STIRLINGSHIRE - an inventory of the Ancient Monuments (1963)

Royal Commission on the Ancient Monuments of Scotland  

305. Orchardhead 

The roofless shell of this house, a laird's dwelling of the late 17th century, stands close to the shore of the Forth about a mile N. of Grangemouth. It comprises three storeys and a garret and is built of random rubble, harled outside and plastered inside, except at the quoms and voids which have dressed and backset margins. Windows and doors are lintelled and are symmetrically arranged; the window arrises are chamfered to a width of 2 in. A moulded eaves-course extends along the side walls, which are 2 ft. 2 in. thick, and a plain tabling finishes the gables, which are 2 ft. 8 in. thick in the main block while the wing gable, which contains the kitchen fireplace, is 5 ft. 4 in. thick. Main block and wing together form an L-shaped plan, with the former oriented roughly E. and W. and measuring 52 ft. by 22 ft. 3 in., and the latter, of almost similar width, projecting 29 ft. 2 in in alinement with the E. gable (Fig. 137). In the NW. re-entrant angle a three- sided tower formerly housed a circular stone stair,1 9 ft. in diarneter and ascending anti-clockwise, which gave access to all parts of the building; some of the winders lie in the stair-well. The upper part of the tower is broken down, but an entrance-doorway close to the main wall, and two windows set one above the other in the central face, still survive, and all have roll-and-hollow jambs and lintels. Access to the main block was gained by the stair lobby, and also by a second entrance which has a small cornice-moulding on its lintel and is set opposite to the lobby in the middle of the S. front; probably both openings led into a hall which extended from one to the other and thus separated two single rooms of equal dimensions, one in each gable-end.

This arrangement is suggested by the former division of the floor above into three apartments, the stone-built partition on the W. side being carried up and the former presence of a wooden one on the E. side being indicated by a vertical break in the plaster on the face of the S. wall. A hall of this kind would, however, have been rather dimly lit, as it would only have contained one window, an un accountably low and small one set immediately W. of the S. door. The kitchen was entered by two doors, one in the N. gable beside the fireplace and the other in the W. wall; the S. jamb of the latter and the N. jamb of a window, which must have been close beside it, can be seen one on either side of a space which has been broken out and partly filled up with a thinner wall containing a door slightly N. of the position of the original one.

 Fire places are set one in each gable on each floor except in the garret, where there is none. Those in the principal rooms on the ground floor have had moulded jambs and lintels, but the E. one has been greatly damaged; the kitchen fireplace, in the wing, is of large dimensions, measuring 9 ft. by 4 ft., and its arch, a segmental one, and its jambs are heavily splayed. On the upper floors the fireplaces are plain and simple, but one in the W. gable and another in the E. gable on the first floor have respectively been rebuilt and contracted while, in the jambs and lintels of both, dowel-holes have been cut, presumably for the fixing of later wooden mantelpieces. Grooves in the walls of the western ground-floor room still retain in places their wooden fixing-pieces, indicating that this apartment was once panelled; in the opposite room a rough void in the masonry N. of the fireplace may have been a sideboard-recess. 

Foundations extending outwards from the E. wall of the wing, and a roof-raggle cut on its face, indicate that a single-storeyed building once stood here, but it was evidently of later date than the main structure. 

The wall-heads of the wing appear to have been altered or reconstructed at some time, and in the process a large round-headed pediment of dormer type has been inserted near the top of the W. wall. In the tympanum are carved two shields, with the date 1678 between them. The dexter shield, which is flanked by the initials W R and has a Lochaber axe for crest, is charged Three boars' heads erased, two and one, in dexter base a lance and in sinister base a Lochaber axe, all within a bordure. The sinister shield, which is flanked by the initials S L, is charged A saltire within a bordure. All letters and figures are in relief. The arms and initials evidently belong to William Rankine of Orchardhead and his wife, Sara Little, who died in 1687.2 It is probable that the pediment may have occupied a central position on the head of the stair-tower; in any case, the year 1678 would suit as a date for the erection of the dwelling. At the SW. corner of the house, between the first and second storeys, there has been set an angular sundial with two faces. 

Some 30 ft. WNW. of the NW. corner of the house there is a stone-faced circular construction which may or may not be the mouth of a filled-up well. An old summer-house or grotto stood in the vicinity of the house until the time of the Second World War, when it was destroyed. The interior is said to have incorporated a relief carving and some lines from the Aeneid.3 

Little is known of the family of Rankine of Orchard-head, which appears to have possessed the property from an early period until about the end of the 17th century.4 

922840               NS 98 NW             24 March '953 

1. The similarity of the plan of this house to that of Newton of Bothkennar (No.306, Fig. 138) will be noted. 

2. The Commissoriot Record of Edinburgh, Register of Testa ments, 1601-1700, S.R.S., 250. 

3. The Commissioners are indebted for information about the summer-house to Lt.-Col. R L. Hunter, T.D., F.S.A., who has a photograph of it in his possession. 

4.  Playfair, A. G., The Playfair Book, 41, f.