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Penpont

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Penpont (Cymric pen-y-pont, ` head of the bridge '), a village and a parish of Upper Nithsdale, NW Dumfriesshire. The village stands 200 feet above sea-level, near the left bank of Scar Water, 15 miles NNW of Dumfries, 3 WSW of Thornhill station, and 2 W by S of Thornhill town, under which it has a post office, with money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments. A pleasant little place, it is lighted with gas, and well supplied with water. Pop. (1861) 494, (1871) 632, (1881) 437.

The parish is bounded N by Sanquhar, NE by Durisdeer, E by Morton, SE by Closeburn, S by Keir, and SW by Tynron and the Kirkcudbrightshire parish of Dalry. Its utmost length, from WNW to ESE, is 13 miles; its utmost breadth is 4 miles; and its area is 34½ square miles or 22,099¾ acres, of which 138½ are water. Scar Water, rising in the extreme NW at an altitude of 1600 feet above sea-level, winds 17 miles east-south-eastward - for the last 55/8 miles along the Tynron and Keir boundary-until, at a point 13/8 mile above its influx to the Nith, it passes off into Keir. During this course it is joined by Glenmanno, Chanlock, and eighteen other burns. The Nith curves 2 5/8 miles east-by-southward along the eastern border; and Maar or Park Burn, its affluent, traces much of the Durisdeer boundary. The surface is hilly, sinking at the south-eastern extremity to 190 feet above sea-level, and rising thence to 717 feet near Auchenaight, 996 at Auchenbainzie Hill, 12l1 at Merkland Hill, 1813 at Cairnkinna Hill, 1441 at Craigdasher, 1581 at Glenwhargen Craig, 1640 at Countam, 1658 at Rough Hill, and 1902 at Corse Hill, of which the three last cuvminate right on the confines of the parish. The scenery in the NW is wildly but romantically upland, sending up summits which compete in all the elements of mountain landscape with any S of the Grampians; in the central district it is still upland, but of softer feature and lessened elevation; and in the SW it passes through the gradations of towering hill, considerable eminence, and gentle swell, till it finally subsides into a belt of alluvial plain. Two-thirds or more of the whole area are arranged lengthwise into four steep ridges and three deep narrow glens, each of the latter watered by a very pure and plentiful stream. Scar Water's hill-screens over great part of its course are so steep and high, tufted with copses below, and dotted over with sheep in the ascent, and its basin is so narrow and rocky, so rapid in gradient, and so embellished with trees and cultivation, as to be rife with picturesqueness and romance. The ridge between it and Chanlock Burn comes boldly and steeply down in the form of a mountain-wedge, to their point of confluence, there being feathered all over with trees, and confronting hill-screens on the opposite sides of the glens, arrayed in the richest green, with which it forms, as seen a little down the course of the united stream, one of the finest landscapes. In the bosom of the Scar's left mountain flank, 2½ miles above this point, rises almost sheer from the glen the stupendous crag of Glenwhargen, a mountain mass of nearly naked stone, amidst highlands where all else is green or russet-one of the greatest curiosities in the South of Scotland. About 1¾ mile SE of it appears the summit of Cairnkinna, crowning a gradual ascent and commanding a view of large parts of Nithsdale and Annandale, considerable portions of Ayrshire, Kirkcudbrightshire, and Clydesdale, and some blue and hazy summits in Cumberland. Park Burn runs cheerily through the pleasure-grounds of Drumlanrig Castle, and on the Durisdeer side is overlooked by that stately ducal pile. The prospect down both the Nith and the lower Scar is extensive and enchanting, and presents a foreground of highly cultivated haughs and hanging plains, diversified by swells and gentle eminences, thriving woods, and pretty villas, with a singularly varied back-ground, now boldly and abruptly mountainous, and now retreating slowly upward from lowland to soaring summit. From a plain, the site of the church and manse, on the Scar's left bank 1 mile from the nearest reach of the Nith, both rivers are distinctly seen for about 8 miles, first separate, and then united, their pools appearing at intervals as smooth sheets of water, and their haughground converted, on occasion of a heavy freshet, into a little island sea a mile in breadth. Not far from this point a modern bridge spans the Scar between two steep rocks, on the site of an antique so-called Roman bridge, whose one large semicircular arch, completely mantled with ivy and woodbine, was removed in 1801. The banks of the stream here are high and skirted with wood, the channel rocky and obstructed with loose blocks; and, at Glenmarlin Pool a little way above, the stream forms a series of foaming cataracts.

Barely one-eighth of the entire area is capable of cultivation; but improvements of every sort on the land hale been conducted, and still are carried forward, with the greatest energy and success. The woods of Drumlanrig are very extensile; and its magnificent gardens (1830-36), which, together with the elegant cottage for the gardener, from a design by Mr Burn, cost upwards of £11,000, fling enchantment over the district along the Park Burn. Orchards and small gardens are objects of general care. The soil in the many arable spots among the hills is light, early, easily improvable, and very fertile. The herbage on the uplands is excellent. White and red sandstone abounds in the lower district; trap has been quarried for building material from among the hills; lead ore exists, and is thought to be plentiful; and coal is said to hale been accidentally stumbled upon, but has never been formally searched for. Dow or Dubh Loch was famed, in the days of superstition, for its alleged power of healing all sorts of- diseases, and had its water-spirit, to whom devotees left some part of their dress as an offering. Glenmanno Burn, an early and wild little tributary of the Scar, through a bleak sheep-walk among the hills, is associated with curious and stirring anecdotes of a sheep farmer, John M'Caul or ` Strong Glenmanno ' (1621-1705), an account of whose strange feats of physical strength is still preserved in the Session Records. At the confluence of Park Burn with the Nith are vestiges of Tibbers' Castle, supposed to hale been of Roman origin, and to hale got its name in honour of Tiberius Cæsar. This castle was garrisoned by the English in the early part of the wars of the succession, and was taken by surprise by Sir William Wallace. The barony on which the castle stands, and a hill in its vicinity, also bear the name of Tibbers. A Roman causeway is traceable up the Scar and into Tynron; and there are vestiges of a Roman encampment. An ancient obelisk or Runic cross, 10 feet high, fixed in a socket of two steps, stands on the Boatford estate. Its sculptures or inscriptions are almost defaced; nor does it figure in either record or any distinct tradition. There are likewise in the parish two motes, and four very large cairns. For 4½ miles at the upper end, the parish has no road; for 5½ more it has only one along the Scar, but elsewhere it is tolerably well provided. - Its southern margin is traversed by the road from Thornhill to Moniaive; and all its south-eastern district has near access to the Thornhill and Carronbridge stations of the Glasgow and South-Western railway. The Duke of Buccleuch owns six-sevenths of all the parish, 3 other proprietors holding each an annual value of between £100 and £500, 2 of from £50 to £100, and 12 of from £20 to £50. Penpont is the seat of a presbytery in the synod of Dumfries; the living is worth £461. The parish church, built in 1867 at a cost of £3000 from plans by the late Charles Howitt, architect to His Grace, is a handsome Gothic edifice, said to be one of the finest parish churches in Scotland, with 500 sittings, an organ, and a spire 120 feet high. The East Free church dates from Disruption times; the West (1791; 500 sittings) till 1876 was Reformed Presbyterian; and the present Reformed Presbyterian church was built in 1875, and contains 300 sittings. At Burnhead is a U.P. church (1800; 700 sittings); and two public schools, Penpont and Woodside, with respective accommodation for 210 and 41 children, had (1883) an valleys average attendance of 121 and 37, and grants of £120, 8s. 6d. and £40, 13s. Valuation (1860) £7123, (1884) £8738. Pop. (1801) 966, (1831) 1232, (1861) 1326, (1.871) 1323, (1881) 1176.—Ord. Sur., shs. 9, 15, 1863-64.

The presbytery of Penpont, meeting at Thornhill, comprises the quoad civilia parishes of Closeburn, Durisdeer, Glencairn, Keir, Kirkconnel, Morton, Penpont, Sanquhar, and Tynron, and the quoad sacra parish of Wanlockhead. Pop. (1871) 13,171, (1881) 12, 932, of whom 1379 were communicants of the Church of Scotland in 1878.-The Free Church also has a presbytery of Penpont, with churches of Closeburn, Glencairn, Penpont, Sanquhar, and Wanlockhead, which six churches together had 1636 members in l883.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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