Callendar House – A History

The substantial history of the owners of Callendar House and estate is admirably covered by a number of authors and so only an overview is included here.  Chief amongst the earlier writers was Edwin Livingston who documents in considerable detail the doings of the Livingston family.  He was particularly fascinated by the events of the mid 15th century and the sudden downfall of their power base in 1449, followed by its immediate resurrection – so much so that he wrote a novel about the events called “The Captain of Stirling Castle” in which Callendar House gets a chapter to itself.  This format was particularly useful in being able to provide a social setting to the period in which family alliances were more important than the national good.  It is, however, his useful summary chronology of the family that is reproduced as interspersed text here.

John Reid has augmented Burns’ short account of the Callendars of Callendar to give us fresh insights into the early history and Ian Scott has provided a lively summary of all of these things in his authoritative history of Falkirk.  For detail we can go to papers published in Calatria, the invaluable journal of the Falkirk Local History Society, such as Ian’s account of the relationship between the Livingstons and Mary Queen of Scots.  Other articles have included the religious persecution of Eleanor Hay (1593-1627), James Livingston founding Falkirk Hospital (1640), the siege of Callendar House (1651), the theft of the Livingston silver (1651), the Militia Riots (1797), the sale of Callendar House (1783), the visit of Queen Victoria (1842) and the last Earl of Callendar (1853).  These will be reproduced on this website.

Given this plethora of material it has been decided here to deal in more detail with specific episodes which are intimately connected with Callendar House, such as the period of the family’s associations with Mary Queen of Scots, the guardianship of Princess Elizabeth, and career of the First Earl of Callendar.  Curiously, the major gap in the story of Callendar House has been a history of the Forbes family and so this is dealt with in more detail than some of the other sections.

The Callendars

Callendar is derived from ‘Calatria’ for which the earliest surviving reference dates to 1072.  It appears in various references as Caleteria, Kaletiro, Calathir and Calentyr and may stem from the Gaelic word “callaid” meaning a partition, fence or ditch barrier (Reid 1991).  As the area of Calatria occupied the land between the rivers Carron and Avon this must refer to the Antonine Wall which runs like a spine along the territory and which formed the main line of communication across the Forth-Clyde isthmus.

The early high-ranking officials who administered Calatria or Callendar were called thanes and these originally appear to have been stewards of a royal estate.  It is not known when the office was first introduced but it must have been long before the earliest surviving mention of a thane at Callendar which was during the reign of David I (1124-1153) when he granted a saltwork in “kalentyr” to Newbattle Abbey.  The Christian names of the Callendars suggest that they stemmed from the native nobility of earlier centuries.

  • c1135  Thane Duncan
  • c1190  Thane Malcolm
  • 1200    Thane Alwyn
  • 1226    Thane Patrick

As the feudal system changed so too did their role and in the reign of David II many thanages were converted into baronies, including that at Callendar sometime around 1230.  At that time the Abbey of Holyrood received a substantial part of the former thanage, but the Callendar family remained at its caput – Callendar.  After Thane Patrick we have:

  • c1252  Alwyn
  • c1289  John
  • c1300  Alwyn
  • c1340  John
  • c1346  Patrick
  • c1350  Christian

Sir John de Calentir must originally have espoused the Scottish side in the Wars of Independence, but in 1296 he signed the Ragman Roll swearing fealty to Edward I of England and had his lands restored.  Thereafter he probably fought on the English side but was captured at around the time of the Battle of Falkirk and in 1299 was involved in a prisoner exchange.  Normally Callendar had an annual value of forty pounds in peacetime but was then worth only eight pounds six shillings and eight pence – a sign of the ravages caused by this long war.  Around 1346 Patrick de Callendar forfeited his title, allegedly for supporting the Balliol cause against the Bruces.  Despite this his daughter Christian married the new possessor, Sir William Livingston.

The Livingstons

In 1436 Alexander Livingston of Callendar secured possession of the young King James II and became the Great Chamberlain.  This moment saw the family move to the centre of Scottish power – a position that they were to hold for over a century. 

  • 1346    William Livingston
  • 1364    John Livingston (son – killed at Battle of Homildon Hill)
  • 1402    Alexander Livingston (son)
  • 1450    James Livingston (son)
  • 1467    James Livingston (son)
  • 1497    James Livingston (nephew)
  • c1503  William Livingston (son)
  • 1517    Alexander Livingston (son)

A chronology of the most notable events in the history of the Livingstons of Callendar :

1345Sir William de Livingston Knight BaronetObtains land of Callendar from King David Bruce.
1346Sir William de Livingston of CallendarTaken prisoner by the English at Neville’s Cross.
1357Sir William de Livingston One of the Scottish commissioners Attaches his seal to treaty of Ransom and peace with England.
1362King David Bruce Grants lands of Kilsyth to Sir William de Livingston and Christian de Callendar, his wife.
1402Sir John de Livingston of Callendar slain at Homildon Hill.
1439 Sir Alexander de Livingston of CallendarGuardian of King James II, has the Queen-Dowager, Joan Beaufort, arrested.
1440Sir Alexander de Livingston and Chancellor Crichton Had the chiefs of the House of Douglas arrested and executed for high treason.
1444Sir Alexander de Livingston Appointed Justiciary of Scotland.
1449Fall of the Livingstons and confiscation of their estates.
1450Alexander Livingston and Robert LivingstonExecuted for High Treason
1452James IIRestoration of the Livingstons
James de Livingstonof Callendar, Great ChamberlainCreated Lord Livingston of Callendar.
1458The Callendar estates Erected into the free Barony of Callendar.
1513 Sir Robert Livingston of Drumry and East Wemyss Slain at Flodden
1513William Livingstonof Kilsyth Slain at Flodden

The Livingstons of Callendar & Mary Queen of Scots

Alexander, 5th Lord Livingston, accompanied James V to France in 1537 to celebrate the king’s brief marriage to Princess Magdalene.  When the King died in 1542 the care of his infant daughter, Mary (Queen of Scots) was entrusted to eight nobles, one of whom was Sir Alexander Livingston.  The Earl of Arran was made regent and through the Treaty of Greenwich favoured a marriage between Mary and Henry VIII’s son Edward.  This was opposed by a section of the Scottish nobles including Alexander Livingston, and by the Catholic Church led by the Earl of Moray and Cardinal Beaton.  On 4 September 1543 they met at Callendar House and agreed to reject the proposed marriage.  Concerned about Mary’s security, lest those who stuck to the Treaty attempted to wrest control from them, the young queen was placed in the care of Lord Livingston and Lord Erskine.  On 5 June 1546 the Privy Council recorded that these two were exempted from military service because “the Lordis Erskine and Levingstown chosin to be of Secret Counsel… of the keeping of our Soverane Ladis person.”

This was obviously a great honour and placed the men in a position of considerable influence as well as a payment of £80 a month from November 1545 until February 1548.  Whilst this was a large sum of money for those days, it was an expensive business looking after the monarch.  The ruling Scottish families looked around for another matrimonial match for Mary and concluded that Francis, the son of the French king, was the most suitable.  For arranging this Regent Arran was awarded, or bribed, with the Dukedom of Chatelherault.  Henry VIII was furious and the so-called Rough Wooing ensued.  The Scots were roundly defeated at Pinkie on 10 September 1547 and amongst the dead were John, Master of Livingston, and many of the family’s vassals from Falkirk.  The Queen’s person was under increased threat and she sailed for France in August 1548 in the company of Lord Livingston and her Four Maries.  The latter were the daughters of noble families – Mary Fleming, Mary Seton, Mary Beaton and the daughter of her guardian, Mary Livingston.  They were about the same age as the Queen and became her constant companions.  Lord Livingston was already ill as they sailed around Ireland to avoid the English fleet.

Illus 2: Gravestone in Falkirk Parish Church.

In France Lord Livingston married his third wife, a young French woman called Jeanne de Pedefer, but died shortly thereafter, c1550.  It is unlikely that his body was brought back to Falkirk, but a commemorative slab was placed in the parish church there.  It reads: ALEX[ander]/ ADOLESCENTIAM IN BEL—/ PROVECTAM AE/TATEM IN AVLA/ REGVM GALLIE/ INTER PRA-IC/ –OS- 17 A SC/ — ANNI-/ —T TPO—“  (Alexander — his youth in war and his maturity in the court of the Kings of France, among — 17 — years —).  Above this is a shield in relief – parted per pale and charged: dexter, dimidiated, 1st and 4th for Livingston, 2nd and 3rd for Callendar, the 2nd and 4th quarters being elided by the dimidiation; sinister, a fess or chief charged with three stars accompanied by a rose or gillyflower in base, a three-point label in chief.  The sinister charges are probably for Douglas – the label indicates that she was the daughter of an heir apparent.  Above the shield is a clumsy carving which appears to be meant to represent an early Scottish type of earl’s coronet.  Agnes Douglas was the daughter of John, second Earl of Morton, and it therefore seems probable that the gravestone was initially executed on her death around 1540 and that the inscription was added later.

Lord Alexander Livingston was succeeded by his second son, Lord William, who embraced the new Protestant faith but remained faithful to Queen Mary.  Mary had married the dauphin who for a few months became King of France.  After his death she had little role in France and Lord William Livingston was amongst the Scottish nobles who journeyed to France in 1561 to invite her to return to Scotland where she was still the queen.  In August that year she returned and the Livingstons remained close friends and allies.  When Magdalen Livingston, Mary’s younger sister, married Arthur Erskine of Blackgrange, the Queen’s favourite equerry, on 7 January 1562, the Queen presented her with a vasquin (outer petticoat) bordered with a small fringe of gold.  When Mary Livingston married John Sempill on 6 March 1565 it took place at Holyrood, probably because she was the first of the Four Maries to marry.  The Queen gifted the couple the crown lands of Auchtermuchty and the island of Little Cumbrae, a wedding dress and a bed.  A few months later, on 1 July 1565, Queen Mary attended the baptism of one of Lord William’s children in Callendar House.  The ceremony was performed according to Protestant rites and Mary listened to the service “to show him in that favour that she had not done to any before” and even John Knox wrote that her presence “was reckoned a great matter.”  Indeed, the Queen had been warned of an intended ambush as she and her fiancé, Lord Darnley, took the route from Perth to get to Callendar House.  Consequently she had left Perth at 5 o’clock escorted by 300 spearmen moving rapidly.  Mary remained at Callendar House until the 4 July.  The room in which she is reputed to have stayed lies in the top north-west corner of the old tower house and its memory was preserved by generations of the house’s owners.

Lord Livingston was often at court and on 9 March 1566 was in attendance at Holyrood Palace when Riccio was murdered.  The deed having been done and the loyal attendants of the Queen finding themselves outnumbered, they made a diplomatic exit.  Queen Mary was pregnant at the time and fearing that she might die in childbirth she drew up a will and marked on an inventory which of her jewels were to go to which person.  Mary Sempill, formerly Livingston, as the lady of honour in charge of the queen’s jewels, drew up the inventory.    Included in the bequests were Lady Agnes Livingston (the Queen’s cousin), Mary Livingston or Sempill, and her younger sister Magdalen Livingston.  Mary Sempill was to receive, amongst other articles of jewellery, a watch ornamented with twelve rubies and twelve large sapphires with a pearl pendant at the end.

Both mother and child survived and on 17 December 1566 the infant prince (afterwards James VI) was baptised at Stirling Castle.  Lord Livingston was one of few Scottish lords to assist in an official capacity, most refusing to attend a Catholic ceremony.  The following month Queen Mary stayed at Callendar House on 13 January with her son journeying from Stirling to Edinburgh.  She returned eleven days later on the 24th on her way to visit Darnley who was ill with the smallpox in Glasgow.  On the return trip she was accompanied by Darnley and the couple stopped overnight in Callendar House on the 27th.

Shortly thereafter, on 10 February 1567, Darnley was murdered by Bothwell.  Incredibly Bothwell then took Queen Mary as a captive on 24 April and married her according to Protestant rites at Holyrood at 4 o’clock in the morning of the 15 May.  Among the few nobles present was Lord Livingston.  It was not a good omen and before long Mary surrendered to the Confederate Lords.  As she was led on foot through the streets of Edinburgh she was supported by Mary Sempill and Mary Seton.  She was taken to imprisonment at Loch Leven.  The Queen’s loyal supporters, including Lord Livingston, were surprised by the speed of events and convened at Dumbarton on 29 June 1567 to condemn the action as an act of treason.  Meanwhile the Queen had been forced to abdicate and her son was crowned as James VI with the Earl of Moray as regent.  Regent Moray met a delegation consisting of the Earl of Argyll, Lord Boyd, Lord Livingston and the Commendator of Kilwinning on 10 September but refused to release Mary.  Somehow Mary managed to escape on 2 May 1568 and made her way to Hamilton where her supporters rallied.  Lord Livingston and his Falkirk men rushed to the scene.  However, they were no match for the Earl of Moray’s experienced forces and were routed at the Battle of Langside on 13 May.  Mary was hurried from the field by Lords Herries, Fleming and Livingston and made their way into exile in England.  Amongst the few who arrived in Carlisle with her on 18 May were Lord Livingston and his wife.  They were to spend much of the next few years in attendance on Queen Mary in various English castles.  In their absence the “castell, tour, and fortalice of the Callendar” was seized by Regent Moray.  It was often called “The Callendar.”

Lord Livingston was actively attempting to obtain Queen Mary’s release.  In September 1568 he attended a conference at York as one of her commissioners and met the English commissioners and her enemies from Scotland.  From York the meeting was moved to Westminster and then to Hampton Court before being summarily dismissed by Queen Elizabeth.  He rejoined Queen Mary and his wife at Tutbury Castle where, on 26 February 1569, Nicholas White wrote to William Cecil that “the greatest personadge in house abowte hir if the lord of Levenston [the English pronunciation of Livingston] and the lady his wife, which is a fayre gentilwoman; and it was told me both Protestants.”  Over the next few months Lady Livingston and Lady Seton often did needlework with the Queen.

The following year Lord Livingston was sent to Scotland by Queen Mary to speak to her adherents there.  A passport was obtained from Queen Elizabeth and he duly set out on 12 June, only to be delayed at Berwick on Tweed where its verity was checked.  In Scotland he rallied support and spoke to a great many supporters with the result that he was delegated to be one of three commissioners to treat with Queen Elizabeth for Mary’s release.  It was 3 January by the time that he reached Sheffield where Mary was then being held to report to her.  Meanwhile, despite the season, his wife had recently left to carry private letters from Mary to Scotland.  She was back by 4 May 1571 when a roll of Queen Mary’s household was taken.  There were 39 in total and the first name on the list was “My Lady Levinston, dame of honour to the Queen’s Majesty.”  Shortly afterwards Lord Livingston returned only to find that Queen Elizabeth had decided to reduce the number of attendants to sixteen.  Elizabeth may have been aware of their use as messengers.  Lord and Lady Livingston were not on the list of those who were allowed to remain.  Lady Livingston was too ill to travel.

As soon as Lady Livingston was well enough she returned to Scotland and was allowed to live at Callendar House which was restored to her for her own use as long as she and her household pursued “their lawful business,” according to the terms of the ‘Declaration of Allegiance.’  The new regent, the Earl of Mar, was a close friend of the Livingstons and this helps to explain the privileged treatment they received.  Even so, sureties for adherence to the condition had to be provided on 4 April 1572 by her two brothers-in-law, Thomas Livingston of Haining and Sir Alexander Bruce of Airth, under the penalty of £10,000 Scots that the castle would not be used as a place of refuge for any “rebels or declared traitors.”  Furthermore, the two men were bound to hand the castle over to the Regent if Lord Livingston, on his return, did not also comply with these conditions.

Despite her bond, Lady Livingston continued to act on behalf of Queen Mary.  She and her son, Alexander, conducted secret correspondence with the Marian adherents in Scotland, including those at Edinburgh Castle which still held out for her.  Eventually this net of intrigue was discovered by Regent Morton, who had replaced Mar upon his death in October 1572.  In 1573 Lady Livingston was imprisoned in Dalkeith Castle but refused to provide any information.  She had been very careful in her dealings and when Callendar House was searched nothing incriminating was found.  On 6 April Regent Morton took the English ambassador with him when he went to question her in person.  The latter subsequently wrote to Lord Burghley “although things were so evident that she could not deny them, she would confess nothing but by tears and silence.”  She was released.  Meanwhile, Lord Livingston was in France lobbying for support.  Here he had an audience with Catherine de Medicis, the queen-mother, and was able to hand over a letter to Charles IX.  Apart from a promise of 10,000 livres and permission to raise 300 men in France, he was unable to secure any further support.  Then he witnessed the Massacre of St Bartholomew and realised the futility of his mission.  He was back in London in March 1573 where he was detained at Regent Morton’s request.  It was only after the surrender of Edinburgh Castle that Morton felt confident enough to allow Lord Livingston back into Scotland and on 3 July 1573 he returned and submitted to the government of James VI.  Consequently on 23 March 1574 the Privy Council relieved his family of all bonds made on behalf of him, his wife and their eldest son.  Lord Livingston slowly re-entered Scottish life and in 1575 was even allowed to become a member of the Privy Council. 

Master Alexander Livingston became good friends with Esme Stewart the Earl of Lennox who was governing Scotland with the Earl of Arran.  Lennox had Alexander appointed as one of the gentlemen of the King’s chamber in 1580. The following year Lennox was also responsible for the prosecution of the Earl of Morton for the murder of Darnley.  Master Alexander Livingston was on the assize at the trial and Morton was duly executed.  Then, unexpectedly, the Earl of Gowrie and a number of other nobles kidnapped the King on 22 August 1582 in an event known as the “Ruthven Raid”.  The Earl of Gowrie was now in control of the King and state.

1549    William Livingston (son)

Earl of Linlithgow

In 1582 the Earl of Gowrie had the Duke of Lennox banished from Scotland.  So the Duke spent the night of 3 December at Callendar House and was then accompanied to his exile by Master Alexander Livingston.  Alexander stayed with him until the following May when he returned home to inform James VI of the Duke’s ill health and to make a request to allow him to return to die.  He was well received, but the Duke had died before Alexander reached his native shores.  The English ambassador wrote “The home-coming of the master of Livingstone at this time and upon the King’s remove to Faulkland, doth greatly increase the fear and suspicion generally conceived here of some sudden alteration to be wrought in this court and realm.”  He seems to have had good reason as inevitably Arran assembled a force of 12,000 men and regained power in July 1583 and the Ruthven Raiders and their followers were banished to England.  Shortly afterwards, the King sent Master Alexander Livingston back to France to bring back the Duke of Lennox’s widow and son and they landed at Leith on 14 November 1583.  For this service he was rewarded with a third share of the benefice of Cambuskenneth Abbey.  With Lennox’s family was Master Patrick Gray who quickly rose to a position of prominence at court. 

In amongst all this turmoil Master Alexander finally married his fiancé, Helenor Hay, in January 1584.  Lord William Livingston himself served on the assize at the trial of the Earl of Gowrie who was condemned to death for his share in the Raid of Ruthven.  Lennox had been avenged.  Lord Livingston then went down to London to demand the return of Gowrie’s co-conspirators, the disaffected lords.  Elizabeth refused to hand them over. 

Before long Master Patrick Gray and Master Alexander Livingstone were growing concerned about the growing power of Arran and the manner in which he was using it.  They invited the disaffected lords back from England and in October 1585 the disaffected lords moved towards Scotland and the king decided to send an army to intercept them.  The lords moved faster than anyone had anticipated; concentrating their whole troops at Falkirk on 31 October, they marched on Stirling with 8,000 men.  Arran fled and was declared a traitor in the king’s name at the market place.  The exiles were pardoned and had their lands restored.

Lord William Livingston died in 1592 and Alexander took his place in the parliament and as a Privy Councillor.  He was now the 7th Lord Livingston and on very good terms with James VI.  He had the honour of carrying the towel at the baptism of the King’s eldest son in 1594.  His wife, Helonor Livingston, was a firm friend of the King’s wife, Anne of Denmark.  Helonor was a Catholic and as a consequence we know odd details of her time at Callendar House.  She accommodated a Jesuit named Robert Dickson “in ye plaice of Callendar besyd Falkirk quhair he remainit ane lang spaice expres contrar ye act of parliament.”  She also held a bonfire “besyd ye plaice of Callendar on midsomer evin” which was considered to be “to ye dishoner of god and eveil exampill to all the cuntrie.”  She was accused of having dealings with midsummer fairies!  Finally, Lord Livingston was asked to “remove that monument of idolatrie To wit, the piktar of ye crucifix at ye ruif of his ladis bed.”

Despite her papacy the Livingstons continued to enjoy the society of other members of the aristocracy.  In August 1596 the King was at Callendar House to attend a banquet at the marriage of the Earl of Orkney.  Whilst there he heard word that his wife had given birth to a daughter at Dunfermline.  It was an auspicious circumstance and in November the King decided to entrust his daughter’s upbringing to Lord Alexander Livingston.  On 28 November Princes Elizabeth was christened and on 3 December

in presence of his Majestie and Lordis of Secreit Counsaill, the Lord Levingstoun oblist himselff to find sic cautioun for doing of his dewitie in keiping of the Princesse as my Lord of Mar hes found for keiping of the Prince, and that sa sone as he salbe requirit be his Majestie and Lordis of Co unsaill.  The quhilk day, his Majestie, with avise foirsaid, hes gevin full pouer to the said Lord Levingstoun to putt oute and ressave in all servandis necessair to the said Princeis, and that nane salbe ressavit to hir service nor remane thairin by {aside from, or without} his lordshippis plane consent and advise, becaus his Majestie hes concredited the keiping of hir to the said Lord, to be brocht up be him in his house and company.”

The Livingstons were given the usage of Linlithgow Palace in order to bring the Princess Elizabeth up in the style to which she was entitled.  To help Lord Livingston to afford this new life, and because he was conveniently on the spot, he was appointed Baillie of all the king’s lands in the county of Linlithgow.  There was now a large retinue there – Lady Mary Ochiltree had been appointed as an assistant to Lady Livingston. There was also a wet nurse, Alison Hay; Lady Dunkerrant, became the mistress nurse; and Elizabeth Hay was ‘keeper of the coffers’, looking after the princess’s wardrobe.  Treasury accounts for this period are full of references to items of clothing for Elizabeth, and on several occasions to “Babies to play her with“, these being dolls.  Her doting parents wanted her to have a happy childhood.

1597 was an eventful year for the Livingstons.  In March Lady Heloner was excommunicated by the Presbytery of Glasgow and in October her mother in law, Lady Agnes Livingston who had spent so much time with Mary Queen of Scots, appears to have been murdered by Alexander the Master of Elphinstone.  These events passed most people unobserved.  That September a fresh outbreak of the plague in the east coast ports sent everyone scur­rying for refuge.  The Scottish court was scattered as the attendants tried to avoid the larger towns.  Robert Bowes considered returning to Berwick, to be safe on English soil.  For a while he had contemplated the haven of Linlithgow again but “For the Lady Livingstone is so fearful for the Princess in Linlithgow as she mislikes my settling there as I had provided and as the King once well liked“. 

The King and Queen must have been quite happy with the manner in which Princess Elizabeth was being brought up by her Livingston guardians, for she was joined by her sister Margaret, born on 24 December 1598 and baptised on 15 April next.  In recognition of the extra burden placed upon him, Lord Livingston was made Keeper of Blackness Castle and of Linlithgow Palace that February. On the 28th May Livingston and his retainers were exempted from attending wars and gatherings on account of “his magestie having pleased to burden Alexander, Lord Levingstoun, with the keiping, educatioun, and upbringing of the Princessis, his Heynes darrest dochters.”  He was also excused “from all appearance at, or passing upon, assizes or inquests, during the time foresaid.”

Further rewards followed for the Livingstons. The most important for the people of Falkirk was the grant of a crown charter on 13 March 1600, given…

“in consideration of the great care, extreme diligence and solicitude of his trusty cousin and councillor, Alexander, Lord Livingston, and Lady Helenor Hay, his spouse, for several years bygone, in undertaking the education of the King’s two lawful daughters still in their society, and understanding that he (King James VI) was justly indebted to them for the support and education of his said daughters in the sum of £10,000 (Scots), and seeing no method of recompensing the same that would be of less prejudice to his patrimony, than by granting the present infeftment; therefore, infull satisfaction of the said debt, and for long and honourable service done to the King and his progenitors by Lord Livingston and his predecessors, against all enemies, foreign and domestic, the King erects all Lord Livingston’s lands and baronies into one whole and free barony, to be called the Barony of Callendar, and the town of Falkirk into a free burgh of barony, with all the rights thereof, in favour of the said lord; and also erects the whole foresaid lands and burgh into a free regality for ever, for one pair of gilt spurs to be rendered at the Castle of Callendar every year on Whitsunday in name of blench ferme.”

Then in December Lord Livingston was elevated to the Earldom of Linlithgow, and Helenor became a countess.  However, Princess Margaret died in 1601 and there were moves to remove Elizabeth but they came to nought.  Lord and Lady Livingston continued to inhabit Linlithgow Palace along with their five children and Princess Elizabeth.

On the accession of James VI to the English throne the Princess Elizabeth was removed from the charge of the Earl and Countess of Linlithgow.  By a warrant of the Privy Council, dated at Windsor 5th July 1603, these loyal guardians were discharged “of the upbringing of the Princess and of thair dewtifull caire and service in that behalf”’.  The couple escorted the little princess to Berwick, where there was a sad parting with the Countess of Linlithgow.  Elizabeth is said to have declared, between sobs to her mother, that “nothing can ever make me forget one I so tenderly loved” and “in whose house she had her first breeding.”  The Earl of Linlithgow saw his consort to London where he placed her into the king’s own custody.  The link between the princess and the Livingston family was not to be broken so easily.  Anna Livingston, Alexander and Helenor’s eldest daughter, stayed with the royal court as a lady of the queen’s bedchamber.  In later years, as the Electress Palatine and Queen of Bohemia , Elizabeth always showed special favour to them; in particular to their third son, James, who entered her employ as a professional soldier and later became the first Earl of Callendar.

  • 1592    Alexander Livingston (son)
  • 1622    Alexander Livingston (son)

Earl of Callendar

Alexander Livingston, the 1st Earl of Linlithgow, died at Callendar House on 24 December 1621 and was buried in the family vault at Falkirk Parish Church.  He was succeeded by his second son, Alexander, who became the 2nd Earl of Linlithgow.  On 17 February 1624 he was sworn in as a member of the Scottish Privy Council and in January 1627 commissioned as Lord High Admiral of Scotland.  That year he was also appointed as Keeper of the royal palace at Linlithgow, which became a hereditary appointment.  Linlithgow and Midhope were now his principal residences.  His younger brother, James Livingston of Brighouse, had entered the military and served in Bohemia, Holland and Germany in both the armies of the English and the United Netherlands.  His childhood friend at Linlithgow Palace had been Princess Elizabeth who was now the Queen of Bohemia and she kept a careful eye on his career.  He gained a knighthood and rose to the rank of colonel with a reputation as a competent soldier.  He also accumulated land and titles at home.  On 17 March 1626 he received a charter of the barony of Livingstone, with the village and peel, which his brother had resigned in his favour, and he became known as Sir James Livingston of Livingstone.  Then, on 19 June 1633, he was created a peer and took the title of Lord Livingston of Almond.  By then his brother was in financial trouble and so the following month James gave up the barony of Livingstone in order to fund the acquisition of the barony of Callendar in which he was confirmed on 12 July 1634.  In November 1637 he also became the proprietor of the barony of Falkirk which too was purchased from Alexander.  Some of the money for these purchases may have come from his wife, Margaret Hay, whom he had married in 1633.  She was the widow of the 1st Earl of Dunfermline who had been High Chancellor of Scotland.  As Lady Almond she was allowed to retain her place at the royal court.

Before long, however, both brothers became embroiled in the disputes between Charles I and the Covenanters.  Although in religious leanings Alexander was inclined towards the cause of the latter and signed the first National Covenant, he took the side of the monarch and suffered as a result.  On the other hand, James was offered the position of second-in-command of the Scottish Army of the National Covenant under General Leslie in 1639.  He had to decline due to ill-health, but when the offer was repeated the following year he accepted it.  He led the vanguard of the army which invaded England and marched on and captured Newcastle.  After this brief campaign James Livingston was able to return home where the political manoeuvering continued.  Prompted by Montrose he signed the Cumbernauld Bond, named after the house of his relative the Earl of Wigtoun.  It was not long before he divulged the existence of the bond to the Earl of Argyll when he visited Callendar House and Montrose was imprisoned.  James Livingston continued to prosper, playing an increasingly active role in the Scottish parliament.  A hospital for the support of four aged and infirm persons was founded in the High Street at Falkirk and endowed in 1640 by Lord Livingston of Almond and Callendar; this deed confirmed in 1668 after he had been created Earl of Callendar.  He was one of the reception committee when Charles I visited Edinburgh in 1641 and during the visit was created the Earl of Callendar.

1643 saw the start of the English Civil War (Wars of the Three Kingdoms) in which both the Parliamentarians and Charles I sought the support of the Scots.  James Livingston was again offered his former post of Lieutenant-General of the Scottish army that marched into England and again refused, though he did take command of the new levies being raised to defend Scotland.  This force had to act to block a potential invasion by an English force under Montrose.  Livingston was then empowered to enter England with his 5,000 strong army and preceded to Carlisle and then Newcastle which he besieged.  Here he was joined by the main Scottish force and eventually the city fell to them.  According to a contemporary account Livingston entered at the Sandgate and marched along the Quay “with flyeing colours and roaring Drummes.”  In June 1645 Carlisle capitulated.

After various actions and incidents Charles I surrendered to the Scottish army at Newark on 5 May 1646 and was taken by them to Newcastle.  This gave James Livingston plenty of opportunity to converse with the King and on 22 July he was granted a fresh charter erecting his whole estates, including the recently acquired baronies of Dunipace, Haining and Dalderse into “one whole free regality” to be called the Regality of Callendar with Falkirk as a free burgh of regality.  It was January 1647 before Charles I was finally handed over to the English Parliamentarians.  Perversely, after further negotiations the Duke of Hamilton raised yet another Scottish army to march to the King’s aid.  Callendar was appointed as the second in command when the ill-equipped and ill-trained force entered England and relieved Carlisle in July 1648 at the start of the so-called “Engagement.”  Callendar was appointed as the nominal role of governor of the city and Sir William Livingston of Westquarter as deputy-governor, the latter remaining at Carlisle when the army proceeded south.  The Scottish army was soundly defeated by Cromwell in Lancashire.  Facing disaster Callendar and his immediate retainers cut their way through the enemy lines and he was able to escape to Holland; Hamilton was captured and subsequently tried and executed.  For those Falkirk men who managed to return home there was the censure of the local church to face and its insistence upon public humiliation.  Likewise, Callendar was forbidden from ever holding any public office in Scotland.

The execution of Charles I led to yet another twist in the story.  The Scots now formed an agreement with his son that led to his returning to Scotland in June 1650.  The Earl of Callendar was, however, still excluded, and it was only after the Scottish army was defeated by Cromwell at Dunbar on 3 September that he was allowed to enter the country.  Cromwell quickly advanced on to Falkirk.  Callendar House was asked to surrender on 16 September but the garrison refused to do so unless Stirling was taken.  Cromwell then consolidated his hold on the area by taking the fortified houses at Kinneil and Haining (Almond) and leaving a garrison at Linlithgow before advancing on Glasgow.  Blackness Castle also remained in Scottish hands.  In the following January a Scottish counterattack on Linlithgow failed to dislodge the English garrison.  The Earl of Callendar decided to remove his valuables from Callendar House and they were taken north under escort. 

The Scots again withdrew to Stirling and in March Cromwell’s forces were able to enter Callendar House unopposed.  Then on 1 April 1651 Blackness Castle was overrun.  However, the balance of military power changed in May when the Scots received a large number of reinforcements from the north in preparation for the campaigning season.  The English abandoned Callendar House in order to brigade their troops together and at the end of June the Scottish army moved down to fortify the north bank of the River Carron.  Detachments entered Falkirk and reoccupied Callendar House.  On hearing this Cromwell quickly brought his army from Edinburgh in the hope of an open battle but the Scots withdrew from Falkirk leaving only the garrison at Callendar House.  His army probed the Scottish defences along the river frontage but to no advantage.  They therefore marched to Glasgow, returning on 14 July forcing a scouting party from the town of Falkirk and on their way to Linlithgow were shot at from Callendar House.  The small garrison of this castle had taken an aggressive stance sending out sorties to pick off small parties of the enemy.  One English soldier complained that the house “hath devoured many of our men.”

Illus 3: The First Earl of Callendar


Cromwell decided to take action against the castle in the hope of drawing the Scottish army across the River Carron.  Twice the garrison refused to surrender and so just before sunset on 15 July 1651 a detachment of some 260 of the Coldstream Guard under General Monck stormed Callendar House, killing 62 of the garrison and injuring another 13.  Among the dead was Lieutenant Galbraith of the King’s army who had been acting as the governor of the castle in the absence of the Earl of Callendar (Bailey 1992).  They were buried in the remains of the demolished barbican gatehouse.  It is said that Cromwell stayed at the house the following day.

The war moved to the north and the Earl of Callendar, who had been side-lined throughout the period, decided that it was time to bring back his possessions that were being held in Inverness.  His illegitimate son, Sir Alexander Livingston of Dalderse, and a party of retainers went to escort them back.  As they were returning they got as far as the Braes of Mar when they encountered a detachment of Camerons and a fierce skirmish ensued in which Alexander Livingston was injured.  The baggage train was taken and is said to have included “a vast dale of Silver plates, Gold Jewels and other Valuable things.”  .

Other accounts mention “a good deale of plate, cloaths, papers and other moveables” (Bailey 1994).  Added to his other woes this incident led to the Earl of Callendar surrendering himself to General Monck in November 1651 and he was allowed to return to Callendar House.  His activities were carefully monitored by the Cromwellians and in February 1653 he was taken in for questioning, but released due to lack of evidence of any involvement in plots.  He was arrested again in April 1654 upon information that he was about to join the rebels and imprisoned in Burntisland Castle before being transferred to Edinburgh Castle.  The Coldstream Guards reoccupied Callendar House.  Callendar was consequently excluded from the pardons granted that May and his property was placed in trust to be disposed of.  After six months’ confinement Callendar was liberated on parole and the following year Monck allowed him to travel to London to petition Cromwell for the restoration of his estates.  He had an audience with Cromwell and after a long and protracted bureaucratic process was told that his estates would be restored.  He finally left London in January 1656 after accruing huge debts.  It was April 1657 before his pardon came through and his estates were released.  They were in a poor condition – the house had been pilfered by the enemy troops and local population; the coal works were flooded; and the cost of the garrison at Callendar House had been taken from the remaining income of the estate.  Indeed, the troops were still there and remained until the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 and Callendar could begin the process of reconstruction.

  • 1634    James Livingston (1st Earl of Callendar) (sold to his brother)
  • 1674    Alexander Livingston (2nd Earl of Callendar) (nephew)
  • 1685    Alexander Livingston (3rd Earl of Callendar) (nephew)
  • 1692    James Livingston (4th Earl of Callendar) (son)
  • 1716    Callendar forfeited

In 1715 James Livingston, the 4th Earl of Callendar, backed Lord Mar in his support of the Old Pretender and raised 300 retainers for the cause.  They were present at the Battle of Sheriffmuir on 13 November.  Brigadier-General James Livingston commanded a squadron of Stirlingshire horse at that indecisive battle.  By the end of March 1716 Livingston was on the run in Uist where he took ship to France.  The Callendar estates were sequestered in 1716 and in 1720 they were acquired by the Governor and Company of Undertakers for raising the Thames Water in York Buildings and were subsequently let for 29 years to Andrew Glen of Longcroft and Alexander Hamilton of Dechmont who were acting as Trustees for Lady Anne Livingston, the only daughter of the last Earl.  Anne married the Earl of Kilmarnock and the lease was subsequently extended for another 30 years, meaning that it was due to expire at the end of 1779.

The York Buildings Company fell into financial difficulties and so in 1735 some of its creditors raised an action of ranking and sale to recover the debts owed to them.  The action was defended by the Company and dragged on slowly through the procedures of the courts.  In 1763 it took an Act of Parliament to force the sale of four of the forfeited estates owned by the York Buildings Company.  These were the Marischal, Panmure, Southesk and Pitcairn estates and were repurchased by the families from whom they had been seized with no one bidding against them.

With the end of the lease of the Callendar estate in 1780 the time was ripe for the creditors to push for its sale.  Even so it was 8 August 1783 before the sale actually took place.  The Earl of Errol, the great-great grandson of the last Earl of Linlithgow and Callendar who had been attainted in 1716, was living at Callendar House as the tenant of the York Buildings Company at the time for an annual rent of £870.  He arranged for what he thought was a suitable sum of money to be available and sent his representatives to the sale in Parliament House in Edinburgh.  The sale was well attended.  The barony of Callendar and Falkirk was exposed in one lot at £30,708 5s 3d and was bought by an outsider for £66,500.  Then the barony of Almond and Haining was put up for £8,179 5s 3d and was sold to the same bidder for £16,600.  Even though the price offered was twice the upset price it was still considered to be well below the true value.  The spectators were astonished that anyone had usurped the Earl of Errol and looked to the unknown bidder.  The Articles of Roup, that is to say the conditions of sale, stipulated that the successful bidder was obliged to grant a bond for the price offered within a few days of the auction.  The purchaser, William Forbes of Aberdeen, was not known in Edinburgh and it was thought that he would have difficulty in fulfilling this condition.  He produced a promissory note from the Bank of England for £100,000 and asked for his change.  None of the banks in Edinburgh were willing to hold such a valuable note and he was allowed to pay the sum by instalments.

William Forbes had set up business in London as a coppersmith where his business thrived.  By cornering the acquisition of the raw materials he was able to dominate the market and won the Admiralty contracts to sheath its wooden warships in copper.  This not only prevented wood boring creatures from eating holes in the wood, but it also made the vessels faster which was a crucial factor in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.  As a result of these contracts William Forbes earned a fortune and the nickname of “Copperbottom.”

A chronology of the most notable events in the history of the Livingstons of Callendar:

1543 Alexander, 5th Lord Livingston, appointed one of the guardians of Mary Queen of Scots.
1547John, eldest son of Alexander, Lord Livingston, and Master James Livingston, a younger brother of same lord,
slain at Pinkie,
1548Alexander, Lord Livingston, accompanies Queen Mary to France and dies there two years later.
1551Thomas Livingston, younger son of above lord, acquired the lands of Haining.
1559Alexander Livingston of Falkirk acquires the lands of Westquarter.
1559William. 6th Lord Livingston, one of the leaders of the Reformation in Scotland.
1559 William, Lord Livingston, appoints his cousin, master Alexander Livingston,
to be the first Reformed Rector of Kilsyth.
1565Mary Livingston, the first of the Queen’s Maries to be married.
1568William, Lord Livingston, and Lady Livingston share the earlier years of Queen Mary’s captivity in England.
1596Alexander, 7th Lord Livingston, appointed by James VI guardian of his eldest daughter, the Princess Elizabeth.
1599The same lord appointed guardian of Princess Margaret and Keeper of Linlithgow Palace.
1600The same lord created Earl of Linlithgow by James VI.
1633Sir James Livingston of Brighouse created Lord Livingston of Almond.
Lord Almond commands a regiment in the Scots Brigade in the Netherlands.
1640Lord Almond second-in-command of the Army of the Covenant.
1641Lord Almond created Earl of Callendar by Charles I.
1644The Earl of Callendar, in command of a Scottish army, joins the Earl of Leven in England.
1648The Earl of Callendar second-in-command of the army of “The engagement,”
which is defeated by Oliver Cromwell at Preston, Lancashire.
1651Callendar House stormed by Cromwell’s troops.
1715James 5th Earl of Linlithgow and 4th of Callendar takes up arms in favour of the exiled James VIII.
1716Attainder and forfeiture of Callendar.
1723James, 4th Earl of Callendar, dies in Rome.
1746William Boyd, Earl of Kilmarnock, husband of Lady Anne Livingston of Callendar,
executed for high treason on Tower Hill, London.
1853Admiral Sir Thomas Livingstone of Bedlormie and Westquarter,
the last male representative of the House of Callendar, dies childless.

William Forbes (I)

William Forbes is reputed to have claimed that the growing timber alone was worth the asking price for the whole estate.  The local population in Falkirk was aghast at the presumption of Copperbottom and he generally received a cool reception in the town.  He renovated the entire house, adding a new wing and re-constructing the interior.  It was completely refurnished and the grounds improved.

After acquiring the estate William Forbes set about improving the properties.  He embarked upon a huge programme of enclosure and introduced liming to the fields.  Existing tenants were removed and the farms were laid out afresh with new steadings built before being let on long term leases at much higher prices than before.  He took the same approach with the coal works, closing them before leasing them separately to new tenants.

Illus 4: Copperbottom’s Retreat or a view of Carron Work by John Kay.

The investment in the land was huge and whilst the contractors profited the old social order was torn asunder.  As the largest landowner in Stirlingshire, William Forbes was appointed as a Deputy Lieutenant.  It was unfortunate timing for him and before long he was asked to implement the new Militia Acts (Bailey & Young 2013).  The enforcement of this Act led to “Militia Riots.” across Scotland.  In Falkirk these manifested as a demonstration by the colliers who marched around Callendar House beating a drum on 23 August 1797.  William Forbes and his brothers were so alarmed that they fled the house by the back door and glancing back from Callendar Wood observed flames coming from the direction of the house.  Reaching Linlithgow they sent for the military and a troop of Lancashire Dragoons was despatched to Falkirk where they remained for several months.  In fact the red flickering light that Forbes had seen from the wood was the top of the blast furnaces at Carron Works in the distance.

In 1787, William married Margaret McAdam, daughter of John McAdam of Craigengillan.  She died childless in 1801 and so in 1806 William re-married.  His second wife was Agnes Chalmers, daughter of John Chalmers of Westfield, Old Machar, Aberdeen.  A son and heir was born at Callendar House on 27 October 1806 and named William.

The 19th Century

Rev McCall of Muiravonside was always punctual in his attendance at Callendar House to receive his stipend on the usual rent-day.  “Ah, Mr M’Call, M’Call,” cried the Laird on one occasion seeing him amongst the tenantry whilst drawing his rents.  “There are no stipends in Heaven.”  “Nor rents either, Mr Forbes; nor rents either, “ exclaimed the minister.

William Forbes (I) died at Edinburgh on the 21 June 1815 leaving two sons and three daughters (a sixth child died in infancy) by his second wife, Agnes Chalmers.  His eldest son, William, was only nine years old and so the estate was administered by a Trust, nominally headed by William (I)’s brother, David, but in fact his widow did most of the administration.  It was she who commissioned the construction of the mausoleum in Callendar Wood. 

In 1817 the Trustees paid the sum of £40 to the Stintmasters of Falkirk, who, with the approval of the inhabitants, had agreed to surrender the right which the burgh had until then enjoyed of obtaining water from Callendar Wood.  The supply procurable there was insufficient and the town resorted to using the underground reservoirs in the old coal workings under Prospect Hill.  As a result the Callendar grounds became more private.

In 1818 the backers of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Union Canal proposed a deviation from the approved line of the navigation.  Instead of passing over the east shoulder of Prospect Hill, requiring a number of locks, they sought for permission to take it on a lower contour which cut across the Glen Brae a little above the Shieldhill Lodge and passed through Callendar Wood about 400yds south of Callendar House before exiting the grounds near their south-east corner.  This deviation was vigorously contested by the Trustees who commissioned Alexander Nasmyth to produce two paintings, one showing the scene as it was and the other with the canal cutting across the strike of the hill.  They were successful and as a consequence a long tunnel was dug through Prospect Hill.

William Forbes (II) came of age in 1824 and succeeded to the entailed property.  Locals celebrated the event with bonfires and parties, especially in nearby villages such as Laurieston.  Unlike his father he was born into privilege and went to study at Oxford.  He was then able to spend time on the Continent doing the Grand Tour.  It was 1829 before he returned to Falkirk and the town bells were rung in his honour.  As the largest landowner in the area he was expected to play a significant role in the local community, particularly when it came to security, or the promotion of the economy, and contributing financially to good causes.  He soon became the commander of the Falkirk Troop of Yeomanry.  In 1830 he gave £100 towards the erection of a grain market in what consequently became Newmarket Street in Falkirk.  The following year he chaired meetings of the local committee established to prevent the spread of cholera, subscribing £20 to the fund.  As the population and prosperity of the area grew there was an increased demand for land and William Forbes II occasionally gifted small parcels to worthy projects, such as the new church building at Camelon to which he also donated £300.  Looking after the poor was still considered to be a joint effort between the church and the local laird and, like his parents, William annually gave coal to the poor in the winter months.  Money and clothing were distributed by the bailies on his behalf.  At the same time he resisted having to pay a large sum for the reconstruction of the parish church in Falkirk when he thought that it could be achieved at a lower cost.  Part of the problem was that he was an Episcopalian and his children were baptised in its church at Haddington.

William Forbes (II) married into the aristocracy – a sign that the family had achieved the great social standing that his father had hoped for.  On 14 August 1832 he married Lady Louisa Antionette Charteris, second daughter of Francis the 8th Earl of Wemyss.  Their first child, William, was born 3 July 1833, Margaret in 1834 and Agnes in 1837.  Francis, Louisa and Charlotte followed.

In the mid-1830s Callendar House seemed to suffer from a spate of minor crimes common to many country houses.  Early in 1835 plate went missing.  Then in October that year an inside job was suspected when a 15yd long web of linen went missing after it had been left bleaching behind the laundry.  The thief climbed a wall behind the stables where he then found a ladder which he used to reach the green.  The pilfering of grapes in the greenhouse was also taken seriously and after a careful watch was kept by the gardeners it was discovered that the culprit in that case was a female fox which was soon despatched.  It is possible that the other crimes were committed by a someone then working on the new alignment of Callendar Road from the end of Falkirk High Street to the end of the avenue opposite the main entrance to Callendar House which cut off the dangerous hill at Claddens Brae (see Callendar Park).

William Forbes (II) entered politics and first stood for parliament as a Conservative after the passing of the Reform Bill when he opposed Admiral Fleming and was defeated by a considerable majority.  The second time, in 1835, he beat Fleming and became the Member of Parliament for Stirlingshire.  Just two years later, at the next election, he was opposed by Colonel George Abercromby and carried the election by a single vote, but was unseated on petition in consequence of at least one vote having been wrongly ascribed.  At the following election of 1841 Abercromby stood down and Forbes was opposed by Sir Michael Bruce of Stenhouse, whom he defeated by a majority of 124.  He then sat in the House of Commons unopposed for 14 years until his death.  He is said to have been assiduous in his parliamentary duties, though seldom appeared as a speaker.

On 13 September 1842 Queen Victoria passed through the Falkirk district on her way south.  She was met at the Lecropt near the Bridge of Allan by William Forbes who accompanied her on horseback all the way to Linlithgow Bridge.  The royal carriage travelled by way of Torwood, Larbert Cross, Camelon and so up the High Street of Falkirk.  Entering the grounds of Callendar House at the wester lodge on Callendar Road the Queen halted for four minutes at the entrance to the house – just long enough to change the horses.  At the time the finishing touches were being put to the new grand entrance hall and port cochѐre and the Queen’s carriage was able to use the latter.  The smaller courts in front of the house were also being infilled with single storey extensions (see the Building).  Unusually, the grounds had been thrown open to the public and a large and animated crowd cheered loudly.  They were supposed to be kept at a slight distance from the drives by 120 of the Callendar tenants on foot and 60 mounted, but these few were soon overwhelmed by the 15,000 or so people who flooded in.  The 66th Foot Regiment were the guard of honour at the house.  Leaving by the east drive Albert remarked on the fine lime avenue beside the loch (Bailey 1993).  The journey continued via Laurieston and Polmont.

On 28 October 1843 Callendar House welcomed another royal visitor.  This time it was the Duke of Bordeaux who was entitled to the title of “Royal Highness.”  Much seems to have been made of his tour of Scotland and the Morning Post noted that he was

accompanied by a brilliant escort of nobles and gentry of ancient descent, all of who appeared anxious to testify their respect for the representative of the illustrious house of Bourbon.  On the 28th inst. his Royal Highness proceeded to Callendar House, the residence of the Hon. Mr Forbes, where were assembled the Duke and Duchess of Montrose, Lord William Graham, Lord and lady Belhaven, and several other persons of rank and distinction.  His Royal Highness passed the following day at Callendar House, and inspected the ruins of the fortifications which were thrown up in the neighbourhood by the Romans against the inroads of the Picts…

(Morning Post 8 November 1843).

On 3 June 1845 Lady Louisa gave birth to her fourth daughter, but never seems to have fully recovered.  No expense was spared in trying to cure her and Professor Simpson of Edinburgh was paid £210, another £325 going to three other doctors who attended her.   However, she died at Callendar House on 2 July.  There were four mourning coaches at her funeral and William paid for 36 pairs of men’s black kid gloves and 48 yards of black crepe for the household.  She was laid to rest in the family mausoleum in “A very strong Spanish Mahogany coffin covered with rich black velvet and best solid brass gilt mountings”.

William Forbes (II) was very interested in agriculture and introduced the latest innovations to his farms.  In 1846 the first signs of potato blight appeared in Stirlingshire and in April it was noted that the shaws at Callendar only reached about a foot high and then began to wither and die.  The result for poorer farms was devastating but at Callendar a diverse range of crops was grown and resistant strains eventually became available.  The country was rapidly changing and in the early 1840s the railways came to Falkirk.  A branch to Stirling from Polmont cut through the north-east corner of the policies and a new drive had to be constructed, during which human skeletons were discovered.

As an Oxford man it is not surprising that William Forbes (II) was a keen cricketer and the lawn in front of Callendar House was used for the occasional match.  Cricket was passed down the family and several subsequent generations played and the lawn was used intermittently over many decades.  In January 1854 local curlers were given permission to use Callendar Loch for their winter sport.

William Forbes (III) attained his majority (21 years old) in August 1854 and in celebration his father entertained the tenantry on the Callendar estates and a few guests to dinner, which was served in a large hall in Callendar House, in which 200 sat down to table.  Before long the young man inherited the estate; William Forbes (II) died at midnight on 10 February 1855 aged 48.  Lady Louisa had predeceased him and he left a family of two sons and four daughters.

William Forbes (III) spent much of the year on his other estates and only came to Callendar in the summer months.  This allowed him to become the playing President of the Stirling County Cricket Club.  Despite his long absences he was a Justice of the Peace for Stirlingshire as well as a member of the Police Committee and the Stirling District Lunacy Board, and a Commissioner under the Property and Income Tax.  The intermittent occupation of Callendar House by the Forbes family meant that they permitted the grounds to be visited by organisations which they supported.  It provided a fit destination for the annual outings of many local clubs at a time when travel was still rather restricted.  In August 1859, for example, hundreds of members of the Carronshore, Carron, Bainsford and Grahamston Total Abstinence Societies processed through the west gate and rested on the esplanade in front of Callendar House where they were served with bread, tarts, ginger beer, &c.  Speeches were made and then the party formed into marching line and proceeded along the walks of the walled garden.  Upon returning to the front lawn they played games.

The Falkirk Volunteers were also permitted the use of the Park for parades and the occasional exercise.  In September 1860 troops from outside of Falkirk concealed themselves in Callendar Wood in order to launch a pretend attack upon the House and town.  The Falkirk Volunteers were called upon to dislodge them.  These Volunteers numbered a little over seventy and that December had a parade and inspection in front of Callendar House.

Over the winter months only a skeleton staff remained at Callendar House and each May it would be prepared for the arrival of the family.  At the end of May 1865 all was bustle at the house when it was reported that there was a possible gas leak in one of the rooms of Mrs Forbes’ apartments.  The butler, Mr Sergeant, and under butler, Alexander Wight, went to investigate.  It was 11am on a gloomy day and not being able to see the source of the leakage Wight naturally struck a match!  The accumulated gas in the room immediately ignited and his clothes were burned from his body, his skin was fearfully scorched and in many places the raw flesh made visible.  Mr Sergeant endeavoured to save his assistant and was much burned about the hands and arms.  The curtains and furniture of the room took fire, but as there was a great number of servants in the house at the time parties were formed to carry buckets of water to the scene and it was extinguished before it had chance to spread.  Dr Hamilton was called and attended Wight, a native of Huntly, who was 24 years old.  He died the following day.  Sergeant survived but was evidently badly injured and he was replaced as the butler by Stewart Lindsay of Kirriemuir.  Lindsay had entered service at Cortachy at an early age as a hall-boy.  From Callendar House he moved with the family to Herbertshire Castle before retiring in 1879 and returning to his native town.

William Forbes (III) married Rose O’Hara from the County of Galway on 23 June 1859 and they had two sons.  However, she died in Dublin in January 1866.  The body was brought back to Callendar House by train in three nested coffins and accompanied by the family from the station to the mausoleum in Callendar Park whilst the town bell tolled.  The service at the family vault was Episcopalian.

William remarried two years later and this union produced another three sons and two daughters.  In this latter year, 1868, a major programme of remodelling of Callendar House took place (see The Building) which led to the French Chateau style house we know today.

East Stirlingshire Cricket Club secured the tenancy of the field adjoining Callendar Road nearly opposite Callendar House in 1870 and levelled and preparing it for playing.  William Forbes (III) often joined the team there.  Special matches were permitted on the lawn in front of the house.   He also continued to allow the Falkirk Volunteers to use the Callendar Policies and became a Lieutenant in the corps.  His other major hobby was breeding horses and he travelled to many events to show them.

In September 1897 William (III)’s eldest son, Charles William Forbes, married Jean Hotham, only daughter of Vice-Admiral Sir Charles and Lady Hotham, at the parish church of Norham.  Their son and heir, William Dudley Henry Charles Forbes, was born at Callendar House on 12 July 1902 and christened there the following month.

To a large extent the operation of the feudal system had ended with the major disruptions at Falkirk in the 18th century.  However, even as late as 1907 an action was raised in the Court of Session by Mr A. Ainslie Brown of Manuel House against William Forbes (III) to have it declared that the old Barony of Almond was still thirled to the Mill of Manuel, and that all farmers in the barony were bound to take the grain they required to be ground to that mill.  The action failed.

William Forbes (III) died at Buxton on 21 July 1914, aged 81 years, and was interred in the family mausoleum.  He left, in addition to real estate comprising some 60,000 acres, a personal estate in the United Kingdom valued for probate at £704,603.  Individual bequests included £2,000 to the endowment of Christ Church Episcopal Chapel in Falkirk; an annuity of £50 to his faithful servant Mary Ann O’Keefe; one year’s wages or six months’ wages to servants of three years’ service; £500 each to his butler David Patterson and his valet Edwin Smith.  Charles William Forbes, the fourth of Callendar, became the head of the family.

First World War


Illus 5: Roll of Honour.

Life at Falkirk carried on as close to normal as was possible during the First World War.  In June 1916 a joint parade of the Falkirk and Polmont Volunteer Training Corps took place at Callendar House on a Sunday afternoon. The weather was fine, and there was a good muster from each corps.   A number of estate workers were away fighting on the Western Front

Callendar House played its small part.  The west wing was used as the administrative headquarters of the district battalion and the clatter of typewriters became familiar.  The grounds were used as a venue for various activities such as the Falkirk Red Cross Campaign and after the war a huge drumhead service was held there reminding people of the earlier military glories connected with the house.

The Inter-War Years

Charles Forbes’ eldest daughter, Marion Edith Georgina Forbes, took a very active role in the Falkirk community.  She had been the youngest Red Cross nurse in the town and was appointed as the district commissioner for Girl Guide companies at Grangemouth, Polmont and Laurieston Girl Guides.  In this role she was able to give them permission to host hockey games on the beautiful lawn in front of Callendar House – with tea to follow.  In March 1923 she married Captain Alistair Richardson of the King’s Dragoon Guards and had the distinction of being the first bride to go forth from Callendar House in wedding raiment since the Callendar policies and mansion-house came into the possession of the Forbes family.  The following year, in January 1924, the coming of age of her brother, William Forbes, was celebrated at Callendar House.  He had followed the family tradition of being educated at Eton and Sandhurst, before entering the Coldstream Guards in 1922.

The involvement in youth movements was shared by most members of the family and the Girl Guides kept an association with the ladies of Callendar House for another three decades.  A feature of Stirlingshire’s share in the activities of Scottish Boy Scout Week in June 1924 was a monster rally in Callendar Park when the boys were inspected by Lord Glentanar, Assistant Commissioner for Scotland.  Between 700 and 800 Boy Scouts from all parts of Stirlingshire were on parade and the county flag and badges were presented to the 1st Stirlingshire Troop as being the best in the county.  The 2nd Torwood Scouts were runners up.

The 1920s also saw a revival in public interest in heritage and a number of groups sought and obtained permission to visit Callendar House, including the Falkirk Archaeological & Natural History Society and the Sons of the Rock.  The public at large got what was considered a unique opportunity to see the inside of the house in June 1926 when it was opened as part of the amazing drive to raise funds for Falkirk Infirmary.  What made the visit more unusual was that at the time the house was fully furnished and contained a large number of decorations and valuable antiques.  Mrs Forbes personally conducted parties round the house and she and her staff and volunteers served teas.  There was, however, a charge of 5s each for the full tour and tea.  A booklet was prepared for the occasion.  Then on 20 June the grounds were thrown open for a grand fete.  Promoted by the Falkirk Herald and blessed with glorious weather it attracted 10,000 people and was the biggest event in the area for many a year.  Mrs Forbes conducted a “dames’ finishing school” in the dining room of Callendar House, whilst character reading and crystal gazing took place in the drawing room and morning room.  Tours through the walled garden led by Mr Bingham, the head gardener, were popular.  On the lawn in front of the house a putting green had been set up along with a miniature golf course with obstacles and clock golf.  Skirting the semi-circle were the stalls – a hoopla stall, one entitled “The House that Jack Built”, a shooting gallery, a china breaking stall, the balloon buster, penny in the plate booths, a fancy goods area, a cake and candy stall, and penalty football.    Off to one side was an enclosure for athletics, including five a side football and motor bicycle football match promoted by the Falkirk and District Motor Club.  Tug of war contests between navy teams and all comers, flat races, tossing the caber, throwing the hammer, wrestling, were also held.  For the children there was a roundabout and six donkeys worked hard giving rides.  On the other side of the lawn was a dancing enclosure where exhibitions of dancing by pupils of Johnny Doak occurred in the afternoon with music provided by E Smith’s “Elite” orchestra.  The Military Band of the British Legion and the Wallacestone Pipe Band were also present.  In the evening there was dancing on the green.  A novel feature was “surf-riding” on the lawn.  Entrants sat on a surf board which was trailed over the grass at the rear of a motor car.  The idea was to remain seated as long as possible.  It was remarked that even the girls were keen to have a go!  A large and high class café as well as ices and iced drinks stall were very busy.  Not surprisingly the event raised a record amount in excess of £700.

Mrs Forbes continued to work on raising money for the hospital, selling produce from the walled garden, including sweet peas which had been planted for that purpose.  She was also on many other committees in the town, such as the Women Citizens.  This often brought with it the privilege of using the Callendar grounds as a venue for events.  Like his predecessors, Charles W Forbes was a very keen huntsman and the Linlithgowshire and Stirlingshire Hunt often met at Callendar House.  The Callendar estates were extensive and provided good riding.  As the name suggests, the Fox Covert at Kilbean was a favourite location.  Like all of the Forbes of Callendar he was made a Deputy Lieutenant of Stirlingshire.

Charles W Forbes and his wife also played an active part in the Unionist Association and for a decade starting in 1927 held the Stirlingshire Unionist Fete in the grounds of Callendar House.  Again there were stalls and games and the entrance fee of 6d helped to support the local party.

Illus 6: Colonel AD McInnes Shaw DSO, MP, addressing the Unionist Garden Fete held in Callendar House grounds on 31 August 1927. The platform party included CW Forbes, Chris B Sherriff, Harold Mitchell, Mrs Mitchell (Tulliallan Castle) and Mrs Sherriff (Carronvale) (Falkirk Herald 7 September 1927, 10).

Illus 7: Sir John Gilmour, Minister of Agriculture, purchasing a buttonhole at the Unionist Garden Fete in the Callendar House grounds (Scotsman 13 June 1932, 12).


The meetings also had a serious side and a number of key speeches were made at the foot of the stairs to the rear of the house.  Speakers included Colonel AD McInnes Shaw MP in 1927; Ernest Brown, the Minister of Mines, and JSC Reid MP in 1934; J Scrymgeour Wedderburn MP in 1936; and Walter E Elliot, Secretary of State for Scotland, in 1937.  Walter Elliot stayed overnight in the room which, according to custom, was occupied by Maitland of Lethington in 1565 – he had been the last Secretary of State to stay at Callendar House.  Mrs Elliot had the use of the room where Mary Queen of Scots slept on her last visit.  Lady Stirling of Glorat occupied the Cromwell Room.

Captain William Forbes of the Coldstream Guards married Elizabeth Vesey, elder daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Osbert Vesey, in March 1931 at the Guards Chapel near St James Park in London.  Later that year the same venue was used by his younger brother, David, when he was wed to Diana Henderson.

Support continued for the Episcopal Church in Falkirk and in June 1933 another successful garden fete was held at Callendar Park under its auspices.

Illus 8: The platform party at the Episcopal Church Garden Fete with Anna Buchan making the address.  The Bishop of Edinburgh is seen at the table (Falkirk Herald 21 June 1933).

By the mid 1930s Charles and Mrs Forbes were spending more and more time at their other properties. The big event of 1937 was the coronation and it seemed apt that Callendar Park should host a Coronation Thanksgiving Service on Sunday 30th May to which all of the youth organisations and clubs of East Stirlingshire were invited.  This was a large affair, but it was eclipsed in June the following year by another fundraiser for the local hospital.  The main hospital had been successfully opened but its exponential growth meant that living accommodation was required for the nurses.  It was with great difficulty that Mrs Forbes and a team of volunteers put together a committee to organise the event but by dint of careful planning they pulled off an amazing achievement.  Learning from previous experience, a large marquee was erected in case the weather proved inclement and this held seven stalls, each run by one of the district committees into which East Stirlingshire had been divided.  Farm produce was on sale at a stall run by the good folk of Slamannan and Avonbridge district; china and pottery on a stall by Falkirk district; flowers and fruit by Polmont and Laurieston; cake, candy and baskets –by Larbert and Airth; toys, dolls, fancy goods and baby garments by Denny, Bonnybridge and Dennyloanhead; a pound stall by Grangemouth; a white elephant stall also by Polmont and Laurieston.  Competition between the districts was keen and added to a vibrant atmosphere.  Refreshments were available from a café run by the Falkirk district; the Milk Bar had equipment provided by the Scottish Milk Marketing Board.  A platform on the lawn in front of Callendar House was used for dancing displays by pupils of St Margaret’s School and John Doak; as well as performances by the Falkirk and District Co-operative Minstrel Troupe and the Romanians Concert Party.  The afternoon and evening saw sessions for public dancing with music provided by the “Elite” and “Orphean” Dance bands.  East of the main lawn was an amusement park which included booths for hoopla, tumbling tanks, touch ‘em skittles, a dart board, wheel-in penny boat game, coconut shies, aunt sally deck quoits, a wheel of fortune, a shooting range, cup reading, crystal gazing, fortune telling by cards, and palmistry – all superintended by Toc H members.

Illus 9: Baby Show and Comic Dog Show (Falkirk Herald 29 June 1938).

Second World War

The Second World War temporarily put an end to all such activities.  The Forbes family had not lived in Callendar House for some years and a large part of the house was not in use when the war began.  Dust sheets were spread over the furniture and these rooms were not cleaned.  At first there had been a cook, kitchen maid, housemaid and a house keeper, but these slowly left to take up work elsewhere.  The housemaid found work in another large house in Penicuik.  On 24 July 1943 the following advertisement appeared in the Falkirk Herald:

COUPLE Wanted to act as caretakers in Callendar House, Falkirk, for the duration of the war.  Husband with knowledge of general estate work, preferred, and wife with experience in domestic service.  Grown up family not objected to.  Apply by letter only, with references to Callendar estate office, Falkirk.”

Callendar Wood was still private, though many of the local boys enjoyed making incursions.  In the summer of 1939 a couple of them supposedly entered in order to retrieve their football, only to find a suitcase full of jewellery and a case of watches, as well as an automatic pistol.  Clearly the robbers had not expected anyone to be passing that way.  Its seclusion made it useful for military exercises and the Home Guard was given full liberty to use it for training purposes.  The Laurieston Home Guard platoon set up a .22 rifle range against a hill in the Howlet Haugh at the east end of the policy.  To get there the men marched the short distance from their headquarters at Laurieston School along the old Redding Road and under a railway bridge.  Residents at the west end of the village reported the odd projectile landing in their back gardens!  Towards the end of the war the town of Falkirk was designated a nodal point to be defended to the last bullet and the last man.  Part of the ring of defences manned by the Home Guard included a machine gun post on the heights above Callendar Wood at Woodend Farm.

Illus 10: Photograph of Laurieston HG platoon at Howlet Haugh, Callendar Park, c1941.

From 1940 the Coleraine anti-aircraft battery from Northern Ireland was stationed in Grangemouth under Lieutenant Brian Clark who was a shooting man.  He was invited to take part in a pheasant shoot on the Callendar estate with his batman who loaded his guns.  At the end of the cold day the gamekeepers, Smith and Bennet, invited them back to the Saddle Room for a drop of Scotch and the housekeeper, Miss Haddow, then took them on a tour of Callendar House.

Towards the end of 1940 the 52nd Divisional Petrol Company of the Royal Army Service Corps moved into Callendar House, taking over the petrol station on the opposite side of Callendar Road.  Petrol cans were stored at the Stables and Nissen huts were erected nearby under the trees bordering the lawn so that they would not be picked up by enemy reconnaissance aircraft.  The RASC moved out in April 1942 and within a month were replaced by a Polish Engineering train of 40 or so men who were billeted in Callendar House.  The Stables were now used for storing ammunition.  Bullets were still relatively scarce and two members of the Grangemouth Home Guard stole 308 rounds in order to get some practice in.  In 1944 the 11th Polish Signal Corps also occupied the house under Sergeant-Major Albin Kedgeierski.  This was a specialised team whose task was to communicate with the resistance in Poland and in 1945 they were joined by the 12th Signal Corps.

The Callendar Estate also helped the war effort in other ways.  In 1940 various plots of land were leased to the Town Council for the duration of the war for use as allotments, including the area to west of the old cricket ground at Callendar Road at £2 per acre.  During the war John M Millar, who had the Ford dealership in Callendar Road, developed a small agricultural contracting business.  One of his team was Jimmy Quinn from Airth who had a wooden leg.  He got the job of ploughing the policy grassland adjacent to Callendar Road in order to increase the home-grown production of food.  Having cut one furrow he turned the tractor round to make the next furrow only to see a large hole in the stretch that he had just done – an old mine working had collapsed.    Over at the Callendar House dairy Miss Jane Scott had been employed as a dairymaid since around 1905 and should have retired.  She continued on until almost the end of the war, retiring at Whitsunday 1945 with the intention of returning to live in her native Ayrshire.  Unfortunately she died within months.

Labour was hard to obtain and the gardeners were called away for other duties.  Inevitably the large walled garden declined and in 1944 it was decided to let it out as a market garden.  The vineries were to be sacrificed for growing tomatoes.

“TO LET as a MARKET GARDEN, with entry at Martinmas 1944, or as may be arranged, CALLENDAR HOUSE GARDENS, FALKIRK, situated near the public road about 1 mile to the east of Falkirk and about the same distance from Falkirk Grahamston Station.  The gardens, which extend to approximately 10 acres, are at present in the hands of the proprietor.  There is a large range of glass, consisting of 4 vineries, 2 peach houses, and 11 other greenhouses, suitable for tomato growing, and a number of frames.

There is a good DWELLING-HOUSE, consisting of 4 rooms, scullery, and bathroom.

Further particulars may be obtained on application to T. DOUGLAS WALLACE, Callendar Estate Office, Falkirk, with whom written offers should be lodged.” 

(The Scotsman 19 October 1944).

The labour situation did not improve for some time and in June 1945 the following advertisement appeared in the Falkirk Herald

ODD Man for Callendar House, Falkirk, to keep lawns and footpath in order.  Must have experience of scythe work and cutting short grass.  Ex-Serviceman or elderly man might suit.  No house available.  Apply to T Douglas Wallace, Callendar Estate Office.” 

Wallace died a month later and after lying in Callendar House was carried the short distance to the private burial ground in the walled garden.

During the war Janet Finlay drove a post office van and while delivering letters to the Polish Camp at Callendar Estate she met her future husband Mr Loska.  They married in 1945 and in December they left for Poland with their three-month old son Robert.  At Katowice the food was very expensive and unsuitable for their baby and he died.  The couple wanted to return to Britain, but her husband could not get a visa from the Polish government.

The war was also catastrophic for the Forbes family.  Captain St John Forbes of the Coldstream Guards was killed at Dunkirk and his twin brother, Lieutenant-Colonel Dudley WAW Forbes MC, also of the Coldstream Guards, died of wounds in Italy.  The surviving son, William, served continuously with the same regiment until the fall of Torbruk in 1942 when he was taken prisoner.  He was liberated in 1945.

  • 1783    William Forbes I (purchase)    
  • 1815    Trustees
  • 1823    William Forbes II MP (son)
  • 1855    William Forbes III (son)
  • 1914    Charles William Forbes IV (son)
  • 1948    Lt-Col William Dudley Henry Charles Forbes (son)
  • 1963    Falkirk Town Council -Callendar House & policies
  • 1977    Captain William Frederick Eustace Forbes – estate (son)

Falkirk Council

In 1963 Falkirk Town Council used a Compulsory Purchase order to acquire Callendar House and the northern part of its policy with the intention of building council housing in the grounds.  Surveys showed that much of the area was undermined by a network of underground coal workings and as a consequence high density buildings in the form of high rise flats were built on one of the few stable areas.  The landscaped grounds were turned into a pleasure park with the introduction of benches, a miniature golf course, a kiosk serving snacks and toilets.  Meanwhile insufficient funds were available to do anything with the house and it was mothballed.  Many in the Labour-controlled Council thought that as a symbol of the aristocracy it ought to be demolished.  The leisure services department used it to store, and indeed to paint, its equipment.  The only resident was an unauthorised one – a tramp who discovered that he could gain entry by the shaft used to deliver coal.  In the early 1980s the roof was repaired and made watertight and a large amount of infected wood was removed leaving gaping holes in the floors.  Later that decade growing public pressure and a political will to show off the heritage of the area led to a scheme of renovation.  The economic climate was right and of the £3.7 million that the work cost, some £2.4 million came from external grants.  It started in 1990 when the Architects Department did a structural survey and then worked on the project throughout.  It took eight years and five phases of work to complete the conversion of the decaying abandoned building into a museum and visitor attraction and it opened fully in May 1998.  It incorporated the headquarters of the museum, the archives, and exhibition rooms with interpretive areas for “living history.”  The latter included a watchmaker’s shop, a printing shop, a grocer’s shop and a working kitchen.  The latter was the large kitchen from the late 18th century.  The drawing room was converted into a conference room, retaining the period appearance.

In 2011 the Falkirk Community Trust was established to take over the running of the heritage assets of Falkirk Council at a time when budgets were beginning to be squeezed.  The museum teashop, which until then had been located in the old dairy, was moved into the morning room of the house providing a warmer atmosphere.


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