Dorrator House

Dorrator House was the ancestral home of the Callendar family from the 14th to the early 18th centuries.  It stood where Camelon Crematorium is now, overlooking a bluff on the River Carron.

Illus: 1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map showing Dorrator House.

Ludovic Callendar’s daughter, Jean, married John Willison and being childless they seem to have sold the estate to William Sumerville in July 1727, but were allowed to live on the estate until they died.  It then came into the hands of Patrick Haldane of Bearcrofts (near Grangemouth) one of the king’s solicitors.  He had been instrumental in prosecuting the Jacobites after the 1745 rebellion.

There had been a moment of intense excitement at Dorrator House on 17th January 1746 when the whole of the Kintyre Company of the Argyll Militia, some 54 or so in number, held up there on the night that their army was defeated by the Jacobites.  Under the command of Captain McNeil they barricaded the doors and windows and were determined to fight.  A detachment of Balmerino’s Life Guards, consisting of John Daniel and 17 men, was sent to sort them out.  On the way they gathered more troops and the building was surrounded.  After a few volleys from the Jacobites the occupants were persuaded to change their minds and surrendered.  One of the prisoners was only a young boy who said that he lived within 14 miles of the place.  Daniel allowed him to slip away.  The remainder were rounded up, disarmed, and marched to Falkirk where they were imprisoned in the parish church.

Around 1754 the estate of Dorrator was acquired by James Burns, one of Scotland’s two Principal Clerks to the Bills serving in the House of Commons, a post he held from c1755 until 1762.  He feued off the southern part of the lands and rented Dorrator House and the surrounding fields to tenants.  One of the first tenants for the House was William Cadell who had just been installed as the managing director of the newly established Carron Company. He stayed in the house from 1760 until he moved into Carron Park House which he had built overlooking the ironworks in 1762.  The Carron Company then took a lease of Dorrator House and the adjacent farm.  Ambrose Tibbats became a shareholder in Carron Company in 1767 and moved up from Staffordshire to run a couple of the departments there.  By 1787 he was residing in Dorrator House.  After many years of important service to the company he moved sometime around 1795 to Shropshire where he died in 1815.

In 1795 the new tenant seems to have commissioned work to improve the access to the house for the Scots Magazine carried the following report:

Some workmen employed by Major Munro, in cutting a road to Doratory House, found, about 14 feet under ground, a Roman urn entire, covered on the top with a round piece of earthen ware, and full of dust and fragments of bones – it is marked on the outside in a particular manner.  It is supposed to have lain there at least 1400 years; the above road joins the village of Camelon above Falkirk.”

(1 September 1795, 59). 

Although identified as Roman at the time of discovery, the description makes it probable that it was in fact Bronze Age.

Five years later the house was again put up to let:

To let the mansion house of Dorrator, with the garden, pigeon house, chaise house, and suitable offices, in the parish of Falkirk, and shire of Stirling.  The house contains two parlours, four bed rooms, kitchen, scullery, servants’ rooms, & c.  The garden is well stocked with small fruit, and is in high order….  For further particulars apply to John Burns, writer in Falkirk.”

(Edinburgh Evening Courant 15 February, 1800, p.3b). 

The new tenant was Major David Hay, a retired army officer.  For a short time he took charge of the Loyal Stirling and Falkirk Volunteers.  The Edinburgh Evening Courant of the 6th February 1806 advertised the house with its girnal house and pigeon house.   At the time it was still possessed by Major Hay.

The lands were acquired by the Earl of Zetland.  In 1844 Rev Lewis Hay Irving of the newly created Free Church moved into the house and started missionary work in Camelon.  After a few years he moved to his new house on Arnothill.  From 1848 Dorrator House was the home of Rev John Oswald of Camelon Parish Church.  He was never married and lived in the house with his servants until he died there on 5 February 1867.  Whilst he was there the house was renovated and marketed at a higher rent.

COUNTRY RESIDENCE. To be Let for one or more years, with entry at Whitsunday next, DORRATOR HOUSE, situated about a mile and a half to the West of the town of Falkirk.

The House contains Dining-room, Drawing-room, with Larder, Cellars, Water closet, and other accommodation.  The garden and Ground attached to the House, extend to about 1 1/2 acres; and the Tenant may have such of the offices, including Washing-house, Stable, byre, hen-house, & c., as shall be agreed upon.

The premises are in the course of being put in a proper state of repair.  For farther particulars apply at the FACTOR’S OFFICE at Kerse, where offers will be received.” 

(FH 6 May 1852).

After Oswald’s death it was advertised again, this time giving more information on the nature of the “other accommodation.”

To let “Dorrator House, pleasantly situated about a mile and a half west from Falkirk.  The house contains dining room, drawing room, parlour, five bed rooms, kitchen, servants’ room, with other usual accommodation.  The garden and ground attached to the house extend to about 1 1/2 acres…

(FH 12 March 1867)
Illus: Dorrator House looking NW.

The house is shown on the first edition Ordnance Survey map as a long rectangular block facing the south-east with a lean-to addition on its west gable and a slightly taller two-story extension on the north-east end.  It was a plain low two-storey house with no architectural pretension. The original part would appear to have been the eastern end with a central doorway below a small window and a relatively broad window on each floor to either side producing a symmetrical facade.  A chimney stack occurs at either end. The extension westward was probably built in the mid-18th century and its windows are narrower.  The taller two-storey addition on the back would have given magnificent views across the river towards the Carron Ironworks and it is tempting to associate the mid 18th century extension with James Burns and this one with the Carron Company’s managers.  Certainly this would be in accordance with the description of 1800.

A long sinuous drive joined Nailer Road at Camelon and then went on to Camelon Bridge.  The direct route to the Main Street was only cut through in the 1880s when the land in the area was feued and the Irving Church was built.  The grounds of the house were well laid out with rectangular walled enclosures planted with trees.  Opposite the main entrance was a sunken tree-lined lawn or avenue.  It may have been the digging of this that led to the discovery of the urn in 1795.  To the southwest was a single storey suite of offices which presumably comprised a coach house, stable, hay loft, and the pigeon house.  Like the house they are described in 1860 as slated and in good repair (OSNB).

The following year, in 1868 Falkirk adopted the Burial Ground (Scotland) Act of 1855.  This empowered them to raise loans to be offset by future burial fees.  11.4 acres of land to the south of Dorrator House were purchased from the Earl of Zetland and in October the following year work began on laying out the new cemetery.  It opened in August 1870 having cost £6,000.  By the 1920s the House is shown as a roofless ruin on maps and subsequent growth of the cemetery has swallowed up the site.

Sites & Monuments Record

Dorrator HouseSMR 1054NS 873813

G.B. Bailey (2020)