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The Road from Newbattle Abbey to the Monklands


Based on 1935 quarter-inch OS map. With thanks to Ordnance Survey

Note: As the same charters are mentioned in several of the references all references are at the foot of the page

Newbattle Abbey was founded by David I in 1140. It was a daughter house of the Cistercian monastery of Melrose and was sited near Dalkeith, south of Edinburgh.

It received many grants of land throughout the country and was active in exploiting the resources these offered, being involved in coal and lead mining, salt extraction and farming.

It is thought they may have built roads to these places. The charters speak of roads (via) and as Cistercians they had the necessary skills for road and bridge building. The roads were capable of taking carts as the monks used a cart of their own design to transport goods to the abbey from these places. The Salterís Road from Prestonpans to Dalkieth is said to have been built by them and as they were engaged in mining at Leadhills they may have conducted road building on stretches of this route where the Roman roads proved insufficient.

One important road they are said to have built was one over to the Monklands, a large tract of land in Lanarkshire which had been granted to them in 1162 by Malcolm IV. The charter reads "Dunpaldre by its right bounds with Metherauch, Mayneth and Clarnephin, to Dunduffles towards the east as Gillepatrick Mackein held them before, and as Baldwin, Sherrif of Lanark, Geoffrey, Sherrif of Edinburgh, and Fergus McFerchat and Donald Ewain and Udrad, Sherrif of Lithgow, and others and perambulated them, by their marches between Lothian and the Vale of Clyde." The grant was confirmed in 1224, at which time Carmyle was added (Rankin).

Rankin also notes that Drumpellier was called the Grange in a charter of Alexander II (1240) and that there were mills at Gartlea, Kipsbyre, Gartmillar and Haggs on the Calder Water. There was courthouse or a chapel on Kips Burn by the mid 1300ís where three courts were held each year and rents collected.

Based on 1914 half-inch OS map.With thanks to Ordnance Survey

Although we are not concerned in detail with the extent of this territory, Rankin identifies the places in the charter as: Dunpelder - Drumpelier; Metherauch - Madrox near Glenboig; Myneth - Myvot. As the map shows, this indicates that the Monklands must have covered much of what was later known as Old Monklands parish.

The monks are said to have engaged in the raising of grain and the keeping of livestock, particularly of sheep. They also mined for coal. Undoubtedly there was an extensive network of tracks or even roads within the Monklands connecting these locations, particularly to the courthouse at Kips and to the grange at Drumpelier. Details of these possible roads are given on the Monklands Online website, including the approach taken by the road coming from Newbattle itself. There must also have been a road or track over to Carmyle.

So far as the road from Newbattle is concerned we have a fairly good idea of the route it followed. This is because the Abbey negotiated rights of free passage with various landowners between Newbattle and the Monklands. These agreements allowed them to travel through the lands of Retrevyn, Dalmahoy, Strabrock, Torphichen, the Barony of Bathgate and Ogilface as well as Crown lands. Innes notes that although there was a common law right to pass through lands the monks chose to seek agreement from the landowners and in some cases gave them one of their carts each year.

The style of the charters can be seen from that granted by Alexander III around 1253 giving "the right of free passage on road from the abbey to Monkland for themselves, their cattle and carriages and also liberty to unyoke their waggons and pasture their cattle one night at a time whenever required, keeping off meadowland and growing crops." (Rankin)

To ascertain the route taken by the road we first have to identify the places mentioned in the charters and then see the best route connecting them.

This charter was granted by Gregory de Mellone (Melville) in 1264. As the Melvilles had lands by the North Esk just two miles to the west of the abbey it might be the charter refers to these. There was, however, a Retrevyn owned by the Melvilles in the Bathgate Hills close to places mentioned in the other charters and it is tempting to assume this is what is referred to.

Although it is not absolutely certain, it is still possible that the route taken was through the Melville lands beyond the North Esk and then over to Colinton to skirt the north end of the Pentland Hills (this would be much shorter than going into Edinburgh which would also take the alignment away from Dalmahoy). There was an old ford here over the Water of Leith and once over it was only 3 or 4 miles to the lands of Dalmahoy.

The new bridge at Currie near site of original bridge

Another possibility is that the route went down through present day Loanhead to the flanks of the Pentlands at Crosshouse, NW of Auchendinny and near to Glencorse and then crossed the Pentlands by a track shown on the Military Survey that heads over to Currie where there was an old bridge over the Water of Leith. The NSA says that it was thought to be over 500 years old which would mean it was built about 1300. Interestingly Currie had a connection with Torphichen as the Hospitallers had a chapel here which was on the south side of the river. It is hard to say if the bridge was built because of the chapel or because of the track (on the Military Survey there is only the track and a few scattered settlements to the south of the river) and whether the bridge was built by the Hospitallers or the Newbattle monks. One factor could be that the bridge was built on a route (given the place name Glencorse dates from mediaeval times) between Torphichen and the lands of Temple, 6 miles south of Dalkeith (see Will Grant, Pentland Days and Country Ways, p.106 although he suggests the route was through Bavelaw and that the Military Survey track was a drove road). It is an interesting possibility but further evidence would be needed to say this was the route to the Monklands.

Dalmahoy could be easily reached either from Colinton or Currie and as the next point on the route was Strabrock (Uphall), with the necessity of crossing the Almond, it is likely the route either went north through Ratho (where there was a holy well) to the Newbridge area or NW to another crossing point upstream from Newbridge which would give a more direct line to Uphall.

If it did go to Newbridge, there is a strong possibility that it picked up the line of the road shown on both Blaeu and Adair that runs west over to Bathgate. There is in fact a strong chance that this is the road to the Monklands as its route is quite consistent with the evidence.

Although Blaeuís map dates to 1654, there was an earlier version by Hondius of 1630 (NLS) which also shows the road. The same road is shown on Adairís manuscript map of 1682 and the printed version of 1735. As the latter is much more clearly drawn it removes any ambiguities from the earlier maps.


Near Bangour

Strabrock (or Strathbrock) Castle is thought to have been sited near the present day centre of Uphall and it is likely that the road ran close to it. It has to be noted, however, that the Hondius and Blaeu maps show the road dividing, and then rejoining at Strathbrock. This feature does not appear on Adair or later maps until the 1930ís when the old A8 bypassed Broxburn and Uphall on a similar line. Although not certain, this could indicate that the southern route was old and passing out of use in the early 1600Ďs.

Whichever route was taken, it is very likely to have ran past Bangour and on to Drumcross like the road shown on the above maps which follows a ridge of high ground away from the poorly drained land to the south.

Retrevyn (alternative), Bathgate, Torphichen

Looking east from Drumcross

The original charter gives the monks the right to cross through the lands of Retrevyn, so that even if Retrevyn is to be identified with Tartraven, one and a half miles north of Drumcross, there is no problem with the route through Drumcross provided that the lands of Retrevyn stretched that far.

This in fact points to a slight problem which is that Retrevyn, Torphichen and Bathgate are all close together so that without knowing the boundaries of their lands we cannot be sure exactly where the road went. Certainly if the Torphichen and Retrevyn lands stretched a couple of miles to the south to border on Bathgate this would give a good alignment with Ogilface, a mile or so north west of Armadale, and with the course of the road shown on Hondius and Adair. It would be much more direct than running to Torphichen Preceptory and then down towards Ogilface.

The best fit for the road shown on Hondius and Adair is running past Bathgate to Easton and Colinshiel past Barbauchlaw to Woodend Farm where Ogilface is thought to have been sited.


Original track at Eastcraigs Hill (NS9067)
Causeway Looking west Same location looking east

On much of this stretch the road appears to have been upgraded, probably by statute labour
- looking east towards the Bathgate Hills

Adair shows the road continuing to Bedlormie, 3 miles west of Ogilface and names it as the Middle Way to Glasgow. From the Military Survey and other maps we can see that it continued past Westfield running north of Hillend reservoir to Eastfield and Caldercruix where it has the line of the modern road. There was a crossing of the North Calder at Ford Bridge near Plains.

It is thought to have run north of Airdrie town centre towards Kipps and Drumpellier (see Monklands Online for details).

As said, so far as the rest of the Monklands goes, it is reasonable enough to assume that they would have had tracks or even roads within the territory from the outlying farms to the grange at Drumpelier, to Kipps and to the mills, and possibly over to Carmyle.

It should perhaps be emphasised that our knowledge of this route is limited to the charter evidence which only suggests what the route might have been. In particular, the stretch between Newbattle and Uphall can only be estimated. The possible identification of the road with that shown on the maps of Hondius and Adair is reasonable enough, though still conjectural. Until further evidence becomes available, perhaps through archaeology or aerial photography, we may have to be content with what can only be an approximation of the route.

The History and Statistics, Antiquarian and Modern, of the Parish of East Monkland, James Thomson Rankin, 1855
Sketches of Early Scotch History and Social Progress, Cosmo Innes, Edinburgh 1861 (GoogleBooks site)
Mention of the charters granted to Newbattle Abbey to cross various lands
A Topographical and Historical Account of Linlithgowshire, John Penney, Edinburgh 1832 (GoogleBooks site) Gives details of some of the charters
Ancient Condition of the Parish in 1160 (Monklands Online website) - overview
Brief History of the area (Monklands Online website) - details of the Monklands and of roads
Charters for Torphichen and Ogilface on Armadale website (main page)- see years 1293 and 1320
Tartraven (Retrevyn) Chapel - details from Canmore database
Currie Church - details from "Old and New Edinburgh" site
Will Grant, Pentland Days and Country Ways, Nelson p.106