Mungal Cottage

Meanwhile, following the sale of Mungal House in 1782 Michael Ramsay and his wife rented the east wing of Callendar House from William Cadell who was acting as its factor.  When William Forbes bought Callendar Estates the following year he kept the Ramsays on as caretakers at a low rent until he had settled his business affairs in London and was able to move in.

Illus 2: Mungal Cottage, 2022.

Around 1805 Thomas Ramsay had a “cottage” constructed at Broomyknow which he renamed Mungal Cottage.  This was in fact an elegant U-shaped single storey house with stables and offices to the rear, making a courtyard.  The long main block of the house was aligned west/east with a central doorway flanked by large pilasters supporting a moulded triangular pediment.  To either side of the door were two windows.  The random rubble wall had a tall coursed plinth, marking it out as high status.  This block terminated at either end in gables capped with plain skews on returned blocks.  The short west and east wings also ended in gables.  The outer walls on either side were then continued north with large segmental arches providing access to an inner courtyard, the north side of which was enclosed by another single-storey west/east block  which was probably for a stable and offices.

A large lawn in front of the cottage led to a neat little walled garden with brick interior faces.  The modified course of the Mungal burn passed through the centre this once productive garden.  The driveway led off Mungalhead Road, where there was a lodge, and is marked by stone pillars and cast iron railings.

The construction of Mungal Cottage may have been speculative with Thomas Ramsay hoping to sell or let it to the rising class of people profiting by the growth of industry.  The management of the nearby Carron Company was one obvious possibility.  It was soon advertised for sale along with his business concerns near Bainsford Bridge:

“To be sold by private bargain, the western part of the estate of Mungall, belonging to Mr Ramsay, lying between Falkirk and Carron, comprehending three small farms, with a cottage-house and offices.

The farms are of the best quality, well inclosed and subdivided; and the Cottage, which is very commodious and neatly finished, can accommodate a large family, to which, with the garden and parks, a purchase may enter at Martinmas 1806.

Likewise, two fields on the east and west of the village of Bainsford, with a large granary, keeper’s house, and farm houses; also a well established ROPERIE for 32 years past, all lying very near the Great Canal, and may be entered to at the same term.

Apply to the proprietor at Mungall, or Thomas Moffat writer in Edinburgh.

(Caledonian Mercury 13 September 1806, 4).
Illus 3: 1862 Ordnance Survey Map showing Mungal Cottage and Walled Garden.

No buyer was found and three years later they were up for sale again, this time along with the nearby farms:

“To be sold by private bargain, the western part of the LANDS and ESTATE of MUNGALL, consisting of about 70 acres, divided into three small farms, called BROOMYKNOW, LANGDALES, and LETHENDY, lying together, in the immediate vicinity of Falkirk and the Great Canal.

These lands are of the best quality, well inclosed and subdivided.  There is a most commodious house on the farm of Broomyknow, built in the cottage style a few years ago, fit to accommodate a genteel and numerous family, with a new set of offices, neatly and substantially finished.

The garden contains about an acre of ground, is well exposed, and properly stocked with great and small fruit trees and beeches, and has a beautiful rivulet of fine water running through the middle of it…

Likewise, two FIELDS on the east and west of the village of Bainsford, lying betwixt Falkirk and Carron, with the feu-duties payable by the feuars, on the road side, and a large GRANARY, which can contain from 3 to 4000 bolls of grain, with a keeper’s House and Garden.  There is also a well-established ROPERIE, of above 30 years standing, upon the lower part of the west field, next to the drawbridge.

If these subjects are not sold by private bargain, before the 1st of June 1809, they will be exposed to sale by public roup, in different lots in which they are to be exposed, will be specified in a future advertisement.

The south march of the greatest part of the premises between the lands of Merchistonhall, and those belonging to Mr Sword, may be feued out to very great advantage.” .

(Caledonian Mercury 1 May 1809, 4)

Failing to sell the lands, Michael Ramsay used them as security to obtain loans:

£1,200John Selby, collector of the Canal dues at Grangemouth1808
£3,000Falkirk Bank Company1813
£600Falkirk Bank Company1814
£500Falkirk Bank Company1816
£700John Cook?
Illus 4: Mungal Cottage looking north in 2022 with the runt of the garden wall on the right.

Michael Ramsay ended up living at Mungal Cottage and probably died there in 1816.  In January 1817 it was again advertised for let.  That year the cottage and the farms of Longdale and Lethandy were bought by Joseph Stainton, the manager of the Carron Company.  Stainton had to pay off Ramsay’s loans.  The property was very convenient for Carron Iron Works and although Stainton also owned Merchiston Hall he was not an ostentatious man and continued to live in the manager’s house at the works.  Mungal Cottage was let to Lieutenant C. Smith of the Royal Navy and on 17 March 1820 his wife gave birth to a son there.  On 14 January 1821, at the age of 66 years, Joseph Stainton married Jean Headrick.  She was just 19, the daughter of a carpenter at Carron Works called William Headrick.  The couple now took up residence at Mungal Cottage.  Here their children were born – Caroline on 4 November 1821, Joseph 4 February 1823, and Lucien in 1824 (died there 5 July 1825).  Joseph’s father-in-law was given the tenancy of Lethandy.

Illus 5: Mungal Cottage with the courtyard to the right, looking south-west, 2022.

Joseph Stainton’s nephew, John Stainton, occupied Mount Carron.  He was called to the Scottish Bar in 1818 but took to drink and developed an all-consuming animosity for 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.

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.  He was found guilty on several charges of assault and fined £50 with one month’s imprisonment.  The following year John sold his shares in Carron Company to his uncle.

Joseph Stainton senior died at Mungal Cottage on 22 February 1825 leaving behind a young family who continued to live there.  He had established a trust in 1820 and the property was entailed, thus ensuring their futures.  The trustees were to run the estate until his heir came of age.   The trustees were Andrew Tawse WS, Henry Stainton of London, Joseph Dawson manager of Carron Co, John Anderson bookseller in Edinburgh, and William Horn writer in Glasgow.  Joseph Stainton junior came of age in February 1844 and arrangements were made to dissolve the trust and hand the estate over to him.  However, it was noted that in the ante-nuptial contract for the marriage in 1821 Joseph Stainton senior had bound himself to pay the sum of £8,000 equally between any children of his marriage and so the trustees decided to sell the estate’s Carron Company shares to realise the necessary money.  This they did in the winter of 1844.  Joseph Stainton junior married Grace Gillespie of Sunnyside in Lanarkshire the following January and to cover his ante-nuptial agreement he took out a year’s life insurance worth £5,000 to cover the period until the estate was handed over to him.  The couple were expecting their first child when, on 11 April 1845, Joseph Stainton junior was killed in an accident when his carriage overturned.  The trustees decided to continue to administer the estate and were taken to court by the widow, Grace Stainton.  In 1850 verdict was pronounced that the trust had to be dissolved and that Josephine, the infant daughter of Joseph and Grace, was to inherit as next of kin.

More litigation followed in 1861 when Josephine Stainton sued the Carron Company and the Trustees of her grandfather’s estate for having wrongfully sold his shares in Carron Company at below market value (Watters 2010, 343).  Carron Company merely pointed out that Joseph Stainton had used embezzled funds from them to purchase the land in and around Mungal!

Grace Stainton returned to her family home in Lanarkshire and Mungal Cottage was let.  The first tenant was William Callander who bred cattle and won prizes for them.  It was now known as Mungal Farm.  By 1856 John Young had taken over.  He was followed by his son, James.  A competent farmer, he soon entered Falkirk Council and became a bailie.  Farm hands stayed in the bothy and outbuildings.  Often, as in the case of Peter McGonnigal, the ploughman, they were Irish.  A bothy was formed from the north end of the west wing with an external stair against the gable providing access.

In 1879 there was a serious fire at Mungal Cottage:

“On Tuesday afternoon, fire broke out at the cottar house situated at Mungal Cottage Farm, occupied by Mr James Young. The fire originated in a bothy above the ground floor of the cottage, and it appears that the work of destruction was largely assisted by the existence of a considerable quantity of grain seeds, which had been placed between the floor of the bothy and the ceiling of the apartment situated below, for deafening purposes, and being of an inflammable nature, they speedily ignited and spread the fire to the lower portions of the tenement. The fire was fortunately discovered soon after its breaking out, and the bulk of the furniture and other effects saved. The Carron engine was summoned, and arrived on the ground without loss of time; but before it could render any assistance the roof had fallen in. The damage has been estimated at £100, which, however, we understand is covered by insurance.”

(Falkirk Herald 11 Jan 1879)

James Young was a quiet scholarly man and built a library in the middle ground-floor room of the west wing, which now had a bay window.  By 1907 he had accumulated over 3,000 volumes over 40 years (Falkirk Herald 27 February 1907, 5).  He became a councillor and then a junior Baillie and served for six years.  He was a keen supporter of East Stirlingshire football team and the players were often invited to Mungal Cottage.  Sabbath school pupils from Carron also used it as a picnic destination.

Illus 6: Mungal Cottage looking west, 2022.

In 1889 Mrs Josephine Gillespie Stainton residing at Bitteswell House, Lutterworth, Leicester, sold her entire property in the area to James Aitken of Darroch.  Mungal Cottage continued to be tenanted by farmers.  After James Young the tenant was Robert Steel and Mungal Cottage became known locally as “Steel’s Farm.”  It is still occupied by a descendent of the Steels, who took the opportunity to buy it when it arose.

G.B. Bailey, 2023