Carbrook House

Carbrook House and estate, in the parish of Dunipace, were located at the very edge of the Falkirk district a little to the north of Torwood near Plean.  For many centuries the land upon which it stood formed part of Torwood.  John Reid points out that all of the evidence suggests that the lands that were originally known as Carbrook lay on the north side of the Tor Pow in St Ninians Parish prior to the 18th century.  In 1794 Carbrook was sold to John Campbell, Writer to the Signet, along with the lands of Hollings and Darnbog and the name was transferred to the south side of the Pow.  A sasine of 1810 gives “Carsbrooke or Corsebruike now called Carbrook.”

John Campbell was the eldest son of John Campbell, the Collector of Excise for Inverness.  In 1784 he had helped to found the Stirling Merchant Bank Company which dealt mainly with graziers and agriculturalists.  He received a charter for Carbrook on 19 December 1801 and shortly thereafter erected a substantial mansion on the lands.  The stone presumably came from the large quarry immediately to the south of the house.  This quarry had probably been in use for some time previously.

Illus 2: The Central Part of the East Façade of Carbrook House which Date to c1803.

The House faced east and this façade was of polished ashlar two storeys high with a half sunken basement.  It had five bays arranged symmetrically with the central one slightly advanced and given a triangular pediment.  The main door occupied this central bay, covered by a balustraded porch on four Ionic columns reached by a flight of stairs.  The ground floor windows had moulded margins and hoods, whilst those above had backset margins.  A broad plinth course between the basement and the ground floor provided a base and a moulded eaves course and low parapet a cap

Illus 3: Carbrook House as Built, c1803.

The stable block to the west of the house seems to have been built at the same time. The buildings were arranged around a central square with a pend on the north-east side facing the house topped with an ornamental cupola containing a doocot. Three drives approached the house. That from the east was guarded by a lodge and provided access towards Falkirk and the south. It was planted about by trees. That to the north-west led to Plean and Stirling. It crossed the Tor Burn by a substantial stone bridge which is still there. Made of ashlar it was clearly intended to be seen and the drive turns appropriately to provide vantage points.

Illus 4: The Estate Bridge over the Tor Burn.

The final drive led directly west from the stables and provided a service access. Roundels of trees dotted the policy which was left as prime pasture and leased out on an annual basis. In 1928 these fields were named as Carbrook House Park (23.436 acres); Upper Darnbog (10.191 acres); Lower Darnbog (11.095 acres); Garden Park (21.101 acres); Sheep Hill Park (11.638 acres); and MacLaren’s Park (7.785 acres).

Illus 5: Grassom’s Map of 1817.

The Stirling Merchant Bank had two principal shareholders – John Campbell and James Thomson (a merchant in Stirling) – and was often known as Campbell, Thomson & Co’s Bank.  However, 1814 was a bad year for such financial institutions and it was wound up, paying the full 20s per pound.  John Campbell died on 14 February 1821 and his son of the same name inherited his estate and pugnacious nature.

John Campbell junior was a controversial character.  He was the chairman of the Committee of the Edinburgh Society.  Between 1824 and 1826 he published a series of six letters on questions of the Church in Scotland and these are still in print.  Like James Bruce of Stenhouse before him he was then subjected to ridicule in a set of cartoons.

John Campbell opposed the repeal of the Corn Laws in the 1840s, considering that they were necessary to maintain the independence of the kingdom.  Indeed, he appears to have opposed anything that affected the economy of his estate.  In 1844 he was the self-appointed head of the local opposition to the railways passing through the area.  The following year he was able to sell his potato crop at a high price due to the blight.

Part of the economy of the estate included the quarry to the south of the house which was still working until 1848 when the equipment was sold off.  This included:

by Private Bargain, ONE of HENDERSON’S PATENT CRANES, as it now stands in Carbrook Quarry. It is in very good order, and capable of lifting Six Tons weight.”

(Falkirk Herald 9 November 1848).

It was probably John Campbell junior who added the wings to either side of the main house using stone from this quarry.  These wings were a storey lower than the central block and possessed pavilion roofs.  Although they superficially appeared to be symmetrical, that on the north was slightly taller.  Each had a central advanced section on the ground floor containing a tall window.  Their wallheads were finished with balustrades echoing that on the porch.  It is this house which was described by the Ordnance Surveyors in 1860:

A large and commodious mansion…  It consists of a centre and two wings, the former three, and the latter two stories high.   The style of architecture is plain, but elegant, and greatly enhanced by its fine situation, as well as the taste evinced in a well laid out Park in front, and the arrangement of the plantations surrounding it.

Illus 6: Carbrook House by 1850.

In the late 1820s a turnpike road was proposed to improve the link from Larbert to Stirling.  It deviated from the old road at the south-east corner of the Carbrook estate where a toll-house was erected.  It then curved through the lands of Carbrook on an embankment, crossing the Tor Pow before veering north-westward to Plean.  It was wider, better surfaced, and much better engineered than the previous roads and proved very useful.  To keep costs down it was agreed with the proprietor of Carbrook House that he would give the turnpike trustees a small portion of his lands for its construction in exchange for an exemption from tolls on the turnpike road.  The exemption also applied in perpetuity to any vehicle using the turnpike road to deliver goods to the house.

Illus 7: 1865 Ordnance Survey Map showing the turnpike road bordering the east side of the lands of Carbrook (National Library of Scotland).

Great excitement occurred in 1842 when Queen Victoria passed through the county.  She was met at Carbrook by the tenantry of Lord Dunmore, headed by Mr Salmon, his lordship’s factor, who escorted her on horseback to Callendar accompanied by up to 300 mounted men.

On 20 February 1846 John Campbell’s Trustees sold Carbrook to James MacLuckie of Stirling and he in turn sold it in 1854 to Joseph Cheney Bolton.  JC Bolton belonged to a Norfolk family and at the age of 14 went to sea as a sailor but was soon ship-wrecked and so took up a post as a clerk in the service of a Glasgow firm in which he eventually became a senior partner.  Early on he was appointed to represent their interests in the Philippine Islands.  He returned to Glasgow around 1840 and about 1842 became a member of the firm which afterwards became Ker, Bolton and Co, East India merchants.  He became a member of the Merchants’ House in 1849, and the Chamber of Commerce in 1853.  Using his substantial funds he set about improving Carbrook estate:

DRAINAGE. PARTIES desirous to Contract for the DRAINAGE of the Lands of CARBROOK, in the Parish of Dunipace, Stirlingshire, will please apply at Carbrook House, William Emmerson. 23d January, 1854.

(Stirling Observer 26 January 1854).

A large walled garden was laid out to either side of the Tor Burn to the north-east of the house.  This included paths, greenhouses, and plants.  The location was chosen because it provided a south-facing slope on the north side of the stream.  However, it was unfortunate that it was so close to the water.  In August 1855 following heavy rains there was severe flooding. 

Part of the flood took a northward course through the estate of Carbrook, utterly demolishing the fine garden and pleasure grounds of Mr Bolton, the proprietor, which have only recently been laid out by that gentleman at great expense.  We learn that £1000 will hardly cover his loss” . 

(Stirling Observer 16 August 1855)

The garden was rebuilt.

Illus 8: Ordnance Survey Map surveyed in 1860, published 1893 (National Library of Scotland).

At this time Torwood School occupied a house on the north side of the Glen Road to the east of the old Carbrook Quarry. It was owned by Anne Stirling of Glenbervie and being an un-endowed private school the teacher was supported by the pupils’ fees. The average attendance in 1860 was about 80, two thirds of whom were boys. JC Bolton provided generous funds to support its work and became a member of the School Board. At Christmas and after examinations he provided gifts and treats such as tarts and confectionery. He also subscribed to the Ragged School in Falkirk and the Scottish National Institute for the Education of Imbecile Children at Larbert. The latter he also supplied with toys at Christmas.

Illus 9: 1860 Ordnance Survey Map of Carbrook (National Library of Scotland).

In 1863 a major expansion of Carbrook House was undertaken for JC Bolton, designed by the Glasgow architect James Thomson.

Illus 10: Carbrook House after the 1863 Extensions.

An extra storey was added to each of the wings and they were extended to the west. The south wing was provided with a large canted bay window running the full height. The extent of the additions can be judged from the second edition OS map that shows the solum of the house to have doubled since the first edition.

Illus 11: Ordnance Survey Map of 1897 (National Library of Scotland).

This map also indicates two gasometers 40m west of the stable block.

Illus 12: Brick Foundation of one of the Gasometers.

The gas retorts were in the building between the storage tanks and the stables and the gas was used to light the house. Their foundations were three bricks wide and can still be seen.

The large quarry to the south-west had been landscaped and numerous paths laid out.  An octagonal grotto was built into the terrace immediately south of the house, presumably fed by water from the pond in the quarry above.

Illus 13: Rock-Cut Grotto next to Carbrook House.

The grounds continued to be improved and new drains inserted into the fields. Neil Glass was employed as the head gardener – a position that he held for the next forty years. By the time that he retired in 1902 he was very well known throughout the district and often gave advice to other gardeners and judged at horticultural shows where he too won numerous prizes for his flowers, particularly his dahlias.

In July 1868 the Stenhousemuir Band of Hope held their annual excursion at Carbrook, courtesy of JC Bolton. This was to be the first of many such trips by this and other local groups. The trips were met with generous hospitality by the Bolton family, though they were not as numerous as those to other country houses situated closer to the centres of population. JC Bolton was a keen supporter of the Eastern District Agricultural Association. His own speciality in this area was the breeding of horses at Carbrook and exhibiting them at the various shows.

At Christmas time an annual supper and ball was held at Carbrook for the servants, tradesmen, and their friends, numbering between 50 and 70. The hall was usually decorated by the gardener and the cook (Mrs Montgomery) supplied the repast. “Toast-drinking,” singing, and dancing were engaged in during the evening, and a few hours were very pleasantly occupied. In 1886 the coachman, Mr Aitken, led the dancing with Miss Bolton, and the singing was led by Miss Kair, Mr Burns, Mr M’Intosh, Mr Young and others. This event is first mentioned in 1878 and continued well into the 20th century. The Bolton family attended and responded to the toasts.

Tables: The Census Returns for 1881.

ForenamesSurnamePositionStatusAgeOccupationPlace of Birth
Frank C.BOLTONBrother21Commercial Clerk E India BusinessCarmunnock, Lanark
FrederickBOLTONHead26East India MerchantGlasgow
JaneANNHURSTServantUnmarried24DairymaidArmadale, Linlithgow
MargaretBITHAMServantUnmarried48HousemaidTain, Ross and Cromarty
AnnDOUGLASServantUnmarried31LaundressAboch, Ross and Cromarty
Carbrook House
ForenamesSurnamePositionStatusAgeOccupationPlace of Birth
JamesAITKENHeadMarried29CoachmanDalmeny, Linlithgow
JessieAITKENWifeMarried34Kilpatrick (New), Dunbarton
WilliamMcLARENVisitorUnmarried32Seagoing EngineerKilpatrick, Dunbarton
HenryPEARSONServant (head)Unmarried24GroomPerth
ThomasREIDServantUnmarried17GroomGlencarse, Perth
Carbrook Offices
ForenamesSurnamePositionStatusAgeOccupationPlace of Birth
NeilGLASSHeadMarried50GardnerComson Bridge, Ross and Cromarty
AgnesGLASSWifeMarried52Aberdour, Fife
ThomasGLASSSonUnmarried21Grocer (Unemployed)Bothwell, Lanark
RichardFERGUSONServant (head)Unmarried21GardnerEdinburgh
JohnGLASSServantUnmarried19GardnerAberdour, Fife
Carbrook Gardens
ForenamesSurnamePositionStatusAgeOccupationPlace of Birth
Margaret B.STEWARTDaughterUnmarried12ScholarDunipace
John W.STEWARTSonUnmarried6ScholarDunipace
Donald McISTEWARTSonUnmarried1Dunipace
DonaldSTEWARTHeadMarried40GamekeeperDunkeld, Perth
LiliasSTEWARTWifeMarried37St Ninians, Stirling
JamesSTEWARTSonUnmarried14ScholarSt Ninians, Stirling
Carbrook Lodge

Petty thefts from isolated country houses such as Carbrook were common and were usually committed by passing vagrants.  In 1874 David Jamieson, a ticket-of-leave man, was apprehended by the police constable at Cambusbarron on a charge of breaking into Carbrook House, and stealing a variety of articles.  He had been sentenced to five years’ penal servitude in 1870, but was liberated only a few weeks before on a ticket-of-leave.  In 1880 it was the footman at Carbrook, James Johnston, who stole a large quantity of wearing apparel, plated spoons, combs, and a number of miscellaneous articles.  Poaching was also a perennial problem and the Carbrook estate, like all of its neighbours, had a gamekeeper.  Frequent cases of poaching on the lands were brought before the courts.  One of the more serious occurred in February 1899 when a gang stole 34 breeding pheasants from the closed-in pheasantry or aviary on the estate.

JC Bolton was heavily engaged in business at Glasgow and did not have much time for getting involved with the local institutions around Carbrook; he did, however, make many liberal donations to them.  He was a member of the Larbert Parish Church and helped in its fundraising activities.  Larbert Bowling Club made him its honorary president – a useful asset to have and before long he donated several prizes for competition.  As a Justice of the Peace he also sat on the licensing board.

In business matters JC Bolton became a director of the Merchants House from 1860 to 1865, and of the Chamber of Commerce from 1860 until 1890 (president 1876-1877).  In the 1870s he was the chairman of the Callander and Oban Railway.  He was also a director for many years of the Caledonian Railway Company and chairman from 1880 to 1897 when he had to resign due to ill-health but remained as a member of the Board.  It presented him with a portrait in 1896 painted by Walter W Ouless, RA.

In 1875 JC Bolton purchased the nearby farm of Bogend and immediately set about improving it.  Contractors were hired to drain about ten acres of its Carse land with 3ft 6in drains.  In 1876 the 88 acre farm of Wholeflatts at Grangemouth was bought for £7500.  The 219 acres farm of Northfield on the estate of West Plean was given to his third son, Edwin. Torwood was purchased from Dundas of Carronhall in 1883, thus re-uniting it with Carbrook.

In 1880 JC Bolton stood as the Liberal candidate for Stirlingshire against the sitting MP, William Edmonstone, when he won a famous victory.  He held the seat until 1892 when he relinquished it due to his failing health.  In his capacity as MP JC Bolton attended many functions and opened numerous sites.  Amongst the latter were the new docks at Grangemouth.  Mr Baird, the contractor there, presented Mr Bolton with a silver trowel and he duly performed the ceremony by tapping the memorial stone three times with a wooden mallet. The inscription on the stone read: “This new dock was opened by J. C. Bolton Esq. of Carbrook, M.P. for the county of Stirling, and chairman of the Caledonian Railway Company. June 8, 1882.”  On 2 December 1880 he had performed a similar ceremony at the Christian Institute in Falkirk’s Newmarket Street.

In the 1890s there was a renewed antiquarian interest in historic monuments and the Boltons granted permission for historical societies and rambling clubs to visit the ruins of Torwood Castle and the broch.  Cargill’s Thorn, where the local minister had excommunicated the king, also attracted attention from these groups.  The castle, however, was allowed to continue its slow decay.  In the summer of 1913 the Denny and Dunipace YMCA held its annual open-air conventicle there.

Illus 14: Carbrook House looking west, c1905, from a postcard.

JC Bolton died on 14 March 1901 at the age of 82 years and was succeeded by his son Edwin Bolton. Edwin Bolton of West Plean was already a County Councillor and JP. He had married Elinor Elisabeth Graham of Larbert House in 1888.

In August 1902 the people of Torwood, in common with most of Britain, celebrated the coronation of Edward VII. Edwin Bolton generously defrayed the expense of 1 lb of tea to each of the inhabitants of Torwood. On the Saturday evening a huge bonfire was lit at Torwood Castle, followed by a display of fireworks; the company numbering almost 300.

Carbrook still had a coachman in 1907 at a time when the roads were beginning to become populated by motor vehicles. On 12 June that year William Kinnear was taking the dogcart into Larbert and stopped to give a lift to a local girl. They had not gone far when they were overtaken by a motor cycle and sidecar which, although neither particularly loud nor fast, caused the horse to bolt. The cart ran into a lamppost near Pretoria Road and the girl was thrown clear. Kinnear, however, died of his injuries. The times were indeed changing! In 1909 boring began on the Carbrook estate for coal and before long a pit opened on the corner of Glen Road and the old Plean road.

Edwin Bolton was a local pioneer of the Scouting movement and became the Scout Commissioner for Stirlingshire. In 1913 he gifted and presented a flag to the Bonnybridge troops of Boy Scouts. His son, Ian, also took a keen interest and was the first Scoutmaster of the Torwood troop which met in the Mission Hall. Edwin Bolton was content to live on his estate at West Plean and so early in 1914 Carbrook House was advertised for sale or let, furnished or unfurnished, with or without the shootings. The lands of Torwood were also up for sale. Within a few months the antique furniture at Carbrook House was sold off.

Edwin Bolton had been educated at Clifton and Sandhurst. As the third son he did not expect to inherit the estate and entered the Scots Greys in 1877 and served with the rank of lieutenant until 1886 when he resigned. Back home he served in the Stirlingshire Militia under the Duke of Montrose with the rank of captain. With the outbreak of war in 1914 he was promoted to colonel commandant of the Volunteer force raised in Stirlingshire for the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. His eldest son, Ian, offered his services to his country, and got a commission in his father’s old regiment in November 1914. Lieutenant Ian FC Bolton of the 3rd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders was wounded at the front in May 1915 and was given six months’ leave of absence before returning and being promoted to captain.

After the war Carbrook House stood empty for a number of years. In 1921 the Education Committee of Stirlingshire County Council considered the possibility of acquiring it as a school for defectives but considered the location unsuitable. Late in 1925 the house and estate were acquired for Carron Company through the offices of its manager, George Pate, who was interested in the minerals. The remaining furniture was sold over two days in January 1926. The house was immediately advertised for let:

“CARBROOK HOUSE (UNFURNISHED) TO BE LET on lease for a term of years from Martinmas 1925. The house is situated in extensive and beautifully wooded policies, and commands charming views. It is approached by a main avenue (with entrance lodge) leading from the Larbert and Stirling road of about one-third of a mile in length and by other subsidiary avenues. The house is mainly of two storeys, with some attic rooms and basement. It contains 6 public rooms, 9 bedrooms, with 4 dressing-rooms, ample servants’ accommodation, 2 bathrooms, 4 lavatories, excellent and ample kitchen, pantry, and other service accommodations. Lighted by petrol gas. Hot water heating installation. Public gravitations water supply to house and offices.
The offices consist of chauffeur’s house, groom’s room, garage for 3 cars, good stabling accommodation, laundry, byre, piggeries, henhouses, & c; also 2 large kennels for sporting dogs at South Lodge.
The garden grounds are extensive, but a great part consists of shrubbery and orchard, and the ground in cultivation is of reasonable extent. There are good glass houses, potting sheds, & c; also a gardener’s cottage.
The SHOOTINGS (low ground), extending to 945 acres or thereby, will be let along with the house after the forthcoming season.
For further particulars and permission to view, apply to Messrs JOHN C BRODIE & SONS, WS, 5 Thistle Street, Edinburgh.”

(The Scotsman 15 August 1925).

It was still being advertised four years later and evidently there were no takers. The walled garden was then advertised separately:

“TO LET. The GARDENS of CARBROOK HOUSE, near Larbert, are to be LET for Market Gardening purposes. Extent 4¾ acres or thereby, including Orchard. The ground is intersected by the Tor Burn, has a good exposure, and is well sheltered.
Considerable extent of glass and sheds. [Six greenhouses with potting sheds, frames, etc.]
Excellent Cottage of four apartments and conveniences.
The Gardens are in good order, and are admirably adapted for growing all vegetable crops, flowers and fruit, besides hothouse fruit, tomatoes, etc.
Mr Henry Boyd, Gardener, will show the subjects to enquirers. Further particulars will be furnished by Mr CGM Robertson, Mount Carron, Carron, Falkirk, or by Messrs John C Brodie & Sons, WS, 5 Thistle Street, Edinburgh, who will also receive offers.”

(Falkirk Herald 3 March 1928).

The garden was taken on by Peter Main for the next six years, after which it was re-let. The house slowly deteriorated and by the end of the Second World War was so bad that Carron Company had it demolished around 1947.

Illus 15: Aerial Photograph of the area around Carbrook House, c1950, showing the demolished remains.

Today all that remains of the house are the lower foundations and some of the cellars. Part of a colourful tiled floor in the bay window on the south side is a reminder of its former glory. The East Lodge still stands, though much modified. The bridge over the Tor Burn too reflects what has been. The grounds are private.

The owners of Carbrook House over the years were:

1794John Campbell (purchase)
1821John Campbell (son)
1846James MacLuckie
1854Joseph Cheney Bolton
1901Edwin Bolton (son)
Ian Bolton (son)
1925Carron Co (purchase)

Sites and Monuments Records

Carbrook HouseSMR 607NS 8385 8547
Carbrook House DoocotSMR 16NS 8378 8547
Carbrook House StablesSMR 608NS 8377 8547


Bailey, G. B.1991‘Doocots in the Falkirk District,’ Calatria 1, 33-56.
Gibson, J.C.1908Lands and Lairds of Larbert and Dunipace Parishes.
Reid, J.2009The Place Names of Falkirk and East Stirlingshire.

G.B. Bailey (2020)