A tour of the grounds led by Head Gardener Margaret Pollock
Following informative tours of Bannockburn House, guided by passionate and informative volunteer guides, we started the garden tour led by Head Gardener Margaret Pollock in front of the historic Bannockburn House looking at the entrance lawn, flanked by low level masonry walls probably little changed from the original layout, with exception being the Silver Firs, Abies alba, planted around 1685 when the house was built. Regrettably the pair of Silver Firs were lost them in the big storm of January 1968.
Until the 1950’s there were two Silver Firs, two Monkey puzzles, Araucaria araucana and two Wellingtonia, Sequoiadendron gigantium spaced along the front drive.
Moving through the gate in the wall past the Box Parterre – an article from Scottish Field in the 1950’s states that the neatly laid out gardens followed the pattern of the main plaster ceiling in the Laigh Hall of the house. The Holly hedges have recently been reinvigorated in stages by reducing the height from about 30 feet to 18 feet, and finally to 3 feet high. Thankfully they have responded vigorously to this reduction process.
Into the enclosed garden, of which no real plans survive. Therefore, guided by 1860 First Edition 6-inch Ordinance Survey map and John Adair’s Mape of the Countries around Stirling, which shows the house standing within a series of yards, sheltered by trees and surrounded by a substantial enclosure or park, the walled garden was laid out as four central beds. Funded by the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust ‘Plants for a purpose’ different herbs have been planted in four categories, medicinal, culinary, dyeing and brewing and cosmetic and scent. Originally Lavender was used for the hedges instead of Box, however, both rabbits and deer ate it!
We were fortunate to have a volunteer Bill Evans, in his 80’s who had worked in the garden the 1950’s and could remember a lot about the layout and also the plants and varieties which were grown back then.
The centre piece in the garden, a Unicorn statue, came from Craigforth House. Its plinth was built by a volunteer who is a retired stone Mason from Stirling Castle.
Earlier this year the garden team laid out a grass labyrinth in front of the north wall.
Then quick glimpse of polytunnels, funded by the College Collaboration Fund money, on route to recently exposed archaeology by the Stirling Council’s archaeologists. Speculation regarding its origin whether it could be the base of a Tower house, or possibly an icehouse or even a well. Also, the route of a coal road was pointed out as the area has a rich history of coal mining. *
We then visited Clementina’s water feature. Constructed from Limestone, historic photographs of the rockery, show the water was sparkling and at one time had goldfish in it. Clementina’s rockery could be a 1880’s Wilson addition as there are some small ponds shown outside garden wall on the Second Edition 6-inch Ordinance Survey map dating from 1896. It is thought that inspiration for the water rill and cascade was supposed to recreate waterfall in Kilearn, as this was Clementina Walkinshaw’s favourite local beauty spot.
Onto the South lawn where Victorian garden paths are discernible as slightly raised mounds, which might in the future be reinstated.
There are historic photographs of Rose beds to west side of garden and other photos showing a pergola, some flower borders and metal strap estate fencing.
We left the south lawn via. a grass path which led to an ornate cast-iron fountain which came from Glasgow via. the Pickard family who lived in the house during the 1960’s. The Pickard’s were entrepreneurs owned the Britannia Panopticon; the world’s oldest surviving Music Theatre located in Glasgow. The fountain is thought to be one of three surviving, the others are located on the promenade in Ayr and possibly one in Hawick.
Past the veteran Lime trees avenues possibly planted in 1685’s and round to the Wellingtonias with connections to John McLaren who was Bannockburn born apprentice gardener in 1860 who emigrated to North America and created the Golden Gate Park.
Our guided tour concluded at the gate pillars, enigma! why there? And from where? And how old? The revival of the gardens based on a master plan prepared by Simpson & Brown and The Paul Hogarth Company plans to move them to the bottom of the drive to form new low level masonry walls to form a gated entrance to the house.
*since SGLH’s visit in September the stone feature has since been identified as an old coal mine shaft, which unlike other old shafts in the immediate vicinity was not recorded on the OS Map series.
Many thanks to Simon Stuart for kindly agreeing to us publishing his photographs.