Westquarter House

Westquarter House was situated on a small plateau overlooking a steep-sided glen with magnificent views of the Forth Estuary.  The varied nature of the verdant terrain which included rolling hills, a rugged glen, waterfalls, and an esker made it particularly picturesque.  It lies immediately to the east of the Callendar Estate and for many centuries was possessed by a cadet family of the Livingstones of Callendar.

According to tradition the original founder of the Westquarter Livingstones is said to have been Robert, a younger son of Sir John Livingstone of Callendar who fell at Homildon Hill in 1402.  There is, however, no proof of such descent and the earliest member of the family known to have been styled “of Westquarter” was Alexander Livingstone (Livingstone 1920, 280).  In 1548 Alexander Lewyngstoun was so styled when he married Elizabeth Wedderspoon, the daughter of the Provost of Linlithgow (Reid 1997, 86).  Alexander was described as the son and heir of Henry Livingstone of Falkirk who in 1553 was Provost of Stirling.  His seal consisted of three cinquefoils without the royal tressure which suggests that he and his father were from the Livingstones of that ilk rather than the Livingstones of Callendar (Livingstone 1920, 280).  Westquarter was one fourth part of the lands of Redding and hence why it got its name.  It was in the Barony of Abbotskerse whose superiority lay with the Hamilton family of that ilk and not with the Livingstones of Callendar.

Illus 2: Pont’s Map (National Library of Scotland).

A charter of 1560 by Alexander Livingston mentions the lands of Westquarter “with the tower, place, yard & c thereof” (Reid notes) showing that there was already a substantial dwelling there at this time.  It is depicted on Pont’s map just over twenty years later as a two or three storey tower attached to a range of lower buildings surrounded by an estate boundary tacked onto the south side of the Westquarter Burn.

Upon his death in 1564 Alexander Livingston’s widow disponed some of her husband’s goods and gear to James Wetherspoon of Linlithgow in return for shelter.  These items had presumably been at the house in Westquarter:

Fouer feddir beddis, thre bostaris, ix coddis, tua pair of plading doubill blankittis, tua pair of unwalkit quhit blankittis, tua new arras werkis, lynit with hardin, fouer auld arres werkis, tua lynit with quhit and tua with hardin, tua coveringis of beddis maid of quhit woll and black woll without lyning, vii pair of small scheitis, vii pair of hardin scheitis, vii cod-wairis. Item the napre, in the first, vi lynning burd clayths with ane dornyk burd clayth, fouer round burd clayths of small hardin, ten servitors of ell braid lynning, fouer servitors of dornyk, vii round servitours, fyve burd clayths, fouer of lynning and ane of dornyk, fouer lang hardin towells, sex pece of curtenis of lynnyng with the leggis. Item ane cannabe with the curtenis and coveringis half selk wersat with ane hed of welwet, ane burd clayth of arres werk lynit with hardin, ane greyne burde clayth, sex cusanis sewit with flandirris wersat [six cushions sewn with Flanders worsted] tua auld cusanis, ane pair curtenis of greyne wersat with the leggis, tua pair of curtenis red and yellow flandirris wersat. Item ane aile cruk, ane yrne tangis, tua quhelis, ane pair of tablis, ane pair of woll kames of irne, ane roasting irne, ane guss pane of irne, tua baskittis, ane creill, ane bakin clacht, the abulyement of his bodie, ane cott of crammase welwat, ane cott of blak welwat, ane gray cott, ane tartan cott, ane pair of hoiss of purpour stemmyng drawin with yellow taffiteis, ane pair of gray hoiss, ane jak coverit with blak and cammess, ane doublat of bombasse with platis, ane welwoiss bonat, ane tua- handit surd, ane clok of Paris blak begarit with welwat, xviii pair thre odd hornis of gold, ane schell of ane bonet of stele, ane cammess doublat. Item ane roundale, fouer stulis, ane irne chymnay, ane cruk of irne, fouer pottis, thre pannis, ane auld basyne, ane chyir, xvi platis of tyne, viii comptersettis, xi curschouris, ane tyne quart, ane tyne pynt, tua ropis of irne, ane irne ladill, tua spetis, tua treyne quhart stoups, fyve rowbouris, ane flesche stand, ane beir barrell wantand the heid, ane dry wair pyip in James Robisoune, tua kistis, vi chandellaris, ane basyne and ane lavar of peudir, ane silver coupe, ane saltfat with the cover of silver, sex spounis of silver, ane pestell and mortar of coppir, ane tyne flacone, ane bell wanttand the tung, thre bikkeris, ane of thame with ane cover, ane litigant bed, with ane palyeis of hardin, ane tub, ane littil bott, ane coupe of glass, Alexander awin surd, ane hevi ax ane quhite spindill of irne.

1548Alexander Livingstone1564
1564William Livingstone (son)       1574
1574Robert Livingstone (brother)   1615
1615Robert Livingstone (son)        1620
1620Alexander Livingstone (son)1626
1627Helenor Livingstone = William Livingstone of Culter (1626)

The property was in the possession of Alexander Livingstone’s great grandson, also called Alexander Livingston, in 1620.  At this time it already had a substantial garden and in that year Andrew Aitken, gardener of Westquarter, witnessed a sasine.  The extent of the estate encompassed the farms of Hillhead, Redding, Wholequarter and Woodpark.  The area, rather than just the farm, known as Redding typically represented a swathe of land bordered on either side by prominent streams with high moorland in the south and lower arable in the north, though it did not descend onto the carselands.  On the west were the Westquarter and Shieldhill Burns and on the east the Polmont Burn.  The Livingstones of Westquarter were also in possession of two fifteenth parts of the town lands of Falkirk.

When this second Alexander Livingston of Westquarter died in 1626 he left a thirteen year old daughter called Helenor as his heir.  Immediately prior to his death Helenor was married off to William Livingstone of Culter who was not much older than her.  William’s grandfather, also William Livingstone, had been the son of the sixth Lord Livingston of Callendar, whose elder brother was George Livingstone of Ogleface, who will come back into the story later on.  These relationships cemented the bond between Callendar and Westquarter.  In the 1630s William Livingstone of Westquarter was acting as a bailie of the regality of Callendar where he exercised considerable power.   Acting for the Earl of Linlithgow in 1632 he signed a sasine of “all and hail the lands of Langtoun with houses, mill…” to James Livingstone (Reid notes) Langton was the area immediately to the north of Westquarter in the vicinity of Laurieston and at various times came into the ownership of those possessing Westquarter.

Writing in the early 1860s Burke described Westquarter House as being:

of considerable size, built round and enclosing a central court, with its porte cochere, steep slated roofs and notched gables, [it] is not unlike in extent, and character some of the chateaux of the provincial noblesse in Normandy and Brittany.  On the walls of the southern and more modern portion of the building are the dates 1626 and 1648, but the original edifice is much older than either of these. Though a large house, from the manner in which it is built, it looks much larger than it is in reality

(Burke 1863; repeated in Gillespie 1880, 388).

Fleming’s drawing at the head of this article shows it in the 1880s and was drawn from a photograph which does not survive.  In its articulated wings it is reminiscent of the “palace” at Culross, and like it had a harled yellow coating (Gillespie 1868, 171).

Illus 3: Two of the Stones from Westquarter House now in Falkirk Museum.

Burke evidently visited the house and spoke to its owner in order to gather information for his book and we must assume that his attribution of the south wing to being the more modern portion of the building was because he had seen the internal wall thicknesses.  This suggests that the 16th century tower house was in the central part of the complex.  However, it is hard to believe that the last of the construction work at this complex building occurred in the mid-17th century.  It would be more logical to see the south-facing wing as an extension to the tower house and its associated lean-to structures, with the north wing added later.  This would also be in agreement with the plan that shows the south wing as narrower than the north one.

The south wing was three storeys in height and its scale may be compared with similar blocks built in the 1660-70s at Orchardhead, Neuck and Kersie.  Adjoining it on the south was the formal garden and the main approach was from the west in the direction of Falkirk.  Presumably this originally passed through the garden.  William Livingston borrowed a large sum of money from Thomas Dalyell of Binns and this may have been to finance his building projects, including the Westquarter Lodging in the town of Falkirk.  In 1644 he was entrusted with the care of the town and castle of Stirling during that troublesome period.  Four years later he accompanied James Earl of Callendar in the invasion of England and was appointed deputy-governor of Carlisle.  Despite the failure of that mission he returned and retained his property during Cromwell’s occupation of the country.  With the Restoration he was made deputy-sheriff of Stirlingshire in 1660.

Illus 4: Plan of Westquarter House in 1860 with an indication of the probable phasing. 
1 – 15th century towerhouse;
2 – two-story wing 16th century;
3 – three-storey south range 1626-1648;
4 – three storey north range late 17th century.

The ornate lectern style doocot which still stands at Westquarter was built as part of Sir William’s reconstruction of the estate.

Illus 5: The Datestone and Coat-of-Arms on the Westquarter Doocot.

The panel above the door bears a shield enclosed by a line which probably represents a bordure and charged:  quarterly, 1st and 4th, three cinquefoils, two and one, within a tressure; 2nd and 3rd, a bend between six billets.   Above the shield appear the letters S/D, and separated by it are the initials WL/HL; taken together these stand for Sir William Livingstone of Westquarter and his wife Dame Helenore Livingstone.  Below the shield is the date 1647.

Illus 6: Westquarter Doocot and Armorial Panel.

William Livingstone was succeeded by his son James who also had a military career, having been a lieutenant in the Scots Foot Guards and a captain in the Stirlingshire Militia.  In the 1680s James acted as the factor to the Countess Dowager of Callendar.

It was probably at this time that Westquarter House was extended to the north and the house turned to face south-east.  The new north wing was three storeys in height, matching the south wing.  These two wings were joined by a two-storey block which their gables effectively framed imparting a degree of symmetry.  The central doorway was not over-embellished – a common occurrence at this period.

James also paid attention to the layout of the grounds and acquired land from James Bellenden of Redding so that he could run an avenue from the House to the new highway near Parkend, or as the 1689 sasine says:

all and haill so much of his lands of Redding  for being of ane heighway or avenew to his house of Westquarter frae the kings heigh streitt being neir the end of Parkend Wood upon the south syde of his said lands nixt the lands possest be Patrick Bellenden of Parkend streight towards the foot of the Greins Loan of Redding — consisting of three elenes of breidth and from the said Green Loan streight west towards the head of the said James Livingstoune his oun fauld — with the libertie of planting of ane rainge of trees on each syde of the said heighway or avenew

(Reid notes). 

At the west end of the new avenue it passed a little to the north of the doocot and curved gently to the right to approach the east façade of the House head on.

In 1707 Robert Sibbald noted that Westquarter was well planted with trees – the product of several generations’ work.  This was repeated by Johnston of Kirkland in 1723.  He also Mentions “a great cataract or fall of water called Westquarters loup or Lin” which formed an attraction.

James Livingstone married late in life, in 1690, to Lady Mary Hamilton, the second daughter of the Duke of Hamilton and widow of Alexander, second Earl of Callendar.  In 1699 James was given a baronetcy for his loyalty to the reigning monarchs William and Mary.  He died in Edinburgh in November 1701 and, having no child, an agreement was reached between his widow (who married a third time, now to the Earl of Findlater) and his niece that the Westquarter estate should be settled on James Livingstone the third son of Alexander Livingstone of Bedlormie.  This was a strange choice as Alexander’s father and two elder brothers were still alive, but in 1706 James was granted sasine without any opposition.  Still being a minor, his father looked after Westquarter until James came of age.  Upon taking possession James spent heavily and soon became heavily indebted.  In 1723 he was declared a common debtor and seems to have transferred all of his property to his wife, Annabella Cameron.  She died the following year and so Westquarter was put up for sale:

“There is to be exposed to Sale by voluntary Roup, in the House of Arthur Reid, Vintner in Edinburgh, upon Wednesday the 12th of August next, at 3 o’clock in the Afternoon, the Estate of WESTQUARTER, of yearly Rent, the Sum of L 1000 in Money; 21 Bolls, 3 Firlots Meal and 20 Bolls, 3 Firlots Bear; with a Manor-place of 30 Fire-rooms, most of them finished and painted having 31 Acres of inclos’d Ground about it, with Stone and Lime Dykes, a Dove cot and Office-houses, and beautified with much old Planting and a rookery; It hath a good Coal and Free-stone Quarrey, lying in the Shire of Stirling within 2 Miles of Falkirk.”

(Caledonian Mercury 6 Aug 1724).

No buyer came forward and it was put up again in April 1725 and again failed to attract sufficient interest.  It is not known how James Livingstone contracted his debts but the above advert shows that some of the money was probably spent on the house and that some of the rooms were not finished or painted.

The Westquarter lodging in Falkirk and one of the fifteenth parts of the lands of Falkirk were granted to a number of his creditors by James Livingstone of Westquarter in order to keep them at bay.  However, in February 1728 James Livingstone was committed to the Tolbooth of Edinburgh and sold Westquarter at below market value to his attorney, William Drummond, in order to clear his debts.  Part of the land was put up for sale in 1731:

“As also a part of the Estate at WEST-QUARTER, of 200 L. yearly rent, holden feu of His Grace the Duke of Hamilton, lying in the Parish of Falkirk, and Sheriffdom of Stirling.  The Conditions of Roup and Progress of Writs, to be seen in the Hands of Alexander Mitchel of that ilk, Writer to the Signet, at his Chamber in the Head of Gosford’s Close, Lawn market, Edinburgh.”

(Caledonian Mercury 13 May 1731, 4).

Drummond continued the work on completing the house and furnished it, as well as enclosing the grounds.  On 3 August 1734 Lady Hopetoun wrote to Ld Findlater who obviously had an interest:

“Ld Napier thinks of buying West Quarter from Mr Drummond in view of his wife’s poor health, Mr Drummond offering them the house and estate, furnished as it stands except for some books and a few family pictures. They have all visited it: “The House is rather too large so that they can want no conveniency of that kind, he has made several alterations of Stairs Doors and Windows, and besides the Stair Case which you have heard much of, and is indeed very handsome he has a new finish’d a Dining Room, stone Parlour, and lay’d a floor in the Drawing Room, besides the Kitchen and new Doors, windows and other little reparations through the house, All the new work is not only good and substantial but very nice. The rest of the finishing is old fashion’d and the Windows but indifferent however all very habitable and requiring nothing to be done in hast. The furniture is not fine but clean and whole and a great deal of it new, in a word many good useful things. Without Doors there seems little wanting but Bake house and Brew house which he has not. He has been at a good deal of expense in making a little Garden and several Walks. And has inclosed with a good stone and Lime wall as they reckon above thirty acres in whole with some divisions. The rest of the ground lys very well for inclosing and there are several little pieces round which they say may got, besides £100 of rent joining which is now to sell…

Mr Drummond who was there, says that when he bought it they reckon’d it 700 mks of Rent and that he pay’d £1100 for all, since which he has got in some little pieces of £4 or £5 rent… there was no great value put upon the house when he bought it, the Land with the inclosing may be reckon’d £1200 …. the pollicy of Gardens and other things he has done is not dear £300. When we compare the Furniture with what cost Mr Hope £4 or 500 this seems to be much better worth £6 or 700 which you see brings the house to between £3 and 400 and I am very sure he has lay’d out as much upon it…”

(Seafield MSS GD248/565/82/12).

The work done by Drummond seems to have been to the north wing and re-orientated the House to face north-east.  A single-storey ornate porch was put in the centre of the façade and behind this floors would have been removed in order to insert a grand stairwell.  An avenue or vista was placed on the axis of the porch with two roundels marked by flag staffs to direct the eye.

Illus 7: Curving Drystone Dyke projecting into the valley to form the northern roundel for a Flagstaff.  2022.
Illus 8: 1864 Ordnance Survey Map (surveyed 1860) showing the designed landscape around Westquarter House (National Library of Scotland).

Francis, Lord Napier purchased Westquarter that year and changed its name to Edinbelly, the family’s country seat in the parish of Balfron.  It is called Edinbelly on Roy’s map.  Even the bordering Westquarter Burn became known as the Edinbelly Burn.  In 1740 Napier also bought Langton and then set about developing a planned village there which he called “New Merchiston” after another family home.  Rents were collected and the coal continued to be worked.

There is a Going COAL to be let in tack for one or more Years, as can be agreed upon at Langtoun, 5 miles west from Linlithgow, and one Mile East from Falkirk, about a Mile from Water Carriage. Enquire at Mr. William Henderson Merchant in Falkirk, or at any of Lord Napier’s Servants at Langtoun or Edinbellie.”

(Caledonian Mercury 11 November 1740).
Illus 9: Roy’s Map showing the formal Avenues around Edinbelly, with the Walled Garden to the south of the house.

Francis Napier spent large sums of money in making permanent improvements to the house and grounds.  It was probably Francis who laid out a second avenue from the House to Parkend.  The new approach followed the new style of laying it out with broad gracious curves to complement the existing contours.  At the end of the new drive was a gateway, the piers of which still survive, and the East Lodge.  A similar lodge was planted on the Redding Road gateway and the West Drive was re-engineered.   Hon. Napier (1731-1807) spent his early years at Edinbelly before moving to Mungal House near Bainsford which the family renamed Merchiston Hall where, in 1787, his son Charles Napier was born.  Charles Napier went on to become a famous admiral.  James Livingstone of Westquarter died around 1740, but it was only in 1756 that his younger brother, Captain William Livingstone, returned from military service abroad and took up the question of the rightful possession of the family estate.  Westquarter had been entailed and consequently James had no legal right to sell it, rather it should have gone to the nearest heir-male and that was now William.  Although he was granted a sasine of Westquarter in 1756 Captain William Livingstone had to take legal action in the Court of Session against Lord Napier for wrongful possession and this action commenced on 9 March 1757.  The Lords of Session found that Captain Livingstone had a sufficient title to force production of all deeds granted by the Countess of Callendar or by James Livingstone.   Strangely, many of these were missing.  It took five years before he gained his first action in the Court of Session, and yet another before the decisions of the Scottish Courts were affirmed in his favour by the House of Lords on 11 March 1765, to which final tribunal Lord Napier had appealed in the hope of reversing the three Interlocutors of the Lords of Session in Scotland, of the 3 March and 11 August 1762, and 2 March 1763.

Illus 10: Roy’s Map of 1755 showing the East Vista which had been extended northwards to Parkend in 1687.

In 1763 Francis Napier sold his interests in Langton to Sir Laurence Dundas of Kerse who subsequently changed the name of New Merchiston to Laurieston.  Napier seems to have been given time to settle his affairs at Edinbelly.  Although awarded legal possession of the estate, William now had to find the money to pay Napier what he had paid for it in 1734 together with a sum to compensate him for the money invested in improvements.  Counter-claims were made for rents collected and trees cut down.  William Livingstone never lived at Edinbelly as he had inherited Bedlormie from his oldest brother and lived there.  Edinbelly House was put up for let:

“To be SET for one of more years, and entered to at Whitfunday next, The MANSION HOUSE, OFFICES, Gardens, and Inclofures of Edinbellie, lying in the fhire of Stirling, and within a mile of Falkirk.  The houfes are all in good condition, and ftand pleafantly situates.  The inclosures contain about fifty Scots acres, have all been laid down with grass seeds, and are surrounded with belts of planting.  For particulars, enquire at Alexander Orr Clerk to the Signet, or High Maxwell Writer in Edinburgh.”

(Caledonian Mercury 23 March 1768).

He died at Bedlormie early in 1769.  He left no children and so the cudgel was taken up by his nephew Sir Alexander Livingstone, then living in London.  On his way north in late December 1770 Sir Alexander stayed in an inn at Belford, a small town betwixt Alnwick and Berwick, and accidentally stumbled across the missing title deeds there!  This story is told in “the Vicissitudes of Families” and will be reproduced here in due course.

Illus 11: 1860 Ordnance Survey Map showing Westquarter House and the Walled Garden.
1630William Livingstone of Culter 1674?
1674James Livingstone (son)         1705?
1705James Livingstone (son)
1706Helen Livingstone (niece)1706
1706James Livingstone (2nd cousin)           1728
1728William Drummond (purchase)                      1734
1734Frances Napier (purchase)      1756
1760William Livingstone (brother of James)1769
1770Alexander Livingstone (nephew)1795
Illus 12: The Livingstone of Westquarter Family Tree.

The discovery of the family papers allowed Sir Alexander to claim the baronetcy in 1775 which his uncles James and William had not taken.  In 1784 he also laid claim to the Earldom of Callendar (see Bailey 1992).  Though the restoration of the property and residence did much for the social standing of the family, it added little or nothing to its immediate resources, rather it depleted them.  Alexander Livingstone was penniless and had nine sons and two daughters to support.  As soon as they were able, usually in their mid-teens, the sons were sent out into the world to make their own way.  The eldest, Alexander served abroad in the Dutch and then the British Armies; William went to India; Thomas joined the Navy; John went to Jamaica; Thurstanus was in the Merchant Navy, George was in the Marines and died in action; Anne married Rev John Fenton in Cumberland; Francis died in Lisbon serving in the 90th Regiment; David was fatally wounded in the storming of Fort Kumona in India and Elizabeth married James Kirsopp of Spital in Northumberland.

Upon taking over the ancestral estate Sir Alexander Livingstone changed its name back to Westquarter.  He could not afford to live at Westquarter and stayed at Bedlormie House between Slamannan and Whitburn.  Even though the internal alterations were evidently still incomplete Westquarter was let:

“To be set, and entered to immediately, the Mansion-house, Garden, and Office of WEST-QUARTER, sometime called EDINBELLY, lying in the parish of Pollmont and county of Stirling.  On the ground floor of the mansion house are two large kitchens with oven and stoves, a large parlour, housekeeper’s room, larder, and pantry adjoining, a butler’s room, pantry, and two cellars, maid-servants room, milk-house, and servant’s hall; On the first floor, a large dining-room, drawing-room, and eight bed-chambers, with closets: On the second floor, seven bed-chambers, with closets; and above, large commodious garrets.  The offices are a stable for twelve horses, with hay lofts, a barn, byre, and coach-house for three carriages; a brew-house, oven, and larder, a slaughter-house, hen-house, and swines court, a wash-house, and pigeon-house.  The house is most agreeably situated, having a view of the frith of Forth and country upon the banks thereof, and is within a mile and a half of Falkirk, where there is a good market.

The house is fit to accommodate one, two, or three families, and will be let either in whole or different apartments, and with the house and offices will be set from 20 to 60 acres of ground, inclosed and subdivided and fencible…

A servant in the house will show the whole premises at any time when desired.

As the inside of the house is at present in bad repair, any person inclining to take the whole or part, are desired to condescend upon the repairs necessary, and which they would incline, will have it in their option, either to make the repairs themselves, or they will be made by the proprietor, according as they are agreed to.

(Caledonian Mercury 30 October 1773, 4).

A comparative study of the careers of Thomas and Thurstanus makes interesting reading and will be dealt with elsewhere.  Their father, Sir Alexander Livingstone, died in April 1795 and was buried in the family plot at Polmont Churchyard.  Captain Thomas Livingstone inherited the titles and estates but was still on active service and so for the moment the House continued to be let:

“To be let.  The House at WESTQUARTER, with any part of about fifteen acres of ground, and a good garden, pigeon-house, & c.  The House will accommodate a large family, is most pleasantly situated within a mile and a half of the town of Falkirk, near the road to Edinburgh.  There is a gardener kept by the proprietor, who will keep the garden, shrubbery, and walks in order…  The Gardener will show the House, & c.”

(Caledonian Mercury 2 February 1797, 1).

One of the first tasks was to restock the walled garden as indicated in this letter from James Wardrope to William Forbes of Callendar on 1 October 1796:

I beg leave to request you will be so obliging as order your Gardiner to give for your Neighbour Sir Thomas Livingstone a few plants of Strawberries, Artichokes, and Raspberries, which are generally to spare this season – We will also in a short time request further a few cuttings of Gooseberry and Currant bushes. I hope you will excuse this freedom on behalf of Sir Thomas whose garden requires to be stocked anew

(Falkirk Archives, GD 171/589/22).

In 1803 Sir Thomas Livingstone was given the keepership of the Palace of Linlithgow and the Castle of Blackness – both formerly hereditary titles of the Earls of Linlithgow which came with good financial benefits.  He also continued the family’s claim on that Earldom as well.  He was now viewed as the heir and representative of the Livingstone name, the chief of the family, and when the south aisle of Falkirk Parish Church was demolished a 15th century ceiling boss bearing the family’s coat-of-arms found its way to Westquarter where it was built into the garden wall.

Other stones were amassed at Westquarter and in 1844 it was noted that :

There are several remains of antiquity built into the walls that deserve a notice; such as the fount for the holy water from Linlithgow cathedral; and ancient coat of the Livingstone arms from the south aisle of Falkirk  monastery; the original arms, in fine preservation, of the noble house of Linlithgow and Callendar, once over the grand entrance of the latter mansion; a very old arms of the Kilsyth branch of the family, & c

(Stirling Observer 4 July 1844). 

The font was what is known as the Barley Stone and is now built into the entrance gateway at an old people’s home that occupies the old walled garden.  The ceiling boss has been returned to the church in Falkirk.  The stone purporting to come from Callendar House is discussed in Bailey 1992 and along with the coat-of-arms from Kilsyth is in Falkirk Museum.  As an aside it is interesting to note that in 1685 William Livingstone of Kilsyth and James Livingstone of Westquarter had been appointed commissioners for Stirlingshire.

Illus 13: The Coat-of-Arms from Kilsyth Castle.

Sir Thomas was able to use his small fortune to restore Westquarter House and add lands to the estate.  Around 1802 he acquired Over Quarter – being one of the other quarters of Redding.  This quarter stretched south to the common muir and was divided from it by the Muir Dyke.  The eastern part subsequently became known as Over Westquarter and then simply as Overton.  The western part had been known as Culloch Burn (sometimes as Coalhaugh Burn) and this had previously become Knowehead of Westquarter.  Colloch Burn had been taken into cultivation at the beginning of the 17th century.  This appears to have been done by dividing it into strips and leasing them out to tenants.  For this reason the southern part of it was also known as Newlands and in the mid 19th century Wester Newlands Farm was built for Westquarter estate.  Sir Thomas recouped some of the money that he had paid out for Over Quarter when, in 1818, the Union Canal was constructed through the area.  As well as paying for the land used for the inland navigation, the presence of the canal increased the value of the land in its neighbourhood by opening up markets in Edinburgh and reducing the costs of material brought in.

In 1830 he was promoted to Vice-Admiral and eight years later to Admiral.  In the walled garden at Westquarter was a verdant knoll, crowned with a tree-shaded summer seat.  This knoll ran along its centre from east to west and was part of the famous esker that stretched from Callendar Park to Redding.  Sir Thomas Livingstone proudly called that section in his walled garden “My Quarterdeck,” as he strutted from stern to stern of the cool and close-shaven sward (Gillespie 1868).  The house contained some ancient arms, skull-caps, coats of mail, and some stern-looking pictures of the old barons (some with attached inscriptions given below in inverted commas):

  • Oil portrait. Sir Alexander Livingstone Bart (“led the ‘Forlorn Hope,’ and carried the colours at Quebec in 1759.”)
  • Oil painting, George, Third Earl of Linlithgow (“Lord Justice General of Scotland”).
  • Oil painting. Admiral Sir Thomas Livingstone, Bart. (of that ilk, of Westquarter and Bedlormie, heir male and representative of the attainted Earls of Linlithgow and Callendar.”)
  • Oil painting, Viscount Kilsyth, Portrait of Lady Livingstone.
  • Portrait of the Right Hon. Henry Fox.
  • Portrait of Sir James Livingstone.
  • Oil portraits of Dr and Mrs Wardrope.
  • Portrait of Lady Anne Livingstone, Countess of Kilmarnock (“the only surviving child of James, fourth Earl of Linlithgow,”)
  • Portrait of Alexander Livingstone, fifth Earl of Linlithgow.
  • Portrait of Sir William Livingstone of Westquarter.
  • Portrait of Mrs Atkinson, Sir Thomas Livingstone’s grandmother.
  • Portrait of Sir William Livingstone, Bart. of Westquarter.
  • Portrait of Sir Gilbert Stirling, Bart. (“Lady Livingstone’s brother”).
  • Alexander Small Livingstone (founder of the American branch of Livingstones).
  • Alexander, Second Earl of Callendar (“Lord High Admiral of Scotland”).

One of the most interesting items of furniture in the house was a large antique cabinet, the doors of which were enriched with various flowers traced in beadwork, which is said to have belonged to Queen Mary, and to have been the united work of her four Maries (Falkirk Herald 21 July 1870).

The grounds were now well maintained and a visitor in 1844 described them:

There is, on looking out from the north door, a very pretty vista, and through the trees is seen in the distance, Westquarter linn pouring its waters over the rock.  We need merely remark that there is much here to gratify the reminiscences of the worthy baronet who is the lineal descendent of the powerful families of whose honours he is the admitted claimant.  The two acres of which the garden consists exhibit everything in capital cultivation.  The herbaceous plants are a good collection.  The roses comprise some of great beauty and excellent growth.  The fruits and vegetables are managed with much skill and success; and James Cleland, who has been upwards of fifteen years the gardener, deserves a premium

(Stirling Observer 4 July 1844).

Writing in the early 1860s Gillespie also gives us an account:

The garden, though perhaps nothing beyond ordinary in its floral character, possesses several interesting memorials of the “buried past;” and the ground itself – part of a fine esker, hereafter to be noted – is somewhat artistically laid out.  But the great charm of Westquarter is its lovely glen, situated immediately west of the garden. The chief cascades are “The Lanton Linn” and “the Lady’s Linn;” and although these falls but rarely display themselves with that foaming fury common to the “torture-riven chasm,” there is still an impressive grandeur in the leap of the brawling burn over the rifted rocks, and the hollow rumble of its waters in the raving gorge. Spanning the swirling stream at scenic points which only such an eye as Mr Clelland’s could have selected, are a couple of rustic bridges constructed of natural larch, minus the bark; and from these elevated platforms a glorious view is got of the thickly-wooded dell and its linns of surpassing beauty. Here, too, in the very heart of brushwood and brackens, are a splendid assortment of ferns.

(Gillespie 1868).
Illus 14: The Lady’s Linn, Westquarter, c1910.

During Sir Thomas’ absence the wild rabbits on the eastern extremity of the estate of Westquarter had increased to an extraordinary degree, and this came to a head in 1828 with complaints from numerous farmers in the neighbourhood, whose crops severely suffered.  They were thinned by the gamekeeper and the odd sportsman.  Natural predators had also increased and in one week no fewer than five fine specimens of stoat or ermine were shot near the Mumrills Bridge by a Laurieston man.  One was in the act of seizing a rabbit and both were killed by the same shot (Caledonian Mercury 12 July 1828, 5).  In common with many of the landed estates around, most of the fields in the vicinity of Westquarter House were let to fleshers for stock feeding, and therefore, in a way, certain of the Bairns had free pass on the estate and glen to fetch sheep or cattle to the killing houses.

Rabbits in the fields and salmon in the burn attracted poachers.  In April 1847 Robert Christie, butler to Sir Thomas Livingstone of Westquarter, Baronet, was charged with discharging loaded fire-arms upon the lands of Westquarter, and wickedly and feloniously attacking and assaulting William Chalmers, slater and miner in Laurieston.  Chalmers was shot in the right thigh whilst attempting to spear a fish.  Daniel McKenzie, footman to Sir Thomas Livingstone claimed otherwise and Sir Thomas spoke to Christie’s character.  It says much for the court that Christie was sentenced to two month imprisonment.  Three months later he was granted a game certificate!

Some of the employees had a more artistic bent and in 1844 Jane Anderson, lodge-keeper at Westquarter, published a volume of homely rhymes entitled “Fugitive Pieces.”  This was several decades before Christina Macdonald, another working class woman, a housemaid at Herbertshire Castle, wrote her book entitled “Musings at Eventide” containing 150 pieces.

From 1812 Sir Thomas was able to spend long periods at Westquarter House and took a keen interest in local affairs.  That year he attended meetings of the Falkirk Florist and Vegetable Society and was one of the stewards at the Stirling Races.  He also became a council member of the Linlithgow and Stirlingshire Hunt, whose kennels were on his property.  He kept in touch with many of his old comrades and was a member of the Pitt Club of Scotland.  His house was always available for visitors from his military connections.  Some stayed for lengthy periods and on 4 June 1822 Julia, the third daughter of Colonel Burnet of Gadgirth, Ayrshire, died there.  Two years later, on 12 September 1824, Lady Learmonth of Laurence Park gave birth to a daughter at Westquarter House.  In October 1851 Admiral Sir Charles Napier stayed with Sir Thomas at Westquarter – two of the most famous men in the land and a sign that the two families were reconciled.  Admiral Napier had been born at Merchiston House in 1786 and had served aboard the Mediator and Renommie frigates when they had been commanded by Sir Thomas. Captain William Buchanan served as the estate factor.  He lived at Graham’s Road and was one of the last survivors of that band of naval heroes who fought under Nelson at Trafalgar.  Captain John Cheape of Girgenti, Stewarton usually spent Christmas with Thomas Livingstone.

The estate at this time was quite extensive and its northern boundary corresponded more or less with Polmont Road.  When, in 1834, a Roman gravestone was found on the south side of that road opposite to the Sandy Loan it was presented to the National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh by Sir Thomas.

In 1848 the Stirlingshire Midland Railway cut through the Westquarter estate on its path from Polmont Station to Grahamston Station.  The heaviest part of the work consisted of a deep cutting through a hill near Westquarter composed principally of hard blue till.  The hard-working team of labourers dug this out by hand and wheeled it to the north of Callendar Park where it was used to form an embankment. Towards the north end of the cutting, almost immediately to the south of Westquarter House, they encountered bedrock.  Upon examination this was found to be good quality blonde sandstone and was used to build the bridges and station buildings on the line.  The land purchase for the railway and the stone extraction contributed to the estate coffers.  The quarry was subsequently let to tenants for house building.

Admiral of the White, Sir Thomas Livingstone, died on 1 April 1853 and the direct legitimate line of the Ogleface Livingstones ceased.  More lawsuits followed.  Sir Thomas was well aware that there might be a problem with the line of succession and set up a trust to disperse his wealth to his sister’s family.  He named his great nephew Thomas Fenton Livingstone as his heir to the estates if he assumed the additional surname of Livingstone – meaning that he became Thomas Livingstone Fenton Livingstone!  His right to succeed was challenged by Alexander Livingstone, the eldest son of Sir Thomas’s younger brother Thurstanus.  The protracted legal dispute is well covered in Burke’s “Vicissitudes of Families” and so will not be gone into here.  It was found that Alexander, whilst being a legitimate son in England, was considered illegitimate in Scotland and so the case failed.  It was 1861 before the final verdict was given and Thomas Livingston Fenton Livingston was left in undisturbed possession of Bedlormie and Westquarter.  The legal costs had been high, but the estate was in good condition and the trust that Sir Thomas had set up were diligent.  Sir Thomas had distributed his money amongst T L Fenton Livingstone and his two sons so that it would not be frittered away.  T L Fenton Livingstone, however, seems to have lived beyond his means and in 1854 had a schooner-rigged yacht of 20 tons register named Ptarmigan.  In April 1855 he married Christian Margaret Waddell, only daughter of William Waddell of Easter Moffat, Lanarkshire, and this increased the finances.  Their first son, John, was born at Westquarter in 1859 and the future of the family seemed to be secure.  Bedlormie was considered to be surplus to requirements and being burdened was sold in 1873.

Westquarter House was put up for rent, emphasis being placed on the convenience of rail transport in the hope of attracting industrialists and businessmen from Edinburgh or Glasgow:

STIRLINGSHIRE. To be Let. Furnished, for such term of years as may be agreed upon, with Entry at Whitsunday 1856, The MANSION-HOUSE OF WESTQUARTER, with large Garden and good Offices,—also, the exclusive Right of Shooting over the Estate.

The House is handsomely Furnished and in every respect well adapted for the accommodation of a large family.

The park and Policies are extensive, and command beautiful views of the adjoining country and opposite shores of the Firth of Forth.  The house is within three-quarters of a mile of Polmont Station, at which there are constant trains for Edinburgh, Glasgow, and the north.

Distance from Edinburgh 22, and from Falkirk 2 miles, at which latter town there are excellent markets…”

(Falkirk Herald 31 January 1856).

The shooting of hare, pheasant, and partridge was over between 400 and 500 acres and the lease of the house was taken by James Moncrieff, the Lord Advocate.  In the 1860s it was the McLeods.  Improvements were made to the house in 1874 and the rent for it, the office, the large garden and 14 acres of grass was increased to £400 per annum, the owner being responsible for the upkeep of the place. 

February 1856 witnessed a dreadful storm which caused considerable damage throughout the district and upwards of seventy trees in the policies at Westquarter were destroyed, many of them magnificent specimens.  As well as decorating the grounds, the trees were still a valuable crop and the timber was sold.  Falkirk had a long tradition of celebrating coronations and other important events by weaving branches of evergreen into arches or designs to be hung from windows.  In 1866 the marriage of the owner of Falkirk Ironworks was celebrated in this way, the material being derived from Westquarter.   Trees were not the only interesting botanical specimens on the estate and a visit that year revealed

On the banks of a small pond, a few yards in circumference, in the Westquarter policies… the following plants—Polygomium, Aviculare, Spargonium ramosum, Gallium verum, G. cruciata, G. pulustre, G. uliginosum, Stellera uliginosa, Commarum pulustre, Ajuga repens v. rubra, Lysimachia thyrsiflora, Menyanthus trifoliate, Hydrocotyle vulgaris, Ranunculus flanula, Juncus bifornicus, and Iris pseuducorus.  Some of these plants are common to most localities in Scotland, a number are somewhat rare; but what struck us was the wonderful richness of that small spot in plants, many of which are peculiarly interesting to the student of our indigenous flora.”

(Falkirk Herald 4 September 1856). 

The policy fields were put on a five-year rotation and as well as leasing the grazing, crops of potatoes and oats were auctioned annually.

1770Alexander Livingstone (nephew)1795
1795Thomas Livingstone (son)      1853
1806William Symington
1853Thomas Livingstone Fenton Livingstone        1891

Outwardly TL Fenton Livingstone became a pillar of the local community.  In 1860 he subscribed to the Falkirk Rifle Corps and become an honorary member.  He presented the Redding & Westquarter Curling Club with a solid silver cup in 1872.  He was also very agreeable to granting permission for select groups to enter the grounds of Westquarter estate by prior arrangement.  In July 1871, for example, the Falkirk Congregational Church Sabbath School and the Callendar Riggs Day School, to the number of 350, marched to Westquarter where they saw the grounds, played sports in one of the fields and then tucked into the buns, tarts and other treats supplied by several benefactors.

Robert Cleland had been the gardener for Sir Thomas and now served as factor or overseer until his death in 1878.  He was tasked with deriving revenue from the estate to help the family finances.  Agricultural rents were paid.  Sand, clay and gravel sold from the estate fed the housing boom and land was feued for villas near the station.  The Kennels were rented out.  In the early 1870s the brickfield beside the Union Canal had been taken over by the Westquarter Chemical Works (later to become part of Nobel’s Explosives Co).  Ironstone and more coal were found on Westquarter estate and were exploited. 

In May 1883 authority was granted by the Court of Session to T L. Fenton Livingstone to disentail the estate of Westquarter.  This meant that he or his heirs could legally sell it without having to pass it on to a family member.  It seems to have been the beginning of the process of doing just that.  The next step was to upgrade the dwelling to make the property more attractive.  It was decided to demolish the existing mansion house and to build a new one in a modern fashion with all the conveniences of the age.  Work began that year and in July 1883 the builders, J & A Reid, advertised for stone hewers at an hourly rate of 7d.  The house was considered to be an elegant specimen of the Scottish Baronial style of architecture.  The plans were prepared by Allan Carter, the well-known Edinburgh artist and architect (he co-designed the 1890 Edinburgh International Exhibition).  Presumably the stone came from the quarry on the estate.

Illus 15: Westquarter House looking south-west, c1910.

At the north-east corner of the new building was a battlemented four-storey tower with clasped turrets at each corner, that at the north-east angle extending to the floor below and containing the stair.  The tower acted as a viewing platform overlooking the picturesque grounds.  It also contained the grand stair, lighted by a three-light window on the east side between the second and third floors.  Below and above this, in moulded frames, were inset the armorial panels from Kilsyth and Callendar which had previously been in the walled garden.  Moulded stringcourses stepped around the panels to emphasise their importance.  These courses also continued around the north side and stepped over the windows.  The main façade still faced north.  Stepped back from the tower was the main entrance with a Romanesque arch highlighted by a heavy moulded surround. 

Above the stout, studded, timber door the tympanum was occupied by stained glass with a geometric pattern.  Beyond the recessed door bay was a three-storey block of four bays with a canted bay window occupying the first two storeys in the centre.  This block was also crenellated with corner bartizans.  Another backset two-storey bay to the west ended in a large round tower of the same height capped by a pepperpot roof.

The east façade was just as long and the tower was counterbalanced by a three storey gable block, also provided with a bartizan on its southern or outer corner.  Here too there was a two-storey canted bay window in the central recessed four-bay block.

Illus 16: 1897 Ordnance Survey Map (National Library of Scotland).

The house was large and contained six public rooms, ten bedrooms, four dressing rooms and ample lavatory, kitchen, and servants’ accommodation.  The kitchen, servants’ hall and smoking room were on the ground floor; with the dining room, drawing room and boudoir, billiard room, library and hall, on the first floor and bedrooms above.  Water was fed by gravitation into the house and gas was manufactured on the premises for the lighting.

The squat tower at the north-west corner of the building was echoed by one on the south-west corner and by two more either side of a recessed courtyard.  The west façade thus presented a castellated appearance to visitors who entered from the west gate following the well-engineered drive overlooking the wooded Westquarter Burn, across a bridge over a side valley, and around the north-west corner of the House to emerge into the sunlight onto a large open gravelled forecourt.  In this west façade were set the stones from Falkirk Parish Church and Linlithgow Palace.

On the other side of the forecourt from the house was a three-tiered water fountain set in a circular pond, replacing one of the earlier flag staffs – the upwardly diminishing fluted bowls made of clay.

Illus 18: The North Façade of Westquarter House, c1920.
Illus 17: Water Fountain looking east.

The house had been built at the desire of T L Fenton Livingston against the better judgment of his sons.  Eventually he persuaded them to pool their resources – each having been left sums of money by Sir Thomas’s trustees.  George, the younger son, was particularly loath to contribute as he considered the whole project to be an attempt to aggrandise the family so that their prospects of good marriages would be enhanced.  Obviously this would benefit the eldest son, John, the most.  It was agreed that the cost of the house would not exceed £10,000, but when completed the bill came to about £14,000.  In 1891 John inherited his father’s debts and this almost entirely absorbed the sum of £26,000 which he had been left.  The vanity project of the new house had bad consequences for the family and ultimately for the estate.

Illus 19: Westquarter House looking north from the Walled Garden

Inside the house was very well appointed with magnificent fire surrounds, timber panelling, mosaic floors and elegant plasterwork – owing much to Allan Carter.

Illus 20:

(a) above – Dining room;

(b) right – Drawing room.

The stable block and offices remained much as they were before 1883.  Their crow-stepped gables and the scalloped top of the doocot presenting complementary styles.  The five-roomed coachman’s house was in the stable yard.  The lower of the two roads to the north-east leading to Parkend now became the main one.  The upper road bifurcated on approaching the house and steps were placed on the direct line.

Illus 21: Looking south-east from Westquarter House towards the Stables and Doocot.
Illus 22: The East Lodge on Polmont Road.

Westquarter House was surrounded by the Policy grounds and we have the names of some of the enclosures.  These included Pigeon Park, Haugh Field, Policy Park, Carhowdenfields, Langton Laigh Park, Pathpark, South Park, North Park, Darnpier Park, Laigh Park and Dashwood Park.

1828Robert Cleland1878
1878Donald McIntosh1900
1900John Dewar1925
1925Mrs. Dewar
1930Mr Thomas McKenzie

T L Fenton Livingstone died at his wife’s property of Easter Moffat, Lanarkshire, on 18 December 1891.  He never lived in the house at Westquarter which he had caused to be so extravagantly erected.  Since its completion it was let out to tenants for around £400 a year.  Westquarter was left to his son,  John Fenton Livingstone.  After completing his education at Fettes College John had joined the Stirlingshire Militia (then known as the Highland Borderers) in 1875 as a lieutenant.  In 1879 he went with his regiment to India, and served there till 1881.  He passed through the Egyptian war and then went to America as a civilian.  At the time of his father’s death Captain John Fenton Livingstone was living in America.  There he had a medium-sized farm and on 14 February 1892 married Emma McDougall in New York.  He sold up the farm and returned to Scotland living with his wife’s mother in Stafford Street, Edinburgh, between 1893 and June 1895 to save money.  At that latter date they went to a cottage on the Westquarter estate, probably Woodpark Cottage at the east end of Main Street.  By agreement with Robert Orr the couple were able to use Westquarter House in the winter months and to help with the finances her mother and one of his relations, Livingstone Clark, stayed with them as paying guests. 

The summer tenant, Robert Orr of Scottish Tar Distillers (who later bought Kinnaird House), was happy to allow the use of the grounds by appropriate groups and the Laurieston Brass Band was one of the main beneficiaries, holding many a concert there to raise funds.  He was a Liberal and in the summer of 1896 held a garden party at Westquarter for over 500 guests.  The glen and grass parks were much visited by the public.

Illus 23: The Laurieston & Westquarter Brass Band in front of Westquarter House in their dress uniforms.  Captain Fenton Livingstone stands behind the Table of Trophies.

Captain John Fenton Livingstone continued his father’s community work.  He became a County Councillor, a member of the Eastern District of the Stirlingshire Agricultural Association, and of the Laurieston School Board.  In 1895 he and his wife started to spend the winter months at Westquarter House and on that first occasion they were greeted by the tenantry, feuars, employees and tradesmen of the estate and presented with gifts – a silver dining room lamp for her and a walking stick for him.  The following Christmas they were resident when the servants held their annual supper and dance.  This centred on the kitchen at the house and the Fenton Livingstones gave them the use of the entire lower flat.  Dancing took place in the kitchen, light refreshments in the servants’ hall, and dominoes and draughts in the smoking room.  Like Robert Orr, John Fenton Livingstone supported the Laurieston Band, donating the odd instrument to it.  Partly in honour of this the band changed its name to the Laurieston and Westquarter Band in 1896 and two years later he provided them with dress uniforms.  In 1897 John Fenton Livingstone made the magnificent gift of a bell for the Steeple in Falkirk – in memory of his forefather the Earl of Linlithgow and Callendar who had donated a bell two hundred years earlier.

In 1899 John Fenton Livingstone was installed as a Mason at the Falkirk Lodge.  He and his wife were spending the summers at 30 Stafford Street in Edinburgh and that year their daughter was born there.

The estate farms at Overton, Wester Newlands, Langton and Meadow Bank continued to operate.  There was now much coal extraction on the southern edge of the estate, the lease being held by James Nimmo and Co.  The clay was still worked for bricks, sand and gravel continued to be worked on a small scale, but the stone quarry was little used.  It was used for two semi-detached villas on the estate beside the Redding Road which were then either let or sold.  Feus were offered at attractive rates.  There were, however, continued financial problems and John Fenton Livingstone was often in the law courts.  He tried to prevent his brother from taking possession of the Easter Moffat property, and his mother deriving the life-rent from it which she was due.

Captain John Fenton Livingstone was still on the reserve army list in 1899 when the war in South Africa suddenly erupted into a major campaign.  He was called up at short notice and in November set sail to join his regiment, the Royal Highlanders (Black Watch).  He was soon engaged in the fighting and in 1900 caught enteric fever but made a full recovery.  He was transferred to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.  After the taking of Standerton, he was made commandant of the Standerton district in the Transvaal, and subsequently was Administrator of the whole of the Aliwal (North) districts on the Orange River.  After peace was declared he served on the Compensation Commission at Cape Town.  He returned on 1 October 1903 and the following year was promoted to Honorary Major.  He brought back with him many souvenirs to add to the historic collection already in the house.

On his return he found that whilst he had been away his wife, Emma MacDougall, had moved in with a wealthy stockbroker in Edinburgh and had accumulated large debts.  Expensive law suits ensued.  In these divorce procedures it was revealed that Major Livingstone had fathered a daughter with one of the household servants.

In December 1906 John Fenton Livingstone resigned his commission in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and was granted permission to retain his rank.  When Captain Fenton Livingstone had set off for South Africa it had been assumed that he would soon be back, but as the war dragged on and he was given administrative roles he was forced to surrender his seat on the County Council.  Now it seemed as though things would return to normal.  In August 1907 the first annual exhibition of the Laurieston & Westquarter Horticultural Society was held in the grounds of Westquarter.  The shrubs around the House were maturing and were kept in particularly good trim, presenting a magnificent appearance.  In July the following year the Laurieston & Westquarter Band organised a Grand Highland Dancing competition there.  Major Fenton Livingstone was the honorary president of the Laurieston & Westquarter Brass Band, the Laurieston Flower Show, the Reading and Recreation Clubs, and of the Westquarter Cricket Club.  He was one of the founders of the Westquarter Bowling Club, which played on a green which he himself had laid out within his own policy grounds.  He was President of the Redding and Westquarter Curling Club and played for it.  He was also president of the Falkirk and District Old Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Association in which he took a deep interest. 

Even before leaving for South Africa Major Fenton Livingstone had been in financial difficulty and in 1909 he was declared bankrupt and the estate was sequestered.  Frederick Carter, CA, Edinburgh, was appointed as the trustee and the estate was put on the market with sale set for 29 September.  At the time the estate extended to 360 acres of arable, about 62 acres of plantations, roads, walks and houses, and the superiority of 28 acres which had recently been feued for the erection of villas.  Valuable superiorities of property in the centre of Falkirk were included in the sale.  The two acre garden for the mansion was still very productive and included green houses and the nearby gardener’s house known as Croft Cottage.

Mansion House, offices, policies, gardens, etc– – – £200.0.0
Part of Policy Park, Holequarter & CarhowdenfieldsJohn Gentles£120.15.0
Langton Laigh Park & PathparkThomas Bayne£152.4.9
Knowehead, Redding Square, & OvertonJames Aitken£157.16.0
South Park & North Park£11.0.0
Cullochburn & NewlandsJames Aitken£50.0.0
Darnpier Park & sandpitRobert Morris£10.0.0
Sandpit, East Lodge (Dashwood Park)John D Maxwell£40.0.0
Croft CottageDonald McDonald£20.0.0
Woodpark CottageJohn Farquhar£30.0.0
8 houses, garden ground at Kennels£52.10.0
Houses, garden  ground at BurnsideRobert Stewart£20.00
Knowehead BuildingsHenry Wilson£22.10.0
5 houses, Hillhead£34.10.0
6 houses, garden ground at Redding£52.16.6
East LodgeMatthew Steel£4.0.0

For about a decade queens had been crowned at Westquarter estate – the gala day queens for Laurieston, for Redding and for Polmont Old Parish.  Each day attracted a thousand or so spectators in favourable weather.  In 1909 the Polmont Children’s Festival had to find an alternative venue.  Although representatives of several prominent members of the nobility inspected Westquarter it found no buyer at the upset price of £30,000.  To raise funds for the creditors the furniture was sold in November.  The listing gives a good indication of the manner in which the house had been furnished and is worthwhile reproducing here:

“DINING-ROOM.  Richly carved oak pedestal sideboard with mirror back and cabinet enclosed by two doors, telescope dining table, sarcophagus, ten single and two arm chairs in leather, corrivellum draught screen, mantelpiece clock, Axminster carpet, skin rugs, tapestry curtains, etc.

DRAWING-ROOM AND BOUDOIR.  Choice Pietra Dura ivory inlaid and Chinese black wood cabinets and Thermes, French Buhl and parqueterie inlaid writing tables and jardinières, two fine mahogany inlaid turnover tea tables, mahogany suite in Genoa velvet, sofas, settees, easy and occasional chairs in tapestry and silk, fine-toned grand pianoforte (by Kirkman) in Walnut case, Buhl and Ormolu clock, French and Japanese china vases and plaques, gilt wall brackets, venetian and Girandole mirrors, ormolu candelabra, Axminster carpets, bearskin rugs, chenille curtains, etc.

BILLIARD ROOM.  Oak full-sized table, by Gray and Co, Edinburgh, and appurtenances; settee in tapestry, platform, carved oak chairs in crimson plush, side tables, venetian mirror, etc.

LIBRARY AND HALL.  Carved oak cabinet and dwarf bookcases, pedestal writing and central tables, couch, arm and single chairs in Morocco and plush, draught screens, standard lamp, fine old eight-day clocks, by Cowan, Edinburgh, in mahogany and elmroot cases; Canton gong, hat and umbrella stand, hall chairs, barometers.

The BEDROOMS are furnished with mahogany, walnut, pollard oak, and ash suites, comprising one, tow, and three-doored wardrobes with mirror panel doors, pedestal ad knee hole dressing tables, chests drawers, and washstands; also single wardrobes, chests drawers, boot cabinets, writing tables, couches, easy chairs, gentleman’s wardrobe, brass and brass and iron beds and excellent bedding, and other usual bedroom requisites.

The MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS include oil paintings by Duncan Cameron RSA; Charles Leslie, and others; prints, bronzes, oriental vases and figures; dinner, dessert, and tea services; crystal, furnishings of servants’ apartments, kitchen and laundry utensils, gas fittings, blinds, etc.”

(Falkirk Herald 27 November 1909, 4).

Queen Mary’s cabinet had already been sold off.  The family portraits passed into the possession of Mrs Lawrence Timpson, nee Livingstone, of Woodstock House, Oxfordshire.  Later that month Westquarter estate was bought by private bargain by James Nimmo.  He was the senior partner and chairman of James Nimmo and Co Ltd, coalmasters, Glasgow.  70 years of age, he had been born in Airdrie, the son of a mining contractor.  At the age of 17 he had gone to Drumclair Colliery near Slamannan to learn the business and eventually came to own that colliery.  Over the years he acquired more and at the time of his purchase of Westquarter he owned 50 collieries employing about 3,000 workers.

1889Robert Orr1897
1891John Nigel Edensor Fenton Livingstone (son)1909
1909James Nimmo (purchase)1912
1912Mrs Nimmo (wife)      1918
1918Cyril Herbert Dunderdale       1920
1922Adam Nimmo (son)    1928
1923James Adam   1925
1928Westquarter Estates Co (Ltd)

The Polmont Parish Children’s Day returned to Westquarter estate in June 1910.  A few weeks later Mr and Mrs Nimmo celebrated their golden wedding and held a couple of garden parties at the house with several hundred guests.  The house was modernised.  A turbine was installed in the Westquarter Burn for generating electricity and electric lighting put in.   The work was probably overseen by John Scotland, architect, Airdrie, who is known to have been responsible for decorative work there around this time.

Nimmo died on 18 October 1912.  Mrs Nimmo continued to live in Westquarter House together with her daughters – Miss Nimmo and Mrs Yuille (wife of Rev George Yuille of Stirling Baptist Church).  These two ladies continued the charitable work which increased considerably during the First World War.  In June 1916 a company of wounded soldiers from Bangour Hospital were entertained at Westquarter House and the Wallacestone Pipe Band played.  Miss Nimmo left in May 1917 to serve in a YMCA hut abroad.

Illus 24: The 1923 Polmont Parish Children’s Day at Westquarter.

In 1918 Cyril Dunderdale took a longterm lease of Westquarter House and continued to allow the Children’s Day to take place.  Dunderdale had been educated nearby at Blairlodge School and was the manager in Scotland for the Norwich Union Assuance Company.  A keen Baptist, he supported the local community and was instrumental in the opening of a red triangle hut (YMCA) in the park at Laurieston.  He died unexpectedly on 29 September 1920 at the age of 60.  It was 1923 before the Children’s Day returned to Westquarter.

1923 also saw the lease of the House taken by Sir James Adam, K.C.  He must have thought that he had made a mistake when that September the house was entered during the night and three pieces of antique silver removed.  The thief had entered by an unsnibbed window on the ground floor and then helped himself to food.  He filled a basket of groceries and carried on eating when he made his way up the stairs to the drawing room.  Here he found the silver and abandoned the basket.  When the police arrived the next morning they found the abandoned food and noted that a butter roll had teeth marks on it.  Calling in suspected criminals known to be in the area they matched the tooth prints to John Swanson from Midlothian!  In exchange for a more lenient sentence he directed them to the silver buried in a nearby field.

Lady Adam served the usual role of opening fetes and the like.  She was also heavily involved with the Falkirk Girl Guides, but in 1925 she and her husband moved abroad and Westquarter House was put up for sale.  Adam Nimmo continued to grant the use of the grounds for fetes and children’s days.  Some of these were in aid of the hospital in Falkirk and John Doak and his pupils featured with dancing displays.  Fashion shows were very much a part of these events, that in 1928 taking a historical theme.

Illus 25: Fashion Show of Dresses worn over 100 years
(Falkirk Herald 6 June 1928, 16).

For several years the scenic beauty of the Westquarter Glen had been marred by sewage brought down the stream from Shieldhill and Redding.  A treatment plant was installed by the County Council to the west of Westquarter Bridge, but it was only in 1930 that the addition of new filters made this properly effective.

In June 1928 the Westquarter Estates Company (Ltd) was registered as a joint-stock company with the purpose of acquiring the assets of the trust estates of the late James Nimmo.  It had a capital of £18,000 in £1 shares and an arrangement was soon confirmed.  The private company was still amenable to the holding of events at Westquarter – in fact it was still Sir Adam Nimmo.  The biggest and best known of these was the Falkirk Historical Pageant held on 11, 15 and 18 June 1932.  This extravaganza was staged by the Falkirk, Grangemouth and East Stirlingshire Publicity and Development Association.  The location was ideal, as the official souvenir guidebook says:

Amid beautiful foliage, half-circled by a sloping bank which forms a natural grandstand, the spot forms a great open-air theatre as large as the Roman arenas of old and far surpassing them in scenic liveliness.”

Illus 26: The Vestal Virgins in the marshalling field looking south.

George Eyre-Todd, a well known Scottish writer, wrote the script for the “Story of Falkirk” in four episodes – The Roman Wall, The Battle of Camelon, The Lords of Callendar, and Falkirk Fair in Olden Time.  These paid lip service to real history.  The cast of hundreds was just that – actually 1,500 in all.  The costumes were glamorous and the well-publicised event was blest with good weather.  It was a roaring success and attracted 30,000 spectators, setting the benchmark for similar events across the country.

A grandstand was set up in the field to the east of Westquarter House (just south of where Oak Bank is now).  The next field to the east was used as a marshalling ground and that to the north (now Beech Crescent) served as a car park.

Illus 27: The Conductor at the Westquarter Pageant leading the singing of the National Anthem in the Performace Park with the audience on the hill slope in the foreground, looking north.

The estate had been nibbled at by the continual feuing of the land.  This now accelerated.  In May 1933 the County Council came to an agreement to feu ground at the Hillock beside Redding for 24 houses.  Henry Wilson was the architect for the scheme.  The following year his name was on the advertisement that spelled the death knell for Westquarter House:

“For sale, to be demolished, Westquarter House, in the parish of Grangemouth and County of Stirling, about 1 ½ miles from Polmont Station and 2 miles from Falkirk.  The House, which is a substantially-built stone structure, was erected in 1884.  Offers are invited-

  1. For the whole structure, including stone and brickwork, and material therein.
  2. Or separately for (a) slates, (b) plumbing and hot water installation; (c) oak panelling and oak joinery work; (d) other joiner work and fitments; (c) carpentry work; (f) marble mantelpiece and all tile grates and slate shelves; (g) plate and leaded glass; (h) stone and brickwork of whole building.

For specifications and conditions, apply to Mr Henry Wilson, architect, Grangemouth, who will arrange to meet intending Offerers at Westquarter House on Monday, 23rd April at 11.30 a.m., and to whom applications are to be made. The highest or any offer may not be accepted.

Offers to be lodged with Subscriber not later than Tuesday, 1st May, marked on the outside “Tender for Westquarter House.”

(Falkirk Herald 7 April 1934).

It was a full two months later that news broke that Stirling County Council had offered £3,000 for 63 acres of the estate which included the house.  The scheme resulted from a report condemning the majority of houses in Standburn and the subsequent need to re-house the residents.  To these were added the occupants of houses in Laurieston also considered unfit for human occupation.  The concept was to retain the rural setting by constructing a model village or colony of over 200 houses of modern design.  From the beginning an infant school and child welfare clinic were planned.  The story of Westquarter village is told elsewhere by David Leask and the Westquarter and Redding Community Project.

The contract for the demolition of Westquarter House was awarded to James Christie of Glasgow.  Under the arrangement he did not receive any payment for the work, but the whole of the materials in the building, other than the stones, bricks, and debris from the walls, would become his property.  Those excluded materials were reserved for the Highways Committee and were presumably used as bottoming for the new roads.  The sinuous lower road from Westquarter House to Parkend was used as the main road through the model village – Westquarter Avenue.  The first part of the upper avenue on the east side of the house was retained as a path.  R Leslie Hunter of the Falkirk Archaeological and Natural History Society managed to persuade the Westquarter Estates Co to donate the two armorial stones to the Dollar Park Museum and the boss from the medieval church in Falkirk was taken to that church.  By the end of the year the building was all but gone, leaving a hole in the life of the local community.  The first sod of the model village was cut in October 1935 with an estimated cost of £190,000 for the first stage.  Messrs Ramsay immediately started work on the first 200 houses.  By the end of 1935 the proposed number had risen to almost 500.

Summary List of the Owners and Tenants (in bold) of Westquarter House:

1548Alexander Livingstone1564
1564William Livingstone (son)       1574
1574Robert Livingstone (brother)   1615
1615Robert Livingstone (son)1620
1620Alexander Livingstone (son)               1626
1627Helenor Livingstone = William Livingstone of Culter(1626)
1630William Livingstone of Culter             1674?
1674James Livingstone (son)         1705?
1705James Livingstone (son)
1706Helen Livingstone (niece)1706
1706James Livingstone (2nd cousin)1728
1728William Drummond (purchase)                      1734
1734Frances Napier (purchase)1756
1760William Livingstone (brother of James)          1769
1770Alexander Livingstone (nephew)1795
1795Thomas Livingstone (son)      1853
1853Thomas Livingstone Fenton Livingstone        1891
1856Moncrieff       1860
1889Robert Orr      1897
1891John Nigel Edensor Fenton Livingstone (son)1909
1909James Nimmo (purchase)1912
1912Mrs Nimmo (wife)      1918
1918Cyril Herbert Dunderdale1920
1922Adam Nimmo (son)    1928
1923James Adam1925
1928Westquarter Estates Co (Ltd) (transfer)1934
1929E. B. Waddell
1934Stirling County Council (purchase)

Retained Features

It is still possible to make out the 18th century park boundaries within the Policy of Westquarter and a number of features, such as the flagstaff roundel survive.  The barley stone was taken out of the garden wall and used in the entrance gateway to a home for the elderly – appropriately called Barleystone.  Much of the outer wall of the walled garden remains and the houses of Garden Terrace are placed just inside the north wall.  At the north-east corner is a ball finial and to the south the wall rises in a graceful curve.  The north wall of the walled garden was rebuilt in 1826 and given a rustic finish where it faced Westquarter House.  The datestone and one bearing the initials “D.J.S” can be seen in this – but what the initials stand for I am not aware.

The Barley Stone
Inscriptions on the North Garden Wall (above and right)
North-east corner of the Walled Garden

Although the lodges have disappeared three sets of gate piers remain and the West Drive is still much as it once was.  The paths through the woodland have been renewed and augmented so that the magnificent scenery can be readily admired.  It is the glen with its waterfalls and the woodland that provide the largest link to the past.

Illus 29: The Westquarter Burn from the west side of the Walled Garden passing under the West Drive and a modern footbridge.

Illus 30: Lady’s Linn.

Sites & Monuments Record

Westquarter House              SMR 791NS 9126 7874
Westquarter House DoocotSMR 55NS 9132 7871


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Burke, B.1863The Vicissitudes of Families
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Gillespie, R.1868Round about Falkirk.
Gillespie, R.1880History of Stirlingshire (2nd ed).
Johnston, A.2015‘Falkirk in 1723,’ Calatria 32, 1-4.
Leask, D.1986Westquarter – the Story of an Estate; from Family Estate to Model Village.
Livingston, E.1920The Livingstons of Callendar and their Principal Cadets.
Reid, J.1997‘The Feudal Divisions of East Stirlingshire: The Barony of Abbotskerse –
Part 2, Estates, Parcels and Portions,’ Calatria 11, 63-88.
Westquarter & Redding Community Project2011Westquarter Memories.

G.B. Bailey, 2022