NS4276 : Overtoun House

taken 18 days 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
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, 212 images   (more nearby )
  (find more nearby)
Date Taken
Sunday, 24 November, 2019   (more nearby)
Sunday, 24 November, 2019
Geographical Context
Historic sites and artefacts  Housing, Dwellings 
Person (from Tags)
James White of Overtoun  Lord Overtoun 
Architect (from Tags)
James Smith 
Primary Subject of Photo
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 4246 7612 [10m precision]
WGS84: 55:57.1320N 4:31.4805W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 4241 7616
View Direction
Southeast (about 135 degrees)
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Image Type (about): geograph 
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