Local History & Archaeology Group
Facilitator – Anne Dunford, tel: 01988 402756

Last updated
23rd February 2017

The programme for 2017 is gradually being established although some dates have yet to be confirmed The group came up with plenty of ideas at the November meeting and more have been suggested since then.
I can't imagine that we'll ever run out of places to visit or talk about as we live in an area that is full of places of interest from the historical and archaeological point of view.
The group has been running for over eight years now and has grown considerably in that time. So, bearing that in mind, it has been suggested that some of our earlier places/topics could be revisited. We'll think about that when planning our next programme.

We usually meet on the third Thursday of the month.

Next meetings:
16th March Nic Coombey - Names lost and found on the Galloway coast
20th April The first of our outdoor meetings - Kirkcudbright - Maclellan's Castle and then on to Threave House
18th May Our annual graveyards visit - outing to Dailly led by Elbeth Kerr including Dailly churchyard, Brunston Castle, Dalquarran Castle and Bargany Gardens
15th June We hope to visit the Iron Age house reconstruction in Whithorn
20th July Gatehouse - led by David Steel. A walk illustrating the planned development of the town.
17th August - Pibble Mine - a guided walk with John Pickin

The Development of the Planned Settlement of Gatehouse was the subject of David Steel's talk in February. By referring to contemporary paintings, old photographs and copies of various documents in addition to photos of Gatehouse now, David's was able to illustrate clearly how Gatehouse has developed over the years.
In the 1760s, the time of the Scottish Enlightenment, James Murray of Cally, decided to create a planned settlement where the houses would bring in rent. He later decided to lease land - the feu for the frontage of each house built being three pence per foot to be paid annually. If this was not paid the property was returned to the owner. There were very strict regulations about how the houses were to be built - all in line with slate roofs.
Finding out who lived in the houses in the early days meant going through the deeds, going to the Scottish record office in Edinburgh. When doing the research, David started with the 1960s and 70s and worked back to the 1760s.
All the names of those who built the houses were recorded in a book kept by the Murray family. There, the signatures and occupations were recorded for example in 1769 the feu for 27 High Street was recorded as being in the name of Charles Selkirk, schoolmaster.
Photos showed how businesses changed hands and use over the years. For example, photos of Palmer & Jardine the tailors were in business in the 1900s in a property later recognised as a fishmonger's. Boots the chemist however was originally an apothecary.
In Catherine Street, the houses are smaller, not quite so imposing as those on High Street and the feu paid for those was only two pence per foot.
A number of useful research documents were found among bankruptcy papers in the Hornell archive at Broughton House. Other useful source materials were old paintings and letters; the latter providing interesting material resulting from an individual researching family history. It was found that one of Gatehouse's emigrants to America was the scientist Joseph Henry whose statue is outside the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. Henry did scientific research on electromagnets and discovered the phenomenon of self-induction. He also discovered mutual inductance independently of Michael Faraday. The SI (metric) unit of inductance, the henry, is named in his honour.
Emigration (during the C18th and C19th ) was the subject of a painting by Thomas Faed. This was a time when many people from the south of Scotland were leaving in the hope of finding a better life.
Many of the bigger houses in Gatehouse were built by people returning from Jamaica or the Americas. There was more than one house that 'sugar built'. The Angel Hotel was built with money from America.
After the Ayr bank crash, Murray encouraged people to move to Gatehouse - this time offering a feu for a shilling. New industry was also encouraged. Birtwhistle, a Yorkshireman, had built the cotton mill and Birtwhistle Street contained houses built for his workers. However, after mechanisation was introduced many of the handloom weavers became paupers. Gatehouse developed as a retail centre; the River Fleet was canalised so bigger boats had access to the town.
Much more information on this topic can be found in David Steel's book The Gatehouse Adventure. We look forward to walking round Gatehouse with him in July and learning more about the development of the town.

Our 2017 meetings got off to an excellent start with a talk from John Pickin on The Old Metal Mines of Wigtownshire and the Cree Valley.
We had the biggest turn out ever for this meeting with forty people eager to learn more about the industrial past. Local lead and copper mines we mostly knew about , but it was a complete surprise to most that attempts had been made to mine arsenic and coal in the area.
John gave us a comprehensive talk on mining from Bronze Age to the C20th. There is little conclusive evidence of mining in pre-historic times, but copper ingots have been found on the Tonderghie estate and other finds were made at Carghiedown as recently as 2003 when the promontory fort was being excavated. So, there is some evidence of early smelting before the C18th.
Mines were recorded on the maps of 1776 and Ainslie's map of 1767. A vein of lead was being mined at Blackcraig, owned by Mr Heron - this vein extended into the land at Machermore owned by Mr Dunbar and this led to a number of legal wranglings.
The Dunbars brought in workers from England and the lead from there was shipped straight to Chester from Palnure harbour.
There were also mines at Silver Rigg, Cairnsmore (here the three shafts were each 110 metres deep but no sign of them remain now.
The Talnotry arsenic mine was operating in 1897, owned by Palnure United exploration Company , but their venture was unsuccessful - not enough arsenic was found to make it a viable proposition.
The Pibble mine was owned by the Creeetown Copper and Lead company. Here workers were brought in from Cornwall and the remains of the engine house still stand - clearly built along the same lines as those in Cornwall.
In April, we look forward to taking walks in the Cree Valley with John Pickin to see for ourselves the remains of Silver Rigg and other mines.



Some images from our 2016 talks and outings:


Left: February - Peter Robinson's talk about Cree Valley Woodland Heritage Project

Left: March - David Steel's talk about photographer William McMurray (1882-1966)








Left: April - Visit to Knockman Wood medieval settlement with Linda Moorhouse


Right: Old croft house





Left: Corn kiln










May - Don Cowell led the group on a historic trail around Kirkcudbright


Left: Motte Brae

Right: One of the pends we were able to visit.













July - Anne & Les Dunford led a tour of historic buildings in the western part of the Stewartry

Cally PalaceCarsluith Castle

Left: Carsluith Castle

Right: Cally Palace







Cardoness Castle







Right: Cardoness Castle
Left: By the old Swing Bridge, Cardoness









August - Anne & Les Dunford led a tour of historic buildings in the central part of the Stewartry

Dundrennan AbbeyOrchardton Tower



Left: Dundrennan Abbey
Right: Orchardton Tower







Threave CastleThreave Ferry

Left: The ferry to Threave Castle
Right: Inside the castle










October - Jimmy Walker gave a talk about the History of Big Balcraig Farm








December - Robert McQuistan gave a talk about the Origins of Placenames