History of Hazelden House

Hazelden to Hazelglen

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Hazelden House in Mearns, Hazelglen property in Melbourne

At the outset of this article, I would refer readers to Dan Sweeney’s 2015 publication, ‘Postscript to the Past: Lost Mansions and Houses of Renfrewshire’, a copy of which was sent to me recently by a good friend from Mearns. As a descendant of Patrick Reid, and one based in Australia, I can only hope to add one or two anecdotal additions to the history of the house at Hazelden as related in this excellent volume.

Take 8

As detailed in Sweeney’s book, Hazelden House was built by Patrick Reid (1784-1858), a Writer to the Signet and son of Robert Reid who had built a bleach-works beside the Earn Water – a clear, clean spring fed waterway flowing north to the headwaters of the Clyde. In Sweeney’s words, ‘In 1818 he (Patrick) replaced his father’s works with an extensive, improved factory and north-west of his works he replaced an existing house with a mansion, which he named Hazelden House.’

I am the fourth generation grandson of Robert, the eldest born son of Patrick Reid. My maternal grandmother was the second of five daughters from the first marriage of Robert’s second daughter, Harriet Catherine Reid.

Sweeney talks of the subdivision of the lands of Hazeldeanhead, south of Mearns Kirk, in the second half of the 18th century. Two portions of this subdivision were taken up by a Glasgow brewer, also named Patrick Reid. It was his son, Robert Reid, who inherited one portion in 1788, and it was he who first built a small bleach-works on the north bank of Earn Water. The other portion of land eventually passed to the second son, Patrick Reid, a merchant in Glasgow. In 1811, ‘our’ Patrick Reid (the solicitor/’Signet Writer’) inherited the property on the death of his father, Robert. Some eleven years later he was to inherit the remainder of the land, along with an inheritance from his uncle Patrick Reid, the merchant from Glasgow, although this was not to pass without some complications.

Listed in the ‘Decisions of the First and Second Divisions of the Scottish Court of Session’, November 1812 to November 1814, is a case titled ‘Patrick Reid against James Coates and Others, March 5th 1813 … Trust – Pactum Illictum – A condition that a son shall not reside in the same house with his mother, is lawful in a settlement by an uncle upon his nephew’. The wording of his uncle’s will stated that ‘… it would be most improper to allow my said nephew to reside with his mother, or any of his relations, and that none of them may ever reap the smallest benefit from my funds …’ and further that ‘… if the said Patrick Reid shall act contrary to my instructions, the said trustees shall withhold from him all manner of support from my funds whilst he continues to so act …’. Patrick failed in this action: the Judges accepted the defence case that ‘… his uncle was under no obligation either moral or legal to provide for him and therefore he was entitled to attach any condition to the bequest he pleased …’

The family lore handed down within the Reid clan in Australia has it that both Patrick’s mother, Jean Dyckes and his father-in-law, Robert Hay (a bleacher from nearby Netherplace) lived at Hazelden House with Patrick and his wife, Agnes Hay. Following their marriage in 1817, Patrick and Agnes produced eleven children during their time at Hazelden. A prodigious marriage indeed!

True to his office of Writer to the Signet, Patrick was not averse to initiating legal actions where he saw perceived injustices occurring. His name appears in several actions relating to the construction of roads and carriageways in Renfrewshire. In February 1822 a Court of Sessions action is listed as follows:

P.Reid, Pursuer and D.Shaw, Defender, ‘Warrandice.- A bleacher, who had obtained a right from the tenant of a farm for an annual payment to carry off water from the farm in any direction he pleased … having been interdicted from leading it off in a particular direction by a neighbouring proprietor … held that he was not entitled to recover damages from the tenant.’

His predilection for initiating legal actions to settle disputes was to continue throughout his life in Australia.

Sweeney notes of Patrick Reid that:

‘Early in 1839 when, apparently attracted by the opportunities Australia seemed to present, he set sail for Melbourne with his wife and nine* children, a retinue that included an old man servant, a nurse named Peggy and a prefabricated house’. * NB two children died before emigration.

Reid had sold both parcels of land including the bleach-works and Hazelden House to the prosperous local ship-owner, Allan Gilmour, who lived in the mansion until his death some ten years later in 1849. Details of the years following Reid’s departure to Melbourne, right up until the demolition of the house in the early 1950s, supposedly following damage caused by theft of lead from the roof, are detailed extensively in Sweeney’s book and are beyond the scope of knowledge of this author.

However, the question of Reid’s reasoning in leaving a safe life and apparently prospering business in Scotland for a far less certain future in the newly developing colony of Victoria, is undoubtedly less clear cut than Sweeney supposes.

A fellow descendant of Patrick Reid’s eldest son, Robert, Ms Myrrah Symons (now deceased) wrote to the author in the 1990s stating:

‘Upon the death of Agnes’s father, Robert Hay, Patrick brought a court action for an inheritance of £100,000 which he had thought due to her. In the outcome, Patrick lost the case and, most probably as he was unable to retain his former social position, he decided to migrate to Australia.’

There are two potential flaws in this supposition. In 1827, Robert Hay, along with his sons John and Robert, had been bankrupted … the following notice appeared in the Scottish newspapers on July 11, 1828:

John Hay, Robert Hay (sen.) and Robert Hay (jun.) all Bleachers some time at Nether-Place, near Glasgow, now at Pollockshaws, the Individual Partners of the Coportnery (sic) some time carrying on business at Nether-Place aforesaid, under the firm of John and Robert Hay and Company, as partners of said concern and as Individuals, with the concurrence of the Trustee on their sequestrated estates, and the requisite number of Creditors ranked thereon, have applied to the Court of Session for a discharge on all debts contracted by them prior to the date of sequestration of their estates.

It seems extremely unlikely that Robert Hay would have amassed an inheritance of £100,000 for his daughter’s benefit, although perhaps Patrick Reid had acted for his father-in-law in the sequestration hearings for the Netherplace works.

Furthermore, this author has expended some effort in searching relevant Scottish Court reports and has, to date, unearthed no records of a case such as described by Symons.

What is known, though, is that Reid’s younger brother, James Reid, had left Scotland in the years before Patrick and Agnes. He and his large family had settled in the newly forming colony in Adelaide where he had established a flourishing furniture making business. Patrick, Agnes and entourage set sail from Glasgow in the ship Glenswillie, en-route to Sydney via the port of Adelaide, where Patrick took the opportunity to visit his younger sibling. Could it have been that letters home from James may have influenced the decision to sell Hazelden and start afresh in the antipodes? I suspect we will never know the answer to that question.

Patrick Reid emigrated with his family, manservant, maid and prefabricated house. They sailed by coastal trader down the east coast of New South Wales and embarked in Victoria. Reid wasted no time in erecting his prefabricated home on a block of land in Bourke Street, Melbourne, and setting about the business of establishing his family in these strangely unfamiliar surroundings. This was just two years after the first settlers established their tent city on the banks of the Yarra River.

Hazelglen 1900s

He was to lose his dear wife Agnes in 1847 after she had born one more child on Australian soil, and Patrick himself passed this life in 1858. During his 19 year lifespan in the colony, he proved to be a man of some great influence, serving a brief period as an elected Councillor for Melbourne, playing a role in establishing a sustainable water supply for the new town, and serving on local roads boards. He built a substantial timber and stone (quarried from a nearby stream) homestead on settled land north of the city. Much of the original home still stands today, and is still occupied by Reid descendants. In recognition of his home in Scotland, Patrick Reid named his Australian homestead Hazelglen.


Patrick and Agnes are both buried at the historic Arthurs Creek cemetery, the highest point of the property that was formerly part of Hazelglen.

David G. Hay 2022

1. ‘In Their Own Words: A Glimpse of Life in the Formative Years of the Colony of Port Phillip’, David G. Hay, Tales From the Treehouse, 2015, ISBN 978-0-9941513-2-2
2. ‘Up the Creek: Early Days in the Arthurs Creek District’, Brice G. Draper, Tales From the Treehouse, 2018, ISBN 978-0-6483636-0-6
3. ‘Postscript to the Past: Lost Mansions and Houses of Renfrewshire’, Dan Sweeney, Windan Press, 2015, ISBN 978-0-9927148-4-0


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