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.

This edition is copyright © The Editors of the Gazetteer for Scotland, 2002-2022.

It has taken much time and money to make the six-volumes of Groome's text freely accessible. Please help us continue and develop by making a donation. If only one out of every ten people who view this page gave £5 or $10, the project would be self-sustaining. Sadly less than one in thirty-thousand contribute, so please give what you can.

Use the tabs on the right of this page to see other parts of this entry Arrow

Wanlockhead, a mining village in the NE corner of Sanquhar parish, NW Dumfriesshire, 1½ mile SSW of Leadhills, 6½ miles WSW of Elvanfoot station, 8½ SSW of Abington, and 8½ ENE of the town of Sanquhar. It lies, 1350 feet above sea-level, at the head of the lonely glen of Wanlock Water, in one of the bleakest scenes of the Southern Highlands, the chief of the big, smooth hills that rise around it being Wanlock Dod (1808 feet), Green Lowther (2403), Lowther Hill (2377), and Stood Hill (1925). The mines, which alone could people so cheerless and elevated a region, are continuous with those of Leadhills on the Lanarkshire side of the frontier; and jointly with them, they extend to a circumference fully 4 miles in diameter. The Wanlockhead mines were worked as early as 1512. Gold was the primary object of search, and has not yet ceased to be found. Sir James Stampfield opened the lead mines about the year 1680, and worked them on a small scale till the Revolution. Matthew Wilson obtained in 1691 a 19 years' lease, and successfully worked the vein called Margaret's; whilst a mining company, having procured in 1710 a 31 years' lease, commenced to smelt the ore with pit-coal, and partially worked the three veins of Old Glencrieff, Belton, and New Glencrieff, the last of which only proved compensating. The new and large Friendly Mining -Society formed in 1721 a copartnership with the smelting company, and got 15 years added to the 20 which had yet to run of the lease. The two companies jointly worked all the then known four veins for 6 years, when they separated and pursued their object in different localities. But in 1734 both companies resigned their lease; and Alexander Telfer became lessee for the next 21 years. He worked the mines vigorously, and made a richly compensating discovery of a large knot of lead. In 1755, a new company, with Mr Ronald Crawford at its head, became lessees of the whole mines. Their first lease was only for 19 years; but they afterwards obtained an act of parliament extending it to 1812, and, previous to that year, they were granted a new lease to expire in 1842. The new company were enterprising and eminently successful; they discovered new and rich ramifications of the veins; and, when workable ore could no longer be found, they erected a series of steam engines, some on the surface, and some under ground, to carry off water from their borings beneath level. So successful were the operations that during 50 years 47, 420 tons of lead were raised. From 1842 the Duke of Buccleuch retained the mines under his own management; and they are now worked by means of four powerful hydraulic engines and one steam engine. All the most recent mining improvements have been introduced; and the process of refining the bars for the separating of the silver from the lead'is carried on simultaneously with the smelting. The present yearly average of the output is 1000 tons of lead and 5750 ounces of silver. Along with the lead ore or lead glance are small quantities of manganese, ochre, blende, brown hematite, copper pyrites, green lead ore, white lead ore, and lead vitriol. A chapel, built in 1755 by the mining company at a cost of not more than £70 or £80, in 1848 was superseded by a new church with 325 sittings, built and endowed by the Duke of Buccleuch, and raised to quoad sacra parochial status in 1861. It was long ere a site could be got for a Free church, and meanwhile Drs Chalmers, Guthrie, Candlish, etc., preached on the hill-side; but at length a church, with 400 sittings, was opened in 1859. Wanlockhead has also a post office, a reading society (1756), friendly and co-operative societies, an Oddfellows' lodge, a young men's association, a school, etc. Pop. of village (1831) 675, (1861) 743, (1871) 772, (1881) 788; of q. s. parish (1881) 854.—Ord. Sur., sh. 15, 1864. See the Rev. J. Moir Porteous, D.D., God's Treasure-House in Scotland (Lond. 1876).

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

If you have found this information useful please consider making
a donation to help maintain and improve this resource. More info...

By using our site you agree to accept cookies, which help us serve you better