A Short Account of the Estates on which-Armadale is built.
Armadale, with between 800 and 900 houses, and upwards of 4000 of a population, is by no means a mushroom town, although within recent years it has greatly extended its dimensions in the shape of buildings. Let us, however, take ourselves, in imagination, back for a matter of 200 years, and we find that the land on which Armadale is built, and where so much activity is to be met with, presents a vastly different spectacle.
The estate, or barony, of Barbauchlaw was originally granted by the Crown to a scion of the House of Dundonald, whose family name is Cochrane, and is situated about 7½ miles south-west from Linlithgow, the county town, and nearly midway between Edinburgh and Glasgow, on the Great Road.
Originally the estate was much larger than it is now, its present dimensions being one thousand acres, which are bounded to the .south by the lands, of Hardhill, Bathville, and Polkemmet; on the north by the lands of Woodend, Birkenshaw, Bridge Castle, and South Couston; on the east by the lands of Hopetoun and Hardhill ; and on the west by the lands of Harthill, or the Barony of Ogleface.
The Manor House, which was known as "The Place", was situated a short distance to the south of the old road, a stone-throw to the west of what was known at that time as the Home Farm at Easterton, and immediately to the north of the present Established Church Manse. Early in the eighteenth century the head of the house held judicial sway over the county, acting as Sheriff in the Sheriffdoms of Linlithgow and Bathgate, and filling a prominent place in the fashionable society of the county.
The estate or barony of Barbauchlaw seems to have been held during the 18th century by Royal Charters, granted from time to time, the last of which was granted by Frederick, Prince of Wales, to Harry Cochran, and sealed at Edinburgh on the 28th September, 1734.
In distant days the estate must have been very thickly wooded, as I find in the lines of Thomas the Rhymer, of the 13th century:-
"Frae Boghead Burn to Boarbaughlee,
Ane cat could loup frae tree to tree."
And tradition has it that it was a favourite hunting ground for kings and courtiers, who must have enjoyed many an exciting chase after the wild boar, in which that part of the country is said to have abounded, and from which fact the original name of the estate – Boarbaughlaw - has some significance.
The situation of the estate being high ground compared with that lying closely around it the highest altitude being some 600 feet above sea level, would doubtless cause it to be termed a law, or hill, and the boughs of the forest of gigantic trees, in conjunction with the cover the underwood gave to the wild boar, form good grounds for believing that this was the source of the estate name, which, like many other such names, has in time undergone a great change.
In addition to the sport of hunting the wild boar, the estate harboured wolves, and in the early part of the 19th century deer were plentiful, and the eagle visited the district within the memory of living men.
Harry Cochran, who was an absent landlord, died in India, where he had great interests, about the year 1789, and there being some trouble about a successor, by an order of the Court, the estate was put up for sale in 1790, when it was knocked down to the offer of Sir William Honeyman, Baronet, of Armadale and Graemsay, a legal luminary of the time, who owned the estate of TorbanehiII close by, where he resided during the period the Court was in session in Edinburgh, his principal seat being .at Smyllum Park, Lanark.
Sir William Honeyman, Bart., apart from being a distinguished advocate in the High Courts, seems to have been a great landowner, as I find in a document of his, dated 1813, that he not only owned the Island of Graemsay, in the Orkney group, but had extensive possessions all over the country, chiefly in Sutherlandshire, where the original village of Armadale is situated.
After he acquired the lands of Barbauchlaw, Sir William Honeyman, having his residence at TorbanehiII during the session of the Courts at Edinburgh, never resided in the Manor House, which was, through the long absence of the landlord, fast reaching an uninhabitable state, and was allowed to go to ruin, the stones of the buildings being removed for other buildings, until little trace, beyond a few old trees, and an odd stump of a foundation wall, is to be seen to mark the spot where once stood a mansion, in which lived one of the highest dignitaries of the county.
The home farm, as already stated, was at Easterton, and it was there where the first feu was staked off on the estate, for other than agricultural purposes, when a shoemaker, named William Gardner, obtained a feu from Harry Cochran, Esq. of Boarbaughlaw, on the 15th March, 1760, and 13 years later (1773) the second feu, at the same place, was granted to John Brock, butcher. An attempt was no doubt made to encourage building at this particular spot, since the feu-duty charged was but nominal and the. likelihood is, that but for the making of a. new road from Edinburgh to Glasgow, Easterton would have been the town, and Armadale, where it is, would never have been known.
In 1786 the great road was opened for traffic, making a junction with the cross country road near the east end of the estate, and at the cross thus formed there was erected a toll bar, with the necessary tollman's house, a small one-room hut, with a look-out window in each wall. This house was built on the north-east corner of the Cross, which was heavily gated and barred to prevent carriage or cattle passing through without paying the necessary toll required to defray the expense of keeping the roads and bridges in proper order. The Toll was known on the ordnance survey as Boarbauchlaw Toll, and was licensed to sell spirits and ale, until the Forbes-Mackenzie Act, which came into force on May 15th, 1855, put an end to it.
Sir William Honeyman, Bart., shortly after coming into the ownership of Barbauchlaw estate, was created a Senator of the College of Justice, and a Lord Commissioner of Justiciary, after which he sat on the bench as "Lord Armadale", and from which title Armadale, Linlithgowshire, took its name.
On the 11th Nov., 1813, Lord Armadale seems to have got into financial difficulties, and, having acquired many estates all over the country, he resolved to dispose of Barbauchlaw, and on the date mentioned it came into the possession of Mr. Andrew Thomson, who only held it for about five years, when he disposed of it to Mr. James Dennistoun, of Glasgow, on the 6th April, 1818. Mr. Dennistoun's son, Alexander, succeeded him on the 25th April, 1835, and continued in possession until the 11th Nov., 1861, at which date Mr. Alexander Turner became proprietor. Mr. John Moffat succeeded to the Lairdship just exactly ten years after. Mr. George Readman, sen., succeeded Mr. Moffat on the last day of the year 1881, and at Martinmas term of 1893 Mr. George Readman, jun., came into possession, his father dying the following year. The present Laird, like his father, takes a keen interest in the scholastic affairs of the town, his prize of a watch each to the dux boy and girl of the school every .year has been long continued and eagerly contested for.
Although Armadale has been built chiefly on Barbauchlaw estate, the southern part extends to Bathville and Hardhill. Of late years, many buildings have been erected in this part of the burgh, entirely of a residential character.
The estate of Bathville, which was formerly known as Harestanes, and constituted part of the Hopetoun estates, was sold by James Hope Johnston, Earl of Hopetoun, to William Davidson, on the 21st October, 1797. At that time General William Maxwell of Bellamonte was the superior of Harestanes, and he confirmed William Davidson in the said lands by Charter of Confirmation dated the 19th May, 1819. The lands were subsequently purchased by James M'Hardy of Glenboig, Sheriff-Clerk Depute of Lanarkshire at Glasgow, and sold by his trustees - James Merry, merchant, Glasgow; Alex. Cunningham, merchant, there; and James M'Kenzie of Waterhead and Glentore - by public roup. Several times the lands were-put up for sale without finding a buyer, till at last on the 29th June, 1859, when the price was reduced to £10,500, it was bought by the mineral tenant, John Watson, described as a coalmaster in Glasgow. In 1874 the sequestrated estate of John Watson and Sons was put to the hammer by the trustees, when James Wood became proprietor, and built a new and palatial mansion-house on the site of the old one, and resided there until the advent of the United Collieries Company, Limited, a few years ago, to whom he sold out, and purchased the more congenial estate of Wallhouse, with its beautiful old mansion, to which he retired at the close of 1905. When selling out to the United Collieries Company, Mr. Wood reserved to himself the mansion-house and six acres or so of beautifully planted grounds, which were purchased by Mr. Alex. B. M'Ara, the proprietor of Bathville Store and Inn, in 1905, as a residence. The name of the estate was changed from Harestanes to Bathville on William Davidson becoming proprietor in 1797.
The lands of Hardhill, the western part of which comes in between Barbauchlaw and Bathville, until within ten years ago formed the south-west part of Hopetoun estates, in the county of Linlithgow, but at that time James Wood of Bathville purchased them, and is at; present the proprietor, and since his coming into possession of these lands he has so successfully encouraged residential building, that nearly every available foot of feuing ground on the main streets' front has been built upon, and on June 26th, 1902 (the original date fixed for the King's Coronation, which had to be postponed on account of His Majesty's serious illness), Mr. Wood presented the burgh with a Public Park, in which he erected a magnificent Bandstand, Drinking Fountain, Urinal, Maypole, Swings, etc., at the opening of which, on the above date, the school children were given a gala day, since celebrated annually. When, on presenting the Park to the Town Council, on behalf of the inhabitants, Mr. Wood was presented by Provost Adam Wilson with a handsome illuminated address setting forth the public appreciation of Mr. and Mrs Wood's large-heartedness and public generosity.
During the course of the century of Armadale's existence, the face of the district has entirely changed from that of sylvan beauty to a thoroughly industrial centre, employing many hands in various walks of life.