Kinneil House

Kinneil House
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Kinneil House

A fine 17th century mansion situated in a magnificent parkland setting on the outskirts of Bo'ness in Falkirk Council Area, Kinneil House lies a mile (1.5 km) west southwest of the town centre. A large tower-house was built here c.1470 by James, 1st Lord Hamilton (d.1479), on lands granted to his ancestor Walter Fitz Gilbert in the late 13th century by Robert the Bruce (1274 - 1329). It was extended 1549-50 by James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran (1516-75) to suit his status after he became Regent to the young Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-87). He undertook further major work 1553-55. In 1570, the house was partially destroyed by James Douglas, the 4th Earl of Morton (c.1516-81) following Mary's escape from Loch Leven Castle. Anne, the Duchess of Hamilton (1632 - 1716), undertook a significant programme of rebuilding, extension and renovation in 1677-88 shaping the old tower house into the five-bay main block we see today. This features a balustrade around its flat roof, but is unusual because the five-storey block which forms the central three bays is a storey higher than the end towers. The scheme was never completed because the planned range to the southeast was not built. The back is plain, with massive gun loops still evident from the original construction. Later the house was let, with tenants including John Roebuck (1718-94) and Dugald Stewart (1753 - 1828), but Kinneil remained a property of the Hamiltons until 1936 when it was sold to Bo'ness Town Council. Its demolition, to make way for a housing development, was only halted when rare painted decorations were discovered. These fine wall paintings, which include biblical scenes, date from the 16th and 17th centuries and are now regarded as the most important of their type in Scotland. Whilst stable, the interior is in a depleted condition.

The house now occupies a picturesque location at the end of a red gravel drive beyond 17th-century ball-finialled gate piers. It is in the guardianship of Historic Environment Scotland and is occasionally open for public viewing.

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