Mount Carron

Mount Carron was situated on the north side of the Furnace Lade for Carron Iron Works close to the south-west corner of the Carron Dams in the parish of Larbert.  It was built around the year 1765 for Thomas Roebuck who was one of the original partners of Carron Company, which had been established in 1759.  William Cadell junior, the managing partner, had constructed Carron Park on the summit of Hungry Hill (renamed Carron Hill) a little to its north in 1763.

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

Mount Carron seems to have been built on the site of the earlier farmstead of Hungry Hill (see Roy’s Great Map) and a map of 1761 with later additions shows it as an L-shaped building in plan whose main block was aligned roughly SW/NE with a perpendicular wing on the south end (RHP 1552).  It may well have been in this farmhouse that the four Roebuck brothers – John, Ebenezer, Benjamin and Thomas  – all founding partners in Carron Company – lived when they stayed at Carron in the early years.  Dr John Roebuck soon took over the lease of Kinneil House near Bo’ness and moved there.  Thomas was clearly on the spot and therefore improved Mount Carron.  The dwelling was completely rebuilt in brick with a rendered whitewashed surface and a slated hipped roof.  Prominent chimney stacks occurred on each gable.  Brick buildings were scarce in the Falkirk area at this time and it is most likely that the bricklayers had previously worked on the structures at the new foundry.  Two English bricklayers, Lawther and Shackleton, had been kept on at Carron in order to maintain the Works and were also employed finishing “the House at Carron,” presumably Carron Park.  They may well have worked on Mount Carron once Carron Park had been completed.  The new house was of two storeys with five bays on the south arranged symmetrically.  To either side of the central block was a single storey wing with contrasting red tiled roofs.  These ancillary rooms would have been for services.  The main entrance was on the north side, giving access to Carron Hill Lane which, for obvious reasons, was known to locals as the “managers’ lane” or “Cadell’s Entry” and is today called Carrongrange Avenue.  At the time this track seems to have been a public right of way and it is notable that the 1862 Ordnance Survey map indicates a ferry at its southern end across the Lade.  Its line was continued southward to the River Carron by the march between two farms.  A formal garden was placed between the house and the lade, surrounded by a tall wall and a second terraced garden for fruit and vegetables lay to the east.  Offices were constructed on the northern boundary of the property.

In 1769 Thomas Roebuck became a managing partner, responsible for the manufacturing and dispatch of goods.  Before long he and Charles Gascoigne were completely in charge of the foundry.  His brother, Ebenezer, probably stayed with him, but was killed in an accident at the Works in 1771 when a large piece of iron fell on him.  Ebenezer’s financial affairs were in disarray and when he died he owed £5,145 to Francis Garbett & Co and had assigned his Carron Company shares to a London merchant in security for a loan of £3,350.  Thomas too fell into financial difficulties and in 1772 declared himself bankrupt.  His shares in Carron Company were forfeited and he was excluded from the concern.  He owed money to the Company and offered to sell them Mount Carron with “all feues, leases & improvements, for £800” (Watters 2010, 61).

Carron Company does not appear to have taken up the offer immediately for in 1777 Thomas Roebuck wrote to William Cadell junior to ask his advice on what to do with the house.  For a number of years the house had been tenanted by William Lowes and his family.  Lowes was yet another partner of Carron Company and in 1777 he moved to London to take over the sales department there.  A little later Cadell was able to inform Thomas Roebuck that William Benson, the blast furnace clerk, had offered to lease Mount Carron at £10 a year which he believed “is as much as you can at present get for it, possibly a more proper tenant, may afterwards cast upon us.”  The proximity to the massive iron foundry was useful for someone working there, but severely limited the number of potential tenants or buyers.  Before departing, Mrs Lowes suggested that the lease or sale of the house and land should be dealt with separately.  It appears that the land included ground on the south side of the lade, which was a little inconvenient.  The fields there would have been used to pasture milk cows.  Mrs Lowes suggested that it could be offered at public roup to workmen from Carron – there was a dire shortage of housing in the area.

Charles Gascoigne wrote to Thomas Roebuck on behalf of the Carron Company and arranged to take over Mount Carron and was able to collect the keys before Mrs Lowes left.  The transaction was complicated by Roebuck’s financial situation and one arrangement put forward was for Mrs Roebuck to receive £40 a year during her lifetime provided that the property was free from legal claims.  From then on the dwelling was used to house senior employees of the Company, presumably beginning with William Benson.  In 1786 it was Henry Galloway, the general superintendent of the Counting House, who was in residence.  The following year James Baird, the engineer, stayed at Mount Carron before leaving for Russia.

In the 1770s a large dam was developed in the boggy hollow to the west of the Furnace Pool and the Forge Dam in order to supplement the supply of water to Carron Works.  The creation of this reservoir provided a new setting to Mount Carron.  The banks were planted with willows to strengthen them.

By 1812 John Stainton, advocate, occupied Mount Carron.  He was the nephew of Joseph Stainton who had taken over from Charles Gascoigne as the manager of Carron Company in 1786.  John seems to have been taken under Joseph’s protective wing for in 1815 at the age of just 23 he became a partner at Carron.  He was called to the Scottish Bar in 1818.  However John took to drink and developed an all-consuming animosity to his uncle.  In 1821 he was charged with having “causelessly and groundlessly taken up deadly malice against Joseph Stainton of Biggarshiells, manager of Carron Company, his uncle, and with having, on several occasions, assaulted, molested, pursued, and invaded the person and house of Joseph Stainton, following him from place to place, forcibly entering his dwellinghouse, and threatening to take the lives of Joseph Stainton, and Mrs Jean Stainton [nee Headrick], his wife…”   His accomplice in some of these attacks was John Headrick, innkeeper.

Illus 3: Grassom’s 1817 Map.

On one occasion John Stainton junior, after a heavy bout of drinking, went at midnight to his uncle’s house at Mungal Cottage with Robert Jameson, intent upon committing violence upon Joseph. Unbeknown to them Joseph Dawson had arranged for four of the Carron employees to keep a watch on the house and they intercepted the intruders. A fight ensued and John Stainton was escorted back to Mount Carron. They left the prisoner at the porch of his own house. He went in and immediately returned with a gun and fired two shots. The guards heard the pellets of shot strike near them and strip the leaves off the trees. They made off and returned to Mungal Cottage, where they continued to watch for some nights. Margaret Kerr witnessed the firing and noted that John Stainton had fired into the air and that his left hand was hurt, meaning that he had to support the gun upon his left forearm while he fired it.

Despite being defended by Henry Cockburn, one of the leading lawyers of the period, he was found guilty on several of the charges and fined £50 with one month’s imprisonment. He also had to provide a caution of £300 for his future good behaviour. The following year John sold his shares in Carron Company to his uncle. He died in 1832 and his father, John Stainton senior moved into Mount Carron. At the beginning of the century John Stainton senior had taken up farming near Shieldhill and is described in the 1841 census as “farmer.” At that time he was living with his wife and daughter at Mount Carron. His son had granted him an annuity of £800 a year on the strength of his Carron shares. Elizabeth, his daughter, died at Mount Carron on 14 July 1844. John Stainton senior died a few years later and in 1850 his widow moved, selling her goods:

“To be Sold by Public Roup, Friday the 10th day May, 1850,
THE whole HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE. MILCH COWS, &c &c, at MOUNT-CARRON, belonging to Mrs Stainton, and which comprises—A Mahogany Sideboard. Mahogany Dining and Pembroke Tables, 14 Mahogany Dining-Room Chairs, 12 parlour Chairs, a Sofa, an Easy Chair,5 BEDSTEADS AND CURTAINS; Hair and Straw Mattresses, Chests of Drawers, 4 Carpets, 2 Eight-day Clocks, Washing Stands and Dressing-Glasses, a barometer, Napery Presses, Lobby Table, a Dinner Set of Stoneware, also Sets of China and Crystal, several Gross of Bottles, and a very considerable variety of other Effects; as also, the Kitchen Furniture and Cooking utensils, Likewise, 3 fine family Milch Cows, two of which are near the calving; 1 three-year old Quey, close upon the calving; 1 Fat Pig, 1 Stack of oats, a large Brass Boiler for heating milk. 2 heavy Milk Leads, (made of lead) an excellent Cheese Press, Dairy Dishes, & c & c, all of which will be Sold without any Reserve whatever.
Three Months; Credit will be given on the Cows.
Roup to begin with the Furniture, at Eleven o’clock forenoon exactly. The Cows will be sold at Two o’clock.

(Falkirk Herald 9 May 1850).

The next occupant of Mount Carron was John Dawson. John Dawson was the third of five brothers all of whom occupied important positions in Carron Company, including that of manager. Their names, in order of age, were Joseph, William, John, Henry and Thomas. Their uncle was, of course, Joseph Stainton. John had been born at Keswick in 1796 and started work at Carron in 1815. He was soon given charge of the pig iron department and was responsible for grading the iron produced in the blast furnaces. This was an extremely important task as it determined the quality of the carronades in which he took a great interest. He remained the manager of the pig iron department until shortly before his death in 1879, having worked at Carron for 64 years. He was also concerned about the welfare of the workmen and played a prominent role in the establishment of the Carron Victualling Society – a forerunner of the Cooperative movement. He was a founder member and vice-president of the Stenhousemuir Saving Bank which opened for business on 9 February 1861. As president of Stenhousemuir Bowling Club he presented the club with prizes for competition. He kept a low profile compared to his brothers but was well liked. In his leisure time he studied entomology, particularly lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) and had a large collection of those that he had trapped himself. These were displayed in cases at Mount Carron. An extension was built on the north side of the house around this time and this may have been to house the collection. John Dawson also had a small collection of art which included William Brodie’s marble statue of “Penelophon, the Beggar Maid,” valued in 1867 at £157.10s. It was exhibited by the Royal Association for the Promotion of the Fine Arts in Scotland that year where it won first prize.

Illus 4: Mount Carron looking north-west.

It was in John Dawson’s time that a wooden footbridge was placed across the lade to provide access to the path on the other side.  He was responsible for maintaining the lade and the swans on it.

John Dawson was also a keen gardener and exhibited at the local horticultural shows, winning prizes for dahlias, rhubarb, pears and wall flowers.  His gardener was Mr Neil.  The well-kept setting of the carefully tended gardens and grounds is reflected in the Stirling Observer statement: “Mount Carron, too, with its white shining face, looks out from a thick belt of trees, and has many a stately and splendid neighbour away north in the background…” (16 November 1865).

However, it was the open water in the area that most often made the news.  In November 1862, for example, four young workers from the ironworks went skating after work on the Carron Dams, which had a thick layer of ice on them.  As dozens of other skaters watched, the ice near to Mount Carron gave way and the four fell in.  A boat was obtained from Mount Carron to aid their rescue but was only of use in recovering their bodies.  They were identified as James Hogg, bricklayer, aged 17; John Fleming, dresser, aged 19; William Bauchop, moulder, aged 18; and Peter Lorn, moulder, aged 17.  In February 1878 the body of William Shirra, an iron dresser, was found in the same spot after a night out dancing.  He was only 22 years of age.  The lade too could be problematic and over the years at least two men drowned within sight of Mount Carron whilst several others were rescued.

John Dawson died at Mount Carron on 23 September 1879 in his 83rd year.  Within two years Mount Carron was inhabited by James Boss, another manager at the Carron Ironworks. 

Table: 1881 Census entry for Mount Carron.

JamesBOSSHeadMarried45Manager Iron FoundryCromarty
AlexandrinaBOSSWifeMarried42Fearn, Ross and Cromarty
JessieBOSSDaughterUnmarried6ScholarCrosshill, Renfrew
AnnSTANFORTHUnmarriedServant19General ServantFalkirk

The offices at Mount Carron became known as Carron Cottages and were occupied in the 1880s by the Stewart family who kept prize poultry.  The big house now became Mount Carron House and was lived in by Peter Donaldson and his family from 1884 to 1885 and then by Robert Proudfoot Roy and his wife, children and sister-in-law from 1889 to 1911.  He was the Carron Company’s master mechanic, housing factor and property agent.  The family became well known in the area and often helped with fundraising events.  In 1897 Mrs Mary Helen Roy (nee Pemberton) even got to light the Jubilee bonfire for Stenhousemuir.  She died at Mount Carron House in 1907 and he moved to Marchmont shortly before he too died in 1911.

Illus 5: Extract from the Ordnance Survey Map of 1897 (National Library of Scotland).

Between 1895 and 1897 the nearby village of West Carron, owned by Carron Company, was augmented by over 200 houses to house its workers.  Closer to hand, a handsome mansion house called Carron Grange was erected for the manager on the ground between Mount Carron and Carron Park.  A lodge was built at the junction of Cadell’s Entry and the main road to control vehicular access.

The next occupant of Mount Carron House after Robert Roy was Gilbert McIntosh.  His daughter ran classes in decorative art, wood carving and painting in Newmarket Street, Falkirk.  In September 1914 his son of the same name volunteered for the army and was wounded the following year.  Gilbert McIntosh senior donated prizes for use with the Carron and Carronshore weekly rink game, but otherwise kept himself private.  It was during his occupancy that, in 1913, the Carron Company attempted to close the road to Mount Carron to the public.  People had become accustomed to using the Company’s railway bridge over the lade a little to the west of Mount Carron and then proceeding across the sand pits to Goshen by this road or to Crownest along the railway line.  The quarry and the railway were obviously private and so people were trespassing but that did not stop one father suing the Company when his child was hurt by one of the wagons.  There was an outcry from a small but vocal section of the community, many of whom had walked the road for decades.  It was forcefully pointed out that the gas pipe and the eight lamps along the road had been put in place using taxpayers’ money.

Illus 6: Mount Carron looking north-west taken by John Mercer (courtesy of Stuart Stark).

The house continued to be used for short stays by Carron Company employees.  Towards the end of the First World War William Bowden was briefly in Mount Carron and in May 1918 Alexander Semple, engineer, and his wife Susannah, were there.  They were not there for long for in September 1920 James Stark was born in the house.  He was the grandson of John Mercer, the manager of the Engineering Department of Carron Company at Mungal Foundry.  John Mercer had taken up that post around 1907 and after the First World War was allocated Mount Carron by Carron Company.  In his memoirs James Stark explained why he spent his early years there:

My father being in the Merchant navy was away from home such a lot that my mother and I lived with her parents, my grandfather and grandmother Mercer, also Aunt Margaret, my mother’s sister.  As it happened there was plenty of room for us all… With my grandfather’s important executive position went an estate called Mount Carron.  I have mentioned about seeing shale tips from my bedroom window, so it will be realised it was close to the works but nevertheless it was a beautiful place.  We lived in a large and spacious mansion house with many rooms, standing in an area of ground.  There was a kitchen garden, flower garden, two grass tennis courts, large eighteen hole putting green with combined pavilion situated on a stepped lawn going down to a third step being lawn in front of the house.

On one side of the house were kennels for the dogs, a laundry and outhouses.  Near at hand was a large hen house with a huge enclosed wire netted run for the Rhode Island Reds.  At the back of the house there was a large lawn with borders and cut out beds full of flowers.  At the foot there were lovely trees with seats under them.  Some were shaped to make an archway which led to a footpath to a white arched bridge with a gate at each end which crossed a canal that ran along the border of the estate.  The pathway along the other side of the canal lead to the works and offices.  I can see my grandfather opening the first gate and turning round waving to me at my bedroom window as he did every morning at quarter to eight precisely.  I recall the time without any doubt as he always “went in with the men” at the eight o’clock hooter.

It was a large house to run but we had a maid called Nellie who was treated as one of the family and had her own little apartment with a private stair down to the massive kitchen.  Her mother, who did not live in, was laundry maid on a part time basis.  My Grandmother and Mother helped by my Aunt did all the cooking.

There was a similar size estate next door for the managing director George Pate.  It was a large house and again with beautiful gardens, also a lake.  Between the two estates, beyond out tennis courts, were a number of cottages where the chauffeurs, gardeners and handymen were housed with their families.  There were quite a number of them as they looked after both estates.

How lucky I was to be born and brought up during my early years in such an environment.  By what I have written it could be taken for granted that John and Janet Mercer were very rich, maybe even country class and came from blue-blooded money and stock.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  John Mercer’s father was a miner… My Grandparents were obviously “well-off” but never in the very rich upper strata class.  They were just not made that way and knew it but they had been well brought up and gained experience along the way.  They could cope alright and became involved at the highest level but never made any pretensions about status.  Mother and Father used to talk to me about them as, when I grew up, I became curious.  They explained about the frightening thoughts in their minds, especially of my grandmother when her husband was promoted, knowing they would have to occupy and run the huge house and estate and also be responsible for the staff.  Granted it was provided for by the company, including the houses and wages of the staff, with the exception of inside help, furniture and food.  It was an extraordinary situation to be in and quite an incredible undertaking but that is the way it was working at the top of Carron Company in those days.  They must have been a courageous pair as prior to that they lived in just a nice comfortable four bedroom house in Russell Street, Falkirk.”

Illus 7: Mount Carron looking south-east taken by John Mercer.
Illus 8: John Mercer and family in 1927 – standing left to right, Janet Stark (Mercer) and her sister Margaret Taylor (Mercer). Seated left to right, Janet Mercer with grandson James Stark, the dog Tim, and John Mercer. (Photographs courtesy of Stuart Stark.)

CGM Robertson moved in some time before 1928.  He was Carron Company’s land steward and looked after its estates and farms as well as the workers’ houses.  A telephone was installed to allow him to conduct the business from there – Larbert 121.  It was probably at this time that the freestanding sundial from Carronhall was moved to the gardens at Mount Carron (details of this will be found in the Carronhall article).  During the Second World War Mrs Robertson worked with the local communities to raise money for various charities.  On one occasion she donated half a dozen eggs which, when raffled, brought in £2 14s 3d.  The couple remained at Mount Carron until 1954 when the next land steward, GD Davidson, took their place.

Illus 9: Aerial Photograph of Mount Carron, c1950.

After lying empty for several years, Mount Carron was finally demolished in the late 1960s.  Carron Grange and the site of Mount Carron were acquired by Central Regional Council for educational purposes – the house being used for teacher training.  The grounds of Mount Carron became overgrown and the site lay derelict until the late 1990s.  A schoolboy playing in the undergrowth discovered and reported the remains of the Carronhall sundial and, as a result, the author, on behalf of Falkirk Museum, was able to recover elements of it.  Carved stone Benches were also noted nearby, but the site was bulldozed in advance of the construction of Carrongrange Gardens and Carrongrange Grove which now occupy the site.  No trace of Mount Carron remains – not even its name!

The occupants of Mount Carron which replaced Hungry Hill may be summarised as follows (those in maroon were tenants):

1760Thomas Roebuck (purchase)
William Lowes, Carron partner (1772-1777)
c 1778Carron Company (purchase)
William Benson, blast furnace clerk (1778-?)
Henry Galloway, general superintendent of the Counting House (1786)
James Baird, engineer (1787)
Edward Mackie, master shipwright (-1790)
Miss Bruce (1790-?)
John Stainton jnr, advocate & Carron partner (1812-1832)
John Stainton snr, farmer (1832-1850)
John Dawson, manager of the pig iron dept (1850-1879)
James Boss, manager at Carron (1880-1884)
Peter Donaldson (1884-1885)
Robert Proudfoot Roy, master mechanic, housing factor and property agent (1889-1911)
Gilbert McIntosh (1912-1916)
William Bowden (1917-1918)
Alexander Semple, engineer (1918)
CGM Robertson, land steward (c1928-1954)
GD Davidson, land steward (1954-?)

Sites and Monuments Records

Mount CarronSMR 1822NS 8742 8216
Carron LadeSMR 1623
Carronhall SundialSMR 648NS 891 839
Carron DamsSMR 2197


Gibson, J.C.1908Lands and Lairds of Larbert and Dunipace Parishes.
RHPRegister House Plan.
Watters, B.2010Carron: Where Iron Runs like Water.

G. B. Bailey (2020)