NS3976 : Site of Mains of Cardross Farm

taken 7 years ago, near to Renton, West Dunbartonshire, Great Britain

Site of Mains of Cardross Farm
Site of Mains of Cardross Farm
The base of a building is visible in the foreground. There is little else, other than traces of a few nearby boundaries (NS3976 : Old boundary), to indicate the former presence of Mains of Cardross Farm. For further information, and for links to related sites and structures, see NS3976 : Site of Mains of Cardross Farm.

Carman Hill can be seen in the background, right of centre.

At the time of writing, OS mapping shows a curling pond about 200 metres NNW of the Mains of Cardross site. However, that pond is dried up, and has been for many years; it is now very little different from the surrounding grassland, although its outline can still be discerned in satellite imagery.
Mains of Cardross
Mains of Cardross was a farm near the River Leven, 550 metres ESE of present-day Dalmoak Farm (Young's Farm), with which its former lands are now associated.


The farm is shown on OS maps from the first-edition (1860) to at least 1937.

The OS Name Books (1860) describe Mains of Cardross as "a farm house and offices the property of Bontine Graham Esquire of Finlayston", and they note that a Mr Govan was the occupant and lease-holder.


The following is a list of map representations, working backwards in time.

Mains of Cardross, rather than Dalmoak Farm, may be the "Dummock Mains Farm" shown on an 1832 map of Dumbarton prepared in connection with the Great Reform Act. It is "Mains" on John Thomson's 1823 map of Dumbartonshire, and on John Ainslie's 1821 "Map of the Southern Part of Scotland", where it is shown near "Dunmoak" (Dalmoak). On the 1777 Charles Ross "Map of the Shire of Dumbarton", it is "Mains" near "Damock" (or possibly just one place, "Damock Mains"). It is "Mains" on Roy's Military Survey of Scotland (c.1740s1750s).

The Blaeu map of the Lennox (1654, but based on earlier surveys c.1580s90s) shows it as "Mains", near "Dalmowack".


For much of the nineteenth century, and into the early twentieth century, there was a prevailing opinion, based on tradition, that the residence in which King Robert the Bruce spent his final years was in what is now the Castlehill area of Dumbarton; see LinkExternal link for a discussion of those claims. As noted there, modern scholarship generally places Robert's residence elsewhere, somewhere in the vicinity of Mains of Cardross Farm. His dwelling was not a castle, but a one-storey structure that was, in modern terms, something like a hunting lodge.

G.W.S.Barrow, in his book "Robert Bruce And the Community of the Realm of Scotland", discusses the evidence, which favours the Mains of Cardross area rather than Castlehill. Again, see LinkExternal link for some of the relevant points. Links are also given there to some newspaper correspondence from 1928, debating the relative merits of the two sites. The writer of the second of those letters objected to the idea that the residence was at Mains of Cardross, "situated as it must have been in the middle of marshy land subject to periodic disastrous flooding" (his words). This is indeed true of the area, but even a cursory examination of the Mains of Cardross site reveals that the farm buildings there stood on a spot that is elevated above its immediate surroundings.

Local historian Joseph Irving, on pages 8990 of the first volume of his "Book of Dumbartonshire" (1879), quotes from the Latin accounts of the Grand Chamberlain, detailing various expenses incurred in connection with Robert's residence at Cardross (note that, in this context, Cardross is not the present-day village of that name, but the parish, which formerly extended to the western bank of the River Leven; indeed, the ruins of the ancient Cardross Parish Church LinkExternal link are in Levengrove Park, no more than 120 metres from the river).

Irving also provides translations of some of these account entries into English, but readers should treat these translations with some caution: Irving's work reflects the belief, prevalent in his day, that Robert's residence was at Castlehill, and, as if to bolster that idea, he consistently translates "manerium" (the word used to describe Robert's residence) as "castle", which is certainly incorrect.

As it happens, one of those account entries provides support to the idea that Bruce's dwelling was at Mains of Cardross: it describes the king's "great ship" being led or piloted from the river (lit. "water") into a burn next to his residence, and its gear or tackle being carried to the house; this lends supports to the site's being adjacent to the River Leven: "Item, pro duccione magnae navis Domini regis ab aqua in rivulum juxta manerium, ac pro actiliis ipsius navis cariatis, et portatis in manerium de Cardross, 3 solidi" (Irving's translation, which I took issue with, is "To bringing the king's great ship from the Frith into the river near the castle, and carrying the rigging to the castle, 3s.").

The "great ship" was probably not as large as that description might suggest: the Latin "rivulus" describes a stream or burn, not a river. Several of those Latin accounts mention a ship belonging to the King (Domini regis), and some of them also mention one that belonged to his loyal companion, the Earl of Moray (Comitis Moraviae), Thomas Randolph; note that those bracketed Latin words simply specify who owned the vessels; they are not the names of the vessels themselves.

See Barrow, in the work already cited, for an assessment of the evidence relating to the location of Bruce's residence at Cardross. As for the above account entry, Barrow not only observes that it shows that Bruce's residence was not far from the river, but he adds that the only burn of any consequence between the mouth of the River Leven and Dalquhurn "is the one that rises above Dalmoak and enters the river just north of Mains of Cardross". After weighing this and other evidence, he notes the many changes wrought to the area since then, but concludes that "it seems certain that the exact position of the house in which Bruce died is to be sought either at Mains of Cardross or somewhere in the half mile which separates the farm from the modern railway bridge over the Leven".

See NS3976 : Mains of Cardross Canal for some additional comments on these lands.


The Lennox Herald newspaper, in its issue of 6th November 1915, mentions a fire at the farm on Friday, about noon (possibly on the 29th of October rather than the 5th of November, if the newspaper was then, as now, dated a few days after its actual publication date). The farm is there referred to as "Mains Farm", between Dalreoch and Dalquhurn (as noted above, pre-OS maps also generally called the farm "Mains", without the qualification "of Cardross"). It was at that time the property of Captain Telfer-Smollett of Bonhill, and the tenant farmer was Hugh Gibb. The fire broke out in a barn that contained about ten tons of straw as well as some farm implements and feed for livestock. The Armstrong-Whitworth Brigade(*) attended under Firemaster Mort, and with water from the River Leven, they prevented the fire from spreading. Despite their efforts, a barn, a granary, and a cart shed were destroyed, the damage amounting to about 500.

[(*) "The Armstrong-Whitworth Brigade": those reading that newspaper article in 1915 would be aware that the fire brigade led by Mort was based in a fire station at the southern end of NS3880 : The former Argyll Motor Works. By that time, the firm Armstrong Whitworth was using the building as a munitions factory. The brigade based there had an arrangement with the Council under which they would respond to fires in the western parts of the county.]

From an archaeological point of view, some disruption to Mains of Cardross occurred in the mid-twentieth century, as a result of quarrying. The Valuation Rolls for 193940 provide some details: at that time, the proprietor of the farm itself was W.R.Filshie, but adjacent "erections at Mains of Cardross" were listed as the property of "A.A.Stewart & Sons, London Road, Glasgow", who were also using one of the sandpits beside the farm (A.A.Stewart & Sons was a firm of contractors, but is now long defunct).

By early 2018, the area was threatened by a different development: a planning application LinkExternal link (at WDC) was at that time under consideration for Dumbarton F.C. to relocate from beside Dumbarton Rock to land beside Dalmoak Farm (Young's Farm); the application was rejected at the end of March. The area involved included the vicinity of the former Mains of Cardross Farm.
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NS3976, 136 images   (more nearby )
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Date Taken
Friday, 26 August, 2011   (more nearby)
Thursday, 8 September, 2011
Geographical Context
Farm, Fishery, Market Gardening  Derelict, Disused 
Ruin (from Tags)
Farm Building 
Landmark (from Tags)
Carman Hill 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 3910 7670 [10m precision]
WGS84: 55:57.3776N 4:34.7264W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 3911 7668
View Direction
North-northwest (about 337 degrees)
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Mains of Cardross 

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