This curious rustic structure once stood in the grounds of Cardross House in the parish of Port of Monteith, near Stirling. It was built by the estate gardener in around 1853, and according to a picture postcard it became known as ‘the Pagoda’. A family memoir however records it by the rather charming name of The Foghoose.
Cardross was home to the Erskine family. From around 1820 they employed William Wyber (c.1792-1878) as their gardener, and he was still hard at work at the age of 69 when the 1861 census recorded him as Master Gardener to the estate. He is captured, shovel in hand, in an early photograph in the collection of the National Galleries of Scotland, and was well-known locally as the winner of many prizes at the Stirling Horticultural Society’s annual shows.
But Wyber was not just a plantsman: he was also an architect and landscaper and was credited with many of the improvements to the park and gardens at Cardross, including draining a damp field and creating a garden on the site. The family remembered his ‘genius for gardening’ and above all the ‘delightful’ Foghoose, so named because it was lined inside with moss, which is known in Scotland as ‘fog’.
In 1883 the summer-house was mentioned by Thomas Hunter in his book on the Woods, Forests and Estates of Perthshire. Hunter wrote that the building had been erected ‘about thirty years ago’, so around 1853, and that it was the ‘handiwork of Mr Wyber’. Hunter describes the Cardross estate in some detail but in the ‘garden policies’ it was the ‘uniquely constructed heather tower’ that most attracted his attention. The tower was built of larch and Scotch fir pillars and the exterior was thatched. The inside walls were lined with moss and the lower room was used as a summer-house.
Above this room was a tower which stood 40 feet high and contained a staircase. It was intended as a belvedere with a view to Stirling Castle and Abbey Craig (which only a few years later would become home to the Wallace Monument). But by the time Hunter saw the summerhouse the trees in the nearby pinetum and plantations had already matured, and the vistas were lost.
Wyber died at Cardross in January 1878 at the advanced age of 85. The unique Foghoose survived into the 20th century before decaying away – the fate of many an organic garden structure.
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