Carron Park

Carron Park dominated Carronhill overlooking the Carron Dams.  It and its neighbour Mount Carron were signs of the increasing wealth brought to the nation in the late eighteenth century as a result of the increase in trade and manufacturing.  Westward it looked down onto open fields where within a few years a small settlement grew up to become the village of Stenhousemuir.

Carron Company was established in 1759 and lands on the Stenhouse estate were acquired from Michael Bruce – the document agreeing to feu 14 acres being signed on 13 December.  Further lands were initially leased.  Building work began on a large scale the following year and William Cadell junior was appointed as the works manager or residing partner – he was only 22 years old.  To be close to the works he leased Dorrator House on the south side of the River Carron (now the site of Falkirk Crematorium) from Laurence Dundas.  The rapidity with which the works arose was tremendous and there were many obstacles in the way.

Illus 2: Transcribed copy of RHP 1552 showing the outlines of the fields tenanted by Michael Ronald and John Rae prior to 1759 with the lade of 1760. Carron Park and West Carron were subsequently superimposed on the plan.

In 1762 William Cadell junior leased 7½ acres of the high ground at Hungry Hill, which was renamed Carronhill, from Carron Company.   A map of 1761 with later additions shows the ground that he eventually enclosed as measuring 180yds W/E by 240yds N/S or 8.93 acres (RHP 1552). 

Illus 3: Inscription on the String Course.

In the centre of this rectangular enclosure he had a large house built which he called Carron Park.  The dwelling was of brick with stone lintels, all covered with harling.  Brick buildings were scarce in the Falkirk area at this time and it is most likely that the bricklayers had previously worked on the structures at the new foundry.  Two English bricklayers, Lawther and Shackleton, had been kept on at Carron in order to maintain the Works during a temporary lull there and were also employed finishing “the House at Carron,” presumably Carron Park.   An inscription on the plain plinth course between the basement and the ground floor on the south side of the main entrance, immediately above the window of the sunk flat, read “WC 1763” for William Cadell and the date of construction.

All in all Cadell spent about £1,000 on acquiring the land, building the house and laying out the grounds.  The house was three storeys high – the basement floor being all but hidden from view.  It consisted of a rectangular block aligned almost N/S with a central pedimented porch supported on four Ionic columns on the west façade facing the drive.  A broad flight of five stone steps led up to the porch.  A small window above the porch was mirrored on either side, with similar small windows below.  The symmetry was further emphasised by chimney stacks on the corners of the piended slate roof.  The east façade had a large central bay window from which a grand view of the works was obtained.  Beyond the foundry the countryside spread out to the coast and from here the occupant would see a new town arise at Grangemouth.

In the wall above the fireplace of the drawing-room of Carron Park there was a painting in oils of a sunset, bearing this inscription: “Painted by Buchan, who went with Sir Joseph Banks, and died at Otaheitte.”  Alexander Buchan was a noted Scottish landscape artist and it is possible that he was in the service of Carron Company as a draughtsman or a designer, and painted the picture for Carron Park. In 1768 he accompanied Joseph Banks on James Cook’s first voyage to the Pacific aboard HMS Endeavour.  He died on the trip on 17 April 1769.  Alternatively the painting may have been in the possession of Sir Joseph Banks and presented by him to William Cadell’s son, W. A. Cadell, who was a close friend of the naturalist.

It is said that one of the earliest instances of the cultivation of the wild bramble was in the garden of Carron Park, the experiment being attended with marked success.  Alexander Forrester was the gardener and the fine garden was full of fruit trees and flowers, and the grounds of trees and shrubs.  The first edition Ordnance Survey map shows the walled garden occupying the south-east corner of the original enclosure.  In the early days of Carron Ironworks William Cadell could walk to them from the house along the north side of the Furnace Pool.  When the Forge Dam was built to its north in 1765 a path was left between them which still enabled this route to be used.  The two dams were connected by a culvert or bridge.  The earth removed for the new pond was used to level up the ground at Carron Park.  William Cadell’s successor as manager of Carron Works was concerned about the pilfering that was taking place at the works and so in 1771 secured access to them by constructing a tall perimeter wall.  A lockfast gate was built at the bridge used by Mrs Cadell “who often liked to stroll down from Carron Park and walk beside the reservoirs.

Just three years after its construction, disaster struck at Carron Park.  At 5 o’clock on the morning of 20 December 1766 a fire broke out and the roof and upper floors were destroyed.  The furniture and the lower part of the house were only saved with great difficulty (Caledonian Mercury 20 December 1766).  Amongst the items saved was the correspondence between William Cadell junior and the other partners as well as to various businessmen throughout Scotland.

William Cadell was an extremely busy man and as well as overseeing the construction of the huge iron foundry at Carron he established a nailmaking business at Stenhouse and at Camelon.  In 1767 he and his brother purchased the Banton estate where they were able to exploit the coal and blackband ironstone.  He also acted as interim factor for the vast estate of Callendar until its purchase by William Forbes in 1783.  In 1789 William Cadell was elected as senior deputy chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, Edinburgh. As a Road Trustee for Falkirk and district he took a full share of the duties which fell to those who held the office.

The Cadell family took over the running and then the ownership of the slitting mills at Cramond.  Thomas Edington was appointed as the manager at Cramond in 1764 and in 1772 married William Cadell’s sister, Christian.  He and William entered into several partnerships run from Carron Park.  In 1786 the two men established the Clyde Iron Works.

William Cadell married Katherine Inglis of Auchendinny in Midlothian in 1773 and they had a family of five sons and one daughter at Carron Park – all of whom made their mark on society.  Mrs Cadell died in 1797.  A portrait of William Cadell was painted around 1810 by Sir Henry Raeburn and hung for many years in the house.  William Cadell was a cultured man and subscribed to the 1787 Edinburgh edition of Robert Burns’ poems.  As a patriot he also subscribed to the provision of clothing for the British army in Flanders in 1794 and to the Royal Edinburgh Volunteers in 1795.

When the large Wester Dam was created in the mid 1770s in the boggy hollow between Carron Park and the earlier dams it provided a new setting to the house and reflected the lurid flames from the furnaces which lit up the whole expanse of the grounds and garden.  The banks of the dam were planted with willows to strengthen them.  Much later this scene was described by Robert Gillespie:

Travelling from the west, the most prosaic eye must be struck with the still beauty of the loch, which reflects, as in a mirror, the trees that skirt its edge, and the fairy fleet of silvery-pinioned swans that sail with proudly-arched neck around its “osier isle.”  There can be no doubt but the royal birds add greatly to the interest of the dam.  They are very tame… Here, also, on the margin of the loch, stands Carron Park. And few villa sites are so thoroughly enviable.  The “mansion” itself is certainly the reverse of elegant; but the view from the drawing-room window, down upon the glossy lake which lies immediately beneath the house, is perhaps for beauty unsurpassed in the county.

Illus 4: Carron Grange looking west across the Wester Dam with the walled garden of Carron Park just visible on the right.

Jean Sophia Cadell was the only daughter of William Cadell and was born at Carron Park in 1785.  She married Francis Simpson, of Plean in 1804 but died just two years later.  Her death from consumption was a great blow to her father and he had a marble plaque, measuring 15ins by 12ins, erected at Carron Park inscribed: “Mrs Jane/ Sophia Simpson, /Spouse of/ Francis Simpson, /Esq. of Plean.”

William Cadell’s assets in Stirlingshire in 1796 included:

Estates in Stirlingshire, including Banton whose value stood at£5,717150
North Broomage estate at Larbert & c£1,8831176
Carronpark House with about 9 acres of ground £700 00
Illus 5: Grassom’s Map of 1817.

William Cadell died at Carron Park on 17 September 1819, aged 82.  Carron Park was inherited by his eldest son, William Archibald Cadell, advocate, traveller, savant and mathematician, who had been born there on 27 June 1775.  Trained in law, he had sufficient means at his disposal not to require him to practise. He was, however, one of the Grand Jury at the preliminary inquiry into the charges of high treason preferred against Baird and Hardie at Stirling in 1820.  He spent his time in scientific and antiquarian research at home and abroad.  Sir Joseph Banks was a good friend and following his recommendation WA Cadell was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1810.  He was also a fellow of the Geological Society, a member of the now defunct Wernerian Natural History Society of Edinburgh, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of the same city.  To the ‘Transactions’ of the latter he contributed a paper ‘On the Lines that divide each Semidiurnal Arc in Six Equal Parts’; in the ‘Annals of Philosophy’ he wrote an ‘Account of an Arithmetical Machine lately discovered in the College Library, Edinburgh.’  While travelling on the continent during the war with France he was taken prisoner, and only escaped after a detention of several years, feigning to be a Frenchman, a feat only made possible by his intimate knowledge of the language.  On his return he wrote an account of his wanderings in “A Journey in Carniola, Italy, and France, in the years 1817, 1818,” published in 1820.  It was probably he who had a single storey wing added on the north side of Carron Park.  This was of stone and was evidently used as a dining hall.  WA Cadell died, unmarried, at Edinburgh on 19 February 1855.

Illus 6: Ordnance Survey Map of 1862 (National Library of Scotland).

WA Cadell was succeeded by his younger brother, James John Cadell (I) of Grange.  He had lived at Grange adjacent to Bo’ness for 55 years, where he was involved with coal mining but upon his brother’s death he moved to Carronpark.  The garden was already well stocked and he took a keen interest in the growing of the fruit and vegetables.  He died there on 13 November 1858 in his 79th year.  William, his eldest son, was educated as a Writer to the Signet, but went to manage the family’s ironworks at Cramond.  He and his wife took to drink and both died in 1862; he at the age of 52.  Their only son, James John Cadell (II), succeeded as heir of entail to Banton and Carronpark.  He put the house at Carron Park up for let in 1864:

“CARRON PARK HOUSE – TO LET, Furnished, the MANSION HOUSE at Carron Park, containing Dining and Drawing Rooms, Library, and Five Bed Rooms, with abundant Kitchen and Servants’ accommodation, &c; also Stable, Byre, and Coach House, and a good garden.  If required, a Grass Park, of about Five Acres in extent, may be Rented along with the House and garden.  Carron Park is situated within fifteen minutes’ walk of the Scottish Central Railway Station at Larbert.  Apply to John Forgie, Wright, Falkirk”.

(Glasgow Herald 1864).

It was leased by William and E Mackenzie.  James John Cadell (II) died unmarried in 1872 and the estate passed to another James John Cadell (III), the eldest son of Henry Cadell, the second son of the James John Cadell (I) who had died in 1858.  He remained at Grange with his mother and sisters until 1888 when his brother, Henry Moubray Cadell, took over that estate.  James John Cadell (III) was a Justice of the Peace for Linlithgowshire and at one time held the office of Captain of the 8th Volunteer Battalion of the Royal Scots.  Whilst he was at Grange the house at Carron Park continued to be let, first to the Andersons and then to the Procurator Fiscal for East Stirlingshire – WK Gair:

“DESIRABLE FURNISHED RESIDENCE. To Let for such time as may be agreed on, with Entry Whitsunday next, THE HOUSE of CARRON PARK, within 2½ miles of Falkirk, and one mile of the Larbert Station of the Scottish Central Branch of the Caledonian Railway, with Six Acres of Ground under Grass, and Shrubbery surrounding the House, and a Garden in excellent order.

The House contains Dining-Room, Drawing-Room, Library, Five Bedrooms, with Two Dressing-Rooms, Kitchen, Dairy, Cellar, pantry, and ample Servants’ Accommodation.  The Offices, which consist of a Coach-house, Four-stalled Stable, Byre, & c, are large and commodious.

Robert Morton, at Carronpark, will show the House and Grounds, which may be seen on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays…”

(Falkirk Herald 12 April 1879).

Tables, 1881 Census

ForenameSurnameRelationStatusAgeOccupationPlace of Birth
William H.GAIRHeadMarried34Solicitor Procurator FiscalFalkirk
Margaret E. HGAIRWifeMarried24Govan, Renfrew
JanetHOUSTONServantUnmarried38Domestic Servant CookKillearn, Stirling
Alice H.CAIRNSServantUnmarried21Domestic Servant HousemaidBonnington, Edinburgh
Carron Park
ForenamesSurnameRelationStatusAgeOccupationPlace of Birth
MaryCALDWELLWifeMarried46Comrie, Perth
MaggieCALDWELLDaughterUnmarried18Formerly NurseLarbert
AlexanderMUNROBoarderUnmarried31MasonCarnbroe, Fife
Carron Park Offices

In 1888 James John Cadell (III) went to live at his own house of Carronpark, where he led a bachelor life for the next 12 years. While sitting at dinner on 20 March 1900 he died with startling suddenness from heart failure. His brother, Henry Moubray Cadell, now took possession but had little interest in the property. It was therefore sold in May 1905 to Carron Company. When the contents were being removed, the old correspondence between Roebuck, Garbett and the Cadells in the early 1760s was found in the attics. A portfolio of drawings of James Watt’s steam engines and other devices had also been kept at Carron Park, but was found to be missing. Carron Company continued to let the house:

TO LET, for such period may agreed upon, CARRON PARK MANSION HOUSE, STENHOUSEMUIR, with Grounds Attached. The House contains 3 Public Rooms and 7 Bed-rooms – Three with Dressing-Rooms – Kitchen, Bath-room, and all Modern Conveniences, with ample Servants’ Accommodation; also Stabling for 4 Horses, with Suitable Carriage and Motor Accommodation, and Byre for 3 Cows.
The Grounds consist of 7 Acres in Permanent Pasture, and about 2 Acres of Orchard and Garden ground. The garden is well laid out, and Sheltered with Trees. There is also a large greenhouse.
The House in Conveniently Situated, and is within Three Minutes’ walk of the Falkirk Electric Car.
Mr A R Roy, House Factor, Carron Works, will show parties over the House and Grounds, and offers will be received by Messrs John C Brodie and Sons, WS, 5 Thistle Street, Edinburgh.

(Falkirk Herald 23 February 1907).

However, no money was spent on the house and it needed upgrading. After standing empty for a few years it had become rat infested and so Carron Company made the decision to demolish it. In August 1910 the painting by Alexander Buchan was carefully removed and the following month the building was demolished by John Maxwell and Sons, builders and contractors, Falkirk. Larbert High School now stands on the site and nothing remains of the old house.

The occupants of Carron Park may be summarised as follows (those in maroon were tenants):

1762William Cadell (junior) (purchase)
1819William Archibald Cadell (son)
1855John James Cadell (brother)
1858William (son)
1862James John (son)
William & E Mackenzie (1864-1872)
Anderson (c1873 – 1878)
1872James John (cousin)
WK Gair (1881-1888)
1900Henry Moubray Cadell (brother)
Mr and Mrs Learmonth (1901-1906)
1905Carron Company (purchase)

Sites and Monuments Records

Carron Park HouseSMR 992NS 8740 8240
Carron DamsSMR 2197
Illus 7: Aerial Photograph showing the site of Carron Park in c1950.


Gillespie, R.1868Round about Falkirk.
Love, J.1925Local Antiquarian Notes and Queries. Volume 3.
RHPRegister House Plan
Watters, B.2010Carron: Where Iron Runs like Water.

G.B. Bailey (2020)