NS3877 : Dalmoak House

taken 12 years ago, near to Renton, West Dunbartonshire, Scotland

This is 1 of 3 images, with title Dalmoak House in this square
Dalmoak House
Dalmoak House
The taller building at the back is Dalmoak House, which was built from 1866-68 for the merchant John Aiken; see NS3877 : Dalmoak House for a closer view of the building. For one of the associated buildings, see NS3876 : Mains Lodge. At the time when the present picture was taken, Castle Glen Care and Nursing Home was based at Dalmoak House. By May 2016, the building was under new ownership, and was no longer a nursing home; some different uses for it had been proposed, but rejected.

Making up the distant background of the photograph are NS4274 : Dumbuck Quarry, on the left, and the River Clyde, on the right.

Most references, including the listed building report, say that the house was built by a certain James Aitken, but this is incorrect. It was John Aiken (the correct spelling of the surname), father of James, who acquired the lands of Dalmoak in 1857; however, the stained glass in the house represents themes more relevant to James' life, so his father may have had the house built with him in mind.

[Donald MacLeod, in his 1893 work "Dumbarton Ancient and Modern" states explicitly that Dalmoak House was "erected in 1866 by the late John Aiken, father of James Aiken, the present proprietor". He goes on to mention the house's three stained glass windows, and other details of the building and its estate.]

John Aiken was descended from the Aikens of Johnstoun (now Johnstone, c.NS4162); the family line can be traced back to a certain Thomas Aikyn of Johnstoun, who lived in the reign of James V, and who died before 1544.

John Aiken was the oldest of three brothers. He was born on the 29th of January, 1801, at Wester Myvet (NS7371), New Monkland, and became a merchant in Glasgow (the 1863/64 Post Office Directory for Glasgow describes him as a wine and spirit merchant). In 1841 he married Janet Belch (20 Oct 1820 6 Nov 1869), at Barony (NS5865) in Glasgow. He acquired the lands of Dalmoak in 1857, and nearby Succoth in 1860 (see NS3777 : The Kipperoch Road at Succoth). It was he who had Dalmoak House built (1866-68), and he died there on the 24th of November, 1875.

[His brother Barton Aiken, the second-oldest of the three brothers, bought nearby Kipperoch (see NS3777 : Approach to Kipperoch Farm). Note that the dates for the three brothers and their respective wives and children can be found inscribed upon tablets in NS6065 : The Aiken Mausoleum in the Glasgow Necropolis; see also NS6065 : The Aiken Mausoleum (detail).]

John's eldest son, James Aiken, was born on the 2nd of February, 1843. He became a lawyer in the firm of Barton, Aiken and Co. In 1888, he acquired nearby Whiteleys (NS3876), West Mains of Cardross (NS3976 : Site of Mains of Cardross Farm), and Ardochbeg (NS3777 : The ruin of Ardochbeg). He died on the 24th of September, 1928.

After his death, Dalmoak House was taken over by one of his trustees, who was also a relative of his, a certain James Cyril Mawdesley Aiken. In around 1934, the house was sold to a local farmer, Mr Young (of NS3876 : Dalmoak Farm, which to this day is referred to locally as Young's Farm). During the Second World War, the Royal Air Force used Dalmoak House as a local headquarters; they partitioned the rooms, and erected Nissen Huts in the grounds. After the war, the building was used, for a time, as flats for homeless families. At a later period, the farmer used the partitioned rooms of the house as lying-in stalls for his cattle.

As might be imagined, the building was, by this time, in a sorry state. In the late 1960s, the building came under new ownership; it was subsequently restored, at considerable expense to the new owner. In 1989, proposals to use Dalmoak House as a private nursing home were approved.

[The above summary is based, in part, on the compilations of cuttings kept at Dumbarton Library, and it therefore owes much to the work of the Local Studies Librarian. What follows is based on other sources.]

Dalmoak (the area) is shown as "Dalmowack" on the Pont/Blaeu map of the Lennox (published in 1654, but based on surveys carried out in the 1580s-90s).

According to Joseph Irving's "History of Dumbartonshire" (2nd edition, 1860): "Below Succoth, and nearer the Leven, is the farm of Dalmoak, a charter of which was obtained from James V by John Palmer, on payment of a feu-duty of five pounds. It was conveyed by his grandson, Matthew Palmer, to John Sempill of Fulwood, in [1569], who settled it upon a younger son, in whose family it continued for many generations."

[In fact, the book says 1509; I have emended the date from 1509 to 1569, for reasons that are explained at the end of this item.]

Irving goes on to relate that, after continuing in the line of Sempill for many generations, Dalmoak was acquired, in the eighteenth century, by Bontine of Ardoch (NS3676), then by Graham of Gartmore (NS5297), and from him by John Dixon of Levengrove Link whose family still held the property at the time when Irving was writing his history (i.e., the first edition of it).

- - - -

There is a problem with the passage from Irving's book that describes the early history of the Dalmoak lands: James V reigned from 1513-42. Hence, either the charter to John Palmer was granted by an earlier monarch, or the figure 1509 is incorrect (the latter turns out to be the case). Others have relied on that passage for the early history of the area, as shown by the fact that it can be found, quoted verbatim, in several places. For that reason, it is worth explaining my reasons for correcting it as I did.

To determine where the error lay, I tracked down the original charters. Their text is given below, not simply to justify the correction, but also because their text would prove useful to anyone who wished to learn more about the early history of the Dalmoak lands.

(1) The charter granting Dalmoak to John Palmer is numbered 1314 in the third volume of "The Register of the Great Seal of Scotland" (generally abbreviated to RMS, from the Latin version of its title), and is dated 18th October, 1533:

"#1314. Apud Glasgw, 18 Oct
REX ad feodifirmam dimisit JOHANNI PALMAR burgensi de Dunbertane, terras de Dalmook, in baronia de Cardros, vic. Dunbertane, extenden. in firma ad 4 libras 13 sol. 4 den. : TENEND. dicto Joh. et heredibus ejus masc., quibus deficientibus, seniori heredum fem. absque divisione : REDDEND. annuatim 5 lib. ; ac duplicando dict. firmam ad introitum heredum ; necnon edificando mansionem cum politiis".

My translation: "The King grants in feu ferme to John Palmer, a burgess of Dumbarton, the lands of Dalmoak, in the barony of Cardross in Dumbartonshire(*), a ferme of 4 13s 4d extent. TENENDAS: To the said John and to his male heirs; failing which, to the eldest female heir, without division. REDDENDO: 5 annually; a doubling of the stated feu ferme upon the entry of heirs; also, building a mansion house with policies."

[The "tenendas" part of a charter specifies the manner in which land is to be held, and the "reddendo" part specifies the various duties (monetary or otherwise) to be rendered in return. See LinkExternal link for a glossary that explains these and other terms, such as "feu ferme". "Policies" is also worth explaining; in Scotland, at present, "policies" can mean the enclosed grounds of a large house, the park of an estate. However, when this charter was written, it had additional meanings, again specific to Scotland: it could refer either (1) to the improvement of an estate by providing amenities, buildings, etc., or (2) to the actual buildings that were created for that purpose.]

(2) The charter granting Dalmoak to John Sempill/Semple of Fulwood is numbered 1835 in the fourth volume of RMS, and is dated 21 Feb. The running heading gives the year as 1568-69: before calendar reform took place in Scotland in 1600, the year was considered as beginning, not on January 1, but in late March; the charter was written in February of what was then considered part of the year 1568, but, in modern terms, it was written in 1569. The charter was made "at Stirling" ("apud Striviling"):

"#1835. Apud Striviling, 21 Feb
REX &c., concessit JOHANNI SYMPILL de Foulwod, et MARGARETE NOBILL ejus sponse, et eorum alteri diutius viventi in conjuncta infeodatione, eorumque heredibus et assignatis quibuscunque, terras de Dalmoykee, extenden. ad 40 solidat. antiqui extentus, in dominio de Cardros, vic. Dunbartane ; quas Matthew Palmer, nepos et heres quondam Johannis P. burgensis de Dunbertane, resignavit : TENEND. in feudifirma."

My translation: "The King, etc., grants to John Sempill of Fulwood and to Margaret Noble his wife, and to whichever of the two should live longer, in conjunct fee, and to their heirs and assignees whatsoever, the lands of Dalmoak, a forty shilling land of old extent in the demesne lands(*) of Cardross, in Dumbartonshire(*), which Matthew Palmer, grandson and heir of the late John Palmer (a burgess of Dumbarton), resigned. Held in feu ferme."

[(*) "In Dumbartonshire": lit. "In the Sheriffdom (Lat. vicecomitatus) of Dumbarton". "In the demesne lands of Cardross": "demesne lands" (Lat. "dominium") is more or less equivalent to the later term "Mains", and "Mains of Cardross" was indeed the later name of this area (see NS3976 : Site of Mains of Cardross Farm and NS3976 : Mains of Cardross Canal).]

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Grid Square
NS3877, 96 images   (more nearby 🔍)
Lairich Rig   (more nearby)
Date Taken
Thursday, 12 January, 2012   (more nearby)
Saturday, 21 January, 2012
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 3835 7706 [10m precision]
WGS84: 55:57.5563N 4:35.4593W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 3810 7729
View Direction
Southeast (about 135 degrees)
Clickable map
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Image classification(about): Geograph
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