Mugdock Village

Mugdock was at one time the most important place in the Parish of Strathblane. It was “The Towne and Burgh of Mugdock” and the “head Burgh of the Regalitie of Montrose” with a “weekly mercat ilk fryday and two free faires yearlie”, granted by a 1661 Act of Parliament, following the restoration of the monarchy. In Mugdock village an old public house stood at the east end and at the west end there was a cross.

1. Mugdock Village
Mugdock Village

The market place, where the cattle were bought and sold at the two fairs held in August and November was on Shepherd’s Hill, where the house of Westerton of Mugdock stood. This was the location of the Common of Mugdock where, until the end of the 18th century the sheep and cattle of the portioners [owners of small portions of land] were collected nightly by the community’s shepherd. The “Law Stone of Mugdock” stood on the side of the road a few hundred yards south of Middleton farm-house. It was a huge block of freestone and was the largest of a row of similar stones thought to be a memorial to the dead. About six hundred yards due south of this old stone on the brow of the ” Bank of Mugdock” was St Patrick’s Well. This used to be a sacred well and each Mayday people seeking healing would visit it.

The Barony of Mugdock

The Barony of Mugdock and Easter Mugdock or Mugdock Mitchell formed a large and important part of Strathblane. The Grahams of Montrose were the principal landowners. Its history is complex. A charter of confirmation by King Alexander III, dated 27th December 1253 showed that David of Grahame had received one grant of lands in “Stratblathane” from Maldoven, Earl of Lennox, and a second from Malcolm, this earl’s son, who died in 1248. Sir Patrick Graham was slain at the battle of Dunbar in 1296 fighting against the English for the independence of Scotland. His brother, Sir John the Graham was a friend of Sir William Wallace and was killed at the battle of Falkirk in 1298.In 1458 King James II of Scotland erected the Stirlingshire lands of the Grahams into the Barony of Mugdock in favour of Patrick, Lord of Graham. William third Lord Graham and first earl of Montrose fell at the battle of Flodden in 1513.

Guthrie Smith in his, at times convoluted, explanation of the Barony of Mugdock describes how the Graham family increased their ownership of the parish over the centuries. The lands in Strathblane were seemingly only a small part of the Barony of Mugdock, which at one point took in a large tract of country stretching from Summerston to Killearn.

Mugdock Castle

Mugdock (originally Dineiddwg) Castle in its various forms played a significant role in the district. It stands in a commanding position on a hill in the south-west of the parish. At one time Mugdock Loch completely surrounded and enclosed the castle with its offices, chapel and garden. A ridge of volcanic rock just south of the castle kept the water level high and provided it with a natural defence on three sides. (Blasting in Victorian times lowered the water level by two metres.)

The castle is first mentioned in a vellum document dated 24th August 1372. The original castle was four-sided with four towers joined by a curtain wall. A portcullis once guarded the south entrance. Around the castle were the houses of retainers, with their gardens and crofts.

Painting of Mugdock Castle  south-west tower (from Guthrie Smith)

By charter the Grahams had the right to hold a court and to have a prison for these and other lands in the neighbourhood. Between the castle of Mugdock and Craigend there is a round knoll called Moot Hill or the place of judgement. At one time it was a small island in Mugdock Loch. From this spot the accused, if found guilty, were hurried off to Gallow Knowe, the hill above Craigend castle, where the culprits, if men, were “worreit” (strangled) on the gallows which always stood there ready for such events. Women were “drounit” (drowned) in the pool of water that lay at the foot of the gallows, as hanging was not thought fit for women.

The last hanging at Gallowhill took place on 28 March 1718. Patrick MacNicholl was executed for the murder of John Graham, the jailer at Mugdock Castle. MacNicholl was one of a group of alleged cattle thieves awaiting trial there. They decided to attempt to break out and Graham was stabbed in the mayhem. The prisoners all made good their escape, except MacNicholl who was found stunned and unconscious on the ground. He denied any part in the murder but was found guilty by a jury made up largely of Graham’s kinsmen.

A great hall had been added to the castle in the 15th century and, following the invention of gunpowder, gun-loops appeared. The castle was attacked twice during the reign of Charles I: once in 1641 on the orders of Parliament when James Graham was a prisoner in Edinburgh Castle, and again in 1644 when a raiding party of Buchanans, acting on behalf of the Committee of Estates of the Scottish Parliament, inflicted further serious damage.

Though best known as an antiquarian, John Guthrie Smith worked as an insurance broker, was a prominent member of the Glasgow Merchants’ House and served as Dean of Guild. His father was William Smith of Carbeth Guthrie, where John Guthrie Smith was born in 1834. He is descended from Robert Smith, who had bought Craigend in 1657 (see below).

John Guthrie Smith (from The Baillie)
John Guthrie Smith and Family at Mugdock Castle 1887
Photo courtesy of Angus Graham

Mugdock Castle was in ruins by the mid-17th century and only one tower was left standing. In 1874 John Guthrie Smith took a long lease on the castle and demolished the dilapidated house that had been built within the ruins in the 1650s. He then built a grand turreted mansion in the then popular Scottish Baronial style. It was connected to the first floor of the surviving south-west tower by a covered bridge.

Mugdock Castle pre-1960

The mansion was last occupied in 1948 but by the late 1950s it was a ruin and was demolished in 1967. Today only the tower and some ramparts remain, a popular feature in Mugdock Country Park, which opened in 1981. Its history can be found on several information boards at the site. The tower is accessible on open days and by appointment with Mugdock Country Park (Tel: 0141 956 6100).

Mugdock Castle

Craigend

The estate of Craigend was composed of several parts of the Barony of Mugdock. The Smith family, who acquired the area round Gallowhill in 1660 from the Grahams, had previously been tenants there. Originally the site was no more than a modest house and garden with grass for a cow or two. The first addition to Craigend was made in 1734 by James Smith of Gallowhill, as he was known, and subsequent family members improved and expanded the estate, acquiring the lands of Westerton of Mugdock, Dumbrock and Milndavie. In 1816 James Smith had the house pulled down and built Craigend Castle in the grand Regency Gothic style designed by the celebrated architect Alexander Ramsay. The oak-panelled reception hall featured stained glass windows bearing the family crest. Two drawing rooms were decorated with blue and silver silk wallpaper and carved Gothic-style doors and there were magnificent landscaped gardens. Even the stables (now Mugdock Country Park Visitor Centre) were Gothic.

Craigend Castle post 1816
Stable Block/Garage for Craigend Castle

 All this opulence was on the back of a vast fortune the family had made from the West Indian sugar trade. James Smith’s father, John, had died in 1816 leaving £46,168 in moveable property, and more than £37,000 in Leitch & Smith, a company that dealt in the produce of enslaved people in Jamaica and Grenada. The Smiths of Craigend feature in the Legacies of Slavery database produced by University College London. Further information is available in The Glasgow Sugar Aristocracy, 1775-1838 by Stephen Mullen. However, following emancipation the family fortunes declined and the estate was sold in 1851 to Sir Andrew Buchanan, a diplomat. Later occupants included James Outram, a chartered accountant and nephew George Outram, one-time owner of the Glasgow Herald. He leased the castle from the Buchanans from 1909 until 1919. Sir Harold Yarrow, son of the founder of the Yarrows shipyard, then lived in the castle with his family for the next 27 years.

Guests arriving for a reception at Craigend Castle

In 1948 the estate was sold to zoo keeper Andrew Wilson and his son William, a zoologist. They transformed Craigend into a zoo, featuring more than 2000 animals, kept in enclosures and cages around Gallowhill. The main attraction was Charlie the elephant, who lived in the stable block, along with his keeper Singh Ibrahim, who occasionally took him for a swim in nearby Ebbie’s Loch. But the zoo was not a commercial success and closed in 1955. The stables became the country park’s visitor centre. Craigend Castle is a fenced-off ruin.

Craigend Zoo
Craigend Castle remains

Second World War Anti-Aircraft Gun Site

Along a ridge west of Mugdock Castle an anti-aircraft gunsite was constructed in 1942, following the Clydebank Blitz. It consisted of four emplacements for 3.7-inch guns, along with radar equipment. Soldiers manning the battery were housed in nearby Nissen huts.

Mugdock Gun Emplacements

Mugdock village, once the most important place in the parish, shrank in size in the 19th century and its population dwindled. Today it is a small scattering of houses, with little to indicate its previous status.

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