THE summer of 1800 was a warm one – in late August, the Brothy Burn in Alloa was almost dry.

Sometime between 11 o’clock and midnight on Thursday the 28th, the alarm was raised that fire had broken out at Alloa House, seat of the Erskine family.

At the time, the title of Earl of Mar had been stripped due to John Erskine supporting the Jacobite cause of 1715.

Running out in their nightclothes, the family escaped the blaze but watched as it took hold of their mansion.

The alarm bell was sounded in Alloa, and the town drummer quickly dressed, and beat his drum in the streets.

People rushed from their homes as news spread. Everyone saw the blaze as it lit up the night sky.

At first, it was thought to be an invasion of the French as it was at the time of Revolutionary France and Napoleon has his sights on the UK.

Nevertheless, the locals rushed to the house, but little could be done to extinguish the flames with the nearby burn being so dry.

It later transpired that on that night, a maid had accidentally set a curtain alight, and try as she might to contain the fire, it spread rapidly throughout the east wing.

The local Volunteers under Captain Virtue set about rescuing pieces of furniture while members of the troop kept onlookers at bay.

It took another two hours for an engine to arrive and by this time, the roof had collapsed, and apart from the north-east wing, the whole building was ablaze.

The mansion was burned to the ground; however, the tower was saved thanks to the engine which had been dispatched from Schawpark House, and the turf that had been built up to prevent the fire from spreading to it.

Much was lost, although some books, family papers and most of the furniture was saved as people salvaged what they could for the family.

Remarkably no-one was killed or seriously injured.

One of the biggest losses was an original portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots, who had stayed at Alloa Tower as a guest of John Erskine, 1st Earl of Mar, in the summer of 1566, and a jug presented to the Erskines by Elizabeth I.

Following the fire, the family moved into one of their Edinburgh properties, although it has been suggested they may have lived at Walk House in Lime Tree Walk in Alloa.

In 1838 they returned, moving into their new mansion Alloa House which was built nearby.