NS4276 : Overtoun House and Overtoun Bridge

taken 6 years ago, near to Milton, West Dunbartonshire, Great Britain

Overtoun House and Overtoun Bridge
Overtoun House and Overtoun Bridge
For other views of the house and the bridge, click on the respective end-note titles.
Overtoun Bridge
The bridge is located beside Overtoun House, and crosses the gorge of the Overtoun Burn. It was built by H.E.Milner for John Campbell White (Lord Overtoun) in 1895. See the listed building report – LinkExternal link (at Historic Environment Scotland) – for further details. For Overtoun House itself, see LinkExternal link

The following description of the bridge (which gives its dimensions) is taken from the Lennox Herald issue of June 15th 1895, where an account is given of the official opening of the Avenue to Overtoun House – LinkExternal link – of which avenue the bridge is just one part. See that link for much more information on the avenue as a whole, and for an account of the avenue's official opening, an event that took place when the guests were assembled at the eastern end of this bridge.

At the top of the avenue, "the approach spans the romantic and picturesque Overtoun Burn, near the mansion house, by a magnificent new bridge consisting of three spans: the centre one of 32 feet and the side ones of 10 feet each. The total length of the bridge is 135 feet, and width 14 feet, and its height over 50 feet from the bed of the burn to the top of the parapet wall. The style of the bridge is [Scottish] Baronial, in harmony with the style of the home. It has taken a year to build the bridge alone. The stone – a beautiful white freestone – has all been got on the estate, and has been conveyed by a light railway about a mile in length".

See LinkExternal link for what is almost certainly the quarry referred to there; it also supplied some of the stone used to built Overtoun House (the remainder being taken from the building site itself). The straight-line distance from the quarry to the house is a little under three-quarters of a mile, and as noted at LinkExternal link in connection with the avenue, the light railway was about three-quarters of a mile long.

No trace of the light railway remains, but my own opinion (based on familiarity with the topography of the area) is that its course probably corresponded fairly closely with that of the present-day footpath that leads from the entrance of the quarry, past the Woodland Trust's "Welcome Cairn" sculpture and through the nearby gate, and then along a curving footpath that meets the road about 90 metres to the east of Overtoun House; that route would not require a crossing of the Overtoun Burn).

In more recent times, interest in Overtoun Bridge has increased on account of the appearance of many documentaries and articles about so-called "dog suicides"; see LinkExternal link (at Skeptoid) for a sober assessment.
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 LinkExternal 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 LinkExternal 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 – LinkExternal link – and its associated driveway – LinkExternal link – were completed in 1895. A hydro-electric scheme – LinkExternal 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) – LinkExternal 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 – LinkExternal 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 LinkExternal 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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NS4276, 210 images   (more nearby )
Photographer
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Date Taken
Friday, 22 November, 2013   (more nearby)
Submitted
Wednesday, 4 December, 2013
Geographical Context
Historic sites and artefacts  Housing, Dwellings 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 4243 7616 [10m precision]
WGS84: 55:57.1530N 4:31.5107W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 4240 7618
View Direction
Southeast (about 135 degrees)
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Overtoun House Circular Path  The Crags Circular Path 

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