Steedmans of Kinross - a story of Success, Prosperity, Loss and Continuity.
Lies and Religion
But – let’s start off with something more mundane!
many of you have seen the sign, or even been to visit, the Hayfield Wildlife
Do you know that it exists because a man called John Steedman, who died
in 1800, left his entire estate for the relief of the poor of Kinross
Parish? This is known as the Hayfield Mortification and it still exists
today – and is still helping people in Kinross.
A new booklet has just been produced by Kinross Museum to tell the story
of this Steedman family – who were very influential in Kinross in
the 18th and 19th centuries. An oral history refers to them as the aristocrats
of the county. At their height there were 19 branches of the family –
and they were engaged in almost every occupation – most notably
as the Sheriff Clerk of Kinross – a powerful position in the county.
The aforementioned John Steedman was a linen manufacturer in Kinross who
never married. His home was Hayfield House, built by his father, James,
and it was the divorce of James from his first wife, his cousin Janet
Steedman, because of her adultery with the then Sheriff Clerk of Kinross,
which elicits the title of this article! It was a very acrimonious affair
and made legal history – with the case going all the way to the
House of Lords and this is detailed in the new booklet.
John left his property to the poor of Kinross because he felt that ‘it
was a duty incumbent on every person to give to the poor as far as his
circumstances allow’. In 1800 there was no Welfare State but this
is an idea that is still very relevant today.