Kinneil House to open during St Andrew’s free weekend

For the first time, Kinneil House near Bo’ness will this year be open for free guided tours during Historic Environment Scotland’s (HES) St Andrew’s Free Weekend – Saturday 30 November and Sunday 1 December. Some other HES properties across the region will also be opening their doors.

The Kinneil House tours will run from 10am-4pm (last admission 3pm) and must be booked in advance through www.hes.scot/events . Volunteer guides from the Friends of Kinneil will be supporting HES with the event at the historic mansion – known for its exquisite 16th-Century wall paintings as well as its unique association with the inventor James Watt, who secretly undertook development work on his steam engine at Kinneil. 2019 has marked the 250th anniversary of Watt’s patent for the engine, and also the Bicentenary of his death.

Kinneil Estate contains a rare combination of nearly 2,000 years of Scotland’s history in one site. As well as the house, you can also visit the adjacent free Kinneil Museum (open daily except Tuesdays, 12.30-4pm, or 10am-4pm on house open days), which contains displays and artefacts relating to the house, estate and wider history and heritage of the Bo’ness area. A wide range of walks in and around the estate are also available.

For any queries about the house tours please contact HES.

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Views sought on future of Kinneil walled garden

Have your say by 2nd December! Falkirk Council have issued an online consultation about the future of Kinneil’s walled garden, following their sad closure of its plant nursery earlier this year.

What do you think would be the best use of this historic space in the future? The large walled garden dates from the 16th/17th Centuries and was an integral part of the estate. In those days when Kinneil House would have been at its most magnificent, the gardens were renowned for the finest fruit & vegetables, and under the Hamilton family, they would have been (as at Hamilton Palace) a centre of some of the most refined horticultural practice and training in Scotland of that period.

The line of the Antonine Wall runs beneath the nursery site. The walls at the North-West corner of the garden may also, according to new archaeological work last year, be the remains of the Hamiltons’ former 15th-Century castle of Craiglyon – a predecessor of Kinneil House!

When the Council developed the nursery in the 20th Century, the fertile topsoil was removed and replaced by hardcore. More recently, Sustainable Thinking Scotland C.I.C. have also set up in the South-West corner of the walled garden. Reviving some of the old traditions, they have gained a reputation for valuable new community growing activities.

The consultation explores whether the nursery space should be given over to further community use/growing, and/or whether it might be a site for some sort of development integrated within the overall vision and Masterplan for Kinneil Estate as a whole, in which the estate is envisaged as a heritage park attracting visitors from further afield as well as being used and enjoyed by the local community. Development in the walled garden might somehow help to bring in more people from outside the area, and contribute to making the estate as a whole viable, and supporting local jobs and economic activity.

Options in the consultation therefore range from community growing plots and beehives, or ‘men’s sheds’, on the one hand, to a skills training venue, visitor centre and café, or even a conference centre, on the other. Which end of this spectrum do you think is the right one? Can the walled garden be considered separately from the future of the House and Museum – or should they all be looked at together and in the round? Respond to the consultation and ensure your views and ideas are heard on this issue.

John Adair map 1684 CC by 4.0 NLS Maps web site

[Map by John Adair, 1684 – Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland under the CC BY 4.0 licence]

Join us for social evening on 29 October

Join the Friends of Kinneil on Tuesday 29 October at 7.30pm for a free informal evening of drinks, nibbles, fun and a dash of history!

We’re having a special autumn social evening to catch up with existing Friends, to welcome new members and to invite anyone interested in finding out more about the Friends of Kinneil and our activities. The event will take place at St Mary’s RC Church Hall, Linlithgow Rd, BO’NESS EH51 0DP.

Please RSVP to info@kinneil.org.uk by 27 October to let us know if you’re coming, for catering purposes.

Non-members and those new to the area especially welcome!

Escape the autumnal feeling and come along to find out more about us and our year-round events and social activities. We’re a friendly, award-winning group with a focus on local heritage, history and the environment. We hope as many people as possible will support our work to promote Kinneil Estate and Foreshore, and to campaign to see them developed further. If you do decide to become a member, it’s now only £3 to join! More information on membership is available here.

Members are asked to bring a friend along to mix in, to join in with some Kinneil-themed fun, and to hear more about what we do.

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Will you see Kinneil’s ‘White Lady’? Free Hallowe’en tours on 26 October

The ancient Kinneil House will be open for free family guided tours with a Hallowe’en theme on Saturday 26 October. Youngsters are being encouraged to turn up in fancy dress. The best-dressed child will win a book token.

Tours run from 12 noon till 4pm, with the last admission at 3pm, and must be reserved online in advance of the tour date via www.historicenvironment.scot/events. Tour bookings are taken offline at midnight the day before the tour.

Our volunteers will add some spooky stories about the building’s past into the family-friendly tours. The House is said to be haunted by the ghost of a White Lady.

Kinneil House, built in the mid-16th Century, was once a home of the powerful Hamilton family. It features some of the finest wall paintings of that period in Scotland – and also has links to characters such Mary, Queen of Scots, and James Watt, the famous inventor.

The adjacent Kinneil Museum will also be open free throughout the afternoon. The museum features relics dating back to Roman times, as well as video displays and hands-on exhibits.

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See inside Kinneil House on 5 October

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Historic Kinneil House will be open for free guided tours (booking essential) on Saturday 5 October.

Tours run from 10am till 4pm, with the last admission at 3pm, and must be reserved online in advance of the tour date via www.historicenvironment.scot/events. Availability is limited, so book now to avoid disappointment. The Historic Environment Scotland (HES) booking page advises: “Please be aware that tour bookings are taken offline at midnight the day prior to the tour date. If the date you wish to book has no availability, please contact us and we will advise if an additional tour can be provided on that date. Please phone 0131 558 9326 or email communityevents@hes.scot”.

The tours inside the house are operated and hosted by HES, with some of our own volunteer guides from the Friends of Kinneil also in support.

Kinneil House was for centuries a magnificent mansion of one of the country’s most powerful families – the Hamiltons. It boasts some of Scotland’s finest 16th-Century wall paintings, and also a unique association with James Watt, who secretly worked here on his steam engine and whose Bicentenary is being marked this year.

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For any queries about the house tours please contact Historic Environment Scotland. For information on future open dates, please visit www.historicenvironment.scot/events or www.kinneil.org.uk.

On 5 October there will also be a display in adjacent Kinneil Museum (free admission) to seek your views about designs for some proposed new ‘Hidden Heritage’ outdoor interpretation panels to be installed in Kinneil Estate.

The story of James Watt and John Roebuck at Kinneil – talk on 26 September

Come along to a talk in Bo’ness (St Catharine’s Church Hall, Cadzow Crescent) at 7.30pm this Thursday evening, 26 September, to find out more about James Watt’s pioneering development work on the steam engine at Kinneil 250 years ago.

The patent he took out in 1769, in partnership with Dr John Roebuck of Kinneil House, is one of the most important and celebrated in the history of world technology.

2019 has also marked the Bicentenary of the death of James Watt, with events taking place all over the UK and beyond.

Ian Shearer, Chair of the Friends of Kinneil, will tell the fascinating story of Roebuck and Watt – a tale of visionary enterprise, industrial espionage, personal setbacks and failures, but also progress in developing one of the greatest Scottish inventions and in their other projects in this area of Scotland.

This is a joint event with the Bo’ness Town Trust Association to kick off their excellent series of autumn and winter lectures. If you’re at all interested in local history and heritage, and in meeting new people, talk to both organisations about membership – each priced at just £3, to be included in events and activities throughout the year!

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Building limes experts visit Kinneil as new case study published

On Saturday 21 September, Kinneil House welcomed a large number of visiting delegates from the ongoing Building Limes Forum conference in Stirling, for guided tours.

With their expert knowledge, many showed great interest in the surviving evidence of the 16C/17C construction & finishing techniques applied at this very significant building, but also in the exceptional original wall paintings from those periods.

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More information about the paintings is available in what is still considered the most authoritative account of them by one of the men who saved Kinneil House from demolition in 1936 – James Richardson, HM Inspector of Ancient Monuments for Scotland – who then went on to conserve the paintings and much of what remains of the house. His 1941 paper can be read here.

Peter Ranson, District Architect for Historic Environment Scotland (HES), also showed delegates the recently-restored orchard wall outside. To co-incide with the visit, HES has now published a new technical case study about this project.

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The Friends of Kinneil would like to pass on thanks to all for visiting and for the level of interest. Unfortunately the tours were too short to present all the many layers of history in and around the house, and to continue the lively questioning and discussion. It demonstrated what a considerable amount of research is still to be done on Kinneil’s fabric and history – it is hoped visitors may spread the word, return and lead further in-depth study!

Kinneil House open, 21 September, as Real Ale Festival raises glass to James Watt

Historic Kinneil House will be open again for free guided tours (booking essential) on Saturday 21 September, co-inciding with the 19th annual Bo’ness Real Ale Festival. This year, the festival is commemorating the Bicentenary of the death of James Watt, and his pioneering work on the steam engine at Kinneil 250 years ago with his then patron Dr John Roebuck of Kinneil House, the co-founder of the Carron Ironworks near Falkirk. Why not combine a visit to both events?

Open Day 21 Sept

Tours run from 10am till 4pm, with the last admission at 3pm, and must be reserved online in advance of the tour date via www.historicenvironment.scot/events . Availability is limited, so book now to avoid disappointment. The Historic Environment Scotland (HES) booking page advises: “Please be aware that tour bookings are taken offline at midnight the day prior to the tour date. If the date you wish to book has no availability, please contact us and we will advise if an additional tour can be provided on that date. Please phone 0131 558 9326 or email communityevents@hes.scot”.

The tours inside the house are operated and hosted by HES, with some of our own volunteer guides also in support.

For any queries about the house tours please contact Historic Environment Scotland. For information on future open dates, please visit www.historicenvironment.scot/events or www.kinneil.org .

See also ‘James Watt remembered at town’s local real ale festival’ on the James Watt Bicentenary web site, which also lists other events during this year of commemoration. James Watt’s workshop at Kinneil will feature on the special glass to be issued to those attending the festival.

Free talk, ‘The Antonine Wall Distance Tablets’, by Geoff Bailey, 19 September

Come along to a free talk by Geoff Bailey in Bo’ness Library at 2pm on Thursday afternoon, 19 September, hosted by the Friends of Kinneil in association with Falkirk Community Trust as part of its Big Roman Week festival.

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Geoff is an excellent speaker and historian, with unrivalled knowledge and experience over many years of our Roman heritage, as district archaeologist for the Falkirk area.

The Roman inscriptions marking the construction of the Antonine Wall are a most remarkable collection, unique to this frontier. They are very ornate and the iconography tells us a lot about Roman attitude to the frontier. They also inform us about the way in which the work on the linear frontier was divided up amongst the various legions and what they called it. But where were they set up and who was the intended audience?

Please note that although the main library (a heritage building) is on the ground floor and has good accessibility – the main meeting rooms, where the talk will take place, are up one flight of stairs on the first floor. There is no lift.

No booking needed, free event.

History of Kinneil Kirk, by Geoff Bailey

Kinneil is among the oldest known parishes in Scotland, long pre-dating Bo’ness.

It was referred to in the early 8th Century by the historian Bede, and is also associated with mediaeval accounts of the legend of the 6th-Century missionary, St Serf.

Kinneil may therefore have been a site of Christian worship for 1,500 years or more. The surviving ruin of Kinneil Kirk dates back to the 12th Century. The church was for many centuries a local landmark, and a beacon to shipping in the Firth of Forth.

Historian and district archaeologist Geoff Bailey has written an excellent short history of Kinneil Kirk, which was first produced for the Falkirk Local History Society.

Geoff has kindly agreed to us also making his booklet available here to the widest possible readership. Together with his history of the estate, and his wider archaeological research in the area, it will be an invaluable resource for all those interested in Kinneil’s exceptional history.

In 2014, Geoff and others undertook further excavations and preservation work at Kinneil Kirk as part of the Inner Forth Landscape Initiative, an account of which is available here. His history of the Kirk was then also published in print version by Falkirk Community Trust. Hard copies of this are available in Kinneil Museum.

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