Lathallan House

Illus 1: Grassom’s Map showing how relatively blank the area north of Almond Castle was in 1817.

The history of a large tract of land between Falkirk and Linlithgow encompassing the estates of Avondale, Lathallan, Nicolton, Parkhall and Craigend was dominated in the late 18th and early 19th century by the Livingstone and Learmonth families.  Parkhall was the main holding and in 1818 it was inherited by John Livingstone when he was just six years old.  The estate was heavily encumbered with debt and the creditors were able to force a sequestration and as a consequence the estate was sold to pay off the debts.  At the public sale on 20 December 1820, Parkhill, Rowantreeyards, Nicolton, Whiteshot and Maddiston, were purchased by John Learmonth, an Edinburgh merchant, who was the uncle of John Livingstone.  He then adopted the name John Livingston Learmonth.  He moved to Parkhall and in 1825 added an extension to the house (Livingston 1920, 327).

The new owner of Parkhall had a younger brother called Thomas Learmonth who had also been a merchant in Edinburgh before becoming comptroller of customs at Grangemouth.  His first son, John, was born at Kersiebank in February 1812.  He subsequently took up trade in Calcutta where Elizabeth was born in 1814, followed by Thomas in 1818 and Somerville in 1819.  Thomas Learmonth did very well in India and decided to move back to Scotland with his family to invest his moderate wealth there.  He initially stayed with a branch of the family at Avontoun where his next child was still-born in 1823.  The following year Margaret was born at Westquarter – another family stronghold.  On both of these occasions Thomas Learmonth is styled as of “Laurence Park” (New Times (London) 24 September 1823; Fife Herald 16 September 1824) which appears to have been his former Edinburgh address.

It is at this point that Thomas Learmonth came to an arrangement with his brother, John Livingston Learmonth, for the acquisition of Nicolton.  The farmsteading here had been a substantial one and its possession of a large rectangular doocot was an echo of its former glory.  On 24 August 1825 Andrew James Learmonth was born at Nicolton (Livingston 1920, 333) – but according to the Scotsman of 31 August 1925 the location was Laurence Park (also The Edinburgh Annual Register for 1825 vol 18. 303).  Thomas evidently intended to rename the small estate.

Nicolton was old and cramped and with the construction of the Union Canal just three years earlier it was too public.  So, a commodious new house was erected on rising ground within the estate to its north-east.  The house was in the latest Tudor style and was a grand affair with three public rooms having a conservatory adjoining the drawing-room; and numerous bed-rooms and dressing-rooms.  A complete set of offices including a coachhouse was constructed, as well as a large walled garden with a hot-house which was soon stocked with vines and fruit-trees.

 The house was completed in time for the next family arrivals on 17 March 1828 and 14 October 1830.

Illus 2: Lathallan House looking south in 1910
Lathallan House looking south-west in 2020.

The house was of two storeys plus an attic space, built in ashlar with droved and stugged margins in a Tudor or Elizabethan style.  The main façade faced north and had magnificent views across the Forth.  It was of five bays with the two framing end bays possessing tall corbelled gablets capped by octagonal chimney stacks, that on the west being slightly more advanced and containing a two-storey window bay.  The projecting single-storey entrance porch was placed asymmetrically, being tucked into the corner created by the eastern bay.  These elements were united by a deep base course, a moulded string course and a bracketed eaves cornice. The windows had hoodmoulds with label stops, stone transoms and mullions, chamfered reveals and moulded arrises.  The porch and two dormer windows had shaped gables.

The west façade overlooked a small formal garden and a flat lawn and possessed plenty of access to these.  It had a single broad advanced corbelled gablet bay with central chimney stacks at its southern end and a three-bay element at the northern end.  Each of these two elements had broad shallow mullioned bay windows with steps to the garden.  The right-hand of these was the drawing room and attached to its south was a low conservatory which provided another doorway to the gardens. 

The interior was well appointed with fine decorative plasterwork and groin vaulting in the entrance hall and ribbed ceilings in the drawing and dining rooms.  The library was wood panelled.  There was a two-leaf gothic-traceried door at the entrance hall; a black slate chimneypiece in stripped Tudor classical manner with overmantel rising into obelisk-topped triangular centrepiece; a stone scale-and-platt staircase with decorative cast-iron balusters.

Illus 3: Lathallan House looking east – 1910
Lathallan House looking east – 2020.

The architect is unknown, but similarities between its internal features and those of Cumstoun House dating to 1828 suggest that it may have been Thomas Hamilton.

Illus 4: 1863 Ordnance Survey Map showing Laurence Park with the Walled Garden to the east (National Library of Scotland).
Illus 5: The Stable looking north-east.

Prior to the formation of Laurence Park, the area had been enclosed and woodland shelter belts planted at the very start of the 19th century.  From the very beginning the new estate was completely laid out with three lodges, a walled garden and coachhouse with offices.  The undulating ground gave added impetus to the creation of the type of open romantic policy of the period with long sinuous drives passing through open pasture dotted with specimen trees.  The main drive was that to the north which reached the Polmont to Linlithgow road just to the west of Sighthill.  In its course this drive crossed the parish boundary meaning that the main house was in Muiravonside Parish, but the North Lodge was in Polmont Parish.

The south-east corner of the house was occupied by the kitchen and servants’ rooms.  Immediately to the south of the servants’ quarters to the main house was the stable block, sometimes referred to as “Ivy Cottage.”  This was close enough to the house to be convenient, but being tucked into the hill slope below the servants’ wing it was out of the immediate line of sight.  The stable was on the east side of the courtyard with tool stores and office buildings on the west.  A laundry lay just to the south of this with its own well and enclosed drying ground.  The stable block had droved ashlar dressings, corbelled dormer gablets, arrow-slit lancets and hooded mouldings. windows.

Illus 6: Lathallan House looking NNE with the Laundry and Stables in the right foreground.

This parish boundary must have been the original limit of Nicolton estate and the additional land was purchased from the neighbouring lands of Gislton.  The line of the parish boundary followed a stream known as the Sandyford Burn down to the River Avon which is now lost due to it having been culverted at the time of the formation of the estate.  A little way to the south the parish boundary was shadowed by a woodland belt and it is highly probable that this represents the line of the early high road from Nicolton to Waulkmilton and a ford on the River Avon.  It was realigned in the early 18th century to form the “Great Road” from Falkirk to Linlithgow.  The lodges were relatively plain and the main porter’s lodge subsequently became known as Lathallan Cottage.  The East Lodge was beside the minor road to Haining Castle which is now little more than a muddy footpath.

A wooded area stretched from the main house to the East Lodge incorporating the walled garden in its southern folds.  The garden lay on a south-facing slope and most of its walls were of brick to absorb the heat of the sun.  They curve to follow the lines of the slopes creating a pleasing effect as they mount the hill and another sign of the superior nature of the overall design.

Illus 7: 1865 Ordnance Survey Map showing the layout of Laurence Park Estate (National Library of Scotland).

A third west/east line of woodland occurred on the ridge to the south of the main house.  A large water tank on the slope below the summit supplied the house with water and fed the laundry block.

However, it soon became evident that Thomas had overstretched his resources and in December 1832 the new house was put up for let:

“To be let, furnished, the MANSION-HOUSE of LAURENCE PARK, in the county of Stirling, three and a half miles from Linlithgow, and four from Falkirk.  The house consists of three public rooms, with conservatory adjoining the drawing-room, and bed-rooms and dressing-rooms sufficient to accommodate a large family.  There is a complete set of offices, also an excellent garden with brick wall, and hot-house well stocked with vines and fruit-trees in full bearing.

Any quantity of land may be had along with the house.  Several coaches pass the gate daily from Edinburgh to Stirling and Glasgow.”

(Falkirk Herald 8 December 1832, 1).

Thomas Learmonth and his family apparently moved to Parkhall.  By March 1834 it had been decided to sell the house and the estate of Laurence Park:

“To be sold by public roup, within the Royal Exchange Coffeehouse, Edinburgh, on Wednesday the 4th June next, at two o’clock afternoon, the LANDS & ESTATE now known by the name of LAURENCE PARK, lying in the parishes of Muiravonside and Polmont, and county of Stirling, extending to 226 Scotch, or 285 imperial acres, or thereby.  The rental, including a valuation put upon some fields in the natural possession of the proprietor, including value put on the house and garden, will be upwards of L.700 per annum.

The Mansion-House, which is beautifully situated, and commands an extensive view, has been built within these few years, and contains every accommodation suitable for a large family, and has a conservatory communicating with the drawing-room.  There are also suitable offices, and an extensive garden, inclosed with a brick wall, and well stocked with fruit-trees, and a vinery.  The property marches with the Union Canal, and with the turnpike road leading from Edinburgh to Stirling.  The teinds in the parish of Muiravonside are valued and exhausted, and there is an heritable right to the teinds in the parish of Polmont.  Entry of the purchaser at Martinmas 1834…

The House, completely furnished, and garden, being at present unoccupied, will be let on moderate terms.” 

(Caledonian Mercury 31 March 1834, 1).

Before long Thomas Learmonth was making plans to seek his fortune in Australia.  He and his family arrived in Hobart in Tasmania on 20 October 1835 aboard the Perthshire from Leith.  It took some time to sell Laurence Park but by 1839 the new owner had moved in.  This was a military man, Major James Kerr Ross.  Having entered the army in 1807, he had seen plenty of action abroad.  He became a lieutenant in 1808 and served with the 92nd Regiment in the Napoleonic campaigns of 1811-1815, culminating in the Battle of Waterloo.  During this time he was at the actions of Arroyo de Molino, the taking of Almarez, the defence of Alba de Tormes, Battle of Vittoria, the affair at the Pass of Maya, the battles of the Pyrenees (wounded in the left leg by a musket ball), battles of the Nivelle and the Nive, taking the Heights of Toulouse, Quatre Bras (wounded in the left foot by a musket ball), and the battle of Waterloo (wounded in the right arm by a musket ball).  He attained the rank of captain on 22 October 1818 and became a major on 7 June 1831.  He had received the war-medal with six clasps for his service.  Major Ross continued his military career even after his acquisition of Laurence Park and was promoted to major-general in May 1861.  At Laurence Park he maintained a small staff to look after the walled garden and game on the estate.  He was a keen shot and hunted in the grounds for many years.  Given his career it is not surprising that he was a supporter of the Corn Laws which promoted the cultivation of crops in Britain.  In 1859 he had 25 acres of land under oats and 12 acres of potatoes (Falkirk Herald 11 August 1859, 2) through Robert Mitchell, his tenant.

Charles Rankine, the gardener, lived in the North Lodge by the public high road and in August 1861 two men broke in and stole over £7 of cash as well as three coats, a vest, two silk handkerchiefs, a pair of gloves, a pair of trousers, and a pocket Bible.  Upon discovering this, Rankinee took his master’s pony and rode off as quickly as possible into Falkirk to inform the police.  Sergeant Crawford, along with another constable, clearly had his suspicions that the perpetrators came from the Glasgow direction and proceeded to Bonnybridge where he arrested William White of Glasgow, and Michael McCann, Lochee, near Dundee, in possession of the stolen items (Glasgow Herald 8 August 1861, 1).

Ross was already 70 years old when he became a major-general and travelling to Edinburgh was becoming a burden.  He therefore decided to sell Laurence Park:

“Desirable residence in Stirlingshire for sale.

There will be exposed to sale by public roup, within the FACILTY HALL, St George’s Place, Glasgow, on Wednesday the 22d day of October 1862 (unless previously disposed of by private bargain).

The ESTATE of LAURENCE PARK, in the Parishes of Polmont and Muiravonside and County of Stirling, consisting of about 286 imperial Acres, situated on the high road from Edinburgh to Falkirk, about 4 ½ miles from the latter.

The Mansion-House is a large and commodious modern building, containing dining-room, drawing-room with conservatory entering from it, parlour or library, and six bed-rooms, two of which have dressing-rooms attached, with kitchen, attics, and ample accommodation for servants.  There is water in the house, and all modern conveniences.  It is advantageously situated between the Polmont and Linlithgow Stations of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway, about 2 1.2 miles from each.

The Pleasure Grounds are extensive, and tastefully laid out.  There is a good walled garden, with forcing house, vinery, and melon pit, and a large kitchen garden.  About 35 acres are under plantation.  There are two lodges, and the stable accommodation is ample.

Of the agricultural portion of the estate about 110 acres (Scotch) are let on a lease which expires at Martinmas 1868.  The remainder is in the occupation of the proprietor.

The public burdens amount to about £21 per annum.

A considerable portion to the price will be allowed to remain on the security of the property…”

(Edinburgh Evening Courant 1 October 1862, 3).

Major General James Kerr Ross KH died at Elmbank, Morningside, Edinburgh, in late April 1872 aged 81.  The new owner of Laurence Park was Archibald Spens of the Bombay Civil Service who decided to change the name of the estate to that of his family estate in Fife – Lathallan.  The trees that had been planted at the end of the previous century were ready for harvesting and Spens recouped some of his investment by selling some of it: 

“EXTENSIVE SALE OF CUT WOOD ON THE ESTATE OF LATHALLAN, (Late Laurence Park) NEAR POLMONT, BELONGING TO A. SPENS, ESQ.. On MONDAY, 1st FEBRUARY. 1864. There will exposed for Sale by Public Auction, on the above Estate, on MONDAY, 1st February, 1864, UPWARDS of 400 LOTS of LARCH WOOD, suitable for Railway Sleepers, Pit Wood, and various Country purposes.

The Sale to begin at the North Lodge Gate at Eleven o’clock am precisely…

Lathallan is about one mile from Polmont Station on the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway and the Union Canal is within half a mile of where the Wood is lying, along which it can be easily conveyed.”

(Falkirk Herald 23 January 1864).

Archibald Spens was a great supporter of the Falkirk Ragged School and took an active part in the local community.  In 1866 he was elected as one of the committee members for the Commissioners of Supply to deal with the terrible cattle plague then ravaging the county.  He was also a Justice of the Peace and sat on the Licensing Court.  He and his family attended Christ Church in Falkirk.  His wife, Henrietta, had been born in Bengal, and it was there that she had given birth to their daughter Isabel.

In the 1840s McInroy had been the gardener, followed by Charles Rankine.  By 1867 John Binks was the gardener at Lathallan and like his predecessors entered plants for competition at horticultural shows.  He specialised in ferns and stocks.  The gardener’s house was on the north side of the walled garden.  Archibald Spens was also keen on running much of the estate himself and invested in agricultural equipment and animals.

Meanwhile, things had also changed at Parkhall.  John Livingston Learmonth died unmarried in February 1841 and Parkhall passed into the possession of his sister, Colville Learmonth.  She then took the name Colville Livingston Learmonth of Parkhall and a few years later she married a merchant who had returned from Bombay.  He, however, died in 1849 and she died in June 1861.  After some legal wrangling the estate fell to Thomas Learmonth – the man who had emigrated to Australia.  In Australia he had risen to a position of some prominence in the local government and had acquired much land on which he raised sheep for high quality wool.  There he had created yet another “Laurence Park” in Victoria.  On inheriting Parkhall he returned to Scotland as Thomas Livingstone Learmonth and died there on 8 February 1869.  The estate now went to his third son, also Thomas Livingstone Learmonth, who had been born in Calcutta in 1818.

Archibald Spens died suddenly on 24 November 1869 at Pittville, Portobello, in his 61st year.  The farm equipment and stock were sold off (Falkirk Herald 25 December 1869).  His widow, Henrietta Ochterlony Spens stayed on at Laurence Park and put the grass parks out to let.  These consisted of three fields of “old pasture” – the South Field of c33 acres, the Mid Field c22 acres and the North Field c20 acres.  More of the wood was sold.  She continued the family’s support of the Certified Industrial School.  Her son, Captain A W Spens, kept sheepdogs and foxhunting on the estate became a common occurrence.

1881 Census

Henrietta A.SPENSHead72NoneBengal, India
Isabel F.SPENSDaughter41NoneBombay, India
MargaretEDINGTONServant34Ladies MaidTyningham, Haddington
IsabellaMCCULLOCHServant31CookRosemarkie, Ross and Cromarty
MaryMEIKLEHAMServant40LaundressKilpatrick, Dumbarton
JaneINNESServant33HousemaidCaisnie, Aberdeen
AlexanderMCINTYREServant73GroomPort Glasgow, Renfrew
Lathallan House
JohnMCINTYREHead39Coachman (Domestic Servant)Thornhill, Dumfries
EllenMCINTYREDaughter9ScholarKirkmahoe, Dumfries
Lathallan Lodge
JohnBINKSHead68Head GardenerEngland
IsabellaBINKSWife51Head Gardener WifeAberdeen
Lathallan Garden Cottage

Henrietta Ouchterlony Spens died at Lathallan on 27 May 1890 at the age of 81 and within a few months Lathallan had another owner.  The 300 acre estate was purchased by the son of its creator – Thomas Livingstone Learmonth of Parkhall.  Thomas Livingstone Learmonth already had possession of Avondale and so this gave him a huge swath of land from the River Avon at Jinkabouts to Maddiston.  He had no interest in the house at Lathallan and in November that year its contents were put up for sale:

“Sale of superior and substantial furniture, buhl cabinet, grand pianoforte by Braidwood, and other household effects (a large residue) within the mansion-house of Lathallan, Polmont, on Tuesday, 18th November.  Mr Dowell will sell by auction as above, including-

Handsome mahogany pedestal sideboard with mirror back, large mahogany oblong table, superior set of eighteen stuff backed chairs, sofa, and easy chairs in Marone leather; Turkey carpet, 21 x 15ft 9in; octagon mahogany library table, mahogany pedestal writing table, three oak bookcases, 9ft x 9ft, 6ft 8in x 9ft, 6ft 8n x 9ft; oak billiard table, 8ft 4in x 4ft 6in; elegant walnut drawing room suite in crimson velvet and silk damask of oval centre ottoman, two couches, easy and small chairs, oval, centre, sofa, Sutherland, and fancy tables; magnificent mirror 7ft x 5ft; magnificent gilt bronze clock. Rich-toned grand pianoforte, 7 octaves, in Rosewood by Broadwood, and stool; brass canopy and iron bedsteads with capital bedding; mahogany two and three-doored wardrobes, two with mirrors; marble-top washstands, mahogany and birch chests of drawers, and other regular furnishings for family and servants’ bedrooms; Brussels and other carpets, lobby wax-cloth, kitchen furniture and utensils, painted cupboards, conservatory plants, including Large Camellias, and other miscellaneous Effects.

 Sale to commence at Eleven o’clock. Lathallan is about Two Miles from Polmont, and four from Linlithgow.  A conveyance will leave Linlithgow Station for Lathallan, on arrival of the train leaving Edinburgh at 8.30.”  (Falkirk Herald 12 November 1890, 4).

(Falkirk Herald 12 November 1890, 4).

The name of the house temporarily reverted to Laurence Park and it was then let to Mr & Mrs Middleton.  An advert for a laundry maid in January 1894 states that there was a family of three and four servants living there at the time.  It was let annually and the 1893 advert shows us that it now had a billiard room, additional bedrooms and servants’ rooms, and a tennis lawn:

“Laurence Park, Polmont, to let furnished for June July and August.  Dining-room, drawing room, parlour, billiard room, 7 bed-rooms, servants’ rooms, & c.  tennis lawn, large garden and policies, stabling…”

(Glasgow Herald 19 April 1893, 4).
Illus 8: 1897 Ordnance Survey Map showing the late 19th century extension to the House, Tennis Court, and the gasometer and Gas house.

These additions comprised of a new two-storey wing with a basement attached to the south-east of the house with a Scottish baronial stair tower at the junction.  The extension repeated many of the architectural themes of the original block such as the corbelled gablets.  There were differences – hoodmoulds were missing and the dormer windows broke through the eaves course capped by triangular pediments.  The most probable date for this work was the mid 1860s after Archibald Spens had bought the premises and had six children to house.

Illus 9: Lathallan House looking north.  Left – the 1826 façade. 
Lathallan House looking north. Right – the 1860s extension.
Illus 10: The West Wing looking south-west with the Baronial pepperpot Tower at the junction of the original block.

The Ordnance Survey map of 1897 shows a “gasometer” and gas house to the north of the walled garden.  The house with its brick chimney still stands.

Illus 11: Entrance to the West Wing in the East Gable, 1999.
Illus 12: The Gas House.
Illus13: Collapsed Datestone from the Porch.

In May 1896 Laurence Park was purchased by Henry Adolph Salvesen who was the senior partner in his father’s shipping company of JT Salvesen based at Grangemouth.  He had a large family and the residence suited him.  The purchase is commemorated by a datestone which was inserted into the tympanum of the porch and reads “DUM —-/ 18 HCS 96” and the name once again became Lathallan.

Lathallan was a happy and active family home.  In February 1910 Dagmar Monica Salvesen, the third daughter of HA Salvesen, married Emil Salvesen of Finland in the drawing room there; and in August 1916 Captain Percy Tempest and his wife had a daughter at Lathallan.  It was at Christ Church in Falkirk that another of HA Salvesen’s daughters, Meta Natalie Salvesen, married Lieutenant Hugh Livingstone Learmonth of the Army Service Corps, son of late Thomas Livingstone Learmonth of Parkhall, in January 1916.  Yet again that family comes into the story!

Illus 14: Tennis Pavilion at Lathallan.

HA Salvesen took a very active part in the community and became a Commissioner of Supply.  At the formation of the county council he became its representative for Polmont South Division.  He was a Justice of the Peace and a Deputy Lieutenant of the County.  His upbringing and career are of interest.  He was the third son of J T Salvesen who had established the shipowning business with its timber merchant trade in Grangemouth in 1843.  Henry was born at Weedingshall and educated at Blairlodge School and the Collegiate School in Edinburgh before attending Edinburgh University where he studied engineering.  He worked as a fitter’s apprentice for James & George Thomson’s engine shop in Finnieston Street in Glasgow.  Subsequently he was employed as a draughtsman in the Phoenix Foundry, St Petersburg, and as a fitter and draughtsman in Alexander Wilson & Co’s works at Vauxhall near London. 

He was elected a member of the Institute of Naval Architects in 1886.  When his brother, Thomas, became ill, Henry returned to act as a senior partner in JT Salvesen c1882.  For many years he was also managing partner of the Redding Colliery Co which belonged to his family before they sold it to James Nimmo & Co Ltd.

From Lathallan HA Salvesen masterminded his business and civic activities.  In 1896 he became the chairman of the Polmont School Board and shortly afterwards was appointed convener of the Eastern District of Stirlingshire Sub-Water Committee.  This was an extremely important role and he led on the use of reservoirs near Denny to supply water for Polmont, Slamannan and Camelon.  The ceremony of cutting the first sod of the reservoir on the Buckie Burn was performed by HA Salvesen in August 1901.  Once this had been achieved he worked on a drainage scheme for Polmont.

On a domestic note he was seen as a good employer.  One of his staff was a coachman named Ritchie.  On 16 June 1899 Ritchie sustained severe bruises about the face and back, and a broken rib when he was thrown out of his van which then passed over him.  He had been returning from the station at Polmont with two boxes in the spring van and, when turning the corner at the village, the box on which he sat slid to the side.  Ritchie was assisted up, and conveyed home, where he was attended to by Dr Lawrie.

HA Savesen’s great hobby was his private workshop at Lathallan and he had the distinction of being the first possessor of a motor car in the county – the third in Scotland.  Before motor cars were familiar sights on the local roads he built a private 10hp coal-powered steam car which he registered in 1896 and took on them.  Henry’s steam car looked like a waggonette with two rows of seats but it had a boiler with a large funnel – amazingly it is still operational.  After nearly 130 years it has had only four owners and is able to muster a top speed of 16mph with the twin-cylinder engine by boiling off five gallons of water every mile. Fitted with a 40-gallon tank, that provides a range of eight miles between fill ups.  He then constructed a more elaborate steam car which ran about the grounds of Lathallan and was latterly converted into a steam roller for use on the tennis courts.  He thus has the honour of having built the first car made in Scotland.  By 1904 he kept a 6hp Daimler and a 12hp Benz at Lathallan.  On its inauguration in 1899 he joined the Royal Scottish Automobile Club and several meetings and rallies were held at Lathallan.  He employed William Fotheringham as his chauffeur.  Fotheringham’s son, Private William Fotheringham of the Highland Light Infantry, was killed in action in September 1916.

Illus 15: H A Salvesen.

Using his training in naval engineering Henry also helped to design JT Salvesen’s fleet of steamers.  An enthusiastic yachtsman he built the engines for two of his yachts.  He owned at different times the Kiwi, Moa and Eileen and chartered the Helga for a season.  With John Inglis of Hawthorns Ltd he designed the steam yacht Valda and latterly purchased the Merlin which he fitted out in 1922.  It was sold at the beginning of 1924.  HA Salvesen was a founding member and chairman of the Grangemouth & Forth Towing Co as well as a director of the Grangemouth Traders’ Building Co.  During the First World War he advised the Admiralty on engineering matters.  Before the war HA Salvesen had been a lieutenant in D Squadron (Falkirk) Queen’s Own Royal Glasgow Imperial Yeomanry and in 1909 had attended its camp at Biggar.  His business and engineering skills were too valuable for him to serve on the front.  His son, Captain Cedric A. Salveson of the Oxford and Bucks Infantry, did serve and was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry in the field in 1917.

HA Salvesen was formerly Vice-Consul for Sweden and Norway, but when they separated he chose to be Vice-Consul for Norway.  He also acted as Vice-Consul for the Netherlands and Vice-Consul for Russia.  He was created a Knight of the Royal Order of Wasa 1st Class is Sweden and a Knight of the 2nd class of the Royal Order of St Olav, Norway; as well as a Knight of the Order of Orange Nasau, Netherlands. 

HA Salvesen also owned Avondale estate immediately to the north of Lathallan and his son Cedric later moved there.  HA Salvesen died on 13 May 1924 aged 64 and was survived by his wife and three sons and four daughters.  Some of them continued to live at Lathallan and Miss Eileen Salvesen became well-known in horse-riding circles for her competition skills.  In August 1934 the arrival of the Scots Greys at Lathallan caused quite a stir.  By prior arrangement they camped there overnight and left first thing n the morning.  For 17 years Eileen Salvesen rode with the Linlithgow and Stirlingshire Hunt and was the District Commissioner of its branch of the Pony Club.  During the Second World War she helped to organise the local Women’s Land Army and became a motor driver with the Women’s Voluntary Service.  In March 1940 she married Lieutenant-Colonel RB Rathbone of Edinburgh at St Michael’s Church, Linlithgow and they held the reception at Lathallan House.

On 12 July 1948 Dagmar Marie, widow of HA Salvesen, died at Lathallan House.  Despite her husband predeceasing her by 24 years she had been able to enjoy the lovely walks to be found in the policies of Lathallan up to a week before her death.  She was survived by four daughters and three sons, all of whom had made lives for themselves elsewhere and so the estate was put up for sale.  First, the furniture was sold off:

“Within the mansion house of Lathallan near Polmont, superior household furniture and other effects including:

DINING ROOM – carved oak sideboard, buffet, dining and side tables, twelve panel-back chairs in leather. Oak pull-out dining table, mahogany Sutherland tea table, Indian carved teak screen, Turkey carpet, Persian rug, velvet curtains, oil paintings, cut and plain table glass, Hammersley, Copeland, Spode, Crown Staffordshire tea and coffee sets, white and gilt dinner set.  Plated articles – candelabrum, table candlesticks, coffee tray, salvers, tea set, hot water kettles, entrée dishes, breakfast dishes, sauce boats, cases fish and dessert knives and forks, tanalus spirit frame, oak biscuit barrel, Old English spoons and forks, table cutlery.

DRAWING ROOM – brilliant tone boudoir grand pianoforte by Steinway & Son in rosewood case, mahogany Carlton writing and Pembroke tables, mahogany serpentine-front chest drawers, Chesterfield settee, wall settee, easy and circle-back chairs in a variety of coverings, mahogany oval gate-leg table, walnut display cabinet, fine Persian carpet and rugs, silk damask curtains, pastel drawings by Mary M G Wilson; coloured etchings, decorative china, silver bowl, vases, and condemn sets.

LIBRARY AND HALL – Antique mahogany pedestal and oak double pedestal writing tables, oak revolving business chair.  Chesterfield settee and easy chairs in hide and tapestry cloth, ebonised china display cabinets, Estey organ in walnut case, oak cabinet bookcase, antique pediment barometer, Gres de Flandre jars, decorative china, repousse brass and japanned coal boxes, several Persion rugs and saddle=bags, library of books in miscellaneous literature.

STAIRCASE AND LANDING – Axminster stair carpet, six Persian corridor rugs, flock-weave window curtains, grandfather clock in mahogany case, coloured sporting prints.

BEDROOMS – Carved mahogany bird’s-eye maple oak and walnut bedroom suites, mahogany and painted wardrobes, mahogany bow-front and other chest drawers, mahogany inlaid bow-front dressing table and oval dressing glass in mahogany skeleton frame, dressing glasses, mahogany cheval mirror, washstands, bedsides, towel rails, carved walnut cane panel-end, oak spar-end, brass, and brass and iron bedsteads, bedding, blankets, eiderdown quilts, linen sheets, pillow cases, damask table cloths, bedspreads, towels, cushions, walnut and ebonised easy and single chairs, Turkey, Axminster and hair carpets, Bokhara rugs, printed linen and other window curtains, Hoover electric vacuum cleaner and dustette, Singer’s treadle sewing machine.

MISCELLANEOUS – Atco motor mower (18-inch blade), Green’s hand-mover, garden seats, roller, barrows and tools, ladders, foot lathe (26-inch bed0 with chucks, iron circular saw bench, band saw by Wurr & Lewis Ltd, shafting with pulleys, drilling machine, benches with vices, hen-houses, wire netting, cupboards, kitchen dresser, tables and chairs. House steps, oak tea trolley, aluminium pots and pans, odd ware, and miscellaneous effects…”

(Falkirk Herald 28 September 1949, 1).

The house and grounds were bought by James Aitken Shanks for £5,500.  He had been a poultry Farmer and smallholder near Torphichen and became a general dealer in building materials as well as in scrap metal.  He moved there with his large family consisting of his wife (Jean Branks Young), six daughters (Jane Helen Shanks b. 26 Nov 1928; Elizabeth Annie Shanks b. 12 Dec 1929; Margaret Nellie Shanks b. 3 Oct 1932; Dorothy Janet Shanks  b. 20 June 1938; Ann (Patsy) Patricia Shanks b. 24 Nov 1942 and Lilian Elsie Shanks b. 24 Nov 1942) and three sons (James Alexander Shanks b. 25 Dec 1935; George Ronald Shanks b. 24 Apr 1944 and his twin John Reginald (Reggie) b. 24 Apr 1944).  Pat recently recalled that;

it had absolutely no furniture at all in the house… it being really scary and we all slept in the large dining room on mattresses with the two doors locked”. 

She continued:

Dad let a lot of the rooms out, so we had other children to play with.  My three eldest sisters when in their teens and twenties learnt to build garden sheds, garages etc which went to Lanark market. They were better than the joiners that dad hired. There were two or three cottages, a cottage in the wood and a lodge at the front drive where dad’s lorry driver lived with their three children if I remember right.

The walled garden had every fruit you could think of. Grapes, black and green, tomatoes, peaches in greenhouses and all sorts of fruit in the garden, pears, apples, strawberries. Mum wanted dad to keep the gardeners and make it their income and we would get all the fruit etc we wanted but dad refused to do so. Green houses had to be kept warm and there were two furnaces on the outside of the wall which my two brother-in-laws kept stoked up when they came off night shift.

The place was absolutely immaculate when dad bought it.

We did have happy times there and never wanted for anything but we were never given everything we wanted. In those days some of our friends at school were so poor. I remember going into someone’s house and they had all the floorboards up to keep the house heated, so I realised how lucky we were.

We were kept busy, weeding, sweeping leaves up and all sorts of jobs. Dad enjoyed horse racing and the greyhounds – it was his life.

We attended Polmont Primary School when Polmont was a small village.  I went to Graeme High school in 1950s for four years.  My twin and I were in the Brownies and the Guides in Polmont. Mr Talman was the minister and married us.”

A visitor in 1993 noted that the grounds were like a building site with scrap lying all around. 

Jimmy was not now living in the house but was living in a cottage [Ivy Cottage] on the estate. The rooms of the cottage were piled high with junk. When I called there was no one at home. The door was open and there was a roaring fire in the main room which had been turned into a bedroom. 3 televisions were in the room with one of them turned on. The room was piled to the ceiling with junk… He and his de facto wife had been held up by robbers, in their home. They had been tied up. The robbers had threatened to cut off his wife’s fingers to get her rings off.  Jimmy suffered a nervous breakdown and was hospitalised dying about two months later”. 

James Shanks died on 25 September 1964 in Falkirk Infirmary of bronchopneumonia.

Illus 16: Lathallan House looking east, 1999.  The Stables can be seen on the right.

The main house was in a dreadful condition.  Since then there has been a dispute over the legal ownership of the property and an attempt by Anthony Shanks to restore the house and redevelop the site was ended prematurely when the house was deliberately set on fire in 2006.

Illus 17: Lathallan House looking north, 1999.

Sites & Monuments Record

Lathallan HouseSMR 854NS 9528 7798
Lathallan House Stable Block SMR 1122NS 9528 7797
Lathallan House Walled Garden         SMR 1121NS 9529 7798
Laurence Park Limekiln          SMR 91NS 947 776
Lathallan Palisaded EnclosureSMR 1095NS 953 781


Livingston, E.1920The Livingstons of Callendar and their Principal Cadets

G.B. Bailey, 2022