Kintore holds nearly one-half of the burgh lands. The other burgh heritors are fully 100 in number. Of the landward heritors, Mr Gordon of Manar alone is resident. His mansion lies three miles west of Inverury; it is situated on the southern face of the hill of Manar, and has the Don in view at a distance of 500 or 600 yards, is well wooded, and completely sheltered on the north and west. The house is modern, and is at once substantial, comfortable, and commodious. On the lands of Manar the now ruinous chapel of St Apolonarius, the patron saint of the parish, stood. The farm is hence, by a corruption, called Polander. One of the two annual fairs, formerly held in the parish was called Polander Fair; the other, on the 8th of September, was called Latter Lady Day, from being held on the anniversary of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin. To Mr Gordon now also belong the lands of Blackhall and Conglass. In reference to the former, it is said, in the View of the Diocese of Aberdeen, already quoted, "Blackhall, formerly the seat of the Blackhalls of that Ilk, but since purchased by Thane of Blackhall, and now, 1726 sold to one Grant." '


Valued rent of James Gordon's properties, as of 1840s, was: £504.







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