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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-cochère 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 James White and his wife.

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).
by Lairich Rig

Created: Tue, 10 May 2011, Updated: Sun, 24 Oct 2021

15 images use this description:

NS4276 : Carved panel, Overtoun House by Richard Sutcliffe
NS4276 : Overtoun House by Richard Sutcliffe
NS4276 : Overtoun House by Raibeart MacAoidh
NS4276 : Overtoun House: rooftop view by Lairich Rig
NS4276 : The roof of Overtoun House by Lairich Rig
NS4276 : Overtoun House and Overtoun Bridge by Lairich Rig
NS4276 : Overtoun House by Lairich Rig
NS4276 : Former bowling green beside Overtoun House by Lairich Rig
NS4276 : Overtoun House: rooftop view by Lairich Rig
NS4276 : Road to Overtoun House by Lairich Rig
NS4276 : Unusual window, Overtoun House by Richard Sutcliffe
NS4276 : Overtoun House by Richard Sutcliffe
NS4276 : Overtoun House by Richard Sutcliffe
NS4276 : Overtoun House by Lairich Rig
NS4276 : The Angel Room (ceiling detail) by Lairich Rig

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