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Royal Commission on the Ancient Monuments of Stirlingshire -1963

Toms note: despite being made a listed building in 1961 Stenhouse was demolished a few years later.

200. Stenhouse. This house (P1. 102 A) stands just out side the newly built eastern extension of Stenhousemuir in policies which immediately overlook Carron Dams and the Carron Iron Works. Originally a tower-house and subsequently enlarged, it is no longer in use as a mansion but has been reconditioned to accommodate a number of individual tenants. The tower-house appears (infra to have been built in 1622 by William Bruce of Stenhouse and it still stands in good preservation and in sub stantially its original form notwithstanding adition.' and alterations which have been made from time to time Of these, the most important were evidently carried out in or soon after 1836, as plans of that date, attributed to the architect William Burn,3 show the large Classical and turreted extension still existing on the W. side of the house and also offices on the E. side; that these latter were built but have since been removed is suggested by the presence of a cement raggle on the E. face of the tower.

3 Preserved in the archives of the Scottish National Buildings

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The house is L-shaped on plan (Fig. 94), comprising a main block alined E. and W. with a N. wing. In the re-entrant angle, which faces NW., there is a spacious circular stair-tower, which no doubt contained the original entrance; this, however, like the stair itself, has been removed to accord with the arrangements of 1836. The main block measures 37 ft. 9 in. by 24 ft. '0 in.; the wing, 22 ft. 5 in. wide, projects 20 ft. 6 in., and the well of the stair-turret is 8 ft. 3 in. in diameter. Walls in general are 3 ft. 4 in. thick and are built of rubble except in the angle-turrets, where the thickness is reduced to 1 ft. and the masonry is ashlar. They finish in crow- stepped gables with cavetto-moulded skewputs, or in an eaves-course wrought with an ovolo moulding. The high- pitched roofs, crow-stepped gables, angle-turrets and Classical dormer-windows are all fully typical of their period (P1. 102 B, D).

The house contains four storeys and an attic. The basement, which has a flagged floor, is half sunk, and access to it is now gained by an outside stairway leading first into the W. extension and then passing through the well of the gutted stair-tower. A former basement- entrance, broken through the E. wall near its centre, was in use in 1836 but has subsequently been turned into a window, and now lights the passage that was then cut off the cellar space in the wing by a brick partition. Further S. in the same wall an original window was partly destroyed by the insertion of yet another door, which led into the demolished E. addition but is now completely blocked up.

The interior of the main block at basement level has been subdivided by brick partitions into three apartments, and the wing contains a single cellar. A plain fireplace, now closed up under an original window in the N. gable of the wing, is an insertion of earlier date than 1836, but two lockers, respectively in the W. and S. walls, are original. The larger part of the main block is occupied by a kitchen now lit by an enlarged window of three lights. The fireplace in its W. gable-end was apparently inserted by Burn, who also removed the front of a small closet S. of the fireplace leaving an open recess. The closet was lighted by a small window which still exists, though with its opening slightly enlarged; at the S. end of the closet a door has been inserted and sub sequently blocked again. Two doors in the transverse brick partition, which formerly opened on to the two E. 7 cellars, are also blocked up, and the cellars are now reached from the passage in the wing. In the N. wall of the northernmost of these two cellars a large recess has been cut out, and in the sill of the doorway beside it a flagstone covers a small hatchway opening into a cavity, possibly a drain, now filled with loose earth and stones.

On the first floor the main block no doubt originally contained a hall, presumably entered from the stair- tower. This space is now reached from a late forestair at the SW. corner of the building, the entrance-doorway replacing an original window. This entrance leads intc a long corridor which ends in the old stair-well in tht re-entrant angle and gives access to all the rooms on this level. Apart from a few closets, etc., this storey contains two main rooms, one in the E. end of the main block and one in the wing. Each is provided with a fireplace, lately renewed, and two windows, but where there is now a late press in the W. wall of the wing there appears originally to have been a window uniform with those on the floors above. Openings in the partition have been broken through, or blocked up, and on the S. side of it there is now a sideboard recess and a press. Towards the inner end of the entrance-corridor there is a small lobby, the ceiling of which consists of an heraldic plaster panel (infra) dated 1698 and framed by a cornice; as this lobby is shown on Burn's plan as part of his alterations, it seems likely that the panel, which no doubt itself originated in some alterations or improvements made in 1698 but not now identifiable in the fabric, was removed from some other part of the ceiling in 1836 and adapted to the new arrangement of the entrance-passage. The decoration on the panel (P1. 102 C), which is all in relief and is picked out in colour, consists of a shield between the date 1698 and a label bearing the motto DOE WELL AND DOUBT NOT. The shield is parted per pale and charged: Dexter, a saltire and chief, crudely executed, with a mullet at the dexter end of a blank space where the chief should properly be; sinister, a fess checky between three mullets. The coat is that of Sir William Bruce of Stenhouse, the fourth baronet, and his wife Margaret, daughter of John Boyd of Trochrigg.

The second and third floors are separately entered from stair-landings, on the N. side of the addition of 1836, which break through the wall of the stair-towe] into the well of the stair and then become lobbies. Thc rooms on both floors are similarly disposed, two in th{ main block and one in the wing, while extra accommoda tion has been provided by breaking through the W. gable of the main block to take in part of the addition. On the second floor, a fireplace in the gable of the wing is wrought with a roll-and-hollow moulding and a press has been formed in the embrasure of a window, now built up, in the W. wall; another press exists beside the door of the SE. room, and in the SW. one a modern scullery has been partitioned off and the fireplace modernised. The small built-up window that can be seen on the outer face of the E. wall, above the panel dated 1710 (infra), now shows no trace in the interior. On Burn's plan (sheet no.4) it is shown as lighting a closet, but as this latter is itself part of his scheme of alterations the original function of the window is uncertain. On the third floor the fireplace in the SW. room is again wrought with s roll-and-hollow moulding, but those in the partition wall between the other two apartments have been renewed probably in the i8th century, and have surrounds ol marble. It is on this floor that the angle-turrets make their appearance; there was originally one at each external corner of the building, but the rectangular one shown on Burn's drawings to the W. of the re-entrant has been entirely removed. The existing rectangular turret on the SE. corner (P1. 102 B) is 5 ft. 8 in. long by 4 ft. 2 in all widest internally; the remainder are circular with an internal diameter of 5 ft. 4 in. Each turret is supported on a continuous corbel-course of four members, the lower three being worked with an ovolo-and-fillet moulding and the uppermost with a cavetto moulding. One small window of the two that formerly lit each turret-room is now blocked up, as is also a window in the W. wall of the wing. Those in the main side-walls are carried above the eaves as dormers, and finish in pediments similar in design to the one described below but without the initials, date and mullets. With the few exceptions indicated on the plans by hatching, the windows are original and are wrought with rounded arrises. Above the basement all have been half-glazed, and those on the first floor are shown by socket-holes, now filled with cement, in the faces of the rybats to have been fitted with grilles for two-thirds of their height. The attic is unused but habitable. It has a fireplace in the W. room and a small window in each gable. It was not accessible at the time of visit and the plan of it included in Fig. 94 is based on William Burn's survey.

On the S. face of the main block, slightly below the corbelling of the SW. angle-turret, an old dormer- pediment has been inserted for preservation above a moulded framework designed to resemble a blind window. This arrangement must have been made at some time later than 1836. The pediment resembles those of the other dormers, and may well have come from a window, shown on Burn's elevation (sheet no. 7) as lighting the NW. turret of the main block, which was demolished in the course of his alterations. It is fashioned  with a heavily moulded cornice and moulded and broken r rakes, the tympanum containing three simple, faceted blocks of geometric pattern. It is completed with three pyramidal finials, each of which is carved with a mullet at the apex. Respectively on the dexter and sinister finials there appear the initials W B and R I, for William Bruce of Stenhouse and his second wife, Rachel Johnston, daughter of Joseph Johnston of Hilton,1 and on the central one the date 1622, all in relief. This William Bruce obtained Stenhouse from his grandfather in 1615 but was not created a baronet of Nova Scotia until 1628; it may thus be inferred with confidence that the house was built by him in 1622, before his distinction, and not by his eldest son, Sir William, the second baronet,  as stated by Fleming.3 This conclusion is fully in accord with the stylistic evidence of the structure.

Inserted in the masonry of the N. gable, between the first and second floors, there is an heraldic panel in a moulded frame bearing the date 1710 incised below a shield and with the initials S / W B and D H D in raised letters over it. The shield is parted per pale and charged Dexter, a saltire and chief, crudely cut, with a mullet at the dexter end of a blank space where the chief should properly be; sinister, a heart below three mullets. These are the arms of Sir William Bruce of Stenhouse, the second baronet, and his wife, Dame Helen Douglas, daughter of Sir William Douglas of Cavers.4 At about the same height above the ground on the S. side of the building there has been inserted another panel bearing a shield between the date 1710 above and the initials S / WB and D / MB below, all in relief on a sunk field. The shield is parted per pale and charged: Dexter, a saltire and chief; sinister, a fess checky, a mullet in dexter chief. These are the arms of Sir William Bruce, the fourth baronet, and his wife, Dame Margaret Boyd, although, in this case, the lady's coat of arms bears only one mullet instead of the three shown on the coat of 1698 (supra). On the bottom of the frame the Bruce motto reappears, in incised lettering.

ICE-HOUSE. About 100 yds. NW. of the house, at the edge of the wood, there are the remains of an ice-house, probably of 18th-century date and now partly filled up. It is roofed by a brick vault over a rectangular chamber, and is entered on the S. from a sunk stairway.

879829 NS 88 SE 23 August 1955