Mains of Cardross and Castle Hill

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NS3976 : Site of Mains of Cardross Farm by Lairich RigNS3875 : Castle Hill by Lairich Rig(left) The former site of Mains of Cardross Farm.
(right) Castle Hill in Dumbarton.

In his final years, Robert the Bruce spent much time at his residence at Cardross. In this context, the name Cardross does not refer to the site of the present-day village of that name; the parish of Cardross extended to the western bank of the River Leven, as seen by the presence of the ruins of the ancient Cardross parish church, St Serf's, in Dumbarton's Levengrove Park, and by the name of Mains of Cardross Farm, which was further upriver.

[Some writers prefer the form "Robert Bruce", disliking the interpolated "the"; without disagreeing with their usage, I will generally employ the more popular form "Robert the Bruce" throughout this article.]

The King died in 1329. His heart was buried at Melrose Abbey, and his body at Dunfermline Abbey.

A common belief at the start of the twentieth century was that the King's Cardross residence had been near Castle Hill, a knoll that gives the Castlehill area of Dumbarton its name. For that reason, a flagstaff commemorating Robert the Bruce was erected near there in 1928. Castle Hill is now generally discounted as the site of Bruce's residence, which is thought, instead, to have been located at or near the former site of Mains of Cardross Farm. That was the conclusion reached by scholar G W S Barrow in his book "Robert Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland".

Historical records mention a place called Pillanflatt in this connection: in 1362, the lands of "Pelanysflat" (Pillanflatt) lay between Dalquhurn and the King's Royal Park of Cardross. Knowing the location of Pillanflatt therefore has some bearing on determining the site of Bruce's Cardross residence.
In a companion article to this one, called "The location of Pillanflatt Farm", I present my recent original research on this subject. The general location of the land of Pillanflatt was already well known, but the position of the farm buildings was known only vaguely, to within perhaps half a mile or so; in the companion article, I set out evidence that allows the former site of the Pillanflatt farm buildings to be located to within perhaps 50 metres.

In the present article, intended for the general reader rather than the specialist, I discuss the two sites, Mains of Cardross and Castle Hill, and touch upon the early-twentieth-century debate about which of them was the place where the King spent his final years. One of my aims in writing this article was to gather into a single place information that is otherwise scattered across various sources. The article also quotes from some relevant records, such as old charters, that are not easily available to the general reader.

Mains of Cardross Farm

NS3976 : The site of Mains of Cardross Farm by Lairich RigNS3976 : The site of Mains of Cardross Farm by Lairich Rig(left) The former site of the farm buildings, viewed from the southeast.
(right) The same area, seen from its northern edge.

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 buildings of Mains of Cardross Farm itself are now gone; they were removed in the mid twentieth century.

On early maps

The following is a list, not necessarily complete, of representations of the farm on old maps, listed from oldest to most recent:

It can be seen from the above list that the farm was often simply referred to as "Mains", without the qualification "of Cardross".

Ordnance Survey maps

The farm is shown as "Mains of Cardross" 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 at that time the occupant and lease-holder.

Modern times

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 call 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; using 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 the former Argyll Motor Works. By that time, the firm Armstrong Whitworth was using the works 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 1939—40 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 it long ago went into liquidation).

By early 2018, the area was threatened by a different kind of development: a planning application 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 of that year. The area affected by the development would have included the vicinity of the former Mains of Cardross Farm.

Castle Hill and Arthur's Seat

There are two small wooded knolls in the Cunninghame Graham Memorial Park, to the west of Castlehill Road in Dumbarton: the larger and more easterly of the two is called Castle Hill (NS38507588), and it gives its name to the Castlehill area of Dumbarton; the smaller knoll 100 metres to its west is called Arthur's Seat (NS38407590). The first-edition OS map (surveyed in 1860) shows the names Arthur's Seat and Castle Hill. The latter was incorrectly marked as an antiquity, with the words "site of Castle", not because of any visible remains, but on the basis of a tradition that is recorded in the OS Name Books (see below).

Geological maps (BGS) show an igneous dyke running almost E—W through the area, from NS38987584 (near the southern end of the Renton Road) to NS37017581 (the beach near Leabank); the knolls stand on that line, and are presumably associated with the dyke.

Arthur's Seat

NS3875 : Arthur's Seat by Lairich RigNS3875 : Arthur's Seat by Lairich Rig(left) Arthur's Seat from the south.
(right) A view from the southeast.

The OS Name Books of 1860 have the following entry: "Arthur's Seat — A small eminence west of Castle Hill, it is wooded". For further comments on the name, see the section "Arthur's Castle". From 1937 to 1981, a monument to Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham stood next to Arthur's Seat. See the section "The Mony" for more on that monument.

Castle Hill

NS3875 : The top of Castle Hill by Lairich RigNS3875 : Castle Hill: the southern side by Lairich Rig(left) The top of Castle Hill.
(right) The southern side of the knoll.

The OS Name Books of 1860 have a much longer entryExternal link for Castle Hill; it begins as follows: "Castle Hill — A small wooded eminence immediately west of a farm house of the same name. It is traditionally handed down that a residence, of King Robert Bruce, had been here. No vestige of it now remains". Castlehill Farm, mentioned there, was centred on NS38587590; relative to features existing in 2018, that corresponds to the location of a tree that is near the southwestern corner of the Enterprise Centre, beside the road junction.

The OS Name Books go on to include a lengthy quotation from Joseph Irving's "History of Dumbartonshire" (c.1860), which cites the tradition that Robert the Bruce built a castle at Castle Hill, and that he spent his final years there; the quotation goes on to describes some of his activities. It was solely on the basis of this tradition that early OS maps marked an antiquity here.

Joseph Irving's son John revised his father's "History of Dumbartonshire". The revised work (c.1924) contains some of John's own observations on the knoll of Castlehill:

"In later years Bruce strengthened the ties which bound him to Dumbartonshire by passing much of his leisure at his residence in Cardross Parish. All traces of the building have long since disappeared, but tradition has kept alive a knowledge of the site, on what is now two wooded knolls forming part of the farm still known as Castlehill, on the north side of Cardross Road, about a mile from Dumbarton Cross. A somewhat steep ascent on the western side appears to have led to a terrace on which may have been the main buildings."

If the "western side" here refers to the western side of a knoll (presumably that of Castle Hill, the larger of the two), then it is worth adding that, by this time, it was already understood that the knoll itself was too small to have been the site of Bruce's residence; even the building's larder would not have fit there.

The tradition about Castle Hill was recorded in 1845, when the New Statistical Account of Cardross Parish, Dumbartonshire, was written. These accounts were usually written by the parish minister, but in this case the minister was infirm, and, at his instigation, the parish account was instead drawn up by Mr James Dennistoun of Dennistoun (an aside: these parish accounts follow a consistent format, and they generally have a section headed "Principal Families", or similar; in the parish account for Cardross, this section is headed "Eminent Men", and the family of "Dennistoun of Dennistoun" is immodestly given first mention). The tradition about Castle Hill is recorded in the section "Antiquities": "in the absence of other striking objects of antiquity, we shall notice only the hunting-seat of King Robert Bruce, at which he spent the close of his glorious life, and where he died of leprosy in 1329. The wooded knoll, at the first milestone from Dumbarton along the Cardross road, bears the name of Castlehill, although there have not been any ruins visible in the memory of persons now alive."

The name Castle Hill is an old one: a charter made in 1542 grants to Archibald Campbell, master of the King's wine-cellar, the "terras de Kirktoun de Cardros, Dalmowok, Weltoun et molendinum earundem, terras de Castelhill, Hole, et Hawthornehill, vic. Dunbertane", etc.; that is, the lands of Kirkton of Cardross, Dalmoak, Walton, and their mill, the lands of Castlehill, Hole and Hawthornhill in Dumbartonshire [charter #2630 in RMS Vol. 2].

Most of these names are still in use:

(Note that there is a Wallaceton very near Walton; the name Walton is perhaps a worn-down form of Wallaceton.)

Arthur's Castle

Certain medieval documents (specifically, some 14th- and 15th-century Exchequer Rolls) mention a place called Arthur's Castle, from which blencheferme payments — see blanchefermeExternal link (at DSL) for the meaning of the term — were to be made to the sheriff of Dumbarton.

Dr I M M MacPhail, in his book "Dumbarton Castle" (1979), provides reasons for dismissing the suggestion of some earlier historians that Arthur's Castle might be another name for Dumbarton Castle. He then points out that the conjunction of the names Arthur's Seat and Castle Hill in this area provides grounds for the suggestion that this is the location of the site called Arthur's Castle, although the origin of the name is, like that of many other "Arthur" place-names, a mystery.

A further observation of my own: if the site of these knolls had once been known as Arthur's Castle, then, regardless of whether the name was originally an allusion to the legendary king or not, it is easy to see how the knolls might, over time, have come to be associated in the popular imagination with a different king, Robert the Bruce, who was known to have had connections with the Cardross area. It is possible that this gave rise to the later belief that Robert had once had a "castle" here.

The Mony

NS3875 : Cunninghame Graham Memorial Park by Lairich RigNS3875 : The Mony by Lairich Rig(left) The Cunninghame Graham Memorial Park.
(right) A closer view of the marker shown in the other picture.

On the 28th of August 1937, a large monument was unveiled beside the smaller knoll, Arthur's Seat. It commemorated Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham (1852—1936), who was a politician and adventurer, and a steadfast advocate of Scottish Home Rule. He was affectionately nicknamed Don Roberto; amongst his other activities, he had been a cattle rancher in South America.

For a description of the memorial, its sculptors, and the unveiling, see Arthur's Seat. The monument no longer stands here; in 1981 it was moved to Gartmore (where it stands at NS52299750). As of 2018, there is still a marker at the eastern end of the park with the words "Cunninghame Graham Memorial Park — 'The Mony'". The word "Mony" refers to the monument that stood in the park.


NS3875 : Our Lady and St Patrick's High School by Lairich RigNS3875 : Demolition of the former OLSP by Lairich Rig(left) The school building in use until 2017, shown beside Arthur's Seat.
(right) The building being demolished in 2018.

Until 2017, Our Lady and St Patrick's High School (often abbreviated to OLSP), which had itself arisen from the merger of St Patrick's (a boys' school) and Notre Dame (a girls' school), was located at NS38297591, at the western edge of the Cunninghame Graham Memorial Park. In the second half of 2017, the school moved to a new site at the top of Bellsmyre: the new OLSP building occupies the former site of the Bellsmyre High Flats.



NS3875 : Bruce's Flagstaff by Lairich RigNS3875 : Plaque on Bruce's Flagstaff by Lairich Rig(left) Bruce's flagstaff, that is, the original one, erected in 1928.
(right) The plaque on the 1928 flagstaff.
NS3875 : Bruce's Flagstaff by Lairich RigNS3875 : Bruce's flagstaff: detail by Lairich Rig(left) The replacement flagstaff, shown in late 2018.
(right) It retains the original weather vane, with battle axe and crown.

In the 1920s, the location of Bruce's residence was still a contentious subject.

In 1928, a flagstaff was erected at the foot of Brucehill, near the knoll of Castle Hill. Dumbarton Public Library holds a copy of the booklet "Bruce's Castle at Dumbarton by Peter Thomson with Proceedings at the Bruce's flagstaff on 23rd June, 1928". The author, Peter Thomson, J.P., was the Convener of the Dumbarton Patriotic Association (he is one and the same as the Peter Thomson who was Convener of Dumbarton Public Library from 1913 to 1937). The first half of his work, which is not dated, but which was clearly written in 1928 or not long afterwards, is a discussion of Bruce's "Castle". Most of the content of that part of the booklet is reproduced in his letter to the Glasgow Herald, as mentioned in the next section of this article.

The second half of the booklet describes proceedings at the flagstaff, and reproduces articles from the June 1928 issues of the Dumbarton Herald (a local newspaper that was published between 1851 and 1933). These articles provide more information about the flagstaff, such as its being raised by the Dumbarton Patriotic Society, and the inaugural unfurling of the Scottish Standard upon it by Provost Garrick on the afternoon of Saturday the 23rd of June, 1928. That date was chosen to coincide with the anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn (Bannockburn Day is June the 24th, the date of the main battle in 1314; however, preliminary skirmishes had taken place on the preceding day); earlier plans to erect a flagstaff at this site had been interrupted by the outbreak of the First World War.

The same work provides further details about the flagstaff itself: "The staff itself is butted on Dalreoch sandstone and rises 62 feet. It is spliced above the centre, the lower half being metal and the upper half wood. The double straining is by wire rope ingeniously arranged. At the vane there is the customary direction finder, and an appropriate weather 'cock' suggested by Mr Thomson himself. The swing piece takes the form of the battle axe Bruce wielded with such dexterity on the field of Bannockburn, and surmounting the whole there is the royal crown. Scottish flag had reason certainly to fly proudly on Scottish pole. The flagstaff was built in the yard of Messrs A McMillan and Son, Ltd., Dumbarton."

As mentioned there, the flagstaff is surmounted by a battle axe and crown. This is a deliberate imitation of the battle axe that tops the flagstaff at the Bannockburn Heritage Centre, and which likewise commemorates Robert the Bruce; the first flagstaff there was also presented by the people of Dumbarton. The booklet concludes by noting that a brass tablet on the flagstaff bears the following inscription:

"Erected by Dumbarton Patriotic Association in commemoration of King Robert the Bruce who resided at Castlehill adjoining and died there on 7th June, 1329. 23rd June 1928."

By late 2018, the original flagstaff had been replaced; the brass tablet that was attached to it is therefore no longer present. The new flagstaff is octagonal in cross-section, and is not spliced. The symbolic weather vane, with its battle axe and crown, has been retained.

The new flagstaff is shown in the pictures at the start of this section, as is the weather vane, which had been repainted.

Letters (1928)

The erection of the flagstaff prompted a series of letters to the Glasgow Herald. The letters can be read in full by clicking on the appropriate links given below, and it is recommended that interested readers do so, rather than relying on my summaries of them.

The first letterExternal link (June 12th 1928) was from Dr David Murray of Cardross, and it sheds some light on the time of the origin of the belief that the King had a "castle" at Castle Hill. Murray states that the tradition originated in around the 1830s or 1840s(*); he there states that "this belief is based solely upon the name 'Castlehill'. It is assumed that there was at one time a castle upon the spot, and it is further assumed that it was built by King Robert Bruce. No remains of a building on Castlehill have ever been seen or heard of, and even if there had been it would not follow that the building had been erected by King Robert. The suggestion that Castlehill was the King's residence was first made some 80 and 90 years ago, and has by frequent repetition gained some credence. That it is a mistake there is no doubt". Murray goes on to cite records showing the layout of the king's property, with Mains at the southern end, and Pillanflatt at the north, bordering Dalquhurn. It is worth reading the letter in full for the detailed information that is provided. It should be added that Murray was entirely in favour of a memorial to Bruce; he simply disagreed with the choice of location. (*) As was noted above, the tradition about Castle Hill was recorded in the New Statistical Account of 1845; this would doubtless have helped the idea become well-established locally.

The second letterExternal link (June 13th 1928) was from Peter Thomson of the Dumbarton Patriotic Society (who had erected the flagstaff), and was naturally in defence of the Castle Hill site. I should add that it was by then understood that the King's residence could not have been on the knoll of Castle Hill itself, which was too small to have accommodated even the building's larder. Thomson's view was that the building had been near the knoll, in the vicinity of Castlehill Farm. In his letter, he complains that Murray does not provide any evidence for his assertion that the tradition in support of Castle Hill is only 80 or 90 years old, and he (Thomson) states that local authentic records show otherwise (although Thomson, in turn, does not provide any evidence to back up that remark). He goes on to mention some archaeological findings that he interpreted(*) as the remains of a moat, and traces of a dry-stone building that were found under the then existing buildings of Castlehill Farm. He expresses scepticism about the King's having resided at the Mains of Cardross site "on marshy land subject to periodic disastrous flooding". (*) For later interpretation of the finds at Castlehill Farm, see the next section of this article.

The third letterExternal link (June 19th 1928) was from John Irving (son of the historian Joseph Irving who has already been mentioned several times). In the first part of his letter, he adopts a conciliatory position; towards the end, though, he is led astray by his father's mistranslation ("carrying the rigging to the castle"), and suggests that it is a reference to Dumbarton Castle; this in turn leads him to suggest a site far down the Leven, near Sandpoint. He ends by stating that the location of the memorial is of little importance, but that the inscription on it should be carefully worded.

Since I elsewhere provide biographical details about Dr David Murray and Joseph Irving, but not about Peter Thomson, it seems appropriate to include here, by way of background, some information from his obituary, which appeared in the Lennox Herald issue of Saturday 20th November 1937:
The obituary described "the death of Peter Thomson, J.P., bibliophile and antiquary". Having been born in a border village, he was not a native of Dumbarton, but he spent almost all of his life there. By trade he was a master blacksmith, and he became principal in the firm established by his father. He was also a skilled locksmith, and it was in that connection that he first came to be involved with Dumbarton Castle; in time, he would be recognised as an authority on the Castle. He carried out various antiquarian investigations there, before many of the old buildings were cleared away, and he was involved in the ultimately fruitless search for traces of St Patrick's Chapel.
He was also commissioned by the War Office to carry out repairs on the so-called Wallace Sword, then held at Dumbarton Castle; in the course of that work, he came to be convinced that the sword was authentic, and he would go on to champion that belief. He was quite ready to contend with others about such matters; as the obituary puts it, "independent in speech and action, friendly with all but willing to break a lance with most, he was a well-known townsman".
He was involved in the excavations at Castle Hill, described above. He joined with Provost MacFarlan and Mr Andrew Mair in preventing the demolition of Glencairn House, by arranging for the purchase of the building, which was thereafter sold to the town. He also carried out antiquarian work in connection with Dumbarton Moor. One of the more curious notes in the obituary is that, in connection with his trade, one of his jobs was to look after the locks of the Old County Jail, "including the curious mechanism of the condemned cell".
The contributions to civic life for which he was most remembered were those made in connection with Dumbarton Library, where he was Chairman of the Committee and Honorary Librarian; the acumen he displayed in purchasing books allowed the Library to acquire many valuable or out-of-print works. Peter Thomson had an extensive collection of lesser-known works on local history (he was the author of some of them), and he would make a free gift of that collection to the Library. He was also involved with Dumbarton Patriotic Society, Antiquarian Society, Philosophical Society, Masonic Lodge, and other organisations. In addition, he was an elder in Dumbarton Old Parish Church, and he would be made a Justice of the Peace for the County.

Follow-up (1947)

The newspaper correspondence in 1928, described in the previous section, was not carried on any further. Its effects, and the aftermath, are well described in a Lennox Herald article from the 15th of March 1947, nearly twenty years after the erection of the flagstaff:

"Dr Murray's letter was a bolt from the blue to the organisers of the flagstaff, and the late Mr Peter Thomson, who suggested the memorial, joined issue with him in correspondence to the Press. Neither would give way; they honourably shook hands without altering their opinion, and the flagstaff went up. Dr Murray admired Mr Thomson's hold on tradition, and in token of butting in on the memorial made a handsome gift to Dumbarton Public Library, of which Mr Thomson was the convener."

At this point, some readers may be left wondering just what had been found during the excavations at Castlehill Farm. The date of those archaeological excavations is specified by John Irving (son of Joseph Irving), in his revision (c.1924) of his father's "History of Dumbartonshire":

"In 1910 some research work was carried out at Castlehill by local enthusiasts, the results being described in a contribution to Scotia by Peter Thomson, Esq. More methodical and experienced investigation is, however, still required in order to finally determine the nature of the building. The suggestion has also been made that Bruce's residence was not here, but at Pillinflet on the right bank of the Leven."

The 1947 Lennox Herald issue quoted above also includes some editorial comment that reveals how the remains at Castlehill were being interpreted by that time:

"So far as Bruce's residence in Cardross in concerned, Dumbarton is very interested in anything which would indicate the exact site. The excavations made, in the garden at Castlehill Farmhouse, revealed nothing pointing to the foundations of a house, but there were traces of an older garden. So far as Pillanflet is concerned, it may be noted that there has been extensive quarrying for sand there, around Cardross Mains Farmhouse, and Mr Filshie has been keeping an eye open for discovery, but nothing has been reported. Pillanflet and Castlehill are not far from one another, and we are told that The Bruce flew his hawk on the heights above Renton Road. It may quite well be that he had his residence at Castlehill and a boating station by the river, so would be identified with both sites."

Medieval records would not mention a Renton Road (the village of Renton did not exist until long afterwards, although there may have been a road on this side of the Leven); it is possible that the author, who would surely have known this, was referring to the lands of Dalmoak. In any case, I do not know the authority for the writer's statement about where the Bruce flew his hawk.

Quarrying for sand was not just confined to the area around the Mains of Cardross farm buildings. It had earlier taken place not far to the north, at the southern end of the Dalquhurn Dye Works. Extensive excavations in the field just to the south of those Dye Works were carried out at about the same time as those at Mains of Cardross, and it is likely that they were also for sand.

Bruce's Cardross Residence

An account entry

In connection with Bruce's residence at Cardross, there is an account entry (in Latin) that is very relevant to this article, but whose translation, as presented in Joseph Irving's "Book of Dumbartonshire" (1879), is very likely to mislead readers.

The entry in question can be found (in the original Latin) in a considerably earlier work: the second volume (1829) of Patrick Fraser Tytler's "History of Scotland". There, Tytler quotes entries from the Accounts of the Great Chamberlains in Scotland, prefacing them with the remark that "the accounts, indeed, are written in Latin, and, from the innumerable contractions, present themselves in a shape somewhat repulsive to the general reader; but they contain a mass of information upon the state of ancient Scotland, its early agriculture, commerce, manufactures, and upon the manners and habits of the people, which is in a high degree interesting and important. From the extreme minuteness of the details, and the perfect authenticity of the records, there is a freshness and truth in the pictures which they present, nowhere else to be met with. As a corroboration of this remark, let us take the following specimen from the Compotum Constabularii de Cardross, vol.i. p.37. 30th July, 1329". Tytler then quotes several of the Latin entries.

A few decades later, historian Joseph Irving, on pages 89—90 of the first volume of his "Book of Dumbartonshire" (1879), quotes some of these records, with translations (presumably his own). Below, I focus on one important entry, quoting the original Latin, Irving's translation of it, and (for comparison) my own translation. It should become clear that Irving's translation is unsatisfactory, and that it has been framed in such a way as to support his contention that Bruce had a "castle" at Castle Hill, in Dumbarton, as indicated by his commentsExternal link that are quoted in the OS Name Books (1860).

To cut down a little on commentary, some words in my translation are links to the relevant pages of online lexicons of Medieval Latin; these are:
[du Cange]: "Du Cange et al., Glossarium mediæ et infimæ latinitatis. Niort : L. Favre, 1883—1887" (translates to French, and explains in Classical Latin; online at École Nationale des Chartes).
[DMLBS]: "Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources" at ΛΟΓΕΙΟΝ (translations and explanations are in English; online at University of Chicago).

Original Latin: Item, pro duccione magnæ navis Domini Regis ab aqua in rivulum juxta manerium, ac pro actiliis ipsius navis cariatis, et portatis in manerium de Cardross, 3 solidi.
In Irving (1879): To bringing the king's great ship from the Frith into the river near the castle, and carrying the rigging to the castle, 3s.
My translation: Item, for towingExternal link the king's great ship from the water to the burnExternal link next to the residenceExternal link, and for cartingExternal link the gearExternal link of the said ship and bringing it to the Cardross residence, 3 shillings.

The most pertinent points here are that the Latin text makes no reference either to a castle or to a firth (older spelling "frith"), and that the ship was towed into a "rivulus" (a word that generally describes a stream or rivulet, rather than a substantial river; the translation "burn" therefore seemed appropriate in this context).

Minor technical points: for the word I have rendered "towing", [DMLBS] cites this very account entry as an example of that sense ("towing/haulage"); also, the entry uses "ab" (away from) rather than "ex" (out of), and it therefore seemed more likely to me that the ship was towed rather than lifted out of the water, but I do not wish to be dogmatic on that point. The word I have rendered "carting" is a little obscure (it is not in [DMLBS]), but it is a form of "cariare", which [du Cange] equates to "carro vehere" (to convey by cart). The root Latin word "carrus" for "cart/wagon" is a Gaulish loanword (giving modern Spanish "carro" = car/cart, and English "car", "chariot", among others).

It is tempting to translate "manerium" as "manor" (which is indeed the usual translation of the word — see the [DMLBS] link), and there is no great harm in doing so, but it is worth pointing out that, as Eunice G. Murray writes in her 1935 book "The Church of Cardross and its Ministers", "the term 'manerium' has not in Scotland the technical significance attached to 'manor' in England and is rendered by Skene, De Verborum Significatione, as 'Mains'. .... Dr Hamilton of Bardowie gives 'residence' as the equivalent of 'manerium'".

Additional information about Bruce's residence can be gleaned from the various expenses that are recorded in connection with it in the Exchequer Rolls: it appears to have been a single-storey building and, in modern terms, it was something like a hunting lodge. The word "manor" suggests something on a grander scale than that, which is why I have preferred to use the word "residence" instead. Note Skene's suggested translation of "manerium" as "Mains": Bruce's "manerium de Cardross" (see the Latin account entry) would then become "Mains of Cardross".

The word "Mains" itself (meaning something like "Home Farm") comes, via the French "demesne", from the Latin "dominia". In that connection, note the text of the 1569 charter quoted in my description of Dalmoak House, which is close to the site of Mains of Cardross; in that charter, the land of Dalmoak is described as being in the "dominia de Cardross".


Note that, in this section, the abbreviation RMS refers to "The Register of the Great Seal of Scotland"; RMS is the customary abbreviation, and is based on the Latin version of the title.

Eunice G. Murray, in her book "The Church of Cardross and its Ministers" (1935), mentions some relevant historical records and charters.

It is stated there that, from the Earl of Lennox, Robert the Bruce acquired a carucate (ploughgate) of land in Cardross; from another landowner a two-merk land (about 70 acres); and, from a third, part of Pillanflatt on the west bank of the Leven. The Earl of Lennox was given land at "Leky" (Leckie) in exchange for the land at Cardross.

It is also mentioned that "in 1361, King David II granted to John Reed for his lifetime the lands of Pelanflatt in his Park of Cardross and the adjoining lands of Dalgworne"; see the companion article for the relevant part of that charter. Note that both Pillanflatt and the Park of Cardross are described in the charter as "our" land, that is, the King's.

Evidence is then cited to show that the land of Mains of Cardross remained Crown property for long afterwards: "it passed to the Duke of Lennox, and from him in 1704 to the Marquis of Montrose, when it was described as 'the Mains and feu-duties of Cardross' and was at that time still annexed to the Crown". The references cited in support are: (1) "The Lennox", Fraser, vol i, p125; (2) Act of Annexation, "Acts of the Parliament of Scotland", vol ii, p42; vol iii, p352; and (3) a grant by the Earl of Lennox of the Captaincy of Dumbarton Castle, 6th Feb. 1514.



At present, the idea that Bruce's residence was at Castle Hill would find little support. The case is weak, based solely on a tradition of a castle on the knoll of Castle Hill; the King's residence was not a castle, and it would not have fit on the knoll. There is no report of any remains of a structure on the knoll itself, and such remains as were found at neighbouring Castlehill Farm were, by 1947, described as being those of a garden, presumably from an earlier layout of the farm.

The evidence from charters and other documents in support of the Mains of Cardross area has already been mentioned, but, in summary, (1) charters state that Pillanflatt lay between Dalquhurn and the (King's) Park of Cardross; in terms of farms in existence in the first half of the nineteenth century, Pillanflatt lay between Dalquhurn and Mains of Cardross Farm; and (2) Mains of Cardross remained Crown property for centuries.

(The name Mains of Cardross itself seems to be a continuation of the description "manerium de Cardross" that is found in the Great Chamberlain's accounts: see Skene's remarks, quoted earlier. I attach less weight to this, though, than to the other documentary evidence, and I mention it here mainly for interest.)

The topography of the two sites is also significant: the Latin account entry, when properly translated, shows that the king's "great ship" was towed from the "water" to a burn next to the residence. The site of Castle Hill is quite a distance uphill from the River Leven, and no one could have towed the king's ship to a burn next to a residence there, regardless of whether the ship came from the River Leven or (as Irving put it) the Firth.
One of the objections raised in 1928 to the Mains of Cardross site is that the area is subject to flooding (a factor that was considered when Dumbarton F.C. wished to relocate there), but that would presumably have been taken into account when the site for the building was chosen. The same objection could be made about, for example, the location of Mains of Cardross Farm itself (which existed until the middle of the twentieth century), but inspection reveals that the spot on which the farm buildings used to stand is raised a little above the surrounding land. I am not implying that Bruce's residence stood on that very spot (or even particularly close to it), but am simply using it to illustrate that not all of the area is equally prone to flooding.

The former site of the farm buildings at Mains of Cardross is flat, and, when seen from a distance, it currently presents a platform-like appearance, as illustrated in the two pictures below. It should be noted, though, that quarrying for sand took place beside the farm buildings in the middle of the twentieth century; this makes it hard to draw any conclusions about the earlier topography of the area.

NS3976 : View to the site of Mains of Cardross Farm by Lairich RigNS3976 : Mains of Cardross: northern edge of the platform by Lairich Rig(left) A view to the raised former site of the farm buildings.
(right) A view along the northern edge of that raised area.
NS3976 : Mains of Cardross: northern edge of the platform by Lairich RigNS3976 : Clinker at Mains of Cardross by Lairich Rig(left) The opposite view along the northern edge.
(right) Clinker, probably used here to fill in the worked quarries.

There are some channels in the marshy area between Mains of Cardross and the River Leven, and, at the time of writing, a nearby information panel refers to them as the "Mains of Cardross Canal", and suggests that they might have been built to aid Bruce in his sailing and fishing pursuits. I adopt no position here on whether those channels are wholly or partly artificial, or entirely natural, but they do at least show that a site at or near Mains of Cardross Farm would have had easy access to the River Leven.

G W S Barrow

NS3976 : Mains of Cardross Canal by Lairich RigNS3976 : The approach to Mains of Cardross by Lairich Rig(left) Channels between Mains of Cardross Farm and the River Leven.
(right) The farm was at the end of the track branching off the left.

Barrow, in his book "Robert Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland", cites the evidence against the Castle Hill site ("a belief once held locally and perhaps not yet extinct"), and in favour of Mains of Cardross; he points out that the "Mains" (from "demesne", and this in turn from the Latin "dominium") would be near the Royal residence, and that, in 1362, the lands of "Pelanysflat" (Pillanflatt) lay between Dalquhurn and the king's Royal Park of Cardross. Using an eighteenth-century map, he was able to determine the approximate location of Pillanflatt (shortly before writing the present article, I was able, by carrying out some original research, to refine this conclusion further by determining the position of the farm buildings much more precisely).

Recall, from an earlier section, that the King's "great ship" was towed from the "water" (in light of what has just been said about adjacent lands, this must be the River Leven) to a burn beside his residence. Barrow points out that the only burn of any consequence between Dalquhurn and the mouth of the River Leven is the one that rises above Dalmoak and enters the River just north of Mains of Cardross.

He observes that the area of interest has been much disturbed by industry and by other changes, but, after weighing up all the evidence, both documentary and topographical, he 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".
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