At first glance the low-lying location of Weedings near Beancross seems an unlikely one for a mansion of any kind. It stood just to the south of the main road from Falkirk to Bo’ness (the modern A905) and immediately to the east of the Polmont or Weedings Burn. Today the site is occupied by the Cadger’s Brae Premiere Inn. The very name implies that these were the “wetlands” of Polmont (Reid 2009, 233) and up until the mid 18th century a small bog occupied the area to the west. However, for centuries the road had formed one of the main routes along the coast and from here a spur led north to the area of Grangemouth.
Throughout the 17th century the house and its rather limited lands were occupied by five generations of the White family. They farmed the grounds and were married into the families of the surrounding farms. In 1691 Robert Walker is recorded as the owner. He was followed by his son, also Robert; and so it continued with Robert Walker recorded a century later in 1790. The house evidently grew as the funds allowed and by 1751 it was a long building aligned north/south with a small eastward projecting wing at its south end. It looked out onto an orchard enclosed by a tall wall and barns, agricultural houses and outbuildings lay close at hand. Roy’s map of 1755 shows it surrounded by arable land with patches of bog to the south and moorland further up the hill.
Illus 3: The tree lined Avenue looking north to Weedings Hall with the ha-ha in the foreground.
In 1773 Robert Walker gave up the lease of the Polmont Mills which had brought in a significant income, but which were then in decline. It was probably his son, also Robert, who commissioned Robert Adam to design a new house – the fee being £10. He had married Janet Russell of Kincardine and the new family home was constructed on the higher ground with fantastic views across the carseland. It was a relatively plain two-storey block with a simple square eaves course and a piended roof. The main façade faced south and was symmetrical with a central door covered by a canted porch and windows to either side; three windows on the first floor. It is unlikely that this was a Robert Adam design. The walls were of random rubble with dressed margins and the roof was slated. It was just grand enough for Grassom to depict it as a country seat, though the long curving tree-lined avenue from the south may have been the clinching factor. The avenue had a ha-ha to either side. The Ordnance Surveyors in the early 1860s described it as “A neat cottage with offices attached, all two stories and in good repair.” It was called Weedings Hall or Weedingshall to signify its elevated status. Within a few years the old house was demolished.
A small stable with offices was terraced into the hill slope to the north of the house and had its own access track westward to Grandsable Road. The parks around the house were also laid out at this time. That road had originally stopped at the Westquarter or Grange Burn but now continued as far as the Bo’ness road. Large fields were created from the hotchpotch of earlier holdings. At first these were probably used for arable crops, but by the end of the century the ten acre field was used for cattle and sheep and the eight acre field in front of the house for sheep only.
Robert Walker and Janet Russell’s son, James Walker, inherited the estate but seems to have died childless in 1820 and his sister, Margaret, took possession. Margaret Walker married Alexander Smith, baker in Edinburgh, and on her death their son, James Smith became the owner. The list of owners and occupants may be summarised in the following table (those in maroon were tenants):
|17th Century||White family|
|c 1691||Robert Walker|
|Robert Walker (son)|
|Robert Walker (son)|
|Robert Walker (son)|
|1808||James Walker (son)|
|1820||Margaret Walker (sister) married Alexander Smith|
|1827||James Smith (son)|
|Andrew Lyon Smith|
|1841||Andrew Smith (nephew)|
|James Baird (1845)|
|JT Salvesen (1860)|
|George Tait (1865-67)|
|1878||Andrew & Alexander Smith (sons)|
|James Baird (1845)|
|James Cowan (1887-1892)|
|WG Scott-Moncrieff (1892-1898)|
|Sheriff Bell (1898-1902)|
|1945||Stirling County Council|
On the death of Margaret Smith nee Walker the succession was a little messy, presumably because her Will left Weedingshall to all of her children. Her eldest son, John was presumed dead, having been a sailor on a ship called the Hibernia which foundered. Her daughter, Janet Russel Smith or Dallas, seems to have submitted a claim. The trustees of Margaret Smith “sold” Weedingshall to James. His son and successor, Andrew Lyon Smith was committed to the Glasgow Royal Lunatic Asylum in 1838, reopening the dispute.
In 1841 Andrew Smith inherited the estate. He had concerns elsewhere, including a residence at Willowbrae House near Restalrig, Edinburgh. Four years later he put the property up for sale:
“WEEDINGSHALL, STIRLINGSHIRE, DAY OF SALE FIXED. This beautiful small Property is to be exposed to Public Sale within Stevenson’s Sale-Rooms, No. 5, George Street, Edinburgh, on Thursday the 10th day of July, 1845, at two o’clock afternoon, if not previously Sold by private bargain.
WEEDINGSHALL is situated within three miles east of Falkirk, five miles from Linlithgow, one mile from the Railway Station and Canal at Polmont, and within one hour’s ride of Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Stirling. The property extends to about 40 Imperial acres, and is divided into six parks. The Land is all of very superior quality. There is a tasteful avenue, with planting, from the principal gate to the House, and the situation of the Mansion is peculiarly picturesque, commanding some of the finest and richest views in the country, which, with its facilities of conveyance to all the principal towns before mentioned, and other local advantages as to markets, & c, renders it a very desirable Property. The House and Garden are at present occupied by a respectable tenant, and the parks are Let to November next; but a purchaser may get immediate access to the whole on a specified notice to the tenants. The feu Duties are a few Pounds Scots, and the other public burdens very trifling…”(Glasgow Herald 20 June 1845, 3).
It evidently did not find a buyer and continued to be tenanted by his brother-in-law, James Baird. Or it may have been that the family dispute was still active as only a year later the Walker belongings, along with those of the household, were sold so that the property could be let unfurnished. The items for sale confirm that this was a genteel house:
“FINE OLD OIL PAINTINGS AND ENGRAVINGS, RARE BOOKS, PIANO-FORTE, HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE, WALLACE’S SWORD, & c & c AT WEEDINGSHALL. To be Sold, by Public Roup, on FRIDAY the 26th day of June, 1846, at WEEDINGSHALL, near Falkirk, A Considerable quantity of HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE, together with the whole of the fine old OIL PAINTINGS, and ENGRAVINGS, in frames, and the LIBRARY of Antique and Rare Books; WALLACE’S TWO-HANDED SWORD, and various other valuable Effects.
THE HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE Comprises a Grand Square Piano-Forte, a set of Dining Tables; 2 Chests of Mahogany Drawers; a Sofa; Washing Stands; Silver Plated Candlesticks, with Branches, and several pair without Branches; a lot of Carpets and Blankets, & c & c.
THE OIL PAINTINGS Are 20 in number, No. 1 being a full length Portrait of Admiral Lord Nelson, No. 2, a Dutch Picture, from which many copies have been made. No. 3, a Spanish Picture, Author unknown, but painted after the style of Murillo. No. 4, Portrait of Dallas of St Martin’s. No. 5, a large Sea Piece. No. 6, The Hermit. The remaining 14 Pictures are composed of Portraits, Landscapes, and Historical Pieces;
ALSO 28 Line Copperplate, and Mezzotinto Engravings in Frames.
THE LIBRARY OF BOOKS Comprises a large folio Bible, with Plates of the date of 1683; Aesop’s Fables, folio, published 1704; Douname on Divinity, 1822; large folio Copy, Lives of Illustrious Greeks and Romans, in Latin, published 1575; History of the World, by Sir Walter Raleigh, with Plates and Maps; Book on the Covenant, 1662; Horace’s Strictures, 1719; Goodwin’s Theological Works, 1647; Stackhouse’s History of the Bible, 2 vols, folio, with rich Plates, 1742; Book of Sermons, 1599; Attersol’s Commentaries upon the four Books of Moses, folio, 1618; History of the Reformation, and Life of John Knox, 1732, folio; Latin Geographical Dictionary, 1626; Poole’s Annotations on the Bible, 3 vols; Whitefield’s Works, 8 cols; and about 90 vols. of Theological, Historical, and other Books, and a great part of which are very old and rare; 2 of Gresham’s Large Maps of the county of Stirling, and several other Maps.
A LARGE TWO-HANDED SWORD, Which is said to have belonged to Sir William Wallace; a Double barrelled Gun and Gun-Case; and a considerable variety of other Effects, all of which will be Sold without Reserve.”(Stirling Observer 25 June 1846, 1).
Around 1870 Andrew Smith seems to have decided to retire to Weedingshall and a series of additions were made to the house. A large extension was added to the north side, the width of the east wing was increased, and a court of offices added to the west side. The new northern block was rectangular in plan and due to the slope of the ground was of three storeys. Although relatively plain and built of random rubble, it is embellished with fine detail. The moulded square chimney stacks are made to protrude, with one placed on each of the northern corners to resemble bartizans. Shallow advanced single storey bay windows break up the gables and on the north face the large viewing windows of the principal rooms of the first floor thrust outwards towards the Forth Valley
Illus 5: Weedingshall House looking south-west (above) and south-east (right) at the 1870s extension.
Garden terraces provided shelter for the formal planting to the north of the house. The court of offices was arranged with a curving south face to provide a sweeping edge to the tear-drop shaped driveway.
Illus 7: Block Plan showing the Development of the House. A – 1792; B – 1800; C – 1870; D –1871; E – c1910; F – 1915 (dates estimated).
Andrew Smith was a business man with interests in property and shipping. He also invested in shares of the City of Glasgow Bank and when that bank went under in 1878 his estate suffered great losses. After his death his sons managed to limit their liabilities to the Bank and as they also lived elsewhere – Alexander was a brewer in Edinburgh and Andrew lived at Calvine in Struan, Perthshire – Weedingshall continued to be let.
Tables : 1881 Census Returns
|Forenames||Surname||Relation||Age||Occupation||Place of Birth|
|Robert||LAIDLAW||Head||43||Engineer & Iron Founder||Edinburgh|
|Porteous S.||LAIDLAW||Son||8||Scholar||Houston, Renfrew|
|Douglas G.||LAIDLAW||Son||7||Scholar||Houston, Renfrew|
|Euphemia||MCFIE||Servant||31||Housemaid Domestic Servant||Paisley|
|Agnes||BEUST||Servant||33||Table maid Domestic Servant||Abdie Parish, Fife|
|Mary||FLEMING||Servant||23||Cook Domestic Servant||Tarbert, Argyll|
|Forenames||Surname||Relation||Age||Occupation||Place of Birth|
|John||SCOTT||Head||43||Gardener (Domestic Servant)||Polmont|
|Alison||SCOTT||Wife||44||Gardener (Domestic Servant) Wife||Polmont|
|Forenames||Surname||Relation||Age||Occupation||Place of Birth|
|Archibald||MCGREGOR||Head||42||Coachman, Domestic Servant||Row, Dumbarton|
“STIRLINGSHIRE, WEEDINGS HALL, near POLMONT, To be Let on Lease, Unfurnished. The House contains Dining-Room, Drawing-Room, Library, Billiard-Room, Cloak-Room, 6 bed-Rooms, Butler’s pantry, 2 WCs, Kitchen, and ample Servants’ Accommodation.
There is a Private Gas-work on the Ground, and also excellent Stabling, horse boxes, Coach-House, & c.
There is an Entrance Lodge, with a good deal of Ground under Cultivation for vegetables, & c.
Apply to Mr Paterson, Upholsterer and House Agent, 10 Queensferry Street, Edinburgh.” .(Glasgow Herald 26 April 1886, 4)
The tenants were upper middle class businessmen and men of letters. The Salvesen family are particularly well known in the area having a shipping and whaling firm based in Grangemouth and Leith. Henry Adolph Salvesen, the third son of Mr J. T. Salvesen, was born on 5 June 1860 at Weedingshall. He became Lord Salvesen. Perhaps the best known character to be brought into the world at Weedingshall was Charles Kenneth Michael Scott Moncrieff whose date of birth was 25 September 1889. His father, William G Scott Moncrieff was the sheriff substitute for Falkirk. An excellent account of the family’s strict life at Weedingshall is given by Jean Findlay who had access to Mrs Scott Moncrieff’s diary. Jessie Margaret Scott Moncrieff, known as Meg, was a great believer in self-reliance and sent her sons away to boarding schools so that they could experience independence. She had a staff to run the house and kept herself busy with writing as well as social and business matters. In 1896, for example, she became a director of the new steam laundry in Gartcows Road, Falkirk. As chairperson, that year she invited the members of the Linlithgow and Polmont branch of the Girls’ Friendly Society to Weedingshall for a musical entertainment. The Girls’ Friendly Society helped unmarried mothers. Charles K Scott Moncrieff is most famous for his English translation of Proust’s ‘À la recherche du temps perdu,’ which he published under the Shakespearean title ‘Remembrance of Things Past’.
William G Scott Moncrieff was promoted and the family moved north to Inverness. His place at Weedingshall was taken by Sheriff Bell, shortly after his settlement at Falkirk in 1897 at Falkirk. He was only there a short time before he had to retire due to ill-health and moved to Bridge of Allan in 1902.
In 1904 Weedingshall House was tenanted by Thomas BG Harvey. He was the managing director of the Grangemouth Dockyard, which at the time formed part of the Greenock and Grangemouth Dockyard Company. The house was very convenient for his work and he soon settled into working with the local community, as did his wife and daughter. Thomas Harvey was a member of the Institute of Naval Architects. Locally he was the chairman of the Falkirk and District Local Employment Committee, the Grangemouth & Forth Towing Co, Secretary of Lord Roberts Memorial Workshops for Scotland and an Elder of Polmont North Church. His wife, Allison Mary Grierson, was one of few women at the time to be appointed as a Justice of the Peace for the County. She was also president of the Woman’s Guild Presbyterial Council for Linlithgow and Falkirk, president of the Women’s Association for Foreign Missions, vice-president of Stirlingshire Branch of the British Red Cross Society, one of the first members of the Maternity and Child Welfare Committee of Stirling County Council and the local committee of the Powfoulis Eventide Home. In her youth she had been a keen tennis player and was president of the Scottish Women’s Hockey Association. The family did much to help with the maintenance of Falkirk Parish Church and she was president of the Woman’s Guild there. There was hardly a month went by without one of the family opening a bazaar, christening a ship, speaking to a Guild or entertaining members of the Primrose League.
Illus 9: The Lodge looking south-east.
In 1911 the old lodge at the end of the south drive was rebuilt. It is a harled L-shaped single-storey building in a weak art & crafts style with tapering chimney stacks. The east-facing gable has a carved panel containing the monogram “AS 1911” for Andrew Smith (extension to the west in 1995).
Shortly after the outbreak of the First World War, Thomas Harvey received a commission in the 7th (Reserve) Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland in November 1914. This engaged most of his time when not overseeing the urgent building of naval and merchant ships at the Dockyard. He eventually rose to the rank of Captain in the organisation. Having been a tenant for several years, it was around this time that Thomas Harvey bought Weedingshall from the Smith family.
Keen to promote the health of the people of Polmont, Thomas Harvey bought four acres of land from the Earl of Zetland on the east side of Kirk Entry with the purpose of presenting it to the public for all time coming as a playing field. When the Earl heard of his intention he added a strip of woodland on the north side gratis. The ground was levelled off and fenced with a gateway at the south end and at the bottom a wooden stairway into the woodland. A paddling pool was formed in the woodland from the Gilston Burn. At one end it was 3ft deep and at the other 7ins, with a gravel bottom. Swings and a rocking horse were purchased from Hurst of Halifax. The work was carried out by the sanitary inspector. Half a dozen seats were made by the Lord Roberts workshop at Inverness and placed around the park for the older people. To honour the donor it was named “Harvey Park” when it opened in July 1934. The “all time coming” turned out to be the coming of the motorway which obliterated it just 30 years later.
After the opening of the Park, the Harvey family went abroad for a holiday and that September whilst they were away an incident happened at their home. Constable Charles Simpson, who was stationed at Polmont, was making his rounds at midnight and seeing the gate open entered the grounds of Weedingshall. He heard someone run away and as he approached the house he saw two men attempting to break open the back door. He went after them and they ran down a narrow stairway into the furnace room. Not knowing if there was another exit he followed and as he entered he was attacked. Having drawn his baton he was able to fight them off. Eventually one ran away and he was able to apprehend the other (Falkirk Herald 22 September 1934, 4).
Thomas Harvey retired from the Dockyard in 1916 and had a notable career in local politics. He first became a member of Stirling County Council in 1913 and in1922 was made the convenor of the Eastern District Committee. Then in 1929 he was appointed as the Convenor of the whole County Council, retiring in 1935. He took a particular interest in housing. Thomas Harvey died on 13 December 1940 aged 76. According to his wishes his coffin was taken the short distance from Weedingshall to Grandsable Cemetery on a farm cart pulled by a Clydesdale. His wife had predeceased him by almost exactly a year.
Their son, Captain Thomas Grierson Harvey, inherited Weedingshall, but was serving abroad. He made it known that he was looking to dispose of the estate and in April 1945 Stirling County Council approached his representatives with a view to acquiring it. The County Council had been made responsible for the provision of care for children who had been made wards of court for any of a number of reasons and this included some orphans. It was agreed to purchase Weedingshall house and 21 acres of the estate for £3,650. The house was to be used as a boarding house for up to 30 children of all ages up to sixteen years. The total cost of setting up the children’s home, including the necessary alterations was £13,751. Before long there was a staff of ten including the matron, assistant matron, four nursery nurses, the kitchen staff (a cook and a kitchen maid), a house maid, and a gardener and part-time assistant gardener. The latter were to grow enough vegetables in the grounds to make the home self-sufficient in that regard. Miss Margaret Cuthbertson, matron of Glengonnar School, Abington, Lanarkshire, was appointed as the first matron. She believed that a homely rather than a institutional environment should be provided for the children who were normal healthy individuals. Consequently the bedrooms had names like “Rainbow Room,” and “Lavender Room.” A reporter from the Falkirk Herald visited just before the official opening in September 1947 and wrote :
“The normal day’s routine at Weedingshall starts at 7am, when the children rise. In the bathrooms they all have their own cubicles, with toothbrushes and face-cloths in their own selected colours. Breakfast is at eight o’clock. At present while the schools are on holiday the older children are sent for the messages in the morning, travelling on their own as far as Falkirk and Stirling. When the schools take up, they will go to Polmont Primary (13), Redding Secondary (8) and Falkirk Technical Schools.
The little ones are taken out to play on the lawns. Lunch is at 12.30pm, and in the afternoon the children are free to walk around the estate or amuse themselves at games. They attend Polmont and Laurieston Churches on Sunday. The morning visit is compulsory, but many of the older children of their own accord attend also in the evening. Those old enough among the boys have already joined the Boys’ Brigade or the Life Boys, and the girls are in the Girls’ Guildry or the Brownies…”(Falkirk Herald 16 August 1947).
Illus 10: Sand Pit at Weedingshall Children’s Home, 1947 (Falkirk Herald).
Illus 12: Fundraising Event at Weedingshall July 1967 (Photo: Jessie Young)
The people of Polmont took the children to their hearts and invited them to local events. Christmas parties were always popular. Much fundraising also took place to provide extras for the children, such as trips to the seaside. In 1955 the County Council arranged for a paddling pool to be built by the Borstal Boys and paid the £150 for the materials.
Weedingshall was last used as a residential children’s home around 1976. It was then used by social work services as a ‘day unit’ for children who would not attend or follow school rules – a list D school. In 1989 it was classed as a Youth Care and Education Centre and a large brick annexe was built to the east of the house at a cost of around one and a half million pounds. It was designed by Central Regional Council Architectural Services. The bland buff brick walls were relieved by bands red brick with red tiled roofs and projecting steel-framed bays. The new annexe was in use for less than a decade and was demolished in 2004 and the property was transferred to Falkirk Council.
Illus 13: Weedingshall House with the 1989 Annexe to the right.
Falkirk Council had no use for the building and in 2016 put it on the market. The description noted that the house was in need of renovation and was:
“arranged over three floors – lower ground, ground and first floor. The current arrangement offers three principal apartments, two smaller offices and male and female toilets on the ground floor. The first floor, accessible via a central stair, is laid out as a series of seven teaching rooms/offices in addition to a staffroom with kitchenette, toilets and kitchen. The lower ground floor has a further classroom area, a kitchen /utility room and a store. There is a garage to the west of the main building and to the east of the property is an area of cleared ground.”
It was bought by Mr Hay of Bo’ness in August 2018 and the house was refurbished. Ten glamping lodges were constructed on the site of the old annexe and opened for business at the end of the first wave of Covid-19 cases in July 2020.
Sites and Monuments Records
|Weedingshall||SMR 824||NS 9260 7920|
|Weedingshall Lodge||SMR 1585||NS 9254 7903|
|Findlay, J.||2015||Chasing Lost Time: The Life of C.K. Scott Moncrieff: Soldier, Spy and Translator|
|Reid, J.||2009||The Place Names of Falkirk and East Stirlingshire|
G.B. Bailey (2020)