Wiston Lodge was built starting in the 1850s by James Ferguson (21/8/1812-3/3/1872) who was a coal factor from Larkhall and married to Ellen Simson (12/2/1816-1/3/1877). You can see the Ferguson family crest above the fireplace in the small lounge. There is a memorial to James and Ellen in the graveyard at the kirk in the village.
The Ferguson family had made their money in coal mining from the seams of Muirkirk and Lesmahagow. By the beginning of the 1850s there were seventy-eight men and twenty-nine boys in James Ferguson’s employ. James was wealthy enough to grant bursaries in theology, law, medicine and engineering to The University of Glasgow.
It’s likely that the Ferguson family were considered “New Money” and therefore built Wiston Lodge as a hunting lodge (shooting, fishing etc.) in order to impress “old monied” families. There is evidence to say that this worked given the successive generations of the Ferguson family appear to get more gentrified than their ancestors. The original portrait of Ferguson is very much of a working man in tweeds whereas those that followed later look very much like the upper classes of the time.
By 1913 Robert Douglas MacGregor (30/4/1850-12/5/1934) owned the house with his wife Margaret Ross (22/11/1863-23/12/1937). There is a memorial to Robert and Margaret in the Wiston kirkyard. Robert’s younger brother James Julius (1/7/1854-12/3/1930) is also commemorated on that memorial. Robert was a philanthropist who built not only the Games Hall for classical music concerts but also planted many of the fine trees (sequoias) which we still have growing round the estate and particularly round the main building. He also built two greenhouses and had a very good garden. Robert also endowed the churches of Roberton and Wiston and built their village halls. Robert and Margaret both died in Wiston Lodge.
During World War Two Wiston Lodge was used to house evacuees who would have stayed in houses but had various illnesses and weren’t well enough to join families like their fellow evacuees. It’s likely that this use effectively preserved the building as many buildings like it were pulled down during WWII as the UK class system began to unravel.
In 1947, Wiston Lodge was taken over by the YMCA who ran many Christian activities such as Church retreats (for example, retreats from St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Edinburgh).
The YMCA decided to sell Wiston Lodge in 2006, so a group including Meg Beresford and the others running the Lodge at the time took the decision to gather the funds together to buy it. The sale completed in 2007 and Wiston Lodge became an independent Charity running as a non-profit organisation with a focus on vulnerable adults, children and young people as well as outdoor activites, music, arts and events such as weddings and parties.
Wiston Lodge is a special place with a rich history and we are delighted to welcome you here to be part of its story and to help it progress into the future.
Kindly collated and written by Doreen Yates, Paul Murray and Meg Beresford.
In September 2020 we took part in Biggar and District Civic Society’s doors open South Lanarkshire weekend – enjoy a quick walk round the historical elements of the lodge in the video below.