Carhowden is an interesting place name. It is mentioned as early as 1688 (Reid 2009, 90) and incorporates the old Celtic name for the Westquarter Burn as its second element. It had the meaning of the “bend or fort on the Cadan.” It thus referred to a large parcel of land to the east of Westquarter.
The earliest known press reference to Carhowden appears to be in 1771 when “the lands in and about the town of Redding called Carhowden” were for sale.
Napier had purchased Westquarter in 1734 and subsequently enlarged the estate by acquiring Langton and, it would seem, Carhowden. That Carhowden was not part of the original estate is suggested by the fact that when Westquarter was restored to the Livingstone family in 1765 Carhowden had remained with Lord Napier.
The Lands of Carhowden were for sale again in 1777.
58 acres of the Lands of Carhowden and Redding “well watered and sheltered” were again for sale in 1806. This description suggests that they lay beside the burn (where Carhowden Road was formed in the 1930s), with four acres on the north side of the high road (where Grandsable Cemetery now is).
There does not seem to have been a big house associated with Carhowden and the land was presumably worked from Redding. The nearest large dwelling was Westquarter House which lay to the west and to which the lands were attached in the time of Lord Napier. He made an eastern drive through them to the high road near Grandsable. A little further away, to the north-east, was Weedingshall House. The new house at Weedingshall had been built by Robert Walker in 1791 to a plan by Robert Adam. After 1880 Weedingshall was rented by a succession of middle-class professional men – Robert Laidlaw, engineer and ironfounder, T Salvesen, merchant, William G Scott Moncrieff, sheriff substitute for Falkirk, and Sheriff Bell. In 1904 Weedingshall House was tenanted by Thomas B G Harvey. Captain Thomas Harvey, a ship builder, and his wife were well known local philanthropists. Captain Thomas Harvey DL JP was born in Arrochar in 1874. His father was Rector of Edinburgh Academy, where Thomas was educated and the family may have lived at Cramond. He married Allison Mary Grierson in 1899 in Glasgow. Thomas was a qualified naval architect and became head of Grangemouth Dockyard Company Ltd, retiring from business in 1916. He was elected to Stirling County Council in 1913, becoming Convenor in 1929, and eventually retired from politics in 1935. Around 1914 Thomas Harvey bought Weedingshall from the Smith family. Allison died in 1939 in an Edinburgh Nursing home and Thomas died a year later at the age of 77.
Their son, Captain Thomas Barnett Grierson Harvey R.A., was born at Prospect House, Polmont Station in September 1899, and subsequently was brought up at Weedingshall with his sisters. He appears to have taken over his father’s role at Grangemouth Dockyard Company Ltd at some stage. He married Nora S Tait in Towcester (Northants) in September 1929 and they became known as Mr and Mrs Grierson-Harvey. Nora had family connections with Ayrshire. A substantial house with 3.07 acres of ground was built for the “newly-weds” around a mile from Weedingshall House. This was Carhowden House – an Arts and Crafts villa with two public rooms, five bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen and scullery etc.
Illus 4: Views of Carhowden House in 2015.
The House occupies a slight hill slope from south to north and its main façade, containing the larger windows, faced WSW. The long wooded drive branched southward from the main road a little to the east of the “Westquarter Gates” and then swung round to the west to approach the house from the south-east. Here the two jambs of the building met and there was a moulded doorway in the re-entrant angle along with a dormer window which breaks through the eaves. The building is two-storey in height with white rendered brick walls, red rosemary tile roofs (now replaced with green slate), a knee height brick plinth, and brick margins to the voids (the brickwork now painted black) . The south gable displayed a symmetrical arrangement of features with a prominent external central chimney breast. This threads through the eaves barging to terminated in a cap of red brick with alternate layers set at different angles. Below the eaves the chimney breast is stepped and at the ground floor splays outward to contain an inglenook with small vertical windows in the chamfered sides. These are neatly reflected by large windows on the first floor.
The west façade has two bays. The slightly advanced northern bay is gabled and has a red tile-capped canted bay window on the ground floor and a two-light window above it with an arched tympanum. The longer south bay has three windows which each emphasise the horizontal axis in different ways. On the ground floor at the south is a four-light window which sits on the plinth course. In the centre of the wall to its north is a three-light stair window with stepped sills. And above the ground floor window is a small two-light one tucked under the slightly overhanging eaves. The garden on this side of the house would have received the afternoon and evening sun, making it an ideal private spot.
The east and north elevations also contain distinct features making the whole ensemble a very good example of its type.
Mr and Mrs Grierson-Harvey (he was also referred to as Mr T.B.G. Harvey) were living in Carhowden by 1930. Mr T.B.G. Harvey kept a weather station and reported rainfall statistics to the local newspaper, and he organised badminton tournaments for the Scottish Badminton Union, while Nora ran produce stalls at fetes, organised gymkhanas and joined the Red Cross, becoming the commandant of the newly formed Polmont Voluntary Aid Detachment in 1931. They were actively involved in the social activities of the Polmont gentry, and also in various good works.
Meanwhile in 1934, Stirling County Council was purchasing Westquarter Estate and planning an ambitious Arts and Crafts model garden village, with houses, school, clinic and shops, mainly for poorly housed miners from Standburn. By 1935 Westquarter House was demolished to make way for part of the ambitious new community.
In 1938 Stirling County Council, having started to build a much admired Primary School in the new Westquarter village, decided it needed a schoolhouse for the headmaster. Reasonably modest schoolhouses were normally available in Stirlingshire near to the schools, with the Headmaster paying rent to the Council. It was at this time that Carhowden was made available by Mr and Mrs Harvey. The reason is uncertain, but the establishment and growth of the new village would have been a consideration. Negotiations were entered into with the Property and Buildings sub-committee of S.C.C. and it recommended the purchase of Carhowden by the Education Board for use as a schoolhouse. The annual valuation of the property was £40 which was more than most headmasters’ houses; however, the Property and Buildings sub-committee would contribute to the cost so that part of the grounds could be used for additional housing. A purchase price for £1,350 was agreed late in 1938 but it was the summer of 1939 before the acquisition actually took place and Mr and Mrs Harvey moved out.
Just as the new school was nearing completion and the headmaster should have moved in, the Second World War broke out. The school buildings were requisitioned by the RAF as a billet for men serving at the airfield at Grangemouth. On his father’s death in 1940 Thomas inherited Weedingshall but was involved in the war as a Captain in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. The war was not going well for the Allies and the threat of a German invasion was very real. The local Home Guard looked at ways of slowing down any enemy advance and Falkirk was seen as a strategic location. The Westquarter Valley was a natural outer line of defence and the main road from Linlithgow crossed it on a tall embankment. This point was dominated by Carhowden House and early in 1942 the Home Guard decided that it could make use of the position as a machine gun post. There was just one problem – the arc of fire to the causeway was obscured by some of the trees. In April or May that year the Officer Commanding the 2nd Stirlingshire Battalion of the Home Guard gave instructions for nine of the trees in the grounds of Carhowden to be cut down. He did not have the permission of the Education Committee which immediately made a claim for compensation for the loss of two elms, two oaks and five saplings (Bailey 2008, 207).
The school was finally handed back to the Education Committee in 1944 and had to be extensively refurbished. In considering the post of headmaster S.C.C. wanted to attract a suitable person who “must not only be an excellent schoolmaster but be tremendously interested in the social welfare of the community”. The first headmaster, George F. Watt M.A, B.Sc., was appointed. He had previously been head at Slamannan Primary and moved into Carhowden, with a salary based on a 16-class school, despite only half of the school’s accommodation being then available. However, Mr Watt was not happy about the high rent for Carhowden, which with inflation was now much higher, and complained to the Council:
“The Clerk reported that Mr George F. Watt, headmaster of Westquarter School, had interviewed him regarding the rent of Westquarter schoolhouse and that he had informed Mr Watt that the house appeared in the valuation roll at £50. Mr Watt had stated that he was not willing to pay such a high rent, and had requested that the matter be considered. After discussion, the Committee agreed to recommend that the rent to be paid by Mr Watt should be the present annual assessment of £50. Mr G. McLaren, Larbert, thought the decision of the Committee was quite right. There was no comparison between the Slamannan schoolhouse and this house. The Rev. John Easton, Blackbraes, said it would take £50 to £700a year to look after the grounds, which had never been cultivated. It was agreed that the matter be remitted back for further consideration.”
The second Headmaster at Westquarter Primary School was Arthur Doyle (1950 -54) who also lived at Carhowden, where the large grounds remained mainly in an uncultivated state. Arthur Doyle founded a male voice group of singers called the Carhowden Singers who entertained locally.
In 1945 Weedingshall was acquired by Stirling County Public Assistance Department at a cost for purchase and reconditioning of £3,751. In 1947 it became a Children’s Home run by the local authority. Mr and Mrs Grierson-Harvey later moved to Poldrait, Linlithgow.
In the 1970s Central Region, which had inherited the portfolio of buildings from Stirling County Council, divested itself of the many schoolhouses which it no longer required and they were sold into private ownership. The house was no longer isolated due to the building of Gairloch Crescent, though it still had substantial grounds to the north. In the early 1990s this ground was used for the construction of Poolewe Drive, the narrow access point from Gairloch Crescent meaning that Carhowden house itself was incorporated into the new estate. A single storey service range on the north of Carhowden House was demolished.
The arrival of a new owner in 1998 saw the beginning of a process of improvements. The original window frames were rotting and were replaced by double-glazed sash units – still of wood to the same design to retain the outward appearance. The original panelling in the hallway had been buried under sheets of hardboard which was removed and improved the internal ambience of the house. Other features such as the cast iron fireplaces and doors had already been removed and were substituted. Although the surrounds have considerably changed since 1930, the house is still one of notable character.
Sites and Monuments Record
|Carhowden House||SMR 1288||NS 9205 7897|
|Bailey, G.B||2008||Hard as Nails: the Home Guard in Falkirk District|
|British Newspaper Archive.|
Illus 7: The Author at Carhowden showing the woodland nature of the grounds in the early 1950s.