When the Caledonian Railway built its new line from Glasgow to Stirling via Cumbernauld in 1848, the only farms in the immediate vicinity were Carbrain, Kildrum, Greenyards and Greenside
In maps produced from surveys in 1859 there is a large house marked as Greenfaulds mid-way between Seafar Cottage to the north and Faulds House to the south. It was accessed via the minor road that ran from Muirhead to Mollinsburn. John Ure was resident in Greenfaulds House with an estate of around 65 acres in 1874. He seems to have been a retired army Captain and became a leading light as Greenfaulds and the area around the Station was developed.
Things began to change following the purchase of the Cumbernauld estate by John William Burns. He belonged to the Burns shipping family. George Burns and his brother James were general merchants in Glasgow who later became shipping magnates. The Burns’ company eventually owned 107 ships, all built on the Clyde. They teamed up with Hugh Mathie of Liverpool and established the Glasgow Steam Packet Company. In 1839 the Liverpool connection was greatly strengthened when George Burns was introduced to Samuel Cunard and raised £270,000 in subscriptions to establish the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. This company secured a seven-year contract from the Admiralty to carry the American mails by steamship. James and George, with David MacIver, were founding partners and shareholders with Cunard in the new venture.
John William Burns became the Chairman of Cunard Steamship Company and later inherited his father’s extensive estates in Dunbartonshire. Cumbernauld estate was purchased from Hon. Cornwallis Fleming.
Glasgow Herald Friday, June 30, 1876
Some time ago Mr J. W. Burns of Kilmahew purchased the state of Cumbernauld, at a price of about £165,000.00, and he entered into possession at Whitsunday last. Ever since then the tenants and fuears have been making preparations for giving Mr Burns a hearty welcome to his new home, and for some days back the inhabitants of Cumbernauld have been in a high state of excitement. The usually dull village has been suddenly awakened out of its lethargy, and the inhabitants have displayed an energy and an enthusiasm for which few people might have been inclined to give them credit…
…About noon the tenants, to the number of thirty, turned out on horseback, and were met at the village by a number of other friends in gigs and other vehicles, by Masonic brethren in full costume, by the Rifle Volunteers, under the command of Captain Ure, and by the workmen of Banknock.
..In the afternoon, the tenantry on the estate dined in the public school and the company numbered about 150.”
There followed many speeches and toasts at the end of which Mr Burns concluded by, “thanking all present for the cordial welcome they had given him to his new property in Cumbernauld”.
However, Mr Burns did not reside in Cumbernauld House and it was let to Mr D Frazer of the Buchanan St chemists, Messrs Frazer & Green. By that time, the House had been unoccupied for seventeen years. Unfortunately, during extensive repairs before taking up residence, the house burned to the ground in March 1877. Apparently, despite insurance of £4,500, the damage was estimated at £10,000. Mr Burns and Mr Frazer shared the costs of repairs.
Aberdeen Press and Journal 21 March, 1877
Destructive Fire. Mansion House Burned.
On Saturday morning, the mansion house of Cumbernauld, a fine old building, was destroyed by fire. The house was built in 1731 by the Earl of Wigtown, Baron Fleming of Cumbernauld, whose family had possession of the estate for the long period of 600 years. The seventh and last Earl of Wigtown died in 1747, being sixteen years after the mansion, which has just been destroyed, was built, and the house and grounds, which latter extend to upwards of 4000 acres, were since that time in the possession of the Elphinstone family, from whom they were purchased last year by John William Burns, Esq., of Kilmahew, for the sum of £160,000. The house had been unoccupied for the last sixteen years, but towards the close of last year the new proprietor, not intending to occupy it himself, leased it for ten years to Mr Frazer, the only partner of the well-known firm of Messrs Frazer & Green, chemists, Glasgow; and during the past few months extensive alterations and improvements were being made, with a view to its occupancy by the tenant.
It has taken time to establish when the first houses were built in Greenfaulds but an article in the Falkirk Herald, Feb 24, 1877 reveals that the first new villa to be built was Davenport. An elaborate foundation stone laying ceremony took place overseen by the local Masonic Lodge. I found this report enlightening and surprising. The Freemasons at the time seemed to be very well embedded in society and engaged openly in functions. Church ministers were active members. The news report gives some real insights to the life and times – and characters of Greenfaulds.
“Masonic Ceremony – The paying of the foundation stone of a new villa in course of erection by a respected brother, Noah Smith, Esq., commission merchant, residing at South Muirhead, Cumbernauld, took place here on Saturday last. Before proceeding to lay the stone, the Rev. Br. W. S. Shanks offered up a very impressive prayer, after which Mrs Noah Smith gracefully presented to the Rev. Hugh Park a silver trowel, bearing a suitable inscription, with which to lay the stone, and in memory of the event. The ceremony was then proceeded with, this being the first villa (Davenport House) proposed for erection on the Cumbernauld estate since it came into the hands of the new proprietor, John William Burns, Esq., of Kilmahew and Cumbernauld. As is customary on such occasions, the Rev. Br. Hugh Park gave a short address, in which he alluded to the enterprise of Br. Noah Smith in coming amongst us, and being the first to commence building operations on the state of Cumbernauld. He also stated that in the annals of history we read that the place where we now stands at one a favourite spot for wild deer, but now we could see that they had fled, and had left the place to be the resting-place of our much-respected Br. and his good lady who, he hoped, would be long spared to enjoy many happy days in the villa at present in the course of erection, and concluded by proposing three hearty cheers for Br. Noah Smith and Mrs Noah Smith, which was heartily responded to in real Masonic style. Br. Smith replied on behalf of himself and his wife, and thanked the Rev. Br. Hugh Park, and also all the brethren present for turning out to do him so great an honour in laying the foundation stone of his new villa.
The ceremony at the stone was concluded by the Deputy-Provincial Grand Master reading the following, a copy of which was deposited in the bottle – “This bottle contains copies of Falkirk Herald, Glasgow Herald, Glasgow News, and North British Daily Mail of this date, also of ‘Scottish Masonic Calendar’ for 1877, and current coins of the realm – viz, two-shilling piece or one florin, one shilling, sixpence, threepence, penny, halfpenny, and farthing. The stone it rests in is this day, at 3pm, duly and properly laid with full Masonic honours by Lodge No. 199, ‘St Andrew’s,’ Cumbernauld, by the lodge chaplain, Rev Br. Hugh Park, ministers this parish, to whom Mrs Noah Smith hands a trowel with suitable inscription thereon, the lodge providing the other necessary tools, Rev. Br. W. S. Shanks, minister of Maryhill, assists Rev. Br. Hugh Park on the occasion. The villa, of which aforesaid stone forms a part, is called Davenport House, and is being erected for Br. Noah Smith, of Lodge No 3 bis, St John’s, Glasgow, and 57 Miller St, Glasgow.”
The names of the architects, the contractors, and the lodge officers followed. The brethren thereafter returned home to the Lodge, where a sumptuous repast awaited their arrival after the day’s work. After arriving at the Lodge-room, the R. W. Master called the brethren from labour to refreshment, when the brethren partook of an excellent dinner provided for them by Br. Smith, to which they did ample justice. The cloth being removed, the Right Worshipful Master proposed the usual loyal and patriotic toasts, which were duly pledged, after which he proposed long life and prosperity to Br. Noah Smith and his amiable spouse, which was drunk with all the honours. Other toasts followed. The meeting was enlivened throughout the evening by several of the brethren rendering some fine songs. The meeting broke up at 10 o’clock, all being well pleased with the day’s enjoyment.
So began the Victorian development of Greenfaulds as wealthy gentry and city merchants took up residence in the green and pleasant surroundings of Cumbernauld Station, now well-served by the rail connections to the City Centre. I can’t help wondering what happened to the glass bottle “time-capsule” when the bulldozers cleared the foundations of Davenport House. Who knew it was there? Was it ever recovered or did it just end up as part of the rubble and hardcore used for new roads?
(Mr & Mrs Noah Smith apparently moved to England in 1899 having resided in the area for 25 years.)
Falkirk Herald 7 Aug, 1879
IMPROVEMENTS IN THE VILLAGE – This district has improved greatly of late. The village has quite a modern appearance, so many new buildings having recently been erected. At Cumbernauld Station, the smaller houses are well let, and at Luggiebank and South Muirhead there is a demand for more accommodation. Mr Crawford has just completed a row of cottages at the latter place, and each of them having the advantage of a large garden, they were taken at once after being finished. The grounds of Greenfaulds estate is being rapidly covered with villas, and parties are looking after several acres which are to be feud for houses of a somewhat smaller size than those already erected. For a country residence this station is very convenient to the city. The trains can run the distance from Buchanan Street Station in less than twenty-five minutes. It is the intention of the railway company to still further increase the convenience of the station, by erecting two staircases, one at either end of the bridge spanning the railway. A Post Office has also been opened for the convenience of those who live south from the station.
Glasgow Herald Oct 4, 1879
CUMBERNAULD – New Feuing Ground – Plans have now been prepared and roads formed for feuing the fine estates of Greenfaulds, the property of Mr John Ure. The ground, which extends to about 65 acres, lies within half a mile westward of Cumbernauld railway station; and, snugly sheltered from north and east, overlooking a wide southern basin, it offers rare inducements for country residences. Neither has any expense been spared on the part of the proprietor for perfect drainage, the elevated situation of the lands greatly favouring this important matter. A copious supply of water is obtained from Fannyside Lochs, but, in the event of a spate in the reservoir, a large filter has been constructed in the grounds for utilising the numerous local springs. Cumbernauld Station possesses the advantage of direct communication with the south.
* It appears that the water supply from Fannyside was never installed. News reports in 1908 provide details of poor readings taken from wells at Greenfaulds which were often located close to drains or in the case of Laurel Bank, about 30 feet from a cess pit. But, “Laurel Bank is within the new special water supply district, which is to obtain its water from Fannyside Loch.” So it took around 30 years to put in the infrastructure originally proposed. Some things we’re ever thus!
Greenfaulds House became a Convalescent and Sick Children’s Home – “The object of this home is that poor, sick, slum children get from two to four weeks in the country free. It is entirely supported by voluntary contributions.”
The villas built at Greenfaulds include Beechwood, Davenport, Bellevue, Laurel Bank, Hawthorn House, Inchanagh, The Coppice, Double Villa, Miraflores Villa, Mount Pleasant.
** “Feuing” is the term for the legal process under Scottish law of selling land. “The property of land in Scotland is held either directly and immediately under the Crown as paramount superior of all feudal subjects; or indirectly, either as vassal to some one who holds his land immediately from the Crown, or as sub-Vassal in a still more subordinate degree.”