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Mediaeval Roads: Evidence from Charters

Note: The maps below are based on the 1914 half-inch map for Falkirk and Lanark and sheets 1 & 2, quarter-inch OS map, 1921 & 1922. With thanks to Ordnance Survey.

The Origines Parochiales Scotiae (OPS) notes that Alexander II said that "Rutherglen should not exact toll or custom within the town of Glasgow but only at the cross of Schednestun (now Shettleston) as they used formerly to be levied."
Reg. Glasgow, page 114

Alexander II on making Dumbarton a royal burgh in 1242 allowed Glasgow’s burgesses and the men of Glasgow to "retain their rights of trade and merchandise through Argyll & Lennox which they had anciently enjoyed."
See Nos. 8, 10 & 12 on this page (British History online).

Newbattle Abbey had received extensive grants of land in what is now Monkland and Carmyle. In order to reach these lands they negotiated rights of way with landowners along the route from Newbattle. See The Road to the Monklands for further details.

In 1492, James IV confirmed a grant made by a Simon Lockhart of Cleghorn of the "place of Clydesholm and the passage-boat upon the Clyde" to maintain a chaplain at the Altar of St Catherine in the chapel of St Nicholas in Lanark.
OPS, Vol I, page 119


Clydesholm, just upriver from Kirkfieldbank. For further information see here.

A causeway one mile in length ran between Couthally House and Carnwath. In 1489 James IV used the causeway to walk to the House.
OPS, Vol I, page 128


The OPS refers to a charter of 1348 regarding the lands of the Sandylandis and the Ridmire with the "east part of Pollynfegh (Poufech) as the water of Douglas runs upwards to the two trees of Byrks, on the west part of Halleford over against Haynyngschaw which is in the barony of Lesmahago."

Although Sandylands and Ponfeigh appear on maps the other places do not, making it difficult to say where the Halleford was other than it was near Ponfeigh. A route to Douglas might be indicated.

Kelso Abbey had been granted the lands of Lesmahagow by David I in 1144. The original charter and a number of other charters survive, and some mention roads and fords. The charters are referred to in several works. Thus Cosmo Innes, editor of the Origines Parochiales Scotiae (1850), details the charters. G Irving and A Murray also wrote about them in the Upper Ward of Lanarkshire (1864) as did J B Greenshields in the Annals of Lesmahagow (1864). More recently Ruth Richens in a paper on Ancient Land Divisions in the Parish of Lesmahagow (1992) has re-examined the charters, and besides identifying the boundaries more closely has shown how some of these have persisted to the present day.

A charter dated sometime between 1147 and 1160 describes lands near Douglas Water, viz. "from the source of Polnele, as that water runs to the Water of Douglas, and from the source of Polnele, beyond the broad moss to the long fau, thence to Hirdlau, thence to Thievesforde in Mossminine and Corroc, and so to the long Black ford, and so as the way runs to Crossford."(OPS)
L.de Calchou page 78, charter107; OPS 111; Monastic Annals 147; Greenshields 44; UWLanarkshire 224; Richens 188

Another charter of the late 12th century gives the boundaries of Corroc, saying that it was "bounded by the road leading from Crauford (marked in other cases as the junction of the Douglas and Clyde) to the Kirkeburn, (called also the burn of Dowane,) and by that burn to the Clyde…." (OPS)
L de Calchou page 82, charter 112; OPS 112; Greenshields 68; UWLanarkshire 212; Richens 188

The position of Thievesforde is shown on early maps (NS873 399) on a stream that runs into the Clyde. The long Black ford is identified in the OPS as Blackford in Bogside though it is not clear if the Bogside near Lesmahagow (NT825 410) is meant - this would be unlikely as the OPS identifies Crossford/Crauford as the junction of the Clyde and Douglas rather than the Crossford near the Nethan, NW of Lanark. Greenshields notes that some had placed the long Black ford near Blackhill of Stone byres (NT 8343) and Crossford at the present day Crossford NW of Lanark but suggests they were both on Douglas Water. The UWLanarkshire continues the second of the above charters which then reads, "as the road goes from Crawford to the burn which is called Kirkburn, and by that burn into Clude, and on the other side as the Douglas descends from Crawford into Clude." This is a clear indication that there was a Crawford on the Douglas somewhere above the confluence with the Clyde.

Richens suggests Crawford was near Douglasmouth Bridge and the long Black ford was a route through marshy ground between Thievesford and Crawford.

From the above it is clear that there was a ford over the Douglas called Crawford from where a road ran through boggy ground up to Thievesford and continued up to the upper reaches of the Kirkburn. It is not clear what the origin and purpose of this road was and where it continued beyond the Kirkburn and Douglas Water, though Lesmahagow and Biggar are possibilities.

A charter from the time of Abbot Henry (1208 - 1218) relating to Draffane and Dardarrach says, "on the one side as the burn descends from the moss to Naythan and from Naythan into Clyde at Holyn de Pintaurin towards the east and so up that burn to the old ditch and from the old foss to the road which goes between the moss and the hard land to Polneanske and on the other side…."(Greenshields)
Lib. De Calchou page 76, charter 103; Greenshields 51; UWLanarkshire 203; Richens 187

Richens identifies the locations in this and another charter relating to Draffan. She places Holyn de Pintaveryn on the Clyde at NS 822 481 (near Sandyholm) and the "old ditch" of Greenshield’s translation (she renders this as "old digging", perhaps for peat or coal) at NS 811 476, one kilometre east of Netherburn. The moss is Threepwood Moss and the Polneanske is the Dalserf Burn allowing us to place the road as running south of the moss from the "old diggings" over to Dalserf Burn, a distance of just over a kilometre.

The origin and purpose of the track is unclear, nor if it continued beyond these points. It may have been connected with the "diggings" but this is not certain.

A charter of the early 1200’s (Greenshields says Abbot Henry 1208-18) refers to part of Fincurrocks defining it as "the Pollenoran falls into Clyde, and so up the Pollenoran to the leading syke between Gilbertstun and Gilmehaguston, and following it to the burn, and up the burn to the Black ford in the bog, and by the leading syke in the bog to Elwaldesgate, thence to a little burn falling into Culnegaber, and by that burn downwards to the ditch on Esbert’s croft, and thence by the little burn downwards to the great burn of Dunelarg, and so up that great burn to the ford of the road that leads from Lesmahagow to Lanark, and up that road into Dularg, as far as the slender cross (gracilis crux,) and thence to the adjoining valley, and down the burn of Ancellet into Clyde." (OPS)


Greenshields notes that it is difficult to trace these boundaries but tentatively suggests Pollenoran was the Kilbank Burn (presumably the Kirkfield Burn - see 1:25,000 OS map), Blackford was Blackhall, the dry course (his translation is different from the OPS) in the bog was a gorge at Bogside between Dillar and Dumbraxhills, and the Ancillet was the burn at Hallhill.

Although Richens differs from Greenshields with some of these identifications we need only be concerned with the reference to Elwaldesgate and to the road, that it ran from Lesmahagow to Lanark through Dunelarg and then past the "slender cross".

She suggests Elwaldesgate could be Tarbog Yett (NS 836 412) with the Black ford a few hundred metres east of this near the source of the Linn Burn - interestingly she notes that there is a row of boulders along this line.

As the Doularg Burn is Dillar Burn and the road crosses it, it must have been very close to the present road (B7018). This trends north-eastwards to reach a high point near Clarkston Farm which would be a conspicuous place for the cross. From this location, Richens is able to identify the rest of the places in the charter - basically the boundary ran down to the Ancellet which it followed to the Clyde. Both she and Greenshields identify this as the burn running parallel with Black Hill on its west side before joining the Hallhill Burn at Hallhill.

Based on this, it is reasonable enough to assume the road ran from Lesmahagow on much the same line as today though it undoubtedly had the line of the present day minor road between Wester Kilbank and Kirkfield Road (the road beside the Clyde dates from turnpike times) from where a ford or perhaps an early ferry at Boathills could be reached - the earliest mention of the ferry is in 1492 though it could have operated well before that time - see Ross map.

So far as the "Black ford" and Elwaldisgate go, it is noticeable that they are less than a mile from the Kirkburn to where the road from Crauford and Thievesforde ran, on an alignment that could have led to Lesmahagow though of course this is not certain.

It is interesting to see that the Military Survey has a more direct route running between Dillar Hill and Boreland Hill over to Greenrig but the charter evidence for the early road being further north cannot be denied.

Lib. De Calchou page 80, charter 109; OPS, Vol I, page 112; Greenshields 77; UWLanarkshire 217; Richens 184

Douglas (Tordones to Wiston)
Sir William Fraser, in Volume 3 of the Douglas Book refers to a right of way through the Vale of Douglas which was disputed between Sir William Douglas and Melrose Abbey, as follows:

Precept by King John (Baliol) directed to Galfrid of Mowbray, justiciar of Lothian, narrating that the abbot and convent of Melros, after having, in presence of the Bishops of St Andrews and Glasgow and others at Edinburgh, judicially recovered sasine of a common road within the Vale of Douglas, in opposition to William of Douglas, knight, who had often annoyed and harassed them on the said road, which passes from the bounds of the lands of the said religious of Tordones, to the church of Douglas, and then before the park of the Castle of Douglas, through the midst of the said Vale to Huddigystoun, and so upward to Rayerd, and thence to the march of the barony of Wystoun; and charging the justiciar to proceed personally to the said place, and maintain the abbot and monks in said sasine, and to apprehend any persons whom he should find interfering with them, and bring such before the King and his Council. Rokysburg, 13th April (1294)
From Vol.3, page viii, Abstracts; original text p.8; see also Vol.1 p.84. Book digitised by National Library of Scotland. Above excerpt quoted under Creative Commons license: Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK: Scotland.

Melrose Abbey had been gifted considerable lands in central and eastern Ayrshire. One such grant was the rights of pasture in Kylesmuir, a huge area to the east that stretched beyond Muirkirk to the boundaries of Lesmahagow and Douglas. An original requirement for an annual payment and the retention of hunting rights by the grantor were eventually ceded so that the abbey effectively gained complete control of the area. To administer the whole estate, a centre grew up at Mauchine though it could be that the mention of Tordones (probably Tardoes near Muirkirk) implies a more local centre for Kylesmuir, at least in the early years.

A study of the Account Books of 1527-1528 (The Mauchline Account Books of Melrose Abbey, 1527-1528, Margaret H B Sanderson, AANHS, 1975) has given much insight into various aspects of life on the estate including travel. While many journeys would have been local there are records of longer journeys. These included the carriage of fish from Ayr and Irvine, journeys to markets in Lanark, and messengers to places such as Glasgow and Lanark, as well as to Melrose itself.

Places mentioned in the text. Based on quarter-inch OS map, sheets 1 & 2, 1921, 1922. With thanks.

As far as Melrose is concerned one would naturally assume a route through Muirkirk and Douglas but the Account Books imply a different route with a journey via Priesthill, Lanark and Carnwath - perhaps heading towards Strathaven to hit the early route from Irvine and Ayr that came up the Irvine valley and led to Lanark.

The route mentioned in the document (some 230 years before the Account Books and perhaps established soon after the original grant of Kylesmuir, c.1165) does take this natural route. It is more than likely that Tordones is Tardoes, just north-east of Muirkirk, and from where a route to the east would quickly take one into Douglas parish. Various placenames a couple of miles east of the present county boundary indicate that lands here were held by the abbey, namely Monksfoot, Monks Water, Monkshead, Upper Monkshead and perhaps Mannoch Hill.

The route is straightforward as far as Uddington but then becomes unclear as Rayerd is lost. Fraser suggests Redshaw but this seems an awkward routing though it could lead to the bounds of Wiston. Another possibility is a farm called Redmire shown on the Military Survey map c.1750 near the Howgate crossing on the western flank of Tinto. The most direct route from Uddington to Wiston would approximate to the present day minor road (B7055) that leads to Wiston. From there, they may have gone to Biggar, crossing the Clyde near Lamington or up to Wolfclyde which is a couple of miles from Biggar. The Roman road would have been accessed at Lamington.

From Biggar the most likely route would have been by Blythe Bridge and Lyne to Peebles.

Liber Sante Marie de Calchou, ed. Cosmo Innes, Edinburgh, 1846 - copy in Internet Archives
Origines Parochiales Scotiae, Vol. I, ed. Cosmo Innes, Edinburgh, 1850
Upper Ward of Lanarkshire, G Irving and A Murray, Glasgow, 1864:  Vol.1; Vol.2; Vol.3
Annals of Lesmahagow, J B Greenshields, Edinburgh, 1864
Ancient Land Divisions in the Parish of Lesmahagow, Ruth Richens, Scottish Geographical Magazine, Vol.108, No.3, pp 184-189, 1992
The Douglas Book, Vol.3 Charters, William Fraser, Edinburgh 1885
The Mauchline Account Books of Melrose Abbey, 1527-1528, Margaret H B Sanderson, Ayrshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, 1975


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