Grange House

There have been three substantial mansions near Bo’ness called Grange House.  The first of these was built in 1564 at Grange and was demolished in 1906.  It was replaced in 1803 by one at Bridgeness which in turn was abandoned for one at Bonnytoun in 1906.  As the latter lies in West Lothian it will not be dealt with here.

Part 1: GRANGE HOUSE, Grange.

The barony of Grange lay in the parish of Carriden immediately to the east of Bo’ness.  It covered some 350 acres and its north-western boundary is appropriately still marked by a street called Boundary Street.  Grange was sandwiched between the estates of Kinneil and Carriden and like them in the 16th century was in the possession of a branch of the Hamilton family.  The name of Grange is derived from its former holding as a monastic farm belonging to Culross Abbey.   During the 12th century Philip d’Eu granted some of his lands to Culross Abbey, directly opposite on the north side of the Forth.  The ownership of the estate and house may be summarised in the following table:

Culross Abbey
James, Lord Colville of Culross
1494John Hamilton
– – – –
c 1560John Hamilton (son)
1594John Hamilton (son)
1631James Hamilton (son)
1653John Hamilton (& David?) (sons)
1674John Hamilton (son)
1705John Hamilton (son)
1741John Hamilton (son)
1750David Main (purchase)
1750James Stewart (purchase)
1750William Belchier (purchase)
1775John Belchier (son)
1788John & William Cadell (purchase)
1803William Cadell (son)
1803-1813James John Cadell (son)
1858Henry Cadell Son)
1888Henry Moubray Cadell (son)

The property of Grange was for long in the hands of a branch of the Hamilton family, and the place is called “Grange Hamilton” by Sir Robert Sibbald in 1710.  As far back as 1436 it is mentioned that the proprietor of that day married a daughter of Sir James Hamilton of Preston.  The slopes of the Forth provide good quality agricultural land and from an early date the mining of coal was undertaken.

Illus 2: Pont’s Map of c1585 showing Grange House as a modest dwelling – north to the bottom. (National Library of Scotland).

A stone mansion house was erected on the barony in 1564, the date derived from an ansate panel on the entrance lintel.  It was built of random rubble with dressed quoins and a steeply pitched pantile roof.  The house was a narrow three storey rectangular block aligned west/east with crowstepped gables.  The angularly-placed and detached chimneys are probably a later feature.  The upper floor had dormer windows on its main south elevation with ornate dormer pediments – the eastern one on the approach to the entrance having the initials S/JH for Sir John Hamilton.  A four storey square stair tower projected out from near the centre of the south side and presented a crowstepped gable.  The upper storey was corbelled out and contained a study chamber which was reached from the second floor by a corbelled round turret in the eastern re-entrant.

Illus 3: Plan of Grange House (after MacGibbon & Ross).

The tower contained the entrance giving direct access to a large vaulted room on the ground floor. This room had two small windows on the south side (the western later converted into a doorway) and a slit window on the north. A doorway connected it to the vaulted kitchen to the west. This had a large fireplace in the west gable with an oven to its north. A stone basin with inlet and outlet drains for water was positioned in the north wall nearby. The water probably came from a well to the north. The upper floors were reached by the main stairwell and were each divided into three rooms. It appears that the fenestration of the upper floors on the south front was echoed on the northern side, providing magnificent views across the Forth. The rooms on the first floor had painted wooden ceilings executed in red-brown star-shaped patterns to imitate coffering with yellow stars and black curving geometric infill. The study had a curved ceiling.

The house was well designed and presented a large almost symmetrical frontage to the south.  The ornate dormer pediments, gabled stair tower and angle turret were composed to impress.  The chimney stacks may be early and provide a suitable framing.  The two skewputs on this façade carried sundials which MacGibbon and Ross considered to be later insertions, though it is difficult to see how this could have been the case and it is noticeable that they occupied a step of double height.

The grounds were also laid out at this time.  A 200yd tree-lined avenue led eastward to the public road where a gateway stood.  The avenue continued westward along the north side of the enclosures which would have contained the gardens and orchards.  The road on the east side of the policy became known as Doocot Brae, suggesting that there was a detached doocot in this area.

Illus 4: Extract from Roy’s Map of 1755.

The estate must also have had a rabbit warren which is now echoed in the name of Kinningars Park.  It appears as Cunningrie in 1685 (Macdonald 1941, 35) and as Kinninger of Grange in 1705.  This would have been contemporary with, if not earlier than, the building of the house in 1564, and would have included the rocky promontory upon which the later tower stood.

In 1647 John Hamilton’s grandson, Sir James Hamilton, in his old age, constructed a dower or jointure house for Grange on the north side of the coastal road almost directly down the hill from Grange House.  It fronted the road and stood with its back to the sea.  A garden lay on the west side.

Illus 5: Extract from the 1857 Ordnance Survey Map showing the Dower House on the north side of the coastal road (above the letter G of Grangepans). National Library of Scotland.

It was probably a two-storey building with dormer windows.  The western dormer pediment was inscribed “S./I.H.” for Sir James Hamilton and “D./C.F.” for his wife, Dame Christina Forrester of Corstorphine. 

Their daughter, Christian Nimmo, gained notoriety when she murdered her uncle, Lord James Forrester, at the Sycamore Tree in his garden at Corstorphine.  She stabbed him with his own sword after a quarrel and was executed on 12 November 1679 at the Cross of Edinburgh.

The back door of the old Dower House opened onto the beach, and there is a story of an occasion when a whale became stranded nearby.   Lady Christina Hamilton stood over it and claimed it as her property.  This was disputed by the factor to the Duke of Hamilton, who claimed the foreshore, and an angry dispute for ownership of the prize arose between the parties.  The factor pushed Lady Hamilton aside and mortally offended she hastened to Grange House and acquainted her son of the occurrence.  Sir John, in great wrath, proceeded in quest of the factor, whom he found in a public house in Bo’ness, and shot him dead with a pistol.  A hue and cry arose, and Sir John was chased to his residence.  Mounting a horse, he had to flee for his life.

The Dower House was demolished in 1890 and replaced by a new block belonging to Mr Porteous on the western corner of Hamilton Place which leads, appropriately, to Dower Crescent.  The stone pediments were removed from the original building and inserted into the front of the new block.  This in turn was demolished and is now an open grassed space adjacent to a small shopping precinct; the stones were rebuilt in the gable of one of the shops.

The last of the old lairds was another John Hamilton whose finances became critical.  His creditors sold the estate in 1750 to David Main who immediately disponed it to James Stewart.  He in turn sold it in the same year to William Belchier described as banker residing at Downing St, London.  William Belchier appears to have done some mining at first on his own account.  When the old “Engine Pit” (afterwards the Miller’s Pit) was reopened by the Bridgeness Company in 1896 a neatly carved stone was taken out of the walling near the top, with “WB.1758” cut on its face.

In 1770 William Belchier granted a 31-year lease to John Beaumont of Newcastle on Tyne, and his heirs and assignees, of “All and whole the coal and coalworks belong to the said William Belchier lying under and within the lands and barony of Grange … together with the salterns and saltpans … and all the coalhew­ers banksmen, gatesmen, enginemen, salters and others bound to the said works (if any be)”.  Before Beaumont had taken the Grange lease he and his son, William, had entered into partnership with William Cadell junior of Banton and John Cadell his younger brother.   The contract of co-partnery was signed on 7th Sept 1770 and each of the four had equal shares in the business which operated as the Grange Coal Company.  William Beaumont became the managing partner, but after years of mismanagement the Beaumont family gave up their half share in the Grange Coal Coy in October 1780 and it was transferred to William and John Cadell in exchange for discharging his debts.  Thereafter the Grange Coal Company was carried on by the Messrs Cadell and John Grieve was taken on as a partner and resided at Bridgeness acting as agent and manager.

William Belchier died in or before 1775 and his son, John Belchier, sold Grange in 1788 to the Cadell brothers.

Grange was divided into two parts, the eastern of which be­longed to John and the western to William.  However, a dispute arose between them and John Grieve who had invested his own money in the colliery.  No agreement could be reached as to the value of the property and so Grange Estate was exposed to public sale within the Royal Exchange Coffee room on 8 August 1798 at the upset price of £18,000.   No buyers appeared and the sale was adjourned until 5 October, with the upset price reduced to £15,000.  Again there were no offerers.   A further ad­journment until 19 December followed at the reduced price of £14,000.  When no public buyers ap­peared the arbiter was authorised to conclude a private bargain.  Alexander Kid, writer in Edinburgh, appeared and offered £14,000 on behalf of Messrs W & J Cadell and Grange was disponed back to them on 2 April.  Besides the value of the estate there was the value of the stock in trade – coal & salt tools, debts due the company and so on, for which the Cadells paid another £3000.

It was not till 1803 that John Cadell disponed the eastern half to William, and immediately afterwards William disponed the eastern half to his third son James John and feud the western half to him in 1813.  The superiority of the western half was left to William Archibald, William’s eldest son.  William died in 1819 and Wm Archi­bald in 1855 when James John became superior of the whole estate.  John Cadell moved his residence to a house at Bridgeness which thereafter was called Grange House (see part 2).  The baronial dwelling on the hill then became Old Grange.

Illus 7: Old Grange House looking north with cultivated fields in the foreground.  The dormer windows have been blocked up.

William Belchier had probably lived at Old Grange House between 1750 and 1778, followed by John Grieve until 1790 when they had looked after the Grange Coal Company.  Thereafter the decaying house was let to tenants.  In 1842 the Thomson family moved into Old Grange House and started keeping a market garden and dairy.  It was probably then that the leanto shed was added to the east gable and used as a byre and stable.  They had four cows which was more than enough to serve the small local market.  The house was evidently divided into flats with another family living on the first floor.  A separate entrance was created into the eastern ground floor room by converting the window next to the stair tower into a doorway.

It appears that the window to the west of the stair tower was used for a similar purpose, creating two separate apartments in the basement.  In this case a porch was created by adding a leanto in the re-entrant angle of the tower.  It had a pigeon loft in its gable.  The top floor was probably only used for storage and all of the images from this time show the dormer windows bricked up.  The Ordnance Survey Name book in the mid 1850s noted that Old Grange House was tenanted by miners.  One of these was John Grant, who was born there.  He left in 1874 and after much studying became a manager of some of the biggest collieries in Scotland.  The Thomsons stayed at Old Grange House until 1898, when the house was considered to be unfit for habitation.  Carriden Band was formed in 1858 and many of its rehearsals were held at the old Grange House.

Illus 8: Extract from the 1854 Ordnance Survey Map showing Grange House with the leanto structures. The “Old Pit” is in close proximity.

Illus 9: Old Grange House looking north-west c1900.

During the period of the Thomson’s tenancy the area around the house had changed dramatically. HM Cadell constructed a broad and well engineered new road called Philpingstone Road from Bridgeness to Grange Terrace immediately north of the old house. He built houses near the lower end of the new road and feud off many of the plots on Grange Terrace.

Illus 10: Extract from the 1897 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

As early as April 1897 Old Grange House had been described as being in ruins. There had been a considerable quantity of valuable coal underneath the house and inevitably the temptation was such that this too was in time worked out.  The undermining was very harmful to the building the east gable cracked.  In 1899 HM Cadell had the architect Hippolyte Blanc draw up plans to renovate the house and extend it to the north-east to form a L-shaped plan with a new tower in the re-entrant angle (Falkirk Archives a998/1899/31A).  Due to the hill slope the new extension had a basement below that of the old house and would have acted as a giant buttress keeping the old structure intact.   The plans were submitted to the Dean of Guild in April that year and were authorised.

Illus 11: Plan and Elevation Drawings of the Proposed Renovation and Extension to Grange House in 1909 (after Hippplyte Blanc).

Illus 12: Demolition of Grange House in 1906. The inside of the vaulted basement can be seen.

Ironically the plans proved to be rather controversial because the extension encroached within 25ft of the centre of the new road which HM Cadell had just constructed and therefore were not in accordance with planning policy. People thought that Cadell was abusing his position as a councillor and that the permission might set precedence for construction elsewhere. The result was that Hippolyte Blanc’s design was never implemented. Partial collapse of the north side of the structure occurred and the house was consequently demolished in 1906. It is not known what happened to the original dormer pediments.

The plans of Hippolyte Blanc were revamped by Matt Steele in 1909 for a brand new house in Linlithgow Road for WR Fairlie, the managing director of Bo’ness Chemical Works and of the Forth Shipbreaking Company.  The Scottish Baronial style was an unusual departure for this celebrated local architect.  Unfortunately these plans were never executed either and Fairlie acquired the house of ex-Provost Thomson known as Seamore on Grange Terrace in 1916.  So despite these last minute chances to save something of Old Grange House there is today no trace of it.  A new house now stands at 62 Grange Terrace and is notable for its large round two-storey corner tower. 

Part 2: GRANGE HOUSE, Bridgeness

At the end of the 18th century Sir Henry Seton, the Collector of Customs, had rented a row of old two-storey dwelling houses from the Cadells on the south side of the coast road at Bridgeness.  Here the coastal road ran north-eastward alongside the shore around the rocky crag of Windmill Hill to the Traveller’s Rest and then turned to the south-east.  The direct road cut out this corner and ran across the ridge of the hill just to the south of the windmill.  Seton’s house was located where the two roads rejoined in the east.   The individual dwellings had been knocked into one to create a suitable residence for Seton.  On his death in 1803 James John Cadell took up residence there and Old Grange House ceased to be the residence of the lairds of Grange.  JJ Cadell made further alterations to the old building and added to it.  These included a single storey block projecting northwards to act as the office of the Grange Colliery.  This wing lay across the earlier road which was pushed further to the north.  He lived there for 55 years.

Illus 13: 1854 Ordnance Survey Map showing Grange House at Bridgeness (National Library of Scotland).

Illus 14: 1857 Datestone over the Main Entrance to Grange House.

In later years James Cadell’s grandson, Henry Moubray Cadell described the house saying that it:

“was never a proper residence for the laird, being but a row of old houses about 200 years old with low ceilings, damp walls and moth-eaten tiled roofs and floors that shook when anyone crossed them.  Immediately to the west, not 100yds away, there stood another block of old houses occupied by estate workers, equally old and frail.  To the east, however, there was a fine park called Kinningars (or Coneygears in older maps) with handsome trees and a belt of wood on the face of the high bank to the south.  Behind the house was a fine old garden, but large holes used to drop in, sometimes 20ft deep into the old 6ft and Main Coal pillar workings that were close to the surface behind, but not under, the house.  In front was the lawn with old trees and a short avenue to the road along the shore – before the foreshore was reclaimed and the sea pushed 300 yards back from the ancient beach line… when my father came back to the old nest where he had been born in 1812 and settled for the rest of his life, his father strongly advised him to build a new house worthy of the estate and family, and was very angry that his good advice was scorned in what seemed a very undutiful fashion.  Instead of leaving the old place to go down, he set to work to patch it up and added the first patch by a new front hall and doorway in 1857.  A second and badly designed patch was put on at the back in 1869 as the family increased.  In 1870 a third was added at the front, when a new dining and drawing room were built onto the low roofed bit behind.  In 1875 some more rooms were placed on the top of the old drawing room behind, so that all the old unworthy foundation was in time covered up and surrounded by new and discordant patches.

I must, however, be honest enough to add that I also added a final patch in 1904 – two years before I began to be ashamed of the old place and proceeded to build the new mansion of Grange on Bonnytoun Estate… But my little patch was not discordant and was needed for the estate and colliery office on a separate wing with a separate door.  The old office in my father’s time was partly inside the house next door to the kitchen, which had many objectionable features.  [The wing on the right was heightened and the upper story made into my office over the colliery and estate offices on the ground floor in 1904.]

… My father married in 1859 and brought my mother into the recently altered house and she once told me her heart sank as she came into the low roofed front hall – only 8ft high – before the later alterations were made on the old place…”

Illus 15: Block Plan showing the development of Grange House. The area shaded grey represents the original row of house dating to before 1803.

HM Cadell fails to mention the fire that broke out at Grange House in November 1876.  It seems to have originated in the conservatory which adjoined the nursery and library.  Both of these apartments were much damaged.  Plenty of assistance having been got, and a good supply of water being at hand, the fire was got under; but not before damage to the extent of £300 was done.

Illus 17: Kinningars Doocot looking north-east.

Kinningars Park provided a suitable setting for Grange House.  The 18th century engine house was converted into a doocot with 415 brick boxes in its upper section.  It was given crowstepped gables to clasp the new south-facing monopitched roof, but retained the large ground floor arches.  The park was then often referred to as Dovecot park and was made available to worthy organisations for their annual outings.  When the Bo’ness gala day was reorganised as the Children’s Fair Day in 1897 a tradition started of using it as the starting point of the procession.  Often food was provided from the house for the young participants. 

Prior to that year it had been custom for the miners of the Bo’ness area to process from Grange House to Kinneil House once a year to celebrate their emancipation from serfdom.  A wee dram was offered up at each of the two homes of the coalmasters.  Between the houses lay Bo’ness and most of the miners supplemented their drinks in its many public houses on the way.  This led to a lot of drunkenness and poor behaviour and was the reason for the radical change in 1897.

Having built the front hall and doorway of Grange House in 1857 Henry Cadell did indeed consider building a grander mansion elsewhere on his lands of Grange.  He selected a site in the Box Land field, east of the Drum Farm, and got plans prepared for a really handsome mansion.  The site was partly levelled and a lodge was built on Carriden Brae in 1863 – it still remains with the date carved on it.  But this was all he did, the project was abandoned as there was no adequate water supply and there were still some minerals to work under the place.

Between 1904 and 1906 Henry Moubray Cadell built a fine mansion on his newly acquired lands of Bonnytoun which lay over the ridge well to the south-west of the original house.  Thereafter Grange House was still used as the colliery office, but most of it stood empty.  When, in 1910, the Medical Officer of the Town Council proposed forming a Cottage hospital with 10-12 beds Councillor Cadell stated that he was prepared to let Grange House for a nominal rent.  He was not taken up on his offer.  Two years later Mrs Cadell made arrangements to feed the children of poverty stricken families attending Grange School at Grange House using voluntary subscriptions.  At the time many miners were on strike and it was felt that public funds should not be used to subsidise this action.

HM Cadell could not foresee the house at Bridgeness being used again as a notable residence, as he remarked in his account of the estate:

“The little amenity of the old house has now completely gone and it is completely surrounded by works and cottages for the workers.  It is only suitable for offices or business purposes and the fine old Kinningar Park on the east is nearly all used for a pit prop yard, and will probably soon be further disfigured by the new mine in the wood, which was opened up in the early months of 1931”.

In fact the pit prop yard closed and the life of the pit was fleeting.   The park was presented to the public by the Cadells as a gift.  Grange House became a private nursing home and in the early 1990s a large brick annexe was constructed along the eastern boundary of the grounds.  This has now become the main residential block with the result that the awkward old house may be demolished.

Illus 18: Watercolour of Grange House.

Sites and Monuments Records

Grange HouseSMR 909NT 0083 8133
The GrangeSMR 1152NT 00 81
Dower House, GrangeSMR 1149NT 0076 8153
Grange HouseSMR 1500NT 0147 8142
Grange House DoocotSMR 2NT0091 8130
Grange House DoocotSMR 37NT 0151 8139
Kinningars DoocotSMR 33NT 0139 8129
Grange LodgeSMR 2062NT 0184 8082


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Macdonald, A.1941The Place-Names of West Lothian.
MacGibbon and Ross1887Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland.
Salmon, T.J.1913Borrowstounness and District.

G.B. Bailey (2020)