Knapsleask Farm, Parish of Slains, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

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Location: Parish of Slains, Aberdeenshire, Scotlandmap
Surnames/tags: Slains Aberdeenshire Scotland
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Knapsleask Farm, also know as Knaps of Leask, in the former civil parish of Slains in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, is located at DMS coordinates 57°22'57"N, 1°57'00"W.

Figure 1. Detail from Ordnance Survey (1896) One Inch to the Mile Maps of Scotland, 2nd Edition, Sheet 87, published 1896. Map centred on Knapsleask Farm in the Parish of Slains, DMS coordinates 57°22'57"N, 1°57'00"W. Reproduced with permission of the National Library of Scotland.

Some previous tenants and occupiers

Alexander Gray and Christian Johnston

Alexander Gray (1713–1804) was recorded as the farmer there when his children with his wife, Christian Johnston (bef.1733–1807), were born there between 1758 and 1773.

George Gray Sr and Mary Ligertwood

Alexander and Christian's son, George Gray Sr (1768-1844) seems to have taken over the farm from his father, and his children with his wife, Mary Ligertwood (1776-1857), were born there between 1800 and 1821.

Financial problems troubled George and his growing family, with a notice to George’s creditors being published in The Aberdeen Journal at the start of May 1811, as follows:

"NOTICE TO CREDITORS. / THE Creditors of GEORGE GRAY, in Knaps of Leask, are requested to meet within the house of James Murray, vintner in Ellon, upon Monday the 6th day of May next, at 12 o'clock noon, to consider the state of his affairs, and to instruct the trustees as to the management and disposal of his estate. / Aberdeen. 30th April 1811." [The Aberdeen Journal, 1 May 1811, page 4, column 3.]

A sale of livestock, farm equipment and furniture and the lease on grassland was held at the end of the month, advertised as follows:

"Sale To-morrow. / SALE OF CATTLE, FARM STOCKING, HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE, and GRASS PARKS, / FOR BEHOOF OF CREDITORS. / To be sold by public roup, at KNAPS of LEASK, in the parish of Slains, upon Thursday the 30th day of May current, / THE FARM STOCKING, Household Furniture, and Effects, upon the said Farm, lately belonging to GEORGE GRAY, now to Trustees for his Creditors, consisting of Cattle of different ages, Farming Utensils, &c. &c. And at same time, will be let for the season, TWO GRASS PARKS on the said Farm. The sale to begin precisely at 10 o'clock forenoon. / All those indebted to George Gray, are requested to pay up what they owe him, to the Trustees for his Creditors, at or before said roup, after which prosecutions will be commenced against those who fail to comply with this intimation. / Aberdeen, 21st May, 1811." [The Aberdeen Journal, 29 May 1811, page 1, column 3.]

The following February another notice to creditors was published, describing George as a bankrupt:

"NOTICE TO CREDITORS. / THE Creditors of GEORGE GRAY, in Knaps of Leask, who have not already lodged their claims, properly vouched, are requested to give in the same to Andrew Mitchell, in Whiteness, one of the Trustees for his Creditors, within fourteen days from this date.—Certifying such as fail to comply with this intimation, that they will be entitled to no share of the Bankrupt's funds realized by his Trustees. / And on Wednesday the 26th curt. at 12 o’clock noon, a general meeting of said Creditors will be held within the House of Thomas Milne, vintner in Ellon, to receive the Dividends, and discharge the Trustees of their introductions. / Aberdeen, 5th February, 1812." [The Aberdeen Journal, 5 February 1812, page 4, column 1.]

Presumably George lost the ownership of Knapsleask, but the family still appeared to be living there when their youngest children, John and Thomas, were baptised in 1817 and 1821 respectively.

Alexander Bruce

The Valuation Rolls show that by 1855, the farm was owned by a Colonel Gordon and tenanted by an Alexander Bruce.

In 1865 the owner was a John Gordon Esq, without a tenant’s name recorded. In 1885 the tenant was Mrs Bruce (presumably Alexander’s widow) and the owner Lady Gordon Cathcart.

Demolition of farm buildings

The farmhouse appears to be extant, but the original farm buildings were demolished around 2014. A Standing Building Survey was completed by Murray Archaeological Services Ltd in 2013. These buildings were described as:

"... a U- shaped steading of three stone-built ranges around an open dung court with entry from the S. Cattle had been housed in the N range. Originally the W range had included a mill, granary, cart sheds and loose boxes. The E range included the threshing barn. The open dung court had been roofed in the 20th century to provide extra cattle accommodation. Knapsleask was a fairly typical Aberdeenshire improvement steading, probably dating from c.1800 with development throughout the 19th and 20th centuries."


  • Hillary K Murray and J Murray, "Knapsleask Steading, Slains, Aberdeenshire, Standing Building Survey," Aberdeenshire: Murray Archaeological Services Ltd, 2013; Archaeology Data Service ( : accessed 25 May 2020). NB: This web page links to the full report in "PDF" format, which contains photographs, ground plans and descriptive text.
  • "KnapsLeask including the Chapel," Ray Leasks Unofficial Clan Leask Website ( : accessed 25 May 2020). Contains photographs and brief descriptions.

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