George Neilson, a former owner of Crossbasket was born in Glasgow on 17th December 1848 son of Walter Neilson and Jane Fulton. A Glasgow Ironmaster, by 1884, his fortune was made and the family business was passed down to him when his father, Walter Neilson passed away. Walter was the owner of the famous and large Summerlee Iron Company, who inherited it from his self made father. Summerlee was to make this family vastly wealthy.
George Neilson of Crossbasket should not be confused with a lawyer and writer of the same name who was born 1858.
Sumerlee, the family’s iron factory was somewhat preserved and today in 2015 is the 22 acre site and heritage park in Coatbridge, accommodating a museum to social and industrial strength of the Victorian era. It focuses on teaching children local heritage, with interactive exhibitions and entertainment of all sorts. When building the heritage park in modern times, the workmen found the remains of the original 1836 factory belonging to the Neilsons and had to excavate through 6m deep of slag to find suitable ground.
George Neilson, the Ironmaster, at 24 years old, married Alexina Georgina Grey at Greenock on 20th August 1872. Between 1873 and 1886, they had five children and lived in Glasgow. At the time of Walter’s death in 1884, there was a considerable fortune left to his three sons, John, William and of course George. The sum was reputed to be £189,607, split equally three ways as inheritance by the sons. (About £27,000,000 in 2015 money!) In addition to this, George was also considerably wealthy and held fortunes of his own, from his time setting up and running Glasgow’s Oakbank Foundry, a company famous for building iron steamships for canals.
At the time of buying Crossbasket in 1891, George was 43 years old and as well as his own fortune, had 7 years earlier inherited £63,000, a sum which by 2015 worth would be about £9,000,000!! Money to spare, it is no surprise that he wanted to buy an idyllic nice residence for him and his growing family.
When George Neilson bought Crossbasket in 1891, the Rotten Calder was still dammed beside the lower terraced gardens. The main entrance road in from the lodge was tree lined on either side and outbuildings including a large greenhouse were located to the north of the house, eastwards of the waterfall. There were four wooden footbridges crossing the River Calder, 2 of them leading to woodland trails in the woods to the North of the house. A circular path ran around the entire estate, with thick woodland adjacent to the General’s Bridge and along the boundary wall with Stoneymeadow Road.
1891 – George Neilson buys Crossbasket in January at an auction house in Glasgow for an undisclosed sum.
Extract from the book “The History of Crossbasket Castle” by Paul Veverka (c)