NS3975 : View to Broadmeadow Industrial Estate

taken 12 years ago, near to Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire, Great Britain

View to Broadmeadow Industrial Estate
View to Broadmeadow Industrial Estate
The Pont/Blaeu map of the Lennox (based on surveys carried out in the 1580s-90s) shows the town of Dumbarton surrounded on three sides by water. This was no mistake on the part of the mapmakers; the Broad Meadow, an extensive area that is located to the north of the town, and which is now occupied by a large industrial estate and a golf course, was formerly known as the "Drowned Lands", because the area was flooded twice daily by the River Leven, which is tidal here in its lower reaches.

The present-day railway line, on the eastern side of the River Leven, corresponds fairly closely to the southern edge of the area that used to be flooded.

Early in the sixteenth century, a dyke known as the Bishop's water-gang was built to contain the flow, but that dyke fell into disrepair later that century, and the river burst its banks. The result was, as the book "Historic Dumbarton – the Scottish burgh survey" (Dennison/Coleman, 1999) notes, that "some housing was lost, the road to Bonhill disappeared, and Townend became separated from the rest of Dumbarton. Tobias Smollett, a pupil at Dumbarton Grammar School in the 1730s, would recall feeling cobble or paving stones under the water as he paddled the old pathway from the collegiate church to Townend" (for more on Smollett, a local author, see NS3878 : Latin inscription on the Smollett Monument and NS3977 : The former site of Dalquhurn House).

[A 1609 charter by King James VI refers, in connection with the burgh of Dumbarton, to "the old dyke and water-gang formerly made by umquhile the Bishop of Orkney, and head of the Collegiate Church of said burgh of the time"; this is thought to be a reference to Robert Maxwell of Pollok, who was appointed provost of the Collegiate Church (for which, see NS3975 : The College Bow) in c.1523, and Bishop of Orkney in c.1526. The "dyke and water-gang" was also sometimes referred to as the Bishop's Cast.]

The land would not again be reclaimed until much later. As the work just cited notes, "in the 1850s, the reclaiming of land by the railway company for the Bowling to Balloch Line would mean the draining and embanking of the Broad Meadow".

As this photograph shows, in a view from the other side of the River Leven, Broadmeadow Industrial Estate was later built on the southern part of the meadow, while the northern part was developed into a golf course (see Link for images).

However, the land had not gone entirely unused in the long interval before reclamation in the 1850s. It had been the venue for some sporting events. The book "Dumbarton through the Centuries" (I.M.M.MacPhail, 1972) mentions an advertisement that appeared in the Glasgow Mercury in 1781, for "a horse race to be run on the sands at the Broad Meadow in Dumbarton for a purse of five guineas". The same book also mentions annual regattas at Dumbarton which began in 1830; originally, "the races were rowed round the flooded Broad Meadow at high tide, the finish being opposite the College Bow, where the Central Railway Station now stands". (NS3975 : The College Bow was later moved, more than once.)

The meadow had also been used by drovers; John Mitchell, in an article in issue 76 of the journal "Scottish Local History", mentions that "until the mid-nineteenth century, when the low-lying ground now occupied by the course was embanked against flooding, the drovers brought their animals to the Sands Cattle Fair held on the town's tidal Broad Meadow". As the same author had noted in another article (in issue 61), the Sands Cattle Fair was the successor of the Lammas Cattle Fair that had long been held in the Townhead area; compare NS3778 : Enclosure at Carman: southern side.

Much of the reclaimed land is now occupied by an industrial estate, but a portion was set aside as (and still is) a public park. The following description is taken from Donald MacLeod's "Dumbarton Ancient and Modern" (1893):

"The Meadow Park ... is the oldest ground for recreative purposes in the town. By an Act of Parliament obtained by the burgh in 1857, powers were obtained for the reclamation of the Broad Meadow, which down to and a little beyond that time was covered almost entirely by water twice a day. By the Act the authorities were empowered to set aside a portion of the Meadow as a public park, and they have now devoted 30 acres to this laudable purpose, and a most popular resort the place is. The Common lands of the burgh, of which it forms a part, embraces an area of 140 acres, and the portion of it other than that embraced in the Park is leased to the Dumbarton Golf Club. ... These lands are all that are left to us of the goodly heritage gifted to the community of old time by several kings of Scotland. The burgesses at one time owned the greater portion of the parish of Dumbarton, and a good slice of Bonhill, and thereto hangs a tale the which I will not here recite."

The final sentence of that passage alludes, I think, to losses incurred through gambling.

As for the "goodly heritage" gifted to the community by kings of Scotland, the Golf Course remains, as does the Meadow Park, which is still labelled as such on the map, although it is now better known as Dumbarton Common (NS40007576). Just to the west of the Common, on the opposite side of Townend Road, the area (NS39877589) where there is now a playing field and a bowling green used to be occupied by an ornamental pond. In winter, it could be used as a skating pond. At the end of the nineteenth century, it had a small island with a shelter for swans.
Broadmeadow Industrial Estate

The area on which the industrial estate now stands was known as the Broad Meadow; it used to be flooded twice daily by the River Leven, which is tidal here. Towards the end of the sixteenth century, bulwarks that had been built to protect the Townend area of Dumbarton from the River Leven failed. The inundated area soon came to be called the Drowned Lands, and later efforts to reinstate the flood defences met with only temporary success. Most of the Broad Meadow would not be permanently reclaimed until 1859, with the coming of the railway line. See Link for more on all of the above.

Lion's Gate to Dumbarton Rock :: NS3976

This description covers a subset of West Dumbartonshire's core paths (49—53 inclusive and 157) that, when taken together, make up a continuous path (49 + 50 + 52 + 53) along or near the eastern bank of the River Leven ( Link ), beginning at the Lion's Gate at Kilmalid, and ending at Dumbarton Rock(*). Two shorter paths (51 and 157) branch off from the riverside path. Others paths branch off from it near the SUDS pond at Lomondgate ( Link ); these are also included here, although they are not core paths.

(*) Note that, as of mid-2018, core path 53 stops at the east end of Riverside Lane, but it is intended that it eventually be extended to become a riverside walkway to Dumbarton Rock.

See LinkExternal link (PDF, 1.3MB, at the West Dunbartonshire Council website) for a visual index to all of these paths. Summary descriptions (where "BMIE" = Broadmeadow Industrial Estate and "CP" = Core Path):

CP 49 (741m): Beside the Murroch Burn; from the Lion's Gate to the Blue Bridge.
CP 50 (1019m): Heads south (beside a golf course) from the Blue Bridge to NW corner of BMIE.
CP 51 (440m): Branches off eastwards from CP 50; leads to Overburn Avenue.
CP 52 (849m): Heads south from NW corner of BMIE to Dumbarton Bridge.
CP 157 (84m): A short path branching off east from CP 52; leads to Poplar Road.
CP 53 (476m+): From Dumbarton Bridge to Riverside Lane (and, later, to Dumbarton Rock).

River Leven (West Dunbartonshire) :: NS3978

ITS COURSE:

The River Leven, in West Dunbartonshire, is just under 12 km (7.5 miles) in length¹. It flows from Loch Lomond, of which it is the only outlet, to the River Clyde. On the way, its meanders enclose two named points: Cordale Point and Dalquhurn Point (see Link and Link respectively). Among the settlements alongside the river are Balloch, Jamestown, Bonhill, Alexandria, Renton and Dumbarton.

Of rivers that are navigable or nearly so, the Leven, when in full flow, is one of Scotland's fastest².

THE NAME:

According to contemporary place-name scholarship³, the name of the River Leven is derived from a Celtic word for "elm" (modern Gaelic "leamhan"). The surrounding area was long known as the Lennox (earlier "Levenax", from a Gaelic word similar to "leamhnachd"), which is simply a derivative of the river's name, and is therefore from the same root⁴. The names Leven and Lennox are related to that of the Lemannonian Gulf⁵, situated somewhere nearby, that was listed by Ptolemy in his "Geography" (second century AD).

(At the time of writing, some web pages maintain that the name of the River Leven means "smooth stream"; however, that explanation is now very much out of date⁶.)

EARLS OF LENNOX:

During the 13th and 14th centuries, certain charters⁷ were made at Balloch by the Earls of Lennox. Traces of an old castle, presumably that of the earls, can be seen close to the source of the River Leven, in Balloch, in the form of a mound with a surrounding ditch; see Link for pictures and LinkExternal link at Canmore for archaeological details. As noted at the latter link, stones from the old castle are said to have been incorporated into the modern Balloch Castle (not a castle, but a 19th-century castellated house), though not in a noticeable way.

FISHING:

The River Leven receives early mention in connection with fishing; for example, a 1330 charter⁸ mentions the "yare of Linbren" (a yare is a kind of fish-trap) and its fishing rights. Angling still takes place on the river. The name "Linbren", of the old charter, survives: a part of the River is now called NS3980 : Linnbrane Hole. Anglers have names for many parts of the river: see the link just given for a partial list.

INDUSTRIES:

From the establishment of the first bleachfield beside the River Leven in 1715, works related to the textile industry would spring up along the length of the river. These developments are set out in some detail at LinkExternal link (on the Vale of Leven website). Though the numerous works are now gone, remnants of them can still be seen in the form of lades, by means of which water was diverted through these industrial sites. Old maps reveal the former presence of railway tracks on the west bank of the river, between Dalquhurn and the Cordale; a small locomotive nicknamed the Pug used to travel along them.

Shipbuilding would become very much associated with the lower reaches of the River Leven. Also worthy of note are the glassworks whose cones came to dominate Dumbarton's skyline from about 1777; the works stood in roughly the area now occupied by NS3975 : Dumbarton Health Centre.

BARRAGE, CANAL PLANS, AND CROSSINGS:

Varying depth aside, the river is not now navigable: a barrage, which was officially opened⁹ in 1971, crosses it at Balloch. In the 1840s, proposals¹⁰ for a canal running alongside the river came to nothing, as did similar ideas in c.2008.

As of 2021, the current and recent crossings of the river, from source to Clyde, are as follows: two road bridges at Balloch; the above-mentioned barrage, though only technically, given that its walkway is not accessible to the public; the Stuckie Bridge — Link —, originally a railway viaduct; the Bonhill Bridge — Link —, which is close to the site of its removed predecessor; the Black Bridge — Link —, removed in late 2014, leaving only its piers; Renton Bridge — Link —, closed for several weeks in late 2021 for repairs; the Blue Bridge — Link —, carrying the A82 over the river; a railway viaduct at Dalreoch; NS3975 : The Artizan Bridge, opened in 1974; and Dumbarton Bridge — Link —, built in 1765, but not opened to traffic until 1768 on account of problems caused by soft underlying material (these would later affect the Woodyard, a shipyard at what is now Posties Park).

See LinkExternal link (at the Vale of Leven website) for more information about all of the bridges.

FROZEN:

As of 2021, the River Leven has not frozen over in living memory. However, Dr I.M.M.Macphail, in his book "Lennox Lore" (1987), records a great frost during the winter of 1434-35, in the latter part of which "people could and did walk over the River Leven". John Mitchell cites this, and other examples¹¹ from 1607, 1795 and 1802, "when safe passage on foot across the frozen Leven is known to have been achieved".

PARISHES:

The River Leven formed the boundary of several parishes, including Cardross and Renton on the west, and Bonhill and Dumbarton on the east. Evidence that Cardross Parish anciently extended as far as the Leven can be seen in Levengrove Park, in the form of the remains — Link — of St Serf's, which was an early Cardross parish church.

ROBERT THE BRUCE:

Somewhere on the land lying on the west bank of the lower part of the Leven, between present-day Renton and Dalreoch, Robert the Bruce had a residence (a hunting lodge, in modern terms) where he spent his final years. The precise site is (as of 2021) unknown, and opinions on the likely location vary, but the residence may have been somewhere in the vicinity of the site that would later be known as Mains of Cardross; see Link for a more detailed discussion. The king is commemorated by a flagstaff (NS3875 : Bruce's Flagstaff) at Brucehill in Dumbarton (on the basis of an earlier belief that the king's dwelling was at adjacent Castlehill), and by a NS3975 : Plaque beside the ruins of St Serf's church (the church was mentioned above, in the section "Parishes").

ECOLOGY:

The lower reaches of the river feature what information panels on the western bank describe as a "valuable swamp habitat", often frequented by birds. According to those panels, the swamp on the western side is "dominated by Reed Canary-grass with Water Sedge, Bottle Sedge and Water Horsetail", while that on the other side, "heavily influenced by the tidal brackish conditions at this point", includes "Reedmace, Grey Club Rush, Reed Canary-grass and Sea Club Rush".

FLOODING, DEFENCES, AND THE LANDS OF MURROCH:

In the early burgh records of Dumbarton, there is a preoccupation with the "waterworks", a term then used to refer to defences built to protect the town of Dumbarton from flooding by the River Leven. One such work, the Bishop's Water-gang, was built in the early 16th century, but fell into disrepair later that century. As a result, an area, colloquially called "the Drowned Lands", and corresponding roughly to what is now the site of Broadmeadow Industrial Estate, would be flooded twice a day. Local author Tobias Smollett recalled that in his schooldays (in the 1730s) he could feel the presence of cobbles underfoot when paddling in the water, though it is likely that he and his schoolmates were imagining more to be underwater than was really the case. One effect was that the College Bow — Link — (a stone arch that is a remnant of the Collegiate Church) was left standing oddly isolated beside the tidal area (note that the Bow has been moved since then). The problems with flooding would not permanently be resolved there¹² until the 1850s, with the coming of the railway. See NS3975 : View to Broadmeadow Industrial Estate, where the former twice-daily flooding and some related uses of the land are described in more detail, with references.

Above what is now the Broadmeadow Industrial Estate, on the other side of a golf course, the Murroch Burn flows into the River Leven close to the eastern side of the Blue Bridge (a road bridge on the A82). Although the town at the lower end of the river is called Dumbarton, that name had originally referred specifically to Dumbarton Rock; much of the land on which the town would be built was formerly "the lands of Murroch"¹³. That name suggests a connection with the Gaelic "morbhach", meaning "land prone to sea-flooding", which would at least be appropriate. See Link (on the Murroch Burn) for further discussion.

Notes:

(1) "just under 12 km (7.5 miles)" — this is the length as measured along the course of the river. It differs from the distance quoted by some other online sources, but it was determined by the author of this shared description by means of measurements carried out on satellite imagery. The straight-line distance from end to end is about 8 km (5 miles).

(2) "At peak flow from the loch the Leven is understandably one of the fastest rivers in Scotland and provides a significant discharge of fresh water into the Inner Clyde Estuary": John Mitchell in "Loch Lomondside" (New Naturalist Series, 2001), page 12.

(3) See page 19 of W.J.Watson's "The Celtic Place-names of Scotland" (2004 edition; the book was originally published in 1926), and page 228 of W.F.H. Nicolaisen's "Scottish Place-names" (2001 edition).

(4) See page 119 of Watson's book cited in the previous note.

(5) The "Lemannonian Gulf" (Lemannonios Kolpos) can be seen listed, in Greek, as the first line of page 83 — LinkExternal link — of the Karl Müller edition (1883) of Ptolemy's "Geography". On the kinship of the form "Lemannonios" to the later names Leven and Lennox, see, again, page 119 of Watson, op. cit.

(6) The obsolete explanation of the name Leven, as meaning "smooth", appeared on page 45 of the first volume of Chalmers' "Caledonia" (1807), in a footnote to a list of names of "Rivers, Rivulets and Waters". Presumably the name was then thought to be related to the Gaelic word "lìomh". However, this is phonetically implausible; the early attested forms of the river's name are "Levyne" (1238) and similar spellings (the methodology of modern place-name studies places great emphasis on the importance of gathering the earliest available written forms of place-names and using those as the starting point).

Probably on the authority of Chalmers' book, page XIII of the preface of the Lennox Cartulary (1833) would present the same idea, stating that the name of the River Leven means "smooth stream".

A certain old poem by Muireadhach Albanach Ó Dálaigh, "Saor do leannán a Leamhain" — LinkExternal link —, thought to have been composed around 1200, gives a fanciful explanation for the name of the River Leven, basing it on a personal name.

(7) In the Lennox Cartulary (properly the "Cartularium Comitatus de Levenax", Maitland Club Edition, 1833), see, for example, the charter on page 13, dated 1238 "appud Bellach"; one on page 59, dated 1373 "apud Bellach"; and another on page 86, dated 1274, "apud Bellach". Towards the end of the 14th century, the earls would relocate to a new castle not far away, at the southern end of the isle of Inchmurrin in Loch Lomond; see LinkExternal link at Canmore for details.

(8) The 1330 charter mentioned here begins on page 17 of the Lennox Cartulary; the last few words of the charter give the year. Similar charters mentioning the yare of Linnbrane (whose spelling varies greatly) can be found in a list of Paisley charters: specifically, the "Registrum Monasterii de Passelet" (1832); for the relevant charters, see that book's own index of place-names and personal names.

(9) "The Loch Lomond Water Scheme, which involved controlling the natural discharge from the loch by means of a barrage across the River Leven, was officially opened on 29 June 1971": John Mitchell, "Loch Lomondside", page 92.

(10) Canal plans in the 1840s: at Link (which shows only a small part of the entire plan), the canal's proposed course appears as a brown line crossing the river. The plan is cited there in more detail.

(11) Pages 48-49 of John Mitchell's "Loch Lomondside" (2001). In the same account, he mentions that ice covered the Leven from bank to bank in February 1895, but that it was "not of sufficient thickness ... to tempt even the foolhardy".

(12) It should be added that the River Leven does, to this day, occasionally burst its banks in various places; for just a few examples, see NS3975 : Flooding at Riverside Lane / NS3981 : Flooded footpath beside the River Leven / NS3977 : Cycle path crossing flooded field. In the lower reaches of the Leven, this can occur when the river, in full flow, is met by an incoming high tide or a storm surge; by about 2019, car parks at Riverside Lane in Dumbarton had LED signs to warn of the possibility or likelihood of flooding at given times. However, as one of the example pictures illustrates, the river can also flood well above the point where it ceases to be tidal.

(13) Dr I.M.M. MacPhail, in his book "Dumbarton through the Centuries" (1972), discusses the foundation charter of the Burgh of Dumbarton, which was "sealed by Alexander II on July 8, 1222"; he goes on to observe that "in three other charters, in 1223, 1226 and 1230, Alexander gave to the newly-founded burgh the lands of Murroch (equivalent to almost the whole of the present parish of Dumbarton) and, in addition, extensive trading privileges".

Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright Lairich Rig and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
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NS3975, 598 images   (more nearby search)
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Date Taken
Sunday, 15 August, 2010   (more nearby)
Submitted
Wednesday, 18 August, 2010
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Industry  Rivers, Streams, Drainage 
River (from Tags)
Leven 
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The Long Crags 
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Industrial estate   (more nearby)
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OSGB36: geotagged! NS 3949 7592 [10m precision]
WGS84: 55:56.9653N 4:34.3242W
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OSGB36: geotagged! NS 3934 7590
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