I then had a look at the houses themselves and was amazed to see that what was depicted were three story buildings or at least they have three distinct layers of windows in the gable ends. Making the assumption that Timothy Pont was not over egging his description of Drumfrees this was a far cry from the notion of a mass of thatched cruck frames with which my imagination had perceived. A couple of years back I was poking around in the Dumfries Council Minute books and amongst all the other bits of miscellaneous information that confirmed the idea of small thatched cottages there was one entry for 11/9/1665 which has made me puzzle until I saw this picture this evening. The town council wanted to purchase “six strong ladders, two of 24 steps and 4 of the longest to be had”. These had to do with assistance in time of fire. I have been puzzling why they would want all these ladders and at such a length as all the buildings were single story and thatched. Of course they weren't. If I had only studied the Pont a bit earlier! Assuming a gap of around 10” per step and we are talking about ladders 20ft long or more.... ideal for rescuing local citizens from the top floor of a three storey building! Perhaps the longer ones were for getting folk off the roof?
We know that fire was regular due to all the thatch. Helen McArthur (the retired librarian) once regaled me with the story of a complaint made by a householder about his neighbour to the Town Council. The cow had been eating his roof! Either the thatch had been growing some greenery or it was a good quality straw....or perhaps the cow was just hungry. At any rate it proved the notion of thatch and low building. The thatch of course easily and regularly caught fire and large sections of the town were burnt.
So it is amazing how things start to join up when one starts to look at things properly! I must take more time to study Timothy's map in more detail!
If anyone wants to comment further on maps, ladders, thatch or even cows please do so in the comments section of the blog.