Over the next few months we will publish a series of articles on Arbigland Estate Records
written by J.B. Blackett.
Arbigland Records Part 1
Estate Office is fortunate to hold Records and Accounts Books as far back as 1751.I thought it might be of interest to members
and visitors to our Society’s website to have a few glimpses into the past.
I have obtained
a Conversion Table from the Bank of England to turn a figure for any given year into the equivalent in today’s pounds.
(Note: this series of articles was written in 2004 and today’s values will be more than those given.) I will have to
show three figures quite often to allow for decimalisation – eg. a rent in 1752 of £5 6s 3d = £5.31 = £430.00
By 1751 William Craik (1703-1798), the then Laird, had improved most of the
Estate and divided it into eight holdings. Arbigland was responsible for quite a slice of the Minister’s Stipend. For
instance, Kimkerrick paid a Stipend of £3 6s 8d = £3.33 = £253.08, plus produce in kind. Whereas, Nethermill,
where I live now, would appear to have been only a watermill because it was Stipended at 8s 4d = 41p = £31.16 with no
produce.The rent per acre of the improved farms seems to have been 8s = 40p = £30.83 per acre. Incidentally, "Nethermill"
means ‘Lower Mill’, which was a watermill and the ‘Upper Mill’ of the Estate was a windmill in a high-lying
field on Maxwellfield.
The tenants in Nethermill in 1751 were John and Archibald Mulligan and the
yearly rent was £9 8s 4d = £9.42 = £715.90
At this time William Craik was living at Maxwellfield Cottage
while building the Mansion, which was not completed until 1760. However, William had already engaged his Head Gardener, John
Paul, father of John Paul Jones, the ‘Father of the American Navy’. In 1753 John Paul was being paid £4
4s 0d = £4.20 = £319.20 per annum, but the Laird was providing him with a house, cow and forage at a cost of £1
5s 0d = £1.25 = £75.00 per annum. This entry threw the Bank of England table into complete disarray as the multiplier
for 1753 is given as 76 which turns £4.20 into £319.20). There is no way that a Head Gardener would accept £319
per year today and John Paul had been imported from the Lothians to fill the post. Today we would be looking at about £12000
plus house and perquisites. I rang my contact at the Bank of England who confirmed that the table only applied to goods and
that the multiplier for wages should be about 2850!
This clarification makes Craik’s accounts much easier to
interpret and explains why, in those days, men of only modest affluence could embark on grand schemes of building etc. For
example, the Mansion at Arbigland, completed in 1760, cost £4000. Much of the timber, all of the stone, sand etc were
wrought on the estate, which would only have involved labour. Thus, if we allow £2500 for lead, slate, glass, fixtures
and fittings etc which multiplied by 76 equates to £190,000 today, William was left with £1500 which multiplied
by 2850 gave him £4,275,000 for manual and skilled labour. This gives a total cost for the Mansion of just under £4.5
million – about its insured value today.
The Head Mason appears to have been Simeon Porteus, who had his own staff.
Various detailed works are enumerated, eg in 1756 - 1757 :-
‘To Sim. Porteus – 34 days at chimneys £1
17s 9d’ (= £1.90 = £5415.00 value today)
‘To 43 days at stairs £3
12s 0d’ (= £3.60 = £10,260)In the next part we will look at one fascinating method
of financing such expenditure.
Arbigland Records Part 2
the previous part we saw how William Craik happily embarked on prodigious projects whilst really only a "Bonnet Laird".
The answer lies in the illicit, duty-free trade between the Isle of Man and the mainland. The Isle of Man remained
a duty-free island until about 1800. Thereafter, with the threat of French invasion, Whitehall was able to persuade the Manx
House of Keys to bring their tariffs into line with the mainland – however, we are looking at the 1750s.
Craik, as a leading citizen, was Commissioner of Excise "from Foot of Nith to Foot of Urr". Thus he reaped a bounty
whenever a smuggling cargo was captured. A page in the Account Book illustrates this: between June 1754 and March 1755, at
which time William was entitled to one third of the value of captured illicit cargoes, his bounty money amounted to £48.02.
This would have given him purchasing power for £3649 of goods BUT £136,000 of labour. Just one entry suffices
to illustrate the scenario:
March 12th 1755
"To my ⅓ share of 20 cases of Brandy seized by me at Southerness.
Quantity 240 Gallons –"
However, at the same time, William was a leading smuggler. We have a letter from
the Excise Officer in Dumfries to Edinburgh saying that …."Sloop in Arbigland Bay ….
would not go so far as to say that the Laird was involved …. but many of his servants and horses were."
The house we all know today as the Balcary Bay Hotel was in fact built in the 18th century as the HQ of a smuggling
company. The three partners are listed as Messrs Clark, Crain and Quirk. Any of these names could easily be Craik spelt wrongly
either accidentally or purposefully.
The temptations were strong. Legitimate duty-paid luxuries were coffee £7.60
per lb., sugar more than £3.00 per lb., wine £7.60 a bottle, brandy (surprisingly) £3.60 a bottle.
With both his legitimate and illicit incomes Craik continued his improvements, even starting his own brickworks
at the Carse Pow. Brickhouse Farm was presumably a prototype house built by his neighbour - Oswald of Cavens. In May 1755
Craik paid his brick maker, George Little, £7 12s 7d = £7.63 = £580.00 for thirty thousand bricks of which
2250 were rejected as "soft". The coal to fire these bricks cost £3 10s 7d = £3.53 = £268.28.
This makes them 3p per brick whereas the same clay brick today costs 20p.
During alterations at Nethermill I uncovered
some of Craik’s bricks. They are rather smaller than our standard house brick today and very variable in colour. They
now form a pleasing flight of garden steps.
To be continued ………………..
Wreath's Castle and Preston Cross...
Preston was erected as a Burgh of Barony and Regality
in 1663 and the newly established town is said to have had a jail and
public buildings. The Old Statistical Account records that the village was inhabited,
some years previously, by twenty-four farmers but that there were, in 1795, only three with their cottagers, while
the New Statistical Account says that there was only one inhabitant in
The cross, apparently the market cross, is all
that remains. It is said to have been lost after 1794 and to have been dug up shortly before 1850, erected on
a new granite base with three steps and enclosed by a dry-stone wall. The shaft is 6 ft. 4 in. high, cut from a single
block of yellow freestone.
MDG5799 WREATHS TOWER
not known who built Wreaths Tower, nor precisely when, and there is not
enough of the original fabric left to date the tower positively. However,
James, Earl of Morton and sometime Regent of Scotland in the minority of James VI, and traditionally associated with
the tower, was known to have been an active builder. However, the use of the word ‘castle' only appears on charters
after 1580and the first depiction of it is on Gordon's 1636 transcript of Pont's 1595 map (contra Maxwell-Irving,
2000, Wreaths is not shown on Pont's original map).
Fragmentary portions of the south and east walls survive,
with the well for a wheel staircase in the south-east angle, and an adjacent doorway in the south wall. The tower was oblong
in plan, with the main axis aligned east-west. The doorway surround does not survive, but is was drawn in the 19th century,
and had a semi-circular head. The basement was vaulted, and the height of the stairwell indicates that it was at least four
In 1621 Robert, 9th Lord Maxwell received the lands and barony of Preston ‘ with the castles
and manor places'. A ‘James Maxwell of Wraithes' is recorded in 1655. After the 2nd Earl of Nithsdale founded
preston town in 1663, it is thought that Wreaths was superceded as the principal residence by a newer building at Cavens.
In 1667 John Corbet, the former bailie in Dumfries held sasine on the lands as ‘John Corbet of Wreaths', but in
1734 it was back with the Maxwells, and was held by Mary and Willielmina Maxwell in 1742. Around 1773 the lands of Preston,
Wreaths and Cavens were bought by Richard Oswald of Auchencruive, Ayrshire, whose family held it throughout the 19th century.
MDG5243 COWCORSE / MAINSRIDDLE
CROPMARK SITE (Early
Bronze Age to Roman - 2000 BC? to 400 AD?)
A sub-rectangular enclosure which is visible as a
cropmark on aerial photographs, amongst less determinate features. It is possibly associated with a group of prehistoric
cist burials uncovered in the immediate vicinity.
ENCLOSURE (Early Bronze Age to Roman -
2000 BC? to 400 AD?)
A sub-rectangular enclosure which is visible as a
cropmark on aerial photographs adjacent to the site of a former cairn.
ENCLOSURE (Early Bronze Age to Roman - 2000 BC? to 400 AD?)
nucleus around 35m across, is visible on aerial photographs taken in the
1970s and currently held in Dumfries Museum
LINEAR FEATURE (Unknown date)
TRACKWAY (Medieval to 19th Century - 1107 AD?
to 1900 AD?)
A double ditched trackway
running NNW, crossing modern field boundaries and heading towards Torrorie.
About 160m east of the trackway is a sinuous linear feature.
Bronze Age to Late Bronze Age - 2000 BC? to 701 BC?)
This cairn was removed about 1843.
A cist containing human bones was found below the surface of the ground. The bones
were re-interred. A rubbing-post marked the site in the late 19th century,
but has subsequently been removed and the field ploughed.
BUILDING (Post Medieval to 18th Century - 1601 AD? to 1800 AD?)
long building, visible on aerial photographs, but not shown on any Ordnance
Survey map. This indicates that the
building was out of use, reduced
and therefore not recorded by 1850. The other slight possibility is that it was constructed,
used and demolished
within the first half of the 20th century, when there was no mapping undertaken
in the area.
'In March 1963 Mr Kirkland of Cowcorse Farm reported that
a large stone had been turned up in one of his fields. Detailed examination showed that there was a
stone structure of granite boulders forming an E-W channel topped by smaller
stones, on which rested large flat sandstones, lying north-south.
The whole was 9 ft. 9 ins. long, 6 ft. 6 ins.
broad and 2 ft. 9 ins. in height. The top lay about 8 ins. below present surface.
The purpose of the structures is not clear. It was not a burial. It could have been a kiln of sorts except
for the fact that there is no bowl or fireplace.
LIME KILN (Modern - 1901 AD to 2050 AD)
QUARRY (Modern - 1901 AD to 2050 AD)
About a half-mile south-west of Prestonmill,
the remains of a small limestone quarry and kiln bank with traces of stonework,
which is probably the outline of a single small kiln. Ainslie's
map 1797 indicates a 'Marle Pit' and two kilns, although the OS six-inch map of 1850-1
has only one kiln marked. Torrorrie limeworks were probably developed in the late 18th century
to supply lime to neighbouring farmers.
CAIRN (Early Bronze Age to Late Bronze Age - 2000 BC? to
A "large, circular, conical cairn", on the top of Hangman Hill, itself seemingly
artificial, was removed for building purposes
about 1844; and under
this cairn was found a "kistvaen containing an earthen urn with ashes
and some fragments of bones
under it." The site was marked by a stone, which cannot now
be found. It is not known if the urn was re-buried.
HOUSE; TOWER (Medieval to 18th Century - 1107 AD? to
The original tower house of Cavens is
said to have stood at the site now occupied by Torrorie farm. Cavers or Cavens was a castellated house, similar to Wreaths
and is said to have belonged to, and been occupied by, the Regent Morton
in the late 16th century. It was occupied until about 1800, after which
it was robbed, until in 1893 very few traces remained.
BURIAL; CIST (Late Neolithic to Early Bronze Age - 2500BC
A short cist was found by deep ploughing
in the area centred NX 947565, in January, 1957. The cist contained an excellently preserved
crouched burial, an early type of Beaker (datting between 2500BC and 2000BC) and a bone ring
with one of the nerve holes enlarged suggesting adaptation for suspension,
and not as a finger ring. The cist and its contents are on display in Dumfries Museum.
ENCLOSURE (Unknown date))
oval enclosure and overlapping sub-circular one, can be seen as cropmarks on aerial photographs. The oval ditch surrounds
a rising area of land, shown on OS maps. Whether it is simply recent drainage,
or marking some earlier feature is not clear. A possible second, sub-circular
enclosure is visible overlapping the oval one on the south-eastern side.
CREMATION (Unknown date)
Cremation burials, yielding
burnt human bones but no pottery, were turned up by the plough at NX 9514
5647 in 1958, and
at NX 9492 5645 in 1965. As the field is under crop the find
spots could only be pointed out on the map by the finder, Mr
Kirkland of Cowcorse Farm. The bones are
now at Dumfries Museum.
FINDSPOT (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
mesolithic chert and flint implements in a mixture of inland and coastal techniques have been recovered
from the top of the raised beach where the Beck Burn cuts out through the old shoreline.
They are now in Dumfries Museum.
MOUND (Unknown date)
HOUSE (19th Century to 20th Century - 1801? to
In advance of landscaping, an unusually-shaped mound was investigated in July 1994.
A number of standing stones, cairns with cists, cropmark enclosures and
stray finds in the vicinity, suggested that the mound may have represented
a focal point in the archaeological landscape, perhaps with burials inserted. Alternatively, or
as a secondary use, it may have been a motte.
A total of ten trenches were opened,
covering the summit, flanks and base of the mound. It was proved
to have been geological, rather than artificial with evidence of later activity
in the form of traces of 19th/20th-century structures, cut into the northern flank of the mound, the remains of
a small group of cottages that once stood there.
GOWANBRAE / MAINSRIDDLE
ENCLOSURE (Early Bronze Age to Roman - 2000
BC? to 400 AD?)
Small rectangular enclosure (?) defined by a cropmark on aerial photographs.
The long axis of the enclosure lies parallel to the road.
21,000 people emigrated from here for a better
life in the colonies
According to the 2001 Census, the
Parish of Kirkbean, which comprises four small villages, has just 643 residents in total.
bounded on the northeast, east, south and southwest by the Solway Firth, comprising about ten miles of sea coast and, on its
northern extremity, by Criffell which rises to 1,800 feet and dominates the view northward, whilst looking out across the
Solway Firth, it is possible to clearly see the northwest coast of England and the Isle of Man.
is one of the most beautiful villages in southern Scotland situated, as it is, in a simple rural valley.
church or kirkyard at Kirkbean has had pre-1855 monumental inscriptions transcribed and indexed and these will be added to
this website shortly to assist those carrying out their family history research.
village, which was founded by Danish Vikings as a fishing and coastal trading port, became quite an important local port serving
Dumfries from the 16th century.
The sandy shore here made it safe to beach ships at mid-tide on
a falling tide, allowing them to be loaded and unloaded from carts at low tide, then float them off on the next rising tide.
At a time when roads inland were no more than rutted tracks, most freight and much passenger traffic was by sea, something
which would only change with the road improvers like Telford and MacAdam in the early 1800s.
is first mentioned as a port in 1562, when a ship was loading for Rochelle and Bordeaux. The 'Carse', as it is fondly
referred to, acted as an outport for Dumfries, with the larger ships anchoring in Carse Bay before unloading their cargo.
There was a great deal of trade through the 1600s, 1700s and 1800s, chiefly coastal to ports either side of the Solway, to
Ireland and to the Isle of Man.
There may also have been smuggling here too. Until recently, the
Blackett family of Arbigland preserved records of one family member who was both an Exciseman ('Gauger') and a smuggler!
The amusing fact is that he informed on his fellow smugglers, who returned the compliment, forcing him to resign. However,
a more lucrative trade was to replace this - Scotland's greatest export has not been its whisky, but its hard-working
and ambitious people seeking a better life in the New World.
During the late 1700s and early
1800s, emigration to the American and Australian Colonies reached high levels and newspaper advertisements show emigrant ships
sailing regularly from Carsethorn.
In 1775, the ''Lovely Nelly'', captained
by William Sheridan, took 82 emigrants to Lot 59 on Prince Edward Island. The reason for the families going was given as 'to
get more bread' - in Scotland, they were almost destitute.
A rather grimmer export trade also
emerged with the transportation of convicts to Australia. They were marched down from Dumfries and housed in the barracks
(later a warehouse) at the river's edge. The whitewashed building remains to the south of the bus-stop in Carsethorn to
It is said that, in 1850, 10,000 people emigrated to North America, 7,000 to Australia
and 4,000 to New Zealand through the 'Carse', leaving from the jetty which was constructed in 1840 by the Nith Navigation
Commission and used by the Liverpool Steam Packet Company. The remains of that jetty still stand beside the deep-water channel
at the north end of Carsethorn; apparently, it was a triangular structure of which the longest face allowed the steamers
a good pierhead to come alongside.
The coastal trade reached its peak in the late 1840s with almost
25,000 tons entering the river and steamboats such as the ''Countess of Nithsdale'' maintained long established
links with Liverpool.
During the 1870s and 1880s, the local Captain, John Robson, traded
in the ''Defiance'' to Archangel for timber, but this was in the face of a general decline. The coming of
the railway in 1850, along with the ongoing costs of the many improvements needed to the navigable channel, started a slow
decline in the seaborne trade and, by the early 1900s, very little trade was left.
Today, the local
beaches and the bird-rich merse where millions of seabirds live or over-winter are part of the rich natural heritage of the
parish. Visitors to the National Nature Reserve on the far side of the Nith come round by the coachload to watch birds
on the Carsethorn foreshore, before continuing to the nature reserves at Southwick and Mersehead.
whilst the pier is no more, the beach is frequently visited by pleasure boats and yachts, some of which anchor in the mouth
of the burn north of the old pier. Since 2006, there has also been the revival of the cockling industry, with cockles being
harvested at low tides by professional collectors.
|Carsethorn was once a busy port where goods were shipped in and people shipped out to a new life
|The names of those who left for Prince Edward Island are carved into this wooden boat
|A map of Kirkbean Parish dated 1797
|Kirkbean Churchyard, a rich source of family history information
|Many convicts were sent from 'The Carse' to Australia
|The John Paul Jones Museum