Sir John Leng and Kinbrae House

Sir John Leng
Kinbrae House in snow
Kinbrae Fete 1901
Poster for 1935 Kinbrae Fete
New Kinbrae Park Housing
Waterstone House, later the Leng Home
Leng Chapel Vicarsford
Kinbrae House

John Leng came to Dundee from Hull in 1851 to be editor of the Dundee Advertiser (now the Courier). He was also the founder of the Evening Telegraph and the People’s Friend. He first lived in Wellgate House, now 78 West Road, but by 1870 he had amassed enough money to build the mansion of Kinbrae. It was a magnificent house set in equally magnificent grounds, with extensive lawns, fountains, stables and glasshouses. Between 1889 and 1906 he was Liberal MP in Dundee, and he was knighted in 1893.

John Leng the Employer

John Leng was a most enlightened employer, frequently rewarding his employees. This is perhaps best illustrated by the extravagant jubilee fete he hosted at Kinbrae in 1901 to celebrate his fifty years at the helm of the Advertiser. Six hundred guests, employees and their families, crossed to Newport from Dundee on the specially chartered and decorated ‘Fifie’, to enjoy an afternoon at Kinbrae. The visitors were welcomed by Sir John and Lady Leng, they had the run of the extensive gardens, they had a meal with silver service in a marquee, and for entertainment there was the Mars band, a choir and a conjurer. Sir John Leng is perhaps most widely remembered today for the Leng Medals which are awarded annually to school pupils for solo singing of Scots songs.

Kinbrae after John Leng

John Leng died in 1906 and eventually the house came into the hands of the Dunn family. William Dunn lived at Kinbrae until the 1950s, and his son John Dunn was Provost of Newport from 1952-55. Like John Leng the Dunns were staunch Liberals. The fete/garden party advertised here was organised in 1935 by the local Liberal party in aid of the National Governments which were in power throughout the 1930s.

The new Kinbrae

In post-war Britain it became much more difficult to maintain such buildings as Kinbrae, and like so many other similar mansions at the time, Kinbrae House was demolished around 1960. After its demolition, the town council organised the building of Kinbrae Park housing estate in the early 1960s. When the estate was completed, it was considered so successful that visitors from many other local authorities came to view it.

Leng Home and Seymour

John Leng’s son, Dr William Leng, built Waterstone House,  called Highfield at first. When he died in 1952, his family gifted it to Fife County Council as a retirement home. It opened as such in 1955, re-named the Leng Home. John Leng’s older son, John Adam St Quentin Leng, built his home in Newport too. This was Seymour, at the other end of the village. A family home until after World War II, from 1949 until 1989 Seymour operated as the Seymour Hotel, before becoming a care home, first the Seymour, now Riverview Lodge.

The Leng Chapel

The Leng Chapel is on a hilltop, two miles south of Newport. It was built by Sir John Leng between 1895 and 1897 as a memorial to his first wife Emily. This beautiful building has an inscription to Lady Leng on one wall and a memorial to the five Newport men who gave their lives in the Boer War.

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