NS4276 : Overtoun House

taken 10 years ago, near to Milton, West Dunbartonshire, Great Britain

This is 1 of 8 images, with title Overtoun House in this square
Overtoun House
Overtoun House
(Click on the end-note title for other views.)

The house was built in 1859-63 for the chemical manufacturer James White. For more about him and other members of his family, see NS4076 : The White Memorial and NS6065 : Statue of James White of Overtoun. The house was built using hard Spout of Ballagan Sandstone; it seems that some of this stone was obtained from the place where the house was built, and some from a quarry that lies not far to the NNE: NS4377 : Disused quarry (see that item for further explanation). For further information about the house, see the end-note.

For earlier pictures of the house, and for descriptions of its use in recent years, see NS4276 : Overtoun House and NS4276 : Overtoun House. The present picture was taken from NS4276 : The Crags Circular Path.

Some of the features, past and present, of the estate and its surroundings:

● Overtoun Bridge: the bridge (NS4276 : Overtoun Bridge), by H.E.Milner, was formally opened on the 7th of June, 1895; see NS4276 : Overtoun Bridge (detail). The bridge and its associated driveway lead to Overtoun House from the estate entrance that is shown in NS4175 : Pedestrian access to Overtoun Estate.

● The "Folly Castle" (no longer in existence). It is probably worth my commenting on this here, since there is otherwise very little information readily available about it. This structure, now long gone, was located in the area to the north of Overtoun House. It stood to the east of the Overtoun Burn, and was built to resemble a ruined ivy-covered tower; in addition, the elaborate gravestone of Bishop Scrogie was incorporated into it above ground level. The folly was demolished when its condition became dangerous. See NS4276 : Ruins of the Folly Castle for its former location, and for further information about it.

● An earlier stone bridge, located to the east of NS4276 : Spardie Linn. It survives, but now stands alone in a field, looking very much out of place: NS4275 : Old stone bridge near Overtoun House.

● The Nature Trail: the name given to the woodland walks in the estate; these generally follow the course of the Overtoun Burn fairly closely. In the 1970s and 1980s, there was a nature trail here with numbered marker posts (an accompanying guide booklet was available); although the original markers are now long gone, the name has stuck. New waymarker posts were added in mid-2015 (NS4276 : Overtoun House Nature Trail).

● Relics of a hydro-electric scheme: John Campbell White, son of the above-mentioned James White, would be created the first Baron Overtoun of Overtoun in 1893 (he is generally called Lord Overtoun). A little earlier, he had introduced electricity to Overtoun House by means of a hydro-electric scheme. The turbine house (NS4276 : Remains of a turbine house) was located near a small waterfall, called NS4276 : Spardie Linn (see also NS4276 : Spardie Linn), on the Overtoun Burn. To this end, water was impounded further up the burn at a dam that also served as an ornamental lily pond: NS4276 : Former dam and lily pond.

● Lady Overtoun's Walk: see NS4376 : Lady Overtoun's Walk and related images. The remains of the Walk, a long track, can still be seen high on the slopes just below the escarpment of NS4376 : The Long Crags.
Overtoun House

Overtoun House was built in 1859-63 for the Rutherglen chemical manufacturer James White. It was designed by the Glasgow architect James Smith (father of Madeleine Smith, who was the defendant in a notorious murder case — see Link for details). The building is in Scots Baronial style, and is made of sandstone, some of which was taken from a nearby quarry – see Link – and some from the area where the house stands.

James Smith died in December 1863, and, according to an article in the journal "The Scottish Field" (issue of July 1906), much of the actual work on the house was carried out by a certain Mr Melvin (Robert Grieve Melvin, described there as "Smith's assistant"). It is thought that these circumstances are a consequence of the aforementioned court case, showing just how debilitating it had been for James Smith himself.

A distinctive feature of the building is the porte-cochθre main entrance on the northern side: it is inscribed with biblical quotations; it also bears, on opposite sides, two monograms, which are composed from the letters IW and FC, the initials of Lord and Lady Overtoun, respectively.

James White's son, John Campbell White, occupied the house from 1891 to 1908; in 1893, he was created the first Lord Overtoun. He was responsible for a great deal of work carried out on the Overtoun estate. For example, nearby Overtoun Bridge – Link – and its associated driveway – Link – were completed in 1895. A hydro-electric scheme – Link – to bring electricity to the house was begun c.1892.

Shortly before the construction of Overtoun Bridge, the estates associated with the house were enlarged by the acquisition of land that was formerly part of the Garshake estates, to the west of the Overtoun Burn. To the north of Overtoun House, a folly castle (now gone) – Link – was created not far from the Overtoun Burn. There was also a walled garden associated with the house.

Much further from the house, high up on the slopes at the foot of the Lang Craigs (the line of cliffs at the near edge of the Kilpatrick Hills), John Campbell White created a track called Lady Overtoun's Walk – Link – for the benefit of his wife; she would be conveyed there in a dog-cart, and, when walking on that track, she would be able to enjoy a fine view down towards Overtoun House and its wooded policies.

The house and estate eventually passed to Lord Overtoun's nephew, Dr John Douglas Campbell White. Dr White spent very little time in Scotland, and in 1939 he gifted Overtoun House and its estate to the people of Dumbarton. From about 1950 to 1970, the house was used as a maternity hospital; it then lay empty for a while, before being used by the Quality of Life Experiment (see below); it was later occupied for several years by the Spire Christian Fellowship. For its current use, see LinkExternal link (at the local council's website).

The grounds are open to the public, and there are a number of woodland walks there, which are collectively referred to as "the Nature Trail". There was a waymarked nature trail here (officially opened on the 26th of April 1980), with an accompanying booklet; the trail and booklet ("The Overtoun Nature Trail", printed locally) were created using funds left over from the Quality of Life Experiment (1975-76), one of whose many local projects had been based at Overtoun House. The name "the Nature Trail" remains in common use, although all of the original markers are long gone. New waymarker posts were set up in mid-2015. See Link for pictures of these woodland walks.

For further information on Overtoun House, see its listed building report – LinkExternal link (at Historic Environment Scotland).

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Grid Square
NS4276, 214 images   (more nearby search)
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Date Taken
Friday, 29 April, 2011   (more nearby)
Tuesday, 10 May, 2011
Geographical Context
Historic sites and artefacts  Housing, Dwellings 
Period (from Tags)
19th Century 
Place (from Tags)
Overtoun House 
Person (from Tags)
James White of Overtoun  Lord Overtoun 
Architect (from Tags)
James Smith 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 4246 7613 [10m precision]
WGS84: 55:57.1374N 4:31.4809W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 4258 7619
View Direction
West-southwest (about 247 degrees)
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Other Tags
Listed Building 

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