Formakin House – Renfrewshire, Scotland - Atlas Obscura

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Formakin House

Stone monkeys adorn the buildings of this former estate. 


On the outskirts of Bishopton in Renfrewshire sits a stately former mansion. Its genteel woodland walks and curious masonry have enchanted visitors for decades. 

Originally Millbank Farm, the estate was purchased by a wealthy stockbroker and art collector, John Augustus Holms. He wanted somewhere special to house his treasures and commissioned his architect friend, Robert Lorimer, to design his estate buildings in the style of a 17th-century tower house. 

Visitors to the estate will notice a stone archway in front of the former stables dated “1694 DL,” the initials stand for “Damned Lie.” Further humourous anomalies include various stone monkeys on the roofs of the buildings.

Sadly, Holms never got to see his dream completed. He began losing money and passed away in 1938. After his death, the estate was purchased by Albert Ernest Pickard before being requisitioned by the army during World War II, where the grounds fell into decline and the buildings became derelict by the 1970s. 

Renfrew District Council campaigned to save the much-loved estate known locally as “The Monkey House” after Pickard’s death. There were plans afoot to turn the place into a housing development, however, the National Heritage Memorial Fund secured the location and opened it to visitors. 

However, the estate changed hands again and was sold to developers. Between 1988 and 1999, it was restored and has been converted into 17 residences. 

It’s a delightful area to visit. Please be mindful to respect and protect this area. 

Know Before You Go

It may be difficult to find parking here if coming by car. You may have to walk quite a bit from the estate. Be careful if walking or cycling along the road as drivers might not see you. Children are often along the road. Please pick up after your dog if bringing one. Horses are not allowed here. Please respect the residents, do not crowd parking locations, and view from a respectful distance.

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August 20, 2021

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