Randolph Hill House

For most of its existence the place of Gateside was an ordinary farm to the west of Denny occupying the shoulder of a hill with wonderful views along the Carron Valley.  This romantic scenery was the backdrop to the very successful play the “Douglas” by John Home in 1756.  Over the years the fame of the play grew and reached its peak at the end of that century.  Around about the year 1800 Gateside was bought by Archibald Napier of St Kitts in the West Indies and in 1801 he changed its name to Randolph Hill – a name taken from the play.  That same year Robert Hill of Edinburgh built a small cottage or hermitage at the site of another place featured in the play called “the cottage o’ the cliff.”  Napier clearly had money to invest and improved the house and grounds and on Grassom’s map of 1817 it is marked as a “seat.”  Within a year he feued part of the ground for the establishment of the Randolph Hill Woollen Mills.  He also acquired land as a result of the division of the commonty known as Tarduffburn in which Gateside had had certain rights.

Illus 1: Extracts from Grassom’s Map of 1817 (National Library of Scotland).

Archibald Napier died at Randolph Hill on 3 November 1812 and his son, Thomas, inherited.  Only five years later, on 12 September 1817 Thomas Napier was walking along the towpath of the Forth and Clyde canal near Falkirk when he fell into one of the locks and drowned.  Consequently the house was put up for sale and the advertisement provides information of the amount of land associated with it:

“DESIRABLE VILLA IN STIRLINGSHIRE FOR SALE. To be SOLD by public roup, within the Black Bull Inn, Glasgow, on Wednesday the 22d April 1818, at half-past one o’clock afternoon, if not previously disposed of by private bargain, THE LANDS of RANDOLPH-HILL, and part of FANKERTON, extending to 28 acres or thereby, beautifully situate on the banks of the Carron, by which they are bounded, and within only one mile of the thriving village of Denny.  There is a comfortable small house with offices on the property, which commands an extensive and rich prospect, and is commodiously situate in every respect.  Part of the land, with the water-fall, is feud.  The rent and feu-duty amount to L.117.  The burdens are trifling…”

(Caledonian Mercury 12 March 1818, 4).

It is doubtful if the house was actually sold and it may have remained with his widow, Sarah Napier or Constable, until 1831.  1817 also saw William Morehead of Herbertshire granting a nineteen year lease of Herbertshire Paper Mill to John Andrew, papermaker, and Robert Weir and Gilbert Kennedy, stationers in Glasgow.  By 1824 Robert Weir was the only remaining partner when he bought Herbertshire Mill outright so that he could expand it.  The paper mill prospered under Robert Weir’s management and he established a warehouse in Montreal.  He subsequently sub-let Herbertshire Mill to Andrew Duncan in 1834.  In 1835 Robert Weir became the director of the Glasgow Branch of the Commercial Assurance Co of Scotland, at which time his address was given as Randolph Hill.  In 1845 he was able to buy the adjacent farm and lands of Drum.  He also owned houses at Denny Bridge.   In order to control the water supply to the mills he bought the woollen mill previously feued by Napier as well as Tamaree Meal Mill and cottage.  Then in 1857 he also bought the adjacent Carron Grove Paper Mill, bringing in John Luke as the manager.  Herbertshire Mill was sold to the tenant in 1860.

The dwelling was now called Randolph Hill House, to discriminate it from neighbouring cottages.  It was well maintained, with a gardener and under gardener and no extraneous children:

“WANTED, A GARDENER.  He must to a young unmarried man, or, if married, without children; sober and steady; acquainted with the keeping of Gravel Walks and Shrubbery, and general work.  Apply personally at RANDOLPH HILL HOUSE, Denny.”

(Stirling Observer 12 June 1845, 1).

The 1860s was a bad decade for the Weir family.  Isabella Edmond, wife of Robert Weir, died at Randolph Hill in 1861, aged 53.  Just a few years later, in February 1863, one of their sons, Mungo Park Weir, was crossing the River Carron a little above the “Lady’s Leap,” yet another scene  in “Douglas,” when he fell in and was drowned at the youthful age of 23.  Even at that age he had been a captain with the 86th Lanarkshire Volunteers (Tailor’s Company).  Mungo’s sister, by then Mrs Ritchie, spent her last days at Randolph Hill House in September 1864.  Finally, Robert Weir died on 18 November 1866 at his Edinburgh residence of 92 Montrose Street, aged 82.  He left two sons in his Montreal business and a son and daughter in Glasgow.

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

The following year all of the property was sold.  Carron Grove Paper Mill and Randolph Hill House were acquired by John Miller, the founder of John Miller Ltd, printers in Glasgow.  House and mill were now almost inextricably linked.  In 1875 they passed to Messrs Plummer and Henderson and when they departed two years later a new company, the Carrongrove Paper Company Ltd, was formed with James Johnston as the manager.  He continued the modernisation process of the mill and resided at Randolph Hill House.  His tenure was cut short on 14 June 1888 when he went for his usual midnight stroll to check the works.  Almost opposite to the entrance to the house was a track that led down the hill to the lade, the south bank of which had to be followed to the works.  He evidently missed his footing and drowned.  He was 55 years old.

Randolph Hill House – 1881 Census

Christian NameSurnameStatusAgeOccupationPlace of Birth
JamesJOHNSTONHead48Paper ManufacturerLaneside, Edinburgh
CatherineJOHNSTONWife46Newburgh, Fife
WilliamJOHNSTONSon17Paper Makers ApprenticePenicuik, Edinburgh
JohnJOHNSTONSon14ScholarPenicuik, Edinburgh
Helen J.RODERServant19General Servant (domestic)Doune, Perth

Randolph Hill – 1881 Census

Christian NameSurnameStatusAgeOccupationPlace of Birth
JohnYOUNGHead62Coachman Domestic ServantWest Calder, Edinburgh
ChristinaYOUNGWife67Whiteburn, Linlithgow

He was succeeded as works manager by William Walker and two years later by George Johnston, the nephew of James.  He introduced new equipment to the Carrongrove Paper Mill and kept it competitive.  At home, in Randolph Hill House, two daughters were born.  Late in 1898 he was forced to retire due to ill health and died on 26 January 1899 aged only 41.  The family had to vacate the company house and his widow sold off some of their extraneous possessions:

“SALE OF HARNESS MARE, WAGGONETTE, HARNESS, MILCH COW, HAY, & c, AT RANDOLPH HILL, ON FRIDAY, 31SR MARCH.  THOMAS BINNIE begs to intimate that he is instructed by Mrs Johnston, who is Removing from the District, to Sell by Public Auction, at RANDOLPH Hill, one mile west from Denny, on FRIDAY, 31st March 1899:

1 Useful Harness Mare, well known in the district: 1 Waggonette, Set of Harness, Excellent Saddle and Double Bridle, almost new: 1 Jersey Cow, near Calving: 2 Sheep, 29 Hens, 4 Ducks, 2 Skeps of Bees, about 3 Tons of ryegrass Hay;

COLLECTION OF GREENHOUSE PLANTS, Garden Tools, Cream Churn, Milk Dishes and Dairy Utensils, Quantity of Stable and Byre Manure, 1 Three-Roller Mangle, 13 Parlour and other Chairs, Rocking Chair, Drawing Room Oblong Walnut Table, 5 Tables, Various; Sofa in Haircloth, 2 Iron bedsteads and Bedding, Child’s Crib, Cradles, Washstand, bedroom Ware, Sitz Bath, Crockery Ware, Carpets, Large Kitchen Press and other Surplus Effects.”

(Falkirk Herald 18 March 1899, 4).

The new manager was William Morgan Wallace, who was to remain in the post for 43 years providing stability at the helm of the paper mill.  He was dedicated to his job and took little part in local politics, though he did contribute financially to the charitable section.  He knew his work thoroughly and in 1926 obtained a patent for recovering soda from the waste water that went into the river.  His elder son, William Morgan Wallace junior, became assistant manager there.

Illus 3: Randolph Hill House as built in 1912. Top – north (main) elevation.

William Wallace senior found Randolph Hill House to be small, run down and old fashioned and so in 1912 he arranged for a much larger house to be built to its south and got the architect Ebenezer Simpson of Stirling to draw up plans in an Arts and Crafts style.  Simpson had previously been responsible for the police station and parish Council offices in Denny.  The main contractors were:

  • Mason – Duncan Stewart and Co, Bonnybridge
  • Joiners – Fairfoul, Wilson and Somers, Stirling
  • Roof tiling work – W. Milne and Co, Stirling
  • Harling work – A. Walls, Stirling
  • Plumber work – W. Hendry and Sons, Glasgow
  • Plaster work – A. Walls, Stirling

The elongated plain white harled walls contrast with the red Rosemary tile roof which is broken by a series of skewed gables.  The asymmetry of the sash windows is delightfully playful – the three-light stair window being particularly prominent.  The splendid open wooden porch with its substantial posts rests on dwarf walls of ashlar and the main door has a moulded stone surround.  In front of the porch was a large turning circle with the old house on the opposite side.

Inside, the rooms were well finished with wood and plasterwork, arches and fireplaces, much of which survives. The billiard room, now a living room (left) has a large inglenook. The art nouveau oak overmantel contains the words “EAST WEST – HAME’S BEST.” The dining room (right) has wooden panelling. The detailing on the plasterwork is varied with large repeating block patterns contrasting with finicky paaters of the Victorian period.

The well-lighted wooden staircase is beautifully executed with individually carved floral panels and a lion sentry on the bottom newel.

The grounds were still well maintained with a small walled garden, greenhouses, potting sheds and offices.  The main drive led eastward from the front of the house towards Denny and a large Monkey Puzzle tree is still a feature.

Illus 7: 1918 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland). Note the private path to the works opposite the gateway to the house.

Wallace’s younger son, Alen, joined the RAF in the early 1930s and during the Second World War rose from the rank of Flight Lieutenant to Wing Commander.  William Wallace junior was allowed to remain at the works and in 1946 was awarded the British Empire Medal for services rendered with the National Fire Service.  When William Wallace senior retired in 1942, William Wallace junior took over the running of the mill and, upon his retiral in 1967, Alen Wallace stepped in.  William Wallace senior had bought Endrick Lodge in Stirling in 1928 in preparation for his retirement and lived there until his death in 1946.  When his elder son moved back to Randolph Hill his younger son stayed at Endrick Lodge.  Latterly the Wallace’s used the billiard room at Randolph Hill as the main sitting room, with a grand piano but no billiard table.  In the 1970s the elderly occupants had two male nurses to look after Mr Wallace and a personal assistant for Mrs Wallace.  There were also two part-time cooks, a scullery maid, two cleaners, a chauffeur (for the Rolls Royce and Bentley) and a part-time gardener.

The cupboard under the main staircase housed the vacuum cleaner.  This was a large machine with vacuum pipes leading up to each room and in each room there were points on the floor were a hose and brush would be connected to vacuum the rooms.

In the 1970s Dr Harold Lyon promoted the idea of a hospice for the area and Randolph Hill House was purchased by Strathcarron Hospice in 1978 for £55,000 and a further £247,000 was spent converting and extending the original building to accommodate 12 patients, all funded by donations.  The hall and billiard room were combined to form the main Day Centre. The Hospice opened in April 1981.  An etched glass window in the reception commemorates Dr Lyon’s work, and a stained glass window there is dedicated to the nurses (see Randolph Hill Windows on this website).  It was only when the Hospice purchased the house that the land at the back was acquired as a car park.  What is now the front car park was a tennis court (the site of the original house) and there was extensive shrubbery so that the house could not be seen from the road.

Over the years the Hospice expanded: building on the end section of day care, with an education department upstairs, the Devon room (originally a ward, now a meeting/function room).  In May 1985 Princess Anne formally opened the new Macmillan Wing of Strathcarron Hospice at the east end of the Wallace house.  This was followed by an extension in 1998 designed by Alistair Keyte. 

There is a large stained glass end window in the chapel here, where weddings occasionally occur (see Randolph Hill Windows).  The chapel and each of the wards have a carved name panel, the wards being named alphabetically after trees. Most recently the Lymphoedema clinic was added in 2007 and from 2019 an open corridor now masks the front of the Wallace house

An old mill pond to the west was turned into a landscape feature so that the patients and their visitors would have a beautiful setting to walk in.  Many of the mature trees remain and a sunken garden provides a relaxing informal compartment within the grounds.  Recent sculptures provide a modern element to compliment this setting.

The hospice now has 24 beds, 20 day care places each day, a lymphoedema clinic, bereavement service and staff also visits patients in their own homes and in hospitals and other care settings.  Other services include education and research.  The Hospice employs 134 staff and has over 350 volunteers.

In its first year, 1981, Strathcarron Hospice spent £79,776 and looked after 40-50 patients across all its services: in 2019 it spent over £7 million (approximately 37% of its running costs come from the NHS) and looked after nearly 1,400 patients – a magnificent feat and a credit to its staff and to the public whose donations keep it going.

Sites and Monuments

Randolph Hill (Strathcarron Hospice)SMR 1736NS 7924 8296
Carrongrove Paper MillSMR 484NS 794 830


Hughes, R.2000Carrongrove: 200 Years of Papermaking
Illus 11: Strathcarron Hospice with the MacMillan wing on the left and the 2019 entrance corridor in front of the old house.

Geoff B Bailey (2020)