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

Last updated
30th March 2018

The group has been running for over nine 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.
It's unlikely 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. If you have any suggestions, please let Anne know at one of the meetings. We usually meet on the third Thursday of the month.

Next meetings:
19th April - Sweetheart Abbey and the Corn Mill in New Abbey, then on to John Paul Jones Cottage Museum at Arbigland. Meet in the main car park by the Abbey at 10.00am. Please let Anne know if you would like or could offer a lift to another member.

Suggestions made for outings in the late spring/summer include -
Barnbarroch, Galloway House, Garlies Castle, Carsegowan, a Benedictine convent & a graveyard in Dumfries known for the graves of circus & gypsy folk, New Abbey Corn Mill, Sweetheart Abbey, The Devil's Porridge museum, Savings Bank museum, John Paul Jones Cottage museum.
Watch this space!

Previous meetings
March: For our last talk of the season, we welcomed back one of our members, Don Cowell, to talk about his latest research into Convict Transportation from D&G to Australia 1787-1868.
The Tower prison in Kirkcudbright is still standing although the addition of the court house to the front makes it less obvious.Tower prison, Kirkcudbright
Don began by outlining the various means of punishment in the late C18th. Execution was not very common; imprisonment only came in during the C19th. Corporal punishment, public humiliation and barring offenders from holding public office were other methods used in addition to transportation.
Transportation was to America initially. It was after the American Civil War that Australia became the chosen destination with New South Wales being the first from 1788-1850. After then, prisoners were shipped to various places where they were assigned work mainly as labourers or servants. Although some died on the long voyage, there were surgeons and nurses on board the ships and the prisoners were generally fit for work on arrival.
We heard that converted merchant ships were used to ship the prisoners and some nine hundred voyages were made in eighty years. There were women’s ships and men’s ships; fewer sailings (under ten per year) were made from 1787 – 1817 due to the Napoleonic wars. Subsequently as many as twenty or even thirty voyages were made in a year.
English courts were harder, but Scottish courts only tended to transport those who had been convicted of multiple crimes. Many Scots transported in 1820's and 1830's ended up in Tasmania. They were largely transported for theft of various kinds; 65% being crimes against property. Forgery was also a common crime in D&G, also assault and arson.
After the convicts had worked their allocated sentence which may be seven, ten or twenty one years depending on the crime committed, they were free to leave. Some chose to stay on in Australia while others returned to Scotland.
Don giving his lectureDon recounted tales of a number of individuals transported from this area includingnThomas Watling, a forger. He was charged with forging guinea notes in 1788 and sentenced to fourteen years. Letters to his maiden aunt who had brought him up revealed much of his story. He managed to escape from the ship at Cape Town, was caught by the Dutch and transported to Australia where his artistic talents were recognised. Evidence of this talent can be seen in his landscape and natural history paintings now archived at the British Museum. Sadly however, on his return to Scotland he returned to forgery.
Elizabeth McConchie was arrested for theft aged fifteen in Kirkcudbright. She was given a seven year sentence and sailed to Tasmania on the women’s ship, Frances Charlotte. She was from a respectable family but died aged twenty one after committing further offences and being imprisoned again.
Don told the stories of two of his Manx relatives – siblings, Jayne Quayle nee Cowell, a dairymaid and Mary Cowell, needle-worker. Jayne and her husband were charged in 1822 with stealing seven yards of lace and some ribbon. They were sentenced to seven years and their son William was born while she was in prison only to live a short time on the ship and died in 1824. Jayne married another ex-convict, John Ford, in 1825 and went on to have eleven children with him before dying in 1855.
Mary Cowell was assigned to work for a lady in Sydney and after a short marriage to a forger, was married again to James Oatley, clock and watchmaker from Staffordshire. His skill as a clock maker led to his release and he ultimately became very wealthy and respected to the point of having an area of Sydney named after him. Mary would have inherited considerable property and land from him but in 1841 she left Oatley to marry a German free settler William Hull.
Transportation meant that many people were given the chance to turn their lives round. Some made a great success of the opportunity, others sadly reverted to crime but whatever the outcome,their stories are fascinating. We look forward to hearing more of Don’s research into a range of topics.

Our February talk was given by Donna Brewster, who has spent many years researching the story of the Covenanters in Wigtownshire.
Donna started her talk by asking how far back we could go with our memories and pointed out that people's vivid memories of remarkable events can go back more than a century with tales handed down from parents, grandparents etc. And we know ourselves how vivid something that happened fifty or sixty years ago can be recalled as though it was yesterday.
Although some may question testimonies given by people twenty five years after an event, so long as they were not just hearsay, they can be judged reliable. So, stories told by Covenanting families, powerful as they were, became local history.
Donna referred to the much of the original source material used by her, for example, Parish lists - the 1684 Parish list gave details of people living in and around Wigtown at the time.
In October 1684 the Privy Council was trying to find rebels; they sat for three days and got every minister in the parish to give an account of everyone over the age of thirteen. Transcriptions of records such as this can be found in the reference library in Stranraer - it's possible to see the names of men, wives, children and servants for each household.
Kirk Session records, such as those of Kirkinner, are full of stories. We also had our attention drawn to various books including The History of Galloway by William McKenzie published in 1841 and the works of another C19th author, Gordon Fraser.
John Ruskin had family in Whithorn - the Tweddles, who lived in what is now the Old Bank Bookshop. There are references to Covenanters in his diaries.
Donna related how Archbishop James Sharp was behind much of the persecution of the Covenanter rebels. He had been a Presbyterian but betrayed his fellow Covenanters. Sharp survived an attempt on his life in 1668 but was eventually killed by a group of Covenanters in 1679. Earlier that year, Sharp had introduced a piece of legislation which heralded what was called the Killing Time. That permitted, without so much as a trial, the 'on the spot' killing of anybody who had anything to do with a Conventicle.
Another source of information Donna had found to be useful when doing research was the Hearth tax rolls. These list the people who were liable for tax on hearths (including kilns) in Scotland in the 1690s. They provide clues about the size of each building, place, estate or parish in the late 17th century.
Donna's research led to the publication in 1989 of Second Daughter, telling the tale of Marie Dunbar, second daughter of David Dunbar of Baldoon., but her interest and research into this intriguing period of Wigtown's history has continued ever since.
There was time after her talk to examine some of the books and papers referred to as useful source material.
We were left with the feeling that we could continue discussing this subject again and again …

January 2018 – We couldn't have had a better way to start the year. Since retiring, Tom McCreath has spent decades studying the history of the Machars. His talk on the Estates of the Machars highlighted just how many magnificent old houses have fallen into ruin over the years. Born in Broughton parish, having farmed and still living close to Galloway House, Tom is a well known authority on the history of the area.
While some title deeds are straightforward and the history of the properties are easy to follow, some are far more complex. Tom recommended PH McKerlie's Lands and Their Owners in Galloway for those interested in following up the subject. Tom's own book Lands and Ownership in The Machars has a wealth of information in it too - well worth consulting.
In addition to the more well known houses such as Galloway House, Tom was able to show photographs and give information about the ownership and some family history of many of the houses 'off the beaten track' such as Merton Hall, Dowies (below), Tonderghie, Castlewigg, Barnbarroch and Physgill.Dowies This area has an unexpectedly high number of estates, unlike other parts of Scotland and there is a wealth of stories connected to them. Many of the families suffered losses in the two World Wars. After WW1 many demoralised landowners, having lost sons and heirs, were selling off farms to their tenants. Whereas prior to that land had been almost entirely owned by the estates and managed by tenants there was a complete reversal so around 90% was in the hands of the owner occupiers and only the remaining 10% was run by the estates.
CastlewiggA number of the large estate houses suffered from fires and were never fully restored. Castlewigg (right) being one example.
The stories surrounding all of the estates were many and varied. How fortunes were lost through profligate sons and families falling out. All this is reinforcing how fortunate we are to live in an area that has a wealth of fascinating history to delve into. Not only that, we are very fortunate that we have people like Tom who can help us to learn more.

At our November meeting we were fortunate to have a return visit from John Pickin who, as promised back in August, was able to go through our photos of Pibble Lead Mine.
The photos had been taken as we walked from the cars, left by the farm, on up the hillside to see the various aspects of the mine - spoil tips, adits, hand-dressing and sorting areas, the Cornish engine house, built to house the Cornish steam-pumping engine, and the water-powered crushing mill.
Worked for a fairly short period by the Creetown Copper and Lead Mining Company from 1849- 1855, the mine produced 214 tons of copper, 29 tons of lead and a small amount of silver. In 1856 thirty-six men, nine boys and three women were employed at Pibble.
In the addition to local people, the workers came from Ireland and the Isle of Man as well as the Cornish men who were brought in for their experience and skills related to the building of the engine and engine house.
We hope that somehow funding will be found to preserve the engine house as there are only two like it in the whole of Scotland (the other being Mulreesh lead mine on Islay. There has been noticeable deterioration in the building in recent years - in part due to the attractive, but destructive Rowan tree which of course grows bigger every year.

September – our last outdoor meeting for 2017, and the sun shone for us yet again. We started off at 2.00pm with a visit to MacLellan's Castle which had been postponed since the spring. There was still some scaffolding in place and much more work will be done when the castle is closed to the public.
We were able to see the majority of this rather fine building, built more as a domestic residence than a fortress. There were however gun-holes and pistol holes incorporated in the walls.
Sir Thomas MacLellan had the castle built before the family lost money and status. It was completed in 1582 and the armorial above the main entrance shows the the arms of Sir Thomas and his young wife Grissel Maxwell. They were married in 1584 when he was around forty and she was in her mid-teens.
This was a castle built to impress and show off. A south -east tower has five floors, one more than the main body of the house. The upper chambers were all provided with dry-stool closets and bed closets. (No draughty long drop latrines.)
We looked through the 'Laird's Lug' which allowed the laird or his faithful steward to eavesdrop on conversations taking place in the great hall.
The grand staircase that led up to the principal apartment was definitely built to impress those used to the common spiral staircases.

After leaving the castle we moved on to Broughton House - home of successful C19th artist Edward Atkinson Hornel from 1901. The house, built in 1730 has a classical and symmetrical façade. Hornel spent most of his life here and the house remains much as it was when he lived there.
His studio, designed for him as soon as he moved in was envied by a number of artists in our group. In addition to his paintings, we were also impressed by his photography - examples of both are on display. Hornel was very inspired by Japan but also painted local children as well as Japanese dancing girls. His distinctive, very ornately decorated backgrounds were applied to both.
Both his photography and paintings reflect visits made to Ceylon, Australia, Japan, Burma and the USA.
Apart from a passion for books - on display in the library, one of Hornel's chief passions was the garden at Broughton House and here we saw evidence of his artistic eye and again the influence of Japan. This is a remarkable garden, with a wide variety of plants and many stone features including a C12th cross which Hornel bought for his collection.
It would be possible to spend many hours here and it is certainly a place to return to more than once. Conservation is ongoing in both the house and garden

We were so lucky again with the weather for our August visit to Pibble Mine near Creetown.
It wasn't an easy walk - some parts were boggy, and we had to tread carefully over some of the steep and uneven rough parts. However, it was well worth the effort!
The walk was led by John Pickin who was able to not only guide us up the hillside to the site of the old mine workings, but also 'read' the remains of the industrial archaeology and discuss the methods used in the short time the mine was worked for lead, copper and even silver.
It was worked by the Creetown Copper and Lead Mining Company from 1849-55 and during this period produced 214 tons of copper, 29 tons of lead and a small amount of silver. Up to 36 men, women and boys worked at the mine and the mine manager, or captain, was a Cornishman.
The ore was shipped to Wales for smelting. Men and young boys did the work underground while women were employed sorting through the loads tipped out of the trucks.
The Cornish Engine House, built for a Cornish steam-pumping engine, is unique in mainland Scotland. Pibble did, however, have a water-powered crushing mill. We were able to see where the huge water wheel had been situated.
Rowan trees have taken root in the structure of the engine house and it is sadly neglected. Some careful work is needed to prevent the whole building becoming just a heap of stones.
Hopefully someone, or some organisation, will do something to preserve this hidden historical gem.
We look forward to revisiting Pibble Mine at our November meeting in the Supper Room when we hope that John will join us to discuss photos taken on our visit and tell us more about the history of this impressive but unsuccessful mining venture.

Our July meeting was blessed with good weather as we met with David Steel in Gatehouse for a guided walk around the town. This was to follow up a talk on The Development of the Planned Settlement of Gatehouse which he gave to us in February.
Starting in the main car park, we noted the buildings nearby which had originally been the tannery and, across the road, the brewery.
We were reminded of how much impact the Murray family and the Birtwhistles had on the development of the town. We saw for ourselves the streets which had been built following very strict regulations - all in line with plain frontages and slate roofs.
Alexander Birtwhistle's house in the High Street became a bank and subsequently the Bank of Fleet hotel.
The house which was the original simple cottage home of Joseph Henry, one of the many emigrants who later gained fame in America, contrasted with the houses built by those who had made money in the States and returned.
The building which had been the Angel Hotel is now private house. Some were glad to take advantage of the seat outside here!
The Episcopal Church with its attractive arched entrance must be unique in having John Knox portrayed in a stained glass window.
We mused over whether the later addition of the tower improved the appearance of the Church of Scotland or whether it just looked out of place.
There is a very comprehensive account of the development of Gatehouse in David Steel's book The Gatehouse Adventure; a publication which gives far more information than can be covered in this all too brief report.

As after David's talk in February, we contributed to his appeal for the restoration to the Rutherford monument which they hope to start work on soon - see the website www.gatehouse-of-fleet.co.uk

Although we had to postpone our visit to MacLellan’s Castle in June due to limited access, our tour of Threave House proved to be far from disappointing. We had a good day to explore the gardens too.

We were met at the door of Threave House by our guides Howard and Sarah. (Howard incidentally is the chairman of the Stewartry U3A).
They were both very interesting and informative guides. I don't think we could have had better.
After the the first few minutes at entrance to the house we soon had an idea as to how much we were likely to discover about the Gordon family and the history of the house itself.
The curved door with its thistle wrought-iron work, only able to be opened by servants from the inside and the Minton tiled floor were the introduction to what turned out to be a fascinating tour.
We heard how much of the décor was a result of the ever fashion conscious Kitty, who had all but one of the old fireplaces taken out and insisted on white being introduced to walls and, in some cases furniture was also painted white.
A painting by one of the local Faed brothers dominated the billiard room. Watercolours of local landscapes and birds covered the walls of a small turret bedroom which being small and circular, seemed quite cosy in contrast to the more magnificent rooms downstairs.
Throughout the house we noted various elegant pieces of furniture (with a discreet holly leaf to deter visitors from sitting on the chairs!)
The kitchen and the basement 'museum room' provided a number of talking points. This is where we ended the tour, stepping outside to remind ourselves of the rather impressive sandstone outer of the building.
At our Looking Back, Looking Forward planning meeting in November, more photos will be available for members who were unable to join us on this visit.

Some of us were lucky enough to have a dry day when visiting the excavations at Black Loch this month. After seeing the reconstruction of the Iron Age House at Whithorn, we were looking forward to seeing more of the site that inspired it.
The AOC Archaeology team led by Anne Crone and Graeme Cavers have been working here since 2015 and some of our members have been able to get involved.
The settlement there dates to approximately 450BC and includes some of the best preserved evidence ever found for Iron Age woodwork, which has survived well in the boggy conditions. It is unique in that it's the only Iron Age Lochside village to have been discovered in Scotland.
Each time more structures are revealed and it is clear that there have been a number of houses built on this site, some on top of ones that were built in earlier times.
This was clear to see when we visited this year; the large hearth stones of one house could be seen above the remains of an earlier structure.
Not many artefacts have been revealed this time, but we were shown stone tools and a whorl (used as a weight in spinning).
There were a number of wooden uprights showing where palisades had been built and a causeway has also been revealed this year.
AOC have one more visit planned, but we don't have to wait another two years for that. Anne Crone was telling us that they will be returning next year - probably in June. Hopefully they won't have problems with flooding then. When I returned to help on Tuesday in their last week, I was wading through water that came nearly to the top of my wellies and found that the main job that morning was pumping out. I took a few photos and returned home!

May – outing to Dailly: Twelve members set off on a sunny morning to Dailly in Ayrshire. First stop was coffee and then on to the local Church and Graveyard where we were met by Mr McBride who gave us a fascinating detailed history of this very large church.
There were three lofts perched above the congregation belonging to the gentry from Kilkerran, Bargany and Penkill, and the stained glass windows were beautiful. The pitch pine pews pulpit and organ were of exceptional quality but sadly the plaster was peeling off the walls.
The members gave a donation for the church and then our guide gave us a tour of the graveyard and told us the stories behind some of the stones, the most poignant being a miner trapped underground for twenty-one days. He was rescued alive but sadly died three days later.
After lunch at Brunston Golf Course the group arrived at Dalquharran Castle and the caretaker opened the gates giving us the privilege to enter the courtyard and explore inside this wonderful building.
While Culzean is celebrated as a Scottish architectural gem, Robert Adam's other Ayrshire masterpiece is relatively unknown. It was commissioned for Thomas Kennedy of Dunure and completed in 1790 around the same time that Culzean was being built. It is of Roman Military style architecture and and the interior displays a magnificent cantilevered staircase which curves up the central drum,and displays many similar features to Culzean.
It remained in Kennedy family until the 1930s and after a few owners it was unroofed and fell into disrepair.
En route home we visited Bargany Gardens which were spectacular with their colourful springtime blooms and it was a good way to end our visit to this lovely area.

Visit to the Iron Age Roundhouse in Whithorn April.
The Whithorn Visitor Centre looked rather crowded as we all arrived at 2.00pm ready for the tour of the newly constructed Iron Age Roundhouse.
Once everyone was ready we were led through the pend and up into the field chosen for the site of the roundhouse. It really is an impressive structure and as we stepped in through the doorway we were greeted by our guide Tom and the warmth of the fire blazing in the central hearth.
The dimensions of the roundhouse, the size of the huge hearth and the general layout have all been based on the house excavated at Black Loch, Monreith.
We were fortunate in having Tom as our guide as he had been involved not only in the construction of the roundhouse but also in the excavations carried out at Monreith, so he was certainly well informed about all aspects of the project.
Amazingly, the bulk of the construction work was carried out in just over four months by  two men, a young person on work experience and some volunteers. Tom explained how they had tried to stick to the original method of construction but of course were constrained by modern day health and safety limitations and the fact that they had to build on top of a concrete base to preserve the archaeology beneath.
We were impressed by the size of the building and the fact that there was so much room inside for the people and their animals. No chimney or hole was needed to let the smoke out – it just filtered through the rushes on the roof. The roof incidentally was impressively watertight.
The roundhouse project is truly an exceptional achievement and those involved are justly proud of the end result. The roundhouse will be used in future for a variety of events and it will surely draw more people back time and time again. Certainly many of our group will return with visiting family and friends.

Nic Coombey's talk in March on Names Lost and Found on the Galloway Coast was an excellent way to end our season of talks. Nic is currently working for the Solway Firth Partnership and this was just one aspect of his work.
This talk focussed on place names; the origins and the stories behind the local versions of the names.Names of rocks and caves as well as places of habitation were referred to. Many reflected the connection with local fishermen or stories passed down through the years through oral tradition.
Those passed on through oral tradition often didn't get recorded on maps, but for those on maps, the work of C19th surveyors had proved to be a valuable source of information.
We started by looking at the coastline near Portpatrick where names related to the natural history - Barnaugh - a rock named but not recorded on maps Barnaugh being Gaelic for limpet. Further along the coast we have Parton Isles - crab rocks.
Maidenhead Bay we discovered was so named because cowrie shells are apparently also known as maidenheads.
Wee Cave, which is a big one seems an anomaly until the link is made between the Gaelic word for yellow and yellow lichen found on the rocks. More obvious origins are those related to people - Laird's Loup for instance and we see the influence of Walter Scott's novels in Dirk Hatteraick's Cave - named after the Dutch smuggler in Scott's novel Guy Mannering.
Dropping Cave was so named because of the waterfall over the mouth of the cave - the water supposedly known for kill or cure.
Places were often named after the farm inland from the coast or after the landowner. Portpatrick was originally known as Port Montgomery after the landowner who was responsible for having the John Rennie lighthouses built here and in Donaghadee, Ireland.
Moving nearer to home, The names along the Machars coast near Monreith were interesting - Chincough Well more commonly referred to as St Medena's Well, referred to the restorative powers of the water for the common childhood complaint of chincough or whooping cough.
In Monreith Bay we have Butcher's Cave so named because of the 'blood-stained' rocks inside.Benbuie or yellow hill refers to the yellow lichens.
Garrerie's Cave is where the laird hid in times of persecution. Callie's Port, surveyor's records showed reference to a smuggler, but callie means landing place.
Again, on the first edition map, the cave known as Sheep Cave is known locally as Johnny Logie's Cave. Johnny Logie lived there from the 1920s for around forty years.
A well known cave of course is St Ninian's Cave, but lesser known is the rock on the other side of the bay named Deer Rock - so named because it had deer painted on it for target practice. Bloody Neuk is so named because, like Butcher's Cave , it appears to have blood-stained rocks.
Ducker Craig is so named after the dookers or cormorants who also lend their local names of elders or scarts to places.
Further along the coast, Tonderghie Mine is also known as Mary's Mine but who was Mary? The Rock of Providence refers to the shipwreck of the 1750s. Taylor's Gat or Taylor's Gulley and Slockanglass are names of places referred to by anglers as is Blockenhole - blocken being a small cod.
Where the coast is merely a wide expanse of sand such as at Mersehead, there are fewer features and hence fewer names to record, unlike the very rocky areas. There are however maps recording the positions of stake nets and these are all named resulting in a number of interesting names such as Battlehill, Crabtree, Nicholas,Swinehope, Snobneuk - some obviously named after people, but others ...?
Nic recommended a couple of online resources:
National Library of Scotland - www.nls.uk
Scotland's Places - www.scotlandsplaces.gov.uk/ a website referring to the 1st edition maps and The Dumfries Archival Mapping Project or DAMP which has recorded many of the estate maps.
We look forward to seeing publications planned by the Solway Firth Partnership and possibly taking part in workshops and walks that Nic will be involved in during the next few years.

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.

January – 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