Accounts of Some Past Events
The First DAMP Event
Last Saturday was the first DAMP event. It took us to Hills Tower near Lochfoot just outside Dumfries. The tower is owned by Alan and Ali Gibbs and they have been painstakingly refurbishing it and the 1720's house that adjoins. The tower itself is dated around the 1520's with the battlements added in their fashionable manner in the 1600's. Fittingly we were greeted by a damp morning and were gathered into the Gibbs' kitchen for a quick coffee before the tour began.
At this point Alan, began to explain the history and the landscape surrounding the tower. By leading us through the background of the estate and the buildings he prepared us for a look at the map. The estate was built on cattle “sales”. Alan explained how the estate would illegally sell cattle across the English border, steel them back again and then resell. The reiving and thieving was pretty much a way of life...and death. Dynastic marriages would take place and local politics interspersed with national politics ruled the locality for several centuries. I am afraid that I am not going through the various ownerships but can refer you to “Towers of the Western Marches” by Maxwell-Irving page 149.
The landscape was regulated by the need for grazing and the need for feeding the folk in the tower as well as the subordinates. The staple diet was oats and the cattle on the hoof were designed for walking to Carlisle and not for regular home consumption. Due to the local lawlessness there was a continual lack of capital invested in the surrounding lands. The cattle of course were the main capital asset and they could be driven as fast as possible out of harm’s way. It is difficult to do that with the crops! The original tower had been built to act as a stabiliser to the local area as protection from ones neighbours rather than an invading army. Centred on a mid-point of the estate it was the focus of everything that was going on.
The tower was built in the “classic” manner with the stone vaults on the ground floor. Then there is the “great hall” complete with huge fireplace (...and I am still wondering how the Gibbs’ managed to get the huge new sandstone mantle stone in!). Above is the solar where the sun shines all day and then a further floor before the garret (same derivation as garrison!) and battlements where the guard can walk around the garret roof and admire the red glow in the east as Dumfries burnt yet again (a regular occurrence, due to both war and accident, until slates became the main roofing material).
The union of the crowns in the 1600's did not really help much as continual religious bickering did nothing much to stabilise the local society and an invasion by Oliver Cromwell did nothing much to help either. As a result it was not until the union of the parliaments that landowners became used to the idea of investing capital in fixed assets. Prior to this the outlook was always very hazy with some new invader/war lord/gangster's mob always just over the horizon. Interestingly I was talking to a Maxwell the other day and he said that he was always brought up never to trust a Johnston. These prejudices take a long time to die out even if now they are only a little tongue in cheek.
With the history still swirling around in our minds we were then introduced to the map (see Map of the Month) with the tower in the centre and dominating the surrounding landscape. Although the map was not made until 1775 it does not record huge renovation as some do. It still shows the yards or yaird (same derivation as jardin/garden) with the one-time ubiquitous hedge with tall trees around it. This is a feature of the countryside that is mentioned in the Dumfries Council minutes for in the 17th and 18th centuries. The “modern” farm is now where the orchard is marked. The small crofts placed in a seemingly haphazard manner are also the last of the old order. It should be noted that the McCullochs had other interests in the place besides farming and thus an interest in investment was not perhaps great especially as watchful tenants were at a premium. They were after all involved in smuggling in a fairly large way and Hills was apparently used as a storage depot for goods on their way further North. Now that the new military road bypassed the tower it was much more secluded than it had been as a guard on the main route from Dumfries to Kirkcudbright.
At about the same time as the map was produced there was a concentrated influx of money into the wider area and investment by local landowners. A Cunningham whose family had made good money in the tobacco trade came down from Ayrshire and bought Ards on the west side of Loch Ken. He wrote that his neighbour across the water did not go in for any of the modern practices but still kept the yearly tacks going in the same way as they had been for the last century or more. Mr Cunningham, of course, was busy enclosing land and making money from his new dairy. Change although perceived by us as sudden was in fact spread through more than sixty or seventy years. In this area the total completion of enclosure did not happen until 1820s-30s.
When we had been through the tower and were on the battlements remnants of the yard outlines could still be seen with trees marking the place where hedges had been. Other areas had been delineated by stone dykes and the general shape of the map could be discerned. In the west one could see all the way over to Loch Rutton and the tops of the hills of Mabie Forest in the east.
In 1835 James V passed a variety of legislation amongst which was encouragement to build more fortifications on the border. An Act was passed that required “evrylandit man duelland in ye Inland or upon ye bordouris haband yare ane hundreth pund land of new extent” to build “ane sufficient barmkyn...of Stane and lyme”. The barmkin (the walled yard adjoining the house) at Hills dates from this time and is also of the measurements laid out. It is one of the very few still extant. The beautiful gatehouse is a little younger. I like to think that some of the small plantations around and about are also the result of legislation particularly of James IV. He also encouraged his lairds to look after rabbits in their warren and also to keep deer in a park.
The tower itself is wonderful as it has been done up in a sensitive manner and its current inhabitants so obviously enjoy being there. The fun and hard work that they had had in putting the building to rights came across in everything that Alan said. The tower, as a result, does not seem to be like many others, incorporated into larger modern buildings or in a state of collapse. The tower itself stands like a marker between the older bigger stone fortifications and the newer smaller ones that sprang up post Reformation (1560). When the English came raiding in the 1540's they burnt the towers that they passed. In the 1570's when they came again they had to use gunpowder to blow them up. The implication is that smaller towers were initially built in timber but by 1570 they had been rebuilt in stone. It is indeed an extraordinary place both because of its history and because of the way that the owners have done the place up.
Alan, Ali and Cat, many thanks indeed for being such great hosts to us Dampers. Also many thanks for making the morning one of such great interest both from the mapping point of view and the historical. Many thanks to Peter Norman as well for organising the visit.
Please see the Map of the Month for more information on the map itself.
 S.R. Crocket Grey Galloway
The Gardens of Drumlanrig in the 18th and 19th century as seen through their plans
Presented by Professor David Munro
6th July 2014
Some twenty seven of us turned up to peruse the garden plans of Drumlanrig. Professor David Munro acted as lecturer and host for the evening. He provided an elegant talk about the development of the Drumlanrig gardens during the 18th and 19th centuries and had laid out various plans that showed off the evolution of the gardens. There were some twenty or so plans and documents that we could ponder over and point at.
David Munro's talk started when the current castle had been built. There had been various architects and designers involved in the planning and construction of both the building and the surrounding landscape. These included Sir William Bruce, the designer in chief at Holyrood, and James Smith who studied in Italy for a few years and returned with Palladian ideas. Smith's influence can be seen in the balustrades turned diagonally to the main view thus offering more change of light and shade the course of the day. Various alterations since his day do not make us immediately think of “Palladio” but have a look at this elevation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drumlanrig_Castle#mediaviewer/File:Drumlanrig_elevation.jpg. Perhaps the main designers and builders of the castle were Robert Milne and William Luckup the clerk of works.
The initial garden plans for the “Pink Palace” were chiefly influenced by both French and Dutch garden ideals under the auspices of the first Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry. Two garden plans from 1738 and 1739 illustrate the fashions of the time. This was mainly in the form of parterres in the manner of the French and Dutch great gardens. This was nature tamed and in the great designs of the times required a large expanse of well tamed garden with taller trees away from the house and a place to view things. Although the formal view from the house was of great importance the idea of division into outside rooms with separate themes was also important. All the near trees and bushes were manicured and trained, topiary-ed and pleached into regimented order while those further off formed avenues and vistas.
Amongst this taming of nature was also the need to tame water for human entertainment. Streams were diverted, pipes laid, cisterns constructed and giant cascade was created as the main feature to be viewed to the south. John Roque's 1739 garden design was shown to us in colour and as an engraving and pride of place on the plan was the great cascade. The garden, of course, is as much a product of its time as any other man made thing and as times changed so did the garden: each Duke leaving his own mark on the establishment.
By the time of the second Duke the garden fashions was changing with the “finickity formality of the parterres loosing out to the picturesque and the more formal parterres moving onto broadening of of the vistas. The ideal, like the infinity pools of today, was to have an uninterrupted view to a distant horizon with visual links and water-scapes. The outdoor rooms retreated and the far away views were the main obsession of the times. In the volumes of Leslie plans (1772) of the estate farms, the avenues could be seen extending into the distance.
The garden of course reflected the interest that the Duke of the time took in it and some Dukes were more interested than others. Under the auspices of the Old Q things perhaps slipped a bit but when with the new Duke in 1810 the garden takes a new lease of life. Back came the old parterres but with a big difference. The borders were crowded with the new exotics brought in from all over the temperate world. New walk ways through the woods were developed and greenhouses began to appear to house the new imports from the tropics. To illustrate these developments David had laid out plans produced by William and Robert Crawford (1812). There was a beautiful large map of Tynron and Durisdeer parishes that contrasted nicely with there more detailed work for the lead piping for all the water features which still included the cascade as well as various fountains.
The next set of plans was the MacCallan and Dundas's work of the 1840s and -50s. This was a sumptuous volume that would probably require a small forklift to replace in a shelf. The particular interest here was the walled garden and the interest now taken in the growing of fruit and veg. This walled garden in its hay day was one of “the greatest in Europe”. The remnants of the huge greenhouses are still there with the rest of the garden now a large pen for over wintering cattle. The following fifty years probably represent the garden at its high point.
Through the first half of the 20th century things went down hill and it was not until the 1950's that things began to get back together with woodland walks getting remade. Plans of cricket pitches (which was constructed) and a golf course were made but the garden landscape is now somewhat diminished compared to its past glories.
We all very much enjoyed David's talk about the gardens and then we were allowed to wander around the collection of plans that he had assembled and pick out various details for ourselves. Looking at maps is a purely personal matter and we all have things that we like to go and look at. It was, thus, fascinating to listen to the various things that others had spotted. One was amazed at the small diameter for the fountain pipes (about ¾ inch only), while another found a “time bomb” in the lists of plant purchases that included a rhododendron ponticum; one was on the first leg of his holiday and was going to be comparing Drumlanrig with Chatsworth over the next few days and another discovered his first documentary evidence of woodland pasture in the “wood leys” of Auchengibbert.
Some of us finished up having a pint at the Buccleuch and Queensberry Arms and continued the cartographical natter. I hope that others had as good an evening as I did! It was very good to have such a good showing from Glasgow University and also to share our talk with some of the Drumlanrig staff as well. We must of course say a big thank you to our map guide for the evening, David Munro. He, as ever, managed both to entertain and teach us something at the same time. In addition we must also send our thanks to the Duke as well as not only were these his maps but we were in his house as well.