The name Westquarter first appears in the written record in the mid 16th century when it is described not surprisingly as ‘the fourth part of the lands of Redding commonly called Westquarter.’ It had already been in the possession of the Livingston family for 150 years by then and remained there until the early 20th century.
The family were closely related to the Livingstons of Callendar and were often involved in the same historic events as their Falkirk cousins. For example in the mid 17th century Sir William Livingston of Westquarter served with his cousin James Livingston of Callendar in the Civil War and was punished by the Kirk Session of Falkirk for his part in the attempt to save King Charles from Cromwell. He is described in the record as ‘Sir William Levingstone of Wastquarter, lieutenant-colonel and governor of the toune of Carlyl.’ He built the ‘Great Ludgin’, a town house in Falkirk High Street (now Ottakers bookshop), near one of the five entry gates to the town known as Westquarter port.
In 1701 the estate passed to the Livingstons of Bedlormie (a village in West Lothian) and for a few years in the 18th century it was in the hands of the Drummonds and then the Napiers before returning to Livingston hands in 1769. Thereafter the family are styled of Bedlormie and Westquarter. The Livingstons, Earls of Callendar lost their titles and land after the 1715 Jacobite rising and in 1784 Sir Alexander Livingston of Bedlormie and Westquarter tried to claim the Callendar Earldom. Although legal opinion was on his side he did not proceed with the claim. Falkirk Museum has in its care an armorial stone with the date 1790 which came from the mansion of Westquarter in 1936 and which Geoff Bailey believes was commissioned by Sir Alexander at the time of his claim. The death of his son Thomas in 1853 brought the male line, and the claim, to an end.
The first house of which we have any knowledge was built in the early 17th century and displayed 1626 and 1648 date stones. The house was described by one observer in the 19th century as “beyond comparison the most picturesque residence in the eastern district of Stirlingshire” though another more local visitor thought it “an exceedingly rude piece of architecture – not improved in appearance either by its plebian coat of faded yellow”! It was demolished in 1884 and the only survivor from the early period is a handsome lectern style doocot bearing the date 1647 and the initials WL for Sir William Livingstone and HL for Dame Henenore Livingstone his wife. The doocot itself may be of a later period with the date stone reset from another building.
In 1884 a new baronial style mansion was built for Thomas Fenton Livingstone and it survived until the radical redevelopment of the estate in the 1930s. In 1909 the house and estates passed out of Livingston hands and into the ownership of James Nimmo, a Glasgow coal merchant who settled in the area and whose family firm began working the local coal measures. The Nimmos leased and worked Redding Pit No 23 in which 40 men lost their lives in the disaster of September 1923.
Almost the last event of note in the estate history of Westquarter was the great Falkirk pageant of June 1932 which attracted hundreds of interested spectators over several days. Two years later the mansion was sold for demolition.
In the same year 1934 the estate was purchased by Stirling County Council and plans laid for the creation of a model village to house the mining families of the village of Standburn where the existing homes were thought to be unfit for human habitation. Over 450 houses were built for a planned population of around 3,000 and there were to be shops and recreational facilities as well as a school. The whole scheme was designed by the architect John A. W. Grant and used the natural features of the glen to create an arts and crafts style ‘garden city’ environment. The school, designed by the same architect was recently described by architectural historian Richard Jaques as “a true child of the Modern Movement. It was a huge step forward from the usual rather grim schools – The jewel in Westquarter’s crown”.
The post war history of Westquarter is somewhat mixed with a period when there was a good deal of vandalism and neglect. In the 1980s the community made strenuous efforts to counteract this and today the genius of those who designed the model village is still evident in the houses, school and general layout.
Ian Scott 2006
David Leask: “Westquarter: the Story of an Estate” Falkirk District Council (1986)
Geoff Bailey ‘The Last Earl of Callendar’ in “Calatria” 3 (1992)
John Reid ‘The Feudal Divisions of East Stirlingshire’ in “Calatria” 6 (1994)