Ballagan House by Frederick Alsop, 1884, from The Parish of Strathblane by John Guthrie Smith, 1886
Ballagan House by Frederick Alsop, 1884, from The Parish of Strathblane by John Guthrie Smith, 1886

Strathblane Valley has a long history and Ballagan has been part of it since early times. When a cairn on the estate was opened, a cist containing ashes and a piece of a Late Bronze Age sword were found. The exact site of the cairn is not known, but the sword fragment was donated to the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS) in 1788. https://canmore.org.uk/site/44455/ballagan-house

In 1861 during cutting for the Blane Valley Railway in the fields opposite Ballagan House, a large mound of human and horse bones was uncovered, suggesting it may have been the site of an ancient battle. The standing stone in the field between Ballagan and Broadgate has long been said to mark the grave of a leader who died in one of the battles that raged between native tribes following the departure of the Romans. This is now regarded with scepticism by modern scholars. According to Canmore (the National Record of the Historic Environment) an excavation at the base of the stone revealed an urn containing a Bronze Age cremation.

In 1174 King William the Lion created a new earldom of Lennox. A castle belonging to the Earl of Lennox stood at Ballagan in the 12th century just north of the present walled garden. The stones from the old castle were used by a later generation in the mid-19th century to build the walls of the garden. A magnificent yew tree that stood beside the old castle was said to be the last memorial to the old lairds of Ballagan. Its spreading branches were used to shelter their coaches.

The Kirklands of Strathblane were conferred on William Stirling of Glorat by the Earl of Lennox in gratitude for his assistance in battle. William conveyed the Wester half of Ballagan with the Hill of Dunglass to his brother Walter, who became the first Stirling laird of Ballagan in 1522. The 1654 Bleau map of the area shows a mill at Ballagan, though there is no sign of it in later maps.

Part of the Joan Bleau Map printed in 1654 clearly shows a mill at Ballagan on the west bank of the Blane Water

The Easter lands were joined to the estate in 1657. Nine generations of Stirlings succeeded to Ballagan. According to the Second Statistical Account, published in 1841, the standing stone between Ballagan and Broadgate is where one of the Stirlings of Ballagan was killed by a miller named Abernethy in the 17th century. In 1756, having suffered by supporting the Jacobite cause, the estate became burdened with debt and was sold.

Glasgow merchant Thomas Graham was the first Graham laird of Ballagan. The original house of the Grahams, built around 1760, forms the back part of the present house. The date stone on the west gable, 1648, would have been taken from an older house on the west side of the Laggan burn. Four generations of Grahams succeeded to Ballagan, the last in line being Miss Janet Gloriana Graham who died in 1891. Her nearest relative and heir lived in Australia. He sold the estate, thus ending the Graham connection with Ballagan. John Stephens, West India merchant, was the next owner. After only six years the estate changed hands again.

In 1896 the estate was bought by William Blackburn Craig, retired drysalter. He it was who enlarged Ballagan House, building the Italianate entrance tower and adding principal rooms to the front of the existing mansion. He, his wife and family of three daughters and two sons lived here until his death when, in 1918, the estate was bought by Colonel Peter Charles Macfarlane, shipowner, Glasgow. His family lived at Ballagan for fifty-one years until he died in 1969.

Ballagan House

A developer bought Ballagan estate in 1973. Ground was sold off and Ballagan House again extended and divided into five flats. The tennis court was added at this time. The stables, barn, gardener’s cottage and lodge were sold separately. All have been extensively enlarged and improved over the years, as have the gardens. The splendid yew tree in the walled garden has been growing there for three to four hundred years and is still thriving. Ballagan retains its atmosphere of peace and tranquillity, enjoyed by all who live there.

Hand-tinted postcard of Ballagan Spout, c1910

Ballagan Glen, which rises behind the house, is home to a series of spectacular waterfalls, including the Spout of Ballagan, which plunges 21 metres off the escarpment of the Campsie Fells and occasionally freezes in winter. The gorge is well-known to geologists throughout the world because it displays a classic sandwich of calciferous sandstones known as the Ballagan Beds. Its alternating layers of shales and cementstones were laid down around 350 million years ago during the Carboniferous era. At the time the whole area lay under a tropical lagoon south of the equator! The area is a Scottish Wildlife Trust Reserve as well as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. https://scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk/reserve/ballagan-glen/

Ballagan Beds

Dunglass (below), the eye-catching mound opposite Ballagan is a classic crag and tail volcanic plug. A siding off the Blane Valley Railway was constructed to access its stone, which was used in a number of local buildings.

© Strathblane Heritage 2023

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