Category: Transport


Dalmarnock Ford

Looking for some mentions of Mary Queen of Scots, I got caught up with the description of her army’s route towards Langside on the East End Glasgow History page. Mary had been captured at the Battle of Carberry Hill, been forced to abdicate in favour of her son (James VI), imprisoned in Lochleven Castle, and escaped to the Hamiltons in Lanarkshire. Scotland was now in the middle of a civil war, between the Queen’s Men, led by the Duke of Arran, and the King’s Men, led by Mary’s half-brother, the Earl of Moray. In her attempt to regain the throne, it’s been decided to march from from Lanarkshire to other allies at Dumbarton Castle.

On the morning of the 13th May, aware that the Queen’s army was on the move and still on the south side of the river, he [the Earl of Moray] marched his forces through the Gallowgate Port onto the Gallowmuir. From this position, if Mary chose to cross the Clyde at Dalmarnock ford then he could engage her on the Gallowmuir itself. If she continued on the southern route towards the Dumbuck ford then he could cross the river and block her path at Langside. From the elevated ground of his location, Moray at last observed the Queen’s army leave Rutherglen and remain on the southern path, and his plan was put into effect.

And that’s the first I’d ever heard of a ford at Dalmarnock. I’ve only ever known Clyde fording points in the Clyde Valley; it seems surreal that it could once be forded when it’s now so deep. Not that it seems that it was safe then either: another page on the same site shares the information that the Dalmarnock Ford

was not the safest of crossings – indeed an edition of the “Glasgow Journal” for 1774 tells of one unfortunate Rutherglen farmer who fell from his cart and drowned when his horse stumbled while fording the Clyde.

A Rutherglen farmer, eh? And according to the Gentleman’s Magazine another young chap, Mr John Lindsay, aged 16, drowned August 3rd, 1811

while bathing in the Clyde, a little above Dalmarnock’s Ford

According to Duncan’s itinerary of Scotland (1820),

When the Clyde is low, nearly a mile may be saved [rather than heading for Rutherglen Bridge] by taking the left hand road at Barrowfield Toll, and crossing at Dalmarnock Ford

The ford was lost when the tidal weir was built beside Albert Bridge at Glasgow Green, and a series of wooden bridges replaced it, to be followed by the current Dalmarnock Bridge.

Additional 20th January
I forgot that the Clyde was in times past commonly low enough to ford, often banked up by sand. Naturally, I can’t find any examples to point towards.

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?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Strathclyde Park is massive. Covering land between Bothwell, Bellshill, Hamilton and Motherwell, it can be tough to figure out where exactly you are. As usual in this part of the world, the history of the place is pretty much ignored, but there’s plenty of interesting material around.

This afternoon was one of the first decent days in weeks – yesterday the weather couldn’t decide between hailstones, snow and blue skies so it attacked with all three – so we decided on a wee dauner round a part of the park we hadn’t been to before, mostly in the South Calder Glen.

There’s Roman antiquities all over the place round here, although they’re mostly invisible. The car park lies east of Bothwellhaugh Fort, we walk along the line of the Roman road (now called Watling Street) and we’ll circle back round eventually to the bath-house at the bottom of the hill. More of that later.

South Calder Glen is lovely with sandstone cliffs and winding paths, but as we walked upstream the path was mostly on the top of the cliffs so there wasn’t much to see. Except maybe the viaduct, which remained invisible to me until I almost tripped over it, much to the hilarity of everyone else. I was just too busy checking out the many lumps and bumps in the landscape. You’ve heard of not seeing the wood for the trees, but I’ve never heard of not seeing the 100 foot tall viaduct for the trees.

Further upstream the path descends to the riverbank and you can see a waterfall in the distance, which turns to be a dam or a weir. The derelict walls beside it belonged to Holm Forge – about which I can find remarkably little, except that they manufactured spades and shovels. The woods beside the Forge naturally became known as Forge Woods, and the subsequent housing estate was named Forgewood.

We crossed the South Calder at Holm Forge Bridge, an ugly beast, and headed back downstream, momentaily stunned by the aerobatics of a trio of ducks who landed in perfect formation on the river. Looking at Scotland’s Places later, I noticed an antiquity marked ‘Wallace’s Cave‘ just after the viaduct. RCAHMS says this is a mistake: there is no cave here, but the Ancient Family of Cleland describes it. We certainly didn’t notice anything, but then if you can’t see a flippin’ great viaduct in your way, a sandstone cave isn’t likely to jump out at you.

The path follows the riverbank before heading uphill and meeting Bellshill Golf Course. Nearby was located Orbiston House, and you can still see the walled garden, the doocot and the icehouse. The river loops back on itself here so there’s a bit more hiking before you cross again, most of it downhill until you reach the Roman Bridge and the bath-house.

The bath-house belonging to Bothwellhaugh Fort was discovered when Strathclyde Loch was being created, and it was subsequently moved from its original location to protect it.

The Hunterian Museum has a beautiful little bit of roof tile complete with a dog’s pawprint from the bath-house. The sort of artefact that everyone smiles at, especially people who wouldn’t smile at the word artefact (which is I suppose, most people). The tile was the Pop Up Museum’s Curator’s Choice for January 2012 (which reminded me of it)

If you look on old maps of this area, a road is marked as Roman, the current Watling Street. The continuation of this road leads back up to the car park from the bath-house. Is it still Roman? It’s certainly an old road, but how old remains a mystery.

The final tired stroll uphill was accompanied by silly stories of runaway Roman soldiers mixing up their words and calling Celts,  kilts and vice versa, complete with a dog that kept running across the potter’s handiwork.

It’s taken a long time to get out for the first time this year. Hopefully the weather will hold on another weekend soon 🙂

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.

Secrets of Knowetop

Knowetop is an area of Motherwell, close to Dalzell House. It features, amongst other locations, Knowetop Primary School, Our Lady’s High School, Modyrvale Health Centre and Firpark Stadium, home of Motherwell FC.

Fir Park is easy – it’s built on the old part of Dalzell Estate where there actually was a plantation of firs. Very straightforward 🙂

Modyrvale is one of the earliest written versions of the placename, Motherwell. Why is was given to the Health Centre is at present unknown.

Knowetop itself was once not much more than a row of cottages. Few of the current buildings appear on the 19th century 25″ Ordnance Survey map, but I noticed that a branch of the main railway line curved through it. So I looked at the modern map to look for clues to where it had run and realised that Knowetop Avenue now follows the same line. The line itself ran to Parkhead Colliery. From the maps I can find, the mineral railway branch vanished between 1914-1938.

Apart from the match of the routes on the map, you’d never know that a railway was once here.