Carronvale (Denny)

The River Carron at Denny is fast flowing and in the late 18th century provided an ideal location for the establishment of works that required both water and power.  Not surprisingly there were woollen and paper mills in the vicinity.  It also had two massive calico printfields for printing decorative designs on cloth – the Herbertshire and the Denovan Works.  The former was begun in 1783, the latter in 1800.  The process was only semi-industrialised and required a large workforce, including a core of skilled tradesmen.  An indication of the scale of the works can be made from the numbers employed.  In 1836 the Herbertshire Print Works employed 390 people made up of:

Block-printers, journeymen16
Apprentices, male44
Apprentices, female40
Tierers, one to each printer, and a few called paper-layers110
Print-cutters, dyers, colour-mixers, labourers, &c.
from twelve years of age and upwards
Girls employed in sewing and fringing80

The trade was highly profitable and the managing partners of both Herbertshire and Denovan Print Works built substantial villas for themselves in the neighbourhood from where they could keep an eye on their businesses.  That associated with the Herbertshire Works was called Carronvale.  In 1841 the new Statistical Account calls it “a genteel country residence,” but noted that “its beauties are considerably obscured by the lowness of its situation, and by the proximity of the neighbouring village of Herbertshire.

Illus 1: Extract from the 1862 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

Herbertshire Print Works was established by Thomas Shiels and Co of Glasgow which also had a printfield near Dumbarton on the Water of Leven.  The managing partner at Denny was Neil Carnie and it was he who built Carronvale House.  This Georgian mansion was made of droved ashlar sandstone, but unfortunately no details survive of its architectural style.  No photographs of it have been traced.  The Ordnance Survey plan suggests that it had a double flight of stairs on its main south-facing façade – much like that at Neuk near Airth – and the Name Book states that it was two stories in height.  It had about 15 acres of ground with it including a walled garden to the north and orchard to the west.  A curving avenue led to the southwest where a lodge guarded the gate off the common road to the mill.  The whole grounds were surrounded by a tall stone wall.  Rather curiously the substantial estate wall on the north became the south wall of a terrace of single storey workmen’s houses which must have had a restricted outlook on that side.  The explanation given for this is that they were built in a hurry when outside workers were brought in during a bitter labour dispute at Herbertshire Print Works and needed somewhere to stay.  In England these strike-breakers would have been called “Scabs,” but in this part of the world they were known as “Nobs.”  This area was formally known as Milltown or Milton because of an earlier waulk mill, but the locals referred to it for decades as Nob Row.

Like many small landowners Neil Carnie was an enthusiastic member of the Volunteers.  He joined the Eastern Battalion of the Stirlingshire Volunteer Infantry and was promoted from ensign to lieutenant in July 1804 and then to captain in 1808.  The following decade or so saw many changes in the Carnie household.  His younger son, Robert, died at Carronvale in July 1809, aged 29.  His elder son, Thomas, had taken over the management of the printfield, but he too died at Carronvale on 17 August 1811.  The year after that Neil Carnie junior and Charles Carnie became the senior partners in Thomas Shiels and Co.   Neil Carnie senior died at Herbertshire Printfield on 23 August 1822, aged 87.

A document of 1819 describes the houses at Carronvale as “2 inclosures of ground extending to 6 acres + whereon part of the Coach house, Summer house, and 2 dwelling houses at Carronvale are built, with the whole buildings and erections on said 2 pieces of ground

(information from John Reid).

Around 1825 Neil Carnie became the patron of a mechanics’ institution which was set up in the thriving village of Denny, where the two large print-fields on the banks of the Carron, which employed upwards of 600 hands, and the three extensive paper-mills, with the woollen manufactories, offered peculiar advantages for such an institution.  The lectures were numerously attended.  However, he too died and his brother Charles took over.  Charles presented the Leslie Park Curling Club with a silver medal for competition.  The family were keen curlers and were often on the rink there.  His brother, John Carnie, became world famous when he moved to Largs and constructed, in the grounds of his house, the first curling rink ever to be built on scientific principles.  It was only 5ins deep and lined with clay, which meant that it froze long before the conventional ponds then used and gave a beautifully flat playing surface.  He named his house Curling Hall!  In 1832 this method was widely adopted and allowed the game to greatly expand.  Before long almost every town and village in central Scotland had a curling pond.

John had taken over the running of the family distillery at Barrowfield near Largs.  One disdainful teetotal resident of Dunipace later recalled seeing “year after year, in the month of December, a row of carts loaded with whisky barrels, which had arrived during the night from Largs Distillery, at that time, occupied by a Cairnie.  It was a common thing for each block-printer to take from two to five gallons for the New Year.”

(Renfrewshire Independent 6 August 1881, 5).

By 1831 Charles Carnie was the sole surviving partner of Thomas Shiels & Co and moved into Carronvale where he became well known in the community.  In 1844 he was made a Justice of the Peace for Stirlingshire.  By this time the printfield at Herbertshire was struggling as the industry became more and more mechanised.  In August 1848 Thomas Shiels & Co was declared bankrupt and its assets were sequestered.  The property of Charles Carnie was also sequestered.  The printfield and house were sold to pay off the creditors:

“HERBERTSHIRE PRINTFIELD, &c. FOR SALE.  There will be Sold, by Public Roup, within the Royal Exchange Sale Rooms, Glasgow,on Wedneday the 28th day of February next, at Two o’clock, pm., ALL and WHOLE the Lands, Estate, Mill, Printfield, Printworks, Water Courses, Machinery, Houses and others, as lately belonging to and possessed by Thomas Shiels and Company, Calico Printers at Herbertshire, as the same are more particularly described in the Title Deeds, including the Mansion House of Carron Vale, Ground and Garden adjacent, and Offices, the Mill and Mill Lands, Lands of Herbertshire with the multures and sequels thereof, and whole pertinent and privileges.

This desirable property is situated at the Village of Denny, in the Parish of Denny and County of Stirling, is bounded by the high-road from Glasgow to Stirling on the North West, and the river Carron on the South.

The premises have been long known as an extensive manufacturing establishment, and are most suitable for carrying on the business of calico printing, dyeing, and bleaching, on a large scale…” .

(Glasgow Herald 22 December 1848, 3)

Charles Carnie managed to retain ownership and continued to live at Carronvale.  He even had a gamekeeper, William Houston, who was assaulted in 1856.  Charles was well known as a dog breeder and established a kennel at Carronvale for thoroughbred pointers, setters and deer hounds.  Charles Carnie died on 10 June 1859 and more sales ensued, first the contents of the house and then the mill and the house itself:


P Burn & Co beg to intimate that they are instructed to Sell the Whole FURNITURE and PLENISHING in said House, the property of the late Chas. Carnie, Esq., consisting of Dining Room, Drawing Room, Billiard Room, and Red Room furniture; Piano-Forte by Braidwood; Set of Eight Superior Mahogany stuffed-back chairs and sofa, in Morocco; dining tables, chairs, sofas, window curtains, Brussels and other carpets, gasoliers, register grates, fenders and irons, rosewood round table, fancy tables, mahogany posted-bedstead and hangings, feather beds, mattresses, mahogany wardrobes and drawers, basin stands, toilet tables and glasses, old billiard table and balls, two India rosewood sofa tables, lobby furniture, eight-day clock, stair carpets, large India China bowls, Japanese enamelled toilet set, India china ornaments, curiosities, carvings, bronzes, &c; kitchen utensils, garden implements, &c; gilt-framed paintings and engravings (Waterloo Banquet), crystal china.  700oz silver plate – 1 1.2 doz soup, 4 doz dessert, 10 gravy, 22 tea, 12 egg, and 13 salt spoons; 8 soup ladles, 4 fish knives, 4 doz double struck dinner forks, ½ doz dessert do, bread basket, 19 toddy ladles, tea set and coffee pot, case silver dessert knives and forks, &c.  Plated goods – set of 4 fine corner dishes and covers, coffee tray, 3 waiters, cruet frame, wine slides, candlesticks, ivory-handled table cutlery, &c. Cellar of old wines – very old port, sherry, Madeira; about 30 doz very fine old whisky, some of it 35 years old; cask whisky, &c.”

(Glasgow Herald 28 November 1859, 8)

“FOR SALE, BY PRIVATE BARGAIN, THE PRINTWORKS of HERBERTSHIRE, situated in the immediate vicinity of Denny, Stirlingshire, lately possessed by Charles Carnie & Co, with the STEAM ENGINES and STANDING MACHINERY therein.
The Works, which are situated on the Carron, consist of Printing Shops, Dye Houses, Colour Houses, Bleaching House, Calender House, and other Buildings. The Machinery includes two Steam Engines and three Water Wheels, with Gearing. A Warehouse and Counting House are attached, along with a Manager’s House and Workmen’s Houses.
The Denny Branch of the Scottish Central Railway runs into the Works, and the Station is within half a mile.
The House upon the Lands, called Carron Vale House, lately occupied by Mr Carnie, contains Two Public Rooms, Six Bed Rooms, Billiard Room, Kitchen, and other accommodation, along with Stable and Offices; and a large Garden, with lawn and Shrubbery, are attached
…” .

(Glasgow Herald 9 December 1859, 3)

The new owners were Messrs P & J Henderson, Drysalters, Glasgow. The number of workers employed at the printfield declined to about 70 and the firm dealt almost solely with the Indian market.  William Campbell seems to have been the manager, resident in Carronvale.

Not even the Indian trade could keep Herbertshire printfield in business and before long it was on the market again:

 “FOR SALE, BY PRIVATE BARGAIN, THE HERBERTSHIRE PRINTWORKS, situated in the immediate vicinity of Denny, Stirlingshire, presently possessed by Messrs Campbell, Laing & Co, with the STEAM ENGINES and Standing MACHINERY therein.

The Works, which are situated on the Carron, consist of Printing Shops, Dye Houses, Colour Houses, Bleaching House, Calender House, and other Buildings.  The Machinery includes Two Steam Engines, and Three Water Wheels, with Gearing.  A Warehouse and Counting House are attached, along with a Manager’s House and Workmen’s Houses…

The House upon the Lands, called Carron Vale House, contains Two Public Rooms, Six bed Rooms, One Dressing Room, Kitchen, and other accommodation – and there is a large Garden with Lawn and Shrubbery.  The Offices consist of Coachman’s House, Coach House, Five-Stalled Stable, Byre & c. & c.  The House is quite detached from the Works, and the Garden and Grounds are tastefully laid out, which make it a very quiet and desirable Residence.

The Land extends to 17 ½ Acres, and there is no Feu-duty…”

(Glasgow Herald 8 June 1866, 3)

It was bought by John Miller of John Miller & Co who already had the Collinton Paper Works and he quickly established a lithographic print work on part of the site of the old printfield.  A year later he bought Carrongrove Paper Mill and moved into Randolph Hill House.   Carronvale House was put up for let:

 “TO LET. CARRON VALE, Furnished or Unfurnished.  The House consists of Dining and Drawing Room, Library, Breakfast Room, Five Bed Rooms, Bath Room, Pantry, and very ample Servants accommodation.  Has Hot and Cold Water, Water Closets, gas, and every modern convenience.  Suitable Repair will be made proportionate with the period for which it is Let.  The Stabling and Office Houses are suitable for a large establishment.  The Garden and Grounds consist of about Fifteen Acres.

The produce of the Garden obtained first-call prizes at many of the Horticultural shows last summer.

Arrangements can be made to Let the House with a limited portion of Garden and Grounds, if wished.

Carron Vale is beautifully situated on the Banks of the Rover Carron, in the parish of Dunipace, adjoining Denny, within 7 minutes walk of Denny Station, or 20 minutes drive of Larbert or Castlecary, and about 6 miles from Stirling.

For further particulars apply at the Lodge, or to Mr John Miller, Proprietor, Randolph Hill, Denny” .

(Glasgow Herald 13 February 1871, 2)

John Miller did not require two papermills and in 1875 he sold Carrongrove to Plummer and Henderson.  John Miller & Co was described in the 1877 Scottish Post Office Directory as “paper makers, paper dealers, merchants, wholesale, retail, and export stationers, paper stainers, bookbinders, printers, lithographers, engravers, die sinkers, account book, envelope, and paper bag manufacturers.”  It had the papermill at Collinton and the lithographic works at Carronvale.

One of John Miller’s relatives, May Miller, was living at Carronvale House in 1882 when about 30yds of the 10ft high wall that surrounded the garden, which had received a considerable shaking from the gales, was levelled to the ground by the flooding of the Carron.  Once again the house and works were put on the market:

“FOR SALE, CARRONVALE, near DENNY, extending to fully 21 Acres.

This property, bounded on one side by the River Carron, is admirably adapted by Situation and Water-Power for Extensive Works.  There are at present Two Water-Wheels on it, used in connection with a Lithographic Print Work and Dyewood Mill respectively; and by throwing both Falls into one a Motive Power of great importance and value would be obtained.

The Caledonian Railway intersects the Lands on a level most convenient for a Siding, and the Denny Station is in the immediate neighbourhood.

There is a commodious Mansion-House, with extensive Garden; also 26 workmen’s houses…” .

(Dundee Advertiser 27 March 1883, 1)

In 1886 the enclosed garden with its fine fruit trees was let separately.  Then in August that year Carronvale, consisting of 21 acres with the mansion-house and buildings thereon, was sold for £2,620 to John Luke of Headswood Paperworks.  Late in 1892 work began on the erection of a new mill for fine paper by his sons, Alexander and Robert Luke.  It was named the Anchor Paper Mill after the adjacent stream.

Illus 3: Extract from the Ordnance Survey Map of 1896 (National Library of Scotland).

In 1896 David Shanks of the Denny Ironworks married Jessie May McGregor, youngest daughter of John Luke of Headswood, and the two moved into Carronvale House which had been refurbished for them.  It was probably at this time that bay windows were placed on the south façade.  Both the Shanks and Lukes families acquired houses elsewhere – such as Headswood, Leslie Park and Kirkmailing – and Carronvale House was let out before being divided into flats.  The tenants tended to be associated with the Carronvale or Vale Board Mills.  In the 1920s and 30s Peter Paterson and his family lived there.  In the 40s it was Robert McKillop.  He had served as the chauffeur to the Luke family and was subsequently employed by the Vale Board Mills Ltd as a gardener and chauffeur.  The gardens at Carronvale were extensive and provided him with opportunity to garden and he won many prizes for his chrysanthemums and onions.  He died at Carronvale in February 1947 and in February 1954 Peter Paterson died at the age of 82.

Illus 4: Aerial photograph of Carronvale in 1950. The house, park and mill are clearly visible.
Illus 5: Aerial view of the Vale Board Mills looking east, c1960. Carronvale House can just be seen in the bottom left-hand corner.

The mill closed in the late 1970s and, along with the house, was demolished.  The reservoirs were infilled and the area developed as a housing estate.  The new roads were named in association with the Queen’s jubilee of 1977 – Crathie Drive, Braemar Gardens, Windsor Drive, Jubilee Road and Queens Drive.

Sites and Monuments Records

Carronvale HouseSMR 1341NS 8088 8322
Anchor Paper MillSMR 489NS 8109 8332

G.B. Bailey (2020)