Relics of the limestone industry on Dumbarton Muir

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Text © Copyright Lairich Rig, September 2012
Images are under a separate Creative Commons Licence.

Geological maps

Dumbarton Muir:
Much of the area that is discussed in the present article is covered by one of the British Geological Survey's 1:50000 maps, namely, "Glasgow" (Scotland Sheet 30E, Solid Edition). Those parts of Dumbarton Muir where cornstone outcrops are evident are marked KNW on the map, for Kinnesswood FormationExternal link. Auchenreoch Muir is marked BGN for Ballagan FormationExternal link. Blairquhomrie Muir, to the north-west, is marked SCK for Stockiemuir Sandstone FormationExternal link. Further information about those formations can be found at the corresponding links (which are to the BGS Lexicon).

Carman Muir:
It would be very time-consuming to explore all of Dumbarton Muir. However, cornstone beds can also be seen on Carman Muir, a much smaller area that is only a few miles from Dumbarton Muir. There, sandstone (Stockiemuir Sandstone Formation) is prominent to the north side of Cardross Road, while the area to the south of the road is characterised by cornstone beds (of the Kinnesswood Formation), which there overlie the sandstone. The area is covered by the BGS 1:50000 map "Greenock" (Scotland Sheet 30W, Solid Edition).

Mainly to satisfy my own curiosity, I carried out a very informal survey of Carman Muir, recording the position and alignment of the main cornstone deposits, and the locations of prominent outcrops and quarry pits, as well as smaller circular hollows that may once have been test pits. The findings are recorded on their own annotated satellite viewExternal link, on which the markers provide links to corresponding pictures and descriptions on Geograph; there is also a shared descriptionExternal link for those pictures; it provides a brief summary of the geology of the area.

There are signs of quarrying on various scales across Carman Muir, but the focus of the lime-burning industry in that area appears to have been a knollExternal link, where the visible traces include extensive spoil moundsExternal link and the remains of a lime-kilnExternal link.
NS3778 : Old quarry pit by Lairich RigNS3778 : Possible test pit by Lairich Rig(left) Large quarry pit.
(right) Small round pit.
NS3678 : Former cornstone workings on Carman Muir by Lairich RigNS3678 : Remains of lime-kiln by Lairich Rig(left) Spoil mounds.
(right) Ruins of lime-kiln.

Problematic reports

Before I describe other antiquities, it may be worthwhile to devote some space to a series of existing reports that may cause some confusion.

A displaced road

The Canmore online archaeology database contains several entries corresponding to a series of reports made in the 1970s; they originally appeared in the journal DES (Discovery and Excavation in Scotland). The reports refer to a road crossing these moors: report 1External link / report 2External link / report 3External link. They also allude, in passing, to the limestone tracks, calling them "mineral tracks". The road, as described in reports 1 and 2, generally passes a considerable distance to the east of the network that is described in the present article. However, with the exception of a very indistinct moundExternal link near Milton, I was unable to find any trace of the supposed route described in Canmore reports 1 and 2.

In contrast, the hollow way described in report 3 does correspond to a visible track, the Old Drymen Road that I mention several times in the present article, and which is depicted as a bold blue line heading SSW–NNE on my annotated satellite map. Report 3 describes its course near the point where it crosses the Gallangad Burn. The "Plan of Dumbarton Muir" shows this route, which it labels "Road to Drymen &c", crossing the Gallangad Burn near the Lang CairnExternal link and then heading roughly north-east. See the referencesExternal link, where the course of this Old Drymen RoadExternal link, as shown on the Plan, is described in more detail.

That road is most certainly not a continuation of the supposed Roman causeway (see belowExternal link) at Milton that is described in report 1.

After giving the matter some thought, I realised the nature of the underlying problem with Canmore reports 1 and 2: unlikely though it may seem, the authors of those reports appear to have been describing the Old Drymen RoadExternal link. However, I believe that they mistook Square Wood for Black Wood, and that this led, in turn, to a series of similar errors along the way, with the result that the entire reported course of the road was displaced by a large amount.

In detail, the displacements are as follows:

(1) Report 2 says that the road can be followed "from the NE end of Black Wood". The Old Drymen RoadExternal link passes the NE corner of Square Wood.

(Note, though, that there is also a different old trackExternal link that does indeed lead from Black Wood towards Little White Hill; I have marked it on my map in red. I cannot rule out the possibility that the authors were, at that point, following that track, although it is hard to see how it could then have led them to the marker that is described next. The authors do state that the first part of the route was followed from the air, and the remainder from the ground; it is possible that the route was picked up from the wrong place on the ground, and that the authors, in doing so, inadvertently switched from one track to another.)

(2) Report 2 goes on to mention "one small pillar mile marker, inscribed 3, still in position", supposedly in the vicinity of Meikle White Hill. This is certainly a reference to the old cattle stance markerExternal link, with the figure 3 inscribed on top, that stands on the Lang Dyke; no other object could be mistaken for it. That marker is a long way from Meikle White Hill, but is close to the Old Drymen RoadExternal link. The single most decisive piece of evidence that the reported positions are wrong is the mention of this very distinctive object.

(3) Finally, the report mentions lime-kilns near "the Black Burn Ford", with a link to a related report (report 4External link), which provides further details. Though these remains are supposedly to be seen beside the Black Burn, the descriptions correspond to the appearance of prominent lime-kiln ruins that can be seen to the north of the Lang Dyke, close to the Finland Burn, which was presumably mistaken for the Black Burn. According to report 4, the remains include a "rectangular enclosure" (almost certainly the large rectangular kilnExternal link near the Lang Dyke), and a "single kiln" (presumably the smaller lime-kiln ruinExternal link that, in reality, stands on the bank of the Finland Burn). It is worth adding that I have, on more than one occasion, searched the area beside the Black Burn, as specified in report 4, and saw no such remains there. Furthermore, report 4 mentions "mole hills" in the area: the ground beside the Black Burn is very boggy, and no molehills would be found there; in contrast, the lime-kilns that are beside the Finland Burn are in a grassy area.

When this series of displacements is taken into account, it is possible to make sense of the reports: the positions are badly wrong, but the descriptions are otherwise accurate.

I have discussed this subject here at considerable length since it may help anyone who is puzzled, as I was, by these Canmore reports (dating from the 1970s). In fairness to the authors of those reports, I should point out that they did not have the benefits of modern GPS technology, and were probably unfamiliar with this area.

An old steading

Another report – report 5External link – from about the same time describes the following feature, which is supposedly at NS452799: "On the E bank of Knockupple Burn beneath the rocky crag, a rectangular steading with a small oval store shed to E".

I have been unable to locate any such structure in that area. I may simply have missed it, but it seems to me that the report is a fair description of the remains of a structureExternal link that can been seen about half a mile to the NNE of there, at the foot of a crag. I suspect that the report is a mislocated duplicate of another oneExternal link, which gives the correct position of the ruin that it describes. The first-edition OS map identifies this structure, correctly or not, as an "old sheep ree"; in the present-day ruins, which are in poor condition, it can be seen that the eastern corner had been walled off at some point, perhaps to form a lambing pen.

It is perhaps worth my making some observations about another report made at about the same time, although the site lies outside the area discussed in the present article.

A supposed causeway

That report, which I will call report 6External link, made at about the same time, mentions some remains, described as those of "a causeway", on the southern shore of the River Clyde near Bishopton. This interpretation has even found its way onto the map: the linear feature on the southern shore is currently labelled "Remains of Old Causeway" on large-scale OS mapping. However, my own opinion is that the supposed causeway is nothing more than the remains of a jetty; I discuss this subject at lengthExternal link elsewhere, and so do not need to repeat the details here.

Antiquities and old roads

The region covered by the network of tracks on Dumbarton Muir includes a number of other interesting archaeological sites that are not directly connected to the limestone industry. Several of these, such as the vanished farmsteads, have already been discussed in their appropriate places. The present section discusses a few of the other archaeological sites of interest that can be found in this area.


One of these is the Common Kist: this is a cist burial (effectively an ancient coffin with stone slabs forming its sides); it is named from its location on Dumbarton Common Muir. A 1609 charter by James VIExternal link mentions a number of places that lay on the moor's boundary (the reported wording of the charter varies from author to author, but the differences are generally minor, and of little importance); among them was the "auld monument of stane callit the Common Kist". The cist would, at one time, have been covered by a large cairn of stones. These stones were removed centuries ago, and were probably used to make the dry-stone walling that can be seen nearby. At a later time, the cist itself was damaged by local landowners: writing in 1896, author John Guthrie SmithExternal link describes how these local lairds separated their respective landsExternal link by means of a wire fence, and "they or their servants committed the gross piece of sacrilege of placing in the very centre of the 'Common Kist' a large straining post, and fastening it in its place by breaking up one of the sides and the foot of this most interesting monument of the past for packing to keep in its place their truly 'infernal machine'!". The Common Kist fell within the boundaries of the proposed wind farm mentioned at the start of this article.

A similar cist on Auchenreoch Muir was found by a walker (see WoSASExternal link for details) in the 1990s. Both cists are illustrated below:

NS4380 : The Common Kist by Lairich RigNS4380 : The Common Kist by Lairich Rig(left) The Common Kist (close-up view).
(right) The Common Kist in context.
NS4279 : Cist, viewed from the north-east by Lairich RigNS4279 : Cist (a close-up view of the chamber) by Lairich Rig(left) A different cist, on Auchenreoch Muir.
(right) A closer view of the chamber.

Another interesting site is the Hill of Standing Stones, which would have been at the centre of the proposed windfarm:

NS4380 : Hill of Standing Stones by Lairich RigNS4380 : Summit of the Hill of Standing Stones by Lairich Rig(left) The Hill of Standing Stones: the summit cairn.
(right) The summit in winter.

This location was also mentioned in the 1609 charter; in connection with the boundaries of the Common Muir, the charter speaks of "the north-west part of the hill where the Standand Stanes are fixt". The received wisdom is that the hill was named either after the cairn that once covered the nearby Common Kist, or after the large "cairn" (really just exposed bedrock) that underlies the more modern marker cairn on the hilltop. The wording of the charter does not really lend support to either interpretation; yet, when the Ordnance Survey's Object Name Books were compiled in the 1890s, it was recorded that there were, at that time, no standing stones on the hill; nor was it believed that there ever had been any.

My own belief (which at least fits all of the above circumstances) is that the "standing stones" of the hill's name were march stones, boundary markers. As for what has happened to these stones, I believe that they may have been incorporated into the summit cairn, which contains a number of stone posts, some with distinctive markingsExternal link.

Some time after I had written the first version of this article, transcriptions of the earlier (c.1860) OS Name Books became available online. Their entry for the Hill of Standing Stones appears to support my theory about the hill's name: "Hill of Standing Stones – A small eminence on the summit of which are many large loose Stones marking the Boundary point". In all likelihood, the "large loose stones" that are described there as marking the boundary point are the very same ones as those that now make up the cairn on the hilltop.

The Hill of Standing Stones may not have any standing stones in the usual sense, but it is not without archaeological interest; what may be two ancient cairns are located near its summit (see CanmoreExternal link for details):

NS4380 : Remains of a cairn on the Hill of Standing Stones by Lairich RigNS4380 : Possible cairn on the Hill of Standing Stones by Lairich Rig(left) A possible ancient cairn (NS43658045) on the Hill of Standing Stones.
(right) Another possible ancient cairn (NS43668046) on the same hill.

Old Drymen Road

This old drove road heads NNE, leading from Dumbarton to Drymen.

As was pointed out earlier, in the section 'Maryland and BroadfieldExternal link', the backbone of the network of limestone industry tracks (i.e., the track beginning at Maryland Farm) was an old road from Dumbarton to Drymen; it has also been described as a drove road. It is marked on the map as a blue line heading SSW–NNE.

Part of it is depicted on the early-nineteenth-century "Plan of Dumbarton Muir" (see the referencesExternal link), where it is labelled "Road to Drymen &c". If it is followed towards Dumbarton, heading SSW, then, as the map shows, it passes Square Wood and then Maryland Farm. Beyond there, it is not visible on the ground, but it would probably have followed a downhill course close to that of present-day Garshake RoadExternal link.

Another trackExternal link that I discussed earlier in this article (see the section 'Black WoodExternal link), and which is marked as a red line on the map, leads from Little White HillExternal link, and after passing Black WoodExternal link, leads past the old site of Hill of Garshake FarmExternal link. That track probably also continued downhill along a line close to that of Garshake Road, presumably meeting up with the other track somewhere in that area.

It is not possible to discern, on the ground, how the (combined) track then continued from the foot of what is now Garshake Road, because the area is built up. However, some correspondence in the Dumbarton Herald issue of 17th April 1895 provides some insight: a letter from local historian Donald MacLeod discusses the renaming of streets in Dumbarton; in it, he mentions "the ancient Common Loan (leading from the town of Dumbarton to its muir), commonly known as Roundriding RoadExternal link".

That old name is also attested, and the road's course past Maryland Farm confirmed, in the following entry from the Burgh records:

July 181793Agree to sell Gabriel Lang the piece of the common Lone, leading past his lands at Maryland, at the foot of the Maryland croft, for £6 : 6s.

There was another important drove road passing from west to east through Dumbarton Muir, described next.

Common Drove Road

This old drove road heads east, leading from Bonhill to the Common Ford and beyond.

The route of this old drove roadExternal link is depicted as a blue line on my map, heading roughly E-W. It began at Bonhill, at about NS39867960, where there is now a disused quarryExternal link; it then headed up over Pappert HillExternal link (NS4280), and then led east over the Hill of Standing Stones and the Lang DykeExternal link, crossing the Gallangad Burn at the Common FordExternal link. The course of the drove road fades out between the Lang Dyke and the point where it becomes faintly evident again near the Common Ford; between those points, I have represented its presumed course by means of a much fainter line on my satellite map.

See [Rankin] in the referencesExternal link for more on the Common Drove Road. I have relied on that work for the course of the road; however, it is confirmed by, for example, John Thomson's 1832 map of DumbartonshireExternal link, which shows the start of the road in relation to Bonhill Kirk and Kirkland Cottage (a dotted line on that map, a little to the south of that road, appears to correspond to a different track, one that I discuss laterExternal link as leading uphill from Redburn). I also encountered a representation of the Common Drove Road on an 1801 "Plan of Ladytoun, Noblestoun, Back Park, Hill Parks, etc.External link"; see that link for further comments.

Appropriately, one of the stones in the summit cairn of the Hill of Standing Stones is an artefact related to droving, namely, a cattle stance markerExternal link (with the digit "1" carved on its top), which marked the site of a stance, a point where drovers and their herds might stop for the night. Another cattle stance markerExternal link, numbered "3", stands 880 metres further to the east, on the long ridge known as the Lang Dyke. Marker number 2 lay between them, but it was removed to Merkins Farm many years ago.

Did this drove road over Pappert Hill and the Hill of Standing Stones also serve the limestone industry? Very probably: a quarry pit with an exposed rock face (below, left) can be seen just to the east of the point where the drove road emerges from Nobleston Wood onto the muir; further signs of quarrying (below, right) can be seen just to the north-east of the summit of the Hill of Standing Stones:

NS4280 : Old quarry pit by Lairich RigNS4380 : Pit (former limestone quarrying) by Lairich Rig(left) An old quarry pit where the drove road emerges from Nobleston Wood.
(right) A rectangular area of quarrying near the Hill of Standing Stones.

If this drove road also served the limestone industry, as is likely, then it becomes clear how these two otherwise isolated sites are to be linked into the network of tracks. In addition, this route would allow easy access from Bonhill to the very important complex of sitesExternal link located to the north of the Lang Dyke, including what was probably the main kiln, as well as several very large quarry pits.

The Great Moor Case

The Great Moor Case was a long-running legal dispute over the boundaries of Dumbarton's Common Moor.

This section of the article discusses: (1) developments leading up the Great Moor Case; (2) the Case itself; and (3) place-names that can be gleaned from estate plans produced while litigation was underway. Those plans pre-date, by several decades, the earliest Ordnance Survey maps of the area.

Earlier encroachments

In the second volume of his "Book of Dumbartonshire", Joseph Irving points out, in connection with Dumbarton's Town Moor (or Common Moor), that "so far back as 1630, the Town Council seem to have been called upon to consider the subject of encroachments made upon this portion of burgh property"; he adds that the disputes increased year after year, and that, although the land was not considered of any great value, by the end of the century, hundreds of pounds were being spent defending the title to land thought (by the Council) to belong to the Burgh. He does not elaborate on this, but I have selected the following entries from the Burgh Records as relevant examples (the parentheses show where I have expanded some abbreviations, or, in one case, added a word to complete the sense). The first of these entries is presumably the 1630 dispute Irving referred to; it is about the unauthorised cutting of peats on the Common Moor; I have omitted the less relevant parts of the entries:

June 251630Anent the c(om)plaint maid be James Herrirt in Chapeltoun againe Mathew Tailyeir in Murroch, for cutting of his peittis in the touns muir, .... It is ordained that thay nor no uthirs in tyme cuming presume to cut peittis w(i)t(hi)n the burgh of territorie.
May 41631Walter Colquhoun of Barnhill decerned in the unlaw of ten pounds for extending beyond his mairch.
June 41632Perambulation of the common mairches of the tounis muir to take place betuix (?now?) and the last of Junij.
Dec 31632Action of improbation passed from against certain parties for encroachments on the commoun mure and other toun lands.
May 301635The P(ro)veist, bailies, and a nomber of other p(er)souns to gang the morne and ryd the haill marches.
June 11635Having heard that the sheillings erecit on the Muir, and cast doun at the last marching, ar erecit of new, they ordaine a number to go and cast the same doun againe, and agrie also to tak civil actioun thereanent.
Feb 11636In regaird the mure is vnproffitabill to this burgh thir monie yeirs bypast, Thay ordaine the muir to be ropit and set for the weill of the toun to him qua will geve maist thairfor, Co(n)form to the actis of the burrowis, and as the toun and the takkar sall agrie.
Apr 281655The common mure set to Johne Smollatt, merchande, fra Beltane 1655 to Beltane 1658, for twentie merks Scottis yearly.
Aug 251655The Great Charter of the burgh, which had been taken out at the rydeing of the marches [on Monday] is again returned to the charter chest.

At the Convention of Burghs held at Kinghorn in 1600, thirty years before the first of the above entries was made, the Burgh of Dumbarton had already been censured (the relevant comments are quoted below) for not publicly auctioning off and feuing ("rouping and setting") the lands of the common moor to the highest bidder ("to the utter avail"). A fine had thereby been incurred, but it would be dispensed with if the Burgh could produce, at the next Convention, evidence of improvement (the conditions are then set out; failure to comply would result in a greater fine).

In the quoted passage, a few words that are likely to be unfamiliar to modern readers occur in the last sentence, which describes what is said to be "reserved always for the common use of the Burgh": it is the rights to "quarrying, sods, divots, peat, turf and heather". Although this entry does not say so, it seems that the land was not, at this time, feued off in perpetuity; see, for example, the Burgh Record from April 28 1655 that was quoted above. One thing that is made clear is that the land was, at least in the time period when this entry was written, to be feued only to freemen of the burgh, and to no one else.

June 16, 1600: The convention "the samyn day findis the brugh of Dumbartane nocht to have producit sufficient attestatioun of the rowpping and setting of thair commoun guid to the vtter awaill, and thairfoir to have incurrit the pane and unlaw of twenty pundis and yit, for dyuerssis caussis moveing thame, dispennssis with said vnlaw, and vnderstanding that the said brugh hes dyuerssis comoun landis quhilkis ar nocht nor hes nocht bene put to the vtter awaill, speciale thair comoun mwre, nochtwithstanding the affirmatioun of Thomas Fallisdaill thair Commissioner, thairfoir thai ordane the said brugh to produce or send to the nixt generall Conventioun ane mair sufficient attestatioun in writt of the rowpeing and setting of thair commoun guid and commoun landis and perambulating of thair mercheis, according to the actis of burrowis set down thairanent, and speciale of thair said comoun mwre quhilk gif it sail happin them to set in feu that the samyn be rowppit thre seuerall dayis and set to fremen, inhabitantis of the said brugh, beiring all maner of burding within the saymn, quha will gif maist thairfoir, and to na vtheris, and to reporte or send in writt thair delegence heirvpon vnder the pane of tua hundreth pundis to be payit to the burrowis be the said brugh incais thai failze, reserwand awayis to the commoun vse of brugh, licence of querrell, faill, dewat, peitt, truffe and hedder, and to be ane heid of the missiue."

Records for another Convention of Burghs, held in Edinburgh almost a century later, describe the disposal, a few years earlier, of part of the common lands:

July 18, 1695: "The Convention ratified, approved, and confirmed to Mr William Cochrane of Kilmaronock, a charter granted by the magistrates, town council, and community of Dumbartoun, dated 5th November, 1692, of common lands belonging to that burgh and lying within the territory of the same, reserving certain highways through the lands, to be holden of the magistrates and council as superiors, and paying therefor £4 Scots of feu duty yearly."


Decades of litigation

The litigation that came to be known as the Great Moor Case began in February 1772 when an action of molestation and declarator was raised in the Court of Session against the Burgh of Dumbarton, by Buchanan of Drumakill and others (Buchanan of Drumakill, at c.NS4889, near Drymen, was head of a cadet branch of Buchanan). The dispute was about the boundaries of Dumbarton's Common Moor. Although a number of old charters described the line of the boundary at length, by listing the names of hills, cairns, and other features on it, the identity (and therefore the location) of some of the named features was disputed; the next subsection, dealing with old estate plans, illustrates this.

In 1813, the Burgh appealed against various earlier decisions made by the Court of Session, and the case was heard in the House of Lords in 1817. The judgement given there served more to cloud the matter than to resolve it; for example, there was much debate about the legal status – as instrumenta noviter reperta – of certain relevant documents that were being newly presented by the Burgh; those documents had been in the possession of the Burgh during the earlier cases, but, because of the council's lack of diligence in searching, they had only recently been found and presented.

(This difficulty in finding documents was nothing new: in the Dumbarton Burgh Records, an entry for October 24, 1683 is as follows: "the charter kist being in such confusion that almost no paper can be found quhilk they stand in need of, the clerk is ordained to make an inventor of the whole and put them in order". In the past, many of the Burgh's manuscripts were kept in the attics of Dumbarton's Tolbooth; offenders who were confined in that building often had little trouble getting into those attics, where they would sometimes damage or destroy documents. In light of those storage arrangements, it is perhaps surprising that so many documents survived to a later period.)

The House of Lords decided that some of the other matters in dispute should be referred back to the Court of Session for review.

The parties eventually agreed to submit the remaining issues to a judicial referee, whose decision was to be final. He was Archibald Alison (who later become Sir Archibald Alison), Sheriff of Lanarkshire. By that time, the only part of the boundary that remained to be settled was that between the White HaughsExternal link and the Common KistExternal link.

In June 1838, after making a personal inspection of the disputed moor, Sheriff Alison issued an Interlocutor which precluded any further litigation. His decision was favourable to the Burgh.

It had taken over sixty years to settle the case.

I think that a useful addition to the Local Studies departments of libraries in this area would be a booklet discussing the Great Moor Case in greater detail: the parties involved, the precise boundaries and places in dispute, and the fitful progress of the legal proceedings over the decades. As far as I know, the subject has not (at the time I am writing this article) been covered in that way; likewise, it is possible that there have been magazine articles about the case, but I am not aware of any. For my part, I am not the right person to bring that subject matter to life; as noted below, my interest is largely confined to the local place-names that cropped up in connection with the case, and which appeared on estate plans drawn up while litigation was in progress.

The moor was sold, in the 1840s, to Sir John Maxwell of Pollok. It later passed to James Ewing of Levenside, and became part of the Levenside Estate (later known as the Strathleven Estate), although, by that time, the formation of several large farms within its bounds had diminished the extent of the Common Moor.

The Strathleven Estate was auctioned off in 1950, as 44 separate lots, by Messrs Jackson-Stops & Staff. I have a facsimile of the prospectus: Lot 1 was "Aitken Barr Farm", while Lot 44 (the smallest) was a plot of land to the rear of 22–24 Raglan Street, Bonhill. By far the largest lot was Lot 9; see the section 'Grouse MoorExternal link', below.


Pre-OS estate plans

For me, the main interest attaching to the Great Moor Case is the light that it sheds on local place-names; estate plans prepared while litigation was taking place pre-date the earliest Ordnance Survey maps of the area; they are therefore a useful resource, showing some place-names and boundaries that do not appear on OS maps. I do not know whether those plans were created as a direct result of the litigation, but they do allude to the dispute, in that they show the two competing versions of the boundary line.

The collections

The following are of particular interest; the RHP numbers are the reference numbers assigned to the plans (or collections of plans) in the repository of the National Records of Scotland, and the links are to the NRS website.

RHP20094External link (surveyor David Wilson; 1801)
"Plan of the lands of Strathleven (Levenside), the property of John Campbell"

A collection of estate plans.

RHP20101External link (surveyor Henry Reed; 1826)
"Plan of the lands of Strathleven (Levenside), the property of John Campbell"

A collection of estate plans.

RHP3881External link (early nineteenth century)
"Plan of Dumbarton Muir with the disputed marches between the town of Dumbarton and Mr McGown and others"

This plan is in the form of a single large linen-backed sheet. See the referencesExternal link for further discussion.

Boundaries and place-names

Sheriff Alison, in the Note he issued in connection with the case, stated that the boundaries of a Common Moor would gradually have become fixed at an early period, and he stressed the importance, in cases such as these, of looking for natural boundaries and landmarks, such as streams, ridges, and hills, rather than the kind of artificial boundaries that land surveyors would, in later periods, devise by drawing straight lines across level ground on a map.

The estate plans do indeed show boundaries that proceed by way of natural features and landmarks. For example, one of the 1801 plans shows the lands of Merkins; on this plan, one boundary follows a "green dyke" (a field bank dating from an early period), and then passes through "The Red Stone" and "The Cairn", before turning to head for Red BraeExternal link.

NS4381 : Corner of fence by Lairich RigNS4381 : Old boundary by Lairich Rig(left) "The Red Stone" was probably at or near this corner.
(right) "The Cairn" was probably at or near this spot.

As for the nearby Finland Burn (as it is called on present-day maps), the Ordnance Survey Name Books give the alternative name "Merkins Burn", but the earlier "Plan of Dumbarton Muir" (RHP3881) calls it the "Fingland Burn". One of the 1826 plans gives an earlier name, labelling it the "North Inchmenoch or Finland Burn". An 1801 plan makes the older name more intelligible, calling the same burn the "Ishmeanoch Burn". It is therefore likely that the name incorporates the Gaelic elements "eas" and "meadhanach": it is the "Middle Stream".

One of the plans in collection RHP20101 has an inset map at the top-right corner, labelled "Blairquhomrie and Merkins". This inset map allows some of the details of the dispute to be inferred. It shows the "Line claimed by the Town of Dumbarton" and the "Line claimed by Mr Campbell & Others"; the line claimed by the town leads in a south-westerly direction from Red BraeExternal link to a cairn on the Hill of Standing StonesExternal link. The line claimed by Mr Campbell is very different: it begins at the Common FordExternal link, and heads west, again ending at the cairn on the Hill of Standing Stones. On the way, it passes over a feature that the map labels "The Lang Cairn", but which is now usually known as the Lang Dyke.

An important part of the Great Moor Case was a dispute about whether "the Lang Cairn" that is mentioned in early charters as forming part of the boundary of the Common Moor really was the cairn that is now generally known by that name, or whether it was, instead, the ridge-like feature that is presently called the Lang Dyke. As John Guthrie SmithExternal link stated in his 1896 history of Strathendrick, "there was a great conflict of evidence, the Stirlingshire people, namely, the proprietors of the Camerons in Drymen, affirming that the Lang Cairn referred to in the old charter of James VI meant a very curious cairn or dolerite dykeExternal link a good deal further south than the curious old stone monumentExternal link which the Dunbartonshire people affirmed was the Lang Cairn alluded to".

NS4380 : Hill of Standing Stones by Lairich RigNS4380 : The Hill of Standing Stones by Lairich RigThe summit cairn on the Hill of Standing Stones.
NS4581 : The Lang Cairn by Lairich RigNS4581 : The Lang Cairn: view from western end by Lairich RigThe Lang Cairn: a Clyde-type Neolithic cairn, over 50 metres long.
NS4480 : Looking along the Lang Dyke by Lairich RigNS4480 : The Lang Dyke by Lairich RigThe Lang Dyke: a prominent natural ridge.

Miscellaneous place-names

As already noted, the place-names mentioned on these old plans are of some interest. Those on the "Plan of Dumbarton Muir" (RHP3881) are discussed in the ReferencesExternal link section. To conclude the present subsection of this article, I will list a few more place-names from the other old estate plans, and my thoughts on where these places were located. Some of the locations are pictured below the list.

Little Glen (1801)At NS44638259, a tributary of the Gallangad Burn.
Garstock Glen (1801)At NS44878191, a tributary of the Gallangad Burn.
{ Ishmeanoch Burn (1801)
{ North Inchmenoch Burn (1826)
{ = Present-day Finland Burn.
{ The "Plan of Dumbarton Muir" calls it Fingland Burn.
South Inchmenoch Burn (1826){ = Present-day Docking HoleExternal link.
{ The "Plan of Dumbarton Muir" uses the name Docking Hole.
{ Belting Kiln (1801)
{ Hairshaw Ford (1826)
The kiln seems to have been beside the ford. Both were probably at c.NS43587929.
Burnt Planting (1826)An open area to the NW of Nobleston Wood, between c.NS40958024 and c.NS42258075.
Brakeloch Hill (1826){ This appears to be the area near Pappert Hill trig point.
{ The 1826 plan also shows Pappert Hill itself; see below.
Muir Fair Park (1826)Closely corresponds to what is labelled Nobleston Wood on present-day maps.
Back Park (1801)Centred on c.NS40457997; that point is just west of the ruins of Northfield Cottage.

NS4379 : Ancient trackway by Lairich RigNS4379 : Moorland disturbed by former limestone industry by Lairich Rig(left) The probable site of Hairshaw Ford. It still has the appearance of a ford.
(right) The Belting Kiln was probably also here. Note the green, limestone-rich knolls.
NS4180 : Small wooded area by Lairich RigNS4180 : Tree at woodland edge by Lairich RigTwo views from inside a large area that was once known as Burnt Planting.
NS4179 : Nobleston Wood by Lairich RigNS4179 : Nobleston Wood by Lairich RigInside the former Muir Fair Park, or present-day Nobleston Wood.
NS4179 : Fence beside Nobleston Wood by Lairich RigNS4280 : The edge of Nobleston Wood by Lairich Rig(left) Muir Fair Park's south-western boundary.
(right) Muir Fair Park's north-eastern boundary.
NS4180 : Ascending Pappert Hill by Lairich RigNS4280 : The summit of Pappert Hill by Lairich Rig(left) The western end of Brakeloch Hill is ahead.
(right) A view from the summit of (present-day) Pappert Hill;
Brakeloch Hill is the area from the summit, extending ahead, to the left.

Another of the 1801 estate plans shows a different Little Glen, a tributary of Murroch Glen.

The name Muir Fair Park is an allusion to a local cattle fair: see the article in "Scottish Local History", issue 61, that is mentioned in the references, under the heading [Mitchell2000]. It is mentioned in that article that the Muir Fair Park was the standing ground for the cattle, where they could graze. Note also that the Common Drove RoadExternal link, an old drove road from Bonhill, led along the north-western edge of the Muir Fair Park.

One of the 1801 plans, namely, "A Plan of the Farms of Ladytoun, Noblestoun, Back Park, Hill Parks, Being Part of the Estate of Levenside", explicitly shows the course of that drove road: it leaves the main road at Bonhill, skirts the southern edge of the large quarryExternal link there, and then runs just north of, and parallel to, the course of the Pappert BurnExternal link (or Bonhill Burn).

The name Brakeloch Hill is an old one: a 1609 charter of confirmation sets out the boundaries of the Common Moor, and mentions, as one of the landmarks on that boundary, "the hill called Braikloch". The 1826 estate plan shows both Brakeloch Hill and Pappert Hill, but, after some careful comparison of maps, I have been able to determine that what the 1826 plan calls Brakeloch Hill is, confusingly, what most people today would think of as being Pappert Hill. Specifically, it is the area of high ground from about NS42088015 to NS42368020 that includes the trig point of Pappert HillExternal link, and which extends from there to the west; in a view from the summitExternal link, the old "Brakeloch Hill" extends from the foreground to the pale area of high ground that can be seen ahead, left of centre.

The same 1826 plan applies the name Pappert Hill to another area of high ground nearby, centred on NS42438032. A view from between those two areasExternal link of high ground may help to clarify matters: what the 1826 plan calls Brakeloch Hill is on the left in that picture, and what the plan calls Pappert Hill is on the right. The identity of Brakeloch Hill was important because, as noted above, it was one of the named boundaries of the Common Moor, as specified in the 1609 charter. Current and past OS mapping treats the two hills collectively as Pappert Hill, and does not employ the name Brakeloch Hill.

One of the 1801 plans, namely, "A Plan of the Muirfair, Fir Plantings, Being Part of the Estate of Levenside", shows two separate hills, but it collectively labels them the "Pappert Hills"; it does not employ the name Brakeloch Hill. The use of the name Brakeloch Hill on the 1826 plans but not on those of 1801 is perhaps related to decisions handed down by the courts in connection with the Great Moor Case.

As for Hairshaw Ford and the Belting Kiln, I have marked what I take to have been their location on the map that accompanies this article. As that map makes clear, a track crossed the burn there; this was presumably the ford. In addition, the map shows that there was an extensive area of surface quarrying nearby; a location beside the ford would therefore have been a good place for a kiln (according to the early plans, the kiln was just NE of the ford): the limestone was quarried nearby, the burn provided a source of water for slaking the burnt limestone, and the ford and the track leading there provided access to the site. One of the reasons why this location is marked on old estate plans is that there was an open march (an unmarked boundary) from the kiln/ford to the Common KistExternal link.

An old track

Finally, one of the 1826 estate plans (namely, the one with the inset map of Blairquhomrie and Merkins) shows a track leading uphill from the Redburn area, passing south-east of Brakeloch Hill and Pappert Hill, and heading towards the Common Kist, where it ends. For simplicity, I will call it the 1826 track. I have added my best estimate of the course of that old track to my map, as a purple line (thus distinguishing it from the two main drove roads, marked in blue, and the various subsidiary tracks branching from them, marked in red). The lower portion, from the main road (modern-day Stirling Road, at a point just north of where the Red Burn and the parish boundary cross that road), almost to the upper edge of what is now New Bonhill housing, may be taken as reasonably accurate, because that portion of the 1826 track can be identified with a track that appears on the first-edition OS map (surveyed in 1860), and which passes Nobleston Farm (now long gone). The first-edition map can be related to modern maps, allowing that portion of the 1826 track to be plotted quite accurately in relation to modern features.

Above the housing, it is more difficult to plot the course of the track quite as accurately; above that point, it is not shown on early OS maps, and there are not many reference points on the 1826 plan. I had hoped to photograph remnants of the track, but it seems to have left few traces, if any, perhaps because of forestry operations and other planting that have taken place in the almost two hundred years since then. One of the few points of reference is at about NS40947922, where a burn makes a sharp turn; the 1826 plan shows this; the track passes a little to the ESE of that turn, allowing a very rough fix here. Further uphill, the plan shows the track making a detour around a distinctively-shaped woodland gap, one that can be identified with its counterpart on the first-edition OS map, and so with locations on modern maps. The course of the track near here can therefore be inferred.

From there to the north-east edge of Nobleston Wood, the track runs just north-west of a boundary, which can be identified with one that appears on first-edition OS maps (on which the line of the boundary is labelled either "piles of stonesExternal link" or "track of wallExternal link", depending on the map).

This allows the course of the track through those woods to be inferred, once again, with reasonable accuracy. It only makes one slight change of direction there, at what was once called Brakeloch Hill (i.e., near the trig point on Pappert Hill). On the final approach to the edge of the woodsExternal link, the boundary follows the line of a still-extant dry-stone wall, not far to the south-east of a present-day pathExternal link. Again, the track closely follows the north-west side of that boundary, to emerge from the woods near a stileExternal link. It then continues over the moor in a straight line to a point just NNW of the Common KistExternal link.

Note, as shown on the annotated satellite map, that a short section of the 1826 track's course (from the edge of Nobleston Wood to the Common Kist) coincides with that of the Common Drove RoadExternal link.

As just noted, the track, when passing through what is now Nobleston Wood, runs just north-west of a boundary. The first-edition OS map, surveyed in 1860, shows that boundary; at the right-hand edge of one of the sheets, it is labelled "Royalty boundary". For the area near the summit of Pappert Hill, where there is now a trig pointExternal link, there are two first-edition map sheets, one for each side of the boundary. As early as 1860, the boundary was already indistinct when passing through the area where the trig point now stands: one of the first-edition map sheets labels its course there "track of wall", while the other labels it "piles of stones". The approximate course of the boundary in that area is illustrated in the first row of pictures below. To the south-west of there, the boundary survives in the form of a dry-stone wall, shown in the second row of pictures. The existing dry-stone wall that passes through NS42628025, and which heads ENE across the open moorExternal link to end not far from the Common KistExternal link, was part of the same original boundary.

NS4280 : Line of an old boundary by Lairich RigNS4280 : Line of an old boundary by Lairich RigThe approximate line of the boundary, and possibly even its remains, near the present-day trig point.
NS4179 : Dry-stone wall in the woods by Lairich RigNS4179 : Dry-stone wall in the woods by Lairich RigSouth-west of there is a dry-stone wall, which is one of several surviving parts of the same boundary.

Grouse moor

Much of Dumbarton Moor was part of the extensive Levenside Estate (later called Strathleven). When that estate was put up for sale as lots in 1950, Lot 9, "The Grouse Moor of Dumbarton Muir and Merkins Farm", amounted to 6261 acres, 1 rood, 38 poles, and was described as "well butted", and as having once been "one of the finest in the country, producing 1000 brace of grouse in good season". Remains of grouse butts can be seen in a few places on the moor. Not all of them are marked on OS maps; for example, those shown below, which I discovered for myself, are representative examples of two lines of grouse butts that are not marked on the map.

NS4278 : Remains of a grouse butt by Lairich RigNS4278 : Remains of a grouse butt by Lairich RigTwo views of a grouse butt not far south of the ruins of Auchenreoch.
NS4379 : Grouse butt near Knockshanoch by Lairich RigNS4379 : Grouse butt near Knockshanoch by Lairich RigTwo adjacent grouse butts near the hill Knockshanoch.

Decoy fire and craters

Not far from Maryland Farm is the control bunker for a Starfish DecoyExternal link. The decoy site itself is now represented only by concrete blocks; the structures they supported are long gone. At decoy sites, special effects techniques like those employed in the film industry were used to give the convincing impression of, for example, a burning street or factory, thus drawing bombers away from genuine targets.

NS4277 : Starfish Decoy control bunker by Lairich RigNS4277 : Inside the Starfish Decoy control bunker by Lairich RigNS4277 : Starfish Decoy control bunker: entrance passage by Lairich Rig(left) The control bunker.
(middle) Ladder from its access hatch.
(right) Looking from the entrance passage.
NS4277 : Remains of Starfish decoy by Lairich RigNS4277 : Auchenreoch Starfish Decoy by Lairich RigNS4278 : Auchenreoch Starfish Decoy by Lairich RigOf the decoy itself, only concrete blocks remain.

On a nearby part of the moor, satellite imagery reveals (more clearly in some sets of images than in others) that on the site of an an old enclosureExternal link there are eight small square features, laid out in a distinctive, regular pattern. The squares are identical in size and appearance: each is about 9 metres across. They are arranged like two rows of five, but with the middle entry of each row missing, and there are gaps between adjacent squares. The resulting pattern is as follows:

↖ North      (NW)▢▢   ▢▢
▢▢   ▢▢

These squares (as I will refer to them, for convenience) are not readily apparent from ground level, but I attempted to photograph one of them; the pictures are below. From the faint traces visible in satellite imageryExternal link, and the equally faint traces visible from ground level, it is hard to say just what kind of structures left these outlines behind, but it seems likely that they were associated with the Starfish Decoy; at any rate, the outlines are arranged with a military precision. In the map at the link just given, the corners of the rectangular area occupied by these squares are indicated by small purple disks; the long axis is oriented NW–SE. Within that area, peach-coloured marker pins indicate the centres of the squares themselves. The pattern of squares partially overlies what looks like a much older enclosureExternal link.

Just to the south-west of the squares are two concrete blocksExternal link, which lie well outside the main group of blocks associated with the decoy, but which are only a few metres to the SSE of a water-filled bomb craterExternal link. To the north-east of the squares is another pair of concrete blocksExternal link. The presence of these blocks is further evidence that the square features were connected with the decoy site.

The first row of pictures, below, shows one of the square features, or at least its location; some of its edges are faintly discernible. In the layout diagram given above, this is the third square from left in the bottom row.

NS4278 : Traces of a square structure by Lairich RigNS4278 : Traces of a square structure by Lairich Rig(left) The site of one of the square features, viewed from the north.
(right) The same square, viewed from the north-east.
NS4278 : Concrete blocks of Starfish Decoy by Lairich RigNS4278 : Concrete blocks by Lairich Rig(left) Two nearby concrete blocks, south-west of the pattern of squares.
(right) Two more blocks, to the north-east of the pattern of squares.

As for the Starfish Decoy site as a whole, bomb cratersExternal link scattered across the moor testify to its success; these craters are shown below. The last picture in the set does not show a bomb crater, but a lime-kiln ruin that might easily be taken for one; it looks very like the genuine craters shown in the two pictures to its left, and it is situated higher above the burn than is usual for lime-kilns in this area, another factor that might lead to its being mistaken for a bomb crater. Old OS maps confirm its real nature.

(The pictures below do not show every bomb crater in the area; it was not my intention to photograph every one. For example, one of those shown below is near the ruins of Auchenreoch; there are some fainter craters nearby, as revealed on satellite imagery, but it is doubtful whether they would show up well, or at all, in photographs taken from the ground.)

When the craters are plotted on a mapExternal link, it becomes clear that several groups of them occur in lines oriented SSW–NNE.

NS4276 : Bomb crater by Lairich RigNS4276 : Bomb crater by Lairich RigNS4177 : Bomb crater near Barr Wood by Lairich Rig(left, middle) Two outliers near Garshake Reservoir.
(right) A crater near Barr Wood.
NS4177 : Bomb crater by Lairich RigNS4177 : Bomb crater by Lairich RigNS4177 : Bomb crater by Lairich Rig(left, middle) Two wide shallow craters near Barr Wood.
(right) This one has a "tail", perhaps indicating an oblique impact.
NS4278 : Water-filled bomb crater by Lairich RigNS4178 : Bomb crater by Lairich RigNS4177 : Bomb crater by Lairich Rig(left, middle) A water-filled pair; they are 100 metres apart.
(right) This crater is near the one shown above it.
NS4178 : Bomb crater beside Auchenreoch Glen by Lairich RigNS4178 : Bomb crater by Lairich RigNS4178 : Bomb crater by Lairich Rig(left) A crater above the meeting of two glens.
(middle, right) A pair overlooking Murroch Glen.
NS4279 : Bomb crater by Lairich RigNS4279 : Bomb crater by Lairich RigNS4279 : Bomb crater by Lairich RigThese three very similar craters are arranged in a line.
NS4279 : Bomb crater by Lairich RigNS4279 : Bomb crater by Lairich RigNS4278 : Bomb crater by Lairich Rig(left, middle) Two small craters.
(right) One near the ruins of Auchenreoch.
NS4279 : Bomb crater by Lairich RigNS4279 : Bomb crater in the side of Hazel Glen by Lairich RigNS4178 : Lime-kiln ruin in lower Auchenreoch Glen by Lairich Rig(left) A crater in the side of a glen.
(middle) Another in the side of a glen.
(right) A lime-kiln ruin in the side of a glen, for comparison.

Elsewhere on the moor is a line of pitsExternal link, pictured in an earlier sectionExternal link of this article. To me, they look very like some of the bomb craters shown above, although, as just illustrated, appearances can be deceptive. It is also worth pointing out that the pits lie along a line oriented SSW–NNE, just like the bomb craters.

They were reportedExternal link as possible test pits. I am inclined to think that they are bomb craters, but I will leave the debate to others.



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