Melsetter House

Melsetter House is a private home overlooking the bay of Longhope. The current house was built, incorporating an earlier property, in the late 1890’s by the famous Arts & Crafts architect William Richard Lethaby; the garden is reputed to be one of the oldest in Orkney.

Melsetter was originally the home of the Moodie family who owned much of Walls from the late 1500’s until around 1820; the Moodie burial place is in the Longhope Cemetery below the RNLI Memorial.

30 thoughts on “Melsetter House

  1. The Moodie family are my forebares through my paternal mothers line. I carry the middle name of Heddle which was a former surname within the genealogy believed to have come from the Vikings of the Heddal valley in Norway.
    I would like to come and visit sometime in the foreseeable future. I hope this would be acceptable.

  2. Hi Ewan!
    Thought you might be interested with these details if you don’t have them already. I too hope to visit Melsetter House & Burial place on Hoy in July 2016 as I believe my ancestors are connected to. Cheers.

    Henrietta Heddle (born Moodie)
    Circa 1794 – Melsetter, Orkney, Scotland
    July 2 1833 – Edinburgh, Scotland
    James Moodie, Elizabeth Moodie (born Dunbar)
    … Moodie, Thomas Moodie, Donald Moodie, John Wedderburn Dunbar Moodie, Jessie (Janet) Nicholson (born Moodie), James Wedderburn Dunbar Moodie

    • They are definitely related. I will get my records out at the weekend and share which are. I know we have cousins in Dunbar whose name is Robertson.
      You my like to connect via email so I can send you more details.

    • Hello fellow Moodie relatives
      My name is Michael Vallance Newlands.
      I reside in Toronto Canada. My Grandmother was Mamie Moodie daughter of John Moodie.
      John Moodie was a very prominent Hamilton, Ontario entrepreneur and was the first owner of an automobile in Canada.
      My great grandfathers parents immigrated from Scotland and I have some documents supporting this which I would be glad to share

  3. Melsetter House is a private home but is open to the public by appointment only, please call 01856 791352 to arrange a visit.

    • We will visit Scotland during October 2020.

      Do you have an email address where we can contact you?

      Is Melsetter House still closed to the public?

      Kind regards

      Benjamin Moodie

  4. Our family is related to the Moodies through Susanna Strickland, who married John Moodie. My wife and I had the pleasure of having a meal with Elsie Streeter at Melstter in September, 2011

    We are told that Elsie died recently, and would love to see her obituary, as she was the de facto custodian of the various Moodie properties on Hoy

    • Hi Peter,
      I’m was interested to see your comments as my 2 times Great Grandfather was James Moodie born 1850 and married Elizabeth Sutherland but she died after they had a daughter, Isabella Sutherland Moodie. I know his father was John Moodie and think his mother was Barbara or Elizabeth Dunbar. I haven’t the family tree with me atm so can’t look at the details. Both James Moodie and daughter Isabella came to Australia in 1890 era and he remarried to my 2 times Great Grandmother, Jane McCall on 25 December 1895 in Brisbane QLD Australia, from memory. I would like to learn more about the Moodie family from Hoy as we were told the family came from there although I believe James Moodie was born in Thurso. We visited last year FNS and went over to the Orkneys but hadn’t allowed enough time to get to Hoy as it isn’t easy to access. If anyone has a Moodie family tree to share that includes James Moodie born 1850 I would be extremely pleased to see it. With thanks.

      • Hi Peter,
        Just saw your comments when I was looking for info on Melsetter House.
        Henrietta Moodie (father Major James Moodie 1757-1820 and mother Elizabeth Dunbar 1760-1789) was my g-g-g-grandmother. She married Robert Heddle of Cleats (1780-1842). Her daughter Elizabeth Dunbar Heddle eloped at 16 with John Heddle Traill and had two children, dying at only 21. One was my g-g-grand mother Henrietta Traill and the other was Henry Traill who went to Australia and part founded the Sydney Bulletin amonst other things.
        I have more Moodie family tree if you want it.

  5. My wife Mary Jane Tobiason is the daughter of the late Arthur Harold Moody of Michigan. As we believe Mary Jane is related to the Melsetter Moodies, we visited the Library in Kirkwall where we found a great book on the Moodies written by Elsie. That lead us to a visit of Melsetter and the Moodie Mausoleum in 2009. Elsie gave us a tour of Melsetter. Sorry to hear of Elsie’s passing. A Robert Moody of Scotland was a Quartermaster on Captain James Cook’s second exploration of the Pacific. Wonder if he is related to the Orkney Moodies?

  6. Very sorry to hear Melsetter House is no longer open (by appointment) to the public. Should that change – or should you be willing to consider a visit at any time, please could you let me know? I would be keen to visit as part of any group (Historic House Assoc etc.) which might take place. Many thanks, T

    • Hi Toby,

      We have been informed that Melsetter House is closed to the public for the foreseeable future, however, if things change, we will endeavour to keep people updated via our website.

      Kind Regards


  7. Hi
    My name is Thomas Moodie from Greenock , and i am trying to trace my family tree, my fathers name was william and my mums annie, it has took me to orkney , i wonder if you could point me in the right direction and some info on the anything that might be helpful

  8. I am so disappointed that Melsetter House is closed. My family is closely linked to the Moodie trek that settled in Rhodesia, and named their town Melsetter, in the 1800s. I was just in the process of making travel arrangements to visit Orkney and Melsetter….

  9. Hello Lavinia Vaughen
    My g g grandmother was also Henrietta Traill. I met a Vaughen lady at a house sale years ago who said the Vaughens were related to me. My grandmother was Brenda Traill Skae, sister of one who married a Vaughen. When visiting Orkney a few days ago I had fun at the Family Archive at the Library in Kirkwall, discovering that Elizabeth Heddle Traill had eloped with her cousin – I don’t think I found out she was only 16 and died at 21! Sadly I never got to Melsetter.

    • Hi Fiona, I am connected to the same family, but from another part of the world.
      Your grandmother Brenda, was my G G Grandfather’s sister. He was Walter Traill Skae, and he had gone to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), to work in a tea estate, and sadly died very young at age 22 years. He is buried at the Holy Trinity Church in Nuwara Eliya, as church records show. I have connected with Lavinia Vaughan (thanks to DNA testing) and this was confirmed, after some research.
      If you do have more information about his family, I would appreciate it. Lavinia Vaughan has been very helpful and has also given me some information.
      Thank you.

  10. I used to visit Hoy as a child and we stayed in the Lodge to Melsetter House. At that time (1960s) the family in the house were Seatters, the farm was run by Groats. Are these families still on Hoy?

    • Yes both families are still on Hoy.

      Melsetter inspired a poem by Yvonne Gray which was set to music by Lawrence Rugg & is performed by Haey Sound choir made up of Hoy residents. Here are the words.

      May Morris of Melsetter
      Yvonne Gray

      Those high gables I remember like so many waves and a courtyard sheltered from the wind and weather of a passing world.
      That green slope on the edge of the great northern seas!
      The air so pure, the light so clear the clutter of the mind fell away.
      Space grew till we felt on breath’s rythmn the patterns of seasons and hours, eternity’s weft gently drawn through the warp of time.
      In the morning we worked outside the Spinning Cottage,
      The courtyard echoed laughter then the closing of a door,
      But with my yarns rooted in this warp beam new tones meld and harmonies grow.
      I still form with a thinking hand.

  11. Hi Mandy Snook,i must be one of your long lost cousins,we are not certain but we believe that three brothers came from Thurso one went to Rhodesia – the other 2 came to Australia. One moved to Victoria Australia and the other to South Australia. We have completed a family tree as much as we can and have a document which relates us to Robert The First The Bruce King of Scotland 1274-1329. It also documents the Moodie Family it is quite a remarkable piece of history. We would be able to forward a copy of this document should you require. My grandfathers name was Alexander George John Moodie his father was Sinclair Moodie –

  12. I am hoping someone will be able to help me identify more about my ancestors and whether my Moodie family were ever connected to the Moodie of Melsetter on Hoy.

    This is what I know of my ancestors. I have managed to traced back to William Moodie born 29 September 1751 in Dunnet, who married Margaret Louitit, born 11 March 1758 in Stromness, Orkney Island.

    My line appears to come down through their son James Moodie born 11 March 1797 in Dunnet who married 15 November 1823 in Olrig to Elizabeth Taylor born 8 December 1797, parents John Taylor & Helen Bain. James Moodie died on the 3 Dec 1876 and his wife Elizabeth died 24 November 1886, both in South Dunn, Watten.

    Children from that Marriage were:
    Son William born 24 July 1825 in Olrig
    Daughter Helen born 8 July 1827 and Christened 20 July 1827 in Olrig
    Son James born 3 July 1831 and Christened 13 July 1831 in Olrig
    Son John born 25 November 1833 and Christened 5 December 1833 in Olrig
    Son Alexander born 22 June 1838 and Christened 4 July 1838 in Olrig
    Daughter Margaret born 8 September 1841 and Christened 3 October 1841 in Watten.

    It would appear the family had moved from Olrig to Watten between 1838 and 1841. I was also told that one of the sons had a daughter Helen named after her great grandmother Helen Bruce but I’ve not found her birth.

    My ancestry line then runs from the fourth son John Moodie born 25 Nov 1833 in Olrig who married on the 13 February 1854 in Watten to Elizabeth Sunderland, born 5 May 1828 in Reay. I am told that John Moodie was a farmer. John died on the 17 April 1909 in Olrig and his wife Elizabeth had died before him on the 1st July 1898.

    I do not know how many children they had but I do know my great grandfather James Moodie was born on the 8 February 1857 in Bradbsterdorran, Bower, Caithness and he married Barbara Sinclair Smith, but I don’t have those details. They had a child Isabella Sinclair Moodie, known as Bella, who was born in 1881, and then in 1882 James Moodie and his infant daughter Isabella arrived in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia on the 21/08/1882. I am told his wife Isabella died soon after the birth of their child in 1881. James remarried in Brisbane on 25 December 1889 to Jane Ward McCall, born in Cumberland, UK . James died in Brisbane on the 26 January 1931 aged 73 years.

    I found it interesting to read that Major James Moodie, 9th Laird of Melsetter had an illegitimate son named James Moodie with his partner who was also Elizabeth Taylor, but that son James was killed in action at the attack on Leghorn.

    I would be so grateful to learn more if any other Moodie is connected to the family information I have shared.

    With thanks.

  13. My grandfather, James Robertson, was a farmer on the Melsetter Estate in the early 1900’s. His farm was Heathfield, the house (which I call my ancestral home!) is now derelict.
    I still have his rent book, showing the rents he paid to Melsetter.
    Is there anyone who keeps a ‘museum’ of Melsetter effects who may be interested in this?

  14. Hello All, As a postal historian I collect old letters. Yesterday – continuing my COVID19 clean-up! I came across a scruffy old item I had yet to write-up. It had a scarce faint KIRK/WALL cancel (ie in two lines) used between 1769 and 1797 and it was addressed to
    at Mrs Strachan’s,
    Bristo Street
    This early letter is unfortunately missing the correspondence part and as ‘private’ did not have the usual notes written by lawyers or bankers and dates etc. The Edinburgh ‘receiving’ mark is April 25 but at that time no year was used in the cancel. However this particular mark is only recorded from late 1781 AND the the letter was charged at 6d a rate for Kirkwall to Edinburgh only used from late 1784 (Raised from 4d) until January 5th 1897 (Raised to 7d).
    Thus this letter was sent between 1785 and 1796 (which fits nicely with Lavinia’s notes) to “Major?” James Moodie. Probably sent by a family member to James who was travelling.
    Can any of you help narrow further the likely year ie when did he get his military title? or why he was in Edinburgh.
    Bristo Street was just north of the Meadows in the old town, Edinburgh and has been lost during redevelopment. Anyway I can try and find out if anyone has heard of any other correspondence – or knows anything about Mrs Strachan’s boarding house.
    Can send a scan of course if told how! I found this chain while looking for Melsetter.
    However I have no connection to the Moodie family – but thought this might be of interest to you.
    Keep safe
    Willie King, Scottish Postal History Society

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