Glenfuir House & Summerford House

SMR 1985                                                                                                                                       NS 863 798

Glenfuir, like Camelon, was part of the estate of Dorrator which for centuries was the property of the Callendar family.  Around 1754 it was acquired by James Burns, one of Scotland’s two Principal Clerks to the Bills serving in the House of Commons.  He built Camelon House in 1758 and sold it to Major John Chalmers the following year.  In 1760 he let Dorrator House to William Cadell of the Carron Company.  He then tried to sell the newly created southern division called Glenfuir:

To be SOLD, jointly or separately, The Lands of GLENFUIR, lying a mile west of the town of Falkirk, parish thereof, and county of Stirling.

The above lands consist of about forty acres of best arable ground, and about sixty of grass, or pasture ground, commonly called the Moor, but of a very good soil, which can easily be improved.

There is a coal in the lands, which if wrought, must be of considerable value not only for the country sale, but as being within a mile of the sea carriage.

If a purchaser should chuse to build a house upon the lands, there is a most convenient, as well as pleasant situation for that purpose, and stones already laid down, and the farm houses on the ground, may answer for offices.

(Caledonian Mercury, 8 September 1760, 4).

At the time it included part of what later became Summerford and South Bantaskine.  Evidently the estate did not sell for three years, later he advertised it for sale again, this time complete with an almost finished mansion house that he had caused to be erected there:

To be SOLD, The Lands of GLENFUIR, about twenty miles, of a good turnpike road, west from Edinburgh, near the town of Falkirk, in the parish thereof, and county of Stirling.

This farm consists of about one hundred acres, about the half of which is of the best arable ground, and the remainder may be much improven on a small expence; and as most of it is in the proprietor’s own hands, except a small part, let at 11L.1s.6d sterling a purchaser may have immediate possession.

There is on the lands, a neat new built house, (not yet finished) fit to accommodate a family, and about thirty acres of the grounds adjacent to the house, inclosed and subdivided, with some thriving planting, & c…. or of the proprietor at his house in Linlithgow… James Borns of Dorrator at his house in Linlithgow.”

(Caledonian Mercury, 4 May 1763, 1. (& 5 January 1763, 1)).

James Burns of Glenfuir died in 1767, evidently still in possession of Glenfuir.  Yet again the estate was put on the market in 1773.  The additional details included:

These lands, so far as they are yet unfeued, consist of 50 acres of ground Scots measure, all inclosed and subdivided with thriving hedges, and well watered; and the rest of the lands, which have been feued, pay 16L.12s.6d. sterling of feu duties yearly.

In these lands there is coal which has been wrought; as also, an inexhaustible free-stone quarry, both of an excellent quality; and they hold of a subject-superior, for payment of a small feu-duty…”

(Caledonian Mercury, 23 October 1773, 4).

No interest being shown the sale was adjourned until 1777 and exposed at the upset price of £1800.  The trustees had been active in leasing and feuing off small plots for by this date the tenants paid £68. 18s of rent yearly and the feuars £16. 12s. 6d. (Caledonian Mercury 16 July 1777).

It is not known who the new owner was, but only six years later it was up for sale yet again, this time without some of the lands.

On 16 July 1791 Captain Walter Ferrier took possession of Glenfuir consisting of the Lands of Kinningwalls (Seafield), Tamfower (Tamfour) and Newhouse as well as 26 acres of the mailing of South Bankhead.  At the same time he also acquired that part of the muir of Callendar which lay in the Glen.  Walter Ferrier started to build up a small country seat.  He then bought an acre of land from Michael Bruce that had been isolated on the south side of the Forth and Clyde Canal when it was built; as well as two acres of the Lands of Bantaskine from Adam and John Livingstone.  Soon afterwards he is styled as “of Sommerford,” and it is probable that he changed the name from Glenfuir to Summerford.   He had married Lillias Wallace of Cairnhill, and they had three sons and two daughters.  He died in November 1798 and his wife Lillias, along with a distinguished set of trustees, administered the estate from December 1798 onwards.  She fell heir to estates on her side of the family and within a year Glenfuir was marketed:

The new advertisement gives more details of the substantial house and the location reads like an estate agent’s dream:

 “STIRLINGSHIRE.  To be SOLD by public roup, within the Royal Exchange Coffeehouse, Edinburgh, upon Wednesday the 6th day of March 1799, betwixt the hours of one and two afternoon, THE MANSION HOUSE of GLENFUIR, now called SOMERFORD, with the adjacent INCLOSURES, containing about 75 acres, situated within a mile of the town of Falkirk, upon the banks of the Great canal.

The house is commodious and substantial, and contains, on the First Floor, dining-room, and drawing-room, each 25 by 17, a bed-room, dressing-room, hall, and kitchen; on the Second Floor, six bed-rooms; and on the Third Floor, four rooms.  There is a complete Court of Offices, and a Garden well stocked with fruit trees.

This as a country residence has many advantages, such as being near coal, church, markets, water-carriage, post-office, stage-coaches, fox hounds, in a beautiful healthy populous country.

The plan with title-deeds, may be seen by applying to Mr Ferrier, W.S. Edinburgh, who will give any further information wanted.

(Caledonian Mercury 11 February 1799).

The stage coaches operated from the estate’s northern boundary at Lock 16 to Edinburgh.  Conveyance to Glasgow was by the Forth and Clyde Canal.  The new owner was Colonel William Duncan of the Honourable East India Company (disposition dated 20 May 1799).  That summer he had the drains across the estate improved using stone rubble from the quarry at South Bantaskine.  The following year he used stone from the same source to build new dykes and an extension to the House.  Continuing the process begun by his predecessor he acquired another 18 contiguous acres of Bantaskine.  The name of the estate was changed back to Glenfuir.

The quality of the estate at this time can be judged by photographs of the west lodge which stood on the east side of Greenbank Road where today the playing fields are in front of Greenbank Terrace.  It was square with a pyramidal roof and central chimney stack.  Two blank windows fronted the public road and two faced north onto the drive to the house.  Between the latter was a recessed alcove with a semi-hemispherical ceiling and two doors.  From the lodge the road curved to the north crossing a small stream by a stone bridge.

Illus: Glenfuir West Lodge on Greenbank Road.  On the left is the Union Canal and behind is a bing of burnt shale.

The drive then passed along the north front of a quadrangular set of offices/stables with a central access pend.  It then curved gracefully in the parkland to run along the north-east side of Glenfuir House.  Another drive from the front of the house led to the East Lodge, crossing what in 1849 was called “lawn.”

By this time there were rumours of a proposed canal to Edinburgh, though its final route was not known.  William Forbes of Callendar and William Duncan of Glenfuir ensured that the Parliamentary Bill permitting the canal to go ahead contained a clause that it was not to pass near to the seats of the gentry along the route, and preferably should not even enter their policies.  Unfortunately for the engineers of the new navigable waterway Glenfuir was precisely where they wanted to descend the hill behind Falkirk to make contact with the Forth and Clyde Canal at Lock 16.  Colonel William Duncan had a strong hand and was able to insist that the Union Canal Company buy the entire estate, which it did on 28 August 1818 for £12,600.  He moved to London.  Having bought the estate, the Canal Company made the most of the location.  Construction began immediately and took the canal close to the House, cutting off the west lodge.   As the Canal Company owned the surrounding ground it also constructed a boatbuilding yard on the west bank and created a large basin off the Forth and Clyde Canal which it called Port Downie after one of its directors.  The southern part of the estate occupying the higher ground was acquired by James Russel & Henry Aitken, writers, Falkirk.  The Union Canal Company now owned Glenfuir House and, as it lay near to the Forth and Clyde Canal they negotiated with its owners to see if there was a possibility of the two companies running it together as an inn.  The negotiations broke down, presumably because the House was set too far back from the latter canal.    Instead the Union Canal Company converted the library into a bar and tried to find an innkeeper to let it to.  They had considerable difficulty and in the years 1823-9 the property brought in less than £100 per annum.

Illus: 1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map of 1862 showing Glenfuir and Summerford

The Union Canal Company recovered some of its costs by selling the estate.  It was probably at this time that it was further split into two – Glenfuir in the north and Summerford in the south.  In 1850 Summerford was bought by John Percy Henderson.  He was the son of Colonel Henderson of Fossil Bank, Perthshire, who owned several estates in the West Indies.  Colonel Henderson died in 1809 when John Percy was only five years old.  In 1825 John Percy had married Eliza Anne Lockhart, daughter of Lockhart of Castlehill, Cambusnethan.  Rather than have a formal career he chose to go to Jamaica to supervise two of the estates – Port Henderson and Goshen – for nine years.  Whilst there he became a captain of a colonial regiment (fencibles) and was appointed a member of the House of Representatives.  Returning to Scotland he became managing partner of JP Henderson & Co, St Rollox, Glasgow, and resided there, being appointed as a Justice of the Peace for the county of Lanark (he was later a JP for Stirling).  He then became a partner in Frederick Robert Hughes & Co, Chemical Works, Bo’ness, for seven years.  At the time he occupied Parkhill.  Upon acquiring Glenfuir he erected Summerford Chemical Works for the manufacture of iodine and prussiate of potash which employed 30-40 men.  The business was doing well with JP Henderson at the helm and in 1859, he took out a patent for improvements in stopcocks or valves.

Illus: The East Lodge of Glenfuir looking north-west.

Summerford House seems to have been constructed on the site of the south range of the stable block.  Following the construction of the Union Canal the west drive to Glenfuir House had been cut off and the north drive was directed around the new basin at Port Downie.  So a longer more sinuous approach, which partly followed the Antonine Wall, was formed to the north-east where it met the Forth and Clyde Canal at lock 14.  From there a private road lay along the south side of the canal. A brick lodge was built next to lock 14 which seems to have served both Glenfuir and Summerford. 

The road south from the lodge to Summerford skirted the diminished estate of Glenfuir and eventually became Blinkbonny Road.  The lack of pretension in the design of the lodge was presumably because this route was used as a short cut to the town by traders and members of the family.  More distinguished visitors presumably approached the house from Lock 16 (passing George Square on the way!).  Surprisingly, it was only at this time that a screen of trees was planted along the south side of the Forth and Clyde Canal.

JP Henderson was actively involved in the Camelon community.  He was patron of the Camelon Curling Club, and a liberal friend of the Camelon Band.  JP Henderson of Summerford died 16 December aged 57, leaving a wife, two sons and five daughters.  His death was unexpected and without him the continuance of the chemical works was in doubt.  For a week the workforce was idle before the trustees agreed to continue it.  Unusually, the family paid the men the wages for that week.  Meanwhile the works was put up for sale as a going concern:

 “THE FALKIRK CHEMICAL WORKS, near Falkirk, on the Line of the Canal and the Railway between Edinburgh and Glasgow.  The Works consist of a Complete SET of BUILDINGS with all Requisite MACHINERY and UTENSILS for the MANUFACTURE of PRUSSIATE OF POTASH, and include Foreman’s House, Laboratory, Store Houses, ad Workmen’s Houses, & c.  They were erected by the late Proprietor, in the most substantial manner, and on the most approved plan, and were fitted with all Modern Apparatus.  The Apparatus is sufficient to produce 180 Tons a -Year, but the Buildings admit of its Extension, at comparatively small expense, so as to produce 240 Tons.

The Works are at present carried on by the late Proprietor’s Trustees, who are willing also to treat for a Sale of the Whole Materials and Plant, thus enabling a Purchaser immediately to enter upon the Business as a going concern.

The LANDS of SUMMERFORD attached, consisting of about 30 Acres of excellent quality, recently drained. And in the highest state of cultivation, with an excellent Dwelling-House, Walled Garden, and Offices thereon, are also for Sale.  The Dwelling-House, which was erected by the late Proprietor for his own use, is New and Commodious, and would be a convenient Residence for the Owner of the Works.  The Steading, including Ploughman’s House, is very complete.

Parties may treat for the Purchase of the Works without the Lands…. James Taylor, Foreman at the Works, will point out the boundaries of the Property.” 

(FH 23 January 1862, 1).

At the same time the assets of the farm were to be realised.  It had been described in the Ordnance Survey Name Book as: ““Summerford – A large farmsteading, two storeys, slated and in very good repair.”

 “To be Sold by Public Roup, on TUESDAY the 28th January, 1862, at the Farm Offices of SUMMERFORD, near Lock 16, a portion of the CROP and STOCK, & c., which belonged to the late John Percy Henderson, Esq., viz:-

  •             3 Stacks of Barley.
  •             3 Stacks of Beans.
  •             50 Tons of the best Swedish and Yellow Turnips, in Lots, by the Ton.
  •             A Quantity of Potatoes.
  •             1 Harness Mare.
  •             1 Harness fast-going Pony.
  •             1 Half-bred Harness Two-year-old Bay Colt.
  •             1 Ayrshire Milch Cow, in calf.
  •             4 Two-year-old Highland Stots.
  •             2 Fat Pigs; 1 Young Boar of the Windsor breed.
  •             1 Handsome Whitechapel Cart and Harness.
  •             1 Excellent Gig and Harness.
  •             13 Large first-prize Turkeys.
  •             16 Dorking Fowls, and
  •             4 Pure Aylesbury Ducks.

The Usual Credit, or Discount for Cash.  Roup to begin at Twelve o’clock.

            JAMES NEILSON, Auctioneer.” 

(FH 23 January 1862, 4).

In July it was announced that Ralph Stark of Camelon had purchased the 30 acre estate of Summerford.  Mrs Henderson put the household furniture up for sale.  The list of items gives an excellent example of how this class of businessman lived:

A SPLENDID SPANISH MAHOGANY SIDEBOARD, Mahogany Table on Pillar and Block, 6 Mahogany Dining-Room Chairs covered in Morocco, very handsome Mahogany Bookcase with Plate Glass Doors, Mahogany East Chair in Morocco; HANDSOME DRAWING-ROOM LOO TABLE, A beautiful Rosewood Couch in Japanese Damask, Suite of 6 Rosewood Chairs in Crimson Damask; NEW BRUSSELS DINING ROOM AND DRAWING-ROOM CARPETS, With Hearth-rugs to match; also new Bedchamber, Stair, and Lobby Carpets; Dining-Room and Dressing-Room Damask Window Curtains; 2 INDIAN WOOD DUCHESS BEDSTEADS, With Damask Curtains; Also Tent and other Bedsteads with Hair Mattresses and Feather Pillows; Several Chests of Mahogany and Wainscote Drawers; MAHOGANY DRESSING TABLES AND DRESSING GLASSES; Double and Single Washing-Stands with ware complete, several Sets of Bed-room Chairs, Oak-painted Lobby Tables and Chairs, Antique Lobby Timepiece.


Mahogany Writing Desk, INGENIOUS BUSINESS CABINET, FITTED WITH DRAWERS AND COMPARTMENTS, Letter-Copying and Die-Impressing Machines, Mahogany Arm Chair, in Morocco.  Also,


Block-tin Dish Covers, Cooking Utensils, Dairy Dishes, & c,; 4 large Water Barrels, a capital Bottle Press, & c., & c.”

(FH 24 July 1862, 4)

Ralph Stark was well-known locally.  He was the son of James Stark who farmed Carmuirs for Callendar Estate.  Ralph Stark was a noted agriculturalist and stock raiser and the animals that he groomed at Summerford were soon winning prizes.  He was regarded as one of the best agriculturalists in the county and was one of the founders of the Eastern District of Stirlingshire Agricultural Association.  Summerford was also a family home and Ralph Stark’s daughter, Mrs David M Peebles, was delivered of four sons at Summerford House.

An energetic man, Ralph Stark sank the Summerford Pit in July 1873, and contractors cut the levels that September.  By the end of November Summerford coal was on sale at the pithead.  However, in September 1878 he was obliged to close it on account of strikes that were prevalent at the time.  Disused, the pit flooded with water.  In 1886 the water was pumped out and the pit was temporarily used to augment the water supply of Falkirk until the Earl’s Burn scheme came on line.

Ralph Stark tried to enhance the value of the land by further feuing the grounds for the building of villas:

TO FEU, THE GROUNDS OF SUMMERFORD, about One Mile to the west of Falkirk, bounded on the East by the Policy Grounds of Bantaskine, on the South by Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway, and on the North by the Policy grounds of Glenfuir.  Grounds open and well sheltered.  Excellent situation for Villas, with abundant supply of excellent Water by Gravitation.  Apply to RALPH STARK, Camelon.”

(FH 1 September 1883, 1).

Mr Ralph Stark died at his residence of Summerford on 31 October 1895 at 80 years of age – it was the end of an era.  In 1903 the Summerford Iron Co established a foundry near the house.

Meanwhile Glenfuir House and the fields to its east were now in the hands of James Potter.  In 1860 when the Ordnance Surveyors were at work they described the house as: “A large and new dwellinghouse, two storeys and in good repair.  Property of James Potter Esq and residence.”

Ordnance Survey Map of Camelon

Glenfuir was bought by James Ross Scottish Tar Distillery early in 1891 and was then let to Robert Hunter of Walker, Hunter & Co, Port Downie Iron Works.  Robert Hunter was very active in the local community and was the chairman of the Parish School Board.  Just over ten years later he built a new house at Kirkmailing near Larbert Church and Glenfuir went up for sale.

FOR  SALE,  the  DESIRABLE  PROPERTY of  “GLENFUIR,”  FALKIRK, comprising the Substantially-Built and Commodious Mansion House containing Four Public Rooms and ample Bedroom and other accommodation;  Large and Well-stocked Fruit and Vegetable Garden, and Policy and ornamental Ground;  Stables and Coachman’s  House, and others, all as presently occupied by Mr. Robert  Hunter, Ironfounder.   Also the LAND ADJOINING, presently to grass, extending to 10 acres, or thereby, very available as Building Rites either for Dwelling Houses or Public Works, and including the Superiority of certain portions already feued.”

(FH 4 April, 1908).
Aerial Photograph
Illus: Glenfuir House can be seen in the centre of this aerial photograph from 1950, with the walled garden to its south-west. Summerford House has been demolished and council houses built on the site. The Summerford Foundry south of the house dominates the scene.

It evidently did not find a buyer and James Ross’ son, also James, moved in with his family.  Gradually the dwelling houses predicted in the advert from 1908 came to encroach on the area.  Summerford House was demolished and council houses were built on its site in the 1920s.  Annabelle Rross nee Jones died in Glenfuir House in 1967 and it was demolished the following year to make way for high rise flats.

G.B. Bailey, 2020 (updated Jan 2023)

Illus: Photograph of Glenfuir House courtesy of N Dickson