Last of the Westland Whigs

In the late 17th century, the 'Westland Whigs' were the radical descendants of earlier Covenanters who had defied the absolutist rule of Stuart kings in south west Scotland.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Road and Rail to Portpatrick

Ainslie's map 1820- Intended road to Portpatrick
In 1809, Thomas Telford surveyed the route of a new road from Carlisle to Portpatrick, where a new harbour was planned. The route was re-surveyed by John Rennie in 1811. I have now found some details of this route. Unfortunately the original source is garbled but I have reconstructed John Rennie's description of part of the proposed route - shown in green on John Ainslie's 1820 map of Southern Scotland. [From NLS maps website]

The road was not built, but was used by the Portpatrick Railway built 1859-62. I found the Ainslie map a few years ago and was puzzled by the 'Intended Road'. With the new information about the Telford/ Rennie proposal it now makes a bit more sense. Although there are three books on the Portpatrick Railway - D. Smith 'The Little Railways  of South West Scotland', H Thorne 'Rails to Portpatrick' and C Fryer 'The Portpatrick and Wigtownshire Railways', none mention that the route of the railway through the hills from Creetown to Parton was based on the older road proposal. Someone must have dusted off the Telford/ Rennie surveys and used them, but how and why this happened remains a mystery.

Loch Skerrow to Loch Stroan section of Portpatrick Railway

John Rennie's description of Creetown to Parton section of new Carlisle to Portpatrick road.

The new Road is proposed to depart from the Road leading from Newton Stewart to Cree Town about three quarters of a mile west of the latter place, and from thence it proceeds up the vale of the Money Pool Burn to Drumore. The highest part of the ground in this district is about 462 feet above the Newton, Stewart Road, and is about six miles distant from it the rise is very regular, and in no place will it be greater than one foot in 35 ; but generally the rise is not half of that quantity. A new Road is now making in this direction, and indeed a great part of it has already been made. It has however been badly laid out, and will require to be altered in several places. From this summit, the Road descends gently to Drumore east of which it crosses the great Fleet River, and then ascends up a vale to the ridge of high ground between thence and the little Fleet, the highest part of which is 428 feet, and no part is the rise more than one in 39. From the Little Fleet, the line of Road runs to Loch Skerrow and skirting the south side of that Loch, it descends gradually to Stroan Loch: the steepest part is about one in 38.

Loch Stroan forms the source of the River Dee, which, after passing through a circuitous vale, discharges its water into Loch Kenn, between the Ferry of Roan and a place called Loup Eye, a ridge of rocks which runs across the Loch.

The line of Road must necessarily cross the Dee, near the place where it comes out of the Loch, and in this place a Bridge will be required, where the Dee is small; and Mr. Morrison informs me that the situation is favourable. From this place, Mr. Morrison has surveyed two lines, the one to pass down the Vale of the Dee and cross Loch Kenn at the Boat or Ferry of Roan; the other, to recross the Dee at Newbridge, and pass down the South side of the Vale to Loup Eye, and there to cross Loch Kenn. At the former place the water of Loch Kenn is deep, but the channel is much narrower than at Loup Eye : it cannot be conveniently Crossed, unless by a Bridge of one Arch, which will require to be 180 feet span; this can easily be done economically by a cast-iron arch, and even with such an arch the expense will be great, amounting, as per annexed Estimate, to £ 14,201. This is far beyond what I expected it would cost; but much of the expense arises from the badness of the foundations, all of which will require to be piled,

I have made a Design for a Stone Bridge across Loch Kenn, on the ridge of rocks at Loup Eye; this Bridge is proposed to have five Arches, and the estimated expense is, £.8,717.

From Loch Kenn, Mr. Morrison has surveyed two lines, the one by the Vale of Laggan, to join the New Galloway Road at the Water of Orr; the other by Loch Lurkey, to join the Dumfries Road at Auchinreoch Loch. The former is not only the longest by something more than three quarters of a mile, but the summit of this line is 61 feet higher; it is however more regular in its rise and fall, and there is less of it to make by two miles, on account of its junction with the New Galloway Road; and besides, the expense of a new Bridge over the River Orr will be saved, which must be built if the other line is followed. Under these circumstances, it will be a matter for consideration, which of the two lines will be most advantageous for the country; but even the shortest line does not rise more in any place than one in 36.

The whole length of the new proposed Road, from its departure from the Newton Stewart Road west of Cree Town, to its junction with the Dumfries Road near Auchinreoch Loch, is 27 miles and 374 yards; which is shorter than by Gate House and Castle Douglas by eight miles.


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