A Carswell Mystery Hamlet
Bob De Boo
Thanks to our Internet connections – in this case to John Carswell of Australia and to Jim Carswell of Kircudbright, Scotland – we find that there is something new about Carswell popping up just about every month. During our electronic discussions, the possible linkage of our Thomas (c 1747 – 1839) to one of the Renfrewshire families has been of special interest. By chance, John found the initial reference, and Jim sent copy of the following item on a typewritten manuscript entitiled “Garlieston village” apparently for a publication entitled “Garlieston, Then and Now” (author unknown at this time).
“When Lord Garlieston picked the land of Pouton as the situation for the new residence of the Earls of Galloway in the mid 18th Century, a small fishing hamlet known as Carswell was near the chosen site. He made plans to re-site the village on a “shelving sea beach” where two burns, the Pouton Burn and the Kilfillan Burn, ran into the crescent of Pouton Bay. The new village, still called locally Carswell for atime, was (later) officially named Garliestown to perpetuate the name of the founder. Pouton Bay was renamed Garliestown Bay.
Feus were first given to the re-housed fisher folk and seafarers of Carswell. Existing houses in the village (Garliesiown) date from as early as 1764. By 1799 the village boasted 400-500 inhabitants, many in employment to the new Galloway House and estate as servants, farm workers, foresters, and gardeners. Other trades, crafts, and services sprang up to meet the needs of the villagers. Fetes were granted in the name of God for as long as wood grows and water runs'. The 1841 Statistical Account described the houses of Garliestown as being generally well-built of whinstone from Sophie Parish and American pine, imported annually to the district..."
Garlieston (Fig. 2; Website http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/garlieston/garlieston ) is located ---- 6 miles southeast of Wigtown (as the crow flies), and about 14 miles to the west, across Wigtown Bay and down the road from Kirkcudbright. The original Carswell hamlet at Galloway House is about a mile or so southwest of Garlieston (Fig. 3). The primary question of interest was, of course: "Is this old abandoned hamlet, which was expropriated and destroyed by milord to allow for his Galloway House estate mid- 18 th century, a possible link for our isolated family in Kirkcudbrightshire, and perhaps to those in the vicinity of Glasgow?" After the forced relocation, did one of the Carswells there keep going, across the Bay and up the Solway Firth, to farm eventually in Kirkgunzeon Parish? Was the hamlet the birthplace circa 1747 of our Thomas?
Big questions, and surely beyond our own independent research capability. So, John Carswell kept searching for clues on the Internet, and we asked Jim Carswell at Kirkcudbright and Tommy Henderson, Curator of the Dalbeattie Museum, to give a hand.
Together, they have produced the following information to date: The earliest known reference to the hamlet was forwarded to us by our Australian sleuth, John Carswell –
"Extract Decreet (decree) of the Lords of Council in the action by Uchtred McDowell of Garthland v Alexander Campbell son natural to deceased Finlay Campbell of Carswell, for production of rescission and annulment of a contract dated at Wigton 14 Dec 1561, whereby Alexander was to get his said father to interdict himself from disponing or wadsetting his lands and to put Uchtred in fee of the lands of Corswell (sic) subject to the liferent of the said Finlay Campbell and his spouse. If Finlay put Alexander in the fee of Corswell Alexander was to renounce in favor of Uchtred In that case Uchtred was to infeft Alexander in a £6 land viz.: - 40/- lands of Arreis, 40/- land of Douloch and 40/- land of Kyrkbrok (sic), and to solicit the Abbot and Convent of New Abbey to set the teinds of Kyrkcum to Uchtred; and that Uchtred should not have to fulfill the decreet of _Jan 1567 which assoilzed Alexander from removing from the lands pursued by Marion Campbell of Corswell and the said Uchtred. Defendant not appearing, decreet for pursuers." [GD138/1/127 - National Archives of Scotland]
One individual was found in the 1648 Parish List for Wigtownshire & Minnigaff - Elisabeth Carswell, age 53 (ref http://freepages.history.rootsweb.com/~leighann/index.html) . The following records were obtained from the IGI (International Genealogical Index) files:
This small amount of information confirms the presence of Carswells in Wigtonshire for at least two hundred years prior to the mid-18th C expulsion from the Carswell hamlet, and for at least one hundred years thereafter. The Christian/first names also jive with those in our Kirkgunzeon line. More recent records, including for the present time (e.g. via www.whitepages.com) are few, however. They indicate decline in the Carswell population in this part of Southwestern Scotland, and suggest considerable emigration during the past 150 years.
However, more work is required to determine possible migratory routes such as from Renfrewshire to Wigtonshire to Kirkcudbrightshire (Kirkgunzeon Parish). We need contact with an informed Carswell with roots at the mystery hamlet. And we probably need to undertake some deep digging into 16th and 17th C records to learn more about the origin of this place.
Tommy and Phemie Henderson made an excursion to the Carswell Hamlet site during late winter 2004. Here are a few excerpts from his report dated 10 March 2004: "...Phemie and 1 set off in the morning... it was a bright but cold day. We asked some locals where we would find the Carswell hamlet. Most of them knew about the hamlet, and told us where we could find the site it stood on. We had to walk about 11/2 miles due west of Garliestown, following the Bay round... it also skirted the boundary wall belonging to Galloway House.
Through a wooded area, we came across the first signs of old buildings (Figs,4,5)...built with random stone and altered several times over the years (Figs. 6, 7) . There was also an old wall hidden under the vegetation and beside a small burn.
...no Carswells live in the area now, and there are no farms or any buildings that carry the name of Carswell in the vicinity. The hamlet seems to have been a busy place at one time... the name remains a mystery for now."
The coastal area around the mystery hamlet site is picturesque and historic – milord clearly had good taste when locating Galloway House. On 16 March 2004, Jim Carswell wrote: "Thought this photo (Fig. 8) might he of interest to you. The square block (a) to the left of the picture is one end of the cable winch for taking materials out to the Bay for the construction of the WWII Mulberry Harbours (used for the Invasion W. Normandy, 1944). If you look at the darker trees above it, and go at right angles to the line of the beach at that point, up past the tree for a short distance, you would arrive at Galloway House.
The coastal area around the mystery hamlet site is picturesque and historic – milord clearly had good taste when locating Galloway House. On 16 March 2004, Jim Carswell wrote:
“Thought this photo (fig 8) might be of interest to you. The square block (a) to the left of the picture is one end of the cable winch for taking materials out to the Bay for the construction of the WWII Mulberry Harbours (used for the invasion of Normandy, 1944). If you look at the darker trees above it, and go at right angles to the line of the beach at that point, up past the tree for a short distance, you would arrive at Galloway House
Phemie Henderson at Carswell hamlet ruins near Galloway House
View from inside ruin looking towards nearby Rigg Bay
Rigg Bay showing concrete winch anchor (a) and approximate location of the old Carswell fishing hamlet (b). (Photo by Des Dillon published in Scotland on Sunday 14 March 2004 with accompanying short text:
"Rigg Bay is a gorgeous horseshoe sandy bay with woodland right to the edge of the beach. I live nearby and go there twice a day with my dogs. There's rarely anybody else there
I work in Edinburgh every day and when I get home the dogs and I head for the bay. The closer I get, the more chilled out I feel. It's like a fabric softener for the mind — it smoothes out all the tangles. I've been there in all kinds of moods — good, bad, happy, sad.
It faces east so there's rarely any wind, and even in January it's quite a warm place as it's washed by the Gulf Stream. There are about five or six palm trees growing because there's never any frost. I think it's the warmest place in Scotland, with the least rainfall.
Since we moved, I've learned how to windsurf. I surf across the bay, take in the view then surf hack. It's beautiful.")
Garlieston is situated behind the trees at the extreme right of the picture, so I would guage that Carswell Hamlet would be a bit to the left, going inland towards Galloway House, roundabout where the fir tree is sticking up above the other trees (b).
[Got that? This bit of information will be especially useful for pilgrim mariners from the South Pacific and from North America sailing in here for a walkabout after tying up at that big cement block...]
In effect, the Carswells formerly dwelling at the site of Galloway House add new dimension to our geographical searching for family linkage. The occupational activities of these people is of particular interest when considering the seafaring business interests and first names of some individuals of our Kirkgunzeon line