Category: Maps

The David Rumsey Collection is a fascinating website containing thousands of old maps. While their focus is on the Americas, there are also plenty from the UK.

A quick glance through the results from a search for Glasgow brought up a Polish Army Topography Service map from the Pergamon World Atlas (1968) of Glasgow and its surroundings, which curiously mentions High Blantyre; a Batholomew’s map clearly showing woods and parks, along with country houses, the poorhouse, the asylum and the Antonine Wall; and an 1848 map of Scotland, which for some reason picks out Douglas Mill Inn!

While the search results suggest there are hundreds of possible matches, the majority of maps listed were those published in Glasgow, rather than of Glasgow, but you can narrow the search using the fields on the left hand side, making the results far more relevant.

My favourite map so far in this collection is the Ports And Harbours On The West Coast of Scotland by A Fullarton & Co (1872). The top half shows the Firth of Clyde, with inserts for main ports of the time: Rothesay, Largs, Irvine, Greenock and Troon, hinting at the popularity of trips Doon the Watter. The lower half of the page is focused on the City of Glasgow, but with the additional details of docks, slipways, and industry connected with the Clyde. Paisley Canal is shown, as is the Glasgow Harbour Railway.

The map also shows lots of details of Glasgow in the middle of spreading westwards, with Gilmourhill (Site of New College) marking where Glasgow University now stands, and Merkland Farm where ranks of ship builders would sprout.

So, not a lot to look at for this immediate area, but worth checking out anyway for some wee gems I’ve not seen elsewhere.


Droving shelter?

On an old OS map of Abington, there’s a cross shaped cluster of trees on the lower slopes of Fagyad Hill (NS917219). Over time the trees escape the enclosure (after which it’s marked as Gastonend Wood) and the current Google map shows the trees are mostly gone and only part of the wall is remaining.

It minded me of an Flickr image of an enclosure used by drovers. The cross-shaped walls provided protection to sheep outside the enclosure. The trees only grew after the drovers stopped using it. Is this the same at Abington? Was it a stop on an old droving route?

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There are certainly drove roads around, with one ending at Roberton further north, plus plenty of Roman roads leading from Crawford which might have been used by the drovers, but that’s purely supposition on my part.

I was having a look through the National Library of Scotland’s maps, and playing with the different layers on the map viewer. This is a fabulous wee thing that allows you to find a place on a current map and then look at the same place on older maps, or vice versa. The sheet viewer will allow you to jump between different maps, from Timothy Pont in the 16th/17th century right up to the aerial photos taken in the middle of last century. The mosaic viewer doesn’t have anything like the the same stretch, but it has the nifty trick of sliding gradually between the modern map and the older one.

I use it a lot for  investigating names mentioned on maps that have since vanished, and to locate places I’ve discovered on the ground in the hope that an older map will identify it. A good example is Blaeu’s Atlas of Scotland from 1654:  its a goldmine of placenames, illustrations of churches and castles and other buildings and the estates that surround them. Lots of these places are still recognisable, but plenty aren’t.

A large religious building on Blaeu's Atlas, 1654. Compare the building size with others around it.

There’s a substantial church pictured north of Legbrannock, surrounded by what looks like a large estate  – it’s actually comparable with Blaeu’s depiction of Lanark! – with the name Chappell. Only thing I can think of close by is Chapelhall near Airdrie. Are they related? My geographical knowledge north of the Clyde is a lot shakier than the south, but something that huge should have registered with me at some point. So what is it?

I checked the area between Legbrannock and Chapelhall on a few maps. The 1859 OS shows a ‘site of Chapel and Burial ground’ beside the Chapelhall Iron Works which sat in a loop of the Shotts Burn. The ironworks have vanished by 1898, but the chapel site is still marked, with quarries across the burn and a coal mine just to the south. By the 1940s, the Chapelhall Works have appeared just to the west, making fire bricks, which still appears on the familiar brown and orange of the 1956 OS, which describes the site as as Chapel (site of). It also provided the grid reference (NS784632).

Next port of call: Scotlands Places, which suggests that this was a chapel dedicated to St Lasrach, which was used as a burial place for the Lanchope family from the 18th century onwards, that it was later covered with slag heaps and lost. Its correct GR is NS 7850 6322.

It also directed me to Origines Parochiales Scotiae, where I found this:

At Chapel on the bank of a stream north-east from the old house of Lauchope, there existed in the beginning of last century, a ruined chapel, then used as a burial-place by the family of Lauchope. On the 15th August 1529, John Jack had a grant for life from the king, of three acres pertaining to the chapel of Lessart, in the parish of Bothwell,  for upholding the chapel.

Origines Parochiales Scotiae, p 54

So Chapel is obviously an old name for Chapelhall, and Lasrach sounds like an alternative name for Lessart. There’s also a Lauchope House, but that’s another quest. So who was Lessart / Lasrach? A while later, I discovered that Lasrach is actually a Gaelicised version of Lasair (genitive singular to be precise), and that Lasair was a figure from Irish mythology (whose name meant fire). There’s also a Christian saint with the same name, with her feast day on May 1st, otherwise known to pagans as Beltane! Possibly the same figure, canonised by the Celtic church?

The chapel originally lay approximately around the tip of the letter ‘A’ formed by the paths in the bottom of the frame, underneath the trees alongside the burn.

This has been a fascinating hunt through geography, history, language and mythology with some startling results, but I still still don’t have an answer to my original question: why is the chapel and burial ground of Lasair drawn so much larger than any other building? If anyone can suggest an answer, I’d love to know.

Additional – 15th April 2012

A couple of 18th century comments suggest the chapel was actually part of a larger organisation, but whether a monastery, abbey or other foundation isn’t known.

Chapel, northeast from Lauchope, was formerly a religious house, of what order is not known

Old Statistical Account, p326

Chappell, which was formerly a religious house, of what order I know not; but is now converted into a burial place for Lachop’s family

Hamilton of Wishaw, Descriptions of the Sheriffdoms of Lanark and Renfrew, compiled about M.DCC.X, p136


Only thing is, that the only other illustrations of roughly the same size across the whole of southern Scotland are either towns or major castles. The mystery continues.

Crossing the Clyde

I always take loads of pictures when I’m out and like to find out about what I’ve actually photographed 🙂 So following our walk to Cambusnethan Priory I’ve been checking out old maps looking at the how the estate has changed over the years.

Fields can often be useful in helping transfer the location of a place on an old map onto the modern map, as their boundaries often remain, even if it’s just by treelines. And it’s always worth following the lines of paths around the estate as paths usually lead somewhere, and most of them have vanished under ploughing or vegetation. Sometimes you can see the ghosts of the routes on Google or Bing aerial views, especially with the angles available on Birds Eye View.

The earliest maps don’t show a lot of detail but there are plenty of roads and paths around, including the one below, which shows a ford across the Clyde from a road leading down from the estate. This road has disappeared under the ploughed field.

From William Forrest's map of 1816, NLS

The road on the southern side still exists, and leads onto the A72 Lanark Road.

There’s a bridge close by from which you can see the remains of the ford, although it’s obviously impossible to tell from pictures just how deep the water is now. Since the ford is still marked on the most detailed OS maps, it should be fairly shallow.

I was also confused by a sign at the Priory which showed the Clyde Walkway going in two different directions (other than up and down the Clyde) . Fortunately there are a series of guides to the Clyde Walkway, which point out that there are summer and autumn routes here to avoid seasonal flooding. So that’s a job for another day.

The elusive Clyde

I’m reading a book originally written in the 1930s called The Clyde: the elusive river by George Pratt Insch. It’s a little wordy for my taste – not every noun requires four or more adjectives. His title refers to his opinion that the Clyde was hidden from view for much of its length, whether by natural barriers or by industry. Not being around in the 1930s, I can’t comment, although it seems unusual that you couldn’t look over the bridges.

Mr Insch obviously knows the Central Belt and its history pretty well, which can be frustrating at times when he makes passing references to various locations as he blithely passes through without providing details. It’s particularly annoying when he refers to “the old road” when it’s not clear which route he means. For example,

“in winter-time there is no better way than to take the old road over the hill from Lanark to Crossford … I left the Glasgow bus at Cartland Bridge, and against a strong south-westerly breeze made for the wooded hilltop along which the old road runs.”

Insch, 1946, p92-93

Next time he mentions a location, he’s in Crossford. So which one’s the “old road”?

The most likely candidate seems to be the road that runs through Auchenglen, mainly because the road gets so narrow that it’s basically a path and impassable to cars, but there’s also a path that leads to Lee Castle (home of the Lee Penny) and the Nemphlar Moor Road.

There are times when I’m concerned for Mr Insch’s sanity as he wanders about the hills above the Clyde Valley through November storms, refusing lifts from concerned drivers, until he reaches the “scintillating panorama” that is Larkhall. Hmm. However, when he’s done his homework he’s happy to share it so there’s plenty of historical storytelling for the places he’s less familiar with. I just wish he’d done the same for his home turf rather than assuming we all shared his knowledge.