Dunipace House

The Hills of Dunipace reflect a romantic and dramatic view of Scottish history which has been recounted by historians for centuries.  They stand on the flood plain on the north bank of the River Carron between Larbert and Denny where they command one of its principal crossings. 

Ignoring for the moment the rather controversial and unfortunate etymology of the name Dunipace as the Hills of Death or Peace, we can be certain that the importance of the location was recognised at an early period.  The name of the road that ran north from the ford was “Rid Lonyng” or Red Loan which equates to the Redbraes found elsewhere in the Falkirk area that refer to early river crossings and which John Reid notes as having been derived from the British word “ritu” (Welsh “rhyd”) meaning ford.  It is no coincidence that the seventh century silver brooch, now used as the logo of the Falkirk Local History Society, (see top left corner of title bar)was found in the vicinity of the Hills of Dunipace.

Illus 2: Dunipace Motte looking east with Larbert Parish Church in the distance on the left.  The river lies behind the trees on the right.

Illus 2: Dunipace Motte looking east with Larbert Parish Church in the distance on the left. 

The river lies behind the trees on the right.The eastern of the two glacial hills was accentuated to form a motte upon which a wooden tower would have been erected in the 12th century.  At that time the barony and parish of Dunipace would have been more or less coeval.  The superiority of Dunipace in the thirteenth century was held by the de Unfravilles, but the greater part of the land was held as a feudal tenancy by the family of Malherb, or de Moreham as they were often titled.  By 1350 the name of the barony changed to that of Herbertshire, though references do occur to the old appellation after that date. 

This spot was more central and guarded another early ford as well as the first bridge over the river at Denny.

Illus 3: Map showing the suggested layout of the castle at Dunipace in the 13th century.

The River Carron was a major water course and a great obstacle to land travel and so the ford at the Steps of Dunipace was important.  To the south the road crossed the main route from Falkirk to Denny on the south bank before proceeding directly to Bonnybridge.  Northwards it led via Torwoodhead to Stirling.  Immediately to the north of the Hills of Dunipace it crossed the route from Larbert to Denny.  Its importance is reflected in national events and the ford was used by the army of Edward I of England in the 13th century to reach Stirling, as well as by that of Charles Edward Stuart in 1746 on its way to the Battle of Falkirk.

Below the motte, to the north, was a small enclosure surrounded by an earth bank known as the bailey.  Here the ancillary buildings of the castle would have clustered.  These presumably included a brewhouse, bakehouse, stables, accommodation for servants and so on.  A chapel would also have stood in the vicinity and this eventually evolved into the parish church.  Outside of the enclosure a small huddle of dwellings held the villagers.  Located on the slightly higher land they were safe from the seasonal flooding of the river.  When the wooden tower went out of use the buildings in the bailey were no longer required and the enclosure became the graveyard for the church.

The nucleus of the estate and barony of “Livingston-Dunipace” was formed in the 12th century when the Abbey of Cambuskenneth was granted lands in the large parish of Dunipace.  Over the years it acquired more land to increase the size of this holding.  It was only in the mid 15th century that Alexander Livingston (1) of Fildes in Perthshire took possession of Kirkland from the Abbey.  Alexander Livingston (1) was the second son of Sir Alexander Livingston of Callendar and was executed for treason in January 1450.  However his son, also called Alexander (2), prospered.  In 1495 he was granted a charter by Abbot Henry of Cambuskenneth of the lands of Dunipace and St Alexander’s Chapel.  Thereafter the size of the estate steadily grew following the fortunes of the family and a detailed account can be found in Reid’s article on the feudal divisions of Dunipace.  The owners of the estate can be summarised as follows:

12th CenturyAbbey of Cambuskenneth
1495Alexander Livingston (2) (purchase)
1525Alexander Livingston (3) (son)
1560John Livingston (son)
1598John Livingston (son)
1620David Livingston (son)
1634John Livingston (son)
1634Robert Spottiswoode (purchase)
1643James Aitkenhead (purchase)
1646James, Earl of Callendar (purchase)
1664Thomas Nicolson (nephew)
1665William Murray (purchase)
1677Archibald Primrose (purchase)
1679Archibald Foulis Primrose (grandson)
1685George Foulis Primrose (brother)
1707Archibald Foulis Primrose (son)
1747Barons of Exchequer (forfeiture)
1754John Russell (purchase)
1755James Spottiswoode (purchase)
1798John Spottiswoode (son)
1798James Spottiswoode (brother)
1803William Spottiswoode (brother)
1804Robert Spottiswoode (brother)
1805Thomas Spottiswoode (brother)
1837Elizabeth Spottiswoode (daughter) married John Harvie-Brown
1888John Alexander Harvie-Brown (son)

In 1552 Alexander Livingston (3) took ownership of three roods of land at the east end of the township of Dunipace from Walter Forrester of Torwood.  The charter recording this is endorsed “Chartour quhairupone the place is situar.”  In such legal documents the term “place” refers to the main dwelling or country seat of the estate and at this period it usually took the form of a tower house.

Illus 4: Extract from Pont’s Map (National Library of Scotland).

It follows that this is the seat depicted on Pont’s map from the 1560s and that it was newly built at that time.  Pont shows “Dunipace Cast:” on the north side of the river with the two hills to its left (west) and the church between the mounds.  Probably due to lack of space the pictogram is actually a little out of position and is placed next to the Bonny Water rather than the Carron.  The house is shown as a three-storey tower with a wing which is typical of the early 16th century.

Illus 5: Plan of the remains of Dunipace Castle. Red – main block of 1550s tower house; purple – north wing; fawn – 17th century stair tower.

Part of the original tower house is preserved in the south and east walls of a later doocot. The main part of the late 18th century doocot is formed from a 17th century stair tower inserted at the re-entrant angle between the main block of the 1550s tower and the projecting north wing. By good fortune its south wall (shown in red on the plan) contains the original entrance on the first floor with a minor doorway below it into the ground floor basement. To the west of the latter is a ground floor basement. To the west of the latter is a window. The ground floor apertures have segmental arches in the inside (ie south) and deep roll moulded surrounds on the outside. 

This latter elevation is composed of remarkably good quality polished ashlar and the window has a keystone above it.  The external sill of the main door on the first floor has been cut back showing that it had a stone landing outside it, presumably reached from a forestair.  The margins of the doorway are chamfered and mitred.  When the RCAHMS surveyed the building in 1955 two moulded corbels were still in place on the south side of this wall and would have supported a wooden floor.  Only one new remains.  The Commission’s surveyors were able to see details at the east of the south wall and the east wall which have now either been lost of hidden from sight by falling debris; conversely some of this collapse has revealed new features.  The Commission noted a first floor door to the right of the remaining one which would have provided communication from the main block to the north wing.  Its rybates were reused suggesting either that it had been modified or that the north wing may have been later in date.  If it was later it must have been only by a decade or so.

Illus 6: South Elevation of the Doocot showing the 16th century wall in red.

Alexander Livingston (3) who evidently built the tower rose to high office.  Having studied law he was made Director of the Chancery in 1549 and an Extraordinary Lord of Session in 1550.  Despite that his name appears in a court case for an incident committed within the burgh of Stirling “for art and part of the mutilation of the laird of Craigengelt and his son, of their left arms.”  The Livingstons of Dunipace were a wild lot!

Illus 7: An intact 16th century roll-moulded Window incorporated into the later doocot.

His son, John, was little better.  In 1573 a complaint was made to the Lords of the Secret Council that he had stolen cattle and goods.  He only returned part thereof.  Four years later he was imprisoned for disturbing “his Hienes peace and the public quietnes of this realme… as thoch their wer na law nor justice within our realme for decisioun of their querrellis and controversiis.”  That is rather a neat way of saying that he took the law into his own hands.  Despite this he was appointed His Majesty’s Chamberlain of Biggar and Keeper of the place and fortalice of Cumbernauld.  He did not mend his ways.  He got mixed up in the Raid of Ruthven and was summoned to appear before the King for certain crimes of treason in 1584.  In 1595 he was implicated, along with Bruce of Airth, in the murder of David Forrester in a deadly feud. 

His daughter achieved even greater notoriety.  Jean Livingston is said to have been a great beauty.  She married John Kincaid of Warriston when she was just fifteen years old.  He seems to have treated her in a brutal manner and eventually she could endure it no longer.  She arranged for her nurse and groom to murder her husband whilst he was asleep and the act was committed on 2 July 1600.  After a short trial she was executed in Edinburgh just three days later at the age of 21 years.  On account of her rank she was beheaded by the “Maiden” whilst one of her relatives held her hands.  Her youth, appearance, rank and the nature of the provocation excited a great deal of public interest and a ballad arose called “The Laird of Warristoun.”

John Livingston’s behaviour was not unusual for the times and he had garnered much influence by being at the court of James VI.  In 1601 James VI stayed at the place of Dunipace.  John Livingston was later knighted and represented Stirlingshire in the Scottish Parliament in 1612.  He died in 1619 and was succeeded by his son David.  David followed in his father’s footsteps.  He was in Parliament in 1621 and in 1627 was imprisoned for riotous behaviour in Court.  This evidently qualified him to be appointed as a member of the Standing Committee on Manufactures and in 1625 he was created a baronet of Nova Scotia.

When David succeeded in 1620 he received a crown charter which specified the lands:

The King consents to the infeftment of David Levingstoun of Dunypace, his heirs, etc… in the lands and barony of Donypace with the castle, manor place and pertinent comprehending lands called Murrayislandis, the Fyvemerkland, offiris, Grenes, Keirisland of Donypace, Stobuesland, Portueslandis, Entebaid, Dummoiris landis, all being lands of Donypace, lands of Crawnest which pertained formerly to the late John Chapnai and now possessed by the said David, lands of Househill and Howieshill, the Hauch lands of Heidis from the north east side of the water of Carroun to the Cuthill-burne at Dunipace (formerly occupied by William Baird and John Cuthill in Heidis), a remant of the said haugh bounded by William Sinclair of Roslyng on the other side of the said water a third part of the lands of Littille Dennoven )occupied by the said David) with the muris thereof on the north side of the said water…

(Reid 1996, 42).

David Livingston acquired more land adjacent to his existing holdings and managed to have his lands raised to the status of barony – the barony of Livingston-Dunipace.  It was probably David who enlarged the tower house.  This seems to have been done by extending it to the north in the form of a mirror image to create a shallow court to the west.  A stair tower was built in the old re-entrant angle with five sides facing into the court.  A moulded doorway on the ground floor faces west.  The dressings of the tower are neatly squared and the moulding of the two string courses indicates that this was a good quality building of three storeys.  An earlier window at the south end of the remaining east wall of the doocot was converted into a doorway and given shallow roll-moulding.

A similar tower presumably occupied the re-entrant angle to the north in order to maintain the symmetry.  To the west an outer court was formed by boundary walls, the southern of which was dotted with small buildings.  The formal garden lay on the other side of the house, stretching as far as a small stream.  Enclosures to the north may have included an orchard.  To the south of the house was a yew tree known as Wallace’s Yew – one of many in Scotland.

Illus 9: Plan showing Dunipace House in its early 18th century setting.

David Livingston seems to have overspent and had to raise money. By 1630 Alexander Livingstone, advocate, held the lands in wadset. When David died in 1634 his son John inherited a broken estate. The debts were so great that John had to seek royal protection and later that year sold the estate to Lord Robert Spottiswoode of New Abbey. Sir Robert Spottiswoode had had a distinguished career. In 1620, at the age of just 24 he was made a Privy Councillor and the following year an Extraordinary Lord of Session. In 1633 he became President of the College of Justice and Secretary for Scotland. Upon acquiring the estate of Dunipace he assumed the title of Lord Dunipace. He was a cultured man and must have spent some time improving the new house that he had just bought. Not that he was able to spend much on it, for like his predecessor he too was financially embarrassed.

Soon after acquiring the estate he used it as collateral to raise a loan from James Aitkenhead, an Edinburgh advocate.  He was unable to pay the loan off and in 1643 resigned the lands in favour of Aitkenhead.  Sir Robert Spottiswoode was also a loyal supporter of Charles I and was taken prisoner at the Battle of Philiphaugh in 1645 and executed by the “Maiden” on 6 January 1646.

In 1646 Aitkenhead sold Dunipace to James, Earl of Callendar.  Seven years later Earl James conveyed the estate to his niece, Eleanor Livingstone, and her husband, Thomas Nicolson.  In 1664 it went to their son Thomas who was still in his minority.  Not being required as a residence, Dunipace was sold the following year to William Murray of Longhermiston.  It only remained with him until 1677 when it was sold again, this time to Sir Archibald Primrose of Carinton.  He too had a distinguished career and like one of his predecessors was captured at Philiphaugh and sentenced to death, but was spared upon the intervention of the Marquis of Argyll who was related to Primrose’s wife.  Their daughter, Margaret Primrose, married Sir John Foulis and Sir Archibald Primrose settled his estate on their children on condition of their bearing the name and arms of Primrose.  They did not have long to wait, for Sir Archibald Primrose died in 1679.  During the minority of his children John Foulis administered his father-in-law’s estates.  Fruit was sent from the gardens at Dunipace to Ravelston for the family.

In 1685 John Foulis’ son George came of age and entered into the estate of Dunipace and there was much to-ing and fro-ing between it and Ravelston.  John’s account book notes that extensive planting took place at Dunipace and that he sent a large number of fruit and forest trees there.  Nurseries were established at Dunipace and an advert of 10 November 1743 shows that forest trees were being reared here:

To be SOLD at Dunipace near Falkirk, in the Shire of Stirling, NURSERIES, consisting of Oak, Elm, Ash and Hornbeam, fit for planting out, at reasonable Rates. Enquire for Alexander Robertson Gardner at Dunipace.”

(Caledonian Mercury).

Archibald Foulis Primrose succeeded his father in Dunipace in April 1707.  He was just 14 years of age and had been brought up at Dunipace.  He married well – Lady Margaret Fleming being the eldest daughter and heiress of the sixth Earl of Wigton.  She died whilst still very young and he remarried in 1724, this time to Lady Mary Primrose, the daughter of the first Earl of Rosebery.  The couple settled down happily at Dunipace and he sold Ravelston.  They had one son and ten daughters there.  They were soon living beyond their means and in 1740 the estate was sequestered and a factor appointed to administer it.  The family was allowed an aliment of £40 a year as well as the rent of the parks which were let at £25, and the old customs which took the form of 14 capons, 82 hens and 126 chickens.  They also had the use of the house, offices and garden.

Lurking in the background there was a trace of Jacobitism.  He was a Catholic and his first wife’s family were staunch supporters of the House of Stewart.  That family had stayed in close contact with Primrose and in May 1730 the Hon. Mr Lindsay, the brother of the Earls of Wigton and Crawford and Deputy Governor of Stirling Castle, died at Dunipace.  In 1713 Archibald F Primrose was admitted as a member of the Royal Company of Archers, another disaffected institution.  In 1744 he won the Stirling Arrow for archery over a distance of 180 yards.  The silver arrow had been presented by the town for competition.  With the confusion of the ’45 Rebellion it went missing and it was to be 77 years before the competition was held again.  Primrose’s dire financial situation must have tempted him to join the Rebellion in order to revive his fortunes.

Yet Primrose seems to have been less than enthusiastic about joining the Jacobite army.  He did not join when Prince Charles and the Highlanders marched through the area in September 1745 on their way to Edinburgh, nor after the ensuing victory at Prestonpans.  It had been then that the Earl of Kilmarnock, another member of the Royal Company of Archers, had thrown in his lot. Indeed, upon hearing that the Jacobite army was leaving Glasgow on 3 January 1746 to march to Stirling, Primrose received an advance of his aliment from the factor and intended to send his wife and children to stay with his wife’s family.  The speed of approach took them by surprise and it is said that they narrowly avoided a party sent to seek him out by hiding in a thicket of firs on the estate.  Another search party arrived at Dunipace House on 5 January under the command of Major James Brand.  They turned up unexpectedly at 9pm when it had been dark for some time and this time caught Primrose off guard.  A search of the house for arms and horses proved fruitless – these had either been removed in anticipation or sold.  The raiders were about to plunder what remained in the house when Major Brand stopped them and insisted that Primrose accompany them back to Callendar House to see Lord Kilmarnock.  It seems to have been at that meeting that he finally joined the cause and received a commission in the Hussars with Kilmarnock.

After a spell in Falkirk, the Highland army withdrew to the north side of the River Carron and waited for the approaching Hanoverian army which duly settled into Falkirk.  The pace of events quickened and at noon on 17 January a snap decision was made to march to Falkirk to surprise the enemy.  The route taken was by way of Dunipace.  The ford at Dunipace was well known.  As recently as April 1743 a man crossing the river there after heavy rains had drowned when his horse tripped and he fell off (Caledonian Mercury 21 April 1741).  A scouting party had already noted that the water in the river was low and that the ford was poorly guarded by just a handful of regular troops and a larger body of local volunteers.  When the Highland army reached the ford these guards melted away.

As the day went on the weather deteriorated and the ensuing battle was chaotic.  Confused soldiers fled in all directions and the left wing of the Jacobites disintegrated.  Farquharson of Monaltrie had been with the detachment of his regiment tending to the Jacobite cannon at the crossing of the Carron when the battle had begun.  When he heard the first fire he abandoned his vain task.  He left a small party with the artillery and proceeded with the rest as fast as they could to join the main body.  On his way he met 200-300 men flying towards the place that he had just left.

James Johnstone was amongst the men who went that way:

“As the night was very dark, and the rain incessant, we resolved to withdraw to the mansion of Mr. Primrose, of Dunipace, about a quarter of a league from Falkirk, having a crowd of Highlanders as guides, who took the same road.  On our arrival at the castle, we found Lord Lewis Gordon, brother of the Duke of Gordon, Mr Frazer, son of Lord Lovat, and six or seven other chiefs of clans; but none of them knew what had become of their regiments.  Other officers arrived every instant, all equally ignorant of the fate of the battle, and equally in doubt whether we had gained or lost it.”

One fugitive with a dreadful wound to his head crossed the Carron Water at Dunipace Steps where he was asked which side had won.  “I don’t know,” he replied with a bitter groan, “but, och on, I know that I have lost!

The battle, it turned out, had been a Jacobite victory, and yet within days they retreated to Stirling.  The Carron was watched and Primrose and some of Kilmarnock’s Horse kept a wary eye on the ford at Dunipace from his house there.  These were to be the last hours that he spent with his wife and children at the family home.  Before many days were past the Jacobites withdrew to the Highlands.  In June, Primrose’s name was added to the list of those attainted and Dunipace was put into administration.  It was later said that Primrose had guided the rebel army to the ford on the way to the Battle of Falkirk and this became part of the Jacobite myth.  After the Battle of Culloden Primrose was captured near Aboyne in the middle of July and taken to Aberdeen.  From there he was sent to Carlisle for trial.  Due to his rank he was held in the town gaol rather than the more squalid dungeons at the castle with the other rebels.  He pleaded not guilty to the charge of treason, but on legal advice changed it to guilty and put in a special plea for clemency.  While awaiting the verdict, two of his children died.  His wife stayed in Carlisle to support him and remained there until the 15 November 1746 when he was executed in the normal gruesome manner of the time:

the  said  Sir Archibald Primrose to return to the Gaol of  the  said County  of  Cumberland from whence he came and from there be drawn  to the  place of Execution and when he Cometh there that he be hanged  by the  Neck  but not till he be dead and that he be therefore  Cut  down alive and that his Bowels be then taken out and Burnt before his  face and  that his head be then Severed from his Body and that his Body  be divided  into  four Quarters and that those be at the Disposal of  our said present Sovereign Lord the King

Rumour has it that on the 15 November every year his headless trunk still walks around the Hill of Dunipace seven times.  Within a month, his wife died at Dunipace.  The brief newspaper statement simply said that “Grief, it is thought, hastened her death.”  A month later their only son, Archibald, died in Edinburgh.

The family was concerned about the future prospects of the remaining eight daughters and seem to have irregularly arranged for the sale of the contents of Dunipace House before John Forrester of Braes was appointed as the factor.

In presence of Thomas fforester of Denovan one of the  Justices of peace in Stirlingshire, Compeared James Ker and John Robertson Tennants  and Birlaymen in the Barony of Dunnypeace And make oath that there is no Household furniture in the House of Dunnypeace or other personal Estate belonging to  the deceast Sir Archibald Primrose, That they hear that the Household furniture and other  effects  in  the House was disposed of at publick roup by  some  of  Sir Archibalds friends;  That they had surveyed the whole planting about the  House & Inclosures & are of opinion the same is worth to the best of their Knowledge, the Sum of one hundred pound Sterling.  That the Tennants are oblidged by their Tacks  to keep their houses in good repair and to leave them So at the  end  of their  Tacks,  That they are of opinion that the present Rental of  the  Estate will not hold, and is too high sett.  That the House of Dunnypeace is in great disrepair and not Habitable, and they judge the Gardens and Inclosures lately possest by Sir Archibald may be worth yearly three hundred pounds Scots.”

(dated 4 November 1747)

The state of the house was a cause for concern and in November 1749 the factor arranged for an estimate to be made of the costs of repairs to include the roof and windows.  James McNair (slater), John Mungall (mason) and John Moir (wright), all in Falkirk, put the cost at £151.0.0.

In normal times, Sir Archibald F Primrose’s brother John would have been heir of entail and he now lodged a claim for the estate of Dunipace on the plea that the lands were so strictly entailed that they could not be forfeited due to the actions of an individual.  In January 1751 the Court of Session had no hesitation in rejecting his claim.  The action had delayed the sale of the estate which had been advertised in 1750, starting with Muirdykes Farm.  Muirdykes was eventually sold in 1753 and in March 1754 the Barons of Exchequer ordered the sale of the remainder of the estate.  By that time the house was in a really bad condition:

the House of Dunipace, which has become so Ruinous that a part of the Roof has fallen in on the flooring which with the Ceiling & Wainscoting would be quite destroyd if not timeously looked after.  And that the old Lady Dunipace who had taken possession of the said House some time after the forfei­ture had allowed the servants to brake down & carry off some of the flooring of the upper story and also some of the Iron bars and Grates from…”

(dated 5 Feb 1754)

A decision was taken to demolish the house and on 21 August 1754 articles of roup were issued for the materials which included the wood from the roof, floors, lining or panels of the rooms, window cases and doors, as well as the iron and other materials.

Roy’s map is contemporary with the sale.  As well as the house, kirk and enclosures it shows the old mill of Dunipace which was fed by a long lade whose weir was located on the Carron to the south of Dunipace House.  Around 1743 a new corn mill had been built to the south-west of the house but was soon converted into a lint mill.

Illus 10: Extract from Roy’s Map, 1755.

At that time it was customary not to bid against the old families for the forfeited estates, which consequently were sold relatively cheaply.  It seems that on this occasion the Earl of Rosebery  and his relatives, acting through John Russell WS, bought Dunipace and immediately sold it on to James Spottiswoode, who then gifted an annuity of 20,000 merks (about £13,000 Scots) to the eight daughters of Sir Archibald F Primrose and his brother John.  James Spottiswoode had made his fortune as a merchant in Jamaica.  His first task upon entry was to build a new dwelling.

A sketch made by Allan Spottiswoode around 1791, when aged 17, showed it as a plain square house. The main façade faced south and had a window in the roof, five windows in a row in the upper flat and a window on either side of a central door on the ground floor.  Its walls were 3-4ft thick.  The Ordnance Survey Name Book describes the property as:

A large mansion, the residence and property of John Harvey Brown Esq.   It is of a plain exterior and three stories high.   The offices are extensive and are one storey high.”   An inscription in the east wing read “CELSAE GRAVIORE CASV DECIDVNT TVRRES MODICA FIRMA.” Which seems to use Horace at its core (Odes Book II, x) meaning “high towers fall with a heavy crash, moderate stand.”  (It was found when building work was undertaken in 1857.)  Perhaps it was a swipe at the old aristocracy.

The new dwelling stood well to the west of the old one and immediately to the north of the old road from Larbert to Denny.  The road was no longer open to the public and a diversion now took them beside the river well to the south.  A spur road led from it to the south-east corner of the churchyard for worshippers.  Both roads can be seen on Grassom’s map of 1817.  Needless to say James Spottiswood of Dunipace had become a trustee for the turnpike roads for the counties of Stirling and Linlithgow.  In its new position the house occupied the axial gap between the two Hills of Dunipace.  A new tree-lined drive was run along the west side of the western of these hills and is shown on RHP 1492 dating to c1760 but not on Roy’s map from five years earlier.

Illus 11: Grassom’s Map.

Illus 12: Drawing of the old Stair Tower after conversion to a Doocot.

The only part of the old house to remain standing was the octagonal stair tower in the south-eastern re-entrant angle.  The upper storey was removed and replaced by a circular top so that stone nesting boxes for pigeons could be inserted.  The stone stair was removed and replaced by a rotating wooden ladder or potence.  The building was surmounted by a glover.

With the lint mill on his doorstep Spottiswoode was soon growing flax which raised a government premium.  The woodland was also kept in order with new planting by rotation.  The ford at Dunipace remained one of the main crossing places for the rest of the century and cattle going to and from the Trysts at Reddingmuirhead, or later Rough Castle, used it.  The higher ground north of Dunipace House, which had been part of the common muir, was used as grazing by droves on the way to the market.  Surplus stock which was sold cheaply at the Tryst was also fattened there.  Occasionally the odd stray got separated from a drove:

“Found, a Highland Stot, supposed to have broke off from the drove leaving the Tryst on the road to Falkirk, and was found in the parks of Larbert on the 16th inst.  Whoever can prove the property, by applying to Mr Riddell at Dunipace House, near Falkirk, will have him restored, on paying the expenses of advertisement, & c.  Should the owner be at a distance, and find it inconvenient to send for the stot, a fair price will be given for him.”

(Caledonian Mercury 25 October 1790, 1).

Riddell was the owner of the next estate to the east and was evidently looking after Dunipace at the time.

Illus 13: Ordnance Survey Map surveyed in 1861 but only published in 1886 (National Library of Scotland).

James Spottiswoode had eight sons, thus securing a direct line of male succession.  Indeed the succession was to pass through several of them before ending up with a granddaughter by whom it passed to the Harvie-Browns.  The story of the brothers is full of interest but, as it has been told by both Gibson and Reid, it will not be related here.  It reflected the story of the wealth created through the British Empire with the sons of the aristocracy serving abroad with the Civil Service and the Honourable East India Company.  As a consequence Dunipace House was rented out for several years in the 1790s:

“HOUSE IN STIRLINGSHIRE, To be LET for such a number of years as may be agreed upon, and entered to immediately, or at Whitsunday next, THE MANSION-HOUSE OF DUNIPACE, with the FURNITURE therein, Gardens, Pigeon-house, Offices, and either with or without the Park in which the house stands, consisting of upwards of 15 acres, lying in the parish of Dunipace, and shire of Stirling.  The house and offices are both modern and commodious, pleasantly situated on the banks of the river Carron, within three miles of the town of Falkirk, where there is an exceeding good market twice a week, two miles of Carron Work, eight of Stirling, and about eighteen of Glasgow by the new road.  The stage-coaches from Edinburgh to Glasgow and Stirling pass within a mile of the house every day; and a tenant may next year be accommodated with any additional quantity of ground be chuses.

Application for further particulars may be made to Charles Livingston, or David Spottiswoode, writers in Edinburgh.”

(Caledonian Mercury 20 February 1792, 4).

The farm of Househill which belonged to the estate was also let:

“FARM of HOUSEHILL, as presently possessed by John Wardrope, consisting of 100 acres or thereby, all arable.  This farm is well enclosed and subdivided, delightfully situated on a southern exposure, is capable of great improvement, and has a good dwellinghouse and offices.  There is also a malt barn, kiln, and other houses adapted for a distillery, and a plentiful supply of spring water.  Robert bell at Dunipace will show the farm.

Application may be made to David Spottiswoode, Writer to the signet, South Hanover Street.”

(Caledonian Mercury 8 February 1794, 4)

The fifth son, Thomas, was served heir in 1805 when he was in India, where he made most of his money.  It was 1807 before he settled in Dunipace and immediately added two courts to the house.  He was responsible for introducing pheasant into the district and established the first pheasantries.  The woodland was reduced and maintained for the birds and in 1818 a sale of the growing timber on Dunipace estate included 112 large oak trees, a hag of small oak about 40 years old, 900 large fir trees of Scotch type with a few larch and spruce, as well as 1000 Scotch fir, larch and spruce.  Pasture remained important and in 1828 Broomielands north of the Garden was let for 19 years.  It consisted of six fields making up 67 acres.  A further 51.5 acres to the north of Broomielands consisted of old grass laid in six enclosures which had “for many years been used chiefly for rearing young cattle, or for the great droves of cattle and sheep coming to the Trysts, and also afford excellent wintering for small Highland cattle, as there are about seven acres laid out in belts of planting around the parks, in which cattle lie dry, and are sheltered from the weather…” (Edinburgh Evening Courant 12 June 1828, 1).   It was Thomas who sold Househill to Sir Gilbert Stirling of Larbert House. 

Illus 14: The Lands of Livingston-Dunipace (after Reid 1996).

Meanwhile the world around was changing.  The ford at Dunipace was replaced by a bridge in 1825 as part of a new turnpike road between Glasgow and Alloa; and the old church was demolished in 1835 and replaced by the splendid building at Denovan.

Thomas Spottiswoode died in 1837 and was succeeded by his daughter, Elizabeth; the year before she had married John Harvie-Brown of Shirgarton and Quarter.    Quarter is a neat Georgian mansion in the Palladian style to the north of Denny and was rented out.  The couple had Dunipace House vastly extended to the west with a large classical Adam style block.  It was rectangular with a polished ashlar south façade of three bays.   The slightly advanced large central bay consisted of a triangular pediment with a heavy denticulated cornice, huge fluted vase finials and a central window; below which was a moulded frieze supported on four pilasters with Corinthian capitals.  Each gap between the pilasters contained a window on each floor, those on the ground floor being large and having bracketed consoles.  The two end bays repeated this arrangement but had a swag over the windows in place of the frieze and were framed by taller plain pilasters.  The parapet wall was also plain and returned around the sides.  The other three elevations were built in random rubble.  On the west front the wallhead was dominated by a broad chimney stack with a break in the parapet wall to either side for dormer windows.  It contained eight windows and was framed by broad backset margins.  Below these two storeys was a basement hidden on the south by a stone balustrade.  The entrance remained in the old east wing.  The design was by the architect Charles Wilson of Glasgow, 1852-3.  Wilson had been apprenticed in the office of David Hamilton who had designed the extension to Larbert House and to Airth Castle.

 Illus 15: Dunipace House looking north-east in 1892.

In 1857 the east wing of the house was rebuilt and heightened to match the 1853 block.  A further small addition was built at the back in 1871.  Elizabeth and Thomas’ son, John Alexander Harvie-Brown inherited the estate in 1888 on the death of his mother.

As a wealthy landowner JA Harvie-Brown could dedicate himself to ornithology and other natural history studies without pursuing a profession.  He made ornithological visits to Norway, Russia, Finland and Transylvania.

In the world of natural history he is famous and edited the journal “Annals of Scottish Natural History.”  His publications in the scientific literature number around 250 books and papers.  His sightings of various species are still quoted in modern papers.  He was a Fellow of the Zoological Society and was elected an Honorary Life Member of the American Ornithologists’ Union and in 1912 the University of Aberdeen conferred upon him the honorary degree of LL.D.

A flavour of his many works can be had from the following selection:

1879The Capercaillie in Scotland (Edinburgh)
1879-1887Report on the Migration of Birds (9 vols.)
1880‘On the Decrease in Scotland of the Greater Spotted Woodpecker,’ Zoologist (3) 4, 85-89.
1881The History of the Squirrel in Great Britain (Edinburgh)
1885A Fauna of the Moray Basin (2 vols.) – with Buckley, TE. (Edinburgh)
1888A Vertebrate Fauna of the Outer Hebrides – with M.F. Heddle, W. A. Smith & T.E. Buckley
1892A Vertebrate Fauna of Argyll and the Inner Hebrides – with T.E. Buckley
1892‘The Greater Spotted Woodpecker (Picus major, L.) in Scotland,’ Annals of Scottish Natural History, 1 4-17.
1898The Wonderful Trout (Edinburgh)
1902On the Avifauna of the Outer Hebrides, 1888-1902, Annals of Scottish Natural History
1903‘The Red-Necked Phalarope in Ireland, the Outer Hebrides, and Shetland as a Nesting Species,’ Irish Naturalist.
1904A Fauna of the North-West Highlands and Skye (Edinburgh)
1905Travels of a Naturalist in Northern Europe, Norway, 1871, Archangel, 1872, Petchora, 1875
1906A Fauna of the Tay Basin and Strathmore (Edinburgh)
1908‘The Greater Spotted Woodpecker’s Resuscitation in Scotland since 1841 or 1851,’ Annals of Scottish Natural History, 210-216.

Tables: 1881 Census showing the Residents of Dunipace House and its Ancillary Buildings.

ForenameSurnameRelationAgeOccupationPlace of Birth
John A. BROWNSon36Landed ProprietorEdinburgh
Elizabeth HarvieBROWNHead73Calcutta, India
BetsySTEVENServant44Cook Domes ServantCairney, Aberdeen
MayMcGREGORServant22Housemaid Domestic ServantMuiravonside
CatherineCAMERONServant21Tablemaid Domestic ServantTibbermuir, Perth
Dunipace House
Mary J.McKENZIEWife25Gardener wifeEngland
ArchibaldMcKENZIEHead27GardenerFodderty, Ross and Cromarty
IsabellaMcKENZIEDaughter2Dalmeny, Linlithgow
NormanMcKENZIESon9 mLanark
Dunipace Gardens
JohnREIDHead45CoachmanKincardine, Clackmannan
Dunipace Lodge
WilliamDAWSONHead62Farm ManagerClackmannan
AgnesDAWSONWife54Farm Manager WifeFalkirk
WilliamDAWSONSon24Farm ServantDunipace
MargaretDAWSONDaughter17Domestic ServantDunipace
Dunipace Office
John S.PALMERSon7mDunipace
AlbertPALMERHead25GamekeeperKinfauns, Perth
MaryPALMERWife23Gamekeeper WifeNewton Stewart, Wigtown
Dunipace Offices

JA Harvie-Brown was away for a large part of the year collecting specimens (shooting birds), eggs, insects and the like.  He also collected a vast library of books on natural history.  To house this valuable collection in 1892 he had a library annexe added to the west end of the house, designed by the leading architect Hippolyte Blanc.  The library wing was aligned north/south and had a tall heavy channelled plinth, pillastered corners, low parapet wall and a piended slated roof.  The south façade was advanced and contained a Venetian window under a galblet, framed by plain pilasters.

Illus 16: Dunipace House, c1910, looking north-east.

On 10 January 1897 he was home when, at around 3am he discovered a fire:

“DISASTROUS FIRE AT DUNIPACE HOUSE… The fine old mansion, Dunipace House, located in the valley of the Carron, between Denny and Larbert, the residence of Mr John A Harvie Brown, the eminent naturalist, was gutted by fire on Sunday morning.  Shortly after three o’clock, Mr Brown was alarmed by the dense smoke and smell of burning in the bedroom, which became so overpowering that immediate escape was necessary.  Throwing on some clothing, he hurriedly set out, having to stoop low to clear the smoke which had filled the passages.  The housekeeper, Mrs Stephen, was alarmed, and the servants were quickly made alive to the dangerous position of things, and they cleared out with but scant clothing.  The outside servants were called, and efforts were made to remove a quantity of valuables and check the fire, which had got a firm hold.  Meantime Mr Jas. Moir was despatched on his bicycle for the Falkirk Fire Brigade, followed by Mr John Reid, coachman.  The fire had originated near the attics, and spreading with the utmost rapidity, the whole of the main or original block was quickly enveloped in flames.  Attention was directed to the library, a semi-detached building erected some four or five years ago, and containing Mr Brown’s valuable collection of books, as well as to the removal of the family paintings and other noted works by eminent artists from the dining room and other parts where they could be approached with safety.  With one or two exceptions the paintings were taken beyond danger, while Mr Moir, gamekeeper, was able to clear the gun room of its contents, and the silver plate closet was also emptied.  Some valuable and historic furniture and other articles were also removed.  When the brigade arrived on the scene the fire had obtained complete mastery, and some time elapsed before the engine could be brought to play.  Considerable difficulty was experienced in securing an adequate supply of water, which had to be drawn from the Carron, and the brigade were short of hose.  Superintendent Neilson and Capt. Marshall were in charge.  Great concern was occasioned as to the fate of the library when things were at the worst, and the attention of the brigade was largely concentrated to its protection.  The connecting door between the buildings was the source of danger, and here Mr Rae, forester, was posted combating the approaching elements by keeping the door and its surroundings constantly soaked with water.  Otherwise there was no great danger, as the building, got up on the most approved principle, is practically fire proof.  It was thought, however, advisable to remove the books to the lawn, but, fortunately, the building remained intact.  Mr Brown, all the time, was an anxious and active observer of events.  The museum, containing possibly the finest collection of stuffed birds, eggs, and natural curios in existence, was doomed to destruction.  Located as it was in close proximity to the seat of the outbreak, it was almost the first portion in the pile to become a prey to the flames.  Most of the servants were able to save a portion of their clothing and other articles.  Of the old mansion only the blackened walls now remain.  When the conflagration was at its height the scene was impressive.  The fire was terrible in its effects, and the glare lit up the country side for many miles round.  The morning was pretty dark and comparatively quiet.  As to the cause of the fire, it is thought to have originated at the heating apparatus in connection with the museum.  The loss, which is stated to be close on £20,000, is largely covered in the Royal Insurance Company.  Doubtless the most serious loss involved is the destruction of the museum and its contents – the gathering of a lifetime – which was not only of private but of great public value, and which cannot be replaced.  The loss in this connection cannot be estimated.  In the course of Sunday the scene of the fire was visited by thousands out of the surrounding districts, and Mr Brown was waited upon by many friends who extended their sympathy…  Dunipace House was a building of three flats, with attics, and containing about 35 apartments.”

(Falkirk Herald 13 January 1897)

Illus 17: Dunipace House from the western of the Hills of Dunipace.

The walls of the house were found to be stable and it was substantially rebuilt over the following two years and the opportunity was taken to add yet another storey.  The stone for the upper floor probably came from the family estate at Quarter where the quarry was re-opened in 1897.  The main entrance was relocated to the centre of the main block.

JA Harvie-Brown died in 1916, after a number of years of ill health.  His body lay in Dunipace House until the day of the funeral, which was one of the largest ever staged in the parish.  Distinguished scholars from all over Britain, as well as his tenants and local people, attended.  The oak coffin was carried out of the house on the shoulders of his servants to a wood cart and then wheeled the short distance to the old churchyard.

JA Harvie-Brown bequeathed his extensive and valuable library at Dunipace House to the city of Edinburgh.  Quarter estate passed to his cousin, Harvie Anderson, and Dunipace House was leased. 

From 1922 to 1931 Dunipace House was home to St Andrew’s high class boarding school for boys from 8 years onwards.  Paul Calaminus had run the school for several years at Bridge of Allan but Dunipace with its 11 acres seemed to provide an ideal location.  The library was restocked with books and a large room turned into a gymnasium.  In 1922 fees were set at £120-£135, but the date of opening had to be set back from September 1922 to January 1923 due to the necessary alterations to the building.  It had the capacity to take 50 boys and this was extended by taking in day pupils from the surrounding area.  With the agreement of the bus company a bus left Larbert Cross each morning at 9.25am and returned from the gates of the house at 4.50pm.  Pupils were recognised by their blue caps.  There was an emphasis on sport – cricket, rugby and hockey. 

Illus 18: Parents, pupils and old boys on the front steps of Dunipace House (Falkirk Herald 11 July 1928).

Annual sports days were attended by parents, old boys and local people and were very popular.  English was well taught and the boys put on productions of Shakespeare’s plays at the school and in local halls.

By 1930 the school was struggling to attract enough boarders and in August 1931 it closed its doors.  The esteemed headmaster, now a minister in the Episcopalian Church, Rev. Paul Calaminus, moved to a teaching post in London.

Illus 19: The 54th (Stenhouse) Stirlingshire Scouts with the County Championship flag in the grounds of Dunipace House in 1934 ( Falkirk Herald 29 August 1934, 16).

In 1934 the new tenants of Dunipace House were Dr Richard Ropner and his wife.  He was 36 years old and had worked with his father in shipbuilding before spending three years on Australian and New Zealand ranches.  He then studied medicine at Edinburgh University and ran a practice in Larbert.  He was also the Rover Leader of the 54th (Stenhousemuir) Scout Troop and the grounds of Dunipace House often saw the Scouts there.  Often troops from further afield camped there.  His wife helped with the Scouts and was also a leader of the Guides.

In 1938 Dr Richard Ropner was studying clinical work in Edinburgh when he was chosen as the National Unionist candidate for West Stirlingshire.  Mrs Ropner was appointed as the commandant of No 24 Stirling Voluntary Aid Detachment and played a major role in raising funds for the Red Cross throughout the Second World War.  Dr Ropner became a lieutenant-colonel in the Royal Army Medical Corps and served abroad.  After his return the couple moved to Ross-shire.

Illus 20: Dunipace House looking north.

During the Second World War Dunipace House was requisitioned by the Army and was used to house the headquarters staff for several units.  Major ECP Whitely was in charge.  Just before the outbreak of war in 1939 JC Dundas DSO had raised the 32nd Light AA Regiment, Royal Artillery with his regimental HQ at Ochtertyre near Stirling.  They then moved to Brown Street in Camelon and finally to Dunipace House.  The three batteries which originally formed the regiment were the 60th Battery, 102nd Battery and 103rd Battery, recruited from the districts of Falkirk, Grangemouth and Stirling respectively. 

From March to September 1942 Dunipace House was occupied by 133 Company of the Royal Army Service Corps.  The company transported war materials throughout central Scotland and maintained a fleet of around a hundred lorries at Dunipace.  The kitchens were in the basement and the men’s dining rooms and the officers’ mess were on the ground floor, the latter in a hall with a stage and a bar.  Headquarters staff were based on the second floor along with the officers’ living quarters.  The rank and file and NCOs of ‘A’ platoon were billeted in the attic.  One of those billeted there recalled using a pneumatic tube intercom system and the service lift between the basement kitchen and the ground floor dining rooms.  After the war the office furniture brought in by the army was sold off:

“AT DUNIPACE HOUSE, near LARBERT, on WEDNESDAY, 7th NOVEMBER, at Eleven o’clock, PUBLIC SALE, comprising, approximately – 15 Chests of Drawers, 11 Kneehole Desks, 2 Office Tables, Typewriting Desk, 65 Windsor Chairs (15 with arms), 15 Cane-seated Chairs, 16 Easy Chairs, 2 Couches, Dining Table, 7 Small Occasional Tables, 10 Deal Tables, 5 Card Tables, 7 Washstands, 15 Officers’ Bedsteads, 67 Ratings’ Bedsteads, 30 Double Kit Lockers, etc.”

(Falkirk Herald 27 October 1945, 4).

This was followed a few weeks later by 108 tables of various sizes, 516 chairs, 97 chests, 40 cupboards, 112 stools, 27 bookcases and shelves, 25 wardrobes, 25 washstand cabinets, 3 sideboards and 4 mirrors.  The house was now used as a store for surplus military furniture and sales continued fortnightly and then monthly until September 1946.  With every commodity scarce and rationing still in force they found a ready sale.

With the army gone the future of Dunipace House looked bleak as it needed a major refit.  As fortune would have it the Royal Scottish National Institution to the east was looking for extra accommodation and room to expand and in 1945 it bought Dunipace estate.   Over the next two years its plans for the house changed and it was decided to demolish it.  In 1947 plans and a petition for two 4-apartment houses at Dunipace House were submitted to the Dean of Guild by Menzies and Thomson, architects, Edinburgh, on behalf of the Royal Scottish National Institution.  Then it was discovered that a major trunk road was intended to cut diagonally through the estate to link Glasgow with the Kincardine Bridge (eventually the M876) and the plans were put on hold.  Whilst waiting to see what would happen, the National Health Service was established and all of the assets of the RSNH were transferred to it.  A change in policy meant that centralised provision of mental health care was no longer required and Dunipace became surplus to requirements.  Dunipace House itself was demolished in 1947-8.

Illus 21: Aerial photograph, c1950, by which time Dunipace House had been demolished. The walled garden was still being cultivated and a nursery at the north end of the bridge produce fine tomatoes. The motorway now runs in the gap between them.

Sites and Monuments Records

Dunipace HouseSMR 1094NS 837 819


Bailey, G.B.1996Falkirk or Paradise! The Battle of Falkirk Muir, 17 January 1746.
Gibson, J.C.1908Lands and Lairds of Larbert and Dunipace Parishes.
Hutton, G.2000The Royal Scottish National Hospital, 140 Years.
RCAHMS1963Stirlingshire: An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments.
Reid, J.1996‘The Feudal Divisions of Denny and Dunipace: Part 2,’ Calatria 9. 35-54.
Reid, J.2004‘East Stirlingshire Mills: Part 1,’ Calatria 21, 61-89.
Reid, J.2009The Place Names of Falkirk and East Stirlingshire.

G.B. Bailey (2020)