Balcastle Villa

1862 Ordnance Survey Map
Illus: 1862 Ordnance Survey map surveyed in 1860 and published 1874 showing Balcastle Villa.

Balcastle Villa was built in 1857, the same year as its neighbour Binniehill House.  It was built for William Scott of Jawcraig, coalmaster, on the north-east corner of the Lands of Balcastle – hence the name.  These villas reflected the increased importance of Slamannan as a centre of coal exploitation.  It stood in its own grounds surrounded by a tall stone wall.  The gardens were extensive, covering around three acres.  The Ordnance Survey described Balcastle Villa as “A two stories mansion situated in the village of Slamannan.  It is slated and of recent erection.”

Balcastle Villa Looking North
Illus: Balcastle Villa looking north.

Even after 1857 William Scott is always described as “of Jawcraig”.  He was the owner of the colliery there and a partner in Scott & Gilmour, coalmasters, Glasgow.  He was also a director of the South Knapdale Mining Co.  His son, William Scott jnr, lived at Balcastle Villa and became a member of the Slamannan Parochial Board.  In 1864 he left Slamannan to become manager of Lord Belhaven’s collieries at Wishaw.  He retained an interest in the area as owner of the lands of Moathill and of Dyke Farm.  William Scott Esq of Jawcraig died at 2 Abercromby Place, Stirling, on 26 June 1873.

By that time Balcastle Villa had been sold privately to another coalmaster, James Nimmo.  His sister, Mary lived there until her marriage in 1876.  James Nimmo had a residence in Edinburgh and looked for a tenant.  The following year he let the building to the City of Glasgow Bank who used it as a branch office.  The bank was expanding rapidly at the time and attracted many depositors from the local area.  James Mitchell was the branch manager.  However, the bank failed and on 1 October 1878 the doors of the Slamannan bank were closed, with devastating effects for its customers.  The Bank of Scotland took over the lease and it re-opened with James Mitchell still as manager.  In 1881 he was replaced by Thomas Mitchell and he remained there until his retirement in December 1922 after 38 years service.  In the interim the bank had bought Balcastle Villa from the Nimmo family in 1887.

Slamannan Bank of Scotland
Illus: Slamannan Bank of Scotland looking SSE from Bank Street.

In 1895 the Bank of Scotland put a single storey extension onto the house to serve as the bank office and the villa was returned to its residential use for the bank manager.  The status of the bank manager can be judged by the rather large house in which he lived and served as a justice of the peace, but also from the fact that in June of that year he married Jessie, only daughter of ex-provost Black of Airdrie.

1897 Ordnance Survey Map
Illus: 1897 Ordnance Survey map.

John Paterson from Crieff took over from Thomas Mitchell in 1922.  He, too, successfully held a position of importance in the community.  As well as being a justice of the peace he was a parish councillor, district councillor and latterly a county councillor.  Paterson was a man of regular habits and would take his lunch at the same time each day, crossing the hall that connected the extension to his dining room.  This had evidently been observed, for on 16 December 1935 two men entered the bank office just as he was leaving.  He heard the door creak but thought it was just another customer.  Henry Jack, the 29-year-old teller, dealt with the man at the desk.  He was asked for change for some bank notes and when he turned back with the small change found himself staring at the point of a large service revolver.  The other man then went behind the desk and removed £802.  Jack moved and was threatened.  The men then left and sped off down the snow-covered roads towards Limerigg.  Jack recovered his composure and threw something through the window as the men left, alerting the neighbours and staggered into the house to let Paterson know.  An urgent phone call was made to the post office which passed the message on to the police in Falkirk.  The villagers had seen the 1935 model Vauxhall saloon with an Edinburgh registration, WS2222, outside the bank – they noticed everything in this small village – and the police radios put out a request for its whereabouts.  It turned out to have been stolen from Belford Rd in Edinburgh.  Three men were arrested in an Edinburgh Hotel that night.  Henry Jack, the bank teller, recognised them and they were subsequently found guilty of the robbery, along with a whole host of previous crimes.  A thumb print on the brass door handle at Slamannan helped secure the convictions.

As a consequence of the robbery the bank manager at Slamannan was issued with a shot gun by the Bank of Scotland!  John Paterson retired in June 1936 and was replaced by William Murdoch from the Lockerbie Branch.  During the Second World War the shotgun was donated to the Home Guard, though it was also a member of the Home Guard who threw a stone through one of the house windows late one evening in 1944.

Murdoch retired to Oban in September 1946 and John Harrison, an accountant at the Falkirk Branch, took his place.  When he retired in November 1966 Slamannan became a sub-branch under the Falkirk Branch.  It was decided to get more up to date premises in the village and when the new shops were built at the Cross this provided an opportunity.  On 1 September 1968 the brass plaque reading “Bank of Scotland” was removed from the gatepost at Balcastle Villa and placed on the new building.  By November that year the old bank and villa had been demolished.

G.B. Bailey (2020)