NS4176 : Avenue to Overtoun House
near to Bellsmyre, West Dunbartonshire, Great Britain
Avenue to Overtoun House :: NS4175
The official opening of the avenue took place on the 7th of June 1895. The avenue begins at a lodge (NS41007570) beside what is now the A82 (Stirling Road), and leads uphill, through what is now an area of housing called High Overtoun; this section survives as a footpath. The path meets Campbell Avenue at []; from there on, the avenue survives in a more recognisable form. Just before reaching Overtoun House, it leads across Overtoun Bridge (see Link for the bridge and Link for Overtoun House). A date stone on the bridge records the opening of the avenue, but the event took place two days later than the date inscribed there.
The following account of the official opening of the avenue is drawn from the Lennox Herald issue of June 15th 1895, but I have added several explanatory remarks and links:
On "Friday last" (the 7th of June, rather than the 14th; to this day, the newspaper is dated a few days after its time of publication), a garden party marked the opening of the new avenue, and the laying of the last stone of a new bridge. The new avenue is 1¼ miles long, and "leads from the High Glasgow Road, equidistant from Crosslet Lodge and the entrance of Garshake Brae. ..."
"About halfway up, the avenue spans and skirts for a distance the deep and bosky [meaning "wooded", "covered in trees and bushes"] glen of the Garshake Burn, and here a very heavy piece of embankment, measuring about 50,000 cubic yards, had to be formed, and through it the Garshake Burn is conveyed by a culvert 10 feet wide by 164 feet long" (that culvert is the one that is now known locally as the Witch's Tunnel: see Link for pictures).
At the top, the avenue spans the glen of the Overtoun Burn by means of Overtoun Bridge: see Link where the relevant passage is quoted in full. That bridge is there described as being in Scottish Baronial style, using a white freestone drawn from a quarry – Link – on the estate.
"At the entrance of the avenue a handsome lodge is being constructed of the same material and in the same architectural style. Mr H E Milner, C.E., Westminster, laid off the drive and prepared the general plans. The contractors were Messrs John Paton & Co, Glasgow. Mr James Thomson, architect, F.R.I.B.A., Bath Street, Glasgow, designed the lodge and entrance. ... The whole work has been faithfully superintended by Mr Castleton."
On the 7th of June 1895, a hot day, the last stone was laid by Lady Overtoun when the guests had assembled at the eastern end of Overtoun Bridge [the end nearest Overtoun House]. Lord Overtoun asked the company to join in singing the 100th Psalm. The Rev Wm Ross, Cowcaddens, invoked blessings on the work completed and the family of Overtoun. The Rev John McNeill delivered a brief address, couched in humorous form. The Rev J E Sommerville afterward read the following statement regarding [the lands of] Overtoun and the new bridge and approach. The statement (quoted below in full) was deposited in the memorial stone of the bridge:
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"The estate of Overtoun was bought by James White in 1859 from Gabriel Lang, and he subsequently bought Priestyard and Crosslet. In 1860 he began building at Overtoun. The mansion home stands about 360 feet above the sea, and was completed early in 1863. The architect was James Smith, Glasgow; mason: Thomas Brown; joiner: George Ferguson; plumbers: Wallace & Connell. The family left Hayfield, where they had long resided, and took up their abode at Overtoun on the 11th June, 1863. James White died at Overtoun on 8th March 1884, aged 72. Mrs White died at Overtoun 18th January 1891, aged 79. His son, John Campbell White, who married in 1867 Grace Eliza McClure, resided at Crosslet for some years, and came to reside at Overtoun after his mother's death. In 1892, he bought from the Rev Mr Dixon Swan the adjoining estate of Garshake, which his father had negotiated for some years before, but difficulty connection with the entail of Garshake prevented the purchase being then carried through."
"In May 1893, Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria raised John Campbell White to the peerage under the title of Baron Overtoun of Overtoun. In June 1893 he began to construct the new avenue through Garshake and Crosslet in order to provide a new access to Dumbarton. The engineer of the new avenue and designer of the bridge is Mr H E Milner, of London. The contractor for the culvert and embankment and for the new bridge are Messrs John Paton & Co, Glasgow; architect of the new lodge, Mr James Thomson, of Glasgow; the builders, Messrs John Paton & Co; and the joiner, Mr George Ferguson. The avenue is a mile and quarter long. The bridge is built entirely of stone taken from the quarry on the estate, where it was brought about three-quarters of a mile on a light railway, and the bridge is deeply founded upon the rock on both sides of the stream."
"This last stone of the bridge was laid by Lady Overtoun on Friday 7th of June 1895, in the presence of a large gathering of friends, and there is deposited herewith a copy of the Glasgow Herald, 7th June; Glasgow Daily Mail of 7th June; Dumbarton Herald, 5th June; Western Supplement of Oliver & Boyd's Almanack for 1895; and also the following current coins:– ½d, 1d, 3d, 6d, 1s, 2s, 2s6d."
"Every home is builded by some man, but He that built all things is God – Heb iii. 4"
There were also deposited photographs of Lord and Lady Overtoun.
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The final stone itself was laid by Lady Overtoun using a silver trowel provided by the contractors. Music was then provided on the lawn tennis green by the band of the training ship Empress and a company of pipers.
[A chapter, headed "The Whites of Overtoun", in Dr I M M MacPhail's book "Lennox Lore" (1897) discusses the family. Lord Overtoun himself was known for his charitable works, his association with the Temperance movement, and his promotion of Bible Classes. On the other hand, just a few years after the opening of the avenue described above, his character would come under sustained attack in a series of articles, from March to May 1899, in a publication called "The Labour Leader"; the criticism was founded largely upon the terrible working conditions of those employed in White's chemical works at Shawfield (the "chrome works"; potassium dichromate was manufactured there). The extent to which Lord Overtoun himself was aware of these conditions is debatable, but the apparent dichotomy in the man who was a firm Sabbatarian, opposing, for example, the Sunday opening of the People's Palace, even while the Shawfield workers (who were nicknamed "White's canaries" on account of the colourful toxic dust that coated them, or "White's dead men" on account of their blanched faces) had to work on Sunday, is one that is explored by Sydney Checkland on pages 293–295 of Volume 1 of the "Dictionary of Scottish Business Biography, 1860–1960".]
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- NS4176, 93 images (more nearby )
- Lairich Rig (find more nearby)
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- Date Taken
- Friday, 27 April, 2012 (more nearby)
- Saturday, 12 May, 2012
- Geographical Context
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OSGB36: NS 4197 7616 [10m precision]
WGS84: 55:57.1439N 4:31.9523W
- Camera Location
- OSGB36: NS 4195 7615
- View Direction
- Northeast (about 45 degrees)
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