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Mediaeval Roads: Evidence from Monastic Charters
Origines Parochiales Scotiae, Vol.1 (Internet Archive)

The OPS notes that "a highway (magna via, via Regia) led, at a very early period, from Dumbarton up the valley of the Leven, probably to the earl’s (of Lennox) castle of Balloch."

OPS, Vol.1, page 25
Reg. de Passelet, page 215

A charter detailing boundaries in Bonhill includes a reference to an old causeway, viz. "the whole land of Buchewl in Lewyne, lying between the rivulet which is called Pocheburne and the Blindsyke on the north side of Carmane and so descending to the Halyburne and from the Halyburne to the old causey which lies beyond the moss and descending thence to the water of Lewyne."
OPS, Vol.1, page 37
Reg. de Levenax, page 51

In the register of Paisley Abbey, Pope Clement IV in 1265 confirmed a grant, viz. "by the gift of the Earl Maldover of Lennox, that fishing upon the water of Levyn which is called Linbren (in Balloch) with the land between it and the highway to Dumbarton…"
OPS, page 70
Reg. de Passelet, page 310


Map based on 1925 1" OS map. With thanks to Ordnance Survey

Carmane is undoubtedly Carman a mile or so west of Renton with a Peachy Glen nearby (see 6" map for Dunbartonshire, Sheet XVIII). In fact the boundary for Bonhill parish runs up this glen. The Blind Syke and Halyburne do not appear on any of the early maps, however the OPS contains a map which shows what must be the boundaries of this grant running down one of the streams west of Alexandria towards the Leven.

The OPS map also shows the via regia running on the east side of the Leven between Dumbarton and Balloch and places Linbren close to the centre of Alexandria (there is a Lambrain Cottage on the old 6" map, Dunbartonshire, Sheet XVIII in Alexandria).

It has to be noted there is a slight ambiguity in the charter that mentions the Haleyburne. The wording "descending to the Halyburne and from the Halyburne to the old causey which lies beyond the moss and descending thence to the water of Lewyne" could be interpreted to mean that the causey was on the west bank of the Leven rather than the east or even that the boundary followed the causey down to the Leven in a west-east direction over what was undoubtedly marshy ground at that time. Having said that, the wording of charters is often vague and a highway on the west bank would require two unnecessary crossings of the Leven.

It is not clear what the origin and purpose of the highway was, though the OPS remark that it probably went between Dumbarton and the Earl of Lennox’s castle at Balloch seems reasonable enough. The reference to the "old calsey" indicates a paved road and that it already existed when the Earls of Lennox moved from Dumbarton to Balloch Castle in the early 1200s. It is interesting to speculate as to whether it dates back to Strathclyde times or even earlier. There is a tradition of a Roman fort at Dumbarton (and/or Dumbuck nearby) and it is only six miles from Balloch to the first century fort at Drumquhassle, near Drymen. However, in the absence of more definite evidence this can only be speculative.

Exemptions from "prises and carriages"
The OPS refers to lands in the Deanery of Lennox, viz. Luss & Arrochar and Strathblane being exempted from the requirement to find supplies for the progresses of the royal household in these territories. No particular roads or routes are mentioned.

In the Registrum Monasterii de Cambuskenneth, published by The Grampian Club in 1872, a reference is made in the preface to a gift made to the abbey in the early 1200's by William Comyng, Earl of Buchan. This was of the church of Kirkintilloch and one oxgate of adjoining land on the east side of the churchland (p.xxx). It was added to by John Comyng, probably at the end of the 13th century, who gave the abbey land adjoining the original oxgate and free entry to gather peats, as follows:

......the whole land adjoining that oxgate, between Luggy and Buthlane, cultivated and uncultivated, as far as the said oxgate of land extends, with one acre of land on the east side of the said oxgate . . . with thirty cartloads of peats, to be received each year at the sight of the bailie of the burgh of Kirkintilloch, in our peat-moss of Kirkintilloch, which at our instance our men of Kirkintilloch unanimously granted for ever to these canons, and their tenants whomsoever dwelling on the said land, in our open court of Lengze, we there confirming for ever, for us and our heirs, the foresaid lands, with the peats foresaid, to these canons: To be held and possessed in free, pure and perpetual alms, with free and peaceable entry and exit, as well to the said peat-moss as to the said oxgate....(Extract from page xxxi of the Register)


Based on the 1" OS map. Glasgow District, 1914. With thanks to Ordnance Survey.

The locations are easily seen even on fairly recent maps such as the 6"map, 1st series (Dumbartonshire, Sheet XXIV, XXV).

The old church with its burial ground is indicated on the map with the placename Oxgang (= oxgate) to its east. The land was bounded by the Luggie Water and the Bothlin Burn.

The peat-moss is what is now called Lenzie Moss. Due to farm drainage and housing it is much less extensive than it was, as can be seen on the Military Survey map, c.1750. Even at that time it would have been easily accessed from Townhead.

For more information on Lenzie Moss see Friends of Lenzie Moss - this includes a history and a map.