(Click on the heading to return to Dollar Park index) Dollar Park lies on the road heading west towards Camelon from Falkirk town centre and is often seen as the town’s own park. It occupies 4.6ha (11.36 acres) of land to the north of this busy road in what used to be the Victorian estate of Arnotdale. The name was changed in 1922 when Robert Dollar gave it to Falkirk Burgh.
The estate was formed around 1830 by James Russel, a prominent writer and businessman in the town. His partner, Henry Aitken, took the land to the west and established Darroch. Russel set up all the normal accoutrements of a gentleman’s estate – a large mansion house (SMR 945), doocot (SMR 4), walled garden, greenhouses, potting sheds, lodges, sundial, drives, a fountain, and appropriate tree planting. Over the years the garden ornaments were augmented with statues and vases. After the Russel family the house was occupied by other well-known citizens of Falkirk, including Robert Barr, James Ross and Sheriff Moffat.
1940s OS Map
Writing in 1869, Gillespie was effervescent about the planting:
“We are also overpowered with the blaze of gay and gaudy blossoms. Still, from the exquisite commingling of colours, the loveliest, if not the grandest, of the floral beds, is that in which the grey cantauria, with its richly-powdered leaves, alternates with the “cloth of gold” geranium, the blue lobellia, and the dwarf beet. Many beautiful shrubs and trees are likewise artistically set throughout the grounds; including the golden yew; the delicate Wellingtonia; the weeping gean, with its drooping foliage and bridal blooms; the gorgeous rhododendron plant; and the golden-tressed laburnum. But on the south lawn there is, perhaps rarest of them all, an old Scotch yew, which was transplanted into Arnotdale from Mungalhead, some six years ago.” (Gillespie 1868, 35).
In 1904 the small estate was advertised for sale. The following particulars were given:
“The House contains 4 public rooms, 6 bedrooms, and 2 dressing rooms, day and night nurseries, bathroom, cloak-room, lavatories, kitchen, servants' accommodation, etc. The grounds extend to several acres, and there are first-class vineries, conservatories, etc.; also large swimming bath under cover with means of heating. Ample stable accommodation and all other conveniences. Two lodges, occupied by gardener and coachman.”
The Entrance to Arnotdale House from Kilns Road showing some of the “valuable trees”. The gate piers are capped with now headless sculptures of wild sheep.
The estate was bounded on the east by Kilns Road that northwards runs into Burnbrae Road, which since the construction of the railway in the late 1940s had become a cul-de-sac. The railway had also taken away the north-western tip of the estate, though it did increase its privacy. There were two drives. The main drive was off Camelon Road, adjacent to the Kilns Road junction. From the lodge here it curved through a small arboretum to the north-west to reach the main south-facing door. From there it continued as a footpath to a fountain set in the centre of a large shallow stone bowl. The secondary drive was off Kilns Road where there was another lodge. Here the gate piers were capped with sculptures of goats. This drive curved slightly to follow the edge of the tree plantation and then ran parallel with the main drive to a small courtyard at the back of the house. The north side of this drive was bounded by a fence and the 3.84 acre field beyond was used to graze animals. It was divided in two by a narrow west/east path leading from Burnbrae Road to a cottage. To its west was another grass park of 2.0 acres. The small court north of Arnotdale House had stable in its west range and a coachouse in the north-east pavilion. A north-west pavilion appears to have been for accommodation and between them must have been the indoor swimming pool alluded to in the advertisement. North of these courtyard buildings, on the other side of a track, was a doocot and outbuildings (presumably a laundry and dairy). North-west of the House was a large walled garden built with the liberal use of brick. There was an extensive range of greenhouses and hothouses along its north wall, with a tall central bay. In front of this stood a sundial.
The facilities had changed little by December 1920 when it again was on the market:
“The House, which contains 4 Public Rooms, 7 Bedrooms, 2 Dressing Rooms, 2 Bathrooms, Butler’s Room and Pantry, stands in its own Grounds, extending to fully 11 Acres. The Offices, which include Stables, Coach-House, etc., are commodious. There is a Walled Garden, with Vineries, etc., and a Swimming Bath. The Ornamental Grounds and Shrubberies are tastefully laid out with rare and valuable Trees and Shrubs. The Grass Parks on the Property extend to about 5½ Acres. There are also 2 Lodges and a Cottage on the Property.”
On this latter occasion it was sold at a public roup held in Falkirk’s Royal Hotel for the upset price of £5,600. The purchaser was acting at the instance of Falkirk’s provost using money made available by Robert Dollar. Dollar had been born in Falkirk, but left at the age of 13 for Canada and made an immense fortune in shipping timber all over the world. Before long he made the property over to the burgh for the good of the people. He was very modest and records it thus in his memoirs:
“Was pleased to have the opportunity of visiting Falkirk, my native town, and actually gave up business for three days. But I was not exactly idle as I carefully looked over twelve acres of land in the town, called the Estate of Arnotdale. There were four houses on it, all rented, one of them a fine big mansion. I did not make it known, but I gave the Mayor enough money to buy it. Some time after this I got a telegram that they had closed the transaction. It will make a fine park right in the town. There is a swimming bath on the place, and the rents they receive will make it self-supporting.”
Truncated pier at the entrance to Dollar Park with brass plaque commemorating the opening.
The burgh council decided to enhance the public amenity of the park and to open it up as soon as possible. The tall wall fronting the main road was lowered and topped with iron railings. An additional pedestrian entrance was inserted in the south-west corner of the Park and the path to the cottage considerably widened and provided with benches to form a promenade. Four tennis courts were constructed to the north of the walled garden and an 18-hole putting green was formed to the east of that garden. The “cottage” became the tennis pavilion and a kiosk, and a lavatory was attached to its west side for the users of the new park. A second toilet was placed in the outbuildings north of the mansion. The mansion itself was turned into offices for the burgh’s staff such as the Dean of Guild and the engineer. The park was officially opened in May 1922 and a brass plaque attached to the pier on the west side of the entrance from Camelon Road commemorates this: “BURGH OF FALKIRK/ DOLLAR PARK/ OPENED/ MAY 1922/ BY/ G. RUSSELL ESQ./ PROVOST.”
Continued - See Dollar Park (Part 2)