Carronhall

Before 1749 Carronhall was known as Quarrell. It lies to the north of Carronshore and the estate was bounded on the west by Stenhouse, on the north by Kinnaird, east by Westerton and south by the River Carron. Quarrell is an old Scots word for a quarry – usually a stone quarry – and the place is first mentioned in 1425. The old quarry was located to the north of the house of Quarrell and was evidently the source of the building material for several houses in the area and probably for Bothkennar Church. Latterly, in the 1760s, Carron House was built for Charles Gascoigne using this stone as well as some from Kinnaird to the north.

The first family associated with Quarrell was that of Redheugh and in 1468 it passed to the Bissets by marriage. Some time before then Skaithmuir and Quarrell had become part of a single estate in the lordship of Herbertshire, but by the mid 16th century the Elphinstone family held the superiority of Quarrell and Easter Skaithmuir whilst that of Skaithmuir was part of the barony of Straiton in East Lothian. John Bissett sold his property to James Elphinstone in 1603-1610. Despite Quarrell being the larger estate it appears that the principal residence lay at the mid 16th century tower at Skaithmuir and it is noticeable that Pont’s map of the 1580s shows a small tower house at “Skemures” but only a ferm toun at Quarrell. Skaithmuir Tower contained an inscription “1607/ L A E . D / I LE ,” for Alexander, 4th Lord Elphinstone, and Dame Jane Livingstone, his wife. This suggests that they initially lived there. Before long, however, the Elphinstones decided to construct a larger more modern house adjacent to the hamlet at Quarrell.

Illus 2: Pont’s Map of the Quarrell area.

We do not have any detailed descriptions of the building and so it is necessary to conjecture from what little we have.  It appears that the large tower house at Quarrell was typically L-shaped in plan with the main block aligned roughly SW/NE and a wing extending north-west from the northern corner.  The main block was four storeys tall with thick stone walls.  At each of the corners of the wall-head there would have been a small corbelled turret, though only that on the western corner survived later alterations and was drawn by J Fleming for his 1902 book.

Illus 3: Fleming’s Drawing of the Turret on the corner of the original tower. To its left is the circular stair tower and beyond that a later extension.

Fleming considered one of the oldest structures at Quarrell to be a “chapel,” though this seems unlikely. His description is ambiguous and so worth quoting:

“There is also an out-house, now used as a wine cellar, in the west wing. It is the ancient chapel, 16 feet by 16 feet, with courses of freestone forming its barrel-vaulted roof, supported by four broad ribs, and being entered originally by a small staircase from the north. Its only window is in the east gable, and has been converted into the door to the cellar.”

The accompanying illustrations show the interior of the “cellar” looking north to the blocked door with the window on the right, and an exterior view of the window arch. This arch would be more appropriate for a doorway.

Confusion arises over the location of this cellar as there was no west wing and it is hard to see it as having been part of an “out-house.” It is possible that this was the ground floor room of the wing of the tower house which, given the orientation of the building, just might be called a west wing. This is where we would expect the kitchen to be located and the blocked doorway in the drawing looks like it may have given access to a mural stair to take the food up to the hall on the first floor.

In the re-entrant angle between this wing and the main block there was a circular stair tower which would have contained the main entrance at its foot. The northern orientation of such doors is common in the area and is found nearby at Stenhouse which was erected at about the same time in 1622.

In 1628 excessive rain caused the peat bog at Woodside to float away. It cascaded onto the carseland at Quarrell, inundating the arable land and causing much destruction to crops. Houses and steadings were buried under layers of peat. Coal mining on the estate had been going on since the beginning of the century and much of the coal was exported from the harbour at Quarrellshore (Carronshore).

The first mention of the mansion at Quarrell comes in the Register of Sasines in 1685 confirming Michael Elphingstone in the lands of Quarrell and Easter Skaithmuir “with the manor place and pertinents” (notes from John Reid). This document also mentions “all and heall the rowmes heich and laich called the New Houses of Quarrell leatlie built be the deceast Sir Robert Elphingstoune of Quarrell his faither adjacent to the old housses on the east syde of the samen and the Back Orchyeard lyand on the north syde of the Pleace of Quarrell near to that piece of grass called the Knowes their.” The Knowes are presumably the landscaped remnants of the old quarry. It would seem that this reference is an indication that the hamlet was being rebuilt a little farther away from the big house. The meal mill for the barony was on the Chapel Burn at Skaithmuir.

The main road north from Carronshore to Airth, known as the “Longdyke,” ran to the east of the mansion at Quarrell and a drive from it approached the house from the south-east. At its junction with the Longdyke, on the east side, was a large rectangular doocot belonging to Quarrell. Its form suggests that it was a lectern style doocot of the 17th century. The road was used to take coal from the Quarrell estate to the harbour on the River Carron at Quarrellshore (later renamed Carronshore) and this brought a steady income and much needed ready cash. The harbour attracted a small settlement and by the end of the 17th century it was an important seat of commerce. Harbour and village belonged to the Elphinstones, who also had the right to operate a ferry across the river there. In 1700 Richard Elphinstone of Quarrell entered into a legal agreement with the owner of the estate on the south side of the river, James Guidlet of Abbotshaugh, “not to claime any interest of ferrie boats passing betwixt the Coalshoar of Quarrell and the lands of Abbotshaugh excepting a boat for himself and his family and friends.”

Coal was also being extracted from the Kinnaird estate to the north but its owner had to carry it across the lands of Quarrell in order to get it to the private harbour on the River Carron for export. So, on 21 September 1667, a contract was entered into between Sir Robert El¬phinstone of Quarrell and Alexander Bruce of Kinnaird granting the latter full power and liberty to lead and drive his coals from his coal hills and coal haughs in Kinnaird through the lands of Quarrell and Skaithmuir to the pow and shore of Quarrell. For this privilege he had to pay the sum of four shillings Scots money for each chalder of his coal so to be transported. The roads used were known as “coal gates” and there were two of these, called the Easter and Wester Coal Gates, the former leading by the eastward of Quarrell house and the Longdyke, and the other through the township of Skaithmuir on the west. These “common coal cart roads” were opened by the proprietor of Quarrell and were his own private property.

The Elphinstones had been to the fore in rebuilding the parish church at Larbert and in the remains of its east wall is a blocked up entrance 5ft 6ins wide supporting a massive stone lintel bearing in relief two groups of initials S/RE and D/EC and the date 1663. The initials are those of Sir Robert Elphinstone, second of Quarrel, and his wife Dame Euphame Carstairs. In 1680 the family donated two communion cups inscribed: “CALIX USUI PIO IN AEDE SACRA DE LARBAR INSERVIENS QUEM DONO DEDIT JOANIS ELPHINSTOVN DNI ROBERTI ELPHINSTOVN DE QVARREL EQVITIS AVRATI FRATER GERMANVS, 1680.” Sir Robert Elphinstone gifted a silver bread plate to the church in 1683, engraved: “EX DONO D. ROBERTI ELPHINSTONE DE QUARREL EQUITIS QUI XIV. CAL. SEXTILIS ANNO SALUTIS MDCLXXXIII. OBIT. IN USUM PANIS EUCHARISTICI ECCLESIAE LERBERTIANAE MRO, ARCHIBALDO MUSHITE CURAM GERENTE.”

In 1725 Robert Elphinstone sold the lands of Quarrell and Skaithmuir to John Drummond and his wife, Agatha Vanderbent. John Drummond was a Scottish banker, merchant and the Member of Parliament for the Perth Burgh from 1727 to 1742. In 1691 he had moved to Amsterdam where he became a successful merchant and banker and he married Agatha Vanderbent of the Netherlands. Drummond returned to England, and was a Commissioner for regulating English trade to the Spanish Netherlands from 1713 to 1714. In 1722 he became a Director of the East India Company and assistant of the East African Company. He became Director of the Royal Exchange Assurance Company in 1726. He was not short of money and in 1735 started to make alterations and enlargements to the house at Quarrell using plans by James Gibbs who was one of the leading architects in Britain at the time. Gibbs was from Aberdeenshire and one of his first commissions had been for the Earl of Mar. He travelled to Rome and was a great advocate for the Classical style of architecture, publishing several influential books on the subject. John Douglas acted as clerk of works on the site at Quarrell.

Illus 5: The Old Tower of Quarrel after the 1735 conversion, looking south-west from the garden (Fleming).

The main block of the tower house was gutted and converted to serve as a hall with a grand staircase. A tall arched window was inserted into the east wall to light the stair. The battlemented wall-head was replaced by a large cornice and the fenestration was altered. The stair windows and doorways were given keystoned arches, whilst the smaller square windows on the south-east façade and the rectangular ones on the north-east facade were framed with moulded margins and consoled sills. The channelled quoins on the south façade formed pilasters and were reflected by the stonework on the front of a projecting flat-roofed porch.. A large extension to the north provided additional accommodation.

The hallmark of Gibbs’ design was the construction of pavilions to frame the south façade.  Such pavilions with link walls to the main block were very much in vogue at the time and created an open forecourt with a carriage turning area.  At Quarrell the pavilions were of a modest size being of two storeys with harled rubble walls and channelled quoins and piended slated roofs.  The main facades had four windows – the upper ones being typically square. 

Illus 6: Carronhall looking north showing the pavilions either side of the main block.

The pavilions were set slightly back from the sides of the main block so that the connecting walls were at an oblique angle.  A gateway in each of these walls provided access to the gardens to the rear.  The main garden had probably lain to the east of the house since its construction in the early 17th century.  A terrace was created between the east pavilion and the north wing with a flight of stairs to the formal garden.

After John’s death in 1742 the property passed to his nephew, George Drummond of Blairdrummond, who had no interest in the estate.  He sold Quarrell to Thomas Dundas (II) junior in 1749.  Thomas Dundas junior was the son of Thomas Dundas (I) senior of Fingask and Bethia Baillie of Castlecary.  Thomas and Bethia had bought the lands of Powfoulis in 1730, naming them “Fingask” after the hereditary lands of the Dundas family in Perthshire.  In 1732 this and the lands of Letham were erected into the barony of Fingask.  Letham, to the north-east of Quarrell, became their family home.

Thomas Dundas younger paid £7,000 for the lands of Quarrell which marched with the lands of his father.  The lands of Quarrel comprehended the old barony of Skaithmuir, with its mill and lands, and manor place of Quarrel, the shore of Quarrel, now Carronshore, with coal field and buildings at the shore, shore dues, and passage boat, together with “right and title to the coal hewers and coal burners working and serving in the present going coal, or which belong to the said coal, and may at present be serving in any other coal.” 

Illus 7: 1862 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

Illus 8: Freestanding Sundial at Carronhall looking south-west with the house in the background.

Thomas Dundas and his second wife, Lady Janet Maitland, renamed Quarrell house as Carron Hall, and started making further alterations.  He was a wine merchant and his younger brother, Lawrence Dundas, made a fortune as Commissary General for the British army, eventually buying Kerse House in Grangemouth.  It was probably Thomas and Janet who extended the gardens to the east.  A large walled garden and orchard was placed between the formal garden and the Longdyke road.  The tall perimeter walls were of random rubble but the north wall was lined with brick on its south side to absorb the heat of the sun.  Thomas Dundas succeeded his father in Letham in 1762 and it was probably then that the sundial there was moved to Carronhall.  It dated to 1717 when Letham was owned by the Hamiltons.

The same year that Thomas bought Carronhall he also purchased Torwood.  This included the farms of Todhill (47 Scots acres), Kingside (70), Knowehead (70) and Langlands (43).  Torwood Castle was not used as a residence at that time.

He was quick to carry out agricultural improvements and to exploit the mineral wealth of the coalfield.  The establishment of the Carron Company in 1759 had a dramatic impact upon the whole area and upon Carronhall in particular.  The works devoured huge quantities of coal and production was stepped up.  The coal at Carronhall and Kinnaird was particularly suitable for the blast furnaces.  In 1760 the empty tower at Skaithmuir was used by Thomas Dundas to house a Newcomen steam engine for the Quarrole Pit and a shaft was placed just 6ft to the south of it.  This “fire engine” was used to pump water out of the pit at a time when there were fewer than 20 operating in Scotland.  Thomas Dundas also owned much of the colliery’s workforce who were still classified as serfs.  In 1760 the colliery employed 31 miners as well as the two enginemen, two gate keepers, wagon fillers and drawers.  Carron Company took a lease of the colliery in August that year for a period of 99 years at £600 per annum or one sixth of the coals wrought.

Illus 9: Roy’s Map of c1760 showing the Quarrel area before the establishment of the Carron Ironworks. The Wester Coal Gate can be seen extending from near “Coallier Raw” past Skaithmuir and the “Engine” to Quarroleshore (Carronshore). The Easter Coal Gate from Kinnaird to the Longdyke was temporarily out of use at the time and is not depicted. The gardens can be seen to the east of Carronhall.

The tack included  the fire  engine  with  all its utensils and new boiler,  smith’s  forge,  stables, wright’s  shop  and  shades, and other houses at the engine,  the  oncost  men’s houses,  all the colliers’ houses, the pits, the drawing engine, the  waggons, the  waggon road from the pits to the harbour and from the engine,  liberty  of the harbour for shipping coals and quay for laying the same there.  Carron Co also had “the priviledge of making a waggon road between their furnaces and  the Harbour  thro’ the grounds of Quarrol & Skaithmuir, As also a waggon road  from Kinnaird Coal Pits to their furnaces and to the Harbour, with a fold there  and the liberty of shipping Kinnaird Coal: no demand being  made of the 4  per chalder for Kinnaird Coals passing thro’ Quarrol Coal Roads or grounds, in terms of  the contract with Kinnaird: For which waggon roads & c two hundred pounds sterling yearly is demanded with forty shillings Sterling for the acre for  the quantity  of ground occupied by the roads & coal fold at the Harbour“.   

The  coal  lying under the  house,  offices  and garden  of  Carronhall was exempted from the contract, as was the coal at Carsebrock, Drum and Dubies Meadow previously feued by  Robert  Elphinstone to  Patrick Muir  of Rashiehill  and  George Preston; at Goukhill to Robert Grahame in  Falkirk; and at Windyedge to John Fleming in Balgreen of Kinnaird.

The contract did, however, include “the  whole coal  hewars,  coal bearers, banksmen, gatesmen, engine men,  oncost  men,  and others  bound to any of the said coals conform to Inventary made or to be  made up  & signed by both parties at the entry of the said leasees on the  premises, as relative to this lease, and all others that shall be legally employed at the said  coal & who may thereby become bound, during the currency of this  lease.  With full power and priviledge over the said coalliers, and others which by law is competent to the said Thomas Dundas and his foresaids, They the said leasees being  always  oblidged to use the ordinary methods practised in Scotland  for encouraging  the children of the said colliers & others bound to the  work:  to become bound thereto providing always, that any English colliers, hired men and their children, are not to be deemed as bound to the work, any law or  practice to  the contrary notwithstanding… at the end of this lease the coalliers and others bound to the work shall be redelivered, if alive, or within Scotland excepting English colliers and hired men & their children“.

Carron Company also had the right to quarry stone for the building of colliers’ houses upon paying compensation.  In 1776 it was noted that it had reopened Quarrell Quarry even after it had been condemned.  It had also allowed the Fulderhaugh Company to fraudulently take from thence all the stones with which they built their wharfs and magazines at Carronshore without providing the necessary compensation.  During the operation of this quarry part of the garden wall of Carronhall was undermined.

In 1763 Carron Company also took a lease of the baronial mill at Skaithmuir and of the Lower or Nether Skaithmuir Mill.  The latter was used for grinding charcoal for use in moulding and became known as the Blackmill – a name still preserved as that of a public house on the spot.

The advent of the industrial revolution in the area caused a clash of cultures.  Despite the best efforts of the landowners the old feudal agrarian society was beginning to break down.  One aspect of this was that the influx of workers caused an increase in crime.  This is reflected in John Ogilvie’s letter dated 29 March 1812: “As I understand the  late mischievous practice of shooting & killing pigeons is again generally  resorted to,  I beg leave to send enclosed 2 advertisments of the afeiliation  for  pre­serving  pigeons some years ago – which I would request of you to order one  of them  to  be put on the church gate on Sunday – and the other at  the  miln  of Airth,  – or public smithy & c – as I have directed here for Bothkennar Kirk  & smithys  –  and Lady Eleanor Dundas has done the same over the  Carronhall  es­tates.”

Carronhall was a family home and over the following decades many members of the family were married there or were born there, and not a few died there.  Thomas Dundas (III) was born there in 1750 and succeeded to the estate when his father, Thomas Dundas (II), died on 16 April 1786.  Thomas Dundas (III) did not spend much of his adult life at Carronhall as he had a distinguished military career.  He rose to the rank of major-general and was the Governor of Guadalope in 1794 when he died of the yellow fever on 4 June.  Parliament ordered a monument to be erected to his memory and it stands in the centre of the north transept of St Paul’s Cathedral in London.  In 1784 he had married Lady Eleanor Home, daughter of the 9th Earl of Home.  They had six daughters and one son.  The last of the daughters was born at Carronhall a week before Thomas’ death.  His son, Thomas Dundas (IV) was only two years old when he succeeded and so Lady Eleanor and her factors ran the estate.

Control of the coal mining had temporarily been taken back from Carron Company when it surrendered the lease in 1781 and her coal manager was George Cace.  His greatest problems lay with the geology and with a shortage of skilled colliers.  Demand for their services led many to move to better paid work elsewhere only to fall foul of the law:

“COAL-MASTERS will please be informed, That John Brown, Alexander Waugh, John Waugh, David Gillespie, James Gillespie jnr, John Gillespie, and Andrew Murdoch, all of whom are bound Colliers to the Coal-Works of Carronhall, belonging to the heir of the late General Dundas, have deserted the Works without assigning any cause.  It is requested of such Coal-masters, to whom all or any of the above persons may apply for work, not to give them employment, but to be so obliging as send information to George Cail, coal-manager at Carronhall Coal-works, by Falkirk, where all or any of the above-named Colliers may be apprehended, as warrants have been obtained for apprehending them, and prosecutions will be raised against them for the penalty of their breach of contract, in case they do not immediately return to their work.”

(Caledonian Mercury 10 March 1796).

A few years later Carron Company negotiated a new lease for the coal with Lady Eleanor.  Lady Eleanor spent part of the next few years in the family’s other residences and Carronhall was put up for let:

“To be LET Furnished, for one or more years, as may be agreed on, and entered to at Whitsunday first, THE HOUSE of CARRONHALL, in the county of Stirling, about two miles north of the town of Falkirk.

The house is large and commodious, completely furnished, and delightfully situated, commanding an extensive view of the Carse of Falkirk, and the rivers of Forth and Carron.

The garden is large, and well stocked with fruit trees of the best kinds.

The tenant may have a quantity of grass ground, if inclined.  The court of offices contains stables, coach-houses, byre, washing-house, and many other conveniences.

The house may be seen at any time.

For particulars apply to John Dundas, WS.” 

(Caledonian Mercury 6 March 1800, 4).

It took some time to find a suitable tenant.  The farms were dealt with by the baron officer, William, Strong.  The house was between lets in October 1807 when the eldest daughter, Clementina, was married there to Thomas Bruce of Arnot.  It was then re-advertised:

“To be LET Furnished, for such a number of years as may be agreed on, and entered to at Whitsunday first, THE HOUSE of CARRONHALL, with a complete set of Offices, a large Garden, and Orchard well stocked with fruit trees of the first quality.  The house is large and commodious, every way suited for the accommodation of a genteel family.

The house of Carronhall lies about one mile north of the village of Falkirk, where there are good markets.  The situation of the house is remarkably delightful, commanding an extensive view of the river Carron, and the rich fields of the Carse of Falkirk, which lie below and to the eastward.  The tenant may be accommodated with what quantity of grass ground he has occasion for, at a reasonable rate, and there is plenty of coal just at hand.

The family at Carronhall will shew the house, and for further particulars application may be made to Messrs Dundas and Irving, Princes Street.

(Caledonian Mercury 13 February 1808, 4).

From time to time parts of the estate were sold off.  Small plots for houses were feued at Carronshore and in 1808 some 30 detached acres at Crownest in Larbert.

Carronhall continued to be lived in by the Dundas family.  On 31 July 1808 Anne Whitley Dundas, daughter of the late Major General Thomas Dundas, died there.  On 7 March 1812 Clementina gave birth to a son there.  It was during Lady Eleanor’s administration that a long avenue was led southward from the house at Carronhall to Blackmill.  At its southern end a lodge and gates were erected and became known as “Lady’s Gates” (later the site of Quarrolhall Crescent).  In his reminiscences of Carron William Jack recalled that his parents were both servants under Lady Eleanor. His father held the combined situation of butler and head gamekeeper for the Carronhall and Torwood Estates and his mother was one of the housemaids.  They were married in the hall drawing-room by the minister of Bothkennar in the presence of Lady Eleanor.  She also gave them apartments in the Clay Castle of Carronshore to set up housekeeping.

Thomas Dundas (IV) followed his father’s profession and attended the military college at Marlow, and afterwards entered the army as an ensign in the 52nd Light Infantry, which formed part of the Light Division styled “the flower of the British Army.”  He went with his regiment in 1808 and landed at Mondego Bay in Portugal and was present the following day at the battle of Rolica, under Sir Arthur Wellesley, and the battle of Vimeiro which was fought soon afterwards.  The same year, in retiring upon Vigo in Corunna, he suffered all the privations consequent upon that famous retreat.  In that victory he bore the colours of his regiment over the field, though not without receiving severe wounds.  He came home with the remnants of Sir John Moore’s army that survived that terrible retreat, and, after having been invalided some time, he rejoined his regiment, again under Sir Arthur Wellesley, in the Peninsula, and took part in the battles of Busaco, Fuentes d’Onoro, retired upon the line of Torres Vedras, and distinguished himself at the battles of Salamanca, Nivelle and Orthes.  He afterwards joined the 1st Royal Dragoons as a lieutenant, and another campaign in Spain.  He was subsequently appointed captain of the 15th Hussars, and took part in the battles of Vittoria and Toulouse and was also engaged at the battle of the Pyrenees before marching into France with the army of occupation.  He almost immediately returned home, and in 1815 married, eventually having fifteen children.  On the breaking out of war in the same year, he rejoined his regiment, and in 1816 retired on half-pay with the rank of major and was subsequently advanced to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.  Besides the battles mentioned, he had been present at no less than 30 minor engagements.  All that by the age of 24!

Illus 10: Grassom’s 1817 Map.

Lieutenant-Colonel Dundas often regaled people with stories of his campaigns and at home was frequently called upon as a public speaker.  He took a keen interest in local education and the Ragged School in particular.  He was firmly attached to the Established Church, in which he was an elder for many years.  Colonel Dundas was happy to allow Carron Company to resume the management of the coal pits at Carronhall, receiving a steady flow of income as a return.  In 1843 it was reported that the Carron Company was still employing women at its coalworks – a practice which by then was illegal.

On the Wednesday evening of the 14 February 1844, Lieutenant-Colonel Dundas was entertaining a small band of visitors at Carronhall.  Just as the family were about to retire for the night fire was discovered and caused a momentary alarm.  The first indication of the fire was discovered in the drawing-room, which, with the adjoining corridors, became filled with a dense smoke.  It appears the fire was caused by the ignition of some joists of the drawing-room floor from their being in contact with the kitchen chimney which had become over-heated during the hospitable preparations attendant upon the large party of visitors.   Fortunately it was soon got under control by the domestics, aided by several of the gentlemen guests.  The beautiful paintings which covered the walls of the drawing-room escaped without injury.  The artwork here included some pencil drawing by Mrs Dundas.  Very little damage was beyond the breaking up of the drawing room floor, and some minor injuries to the kitchen immediately below it.

Carronhall was often the scene of social gatherings.  As well as evening parties there was hunting on the grounds here and at Torwood.  In October 1849 a relative, Lieutenant Kinloch of the Grenadier Guards, broke his leg by the stumbling his horse while hunting.  He was immediately taken to Carronhall where he spent part of his convalescence.  Another form of party was held each year for the poor of the area.  Lieutenant-Colonel Dundas would furnish a substantial dinner for upwards of 100 poor people. The tables were often arranged in front of the house, where the assemblage sat down and partook of the meal.  Each of them brought a plate along with them and left with a share of the remaining victuals.

The Dundas family had been fortunate in having a coalfield so close to the location where Carron Iron Works was established.  Fortune also favoured them when the Trysts moved from Rough Castle to Stenhousemuir.  The grass on the policy lands at Carronhall was rich and brought a good price when let each year.  The Brickfield Park of 14 acres was kept in pasture for decades and was known as “fast-feeding grass.”  The family also owned the farm of Goukhill on the north side of the Bellsdyke Road adjacent to the Tryst ground.  It was quite capable of taking the overspill from the markets, at a price:

“NOTICE TO STOCK-HOLDERS, CATTLE-DEALERS, FARMERS, SALESMEN, &c. A PUBLIC MARKET will be held on the FARM of JOHN MONTEITH, Goukhill, the Property of Col. DUNDAS of Carronhall, for SHEEP, CATTLE, HORSES, &c, on Tuesday the 24th June. 1851, the above Farm being well adapted for a Public Market, as it is subdivided with good Fences, and as it is much wanted by the Public to keep the different kinds of Stock separate, so that a Salesman can either sell or buy as many Cattle in one hour as he could do before in one whole day, which will suit well gentlemen who may come from a distance and return the same evening.

The farm lies on the north side of the Tryst ground, and only a few minutes’ walk from the Larbert Station.  The SEATS for TENTS, few in number, as it is wished for by the Public, so that they may be all respectable, will be put up by Public Roup on FRIDAY, 26th June, at Two o’clock afternoon, and the highest bidder for each will be accepted of, by paying ready money for the Stance immediately after they are knocked down.  The same Customs will be charged for Sheep, Cattle, and Horses, as are charged on the Falkirk Tryst ground.

A large Market is expected from the number of signatures attached to the Memorials for a Market Site in this District, from Glasgow, Edinburgh, East Lothian, Haddington, Falkirk, and surrounding district; as well as from a number of letters to the same effect from England. .

(Falkirk Herald 19 June 1851)

After 44 years at home Lieutenant-Colonel Dundas died on 25 May 1860 aged 68.  He was buried in the family burying ground in Larbert Churchyard in the presence of a large assemblage of people.  The burial ground had previously belonged to the Elphinstones.

Illus: 11 Postcard of Carronhall House, c1910.

The lieutenant-colonel’s eldest son, Thomas Dundas (V) also joined the military.  However, he died with the rank of lieutenant at Dresden on the 10 April 1842, just nine months after his return from India.  In 1860 his brother, Joseph Dundas, inherited the estate.  He had stayed at Carronhall where his wife, Margaret Isabella Bruce bore him six sons and four daughters.  In between raising these she wrote a book about her adopted family – “Dundas of Fingask.”

Joseph Dundas was an enthusiastic leader of the militia and volunteer forces in Stirlingshire.  He held the rank of major in the former and, from 1861, that of lieutenant-colonel in the Administrative Battalion of Stirlingshire Rifle Volunteers.  As well as his many administrative duties in this line he often inspected parades and attended exercises.  It was in his time that local groups occasionally visited the grounds of Carronhall for their annual excursions.  In August 1861, for example, the Grahamston and Bainsford Total Abstinence Society held its games on the policy in front of the mansion.  Like many of the other local landed families the Dundas family adopted the tradition of an annual ball and dance at the New Year for the servants at Carronhall.

In 1864 Joseph Dundas organised the excavation of the mound on the top of the hill at Tappock near Torwood.  The excavators believed they had found a round subterranean structure with a stair descending into it and a tunnel heading towards Torwood Castle.  It was, in fact, a broch.  It generated much antiquarian interest and the work continued the following year.  That year Joseph Dundas was made a vice-president of Royal Scottish Society of Antiquaries based in Edinburgh.  A well-illustrated account of the work at Tappock was duly published in its proceedings.  At the same time, also in Edinburgh, an exhibition of the Royal Scottish Academy included a head and shoulders portrait of Lieutenant-Colonel Dundas in the south octagon.  The portrait was by J M Barclay who, it was said, had “given the expression of the face most admirably, and in this work has produced one of the few good portraits in the exhibition.”  In his role as vice-resident of the RSSA Joseph Dundas inspected the excavations being conducted at Camelon on the Roman fort in 1869 by William Wilson of Banknock.

Illus 12: The West Lodge looking south-east, rebuilt in 1868.

Like his father, Joseph was an elder at Larbert Parish Church for some twenty years. He too contributed greatly to the Industrial School at Falkirk. However, in 1869 he was advised to move south due to his failing health. He went first to London and then to Monnetier Reignier, Haute Savoie, in France. In his absence Carronhall was put up to let yet again:

STIRLINGSHIRE.  MANSION-HOUSE AND SHOOTINGS. THE MANSION-HOUSE OF CARRONHALL, near LARBERT, is to be LET, FURNISHED, for One Year, from Whitsunday next.

The House is large and commodious, and contains ample accommodation for a large family.  There are good Stables and Offices, and the Garden is large and well stocked with Fruit and Vegetables.

The Shootings on Carronhall and Torwood Estate will be let along with the House if desired.  The Torwood Shootings, extending over about 800 Acres, one half of which is Cover, have been well preserved, and the Cover Shooting is particularly good….

(Scotsman 16 March 1870)

He died at Monnetier Reignier on the 7 July 1872 aged 49.

Carronhall was rented by Walter Duncan.  In August 1872 the Stenhousemuir Musical Association had rather a curious evening there:

The members of this association met at Lady Gate, and with the kind permission of Walter Duncan, Esq., entered the grounds of Carronhall, and assembled in front of the mansion, where they sung a few well-selected pieces with admirable taste to Duncan and his lady, who courteously greeted their presence, applauded their acquirements, and arranged with grace for their being conducted through their beautiful gardens, which one and all heartily enjoyed,  On reaching a suitable place dancing was commenced and kept up with great spirit till an advanced hour, when they were signalled by their host and hostess to a splendid tea served out upon the lawn.  Such kindness surprised and gratified the company, and after asking a blessing and partaking of the good things, they again resumed the dancing till about dusk, when Mr Hunter, the leader of the association, approached Mr Duncan and his lady and offered thanks for the manner in which they had been entertained, at the same time calling upon the members to give three hearty cheers as expressive of their gratitude, which proposal was at once acceded to with enthusiasm.  Before closing it may be added Mr Walker performed his part on the violin meritoriously.

(Falkirk Herald 31 August 1872).
Illus 13: Carronhall looking north-west, c1912.

Tables: Records from the 1881 Census

FORENAMESSURNAMERELATIONSTATUSAGEOCCUPATIONPLACE OF BIRTH
Thomas G.DUNDASHeadMarried27Landed ProprietorEdinburgh
MaryDUNDASWifeMarried20Inverness
Thomas A.DUNDASSonUnmarried7 mEdinburgh
Adelaide LDAVIDSONSister-in-LawUnmarried17Dingwall, Ross and Cromarty
MilicentFINDLAYServantUnmarried37Housemaid Dom ServantInverness Kirkhill
CatherineMCLEANServantUnmarried16Nurse Domestic ServantContin, Ross and Cromarty
MargaretCAMPBELLServantUnmarried27Tablemaid Domestic ServantContin, Ross and Cromarty
CatherineROSEServantUnmarried24Nurse Domestic ServantNairn
BellaMATHIESONServantUnmarried20Dairymaid Domestic ServantPelham, Ross and Cromarty
JamesHODGEServantUnmarried15Stable Boy Domestic ServantFalkirk
MargaretMACLEANServantUnmarried29Laundry maid Domestic ServantKillearnan Quay, Ross and Cromarty
CatherineMCGREGORServantUnmarried40Cook Domestic ServantKilmorack, Inverness
Carronhall Mansion House
FORENAMESSURNAMERELATIONSTATUSAGEOCCUPATIONPLACE OF BIRTH
MarionWAUGHHeadWidow67Gate Keeper (Lodge)Larbert
Carronhall South Lodge
FORENAMESSURNAMERELATIONSTATUSAGEOCCUPATIONPLACE OF BIRTH
DavidWADDELLHeadMarried58Coachman Domestic ServantBo’ness
IsabellaWADDELLWifeMarried60Polmont
Thomas W.SAUNDERSBoarderUnmarried31House PainterLondon
Carronhall East Lodge
FORENAMESSURNAMERELATIONSTATUSAGEOCCUPATIONPLACE OF BIRTH
MaryRAEHeadWidow52Coal Miner’s WidowLarbert
PeterRAESonUnmarried24Iron FitterLarbert
JaneRAEDaughterUnmarried21Former DressmakerLarbert
AgnesRAEGrandaughterUnmarried6ScholarLarbert
Carronhall North Lodge
FORENAMESSURNAMERELATIONSTATUSAGEOCCUPATIONPLACE OF BIRTH
JessieHUNTERWifeMarried49Edinburgh
PollyHUNTERDaughterUnmarried7ScholarEdinburgh
WilliamPARKERLodgerMarried45House PainterEngland
AlexanderMILLERLodgerM40House PainterBanff
Carronhall Gardener’s House
FORENAMESSURNAMERELATIONSTATUSAGEOCCUPATIONPLACE OF BIRTH
JohnLENNOXHeadWidower53Cattleman Dom ServantDunblane
MayLENNOXDaughter9ScholarDunblane
JessieLENNOXDaughter8ScholarDunblane
JohnLENNOXSon6ScholarDunblane
JanetTAYLORServantUnmarried41Housekeeper Domestic ServantAlloa
Carronhall Cattleman’s House
FORENAMESSURNAMERELATIONSTATUSAGEOCCUPATIONPLACE OF BIRTH
MargaretSTEWARTHeadMarried47Butlers WifeDunfermline
ElizabethSTEWARTDaughter14Dunfermline
HenriettaSTEWARTDaughter8ScholarDunfermline
WilliamSTEWARTSon6ScholarDunfermline
MarySTEWARTDaughter5Larbert
JessieSTEWARTDaughter1Larbert
Carronhall Butler’s House

The 1881 census makes an interesting study.  Most of the domestic servants at Carronhall came from Ross and Cromarty and Inverness.  They were probably itinerant, travelling with the Dundas family and spending most of their time at Edinburgh.  The three lodges were occupied by a mixture of servants and workmen.  The gardener’s house and that of the cattleman may have been the two buildings between the house and the walled garden.  The butler’s house was probably one of the pavilions.

Joseph’s eldest son, Thomas George Dundas, succeeded to Carronhall.  He lived in Edinburgh and was the epitome of an absentee landlord.  In May 1881 he caused Torwood Castle to be surrounded by a wooden fence.  At the same time the old road to the castle from the Larbert and Plean highway, and also a road which workmen living at Torwood used to get to Dunipace, were closed by the erection of strong pailings.  These routes were considered by the local people to be established public rights of way – that to Dunipace being a kirk road.  As a consequence there was a continuous flow of people to the sites over the following weekend.  TG Dundas’ gamekeeper and a policeman had been stationed at the place in expectation, and warned travellers of the offence they were committing, and the danger they were placing themselves in.  During the Sunday between 400 and 500 people were on the ground, including parties from Falkirk, Grahamston, Carron, Stenhousemuir, Larbert and Denny.  The fences were torn down.  Much excitement and indignation was created all round the district, and a public meeting was held to consider what line of action should be taken in the event of any prosecutions for trespass.  Subscriptions were then collected for the defence of the first action that might be raised.  They did not have long to wait.  In September an interdict from the Court of Session was served on George Hally, mason, Torwood.  It awakened a keen sense of public right and much resentment.  In the meantime more barricades had been erected at intervals across the thoroughfare.  The result was that larger numbers of people than formerly resorted to the grounds.  Several of the men who had undertaken the task of turning people away were roughly handled, and the newly-erected wooden fences were also torn down.  David Johnston, blacksmith, Larbert, William Baillie, coachman, Stenhousemuir and several others were added to the list of trespassers.  In the end the dispute was settled by TG Dundas agreeing to provide suitable alternative roads and these are still open to this day.  However, the Dundas family had lost a lot of credibility among the local population and in 1883 Torwood was purchased by JC Bolton of Carbrook for £20,000.

In 1882-4, Frances Groome’s Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland described Carronhall as a village, “Carronhall House stands amid fine grounds in its southern vicinity; its owner, Thos. Geo. Dundas, Esq. (b. 1853; suc- 1872), holds 1989 acres in the shire, valued at £3204 per annum, including £500 for a neighbouring colliery.”

It was Mrs Dundas who provided strawberry treats for the children of the Industrial School each year throughout the 1880s.  In 1887 she is described as “of Edinburgh, late of Carronhall,” an acknowledgement that the family no longer considered Carronhall to be its primary residence. 

“CARRONHALL MANSION-HOUSE (FURNISHED), TO LET for Summer and Autumn Months or on lease as may be arranged.

The House, which is large and commodious, is situated in a fine old park, about three miles from Larbert Station.

There is suitable Stabling and Coach-House Accommodation, and Grass for one or two Cows can be had.

The House and grounds will be shown to intending offerers by Mr Easton, Carronhall House… .

(Glasgow Herald 6 April 1898, 4)

The new tenants were Captain Robert and Mrs Anitia Orr.  Captain Robert Dundas Orr was the eldest son of Robert Orr of Kinnaird, the managing partner of James Ross and Co, chemical manufacturers, Falkirk, and oil manufacturers, Philpstoun.  Captain Orr was assumed as a partner of the firm.  He had a keen interest in the Volunteer movement and about the time that he became the tenant at Carronhall he was gazetted as a second lieutenant of the Highland Light Infantry (Glasgow Highlanders).  Afterwards he was transferred to the Stirlingshire Volunteer Battalion and promoted to the rank of captain in command of I Company (Carron).  While the South African War was in progress he spent two years as Supplying Transport Officer to the 32nd Brigade Field Army, and for a year he acted as brigade major of the same brigade.  He was aide-de-camp to Colonel Brickenden when he commanded the Tay defences during 1907 and continued in such roles for several more years.  He was also a keen huntsman and possessed a number of excellent hunting horses which he presumably kept at Carronhall.  He was a justice of the peace for Stirlingshire.

Between nine and ten o’clock on Saturday night 26 September 1903 another fire broke out in the drawing-room of Carronhall.  By using a small hose Captain Orr was able to prevent it spreading until the arrival of the fire brigades from Falkirk and Stenhousemuir.  The fire was confined to that room but a large quantity of silver plate and several valuable paintings were damaged or destroyed, the total damage being considerable.

Illus 14: Air Shaft in the Carronhall Policy looking south-east to Carronshore Primary School.

The coal mining heritage of Carronhall caught up with the house in 1912. Coal mining had been prohibited under the house itself, but the grounds were prone to subsidence. The gas manager reported that the 2-inch cast-iron main leading to Carronhall House had broken fourteen times in a six week period that September due to the subsidence. He arranged to replace the pipe with a steel pipe for a distance of 350 yards, Carron Company contributing £17 10s towards the cost.

Major Robert Orr of Carronhall died in a London nursing home on 31 January 1914 aged only 39.  He was on a trip to London when he fell ill and underwent an operation for appendicitis.  The operation was carried through successfully, but he relapsed and passed away.  He was the last occupant of Carronhall House.  In 1916 it was bought by Carron Company and the furniture in Carronhall House was sold.

“MR DOWELL will SELL by AUCTION Within CARRONHALL MANSION-HOUSE, FALKIRK, On THURSDAY and FRIDAY, 20th and 21st APRIL,  at 11, EXCELLENT HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE, CABINETS, EIGHT-DAY CLOCK, BAGATELLE BOARD, OIL PAINTINGS, DECORATIVE CHINA, LAWN MOWERS, GARDEN SEATS, ROLLER, TOOLS, FORCING FRAMES, PETROL AND DUCK HOUSES, and OTHER MISCELLANEOUS EFFECTS, including Eight-Day Clock in Mahogany Case, Mahogany Sarcophagus, Bagatelle Board and Accessories, Satinwood and Ebonised Cabinets, Mahogany Dining, Side, Circular, Pembroke, Writing, Game, Work, and Envelope Folding Tables; Rosewood Centre and Sofa Tables; Oak pedestal Writing Table; Mahogany and Rosewood Whatnots, Mahogany and Walnut Chesterfields, Sofas, Couches, Settees, Easy, Arm, and Single Chairs, in Tapestry, Chintz, Velvet, and other Coverings; Mahogany and oak Firescreens, Draught Screens, Gentleman’s Mahogany Wardrobe, Mahogany, Birch, Ash, and Painted Two and Three Door Wardrobes; Mahogany Inlaid, Mahogany, Oak and Painted Chests Drawers; Dressing Tables and Glasses, Bedsides, Walnut Dressing Chest, Brass, Brass and iron, Mahogany Inlaid French and iron Combination beds; excellent bedding, Mirrors in Oak and Gilt Frames, Oak High-Back Chairs, Aneroid Barometer, Large Pine Napery Press, Oak and Painted Linen presses, Decorative China, Axminster and Brussels Carpets, Axminster Stair and Landing Carpets, oriental Rugs, Linoleum, Cushions, Curtains, Dwarf Bookcases, Oil Paintings, Engravings, Kitchen Furnishings, refrigerators, Mangle, Wringer, Lawn Mowers, Garden Seats, Roller, Hose and Reel, Tools, Forcing Frames, 2000 Pots, Wire, Netting, Lawn Tennis Net Standards, Petrol and Dick Houses, etc.”

(Falkirk Herald 19 April 1916, 2).

The house was demolished and the gardens let as a market garden:

CARRONHALL ESTATE. TO LET, on Lease, with immediate entry, the MANSION-HOUSE GARDENS EAST LODGE, with Garden connected thereto. These Gardens are well situated in an industrial district, where there is a ready sale for the produce; they contain a good many Fruit Trees (both Standard and Wall) and Three Glass Houses, belonging to the Proprietors, which the Tenant will have the use of.  For particulars apply to David M Aitkenhead, Roughlands, Falkirk, who will receive offers till 24th curt.”

(Falkirk Herald 17 February 1917).

The sundial was moved to the grounds of Mount Carron.  In 1918 Carron Company acquired the remainder of the estate.  TG Dundas was the last Laird of Carronhall and he died in Canada in 1929. 

After operating for over half a century without a break, the Carronhall Colliery, belonging to Carron Company, was closed down in July 1924.  It re-opened shortly afterwards though it had become uneconomic by 1939.  It was kept operating throughout the Second World War but was finally permanently closed in 1946.  The doocot on the Longdyke disappeared at the same time.

Today there is a bungalow on the site of Carronhall House.  The north wall is all that is left of the walled garden and it is rapidly decaying.  The original quarry forms but a minor hollow in the side of the hill, covered by trees.  The West Lodge and part of the adjoining estate wall are the only visible signs of this lost country house.

The owners of Quarrell/Carronhall can be summarised in the following table:

1420sRichard Redheugh
1460sAndrew Redheugh (son?)
1466Christian Redheugh (sister)
1468Alexander Bisset (son)
1471Thomas Bisset (son)
1502Thomas Bisset (son)
c 1533Robert Bisset (son)
1542Robert Bisset (uncle) murdered 1544
1544Robert Bisset (?)
1584Thomas Bisset (son)
c 1592John Bisset (son)
1610James Elphinstone (purchase)
1619Alexander Elphinstone (son)
1619Michael Elphinstone (brother)
1641Robert Elphinstone (son)
1681Michael Elphinstone (son)
1693Robert Elphinstone (son)
1725John Drummond (purchase)
1748George Drummond (nephew)
1749Thomas Dundas II (purchase)
1786Thomas Dundas III (son)
1794Thomas Dundas IV (son)
1860Joseph Dundas (son)
1872Thomas George Dundas (son)
Robert Dundas Orr (1899-1914)
1914Carron Company

Sites and Monuments Records

CarronhallSMR 789NS 8897 8416
Carronhall DoocotSMR 18NS 8935 8392
Carronhall SundialSMR 648NS 891 839

Bibliography

Bailey, G.B. & Reid, J1992‘Skaithmuir – a baronial corn mill,’ Calatria 2, 5-16.
Dundas, J.1868‘Notes on the excavation of an ancient building at Tapock in the Torwood, parish of Dunipace, county of Stirling,’ Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 6, 259-65.
Fleming, J.S.1902Ancient Castles and Mansions of the Stirling Nobility.
Gibson, J.C.1908Lands and Lairds of Larbert and Dunipace Parishes.
Reid, J.2004‘East Stirlingshire Mills: Part 1,’ Calatria 21, 61-89.
Reid, J.2007‘The feudal land divisions of East Stirlingshire: the lands and baronies of Larbert,’ Calatria 24, 1-36.
Reid, J.2009The Place Names of Falkirk and East Stirlingshire.

G.B. Bailey (2020)