To avoid confusion donor Alexander will always be in bold.
In 1877 Alexander Dennistoun donated to Glasgow Museums the painting ‘View of Glasgow and Cathedral’ by the Scottish painter John Adam Houstoun. However, this was not the only ‘gift’ he gave to Glasgow as in 1861 he began to create the suburb of Dennistoun in the east of the city.
Alexander’s father was James Dennistoun who along with his brother Alexander established J & A Dennistoun, cotton merchants. It’s not clear when the company was set up but when their father, yet another Alexander, died in 1789 his will describes them as merchants in Glasgow.
Their father was farmer Alexander Dennistoun of Newmills Farm, Campsie whose wife was Margaret Brown. James was their third child, baptised in 1759 , Alexander, the fourth, baptised in 1764 . Their siblings were Jean, Ann and George, the two girls being the first children of the family.
It is not clear where James or Alexander were educated, what is certain however is that neither matriculated nor graduated from Glasgow University.
There is some evidence to suggest that by 1787 James was a merchant manufacturer in Glasgow. Whilst there are three James Dennistouns listed in that year’s city directory it’s clear that the first two are father and son Dennistouns of Colgrain. By 1799 J & A Denniston was listed as manufactures in Brunswick Street, neither brother being separately listed.
J & A Dennistoun continued in business until circa 1876 by which time James and Alexander were both dead. Over its eighty odd years it moved premises on a number of occasions, but it centred mainly on various addresses in Montrose Street until 1839, thereafter in George Square until it ceased trading. More on the business in due course.
James married Mary Finlay, daughter of William Finlay of the Moss, Killearn in 1786. They had eight children, donor Alexander being the eldest boy, born in 1790.
His siblings were:
- Elisabeth, born in 1787 in Glasgow. She married Glasgow merchant John Wood in 1807  and had five children between 1808 and 1817. One of her daughters Anna, born in 1812, married William Cross in 1835 and was the mother of John Walter Cross who married the novelist George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) in 1879 and subsequently wrote her biography after her death in 1880.
- Margaret, born in Glasgow in 1789.
- Mary, born in Barony parish in 1792. She married Walter Wood in 1812.
- William, born in Barony parish in 1795. He matriculated at Glasgow University in 1806 and died of consumption in 1812.
- Agnes, born in Glasgow in 1797.
- James, born in Barony parish in 1799. He matriculated at Glasgow University in 1813, and married Marjory Gibson Gordon of Milrig. He died in June 1828 of consumption, five days before his son James was born.
- John, born in Glasgow in 1803. He matriculated at Glasgow University in 1816. In due course he and his brother Alexander became the key players in the family business. He also had his own company, John Dennistoun & Co., cotton spinners, usually located at the same premises as J & A Dennistoun. He was elected as one of the two MPs for Glasgow in 1837, succeeding James Oswald. He remained an MP until 1847 when he lost his seat at the general election. He married Frances Anne Onslow, the daughter of Sir Henry Onslow at All Saints in Southampton in 1838. They had three children, all surviving into adulthood. At various times they lived in England and in Scotland, essentially as business and parliamentary life required. He died in 1870 at Rhu, Dumbarton. His estate was valued at over £130,000 with property in Scotland, England, Paris, Melbourne and New Orleans.
Mary Finlay died sometime around 1808 in Devon, unfortunately not confirmed by any primary source. James subsequently married widow Maria Ann Bennett in 1813. She had married John Cukit a merchant of Liverpool in 1802 however he had died in 1809, the marriage apparently being childless.
James and Maria had three daughters all born in Glasgow as follows:
J & A Dennistoun flourished during this period, allowing James to purchase the estate of Goufhill, which later became known as Golfhill. The estate was part of the ecclesiastical lands of Wester Craigs which had come into the ownership of the Merchants House in 1650. Merchant John Anderson bought Golfhill from the House in 1756 his family trustees selling it to James Dennistoun in 1802. In the following year James had built Golfhill House, designed by architect David Hamilton.
How brother Alexander’s life was developing is not known as I’ve not been able to establish anything in that respect. As the business grew it had branches in Australia, France, England and the United States, the US being key to their cotton and manufacturing activities. I rather suspect therefore he moved to their New York premises at some point to manage that side of the business. The only evidence I have to support that contention is that an Alexander Dennistoun died there in 1846, the information given to, or by, a William Wood of Liverpool, where the company had offices. He also had a nephew of that name, the son of his sister Elisabeth and John Wood. Pure conjecture!
James became a member of the Glasgow Merchants House serving on various committees over a number of years and in 1806-07 became a bailie. He was a Burgess and Guild Brother (B and GB) of Glasgow although it’s not clear from what date. However, sons Alexander and John became the same in 1824 and 1845 respectively, by right of their father.
In 1809 he and sixteen others founded the Glasgow Banking Company, the last partnership bank to be formed in Glasgow. James was the lead and managing partner, having invested £50,000 in the venture amounting to one quarter of the capital raised. The bank’s original premises were located at 74 Ingram Street, moving to 12 Ingram Street in 1825.
In the meantime, the business was expanding from a cotton based one essentially trading with the US to one which was an export /import business serving worldwide markets. Subsidiary companies were set up in in various places including Dennistoun, Cross and Company, London (his niece Anna’s husband William Cross), Dennistoun, Wood and Company, New York (his brother in law John Wood and/or his nephew William Wood previously mentioned), A & J Dennistoun and Company, New Orleans and Dennistoun Brothers and Company, Melbourne.
His sons were all involved in the business, Alexander from c.1815 followed by James and then John, James’ involvement being cut short by his untimely death in 1828.
James retired from the family firm and the bank in 1829, continuing to live at Golfhill House until his death in October 1835. He left over £204,000 with various legacies to the children of his two marriages, his second wife Maria predeceasing him in February 1835. Currently that sum would equate to over £20m in terms of purchasing power. By other measures it could worth just under £1bn. When his father Alexander died in 1789 his estate was valued at £29.
Like his brothers, James’ eldest son Alexander had matriculated at Glasgow University in 1803. It’s not clear when he became active in the family business however by 1820 he was in New Orleans running the company’s cotton trade operation. Following his return to Britain he managed the company’s Liverpool branch for a time. It was during this period that he met Eleanor Jane Thomson, the daughter of John Thomson of Nassau, New Providence, then living in Liverpool. They married in St Anne’s in Liverpool in 1822, continuing to live there until his return to Glasgow around 1827 when he was first listed in the Post Office directory.
They had eight children, five sons and three daughters as follows:
- James, born in Cathcart in 1823. Died circa 1838 from scarlet fever.
- Robert, born in Cathcart in 1826. He joined the 11th Dragoons at the age of 14 and in 1847 he purchased his promotion from Cornet to Lieutenant  and transferred to the 6th He seems to have left the army prior to 1851 as in that year’s census he is boarding in a hotel in Little Meolse, Chester being described as “late Lieutenant, army”. What he did subsequently has not been established however in 1867 he is recorded in the London Gazette as one of the partners in the multiple family partnerships as they were renewed, his father Alexander signing approval on his behalf. In a similar Gazette statement in 1870 he is not listed amongst the partners. It seems he never married as in his will, he died at Eastbourne in 1877, there is no mention of a wife or children. He left a number of legacies, one to a lieutenant colonel of the 54th Regiment, his estate being valued at just under £64,000 with assets in Scotland, England and Australia.
- Alexander Horace, born in Scotland in 1827.  He matriculated at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1847 and graduated B.A. in 1852. In 1850 he was admitted to Lincolns Inn whilst still a student. What profession he followed after that, if any, is not clear however he gained an M.A. from Cambridge in 1872. At some point he joined the 1st Dumbartonshire Rifle Volunteers’, formed in 1860, as in 1870 he was promoted from Captain to Major. Further promotions followed in 1876 and 1892 when he became Lieutenant Colonel and finally Honorary Colonel.
He married Georgina Helena Oakeley, the daughter of Sir Charles Oakeley, in 1852 at St John the Baptist in Hillingdon. They had seven children, the first five of whom were girls born between 1855 and 1864. The first son and heir was Alexander Heldewier Oakeley who was born in 1867, to be followed by brother Charles Herbert Oakeley in 1870 in London, the only child not to be born in Scotland. Alexander joined the Black Watch and in 1891 had the rank of Captain. He went to France in 1916 and at the end of his military service had attained the rank of Major. Charles went to Eton and matriculated at Trinity in 1888.
In father Alexander’s Trust Settlement of 1866 son Alexander Horace was named as one of his father’s executors, with eldest son Robert not included in the list. It was clear however that once specific legacies had been paid, mainly to the daughters, then the estate residue would be shared equally between the brothers. A change was made in a codicil dated 1873 which essentially varied the daughters’ legacies but left the brother’s inheritance as per 1866.
However, in 1874 a few months before he died Alexander, in a further codicil, essentially disinherited Robert by leaving him only 200 shares in the Union Bank of Scotland, the residue of the estate, both heritable and movable, being left to Alexander Horace. The estate inventory valued it at over £343,000. Why this change occurred is not known.
Alexander Horace died in 1893 whilst visiting Fort Augustus, his usual residence being Roselea, Row, Dumbartonshire.
- Eleanor Mary was born in Havre de Grace, Normandy in 1829 and baptised later that year in Ingouville. Alexander at that time was running a branch of the family business in France, subsequently moving to Paris before returning home sometime before 1833. Eleanor married William Young Sellar, interim Professor of Humanity at Glasgow University in 1852. He was the son of Patrick Sellar of Sutherland and had a distinguished academic career. He matriculated at Baliol College Oxford in 1842, gained a B.A. in 1847, followed by a M.A. in 1850. He was a Fellow of Oriel College from 1848 to 1853. He subsequently held professorships at Glasgow, Edinburgh and St. Andrews Universities. They had 6 children, 3 sons and 3 daughters between 1853 and 1865. Eleanor wrote a family history in 1907 called “Recollections and Impressions” dedicated to her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, which I have referred to from time to time in this report. William died in 1890, Eleanor in 1918.
- Walter Wood was born in Ingouville, Normandy in 1831 and baptised there in 1832. He died of consumption in 1847.
- Elizabeth Anna was born in Scotland in 1833. She married insurance broker Seton Thomson, a maternal cousin, in 1862 and they had one son, Seton Murray Thomson born at Golfhill House in 1864. Seton senior had been born in the Bahamas and at the time of his marriage was living at Golfhill House. Elizabeth died intestate in London in 1885, her estate valued at just under £1,000. Seton died in 1918 at Linlithgow, his estate valued at £172,500, son Seton Murray being the major beneficiary.
- Euphemia was born in Scotland circa 1835. She died in 1840. 
- John Murray was born in Scotland circa 1837. He died in 1840. Both he and Euphemia would appear to have died from meningitis.
When Alexander and family returned from France in 1833 they lived at Germiston House. In January 1835 he was elected M.P. for Dunbartonshire, a position he held until 1837, having decided not to stand as a candidate for that year’s election. Despite not pursuing his political career Andrew remained a firm supporter of the Whig party as an advisor and benefactor. When his father James died later that year he and his family moved to Golfhill House where he lived for the rest of his life.
He and brother John continued to be involved with J & A Dennistoun and the various subsidiary companies with significant success. They also maintained their interest in the Glasgow Banking Company which in 1836 amalgamated with the Ship Bank. In 1843 the Union Bank of Scotland was formed when the Glasgow and Ship Bank joined with the Glasgow Union Bank. By 1847 however, as described above, four of his eight children had died before reaching adulthood. More tragedy was to follow with the death of his wife Eleanor from consumption in 1847, shortly after the death of son Walter.
In 1857 a serious financial issue arose for Alexander and the family when the Borough Bank of Liverpool failed, the Dennistouns being major shareholders of the bank. The situation was exacerbated as the bank failure was coincident with the American financial crisis of the same year, the “Panic of 1857”, which was caused by a declining international economy and the over expansion of the American economy. The effect on the business was that liabilities exceeded £3m, resulting in the suspension of payment to creditors which would have ended in bankruptcy. Alexander, and John, dealt with it by asking their creditors for a period of grace to allow them to resolve the issue, which was agreed. Within a year confidence in the business was restored and the creditors paid their dues in full plus five per cent interest. The following few years took the business back to its pre-crisis financial condition. 
Before the financial problems of 1857 Alexander began to plan the founding of the suburb to Glasgow which would bear his name, Dennistoun. For some time he had been buying plots of land adjacent to Golfhill which included Craig Park, Whitehill, Meadow Park, Broom Park and parts of Wester Craigs. Some of these purchases came from merchant John Reid who had similar ideas but had died in 1851 before any significant action had been taken. In 1854 the architect James Salmon was commissioned by Alexander to design and produce a feuing plan for such a suburb.
By 1860 Alexander also owned Lagarie Villa on the Gareloch at Row (Rhu), sharing his time between there and Golfhill. Brother John also had a home in the parish called Armadale.
In 1861 the process of creating Dennistoun began however the eventual reality did not reflect the grand detail of Salmon’s design for a number of reasons. Nonetheless Dennistoun was eventually successfully established, much reduced from the original concept, with a mixed style of housing as opposed to the Garden Suburb with villas, cottages and terraces, aimed at the middle-class, envisaged by Alexander and James Salmon. The first street to be formed was Wester Craig street which ran from Duke Street northwards. It was on that street that the first house was built by James Dairon in 1861.
Also in 1861 the Glasgow Corporation acquired the Kennyhill estate and started to lay out what became Alexandra Park. Alexander donated five acres to the project which allowed the main entrance to the park to be from Alexandra Parade.
Alexander spent the rest of his life quietly at the Gareloch or Golfhill. He continued to be keenly interested in the development of Dennistoun and is said to have travelled round the district often to observe the changes made. His daughter Eleanor described him in her book as someone who had a great interest in finance and politics despite him having no formal business training and having eschewed a political career. He had a great interest in art and had a “very good collection, ancient and modern”  He was described by others as affable and courteous with a kindly disposition, and a willingness to help others when it was needed.
There is one possible sour note however. The University College London research on the Legacies of British Slavery identify an Alexander Dennistoun who received £389 2s 4d compensation in 1837 for the release of 25 slaves from a plantation in the Bahamas. It states that it possibly could be Alexander Dennistoun of Golfhill but that it was not certain. It may be significant that his wife Eleanor was born in the Bahamas.
Alexander died on the 15th July 1874 at Lagarie, his son Alexander Horace, as described above, his heir.
 Directories. Scotland. (1787) Jones Directory Glasgow. (Reprint). Glasgow: William Love. p. 38. https://digital.nls.uk/directories/browse/archive/85272687
 Directories. Scotland. (1799) The Glasgow Directory. Glasgow: Wm. Reid & Co. p. 29. https://digital.nls.uk/directories/browse/archive/87869887
 Addison, W Innes. (1913). The Matriculation Albums of the University of Glasgow 1728 to 1858. Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons. p. 222. https://archive.org/stream/matriculationalb00univuoft#page/n7/mode/2up
 Addison, op. cit. p. 274.
 Addison, op. cit. p. 290.
 Marriages (PR) England. Southampton, Hampshire. 5 July 1838. DENNISTOUN, John and ONSLOW, Frances Anne. Collection: England, Select Marriages 1538-1973. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NK82-RX1
 Testamentary Records. Scotland. 4 January 1871. DENNISTOUN, John. Dumbarton Sheriff Court. SC65/34/16.
 Marriages (PR) England. Neston, Cheshire. 10 September 1813. DENNISTOUN, James and CUKIT, Maria Ann. Record 218. Collection: England, Cheshire Bishop’s Transcript 1598-1900. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NHH5-8ZZ
 Deaths (PR) England. Sefton, Lancashire. 1 June 1809. CUKIT, John. Collection: England Deaths and Burials 1538-1991. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-D514-QT
 Dictionary of Scottish Architects. Golfhill House. www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/building_full.php?id=421282
 The Glasgow Story. James Dennistoun. https://www.theglasgowstory.com/image/?inum=TGSA03604
 Anderson, James R. (1935) The Burgesses & Guild Brethren of Glasgow 1751-1846. Edinburgh: Scottish Record Society. pp. 347 and 459. https://archive.org/stream/scottishrecord51scotuoft#page/n5/mode/2up
 Lloyds Banking Group. The Glasgow Bank. https://www.lloydsbankinggroup.com/our-group/our-heritage/
 Angus and Rosemary’s Miscellany of Malvern. Biography of Robert Sellar. http://www.the-malvern-hills.uk/other_history_robert_sellar.htm
 Measuring Worth (2020). https://www.measuringworth.com/m/calculators/ukcompare
 Addison, op. cit. p. 205.
 Marriages (PR) England. Liverpool, Lancashire. 12 March 1822. DENNISTOUN, Alexander and THOMSON, Eleanor, Jane. Collection: Lancashire, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns 1754 – 1936.
 Sellar, E. M. (1907). Recollections and Impressions. 4th Impression. Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood and Sons. p. 9 https://archive.org/details/recollectionsimp00selluoft/page/n3/mode/2up
 Edinburgh Gazette. (1847) 28 September 1847. Issue 5683, p. 489. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/Edinburgh/issue/5683/page/489
 London Gazette. (1867) 4 January 1867. Issue 23205, p. 108. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/23205/page/108
 London Gazette. (1870) 4 January 1870. Issue 23574, p. 34. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/23574/page/34
 Venn, J.A. (1944) Alumni Cantabrigienses. Part II from 1752 to 1900. Vol II. Cambridge: University Press. p. 279. https://archive.org/details/p2alumnicantabri02univuoft/page/278/mode/2up
 London Gazette. (1870) 1 August 1870. Issue 23640, p. 3646. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/23640/page/3646
 London Gazette. (1876) 14 June 1876. Issue 24336, p. 3458. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/24336/page/3458
 London Gazette. (1892) 22 November 1892. Issue 26347, p. 6580. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/26347/page/6580
 Marriages (PR) England. Hillingdon, Middlesex. 10 November 1852. DENNISTOUN, Alexander Horace and OAKELY, Georgina Helena. London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; Reference Number: dro/110/017 https://search.ancestry.co.uk
 Births (SR) England. London, Westminster. 23 February 1870. DENNISTOUN, Charles Herbert Oakeley. City of Westminster Archives Centre; London, England; Westminster Church of England Parish Registers; Reference: STA/PR/4/21 https://search.ancestry.co.uk
 Hart’s Annual Army List 1908. DENNISTOUN, Alexander Heldewier Oakeley, and Army Medal Office (Great Britain). WW 1 Medal Index Card. DENNISTOUN, Alexander Heldewier Oakeley. Collection: British Army WW 1 Medal Roll Index Cards, 1914-1920. https://search.ancestry.co.uk
 Venn, op. cit. p. 279.
 Sellar, op. cit. p. 2
 Addison, op. cit. p. 429.
 Sellar, op. cit.
 Sellar, op. cit. pp. 9,10.
 Sellar, op. cit. p. 2.
 Maclehose, op. cit. pp. 99-102
 Sellar, op. cit. p. 10.
 Maclehose, op. cit. pp. 99-102
 The Economic Historian. The Panic of 1857. https://economic-historian.com/2020/07/panic-of-1857/
 Maclehose, op. cit. pp. 99-102
 Ewing, Archibald Orr, ed. (1866) View of the Merchants House of Glasgow etc. Glasgow: Bell & Bain. pp. 544, 545.
 Maclehose, op. cit. pp. 99-102
 Scotlands Places. Dunbartonshire Volume 17 , Lagarie and Armadale. https://scotlandsplaces.gov.uk/digital-volumes/ordnance-survey-name-books/dunbartonshire-os-name-books-1860/dunbartonshire-volume-17
 Ewing, op. cit. pp. 545, 546.
 Maclehose, op. cit. pp. 99-102
 Sellar, op. cit. p. 15.
 Maclehose, op. cit. pp. 99-102