IMPROVEMENTS ON THE RIVER-GLENCAPLE QUAY AND VILLAGE FORMED-KINGHOLM QUAY CONSTRUCTED -INCREASE OF TRADE -SMUGGLING -THE DOCK TREES PLANTED – MOORHEAD’S HOSPITAL BUILT AND ENDOWEDAGRICULTURAL IMPROVEMENTS- ANCIENT VALUE OF LAND IN DUMFRIESSHIRE-THE QUEENSBERRY FAMILY-THE SCOTTS OF BUCCLEUCH, AND THEIR INTRODUCTION INTO THE COUNTY-BURGHAL IMPROVEMENTS, AND PECUNIARY DIFFICULTIES – A FRESH LEASE OF THE ALE DUTY ACT OBTAINED.
THOUGH Dumfries was greatly put about, and severely dealt with by the rebels, it soon recovered its equanimity. Except for the difficulty experienced in connection with their exactions, we find no impress of their visit in the records of the following year. How to improve the navigation, and thereby foster the rising trade of the port, was a question that engaged much of the Council’s attention in 1746. About the beginning of the century, buoys had been placed in the lower reaches of the river, and something was done to remove obstructions from its channel; but it had no harbour worthy of the name. In order to supply this felt want, a committee was appointed in March, who presented a report in the following month, from which it appeared that the chief merchants and shipmasters had, at a conference held with them, expressed their opinion that the best site for the proposed harbour was at Glencaple Burnfoot, in the parish of Carlaverock; also that ground, measuring six acres, “for building warehouses upon, and other conveniences,” had been laid out there by Mr. Mercer, mathematician, according to a plan produced; and that, on the committee offering to purchase the land from its proprietor, William Maxwell of Nithsdale, that gentleman “had frankly agreed to make a compliment” of it to the Burgh. A second committee were named to carry this proposal into effect, the instructions given to them being that they should cause a search to be made for a stone quarry near Glencaple, in order that building materials might be conveniently obtained, should make other requisite provisions for constructing the harbour, and should confer with the merchants in town who were not members of Council, as to the best mode of defraying the cost of the operations.
The quay appears to have been completed in the course of the following year. Soon afterwards, houses began to rise up on the hillside overlooking it, and originating the pretty little village of Glencaple, which contains at present about six hundred inhabitants. In the summer of 1749, a beacon, to direct the course of vessels passing from the Solway into the Nith, was erected on Southerness Point; its dimensions being fourteen feet square at the base, two feet and a half thick in the shaft, and thirty feet high. As the Nithsdale family had shown their continued interest in the welfare of the Burgh by the free grant to it of land for the harbour, and also by allowing a search to be made for building-stones in the neighbourhood, the Council reciprocated this kindly feeling, by enacting that all goods passing the bridge for the use of Mr. Maxwell and his successors, should be exempt from duty, a regulation that is still in force.
Another smaller quay was commenced at Kingholm, about a mile below the town, before Glencaple quay was finished. Both were appointed as places of discharge towards the close of 1746; and on the 15th May, 1747, Glencaple quay was first turned to practical account, by having a cargo of Maryland tobacco landed there by the good ship ” Success,” the property of ex-Provost Crosbie, merchant.
With greater facilities for trade, the exports as well as the imports increased: salt, made from sea-sleich, on the Ruthwell shore, had long figured as an article of commerce; and freights of wood, linen cloth, and of leather, from tanneries established in the town, were subsequently added. Smuggling grew in a ratio with the legitimate traffic of the port. It seems to have reached its climax in 1752. During that year it became so systematic and audacious, that the revenue authorities in London were led to make special inquiries regarding it; and the statement returned in answer revealed a very unsatisfactory condition of affairs. “We have reason to believe,” said the Dumfries collector, “that the representation [made by the Board] is so far true, that considerable quantities of foreign spirits, wine, tea, and other goods, have been run in our district for many years past, in open boats, from the Isle of Man; that the smugglers run these goods in fleets of boats, ten or twelve at a time, each of which carries twenty-seven or twenty-eight small casks; that they come in upon the coast at spring-tides, in the night-time, and disperse to different places; that their carriers and assistants are attending upon the shore to receive their cargoes; that they have slings of ropes fitted for the carriage of two casks upon each horse, and in a few minutes after the boats land, receive their carriage and ride off, and before daylight hide the goods many miles distant from the shore, and no doubt convey the greatest part of them into England.” Busy rumour represented to the London Board that the contraband articles were transmitted South from the Solway coast by “great gangs of smugglers armed and disguised;” but the local officer, whilst admitting that the lawless deeds above detailed were of habitual occurrence, doubted the existence of these disguised desperadoes: so that they may be looked upon as somewhat mythical; and, indeed, the running fraternity were so favoured by the country folks that they scarcely required either to mask themselves or their operations.
Whilst increased attention was being paid to the river, its “braes” opposite the Castledykes quarry were partially embanked, and the Dock acquired a heritage of sylvan beauty with which it is still enriched. The Town Council having, for “the good and ornament” of the meadow, wisely resolved to plant a portion of it with trees, were supplied with a number of choice young limes for this purpose from their ducal patron’s grounds at Drumlanrig – his Grace sending down his own gardener, John Clark, to see the precious saplings properly rooted in their new home. This important esthetic operation was performed in the autumn of 1748. The trees numbered at first eighty or more; and though now reduced to thirty-five, they constitute a double woodland row of imposing aspect, for which the inhabitants entertain a feeling of reverence bordering on that cherished by our Druidical ancestors for their groves of oak. About ninety years afterwards, upwards of a hundred young trees were planted, by which the lime-shaded walk was gracefully continued in single file to the foot of the Dock.
Scarcely had the trees from Drumlanrig got accustomed to their fresh soil, than the walls of a new public building began to peer down upon them from the adjoining Kirkgate, and to form an interesting feature of that ancient thoroughfare. This was Moorhead’s Hospital, designed as a domestic retreat for decayed burgesses and destitute orphans, natives of the town. On the 27th of November, 1739, James Moorhead, tenant of Castledykes, and merchant in Dumfries, executed a deed of mortification, by which he bequeathed £150 for this object. By a second deed, of the same date, he joined with his brothergerman William Moorhead, merchant in Carlisle, in mortifying for it £400 – the proportion of this sum contributed by the latter being £100; and, according to the terms of the settlement, the £400 was not payable till the first term of Whitsunday or Martinmas after the decease of the longest liver of the two. William, the survivor, having died towards the close of 1745, the sum (with interest, £79 0s. 3d.) became due at Whitsunday, 1747. The other smaller sum was not available till the 18th of June, 1752, by which time the interest on it had swelled the amount to £232 10s. These figures brought the bequests for the Hospital up to the handsome sum of £711 10s. 3d.; and with it the administrators of the trust, consisting of the Town Council, the two parish ministers, Mr. Robert Wight, Mr. John Scott, and the Kirk Session, were enabled to carry it into full effect. Some old tenements opposite St. Michael’s Church were purchased and cleared away in order that a suitable site might be obtained. A contract was entered into with -James Harley, ” late deacon of the squaremen in Dumfries,” according to which he agreed to erect the building for £564, and it was duly completed and opened in the summer of 1753. A small balance of £52 remained after all expenses had been paid. The funds of the charity were enriched by a donation of £300 from “the good Duke,” and it was further endowed by the legitimate application of various sums mortified for behoof of the Dumfries poor, so that an annual revenue sufficient to maintain from forty to fifty inmates was secured.
The benevolent brothers to whom the town is indebted for this excellent institution intended that it should to some extent be a workhouse in the modern sense of that term. Accordingly, the third rule drawn up by the directors, “relating to the behaviour of the poor,” required “that all who shall be employed in any labour shall repair to such rooms in the house as are appointed for that purpose; and such poor as are capable of working out of the house” shall be permitted by the master to do so, he allowing them in each case a penny for every shilling of their earnings; and by a resolution of the directors of the Hospital in 1756, the sum of £60 was drawn from its funds, to be laid out in buying lint for improving the poorer sort of people in the town and parish of Drumfries to spin into yarn.” For a long period the house has been exclusively a charitable asylum for old people who had seen better days, and for orphan children who receive in it maintenance, education, and guardianship. Its directors have long since ceased to take oversight of the ordinary poor; but by means of legacies left by Mr. Hunter, Mr. Raining, and Mrs. Archibald, they allow small out-door pensions to some twenty-six elderly widows whose dwellings have been left comfortless-perhaps desolate-by the death of their natural protectors. The annual expenditure of the Hospital has sometimes exceeded £600; latterly, including the annuities, it has been limited to about £400. Moorhead’s Hospital is a plain, homely building: the interest attached to it arises from the unobtrusive benefactions of which it is the source, and which give to it in our eyes more than architectural beauty. Honoured in the Burgh through all time be the memory of its liberal-hearted founders!
Soon after the second Rebellion, increased attention was paid to tillage by the farmers of Nithsdale. Fields were enclosed waste lands were reclaimed; shell-marl and lime lent their fertilizing influence to the soil-the culture of the potato was commenced, and afterwards of the turnip; the former supplying a cheap article of diet for all classes, and rendering dearths less frequent; the latter furnishing food for stock, and permitting the cattle trade of the locality to be developed. On the Ayr bank being opened, in 1760, not a few landed proprietors around Dumfries were enabled by its aid to carry out extensive improvements. When intelligence, enterprise, and capital are jointly devoted to a given purpose, they are not easily baffled. Employed upon the husbandry of the district, great results were accomplished, which added to its productive value and scenic beauty. In the year just named the great military road was formed from the County town through Galloway to Portpatrick; and about twelve years later another leading artery of traffic was opened up-the road from Gretna, by Ecclefechan, Lockerbie, and Moffat, into Peebleshire. Thus, whilst Dumfries was being improved externally, the valley in which it rises was growing in rural wealth, and new channels were constructed for its increasing trade.
During the reign of Cromwell, the rents of Dumfriesshire were computed at 238,031 merks, or £13,223 18s. 4d. A hundred years afterwards, the value of the land was threefold that amount at least; in 1795 it had risen to 800 per cent. since 1656; in 1808 this augmented sum was doubled, and the lands of the County were yielding sixteen times the rent drawn from them at the time of the Protectorate. [Forty-two Scotch acres of “ploughable land” belonging to Dumfries at Kingholm were let at an annual rent of £22 sterling in 1712; sixty acres of the same estate brought a rent of £150 in 1817, and were sold in 1827 for £6,300.] A small property in Dunscore, that was purchased in 1756 for £142, yielded a rent of £160 fifty years afterwards; the large estate of Netherwood, which brought only £4,000 in 1740, was sold for £30,000 in 1790; and, generally speaking, the rents of other land around Dumfries experienced a nearly corresponding advance during the half century which followed the introduction of the improvements that have been referred to.
Though the Maxwells suffered severely for their loyalty to the House of Stuart, they still continued to be the leading proprietors of Lower Nithsdale. John, Lord Maxwell, came into possession of the family estate on the death of his father, the expatriated Jacobite chief, in 1744. He died in 1776, and his sole surviving child, Lady Winifred, having married William Haggerston Constable of Everingham, an English stem was grafted on the stock of this ancient and honoured Scottish house. The Johnstones, Douglasses, Murrays, Jardines, Kirkpatricks, Griersons, and Herrieses, were still, as in the old fighting times, large landholders in the County. Its principal proprietor at this period, was Charles, third Duke of Queens, berry. In 1706, his father, “the Union Duke,” resigned into the hands of the Queen his titles of Duke of Queensberry, Marquis of Dumfriesshire, Earl of Drumlanrig and Sanquhar, Viscount of Nith, Torthorwald, and Ross, and Lord Douglas of Kinmount, Middlebie, and Dornock, for a new patent, granting those titles to him and his heirs of entail, male or female, succeeding to the estate of Queensberry, with this proviso, that such heirs of entail should be descended from William, the first Earl. In this resignation, the titles of Marquis, and Earl of Queensberry, Viscount of Drumlanrig, Lord Douglas of Hawick and Tibbers, were not included, so that their descent to his heirs male was not affected by the change.
His third son, Charles, who succeeded him in 1711, died, after a long life of active benevolence, on the 22nd of October, 1778, in his eightieth year. He possessed the largest and the most valuable estate in Dumfriesshire, extending to above 150,000 acres, lying chiefly in the upper part of Nithsdale, and, as we have seen, did much to promote the interests of the County town, where he was exceedingly popular. At the request of the magistrates, he sat for his portrait in 1769; and the picture, which represents a mild, pleasant, portly face, in keeping with his character of goodness, graces the Town Hall in company with the portraits of William and Mary. A neat Doric pillar, erected in Queensberry Square, commemorates the virtues of this nobleman, and testifies to the merited respect in which his character was held by the inhabitants of the County.
As he lost his sons-two in number-during his lifetime, certain British titles conferred upon him, and his Scottish earldom of Solway, became extinct; whilst the dukedom of Queensberry, with very large estates, both in England and Scotland, devolved on his cousin William, Earl of March, who died unmarried so recently as 1810. [This nobleman was, in his “hot youth,” a great patron of the turf. In 1756 he rode a match in person, dressed in his own running stable livery, and won the stakes. In maturer life he abandoned horse-racing, and betook himself to recreations in literature, natural history, and the fine arts. A collection of shells made by him was the finest at the time in Britain.] In him terminated the male line of William, first Duke of Queensberry; and in virtue of the patent issued in 1706, and of an entail executed by the second Duke, the titles of Duke of Queensberry, Marquis of Dumfriesshire, Earl of Drumlanrig and Sanquhar, Viscount of Nith, Torthorwald, and Ross, Lord Douglas of Kinmount, Middlebie, and Dornock, with the barony of Drumlanrig, and other extensive property in the County, devolved on Henry, third Duke of Buccleuch, the heir of line of the Queensberry family, who was thenceforward designated Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry. [This nobleman, who died in 1811, was succeeded by his eldest son, Charles William Henry. He died in 1814, leaving, by his Duchess, Harriet Katherine Townshead, youngest daughter of Viscount Sydney, two sons, Walter Francis, Earl of Dalkeith, who succeeded him, Lord John Douglas Scott, who died in 1860, and six daughters. Walter Francis Montague Douglas Scott, the nobleman who now worthily wears the united dukedoms of Buccleuch and Queensberry, with numerous other titles, was born on the 25th November, 1806; married, 13th August, 1829, Lady Charlotte Thynne, youngest daughter of the second Marquis of Bath, and has issue, William Henry Walter, Earl of Dalkeith, Lord-Lieutenant of Dumfriesshire and M.P. for Edinburghshire; Lord Henry John, M.P. for Selkirkshire; Lord Walter Charles; Lord Charles Thomas; Lady Victoria Alexandrina, married to Lord Schomberg-Kerr in 1865; Lady Margaret Elizabeth; and Lady Mary Charlotte.] In this way the famous old Border family of the Scotts became the leading one in Dumfriesshire; their yearly rental amounting to £74,271 in 1863; while that of the original Queensberry family, [Sir Charles Douglas, who succeeded as fifth Marquis of Queensberry, was descended from Sir William Douglas of Kelhead, second son of the first Earl of Queensberry. He was succeeded by his third eldest surviving son, Sir James Douglas, who by his wife Catherine, daughter of the second Earl of Queensberry, had a son, Sir William, the third baronet. The latter was in turn succeeded by his eldest son, Sir John, who was chosen as the member for Dumfriesshire in 1741. His eldest son, Sir William, who became the fifth baronet, was at one time representative of the Dumfries burghs. By his wife, the daughter and coheir of William Johnstone of Lockerbie, he had five sons and three daughters-the eldest of whom, Sir Charles, as stated in the text, became fifth Marquis of Queensberry. He married Caroline Montague, third daughter of Henry, Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, by whom he had five daughters. He was succeeded by his brother John, who married Sarah, daughter of James Sholto Douglas. Their son, Archibald William, was, as Viscount Drumlanrig, elected M.P. for Dumfriesshire in 1847. He married the daughter of Major-General Sir William Robert Clayton, Baronet, and had issue, four sons and two daughters. Soon after becoming seventh Marquis of Queensberry, he was killed by the accidental discharge of his gun, at Kinmount, on the 6th of August, 1858. His eldest son, John Sholto Douglas, born 20th July, 1844, succeeded him, as the eighth Marquis of Queensberry; and married, in 1866, Sybil, second daughter of Alfred Montgomery, third son of Sir Henry Conynham Montgomery, Bart. ] represented by the descendants of Sir Charles Douglas of Kelhead, amounted, in the same year, only to £12,229.
For awhile the burghal authorities were much engaged with the erection of the Hospital, and in getting it put into good working order. Afterwards we find them busy opening up a new line of street, leading from Lochmaben-gate to the Townhead; widening the way at that entrance to the Burgh, expanding a narrow passage-Calvert’s Vennel-running from High Street to the river’s edge, now called Bank Street ; building a salt market in it; and adopting means for improving the lighting of the principal thoroughfares. These operations increased the debt upon the town; and how to make the income cover the expenditure was a sort of chronic difficulty, which often drove the Town Council to their wits’ end. In order to get rid of its pressure for a season, borrowing money at a heavy rate of interest was often resorted to; and Mr. Richard Lowthian, formerly noticed as Prince Charlie’s host, was the millionaire to whom the Council frequently applied in time of need. In 1752 they became his debtor in £2,000 at one sweep; and soon afterwards they had, as already noticed, to adopt the retrograde course of selling a public establishment-the coffee-house or news-room in High Street, which was bought by that gentleman’s son. To aggravate matters, the Act imposing a duty on ale and tonnage was about to expire. The authorities could scarcely get on with the aid thus afforded them: were it to stop, their credit would be in danger of stopping too. A resolution was therefore formed to obtain, if possible, the renewal of the Act. Entrusted with a mission of this nature, Mr. Mackenzie, town clerk, proceeded in February, 1762, to London-not on horseback, like his predecessors on a similar errand a quarter of a century before, but in a chaise; and after an absence of less than six weeks, he returned, in the same kind of conveyance, with the agreeable announcement that a bill for continuing the duties other twenty-five years had received the royal assent. The bill of 1737 cost, exclusive of personal charges, the sum of £157; that of 1762, £270; the latter amount including £56 as fees for the second reading in the House of Commons. In the former case the personal expenses of Provost Corrie and Mr. Goldie, his colleague, were under £14, while those of Mr. Mackenzie were nearly £37; his chaise hire and charges on the road absorbing about one half of that sum. So well satisfied were the Town Council with that gentleman’s good management in the matter, that they voted him a “gratification” of ten guineas, which, however, he declined to take; and the Council, not to be outdone in generosity, constrained him to accept a set of silver tea-spoons. This fact, trifling in itself, is only noticed as introductory to a remark that the Council books, at this period and during a rougher age, give abundant evidence that the Shylock style of driving a hard bargain, or adhering stubbornly to the letter of an exactive bond, was not the practice of our ancestors.