NS3976 : Mains of Cardross Canal

taken 13 years ago, near to Renton, West Dunbartonshire, Great Britain

Mains of Cardross Canal
Mains of Cardross Canal
This watercourse extends for several hundred metres, close to the present-day cycle route, running between that route and the River Leven. However, it is harder to see from the cycle route during the summer months, because the lower reaches of the Leven are surrounded by an extensive swamp habitat (which is itself a valuable ecological resource), with tall vegetation. See NS3976 : Swampy ground by Mains of Cardross for a later picture.

The River Leven is visible in the background of the photo, but the nearer body of water is claimed to be a remnant of the Mains of Cardross Canal. In his later years, King Robert I (the Bruce) had his "manerium" somewhere in this area; in modern terms, it was something like a hunting lodge; from here, he would engage in hunting, hawking, and fishing. Robert the Bruce died at Mains of Cardross on the 7th of June, 1329.

While this area is not particularly close to the modern-day village of Cardross, the ancient parish of Cardross embraced a far larger area than at present, and extended as far as here.

It is tempting to translate "manerium" as "manor", and there is little harm in doing so, so long as it is borne in mind that, as Eunice G. Murray notes 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'."

Bruce's residence was a one-storey structure, and additional information about it can be gleaned from the various expenses that are recorded in connection with it in the Exchequer Rolls.

Eunice G. Murray, in the work cited above, points out that the lands of Mains of Cardross remained Crown property for long afterwards, passing "to the Duke of Lennox, and from him in 1704 to the Marquis of Montrose, when it was described as 'the Mains and feuduties 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; (3) The grant by the Earl of Lennox of the Captaincy of Dumbarton Castle, 6th Feb. 1514].

It is noted in the same work 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". For "Pelanflatt", see NS3977 : The former Pillanflatt; "Dalgworne" is almost certainly Dalquhurn: NS3977 : The former site of Dalquhurn House.

The "Park of Cardross" was the land associated with the "manerium"; Dalquhurn, Pillanflatt, and Mains of Cardross (listed in north-to-south order) lie fairly close to one another.

The precise location of Robert's residence is uncertain, but it is possible that the watercourse shown here was built to aid in its construction. Robert maintained a small boatyard at his residence, allowing him to add fishing to his leisure activities (see the comments below about Robert's boat being drawn out of the Leven into a burn beside his house).

The claim that this was a canal built to aid in the construction of the Bruce's residence can be found on an information panel located alongside the cycle route at this spot; however, the precise location of Bruce's residence is, at the time of writing, still the subject of ongoing research, and has not been settled. See also NS3976 : Site of Mains of Cardross Farm; the site of the Mains of Cardross Farm of recent centuries does not necessarily correspond exactly with the site of Bruce's residence, but the name does provide strong evidence that the latter was located in this area. Further evidence comes from the fact that, as indicated above, the Park associated with the house included the lands of Pillanflatt, just to the north of Mains of Cardross.

- - - -

In the past, the prevailing opinion was that Robert's house had been at NS3875 : Castle Hill in Dumbarton, the site even being marked with a commemorative flagstaff: see NS3875 : Bruce's Flagstaff: detail and NS3875 : Bruce's Flagstaff. However, this belief appears to have been based primarily on the name "Castle Hill" itself; no traces of fortification have ever been found on that rocky knoll, and, as noted above, Bruce's manerium was not what could reasonably be described as a castle, but, rather, was a one-storey building.

In addition, the Lord Treasurer's Account relates that Robert's great ship was drawn out of the Leven into the burn beside the house, and that its tackle and gear were carried into the house [see "Dumbarton through the Centuries" by Dr I.M.M.MacPhail]; this makes the Castlehill site, which is over a quarter of a mile from the Leven, seem rather less plausible.

At an even earlier period, before the Castle Hill site came into favour, the general belief was that Bruce's residence had been at Mains of Cardross; opinion has therefore come full circle. Mains of Cardross remains a likely site for the house.

(From about 2009, some have suggested a location a little further to the north, at NS3977 : The former Pillanflatt; while I disagree with that choice of location for Bruce's residence, and strongly believe that it was at or near the site of Mains of Cardross Farm, I do value their efforts to highlight the King's connections with this general area.)
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 fields are now associated.

See a Geograph article Link for much more on this area and its relation to the site of the Cardross residence of King Robert the Bruce.

River Leven (Dunbartonshire)

The River Leven (Uisge Leamhna in Gaelic) is a stretch of water in West Dunbartonshire, Scotland, flowing from Loch Lomond in the North to the River Clyde in the South. The total length of the river is approximately 6 miles.

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NS3976, 200 images   (more nearby search)
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Date Taken
Friday, 8 August, 2008   (more nearby)
Saturday, 9 August, 2008
Geographical Context
Rivers, Streams, Drainage  Historic sites and artefacts 
Near (from Tags)
River Leven 
Person (from Tags)
Robert the Bruce 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 391 765 [100m precision]
WGS84: 55:57.2922N 4:34.6823W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 390 765
View Direction
EAST (about 90 degrees)
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Mains of Cardross 

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