Colour photo showing the front of the rectangular gothic building

About a mile south of Duff House, in a very peaceful location looking over the river, is a Mausoleum built in 1792 by the 2nd Earl Fife, initially for his parents, but now with possibly 21 residents, including the first five Earls.  The sixth Earl – who became the first Duke of Fife – was buried at Mar Lodge on Deeside, another of what was the Duff family properties.

The Mausoleum is a rectangular “gothic” building, with stone latticed windows and a slate roof.  When a restoration was done in 1912, one of the reasons apparently was that the then stone tiled roof was leaking, and the slate roof was put on top to make it weathertight.

Other work in 1912 included filling in the crypt.  As you enter through the main door in front of you are three large stones in the floor which cover the steps that went down.  There was then an aisle running left and right, with a total of 22 shelves, in pairs, for coffins.  The only location known of any of the listed incumbents is the First Earl and his (second) wife Jean, who are in the northeasterly corner, looking out over the river.  His son, James the 2nd Earl, had them brought to the Mausoleum from Rothiemay once the Mausoleum was completed.  William the first Earl Fife never lived at Duff House in his lifetime – although he had it built – but has been here now for 228 years!

A list of people buried in the crypt is incised in stone just inside the door; this lists 19 people.  It does get a bit confusing because two other lists have been printed in history books, and all three are slightly different.  If the lists are combined a total of 21 people are spending their time in the crypt.  Monuments to many of them adorn the inside of the Mausoleum itself.  The first Earl’s at the east end is made of Coade stone – refer to the separate “story” of 16-Sep-19 for more information.  A number of excellent examples exist around the Mausoleum, but the first Earl’s tomb is marred by the crest at the top being damaged by rusting – and hence expanding – supporting metal work.

Originally the windows were filled with coloured glass; years ago fragments could be found on the ground outside, and some remnants can still be seen in the stone tracery.  In 2016 a small amount of restoration was done described well by the notice posted at the time:

Please take care around this building as work is underway,

Unfortunately we must repair the damage without further delay,

We do not mean to disturb your visit and would like you to know,

Just what it is we need to fix and how about it we might go.

The window has been vandalised and the tomb is a little green,

The gate is rather rusty and needs much more than just a clean,

So please excuse us while we work, we won’t take too much time,

But watch this space and soon the building will be looking mighty fine.

And indeed, the conservation contractors for Aberdeenshire Council, did a great job.  The building was plenty fine enough for a tea party with Their Graces The Duke and Duchess of Fife in 2017 !

A “story” about the Provost Douglas tomb on the outside south wall was put on this site on 11-May-19.

The Mausoleum is normally kept locked, but can be viewed during the grounds guided tours from Duff House (but not during Covid!) or in mid-September for Doors Open Day.  For 2020 the latter was a virtual experience and a short Mausoleum video narrated by the Duke of Fife can be seen and heard at https://youtu.be/9koNx6v5Z6A

Portrait of George Robinson
A portrait of Provost Robinson
George Robinson (1743-1827), Provost of Banff 

In 1817 George Robinson, the greatest of Banff’s Provosts, after 34 years of running the town’s affairs, presented the Head Court with a statement of what had been achieved in that time. It was an impressive list, and what was more, everything was costed, and the town was still solvent. 

Not everything had been plain sailing. His first move in 1785 had been to arrange for Banff to have its own Customs House, because until then every boat had to send an officer overland to Aberdeen to get the paperwork signed (that meant an overnight stay in those days). This excellent move was thwarted because Banff had two rival earls, each of whom wanted the right to appoint the local exciseman, and we had to wait till these two earls were dead in 1807 to find a compromise, and get our own Customs House. 

Other reforms came more easily. There was a new east quay at the harbour, a grand new parish church, new meal houses in the (Old) Market Place, and a new town house and jail. There were new turnpike roads, and the new entry to the town along Bridge Street. There was a new water supply for Banff. They put a new upper storey on the Academy, doubling its size. After the high tides of 1807, which washed away the shingle bar across the river mouth (it came back) there were new sea defences on Low Shore. Also money was laid out to bribe fishermen with boats and free houses, so that they would settle in Banff, hence the Seatown, as Banff became a fishing port. By matching funding, the Council had got a major public grant to enlarge the harbour further.   

Almost all of this had gone through on the nod. The Deacons of the Incorporated Trades would sometimes look at the accounts, hoping to save public money. Provost Robinson had found himself again and again defending the meagre pay given to the schoolteachers. As he said in his statement, “To that system which prevails in Scotland, and by which even the most indigent may receive the benefit of a classical education, is to be ascribed the pre-eminent success of our countrymen in all parts of the world.” He was right, and he had been a very effective Provost. At the north end of Low Street is the arch built for the entrance to the New Market, with his name on it.