McKinnon House, Keil Gardens, Kirkton Hill, Dumbarton
Keil Gardens off Helenslee Road is an upmarket group of impressive new houses. The name comes from Keil School, the main building of which still stands here. Well it was an impressive building too until vacated when the school closed and it quickly deteriorated. The building had been Helenslee House, once the home of the successful Denny shipbuilding family. The new housing are situated in what had been the extensive landscaped gardens. It is intended to eventually restore this building, but market conditions, amongst other factors, have impeded such action and it now stand forlorn and roofless.
But I want to direct you to one of the outbuildings. The original premises had included a coach house. This still stands and has in fact been restored, altered to sustainable new use and extended as flats. It is part of this building which my photograph depicts. I am not convinced that the new extension is appropriate, but am nevertheless impressed with the original part which has been restored and converted as a new home.
Not all of this original coach house and stables block still remains although what has been retained is of great interest. The listing text notes that it was designed by the architect John Honeyman. There is a date of 1865 on a rainwater head. It goes on to describe it :
Former stable block. Gothick. Stugged ashlar coursers with polished dressings. Principally 2 single storey wings, with lofts, arranged in L-plan, forming churchyard..... west wing asymmetrical with 2 2-centred-arched cart openings ….. Loft door with dovecot in arched moulding in gabled dormerhead; corbelled oriel, supported on shaft, with cusped lights to south gable....conical-roofed, 2-storey angle tower to right has square-headed roll-moulded door; banded at eaves level, with clock and 2 small lights above. Some flat-roofed 6-pane dormers; crow-stepped gables throughout...Courtyard is cobbled, and is partly enclosed to south and to east by stugged ashlar wall; 2 square, polished ashlar.
It is a fine building. The corbelled oriel now forms a prominent feature as one approaches and the clock is still there. At eye level one finds this carved woman's face staring back from between two pointed arches. She is very weathered and has lost the point of her nose, but still retains her calm resolve.
Nearby you may even find weasels and owls and mice and other creatures carved into the stringcourse.
The school had been run under the MacKinnon Macneill Trust and this is apparently where the current name comes from for this building. Sir William Mackinnon,1st Baronet, was a Scottish ship-owner and businessman who built up substantial commercial interests in India and East Africa. He established the British - India Steam Navigation Company and the Imperial British East Africa Company. He and his nephew Mr. Duncan Macneill, determined to establish a scheme to assist the education of deserving highland lads.
Now we await the restoration, in some form, of the main Keil House.
British Listed Buildings - Main building : http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/200361013-dumbarton-kirktonhill-helenslee-road-keil-school-dumbarton#.WO04BaFrjIU
Mackinnin - Macneil website : http://www.keilschoololdboysclub.co.uk/wp/mackinnon-macneil-trust/origins