Glencarron House

Andrew Duncan became lessee of Herbertshire Paper Mill on the south side of the River Carron at Denny in 1834, at which time it was in need of modernisation.  He invested money in new machinery and slowly the mill became highly profitable.  The original residence for the manager was Glen House which stood cheek by jowl with the mill on its east side. 

Illus 2: Ordnance Survey Map of Herbertshire Mill, 1862 (National Library of Scotland).

Glen House was a typical two-storey stone dwelling with a symmetrical south-facing facade.  On its north side was a courtyard surrounded by offices and stables.  The setting was somewhat mixed.  It lay adjacent to the magnificent rocky glen of the river whose north bank was thickly wooded.  However, immediately to its west were the bustling paper mills of Herbertshire and Carrongrove.  In 1858 Duncan bought Herbertshire Mill and Glen House from Robert Weir and set about laying out the grounds.  The results are described in the Falkirk Herald of 2 December 1858:

“In front of his house there is a very tastefully laid out flower garden, with a pond of pure water, at once useful and ornamental.  In the summer time it gives a grateful coolness to the garden, and it yields a supply of water for the finer operations connected with the refining of the pulp of which the paper is made.  This pond is well stocked with gold fish.  The kitchen garden is upon the east side of the house, at the northern boundary of which a very handsome and spacious greenhouse has been erected, and is filled with plants.  Behind the garden there is a terrace walk supported upon a strongly-built platform, which extends for a considerable distance along the edge of the southern shore of the Carron, which at this point is high and precipitous.  At one point upon the edge of this walk a small pond has recently been formed, which is to be surrounded with rock work, and will, when finished, have a very fine effect, harmonizing well with the character of the surrounding scenery.  At another point, where a fine view of the Carron is obtained, a tasteful moss-house has been erected, the floor of which is laid with the Staffordshire tile, and the walls inside wainscoted with the native hazel in its natural state.  A similar summer-house is to be erected in the course of the winter at another point on this terrace walk.  Although the gardens and house are in the immediate vicinity of the works, the former have been completely screened off from the latter by judicious planting, so that the members of Mr Duncan’s family enjoy a seclusion almost as perfect as though their residence were removed a mile from the busy women and men, the equally industrious and somewhat noisy machinery in close contact with them.”

Falkirk Herald, 2 December 1858

In 1860 Duncan was able to acquire the land to the east and started to build a much grander mansion there.  It was designed by one of Scotland’s leading architects, Andrew Heiton jnr of Perth and Dundee.  It was completed in 1862 and given the name “Glencarron.”.  Glencarron was similar in design to another of Heiton’s houses at Fernhall in Broughty Ferry near Dundee, though the entrance was less elaborate.  Fernhall has been demolished.

Illus 3: Elevations of Carrongrove House in 2006.

Despite its various vicissitudes Glencarron House is still standing.  It is a large building, measuring c31m by 25m.  This consists of a two storey dwellinghouse on the east (15 x 25m) which overlooked the lawns and a single storey office suite to the west facing Glen House and the mill.  The dwellinghouse has three principal ranges facing south, east and north with the roof ridges aligned accordingly.  The main range is that facing south, which contains the entrance.  The rectangular space created in the centre of these ranges is filled with a piended roof and houses the grand staircase.  Two low westward projecting wings (the northern being of one and a half storeys) contained the offices and enclosed an open courtyard.  The west gables of the wings were connected by a tall cross wall with a central arched gateway.  The large 3-light stair window looked onto this court.

Illus 4: Glencarron House, c1900.looking north-west. The Model T is believed to have belonged to William Wallace.
Illus 5: Glencarron House in 2010 awaiting refurbishment.

The overall style is Tudor Gothic.  The walls are of sandstone ashlar with a base course, a dividing string course and an eaves cornice.  Much use is made of projecting bays with steeply pitched gables and corbelled roofs.  The windows have pointed arch heads, as does the tripartite doorway which is surmounted by a corbelled canted stone oriel.  The slate roof has fishscale banding and is topped with a decorative metal ridge.  The polygonal chimney stacks and tall gablets break up the relief.  A recessed panel in the south façade contains a monogram of the name DUNCAN set on a raised shield.

The interior was also lavishly finished with fine Tudor Gothic joinery and good plasterwork throughout the principal rooms.  The carved door cases contain linenfold panelled doors.  A grand timber staircase has a multi-foil carved balustrade with trefoil finials and is lighted by the painted glass tripartite window (see stained glass entry).

Illus 9: 1896 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

The landscaping of the garden was extended around the new house and a footbridge, known as the “Lady’s Bridge” placed over the river gorge.  A lodge was similar in style to the house, with fishscale slating, but was unfortunately demolished c1995.  Andrew Duncan did not live long to enjoy his dazzling new home, dying there a year after its completion on 27 August 1863, aged only 53.  He died a wealthy man leaving his wife, Janet Douglas and five children: Alexander, Walter, James, Elizabeth and Janet, and an estate valued at £5,653.19.2.  His Will lists his assets in great detail including cash, household furniture, silver plate, china, books, pictures, wines, a gold watch and jewellery, bed and table linen, clothes, horses and carriages, garden tools and implements and paper mill utensils.  It also confirms his intention that his sons, Alexander and Walter, should follow him into the papermaking industry.

Alexander took over the running of Herbertshire Mill and Glencarron House.  The house provided a suitable setting for the wedding of Lizzie, his eldest sister, to David MacCulloch of the Bank of British Columbia, on 2 June 1864.  A year later, on 18 July 1865, George McKenzie of H.M. Bombay Staff Corps married Mary Reid there.  Alexander Duncan settled in as the head of the household.  He was a member of the School Board and active in the community.  He became the patron of the Leslie Park Curling Club and presented it with a silver medal for competition.  He also officiated at many games and, with his brother, enjoyed shooting.  Walter Douglas Duncan was something of an expert shot and contributed letters to the “Sporting Gazette.”

Occasionally the grounds of Glencarron were opened up to visits from organisations, such as the Oddfellows or the Stenhousemuir Free Church Choir in 1868.  Alexander Duncan married Jane Annandale in October 1869 and shortly afterwards the couple moved to Herbertshire Castle which was rented from the Forbes family.  Jane was the daughter of a paper manufacturer in Lasswade.  In January 1870 the domestic servants and working people in connection with Glencarron House and Herbertshire Castle were entertained to supper at Glencarron by Mrs Duncan.  The evening wound up with a ball with music being performed by Mr Lockhart’s quadrille band.  The company also indulged in singing.

Walter Duncan then took over Glencarron and married Jane, the second daughter of William Collins, there in October 1875.  Up until then his mother, Janet Douglas or Duncan, had been living at the house.  She received a free annuity of £400 from the trustees of her husband’s estate as well as the free use of that residence and grounds; money to pay the wages of a gardener and coachman for her house, and to maintain a carriage and pair of horses during her lifetime, or so long as she stayed there and remained a widow.  She moved out in November 1875 to stay in Edinburgh and, consequent to the terms of Andrew Duncan’s Will, she lost the extra payments relating to the coach.

Glencarron House – 1881 Census

ForenamesSurnameRelationAgeOccupationWhere Born
Walter D.DUNCANHead38Justice Of Peace Paper ManufacDenny
Margaret I.COLLINSSister in Law10ScholarLargs, Ayr
RobertCOLLINSBrother in Law14ScholarGlasgow
John D.H.LANGVisitor14ScholarHamilton
JaneMELERLLEServant30Cook Domestic ServantLeuchars, Fife
MargaretSCOTTServant24Table Maid Domestic ServantLangholm, Dumfries
MaryBROWNServant16House Maid Domestic ServantDenny
MargaretFRASERServant54Nurse Domestic ServantGlasgow


MatthewMEIKLEJOHNHead73Night WatchmanDunipace


Robert PAXTONHead35Gardner Domestic ServantInveresk, Edinburgh
IsabellaPAXTONWife40Harpsdale, Caithness


JohnRAEHead36Coachman Domestic ServColdingham, Berwick
ElizabethRAEWife36Coldingham, Berwick

In 1879 Alexander Duncan and Sons took over the neighbouring Stoneywood woollen and dyewood mill and converted it into a second papermill.  It would seem that its management was put in the hands of John Collins, Walter’s brother in law.  Before long he was also running Herbertshire Mill.  John Collins was in residence at Glencarron by 1883 and in January 1884 he and his wife entertained 60 poor children to tea at Glencarron, putting on a small firework display and organising games.  In 1886 John Collins acquired Stonewood Mill outright, but he decided that Glencarron was no longer suitable for use as a dwelling because the water supply was polluted.  Ironically the paper mills were responsible for much of the pollution of the river which might otherwise have been used.  As a parting gift he gave an entertainment on 28 August to his workers of Stoneywood and Herbertshire Paper Works in the grounds.  The Denny Brass Band played and activities such as dancing, athletic sports, races and tugs of war took place.  Refreshments were provided. 

The Duncan family put the house and their remaining mill up for sale, first disposing of the furniture:

“SALE OF EXCELLENT HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE, CARPETS, AND OTHER EFFECTS, WITHIN GLENCARRON HOUSE, DENNY, ON WEDNESDAY FIRST, 25TH MAY, AT ELEVEN O’CLOCK.  MR DOWELL will Sell by Auction, as above, including – Very fine Oak Pedestal Sideboard, Walnut Drawing-room Suite of Centre Ottoman, Easy Chairs, Marchionesse Couch, and Six Single Chairs covered in Green Repp, Walnut Centre, Sutherland and Sofa Tables, Mantelpiece Mirror, 72 x 58 inches, Console table and Mirror, 78 x 48 inches, Black marble Clock by Leroy, Walnut and Mahogany Elizabethan Beds, Spring and Hair Mattresses, Iron beds and Bedding, Duchesse Toilet Table, Washstand, Two-doored Wardrobe, Chests of Drawers and other Bedroom Requisites, Dressing Case, Wheel barometer, Painted Presses, House Steps, Croquet, Knife Cleaner, very superior Brussels Carpets for Dining, Drawing, and Bedrooms, kitchen utensils, and other Miscellaneous Effects…” .

(FH 21 May 1887, 4)

Herbertshire Paper Works and Glencarron House and grounds were sold that December for the upset price of £14,750.  The new owner was Sir William Collins, the director of the famous Glasgow publishing house and provost of Glasgow.  He was also the father of John Collins.

Late in 1888 Glencarron House was connected to the mains water supply and John Collins and his family moved back.  A new company was formed – John Collins & Co Ltd – with the two mills placed under one ownership.  He was, by all accounts, a good employer.  Each Christmas an annual soiree and concert was held for the employees of Stoneywood and Herbertshire Paper mills in the New Public Hall, Denny.  Upon his return John Collins entered back into public life and gave a £1 award for the best kept plot in front of cottages in Denny of £5 rental.  In 1900 he was the prime mover in establishing a committee to provide a cottage hospital for the area to treat surgical cases and non-infectious diseases.  During the critical first years he was president of the Cottage Hospital Committee and set about fundraising with an amazing vigour.

Illus 10: Glencarron House looking north, 2008.

In July 1893 a musical fete and illuminations took place on Glencarron grounds arranged and carried out by Mr John Collins.  The musical programme began at 7pm and was provided by the Denny Brass Band and a company of pipers from Stirling Castle.  From ten o’clock till towards midnight the illuminations were carried out.  Although a goodly sum was raised for the hospital, Collins realised that something bigger was needed.  The following month it was trumped by a grand water gala and swimming entertainment on the “Lake of Glencarron.”  A train connection with Denny was specially provided for the occasion to optimise attendance.

The “lake” was, of course, the pond formerly used to store water for Herbertshire Mill.  John Collins, assisted by a band of volunteer workers from his mills, under the direction of their foreman, David Dobbie, carried out all the arrangements.  At one end of the pond staging was erected for the divers with the high board reached by a couple of ladders, the whole structure being decorated with flags.  Strings of bannerettes were hung around and across the lake.  Under an enormous Japanese umbrella-tent was a post, on which each event was promptly displayed.  There were two sets of reserved seats, arranged under the shadow of spreading trees; a comfortable miniature “wharf,” or landing-place, for those who ventured on the lake; while a fountain-jet of water rose a great height from the centre, its falling spray glistening in the sunshine. 

There were some dozen items on the programme, which was in the hands of William Wilson of Glasgow, a life-governor of the Life-saving Society – who had perhaps done more to popularise swimming as a useful art than any other man in the country.  Proceedings opened at 3.30 sharp with a display of fast and other swimming, to take part in which ten well-known swimmers plunged into the water simultaneously.  Then came a display of diving by James Milne, ex-champion diver of Scotland, and Messrs Livingston and Still.  The high dives were taken in clever style, and were loudly applauded.  Next was a life-saving and resuscitation drill by a squad of four, who went through the various movements necessary to restore animation in those apparently drowned, each movement being executed like clock-work.  The display of “life-saving” comprised practical illustrations of the proper mode of seizing a drowning person and towing them to land.  Following this came an exhibition of graceful swimming by John Cunningham, ex-champion.  An interesting display of the various modes of swimming was performed by three young girls.  The first half of the programme terminated with a “comic” interlude, which provoked continuous roars of laughter.  The second part of the programme started with racing for handsome silver prizes (given by Mr Collins), then the plate swimming of Mr Storar of the Victoria Baths, a further display of ornamental and grotesque diving, and an aquatic football match, each received the plaudits of the crowds which lined the lake. 

But the chief attraction was yet to come and is best described by the newspaper reporter who attended:

“The “chute” was now thrown open, at a small charge, for the patronage of the public, and some five hundred of those present availed themselves of the opportunity to test the novelty.  Erected by Mr Collins himself, with the assistance of his nephews, the “chute” consists of a long trough, some five feet wide, mounted on a strong scaffolding, and leading to the surface of the lake at an angle of about 35 degrees.  Access to the upper end of this trough – which is about 100 feet long – is gained by a covered stair-way: and the voyageurs take their seats in a chute boat, specially constructed for the purpose, which boat, by the way, was also constructed by the clever amateurs.  It is a flat-bottomed craft, 9ft long, and 3 ½ ft wide, holding four “passengers” and the “guide” in the stern.  At a given signal, the boat is released, and, gliding down the surface of the water in the “chute,” plunges into the lake amid a shower of spray; and, as the guide rises to his feet, glides gracefully under the sweep of his paddle to the landing stage.  Each set of performers had made their appearance on the lake via the “chute”: in this way curiosity had been judiciously roused as to the process of “shooting the rapids”; and, at the termination of the programme, there was a rush of ambitious voyageurs.  But strict order was maintained by a well drilled staff of volunteer assistants.  Only four “chutists” were allowed to “shoot” at a time; and, although the fun was kept going till nearly seven o’clock, not a single hitch or accident took place to mar the proceedings, thereby setting at nought the prognostications of the pessimists, who had declared that the whole thing was “awfully dangerous,” and that “there’d be a big bill to pay for broken bones.”  As soon as the shadows of evening fell, the margin of the lake, and the principal walks of the grounds were illuminated with hundreds of coloured lanterns, among the most attractive of which were some circular “transparencies,” which, though home-made, were the handiwork of true artists.  Each descent of the “chute-boat” was illuminated by Greek fire and red port-lights, the glare of which lit up the shower of spray caused by the plunge of the boat into the lake.  Mr Collins must feel pleased with the result of an experiment which has cost him much time and trouble.  After paying the actual outlay – minimised to the lowest point by his own generosity, and the willing aid afforded him by volunteer workers – something between £40 and £50 will have been realised by Saturday’s entertainment towards the Hospital fund; and this, added to the £20 realised at his last entertainment, will suffice to support the contemplated hospital for at least six months after it is opened.  We are informed that Mr Collins contemplates opening the “chute” to the general public on future occasions in further aid of the hospital fund; and this should prove a decided “draw.”  Denny is the first place in Scotland to adopt the popular recreation of “shooting the chute,” which has ensured the success of Captain Boyton’s water fete in London; and now that the Glencarron “rapids” have been proved to be safely and easily navigable every opportunity of enjoying the novel sensation is sure to be eagerly taken advantage of.”

(Falkirk Herald 16 August 1893, 5).

The event more than washed the cost of staging it, but by repeating the theme the following month it was possible to make a large surplus.

“AQUATIC GALA AT GLENCARRON.  On Saturday afternoon the last of these popular fetes was held in the grounds of Glencarron under most favourable meteorological auspices.  In anticipation of a crowded assemblage, the somewhat prohibitive tariff of a shilling for admission wad been fixed upon; but this included one descent of the “rapids.”  The actual programme of amusements was not timed to commence till 3.30pm, but the gates were opened some hours before that time, and there was a constantly increasing crowd at the entrance to the stairway leading to the “Rapids” – an orderly and good-tempered crowd, which, having once shot the chute, flocked round the borders of the lake in anticipation of the afternoon’s amusements.  These commenced with an excellent vocal and instrumental performance by a band of Scottish troubadours.  The performance was repeated at intervals throughout the afternoon – sometimes on a platform erected on the margins of the water, sometimes in a boat which was slowly rowed round the lake.  In the latter case, the music of the guitars and madolines, mingled with the exquisite voice of the lady troubadours, produced a most charming effect, timed – as it were – by the rhythm of the dipping oars.  Following the first performance by the troubadours came an exhibition of the W.S.S. Club.  This item was greatly appreciated, and the examples given of the various modes of swimming, diving, floating, etc., provoked loud applause.  Then there was a “comic” interlude – correctly so called – in which an innocent “old lady” tormented by a band of bathers, fell into the lake, and was repeatedly “ducked” by the swimmers.  The valiant “policeman” who put off to her rescue in a boat, of course, came to grief; and with the capsizing of the craft, and the landing of the “victim,” the “bobby” and the aggressors, a capital and amusing item was brought to a close amid roars of laughter.  Pipe music was played at intervals – and well played, too; while every two or three minutes the chute boat descended with its load of shrieking voyageurs, its “dash” into the lake sustaining the interest of the spectators to the last.  As on previous occasions everything passed off without a hitch, thanks to the personal supervision of untiring exertions of Mr Collins, the genial proprietor of the grounds.  The ladies of Glencarron presided over a “tea-stall” a conveniently arranged and exquisitely shaded bower, in which afternoon tea of excellent quality was purveyed, with “cookies” and lemonade to suit the palates of younger visitors.  Several of those who ordered the “cup that cheers but not inebriates” took the opportunity of contributing to the Hospital funds by refusing to accept change for the sovereigns or half-sovereigns which they tendered for their refreshment.”

(Falkirk Herald 6 September 1893, 2).

Together with a carnival and village fair organised by John Collins in Denny Public Hall in January 1894, these events raised over £900 – the estimated cost of the building for the hospital.  It was opened in March 1899 with a male ward and a female ward of four and three beds respectively, an operating room, and an attendant’s room.

Unfortunately John Collins had already died at Glencarron on 4 February 1895 aged only 38.  His funeral was one of the largest ever attended in Denny.  The coffin was carried shoulder high by relays of employees all of the way from Glencarron House to Denny Cemetery.  His widow fitted out the hospital at her own expense and it was officially opened by Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Atkinson Logan, the new managing director of John Collins & Co who moved into Glencarron.  A tablet next to the entrance read  “Denny and Dunipace Cottage Hospital.  This tablet has been placed here by the Committee and others in grateful remembrance of the late John Collins Esq. of Glencarron, Denny, with whom the scheme originated, and to whom the credit is largely due, of securing the fund for its erection and equipment.”

Upon the death of John Collins Glencarron had initially been put up for let:

“STIRLINGSHIRE. TO LET UNFURNISHED, THE MANSION-HOUSE and GROUNDS of GLENCARRON, situated about 1 mile from Denny Station.  The House contains Four Public-Rooms, including Smoking-Room, with Lavatory, 5 Bed-Rooms, and Two Dressing-Rooms and ample Servants’ accommodation: Stabling, Coach-house, laundry; also a very productive Garden, with Venery, & c.  Entry at Whitsunday…”

(Glasgow Herald 18 March 1896, 4).
Illus 11: Carrongrove and Herbertshire Paper Mills, c1906, with Glencarron House in the background.

Heavy rains in February 1903 caused major flooding up and down the River Carron. At Herbertshire Mill the confined course of the river meant that it rose by almost 15ft. The superstructure of the Lady’s Bridge floated away and its columns were toppled by the force of the current.

By 1904 George P Fleming was the manager of Stoneywood paper Mill, resident at Glencarron. He was also a supporter of the Denny and Dunipace Cottage Hospital and one of its committee members. In November he arranged a dance at his residence in aid of the funds. Miss Grace Collins, sister of the late John Collins, continued the family tradition of leaving money in her Will, £250, for the maintenance of the hospital. She died in 1911. John’s widow lived until 1941 and left £2,000 to the cottage hospital.

Late in 1906 the Carrongrove Paper Company bought out John Collins & Company. Glen House was demolished as part of the expansion of Carrongrove Paper Works in 1908. Herbertshire Mill too was levelled. In 1909 some of the trees in the grounds of Glencarron were cleared to make way for electric cables and soon afterwards railway lines were led into the works passing along the south bank of the “lake”.

William Wallace was the manager of the Carrongrove Paper Works and, as he had a large house at Randoph Hill nearby, Glencarron was surplus to requirements. It became the offices of the expanded works and was renamed Carronglen House and then Carrongrove House.

Illus 12: Extract from the 1918 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

Illus 13: The War Memorial in place at Carronglen House.

During the First World War many of the workers at the paper mill served in the armed forces (see the war memorials part of the FLHS website for details).  A phosphor-bronze plaque was placed in the entrance lobby of Carronglen House to commemorate all of those who served – 22 who died and another 81 who returned.

Illus 14: Glencarron House looking west to the entrance lobby during the demolition of the papermill buildings..

When the office accommodation needed expanding in the early twentieth century, the cross wall on the west side of the courtyard was replaced by a range of offices with square headed windows under a slated box roof that contained a dormer storey.  Even later, the courtyard was built over with a single-storey addition.  These alterations were carried out in a manner that left a light well for the grand stair window.

Illus 15: Aerial Photograph of Carrongronve Papermill with Carronglen House in the centre.

Carrongrove Paper Mill closed in 2006 and the site was acquired by Mactaggart & Mickel Homes. The mill buildings were slowly demolished but Carrongrove House had been listed and was retained. A development plan was produced in 2009 and gradually the site, which is in an idyllic location, is being used for a housing development. In the following decade the JR Group, was contracted to refurbish Carronglen or Carrongrove House to form five new luxury flats and two houses.

Illus 16: Carronglen House looking west during the demolition of the mill buildings.

Sites and Monuments Record

Carronglen HouseSMR 1189NS 7965 8294


Hughes, R.2000Carrongrove: 200 Years of Papermaking.

G.B.Bailey (2020)