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Social History of Plean Estate

Front view of Plean House (ruin)

We start in the 1700's when your right to vote pretty much depended on how much land you owned. With this in mind Robert Haldane, who was already the owner of Airthrey Estate on which Stirling University now stands, bought Plean Estate from the Earl of Dunmore. The Haldane family continued to own it until 1799 when it was sold to pay debts. 

In 1800 the estate was bought by Francis Simpson the son of a clerk at Carron Company. He had served as a Lieutenant before joining the Merchant Navy and becoming a Captain working in the Far East. Having amassed a large fortune he returned to Scotland and commissioned and built Plean House around 1819 together with the other estate buildings.

Francis Simpson lived there with his daughter Frances and young son William having lost his wife in 1806. The young son did not keep in good health and subsequently died abroad in 1827 at age 22. Francis then remarried in 1830 but having suffered a fall, died in 1831, and was burried in Falkirk Parish Churchyard. In memory of his young son William, Francis left money to found the Wlliam Simpson Asylum, a place where men who had served their country in the forces could be looked after.The home, now known as William Simpson Home is still in existance today providing a high level of care for its residents and currently undergoing a major expansion and upgrade programme. After the death of Francis in 1831 Plean House and the estate were owned by the Trustees of Wiliam Asylum and had various tenants until the end of the century.

In 1901 the records show that the tenant was the Plean Colliery Company and was occupied by a Coal Master Wallace Thorneycroft. Thorneycroft is the family name which people remember today and associate with Plean House. In 1922 Wallace Thorneycroft bought the house where he and members of the Thorneycroft family stayed until 1970. The valuation roll soon after shows the owner to be the national Coalboard. In 1989 Plean Estate was aquired from the national Coalboard by Stirling Council and opened to the public as a Country Park. It was during this century, from the beginning until 1963 that coal was extracted from pits built on the edges of the estate with associated railways and coal waste which was deposited to form bings. This is the period when most change took place and brought about the dominant features on the landscape, evidence of which can still be seen today.