We have lived in Ardconnel House since April 2012. Prior to that it has had a variety of owners, some of whom operated it as a small guest house and others simply made it their family home. The house was built in 1890 and the first owner was James Hugh Kerr, a local Solicitor, who bought it for £750.00. Ardconnel is therefore late Victorian era, and between 1906 to 1996, which is most of its lifetime, the house was called ‘Umaria’, which is the name of a town in Central India.
Prior to 1890, the land was owned by The Seafield Estate and in the hallway we have The Original Full Charter with Warrant of Registration as presented by The Right Honourable Caroline Countess Dowager of Seafield with an original wax seal and stamped with the date 15.05.1890.
The front lawn was originally a tennis court and as you walk past neighbouring buildings, including the Craiglynne Hotel, (which was originally three individual houses), you will see that they have very flat lawns, all of which were tennis courts.
We think that the early owners of these properties would have been wealthy people of the day. Perhaps coming from London or Edinburgh and using Ardconnel and neighbouring properties for Highland holiday homes as made popular by Queen Victoria (Balmoral). They would probably arrive in spring with an entourage such as a cook, housemaid & butler. Staff may have been sent in advance to heat the house and prepare it for the owners arrival. In those early days there was no central heating and all rooms, including the bedrooms, had open fires.
We know that Ardconnel was owned by a Solicitor, a Farmer, a Druggist (Chemist), a Jeweller & Watchmaker, a Fishing Tackle Retailer, a Spinster and a Cement Company Director from Oxford. The Fishing Tackle Retailer was George Grant Mortimer who owned Ardconnel (or Umaria at the time), from 1956 until 1971. Mortimers shop continues to sell fishing tackle in Grantown High Street today.
Some owners would spend the long summer days fishing and hunting and engaging in other oudoor pursuits such as golf, because interestingly, the Grantown Golf Club was also formed in 1890. Skiing in Scotland was not a popular pastime at this time. There is likely more detail available at The Grantown Museum so if you discover anything about Ardconnel House, its neighbours, or how the owners spent their days, please let us know.