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9 Jun 2017

Homecoming for historic map

A Chimney Map dating from the 17th century has returned home to Castle Fraser.


Paula Swan: I first saw this map about three months ago, when I was down in Edinburgh, but I had only just found out about it a month before so it was all very new, very exciting. It’s not fully complete, so there’s parts missing, but actually that’s the most beautiful thing about it as actually you start thinking about what could have been there. Every time you look back at it you can see something new.
Robert Paterson: Back in 1988 we bought the house from the Castle Fraser estate. It needed a lot of work so we employed some builders. During the removal of the ceiling in one of the downstairs rooms this map fell into the room. Fortunately one of the builders had the common sense to notice that there was interesting writing on the map, or this thing that was on the floor, and bundled it up and took it off site. But I never knew about the map until recently. So most of the work done by Claire Thomson at the National Library took place in 2016. I’m absolutely amazed by the quality and the detail that is on the map. And I’m amazed at the patience that Claire showed in restoring the map because some of it was in appallingly bad condition. You know, you see such a lot of interesting detail of the coastline of countries and how much they knew about them in 1640 and 1680, and the ship battles you see, and the names of some of the places. I could spend hours just looking at small parts of that map. It’s fascinating.
Paula: I feel amazing that this map is coming back to Aberdeenshire. Originally when I heard about this map I never believed that a) I’d ever see it or b) that I’d actually start a fantastic friendship and partnership with National Library of Scotland, so it’s brilliant.

An incredible map dating from the 17th century has returned home to the Aberdeenshire estate where it was discovered in the 1980s.

The ‘chimney map’ is now known to be one of only three created by Dutch engraver Gerald Valk. It was found in Drumnahoy House, which was at the time part of the Castle Fraser estate. The rare piece was in very poor condition and was thought to have been stuffed under floorboards close to a chimney for many years. It was eventually taken to the National Library of Scotland where it underwent intricate conservation work and then went on display in Edinburgh.

National Trust for Scotland Property Manager at Castle Fraser, Paula Swan said:

We are honoured to welcome this amazing map back to the Castle Fraser estate. It is a fascinating piece and of such historical significance. We are very grateful to the National Library of Scotland for giving us the opportunity to share and celebrate this fascinating story with visitors this summer.

A lady stands beside an old map on a plain wall.
Paula Swan, Property Manager at Castle Fraser

Drumnahoy House owner Robert Paterson and his daughter, who slept in the room where the map was discovered, were at Castle Fraser to welcome the map back to Aberdeenshire which was piped into the castle.

Robert said:

‘I am absolutely delighted that the restored chimney map is coming home to Aberdeenshire for display. The chance discovery of the map - hidden in my home for so many years - and its subsequent restoration make for an interesting story. However, it is really the quality and detail of the map which takes your breath away. I see something new every time I see it, whether it is the intricate coastlines, lakes and rivers, or the finely drawn pictures of plants, animals, people, ships and cities. Looking at this map is a hugely rewarding experience and one that I will always treasure.

How the map came to Aberdeenshire is unclear. One theory is that it was owned by Andrew Fraser, the 4th Laird who was known to have Jacobite sympathies. The map shows William and Mary, so would have been controversial at the time, and may have been hidden away. It is not clear how he would have paid for such an expensive item though, as the estate was in dire financial straits at that time.

The map will be on display at the historic castle throughout the summer. The team at the castle will be working with local schools and the community to uncover more of its fascinating story over the coming months.

Two people carry a large, old map between them, as they walk through a room in a castle.
The chimney map from the 17th century

The National Trust for Scotland is working in partnership with National Museums Scotland, Royal Collection Trust and Historic Environment Scotland on a tourism initiative supported by VisitScotland.

On the Trail of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites encourages people to get the real story of this dramatic period of Scottish history by visiting the National Museum of Scotland’s major summer exhibition, Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites (23 June–12 October), and then heading out across the country to visit some of the places where these remarkable events unfolded. In all, 25 properties with a Jacobite connection feature in the trail, including Castle Fraser.

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