North Bantaskine

Before going into the story of the later estate a short background concerning its early owners will be given.  Alexander Livingstone of Dunipace received a charter from Robert Kincaid of the Lands of Bantaskine in 1507.  His eldest son, David, was the ancestor of a long line of Livingstones of Bantaskine (see Gibson 1908; Livingston 1920).  David Livingstone of Polmont, ‘thereafter of Bantaskine’, was granted an Instrument of Sasine on 31 May 1637 for “the Lands of Bantaskine, called Wester Bantaskine,” this “proceeding upon a charter from James Lord Livingstone of Almond and Callander”.  He was succeeded by his son Alexander in 1644.  Alexander was followed by his nephew Michael in 1664.  In 1681 Michael Livingstone wrote a well-known poem called “Patronus Redux” about his relative, the Earl of Callendar and his return to Falkirk.

Michael Livingstone’s nephew, Sir James Livingstone of Glentirran, fell heir to the estate in 1736 because Michael Livingstone’s daughters, Isabel and Mary, had no children of their own.  Michael Livingstone had earlier feued the ‘part of Bantaskine called Tophill and Lymielands’ to Andrew Dick of Campstone (Compston in Muiravonside) and his daughters Margaret and Anna in liferent in 1722.  Dick later feued the lands to John Benny, who then disponed them to Alexander Adam, merchant in Falkirk.  In 1757 Adam resigned the lands of Tophill and Lymielands to Sir James Livingston, thus returning them to the estate.

In 1757 Sir James Livingston of Glentirran and Bantaskine assigned the estate to Captain Adam Livingston and Captain John Livingston.  Adam was Sir James’ second surviving son, by Helen, daughter and heir of Sir James Campbell, MP, of Ardkinglas, Argyll; a family which later came briefly to own part of Bantaskine.  Adam Livingston was a distinguished soldier in the Scots Fusiliers, and served in Canada under Wolfe.  He later served as a Member of Parliament.

On 19 October 1771, following his father’s death, Adam Livingston was confirmed by James Earl of Errol (on behalf of the York Buildings Company, which had taken over the forfeited Callendar estate) in liferent of the Bantaskine estate, including Dick’s former lands, namely:

 “All and Whole the Said Sir James Livingston his lands of Bantaskine with the pertinents lying in the Barony of Callendar & the Sheriffdom of Stirling, as also all and heal that part of the lands of Bantaskine called the Lyme Lands with ane piece of ground on the west end thereof which were also acquired by the Said Andrew Dick, as also all and heal that easter and wester meadows of Bantaskine, as also that sixteen shilling eight penny land of the old town and lands of Falkirk with a cottace land belonging thereto extending to a ten shilling land of old extent.”

The construction of the Forth and Clyde canal in the 1770s took up some of the lands of Bantaskine along its northern margin and left a large field isolated on its far side (this field later became Camelon Park).  Parts were sold off and an excambion was arranged with the York Buildings Company for lands between Wester and Easter Bantaskine (Forbes Papers 2054-1).  However, the main estate remained.

Adam Livingstone had an illustrious career in the military and was not interested in the estate.  He had brought about improvements there, such as enclosures, but decided to sell it.  He commissioned a map of ‘the lands of Bantaskin’ in 1780 from John Home.  The estate plan (National Records of Scotland, reference RHP695) shows the old house as an L-shaped building and it is probable that it looked a little like Bonhard House.  The site lay immediately south-east of the later house.  On the south-facing slopes beneath it was a large walled garden with the West Burn beyond.  The stream was used to fill an artificial fish pond to the west.  The plan also names Maggie Woods Road with “Shiel Hill” to its south.

For sale the lands and estate of Bantaskine, lying in the parish of Falkirk.  The proprietor is obliged to pay to the tenant, at the expiration of the lease, for the inclosing and subdividing the whole lands, which, except a few acres round the mansion house, has been done during the currency of the tack, and also for a new steading of houses, and a proportion of some plantations, as all these may be valued at the expiration of the lease.”  (Edinburgh Evening Courant 4 April 1780, 4)

Map (1)
Illus: The Estate of North Bantaskine from the 1780 Plan. MWR is Maggie Woods Road. The line of the later Edinburgh-Glasgow Railway is shown as a dashed line.

Adam Livingstone tried again in 1790 to let Bantaskine House and the grounds adjacent to it, and to sell the outlying fields

 “SALE OF THE ESTATE OF BANTASKINE.  To be Sold by public roup, within the Old Exchange Coffee-house, on Thursday the 8th day of July next, betwixt the hours of six and seven o’clock afternoon.

THE ESTATE OF BANTASKINE, in the parish of Falkirk, and shire of Stirling, consisting of about 180 acres of land, mostly inclosed and subdivided, lying on the Great Canal, and on the turnpike-road at the aqueduct bridge, within less than half a mile of the thriving town of Falkirk, where there are good markets for all articles of family use, and for the consumpt of the produce of a farm.

The situation of the house is most inviting and commands a very extensive prospect of the rich populous country on both sides of the Frith of Forth, and along the Canal.  The garden, which is large, has an excellent exposure, is well stored with fruit-trees of the best bearing kinds, having extensive walls, and it also contains a fish pond.

There is abundance of coal, and excellent free stone quarries in the estate, and besides a number of trees along the fences, there is an extensive belt of thriving planting of about eight acres.

If not sold, those parts of the estate presently possessed by William Waugh will be parcelled out into feus of six or ten acres each, and the grounds betwixt the village of Camelon and the Canal will be feued out for building houses and yards, to consist of one-eighth or one-fourth of an acre each.

The rest of the estate, presently occupied by tenants, with such of the lands above mentioned as are not, will be LET in leases to substantial tenants, to be entered to at Martinmas 1791.

Amongst the many advantages which the local situation of this estate enjoys, may be mentioned, the daily communication with Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Stirling, by stage-coach, and other conveyances, and the easy command of manure of all kinds.  Lime can be landed on the grounds from the Canal; and plenty of dung can be purchased at Falkirk, Camelon, and the neighbouring villages…. Alexander Sinclair at Bantaskine will show the grounds…” (Caledonian Mercury, 6 May 1790, 4).

Subsequently the lands were divided into two and re-advertised.  In September 1790 notice was given that the “Policy and Parks of Bantaskin consisting of about 66 Scots acres currently possessed by Colonel Livingston himself are to be let and can be entered to at Martinmas 1790, being all delightfully situated, and fit for the accommodation of a family wishing to settle on a healthy spot hard by good markets, and roads leading to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling etc.

Whoever are inclined to take feus or lets of any part of the premises may apply to John Burn, Writer, Falkirk who will treat and transact with them…Application can also be made to John Campbell, Writer to the Signet.”

In 1791 another advert appeared for the other portion of the lands for feuing or letting.  This advertisement defined these lands as:

Those Parks of Colonel Livingston’s lands of Bantaskine, presently possessed by Wm Waugh, Robert Walker and his subtenants, consisting of about 112 Scots acres of land, lying on the banks of the Great Canal, in the near neighbourhood of the town of Falkirk and the Village of Camelon, all of easy access and most conveniently situated for carters, tradesmen and others, there being excellent free stone quarry on the grounds for building houses etc. and plenty of coal in the land and all around.

It is proposed to feu out grounds betwixt Camelon Village and the Canal into such lots for building a house or yard on each – also the parks be south the Canal, occupied by Robert Walker and his subtenants in lots of one, two or three acres each – and Wm Waugh’s farms in lots of five, eight or ten acres each…

Such of the lands as shall not be taken off for feus will be let for nineteen years commencing from the said term of Martinmas 1791.

Likewise the House, Offices, Garden.” (Transcripts in FA: A001.096/08)

The northern boundary of the Bantaskine estate had been the stream, which depending upon which part of its course it was on, was called the Tamfourhill Burn/Glenfuir Burn/ Roshill Burn/Tophill Burn.  The only property built on the area between it and the canal was Woodvale, used by James White as a woodyard.  In 1862 the remainder was acquired by the representatives of Camelon as a public park.  Either Adam Livingstone was asking too high a price, or there was already a sufficient supply of feus in Camelon to satisfy demand.

Land on the south-west edge of the estate was acquired by James Hill.  18 acres of this was sold on to James Wishart WS.  A smaller area was bought by Walter Ferrier for incorporation into his new estate of Glenfuir.  Likewise Sir Alexander Campbell of Ardkinglas purchased land in this area, but soon sold it on to Sir William Forbes of Pitsligo.  This latter land included the steep hill below Falkirk Muir and Forbes planted trees on it.  Great disruption was caused by the building of the Union Canal in 1818 and the holdings there were acquired by Russel and Aitken, writers, Falkirk, before forming part of the new estate of South Bantaskine.

The Hagart era

In 1799-1800, Forbes sold the Bantaskine estate to a Falkirk merchant, John Rankine, for what is believed to have been a purchase price of £4,000.  Rankine was soon in financial difficulties and in 1803 he was sequestrated, leading to a complex series of transactions which saw the estate conveyed to Charles Hagart, merchant in Glasgow’, who was seised in possession on 29 June 1804.  The disposition to Hagart records the estate as:

Parks of Pantaskine or Bantaskine called Wester Bantaskine and the lands of Tophill and Lymielands and wester & easter Meadows of Bantaskine, viz. Mansion House of Bantaskine and lands around the same, with a belt of planting and three parks to the west thereof, consisting in all of 69 acres, 3 roods and 17 bolls and Teinds.’

Charles Hagart of Bantaskine was a very wealthy West India businessman with interests in trade and shipping based in the island of St Thomas.  His wife was Elizabeth Molineux, daughter of Philip Molineux, whose first husband had been John Heyliger, Governor of the Dutch-owned island of St Eustatius.  Charles Hagart died in September 1813, and his wife in December 1820, and both were buried in Falkirk Parish Churchyard.

Their son, Thomas Campbell Hagart, married Elizabeth Stewart of Glasgow Field on 23 August 1813.  Her maternal uncle, James McCaul, was co-owner with James Bruce of the island estate of Belvedere, St Vincent, in the West Indies.  Upon McCaul’s death, under his will of 1823, Elizabeth Hagart inherited his Belvedere sugar plantation run by slaves.  In 1834 compensation of £5,310 10s 3d was paid to Elizabeth Hagart as ‘owner-in-fee’ for emancipation.  The number of slaves on her Belvedere estate was 199 in 1824, but it had fallen to 184 by 1834.

Thomas C. Hagart and his wife appear to have been resident in Scotland by at least 1819, when their second daughter, Ann Elizabeth Molineux, was born in Edinburgh.  They were living at Bantaskine by 1824.  Thomas Hagart was granted heraldic arms in 1824; it was unusual because the bearings of the family of McCaul appeared very prominently.  In 1824, Hagart became a member of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland.  At the same time North Bantaskine House was extensively renovated and enlarged.  In November 1824 the Glaswegian who had been “some while engaged in superintending the carpenter work of the addition at present making to Bantaskine House” was drowned just up the road at Tophill when he took a wrong turning in the dark (Edinburgh Evening Courant 8 November 1824).  The vast business fortune was being invested in the formalities of a country seat and its accoutrements.

In the New Statistical Account of 1834-45, the house and grounds at Bantaskine were described as follows: “Bantaskine House, the residence of T.C. Haggart Esq., is an elegant and substantial mansion of modern architecture.  It stands on an elevated spot, half a mile south-west of the town, and partakes of the fine prospect which has already been adverted to.  The grounds are encircled by luxuriant plantations.”  Water for the new house was obtained from South Bantaskine and led to the site by gravity (Forbes Papers 1288-1).

The gardens of any country seat helped to define its character as well as to produce food for the table.  We are fortunate in having a description of Banataskine in 1844;

Bantaskine garden… lies finely sloping down to the south from the Roman Wall.  We never entered this elegant retreat of Flora, without the general ensemble, when all is in full bloom, inspiring a kindred feeling of grateful pleasure.  It is truly a flower garden!  The two acres within the walls send up, from a million blossoms, such a cloud of incense as might rival all the temples of ancient Greece!  There are two vineries, each well stocked.  The hot-beds consist of seven long lights, but are chiefly used in propagating flowers.  The greenhouse, however, is the main attraction here.  It contains a vast collection of gorgeous grandeur.  There are 100 plants of cresulas.  We have magnificent calceolarias, fuschias, heaths, camellias, and roses of great excellence.  The visitor cannot fail to be gratified with magnolia friscata, upwards of ten feet in height.  This rare plant is rather of difficult propagation, and seldom seen in common greenhouses.  The pit and stove-heat, for forcing flowers, deserves attention, and evince much painstaking.  The main department of the ground within the wall is devoted to flowers.  Upwards of an acre outside is the kitchen garden – a very roomy and judicious separation.  Her we have everything in excellent order; but for peaches, nectarines, apricots, and plums, with which the walls are clad, we have never seen anything at all to rival this gem of a garden.  We do not know how to speak of the matchless collection of geraniums for which Bantaskine has always been famous.  These consist of some seventy varieties, all esteemed flowers; and we confess the lace-like delicacy of many, and the intense colours of the whole, produce even a mental refinement on a casual observer!  The cultivated taste and fine appreciation of Mrs and Miss Hagart, contribute essentially to maintain this beautiful galaxy…”  All of this was under the skilful management of George Carnegie.  (Stirling Observer 4 July 1844).

There was nothing that the gardeners could do about the weather and in February 1856 a frightful storm destroyed a number of fine trees at Bantaskine (FH 14 February 1856, 3).  The 1851 Census shows that the house and estate were maintained by no less than twelve servants, comprising coachman, footman, groom, butler, laundry maid, kitchen maid, cook, lady’s maid, dairymaid, head gardener and two gardeners.

The Hagarts had two sons, Charles, born in 1814, and James McCaul, born in 1817. Both became distinguished officers in the British army, entering the 7th Hussars as cornets in 1832 and 1837 respectively.   Both were in India, in service with the 7th Hussars, and both held command of the regiment.  In the Valuation Roll for 1865, they each owned half of the three fields of North Bantaskine, while their father owned the house and gardens. Lieut Colonel James McCaul Hagart CB’s address was then said to be ‘Belevedere St Vincent, West Indies’, while that of his brother Colonel Charles Hagart CB was ‘Commandant Cavalry Depot, Maidstone, Kent’.  Both were soldiers of exceptional bravery, as recognised by their CBs.

When Thomas C. Hagart died in 1868 in another of his houses in Sussex, his personal estate in the United Kingdom came to some £78,243.  Major General Charles Hagart, as the elder son, inherited the Bantaskine estate.  Elizabeth Hagart died at Weston-super-Mare in October 1869.  She was a very wealthy woman in her own right, leaving a personal estate worth £47,421 in the United Kingdom, including £3,400 of consolidated stock in the Forth and Clyde Navigation Company, and £2,400 debenture stock in the Scottish Central Railway Company (Caledonian Railway).

Writing at this time Gillespie described the grounds: “North Bantaskine, too, has its own peculiar attractions. Delightful is the walk along the avenue to the mansion. Among the ornamental trees, thick and umbrageous, are magnificent specimens of the chestnut, plane, and larch, and which in this leafy season actually smother the estate in foliage.  On the east, the picturesque lawn is broken by a fine fragment of the Roman Wall, which forms a rich and beautiful basin.” (Gillespie 1868, 36).  The estate of South Bantaskine had been evolving over the decades and from now on Bantaskine became known as North Bantaskine to avoid confusion.

When Charles Hagart and James McCaul Hagart died, Charles in 1879 and James in 1894, their respective personal estates amounted to £100,000 and £118,000.  At the time of his death, Charles was living in Eastbury Manor, near Guildford, Surrey, but his will makes no mention of Bantaskine estate, being concerned to bequeath his Surrey home to his sister, Ann Elizabeth Molineux Hagart, who, presumably, had continued to live in Bantaskine House, or took to do with it, until it was sold in 1879.  Thereafter she went to live at Eastbury Manor until her own death in 1895.

Bantaskine was sold by private bargain in the early weeks of 1879 to Ralph Stark of the adjacent estate of Summerford.  At the time it consisted of 90 acres of enclosed grounds with the mansionhouse and offices.  Stark was a leading figure in the local stockbreeding and agricultural circles.  He was content to live in his more modest dwelling and lease North Bantaskine House to a tenant.  In May of that year the tenth annual agricultural show of East District of Stirlingshire Agricultural Association, of which he was chairman, took place in grounds of Bantaskine – the southern hill slope providing a natural viewing platform.

Bantaskine House to let, half a mile to the west of Falkirk. To let, furnished, with entry at Whitsunday, the mansion house of Bantaskine with offices, gardens and vinery. The house has ample accommodation for a large family; is beautifully situated within 90 acres of enclosed policies, with lodge at gate. The Vineries, greenhouses, and gardens are in the best of order.  The house can be seen at any time. For further information apply to the proprietor, Mr Stark of Summerford.” (Falkirk Herald 6 March 1879).

Two months later it was announced that North Bantaskine had been sold by Ralph Stark to Provost Wilson of Govan “who intends to make extensive additions to the house” (Falkirk Herald 3 July 1879, 4).  Gillespie edited Nimmo’s History of Stirlingshire in the 1880s to produce a second edition and repeated his prose from his own earlier book adding: “Three years ago, this old estate, than which a finer, for its extent, lies not within the bounds of Scotland, was purchased from General Haggart by Mr. Alexander McLean of Glasgow; but last year it became the property of Provost Wilson of Govan.  Near the house – externally a plain, yet substantial edifice – there is an old yew which measures 70 yards in circumference.”

Mr. Alexander McLean was a banker with the Bank of Scotland, Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, and the estate was purchased on his behalf for £14,000 by his brother Robert McLean, Writer, Hillhead.

The Wilson era

When Provost James Wilson of Govan purchased the estate of Bantaskine in 1879, he was within a year of completing his third term as Provost of the burgh, starting in 1872.  He was so highly thought of that he was offered a fourth term in office, which he refused.  In 1881 he moved from his home in Govan to his new Falkirk estate.

1862 Ordnance Survey Map
Illus: 1862 Ordnance Survey Map.

James Wilson had been apprenticed in 1842 to Messrs John Taylor, jun., & Co., West India merchants, Cochrane Street, Glasgow, and went to Trinidad in 1845 to manage the firm’s branch house, evidently in Port of Spain.  A year later he became a partner with Mr Taylor, senior, and for a period the firm was known as ‘Taylor and Wilson’.  That same year he married his boss’s daughter, Agnes, and not surprisingly he came to own the firm, which over the years changed its name to James Wilson, Son & Co. and James Wilson & Sons, as his sons were admitted as partners.  The business concern was as merchants and planters in sugar and cocoa in a large way and in shipping.  James Wilson was also involved in the Scottish Employees’ Liability and General Insurance Company (Limited).  The total value of his estate at the time of his death was £153,563 – a very substantial amount of wealth.

Having moved from Govan, Wilson lost no time in improving his new estate.  The third edition of Nimmo’s History of Stirlingshire informs us that he “not only enlarged, but greatly improved his residence.”

North Bantaskine House
Illus: North Bantaskine House looking west.

Just what these improvements were was described by a reporter to the Falkirk Herald:

BANTASKINE HOUSE.  One of the finest retreats in this locality is the small estate of Bantaskine, belonging to J. Wilson, Esq., ex Provost of Govan.  The grounds, which extend to some ninety acres, are beautifully wooded, and also possess tracts of gently undulating meadow.  A massive and imposing gateway gives entrance to an unpretentious approach, which, with a few slight curves, leads to the mansion.  The latter lays no claim to any architectural beauty, but seems to have been designed in days when use and comfort were preferred to the pleasures of aesthetic proportions.  The present proprietor has considered it best to allow the exterior of the house to remain very much as it was, simply adding to the doorway a facade, supported on four pillars, with highly ornamented Corinthian capitals.  A balustrade of stone has been carried round the top of the walls; while another along the front of the building conceals the basement from view.  Entering by the main door, which is composed of solid teakwood, we reach the entrance hall by the vestibule door, which is of walnut, with an artistic glass panel, and having the initials of the proprietor wrought into a very tasteful floral design.  The floor of the hall is paved with encaustic tiles; and here we begin to see that no expense has been spared on the decoration of the interior of the house.  Its walls are lined with teakwood, with walnut panelling, which give it a handsome appearance; while on the left is the lavatory, fitted up with every convenience in an elegant manner.  Leaving the entrance hall, we now enter into the hall proper by a massive glass door, which is also of solid walnut, the side panels being artistically decorated with flowers.  The floor is laid with oak and walnut, having a dado of walnut all round.  At either extremity are two handsome pillars of polished Peterhead granite.  From this hall are entrances to the library, breakfast, parlour, dining and drawing rooms, & c. – on one of the chambers being very large.  In the passage from the dining-room to the butler’s pantry are some very fine examples of the decorator’s art in the imitation of walnut panels, some of them coming as near to the natural grain as anything we have seen.  This passage is lighted up with a handsome stained glass window.  In the centre is a trader in calico exhibiting his goods to two negro ladies, while on the margin are the following mottoes: –

 “Let Hercules himself do what he may,
The cat will mew, and the dog will have his day”

            “Plough deep while sluggards sleep,
And ye’ll have corne to sell and keep;”

“There’s a divinity that shapes our ends,/
rough hew them how we will;”

“East or west – hame is best.”

On the sidelights of this window are representations of fruits and birds, which are admirably executed.  In the centre of the hall directly opposite the entrance is the main stair, leading to the second floor.  And here we have before us a large stained glass window, beautifully figured.  In the centre is represented a figure clad in classic garb (a personification of Science and Art) giving the right hand of fellowship to a female in eastern costume.  Immediately above are the heads of Columbus and other early navigators, and above these representations of various fruits.  On each side are female figures in foreign costume.  Beneath in either corner is a head representing town and country under the names Urbs and Rustica, while between is the crest of the proprietor and his motto –

James Wilson
Illus: James Wilson, c1902.

“Semper vigilans.”  The balustrade of the stair (which is wide and of easy ascent) is of fine polished walnut, ornamented with chastely cut vases of the same material, giving an air of massive solidity to the structure.  The rooms on the second floor, like those below, are not large, but are finished in the same artistic manner.  The wallpapers have been carefully chosen, and the ceilings beautifully decorated, while an abundance of light is admitted by the spacious windows.  From the western extremity of the landing a small staircase leads to the smoking-room – a comfortable little chamber, from which by a step-ladder access is had to the roof, which is partly flat and laid with lead.  From this point of vantage a grand picturesque view of the surrounding country may be had on a clear day… The stained glass windows were executed by W & J Kier, Glasgow; and the whole of the alterations and additions have been carried out from plans drawn by D. P. Lowe, architect, Glasgow.” (Falkirk Herald 26 May 1881, 5).

United Presbyterian Guild
Illus: United Presbyterian Guild conference delegates visiting North Bantaskine House in 1896.

James Wilson’s sons, Robert, James, Edwin and Gilbert, moved between Scotland and Trinidad, and acted as the firm’s representatives overseas. The most

prominent of these was Robert, the eldest, who went to Trinidad at the age of nineteen, and later became the owner of the Mayfield estate, Falkirk, immediately to the east of Bantaskine.  In 1891 he was resident in Mayfield House, with his wife Charlotte Lydia Ross, and his eight children, together with no less than six domestic servants.  After his father’s death in 1904, Robert moved to Bantaskine House, and remained there until his own untimely death just four years later.

James Wilson, junior, married Marion Archer in Trinidad on 14 November 1900.  The Archers were a very prominent Trinidadian English Creole family with mercantile interests.  The 1901 Census records that Marion and James were at Bantaskine House in that year.  The 1901 Census also shows that the house was maintained by five domestic servants, Ellen Wilson (aged 44) from Ayrshire, Mary Fairlie (32) from Killearn, Flora MacKinnon (28) from Tobermory, Christina MacLean (32) from Tiree, and Annabel MacDonald (22) also from Tiree.

The Wilson family’s connection with North Bantaskine House ended soon after Robert’s death in 1908.  The house and estate were put on the market in 1911, for an upset price of £17,000.  By 1914 it was still unsold, and it was re-advertised at an upset price of £10,000.  The drop in value reflects the economic downturn which affected Falkirk at that time.

The estate was put on the market in 1911 as follows:

The Mansion House and Estate of Bantaskine, situated to the West of Falkirk.  The Grounds extend to about 89 acres.

‘The Mansion House consists of Three Storeys, and consists of Entrance Hall, and Lounge, Dining-Room, Drawing-Room, Parlour, Library, Boudoir, Billiard-Room, Cloak-Room, 8 Bedrooms, Dressing-Room, 2 Bathrooms, 3 Servants’ Bedrooms, Servants’ Parlour, Kitchen, and other accommodation, including Wine Cellar and the usual Offices; also Entrance Lodge, stabling etc.

The Flower and Vegetable Gardens, which are walled in, extend to about 2½ acres, and contain Three Large Vineries, Pear-House and Orchid-Houses.

‘The Mansion House is surrounded by Shrubberies, and Lawns (including Tennis and Croquet Lawns), and the remainder of the ground is in pasture.”

Remarkably a group of Falkirk citizens considered buying the house and estate for the town at this point.  A pamphlet dated ‘Falkirk, 16th January 1914’ opens with the words: “In response to a widespread desire that some effort should be made by the Citizens of Falkirk to buy the Mansion House and Estate of North Bantaskin, Falkirk, a public meeting was held in Mathieson’s Rooms, Falkirk, on 8th inst. At that Meeting those present unanimously resolved to endeavour to form a Limited Liability Company, for the purpose of raising funds to acquire the same for recreative and other purposes.”

1896 Ordnance Survey map.
Illus: 1896 Ordnance Survey map.

The pamphlet goes on to describe the house and estate, as summarised in the advertisements, but it also examines the potential of the estate, with a Report by John Duncan, the Professional of the Stirling Golf Club, who opined that ‘The turf is exceptionally good and little work would be required in making the greens’.  The proposal was that the company should raise a capital of £12,000 on the basis of shareholding.  What is described as ‘a feasible scheme’ for maintaining the property was then outlined, with estimates of income and expenditure, without taking into account the minerals and other potential sources of revenue.  The writer of the pamphlet was at pains to point out that the grounds would ‘not be any more private than they are now’, and not restricted to ‘Golf, Tennis, Bowling etc.’  Clearly the Wilsons had allowed members of the public relatively open access to the parks.  A form was enclosed for those interested in taking shares to indicate their willingness to do so, and to what extent.  A prospectus would then have been issued, inviting people to subscribe the necessary capital.  The pamphlet was signed by James Muirhead, Convener of the Committee (formed at the meeting of 8th January), and by A. & J. C. Allan & Co., Solicitors.  However, before long the First World War was to alter the course of history.

War Babies Show 1915
Illus: The War Babies show, June 1915.

In June 1915 the Falkirk Choral Union held a fete at North Bantaskine to raise money for disabled soldiers and prisoners of war.  As well as having a 250 person choir there was a wide range of attractions.  The weather was good and over the course of several days the fete attracted 20,000 visitors, swamping the local tramcar service!  One of the more novel events was a war babies show.

The adverts from 1911 and 1914 had emphasised the feuing value of the land and after the war the Wilson family did not want to be encumbered by the large house and its grounds.  Robert’s brothers and children were all financially independent and the estate was gradually divided into numerous feus.    By 1937 practically all of the available frontages of North Bantaskine covering 25 acres had been feued.  Feuing was temporarily halted for a second time by another world war, and in the 1950s Falkirk Council, which had been looking to acquire land in the area for some time, was able obtain ground for the building of Falkirk High School and council houses to the south of a new road that they put in place called Westburn Avenue.  Initially a cul-de-sac, this road was cut through the Antonine Wall to meet Glenfuir Road in 1980.North Bantaskine Gateway

The great mansion was still standing as late as 1947, when thieves were caught stealing six cwts of lead from its flat roof.  The dilapidation of the mansion, said to have been ‘unoccupied for some considerable time,’ was obviously under way, and it appears to have been demolished around 1950.  Remorselessly the housing estates spread westward over its site with Anson Avenue constructed in the 1970s.  Today all that is left to see on the ground is a section of the Antonine Wall, some specimen trees and two stone gate piers on Queen’s Crescent.


The main source of information has been Donald Meek’s excellent account of the estate listed below.

Gibson, J.C. 1908 Lands and Lairds of Larbert and Dunipace.
Gillespie, R 1868 Round About Falkirk.
Livingston, E. 1920 The Livingstons of Callendar and their Principal Cadets.
Meek, D,E. North Bantaskin: A forgotten Falkirk estate and its owners.  See
Nimmo, W.
RHP 6114 dated c1760 (copy at Falkirk Community Trust Archives ref. MP/KE/4).

G.B. Bailey (2020)