Kingsmeadows House

Grateful thanks are due to Sandra Whitnell for her lecture to the Clan Hay Society on Sir John Hay and his spares.  The intriguing title comes from the old adage that a peer or chief should have ‘an heir and a spare.’ just in case some mishap befell the elder son.  In Sir John’s case, he produced no fewer than 15 ‘spares,’ 11 of whom survived into adulthood (unusual for the time), made beneficial marriages that filled the family coffers and opened up further and better social connections, and led useful careers in the army, navy, business and the law.

The family descends from the only son of the third Lord Hay of Yester’s second marriage.  They acquired the small property of Smithfield from the third lord’s marriage with the Dickson heiress thereof, and that estate would provide the territorial designation of the baronetcy created in 1635 for James Hay, who had been Esquire of the Body to King James VI.  Sir John, the subject of Sandra’s lecture, was the sixth baronet.

Sir John Hay of Smithfield, sixth baronet

Sandra is a local historian of Peebles and its environs, who has a particular interest in Kingsmeadows House, the magnificent Georgian seat built by Sir John on the proceeds of his very successful banking career.  He built the house in 1795 as a grand country mansion so typical of the period, to replace the 17th century Haystoun House, hitherto the principal seat of the family, which was relegated to the status of a farmhouse.

Alas, Sir John’s track record for creating prosperity and producing heirs did not pass to his descendants and the baronetcy came to an end within four generations, with the death of Sir Bache Hay of Smithfield, 11th baronet, in 1966.  Kingsmeadows had been sold earlier in the century and the family returned to Haystoun.  in 1966.  His cousin and predecessor, Sir Duncan Hay, 10th baronet, had no children and left that property to his niece, the wife of the well known politician Viscount Whitelaw.  Haystoun remains in her family’s possession.

Kingsmeadows was acquired by Standard Life, a large Edinburgh insurance company, who used it principally as a record repository.  It was sold in 2011 to a local property developer, which led to grave concerns locally about what would become of it.  Ambitious plans for a grotesquely unsympathetic redevelopment of the site were vigorously resisted, ultimately successfully.  Instead, the house has now been divided into apartments, in a tasteful development in keeping with the original property, so it once again fulfils its purpose as a family home.