Dargavel is situated in the southeast portion of the Parish of Erskine, about a mile distant from Bishopton Station. It is the seat of William Hall Maxwell Esq., of Dargavel, who is the representative of two ancient Renfrewshire families-the Halls of Fulbar, and the Maxwell's of Dargavel.
The oldest portion of the mansion was erected in 1584, by Patrick Maxwell of Dargavel, but it was re-constructed and extended by the late John Hall Maxwell, CB, of Dargavel, in 1849, from designs by the late David Bryce, R.S.A. The architectural character of the original building has been faithfully preserved, and it still presents all the characteristic features of the French chateau, which was the prevailing style in Scotland at the period of its erection. The stag's head, which is the crest of the Maxwell's, still appears on sculptured stones built into the older part of the structure.
The lands of Dargavel have formed a portion of the possessions of the Earls of Lennox, in Renfrewshire, from a very remote period, and they are specifically included in the retours of successive heirs to that title till the close of the seventeenth century, being valued at "100 lib. of auld extent."
The Maxwell's held the property by charter from the Earls of Lennox, as superiors, from the early years of the sixteenth century; and many of the old charters are still preserved at Dargavel.
Crawfurd, in his 'History of Renfrewshire', gives some account of the proprietary history of the estate, but has fallen into several errors, which are corrected in the following notice.
Patrick Maxwell, son and heir of George Maxwell of Newark, and grandson of John Maxwell of Calderwood, was the first of the name who held the lands of Dargavel. These he obtained by charter from John, Earl of Lennox, previous to July, 1516, as appears from a discharge from him for "120 merks, due to him by the said Earl, in consideration of the latter having infeft him heritably in the lands of Dargavell."(* See footnote)
Crawfurd alludes to a charter which he had seen, dated 1522; but this must have been a confirming deed. The discharge is now in the possession of the Duke of Montrose. Patrick Maxwell was married in 1499 to his second wife, Mariote Crawfurd, and their eldest son, John, succeeded to Dargavel. James Maxwell, the son of the latter, was the next laird; and he was followed by his son Patrick, regarding whom there appears to be an error in Crawfurd's account. He says that Patrick "was slain at the conflict which happen'd betwixt the Maxwell's and Johnstouns at Lockerby, an. 1593, leaving issue, John, his son and heir."
In the Register of the Privy Council (Vol. V., pp.726-7), we find that Patrick Maxwell of Dargavel's name twice appears in Bonds of Caution, dated 1599.
On the other hand, it is shown by the same Register (Vol. IV., p.62!), under date 1591, that during the "lait troublis fallin oute betuix the Lord Maxwell and the Laird of Johnnestoun," the house of Dargavel, in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright - then belonging to the widowed lady of Kirkpatrick of Orchardtoun and her second husband, Edward Maxwell of Tinwell - had been burned and destroyed.
It is probable, therefore, that Crawfurd had confused the two Dargavels, which both happened at that time to be occupied by Maxwell's. John Maxwell succeeded his father, Patrick, the latter having died, according to a note in Hamilton of Wishaw's Account of Renfrewshire, in 1612, not 1593. The eldest son of John Maxwell and of Margaret, daughter of James Wallace of Johnstone, was also named John, and was married to Jean, daughter of William Cunningham of Craigends. He was in possession of the estate in 1695, and his name is thus entered on the Poll Tax Rolls for that year - "John Maxwell of Dargavell, 236 lib. '3sh. 4d. valeu, 9 lib. 6sh. Jean Cunningham, spouse, 6sh.; William, George, and Margaret, childreine, each 6sh."
From this entry, it is seen that the eldest Son was named William, though Crawfurd, who was contemporary with him, styles him John. He was married to Margaret, daughter of John Campbell of Succoth, and had three children, of whom the two sons; John and William, were successively lairds of Dargavel. John Maxwell, the elder of these, entailed the estate; and as he died without issue, it fell to his brother William, who was then proprietor of Freeland. On the death of William Maxwell (unmarried), Dargavel became the possession of his nephew, John Hall, who was the son of his sister Margaret and of Robert Hall of Fulbar. John Hall assumed the name and designation of Maxwell of Dargavel.
The family of De Aula, or Hall, was in possession of the lands of Fulbar at the close the thirteenth century, Stephen, son of Nicholas, having obtained a charter from James, High Steward of Scotland, who died in 1309. Thomas, the first who assumed the name of De Aula, had a confirming charter from Robert II, in 1370, and a similar deed in 1377. From this period, the lands of Fulbar seem to have descended in regular succession, with slight interruption, in the family of Hall, until the estate was sold in 1746. John Hall Maxwell, who came into the estate of Dargavel in the manner indicated, was the younger son of Robert Hall; and the present proprietor of the estate is his direct descendant.
The Halls had long been connected with Glasgow, Robert Hall of Fulbar being the proprietor, four hundred years ago (1485), of certain lands in the Walcar-gait, now the Saltmarket of Glasgow. The connection has been still more closely maintained by the inter-marriages of the Hall-Maxwell's of Dargavel with prominent Glasgow citizens. Their mansion-house in Glasgow stood at the north corner of Gordon Street and Buchanan Street, and has been quite recently removed. The present laird of Dargavel (nat. 1847) succeeded to the estate on the death of his father, 25th August, 1866.
He was appointed Deputy-Lieutenant of Renfrewshire in 1873.
* Hist. MSS. Commission, Report III., pages 393.