The gardens and policies were once part of the Galloway House Estate. Lord Alexander Garlies, son of the fifth Earl of Galloway, built the house in 1740 and it became an important seat of the Galloway’s until 1908. Successive Earls developed the house, lodges, leisure drives and gardens and surrounding parkland adding features such as the extensive estate walls – built by Napoleonic prisoners of war - and hahas (sunken fences). John, the seventh Earl was reputed to have said “where one tree will grow, a thousand will!” and from 1791 proceeded to plant in excess of 200,000 a year!
At the time of the tenth Earl, the head gardener from 1882 - 1913 was James Day a nationally recognised figure in horticultural circles and an award-winning grower of grapes and apples.
During his time existing glass houses, including the vinery, were extended and modernised with the addition of hot water heating systems. New glass houses were constructed, including the pear house, carnation house and camellia house.
In 1908 the estate was sold to a Scots decended Australian, Sir Malcolm McEacharn, who made his fortune by, amongst other things, pioneering the shipping of frozen beef from Australia to Great Britain. He was also the Lord Mayor of Melbourne. It was his son, however, Captain Neil McEacharn, who was responsible for much exotic planting, including the handkerchief tree (Davidia involucrata) and an extensive collection of tender trees and shrubs, many from the southern hemisphere. Some of these, e.g., Nothofagus menziesii, can still be seen today.
Captain McEacharn went on to create the famous gardens at Villa Taranto on Lake Maggiore in Italy. These gardens were influenced by the layout Galloway House. Captain McEacharn maintained a very fruitful relationship with Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh whence he received and also returned seed.
In 1930 the estate again changed hands when it was bought by Margaret the second Lady Forteviot, following the death of her husband the first Lord Forteviot — John Dewar of Dupplin Castle, Perthshire. The Dewars were one of Scotland’s most famous and successful whisky distillers, giving their name to the distinctive Dewar’s White Label blend.
Lady Forteviot, originally hailed from Merton Hall, Newton Stewart. It is said that she purchased Galloway House in favour of another local estate because Galloway House was fitted with its own electricity generator – although one would like to think other more subjective matters influenced her decision! Lady Forteviot brought her two step-grandchildren, Edward and Joan Strutt, to live with her at Galloway House. Lady Forteviot died in 1940.
During the war the house was used as hospital for recuperating servicemen. Part of the estate - particularly Rigg Bay was used as a test site for MULBERRY harbours, the floating pontoons and quays designed to allow the docking and unloading of cargo from ships to be used in the D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944. A protoype remnant stood in Rigg Bay until a violent storm in 2007. Many were sorry to see it go but Lady Forteviot has requested its removal after the war. There is now only one remnant of the WWII activity at Rigg Bay, which is now designated as a National Monument by Historic Scotland.
This photograph shows how the structure [a Hippo] looked before it finally succumbed to the waves.
After the war, following service in the RAF, her step-grandson, Edward Strutt returned to live in the house and farm the estate. He was responsible for many of the species and hybrid rhododendrons that are such a feature of the garden today.
The estate, however, continued to be fragmented and in 1949 Galloway House was handed over to the Glasgow Corporation as an establishment to offer the state school children of Glasgow an opportunity to stay and be educated in the countryside, away from, perhaps, the disadvantages and discomforts of the inner city at that time. Mr. Strutt stayed in part of the house for a while and in 1953 moved a short distance away to the converted head gardener’s cottage in the grounds – renamed Garlieston House. Following the sale of the Home Farm, Mr. Strutt concentrated his efforts on the retained policies, particularly the woodland and walled garden.
In 1987 Mr. Strutt and his wife Jan established the Galloway House Gardens Trust in an effort to ensure that the arobretum, woodland and walled garden would remain open for public enjoyment.
Mrs. Strutt died in 1988, followed by Mr. Strutt in 1991. They are buried, side by side, in the gardens they adored.
Galloway House was closed in 1979 by the education authority due to government budget constraints and was subsequently sold into private ownership. The house remains in private hands and is lived in to this day. It is closed to the public. It remains, however, the architectural focal point of the estate and can be clearly seen on arrival from the drive on the way to the Gardens. The Trustees continue to run the gardens in the spirit of the founders, and continue to evolve with complementary new plantings and introductions. The restoration and development of the gardens continues at a rate that funds will allow.