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Cruck Framed Building (Post Medieval), Kiln Barn (Period Unassigned), Township (18th Century)

Site Name Polmaddy

Classification Cruck Framed Building (Post Medieval), Kiln Barn (Period Unassigned), Township (18th Century)

Canmore ID 63815

Site Number NX58NE 20

NGR NX 590 878

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2019.

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Administrative Areas

  • Council Dumfries And Galloway
  • Parish Kells
  • Former Region Dumfries And Galloway
  • Former District Stewartry
  • Former County Kirkcudbrightshire

Archaeology Notes

NX58NE 20 590 878

Bloomery material from Polmaddy is in Dumfries Museum.

A E Truckell 1964

Excavations were carried out at the 'ferm toun' settlement of Polmaddy, abandoned in the early 19th century. Work was concentrated on the west end of a long structure, 20.5m x 8.9m overall, and a corn drying kiln. The building proved to have at least two structural phases, both 18th century, and this was probably one of the last buildings to be occupied. Excavation has not yet revealed full details of the floor area but the abundance of charcoal and iron slag, and the presence of heavily burnt patches could suggest an industrial function. (Modern Polmaddie farm is at NX 599880).

M J Yates 1975

A deserted settlement situated on gently rising ground north of the Polmaddy Burn. It comprises the footings of at least five rectangular buildings and two corn drying kilns. There are several field walls evident. The excavation appears to be continuing. No iron slag could be seen.

Visited by OS 17 July 1978.

Yates reports on partial excavation of this deserted settlement or 'fermtoun' which comprises numerous house-byres, five corn-drying kilns (three of them kiln barns), a watermill and associated yards and cultivation remains.

M J Yates 1978.

Cruck-slots noted in building 9.

G Stell 1981.

A township annotated 'in ruins', comprising eleven un roofed buildings, one of which is a mill, three corn-drying kilns and a number of enclosures is depicted on the 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map (Kirkcudbrightshire 1853, sheet 9). Ten unroofed buildings, one kiln and some enclosures are shown on the current edition of the OS 1:10000 map (1979).

Information from RCAHMS (AKK) 13 September 1999.


Publication Account (1986)

It is likely that Polmaddy was a joint tenancy farm and, although on record from the early 16th century, most of the surviving remains probably date from the last phases of occupation prior to the abandonment of the site in the early 19th century. The most substantial buildings are a mill and an inn, the latter standing close to the old Kirkcudbright-Ayrshire pack road. At the centre of the township there is an irregular pattern of enclosed fields, and much of the surrounding ground bears the tell-tale corrugations of old ploughing or rig-cultivation. Associated with these arable plots are the remains of no less than five corn-drying kilns. The drystone rubble foundations of the other buildings have few diagnostic features; one at least has a low-level byre drain, and some may have served as byre-dwellings.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Dumfries and Galloway’, (1986).

Publication Account (2009)

The website text produced for Polmaddy webpages on the Forest Heritage Scotland website (

Introduction: A lowland ferm-toun

In a clearing at Castlemaddy Woods, you can explore the remains of Polmaddy, a traditional Galloway ferm-toun, or farming village. Changes in farming, during the 18th and 19th centuries, led to the abandonment of many such small farm villages in this area.

The earliest known records date Polmaddy to the 16th century. In 1505, William McClelland, Laird of Bomby, owned it. King James IV gave Polmaddy to James Hepburn in 1511. By 1541, however, it had returned to the McClelland family; recorded in the will of Thomas McClelland, William's grandson.

In the 1700s, landlords began to make changes to the way they used the land. They were looking to modernise and so introduced new agricultural machinery and farming practices. Called "improvements", these changes aimed to increase productivity and make more profit.

The General Inclosure Act of 1801 allowed landlords to join the land of the small tenant farmers to make larger cattle or sheep farms. This was another element of the improvements. It meant often evicting the small scale tenant farmers, such as those living at Polmaddy.

The situation leading to Polmaddy's abandonment in the early 1800s is unknown. It is more than likely, however, that it was a victim of the "improvements".

People Story: The miller and the outlaw king

Investigate the remains of Polmaddy ferm-toun and you will discover one building slightly larger than the others. This is the old mill, connected through local legend to the outlaw king Robert the Bruce.

In 1307, during the Scottish Wars of Independence against the English, Robert hid in the hills of Galloway. Legend says that he took refuge at the miller's house in Polmaddy before his victory against the English at Glentrool. Later, when he was king of Scotland, he rewarded the miller by giving him the ownership of the mill.

The earliest historic reference to a mill at Polmaddy is over three hundred years later. It is marked on Pont's map published in 1654. Esther Mackormack of Barlae had the rights to the mill in 1697.

Tenant farmers were "thirled", meaning legally bound, to have their grain ground into meal at the local mill. They had to pay a portion of the grain for the privilege. This was often not popular.

One of the types of crops the farmers grew was bere barley, frequently used to make ale. Unusually for a small ferm toun, Polmaddy had its own inn, called Netherward. Located on the main road from Kirkcudbright to Ayr, it was a place for weary travellers to get some refreshment.

Evidence Story: Investigating Polmaddy

In 1971, the Forestry Commission (FC) bought the land where Polmaddy stood. A local, Mr Ansell, informed the FC of the presence of the ferm-toun, which decided to protect the well-preserved remains and make it accessible to the public.

A survey of the site and a small scale excavation informed the plans to protect it.

The fieldwork identified a variety of structures including several houses and byres. A byre would have held animals or crops.

Unusually, four houses are grouped together, two semi-detached houses on either side of a small street.

There were six corn drying kilns on the site. These would have dried the crops brought in from the fields, farmed in the surrounding area. The corn would then have gone to the mill.

The mill was water-powered. The water was carried down from the nearby Polmaddy burn to the mill pond. This was done via a wide, stone lined channel, called a lade.

The sluice gate controlled the supply of water stored at the mill pond. Opening the gate allowed water to run to the mill, turning the waterwheel, which then turned a large grinding stone that ground the grain.


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