Estate, History, Kinneil House

Council decides to acquire Kinneil House & Estate – 100 years ago this month: Centenary of public heritage at Kinneil _ Part 4

In June 1922, the Hamilton family put thousands of acres of their landholdings across Central Scotland up for auction – see Part 3 of our Centenary blog series – but Kinneil House (despite a knockdown price of £400) and its surrounding parkland failed to sell.

The Duke of Hamilton’s trustees then offered to sell them to Bo’ness Town Council. At a meeting of the Council on 27 June 1922, a letter from the trustees was read, stating that they would be prepared to consider an offer of £600 for the lot.

Kinneil House as it once looked, including its lime harling, and what appears to have been a tennis court on the front lawn – an idea also pursued by Bo’ness Town Council’s Burgh Surveyor!

Golf, Putting and Tennis Centre proposed

That week’s Linlithgowshire Gazette (30 June) reported on the opinion expressed by the Burgh Surveyor, John Louden, to the meeting:

“The Burgh Surveyor said the matter he had to bring before them was one which he had mentioned to Provost Hogg a long time ago. He thought the town should try to acquire Kinneil House and grounds, the Brewlands Park, Ladywell Park, and the park to the rear of Kinneil House. He thought the time was not far off when they would require to extend the burgh boundaries west to join up with the Grangemouth boundary, and east the length of Carriden. In that event it was desirable to have Kinneil House and lands in possession of the Town Council, if they could be acquired at a reasonable figure. For the present the parks could continue to be let for grazing, but the extensive lands offered possibilities which were well worth considering if Bo’ness was to go ahead. His idea was to lay out an 18-hole golf course, putting greens on each side of the avenue, and tennis courts in front of the house. The house itself was of interest, as it was there that Dugald Stewart wrote many of his works, and where James Watt brought some of his improvements on the steam-engine to perfection. It was not by industry alone that a burgh prospered. He instanced North Berwick. It was not an industrial burgh, but they were enterprising enough to lay out a golf course at a cost of £20,000, and it was a paying concern. If they had a municipal golf course at Kinneil, it would be the best for many miles around. Meantime it would do no harm to try to acquire the lands.”

It was agreed to ascertain the cost of the lots referred to, and report to a further meeting.

4 July 1922: Council excursion to the estate, leading to special meeting and decision on probable purchase

The following week’s edition (7 July) of the Gazette reported as follows:

“Provost Hogg, Bailies Grant and Livingstone, and members of Bo’ness Town Council, paid a visit of inspection to Kinneil Estate on Tuesday evening, and had a walk round the historical Kinneil House and the broad acres adjoining with a view to a probable purchase. [… ] The only absent member was Councillor Simpson. Mr Jamieson, Town Clerk, and Mr Louden, Burgh Surveyor, were present.

The civic party drove to the Dean in motor cars, and were there met by the resident factor, Mr Bowie. After an inspection of Kinneil House, the visitors walked across the East and West Meadows, extending to about 32 acres, about 8 acres of woodlands, and 2 reservoirs. East Brewlands, with its 26 acres, and Ladywell Park, with its seven of pasture, and nine of woodland, were next glanced at, and the party were greatly impressed with the charm and possibilities of the grounds.

Returning to the town, the Council proceeded direct to the Board Room, where they held a meeting to consider as to making an offer for the subjects. The meeting was held ‘in camera’, but we understand that on the motion of Councillor M’Kenzie it was practically unanimously agreed to make a bid for the subjects likely to prove acceptable, and Councillor Harrower and Mr Louden were appointed to proceed the following day to Glasgow to interview the solicitors for the Hamilton Estates Trust, Messrs Moncrieff, Warren, Paterson and Co., 45 West George Street, Glasgow.

The deputation was vested with powers to offer up to a certain figure reaching to a little beyond the £4000 mark, and we understand the negotiations were eminently successful, and that the town are likely to get possession of the property almost immediately.”

Endorsement at full monthly Council meeting, 11 July 1922

On 14 July, the Gazette reported on the Council’s full monthly meeting, which reviewed the minutes of the special Kinneil-related meetings which had recently been held.

“A monthly meeting of Bo’ness Town Council was held on Tuesday evening, when Provost Hogg presided. The other members present were – Bailies Grant and Livingstone, Councillors Barrowman, Downie, Haney, Harrower, M’Kenzie, Simpson and Sneddon.

The minutes of meetings held in the course of the month were of unusual importance, as these related chiefly to the negotiations for the purchase of Kinneil House and lands and of the foreshore rights.

The discussions the previous week by Mr Harrower and Mr Louden with the Hamilton trustees’ solicitors in Glasgow were noted:

“Briefly, the results are as follows:- A good and valid title to be given, casualties redeemed, burdens paid off, and search exhibited; the Council to be safeguarded in the way of compensation if the purchaser of wood at Kinneil cuts and carts along the avenue; the existing gate from the Dean to the avenue to be closed.

The Duke of Hamilton’s trustees for the sum authorised to be spent, £4250, have given, in addition, the Foresters’ Park of about an acre and a half.

Foreshore rights were also covered:

“Mr Louden reported regarding his meeting with Mr Foulis on the subject of the foreshore rights. A provisional arrangement, it was stated, had been come to for the Duke of Hamilton’s rights out to low-water mark, about £100 more than the Council’s present offer for the restricted area, the Duke’s trustees, in addition, to convey to the Council the playing ground and quarry ‘ex adverso’ of Kinneil School, extending to about seven acres, ‘free of charge’.”

The Council approved all the minutes, and the progress of the negotiations – but not without some degree of dissent and controversy… as will be featured in the next instalment of this blog series… !

So came about the public ownership of Kinneil House and Estate on behalf of the people of the local area. This secured their future – 100 years later, ownership remains vested in Falkirk Council as the modern successor to the local area’s Town Councils.