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, November 04, 2016

Old maps and the history of Castle Douglas

Old Maps and History

Roy’s Military Survey 1752-55, Carlingwark Loch and Carlingwark Burn ( NLS maps)

The map above shows the area between Threave castle on the Galloway river Dee and Carlingwark loch in Kelton parish, Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. The red lines outline enclosures and the cross-hatching the ridges and furrows of arable fields. The winding course of the Carlingwark burn as it psses through an area of marshland between Carlingwark loch and the Dee above Threave island is clearly shown. The course of the road from Dumfries to Portpatrick can be seen, passing through the hamlets of Causewayend, Carlingwark, skirting the edge of the loch then heading towards Rhonehouse and Grainyford Bridge which had been built in 1736.

The map is not entirely accurate, since it shows Chapmanton farm close to Fuffock. The farm there was (and still is) Blackpark. Chapmanton is to the north-east of the location shown. Although not named, Kelton Mains (originally Kelton Grange) is shown with its plantations of trees and enclosures between Carlingwark burn and the river Dee. The map shows the red line of an enclosure running along beside the Dumfries-Portpatrick road. This was a dry-stane dyke and it features in the story of the Galloway Levellers Uprising of 1724.

In 1724 a group of Levellers assembled on Kelton Hill before heading off to level dykes in the neighbourhood. Captain Robert Johnston of Kelton Mains along with the Reverend William Falconer of Kelton managed to persuade the Levellers not to level the dyke at Furbarligget since it was a march dyke to built to keep cattle and livestock being herded along the Dumfries-Portpatrick road from straying into Johnston’s arable fields. As a sign of good faith, Johnston provided the Levellers with bread and beer and the dyke was saved.

The story sounds more like a folktale than history, but in 1724 William Falconer was minister of Kelton parish and Robert Johnston owned Kelton Mains which he had bought in 1706, when he represented Dumfries Burgh in the Scottish Parliament. The farmhouse of Kelton Mains, which still stands, was built by Johnston.

Roy’s map also captures features of the traditional landscape that were lost as the landscape was rationalised in the later eighteenth century. For example, a Leveller called John McKnaught lived on Meadow Isle croft. His father or grandfather was recorded as living in Meadow Isle on Aireland farm circa 1680. Roy’s map shows Meadow Isle on Airieland, but it had been abandoned by 1800. It was then briefly occupied by a team of dykers working on the farm. The last dyke they built used stones from the croft to build a dyke around what is now Meadow Isle field.

The dyke McKnaught had helped to level in 1724 was built to form a cattle park for Sir Basil Hamilton on Bombie Moor near Kirkcudbright. It is shown, rebuilt, on Roy’s map. The large cattle park Hamilton’s great-grandfather David Dunbar had had constructed in the 1670s can be seen at Baldoon in Wigtownshire. It is a reminder that although the next fifty years were to see major changes in the landscape, by 1755 the first stages of ‘improvement’ were already 80 years old in Galloway.

By 1797, as this detail from one of John Ainslie’s maps of the Stewartry shows, the landscape had been transformed

John Ainslie’s 1797 map showing Carlingwark canal and Castle Douglas (NLS maps)

In 1765, Sir Alexander Gordon of Greenlaw in Crossmichael parish, Stewartry of Kirkcudbright had a short section of canal cut through the marshland which lies between the Galloway river Dee and Carlingwark Loch. In 1766/7, a cut was made through Carlingwark Hill into the loch. This provided the canal with a better flow of water and partially drained the loch.

Historical sources, including the Old Statistical Accounts, provide information on the canal and its purpose. Shell-marl, muddy clay containing lime from the shells of fresh water snails and fish bones accumulated over thousands of years, was used as a fertiliser in the absence of local sources of lime stone. The marl was dredged up from the bottom of the loch and dug out from its margins after it had been partially drained. It was then loaded on to barges which transported the marl to farms in Balmaghie, Crossmichael, Parton, Kells, Balmaclellan and Dalry parishes. Oak bark for tanning and timber were taken back down the Ken/Dee river system to Carlingwark.

In 1764/5 a military road from Gretna to Portpatrick had been constructed and Carlingwark was on its route. Before the local road system was improved circa 1800, the canal and river system provided a north/south link for the Glenkens district to the east/west route of the military road. Unfortunately, Alexander Gordon had been an investor in the Heron and Douglas Bank of Ayr which failed in 1772. He was therefore unable to develop Carlingwark and decided to sell it along with the loch and marl workings.

In February 1786, wealthy Glasgow tobacco merchant William Cunninghame bought Duchrae (now Hensol) estate in Balmaghie. In July 1787 Cunninghame visited one of his new neighbours, Alexander Gordon of Greenlaw, who offered to sell Carlingwark to him.

We came in by Greenlaw village (deleted) or rather Carlingwark village, close by the loch, which was begun only a few years agoe by Mr. Gordon, and may contain now upwards of 100 houses and apparently rapidly increasing. For which place he informed me he had applyed to the Crown for a charter erecting it into a Burgh of Barony, with power to choose their own Baileys and Council, which he said would cost him about 40 guineas. Mr. Gordon informed me he had upon this Estate about 800 acres of ground, 400 acres of which with the Loch he wisht to sell, being much involved in debt and having a large family. This intimation he put to me so close that I was obliged to tell him it would not answer me to purchase, neither would it in my opinion answer any person but one who resided at or near the spott.


In 1789, William Douglas bought the lands of Carlingwark from Gordon and in 17912, founded a new town- Castle Douglas- which is shown on Ainslie’s map, along with a dotted line indicating the route of a new turnpike road, now the A 75. This replaced the Military Road between Dumfries and Portpatrick. It was designed for horse drawn transport rather than marching soldiers and so avoided high ground and even small hills as it curved and twisted to find the levellest route through the landscape.

As the network of ‘modern’ roads was extended, it became easier to transport lime. By the 1840s, when the New Statistical Account was compiled, the Carlingwark canal and the marl workings had fallen out of use. In 1864, the Kirkcudbright railway bridged the Carlingwark canal, as did the Castle Douglas by-pass in 1987. The railway bridge had been demolished after the line was closed in 1965, but in 2006 its foundations were used for a wooden footbridge when the course of the railway was made into a footpath. The footbridge was washed away in the Great Flood of New Year’s Eve 2015. It was replaced by a new footbridge in June 2016.

OS 6 inch to mile map showing Carlingwark canal and Kirkcudbright railway. (NLS maps)

The Carlingwark canal today.


Blogger Nic said...

Good to see the development of a planned village explained. Where is the Cunninghame quote from?

11:52 AM  
Blogger Alistair Livingston said...

Nic- the quote is from S R Crockett's 'Raiderland' (1902) In the last chapter Crockett reproduced large sections from Cunninghame's Diary. See

3:26 AM  
Blogger Nic said...

many thanks

3:59 PM  

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