Detailed History Milheugh House

Telling the definitive history of Milheugh House is something i’ve been meaning to do for some time. It’s probably the building i get asked about the most. Milheugh House and Estate was a very prominent feature of old Blantyre. The house and it’s owned properties were situated on the Blantyre Parish side of the river Calder, the gardens and Summerhouses on the Cambuslang Parish side. Located in beautiful woodland surroundings the house saw generations of the one family living there and went through extensive changed and development.

There is evidence that the Millar family owned and lived at the Estate since the 1500’s, making it one of the earliest houses in Blantyre. The original house stood on the right bank of the Rotten Calder river and must have been very grand by comparison to other small weaving or farming properties in the area of the time.

Milheugh House

1799 Sketch by John Claude Nattes

Sketched here in 1799 is the old Georgian House and original wooden bridge. The building certainly is modelled on Georgian Architecture, the pitch on the roof, triangular façade and style of windows. However, this presents a mystery as Georgian architecture styles commenced around 1720, but we know the Millar’s lived on this land for centuries before this, indicating that there was likely a smaller, previous house to this.

Perhaps the most famous man of Milheugh was John Millar, born 22nd June 1735, who was the distinguished Professor of Law in the University of Glasgow, and author of several philosophical works of repute; one on the English Government, and another on the Origin and Distinction of Ranks in Society. However John Millar was not originally from Blantyre, having been born in Shotts. In 1737, the family moved to Hamilton on account of John’s father being given a position of minister there. Little John went to live at is Uncle’s estate at Milheugh and grew up there, becoming most definitely a Blantyre man and indeed in 1785 upon the death of his Uncle, inheriting the entire estate for himself. He spent 16 years thereafter as sole owner of Milheugh until the end of his life in 1801.

There is a very pretty description of Milheugh Estate written and recorded by Mr.Craig, his biographer. It is retold in the “Annals of Blantyre” book as follows, “ Milheugh possesses many natural beauties. It consists of several small meadows separated from each other by the Calder, a little stream which winds amongst them, sometimes skirting , at other times intersecting the valley. The bushes which fringe the edges of the rivulet and a number of large trees near the house and shading some of its principal walks give great richness to the scene, whilst the steep banks that rise from either side of the valley suggest ideas of retirement and seclusion. But when Mr Millar came to Milheugh there was much to alter and improve. During the decade 1730s, his Uncle removed many formal hedges which sub divided the little meadows or by stiff unbending lines marked too distinctly the course of the rivulet. He formed the old orchard on the Cambuslang Parish into pleasing groups of trees around the house, left bushes irregularly scattered on the banks of the stream and carried plantations along the top of the banks. Everything throve in this sheltered situation and Milheugh is now one of the sweetest retirements that could be desired. It’s beauties are elegant and simple and perhaps it would be difficult to point out any further embellishments that would accord with the character of the place.

I believe his Uncle (also John Millar) was most probably responsible slightly earlier around the 1720’s for building the Georgian manor house, as a declaration of their esteem, wealth and influence on the area, which extended to owning many properties around Barnhill.

1915 Milheugh House

1915 Milheugh House

His son was James Millar was a Professor of Mathematics in the University of Glasgow and owned the estate from 1801 until his daughter Margaret Millar inherited it on 10th November 1838, having married to Andrew Bannatyne 10 years earlier. James Millar died on 11th July 1838 and his will read out on 10th November by the Trustees of his estate, who included Andrew Bannatyne, his son in law.

In the late 1830’s Milheugh was massively extended. The old Georgian part of the house was maintained, but a grand stone building on two storeys was added most with a firm Victorian design statement. The 1859 Valuation register for the Parish records that this “modern home”, a reference to that recent construction. The gardens were heavily landscaped and reprofiled to suit the new building and evidence of new estate paths is apparent on old maps, filling in the old lade that ran across the Milheugh fields. At this time, the two estate cottages were also built at Pathfoot, on the Pech Brae, itself part of the Estate. The cottages were leased out to the groundskeeper and as a stable.

The old name of Millheugh with two “Ls” was confined to history. The name of the new house was changed to Milheugh, with one L likely around the 1830’s perhaps to distinguish it from Millheugh in Larkhall. The name with one L is noted in James Millars inventory. Maps beyond this point refer to Milheugh with one L, just as it is today, but many documents and postcards incorrectly don’t make that distinction. Andrew Bannatyne went on to become Dean of the Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow. This universally respected gentleman died in 1871.

The eldest son of Andrew Bannatyne was Colonel John Millar Bannatyne, an officer who, after seeing a great deal of active service in the field retired, and occupied himself in literary pursuits and retired himself a Milheugh.

1870 Milheugh House, Blantyre by Thomas Annan

1870 Milheugh House, Blantyre by Thomas Annan

The estate owners beyond 1890 sadly started to carve up the Milheugh Estate. Firstly, land sales to the County Council in 1926 and the Roads Authority in 1929 when the Barnhill road got upgraded. Other parts of the land were sold off to the Caledonian Railway and nearby farms of Malcolmwood and Wheatlandhead. By 1947 the Estate had been inherited by a distant relative Mary Baird Bannatyne who was not resident even in this country. Milheugh’s fate was sealed. During the late 1940’s, Milheugh House went into decline with the caretaker struggling to keep out squatters. Trespassers had taken over Millheugh House, near the Calder Falls and on 28th April 1945, they officially had to surrender it back to the owners after legal intervention, effectively ending their squatting rights. However, squatting continued by others through the 1950s.

Finally, on 2nd May 1958, with consent of Jane Louisa Millar Bannatyne, the Milheugh Estate, or what was left of it, including the derelict house was transferred to the District Council of 5th District of County of Lanark. At the same time the last few portions of land at Hunthill and Barnhill were sold off privately. The house lay empty, boarded up, and a haven for vandals. It very quickly was stripped of all fittings, was littered and covered in graffiti. It became derelict and beyond repair. Sadly the final part of this story is to advise that the house is no longer there today, with the Council seeing it as a maintenance liability, demolishing it in summer 1963.

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