Mansion Houses of Mearns

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Over the last three hundred years, many  mansion houses have been built in Mearns. Today only a few remain to give testament to a different way of life.

A.Boyd Scott in Old Days and Ways in Newton Mearns, published in 1939 to celebrate the bi-centenary of the Newton Church (Newton Mearns Parish Church) states that there were significant changes in the proprietorship of land in the county (Renfrewshire) between 1772 and 1832, when nearly a third changed hands.

In the Second Statistical Account of 1842 admiration is expressed for the ‘excellent modern mansions’ in the parish.  Christopher North (Professor John Wilson 1785-1854 ) was more cynical. We do not know which houses he had in mind when he remarked on ”modern villas, or boxes, inhabited by persons imagining themselves gentlemen, and for anything we know to the contrary, not wholly deceived in that belief.”  Whatever their motivation persons of means found Mearns a pleasant place in which to live.”

Click here to access a map of the location of the mansion houses.

 

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Barcapel House

Barcapel House was built for Sir Thomas Clement in 1912. but was destroyed by fire in 1965 and flats were later built on the site.

The Clement family owned Netherton Estate which comprised land , some of which forms the 3rd-6th Holes at Whitecraigs Golf Course (founded 1905). From the 1920s houses were built on the Netherton Estate on the opposite side of the Kilmarnock (now Ayr) Road.  Using the names of Scottish castles, the Clement name was used as an acronym in the selection of names for the roads. Craignethan, Lethington. Elphinstone, Methven, Erskine and Neidpath . The seventh road which was not laid out was to have been Thirlestane.

 

 

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Balgray House

 Balgray House is a late 18th century mansion to which a third storey was added c.1900.and the pediment added in 1935. An earlier house was built by Captain John Pollok who reputedly died at the Battle of Fontenoy which took place on 11th May, 1745, in the war of The Austrian Succession.

In his notes, Thomas C. Welsh states:   “A late 18th century mansion built on site of or adapted from the house of Lockhartside, which dates back to at least 1750. Sir Robert Pollok’s third son John who was given the Balgray estate married Ann Lockhart of Lee (Lanarkshire) and presumably Lockhartside was their residence. The original residence of Balgray is more likely to have been south of Mains of Balgray, though there is a defendable site with some remains south of the present house.

 

 

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Broom House

Broom house was built in the 1830s by John and Arthur Pollok of Pollok, Gilmour Ltd, a firm established by Allan Gilmour and the Pollok brothers in 1804.

The partners first traded in timber with the Baltic, Scandinavia and Russia and later developed a thriving lumber industry in eastern Canada where, by the mid 1830s, they employed 5,000 men and were said to own over 130 ships, the  largest fleet of wooden hulled ships in the world.

The house is now used as a private school, Belmont House.

 

 

 

 

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Capelrig House

An ‘A’  listed building, this house stands in the grounds of Eastwood High School.  It was built in 1769 by Robert Barclay, a Glasgow lawyer,who had  purchased the estate four years earlier from Mure of Caldwell.

It  was described as ‘a neat , handsome house, three storeys high, rustic covered  with eleven steps of a stone stair up to the front door’. Barcapel Holm Farm situated to the north west is thought to have been the original Capelrig House. Click here for more information.

Picture by permission of Glasgow University Special Collections

 

 

 

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Crookfur House

Little is known of the early history of Crookfur House. It was last occupied as a family home by the Templetons, a branch of the family whose carpet factory at Glasgow Green was named the Doge’s Palace.  The present Crookfur Park was part of the estate and during the war was used by local farmers for grazing their cows.  One of the sons piloted a small plane and used it as a landing strip. The cows had to be moved  to allow him to land!

We do know that the house  had a beautiful garden which is very well described in the Horticultural Society Centenary Year Book by Alan MacCallum who was the gardener there between the wars. The house was sold in the 1950’s and for a short time functioned as a country house hotel. It was sold again and while work was being carried out it went on fire and had to be demolished. The estate was sold and “Crookfur Cottage Homes” were built on the site.

 

 

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Fa’side  House

John Pollok of Craigton purchased the property in 1707 and built a farm house and outbuildings in 1709. Fasyd [spelled thus] is marked on Timothy Pont's map of the Baronee of Renfrew in 1590.

In 1909 Sir Wallace Fairweather purchased the Fa'side property from the Raeside family and in 1911 other adjacent lands from Sir Michael Shaw Stewart.He commissioned the architectural firm of  Burnet and Boston to build Fa'side House.

The 1709 buildings still stand alongside the 1911 house, built to resemble a traditional Scottish keep.

 

 

 

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Greenbank House

Greenbank House was built for Robert Allason, a Glasgow merchant, about 1765.  It had  five owners between 1763 and 1796 when it was purchased by  John Hamilton of Rogerton, East Kilbride from Maitland Hutchison, whose father Alexander, a successful West Indies merchant, had purchased nearby Southfield Estate in  1771.

Greenbank remained in the ownership of the Hamilton family until 1961 when it was bought by Mr William Blyth, who in 1976 donated it and the gardens to the National Trust for Scotland in whose care it remains. 

For additional information on the history of the house click here.

 

 

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Hazelden House 

The exact date of building is not known but it is thought to have been built by Patrick Reid who emigrated to Australia in 1839 when it was bought by Allan Gilmour, a partner in Pollok Gilmour Ltd. The house was demolished in 1949 as squatters had occupied it during the war and demolition was the only way to move them out.The stables have been restored to their original condition and are used as a riding school today.

 

 

 

 

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Hazeldean

Hazeldean was built around 1910 by the Paterson family, well known as the firm which produced Camp Coffee. It was later owned by the Pratt family who bred St Bernard dogs.The house was renowned for its beautiful gardens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kirkhill House

Kirkhill House was built for the Mather family in 1873. It remained a family home until the 1960’s when it became the Thomson FoundationTelevision College.

Residential courses in broadcasting and film-making were attended by students from many parts of the world until the College closed in the 1980’s. It is presently used as offices.

 

 

 

 

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Netherton House

Netherton House was built on the Broom estate and was the home of Arthur Clement, brother of Sir Thomas Clement who built Barcapel House. It was situated on the Ayr Road to the south of Whitecraigs Golf Course. The picture shows the house before the road was widened.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Southfield House

“Sufild”  is marked on Timothy Pont’s map of 1590 The Baronie de Renfrew.  The original Fey Right of Southfield was granted by Sir Archibald Stewart of Blackhall to Robert Urie of Millbrae on 30th May 1691.  It was purchased from Robert Urie of Millbrae in 1771 by Alexander Hutcheson, a West Indian merchant. It remained in the Hutcheson family until 1902 when it was  occupied by the Hendersons of the Anchor Line.

The house and its policies, along with the four neighbouring farms of Hazelden Head, Westfield, Eastfield and Langrig was purchased in 1913 by the Corporation of the City of Glasgow to provide  a country home for ‘pre-tuberculous’ children. Building operations were delayed by the First World War, by the end of which Southfield House had deteriorated to such an extent that it had to be demolished.  Mearnskirk Hospital was built in the grounds and opened in 1930.

 

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Todhill

The original house known as Todhill-Bank, was built in 1710 and the part of the present Capelrig Road running from the old village to the house was known as Todhillbank Brae. Records show that by the late 1890s the name of the house had changed to Todhill.

The newer part of the house was built in 1901 and the architect was John Archibald Campbell. At one time it was the home of Sir John McTaggart a well known Glasgow builder.

 

 

 

 

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Towerwood

Towerwood was built in the early 1900s by the Allan family who owned the Allan Shipping Line. Towerwood was known for its beautiful grounds and traces of the original curling pond and tennis courts can still be seen. Capelrig Tower stands in the garden.

Due to the extensive, speculative house building in the Patterton area, Towerwood is no longer as isolated as it was when it was built.

 

 

 

 

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Croyland (Rysland)

In 1874 towards the end of his career, Alexander "Greek" Thomson designed a villa, which was originally called Rysland  (named from the farmland on which the house was built). The house was built for his friend and colleague John Shields, who had been his next-door neighbour at 3 Moray Place, Strathbungo.

Externally the house is austere with little decoration; internally the rooms are carefully proportioned and this is perhaps the best, in terms of interior proportions, of any of Thomson's villas. Decorations are confined to simple, plaster motifs of Greek derivation. Thomson formed a long, horizontal garden wall to relate the villa more closely to the landscape. This strikingly handsome house is built of Giffnock stone, which Thomson used in many of his villas.

 

 

 


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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.

Capelrig
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.

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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

 

 


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Capelrig Tower west elevation 2008The origins of Capelrig Tower, or as it is sometimes known, Patterton Tower have puzzled many people. It appears today to serve no useful purpose.

It was built in the second half of the 18th century by the owners of the Capelrig estate but whether it was built by the Mure Family or Robert Barclay who purchased the estate from the Mures in 1765 is not certain. One opinion is that it is most likely to have been the Mures as the tower resembles the old watchtower on the hillside near the Mures’ Caldwell estate.

At that time, hare coursing was a very popular sport which involved dogs chasing hares. Although not participating in the sport, it is  believed that the ladies enjoyed watching the chase. One possibility is that the tower was built as a viewpoint for the ladies of Capelrig House to watch the sport.

Today, the tower is surrounded by new housing, forgotten, almost completely hidden by the growth around it and  in a fairly ruinous state.

 

 


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