Woodlands Hall (Scot's Mining Company House) was built as the mine manager's house for Leadhills mining settlement. It was first owned by the Hope family of Hopetoun when Leadhills came into the their possession through the marriage of Sir James Hope (1614-61) to Anne, daughter of Robert Foulis of Leadhills. The mine manager's house was built at a time when William Adam is known to have been working at Hopetoun House and it is possible that it was also designed by Adam.
The first occupant of the house was James Stirling of Keir who was appointed as manager and agent for the mining company in 1735. He had previously gained distinction as a mathematician and was an associate of Sir Isaac Newton. He had remarkable administrative ability in addition to his scientific and mathematical skills and transformed Leadhills into one of the most profitable industrial enterprises in Scotland. James Stirling is also a noted example of successful paternalism in the early industrial world, anticipating many of the practices of Robert Owen at New Lanark some years later.
The house became a shooting lodge in the 19th century and a private chapel was built on the north side of the site, of which only the foundations survive.
There are no detailed records regarding the layout of the gardens pre-1821, so knowledge of the original layout is uncertain. However, the present layout seems so correct for a house of this period and type that it would seem likely that the terracing and layout are contemporary with the house. The rubble walls are listed as being 18th-century so the outline can also be assumed to be contemporary with the house. The tree planting has changed and any formal planting has disappeared. However, the arrangement of paths and terraces would appear to be original.
There are descriptions of the gardens but these date to the 19th century when the manager was William Geddes Borron who lived there from 1830-60. Harriet Martineau in her Household Words, 1852, comments on Leadhills:
'At the very top of the settlement when we have passed all the cottages, and “the H”, and the potato patches, and the heaps of lead ore, we come to a place which takes all strangers by surprise: a charming house embowered with trees, with honeysuckle hanging about its walls, flowers in its parterres, and a respectable kitchen garden, where the boast is that currants can be induced to ripen, and that apples have been known to form, and to grow to a certain size, though not to ripen. This is the agent's house, and here are the offices of the Mining Company. The plantation is really wonderful, at such an elevation above the sea: and it is a refreshing sight to the stranger arriving from below. There may be seen, growing in a perfect thicket, beech, ash, mountain ash, elm, plane and larch, shading the grass plats, and enclosed walks so fresh and green that, on a hot day, one might fancy oneself in a meadow garden.'
In 1864 Irving and Murray's Upper Ward of Lanarkshire Described and Delineated notes that:
'The principal buildings are the Hall, to which the church is attached, and the houses and Offices of the Mining Company. One of these, the residence of the manager of the mines, from its size and convenience, may be termed a mansion. It is situated on an eminence overlooking the village, surrounded by a plantation of fine old trees, of a size seldom seen at such an elevation. Within this belt of wood are gardens, terraces and walks, laid out with great taste and forming a pleasant contrast to the bare scenery around.'
Patrick Neill of the Caledonian Horticultural Society observed in his book Scottish Gardens and Orchards, 1813, that the following species could be found in the policies of the mine manager's house:
'The tree which appears to thrive best at this elevation is the larch, and the few that have been planted, though a good many years later than the other trees, far exceed them in size. The beech, ash, maple, birch, elm and mountain-ash all grow tolerably well, though much slower than in lower situations. The Scots fir does not appear to answer . . .Of the smaller fruits, gooseberries, black, white and red currants and raspberries, all bear pretty good crops, but unless the season is early, they are so late of ripening that the flavour suffers materially.'
He also noted:
'We are in the use of raising the following flowers which succeed tolerably: pinks, sweet-William, pansies, auriculas, polyanthus, monkshood . . .'
It seems that a great variety of plants have been grown on this spot and with success, bearing in mind that it is c.1300 ft above sea level, and regarded as the highest garden in Scotland.