The Estate of Capelrig

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

The name Capelrig is found in documents as early as the 12th century. It is thought to have the meaning “Chapel on the Ridge” There is a record of Herbert de Maxwell endowing a chapel in 1300 which could possibly have been at Capelrig. Although there is no concrete evidence, in the 1920’s A. D. Lacaille, an archaeologist,  discovered an outline of an ancient structure underneath a stable at what is today the Holm Farm. Although the site has been significantly disturbed , it is possible that the traces which were found were of the original chapel but no definite link can be made to any of the buildings at the Holm Farm being of ecclesiastical origin.

Thomas C Welsh, writing in “Eastwood Heritage and History”, Strang in his “History of Mearns” and A Boyd Scott, writing in “Old Days and Ways in Newton Mearns”, all give descriptions of the changes in land ownership of Capelrig.

In summary, in the 12th and 13th centuries, the lands of Capelrig belonged to the Knights Templar, but in 1307 their lands were forfeited and given to the Knights Hospitallers. At the Reformation, Sir James Sandilands, Knight of Malta and Preceptor of the Order of the Hospitallers in Scotland, was an early convert to the reformed religion. He resigned the property of the Order to the Crown, and on the 24th January 1563 Queen Mary was pleased "in consideration of his merit and services" to grant Sir James the Templelands and the title of  Lord Torphichen. The Scottish Templelands therefore became a secular estate.

Around 1600, the lands of Capelrig were purchased by William Mure of Caldwell. Mure sided with the Covenanters and after the Battle of Rullion Green in 1666, he had to flee to Holland where he died. His family was evicted from his castle at Caldwell and the castle destroyed. His lands, including Capelrig, were given to General Dalyell, the victor of Rullion Green and were not restored to the Mure family until 1690. During the tenure of the Mures, Barcapel Holm Farm, situated to the north west, is thought to have been the site of the original Capelrig House. General Wolfe who died in the  battle of Plains of Abraham, Quebec, in 1759  and who fought on the King’s side at Culloden is reputed to have visited the original house. The sixth hole at the neighbouring  Whitecraigs Golf Course is named Wolfe’s Way. It is thought that Capelrig Tower was built around this time but the exact date is uncertain. The Mure family lived between Capelrig and the house they had built at Glanderston until their residence at Caldwell, which had been destroyed,  was rebuilt.  Once the rebuilding was complete, Capelrig was sold.

By permission of Glasgow University Library, Special Collections


The purchaser was  Robert Barclay, a Glasgow lawyer in the firm of Barclay & Grahame. William Mure was Barclay's mentor and gave him a lucrative post as a tax collector. He also became Depute Admiral of the Clyde and was well known in Glasgow as the best whist player of his day. Robert Barclay bought the estate in 1765 and built the present Capelrig House in 1769. It was described as “a neat handsome house, three storeys high, rustic cornered with eleven steps of a stone stair up to the front door.” Barclay did not marry and on  his death in Southampton on 4th December 1783, the house passed to his niece, Mary Anderson, the daughter of his sister Allison and Robert Anderson of Overgree, Ayrshire. When Mary inherited the house she took the surname Barclay.  In 1788 she married  George Brown,  who was a descendant of the Browns of Priesthill. He had many business interests including shipping and was the chief partner in the Dalmarnock Turkey-Red Company. After their marriage George Brown carried out improvements to the house and its surroundings and it was known for its beautiful gardens. He also added considerably to the property by the purchase of lands in the neighbourhood, all of which were listed under the name of Capelrig.

George died in 1833 and Mary managed the estate until her death in 1850, when ownership passed to her two unmarried daughters Janet and Mary. In 1886, after their deaths, their nephew James Barclay Murdoch inherited the estate. James was the son of their sister Barclay Brown and Peter Murdoch, a descendant of the Provosts of Glasgow.

J B Murdoch, as he was known, was a sugar refiner, a partner with his father in the Sugar House of  Murdoch and Doddrell at Port Dundas. In 1876 he became Honorary Secretary of the Geographical Society of Glasgow and served in this role for thirty years. In 1877, he became a member of the Glasgow Archaeological Society and in 1882 was elected as a fellow of the Royal Physical Society of Edinburgh. James also acted as Chairman of the Justices of the Peace and played an active role at the Quarter Sessions.

Between 1879 and 1893, James was a fellow of the Antiquarian Society of Edinburgh and was recognised as an eminent antiquarian. He had collected what was described as "one of the finest libraries in Glasgow.” His collection is fully documented in ‘Public and Private Libraries of Glasgow’, published in 1885. He was one of the main instigators of the Old Glasgow Exhibition of 1894 and his name  features prominently in the Memorial Catalogue of the Exhibition with most of his exhibits related to the Brown and Murdoch families.   
James  lived at Capelrig for twenty years until his death on 25 May 1906. It is recorded that, " The body of James Barclay Murdoch was accompanied by a large cortege from Capelrig to his last resting place, the family tomb in Glasgow."

After his death in 1906, his wife retired to Doune and his Will stated that she was to have her choice of his books. The estate was managed by  the Murdoch Trust which consisted of his three sons, Peter, Robert and John and his daughter Mary who had married George Young of Glendoune, Ayrshire.

Barcapel House

In 1907, the house was leased to James Clements who then bought  the land on which the original Capelrig House, now Holm Farm stood, to build Barcapel House (above). Subsequently Capelrig House was leased to Mr Robert C. Greig, a Glasgow stockbroker. Documents held in the East Renfrewshire Archive show that with the agreement of the Trustees, he extended the house in 1913 and carried out many repairs.

In 1928 the house and surrounding policies were bought by the Hon. Kenneth Weir, son of 1st Viscount Weir, for his matrimonial home. He carried out major upgrading and extension, the details of which are available for reference in the Weir papers in Glasgow University Archives.


Much of the Estate continued to be owned by the Murdoch Trust, which gradually sold land for the building of individual homes such as Towerwood, Thornhill, Craigellachie, Inglestone and Rosegarth. The map shows the extent of the estate when the house was sold in 1928.

Capelrig Estate Map

From 1947, Kenneth Weir leased the house to Eric Mavor through a "gentleman's agreement" and in 1956 he sold the house and farmland to John Lawrence, the house builder, who in turn in 1962 sold the house and the immediate policies to Renfrewshire County Council to build Eastwood High School. Capelrig House was threatened with demolition, but following local opposition, the Secretary of State for Scotland classed the mansion as an A - listed building, thus ensuring its preservation. For some time the house was used as an Arts Centre, before being used to accommodate council offices. For many years it has been unoccupied.

In 2013, with the building of the new Eastwood High School, the future use of Capelrig House is once again under discussion.

Capelrig House 2013



© 2022 Mearns History Group. All Rights Reserved. Designed by Nuadha