The rich industrial heritage associated with Creetown owes its origins to the natural resources of the surrounding landscape. The village (once called ‘Ferry Toon o’ Cree’) had a thriving harbour with a ferry crossing to Wigtown and in the 18th and 19th centuries a range of mills, mines and quarries (including the area’s famous granite quarries), a tannery and a wood yard provided employment for the folk of Creetown.
In particular the expansion of granite quarrying in the mid 1800s brought great prosperity to Creetown. Creetown’s white granite is of a very high quality and not only was it used to build Liverpool Docks, but it was sent all over the UK for building and paving stones and for the manufacture of setts for road surfacing.
A long working relationship also existed between Balloch Wood and the village of Creetown. Creetown lies where the Balloch and Moneypool Burns converge just before emptying into the River Cree.
In the eighteenth century water from the Balloch Burn powered a waulk mill, located in the heart of Balloch Wood near the ford; a carpet mill was located on the edges of the wood and Creetown village; and a grain mill in Creetown village was fed by water running down a lade from the Balloch Burn.
A lead mine was located on the steep sides of the burn in Balloch Wood between 1862 and 1864, yielding 11 ½ tons of lead ore, and the area where the wildlife ponds are now (and where the curling ponds were previously) was a sand and gravel pit. Timber from the wood was used for local buildings, furniture and many other uses, although there is evidence from the late 18th century that peat provided the principle source of fuel.
The early editions of Ordnance Survey maps in the mid 19th century show some evidence of settlement in Balloch Wood, although the potential for this was naturally limited by the steeply wooded valleys. Archaeological remains are confined to the less steep, formerly unwooded parts of Balloch Wood.
Just north of the ford, not far from the location of the also by now ruined waulk mill, there are ruins marked of what were presumably farm buildings. The main steading is called Ballochanamour (the same name as is given to the woodland at this time meaning pass of the trough or hollow place) and another smaller one, higher up the hillside surrounded by a curvilinear dyke, was presumably a pre improvement farmstead.
By the turn of the century the former farmsteads appear to have been converted into small enclosures. Both the waulk mill and the remains of Ballochamour have been identified as places or archaeological interest.
The bridge where the Old Military Road crosses the Balloch Burn near the current wildlife ponds was marked ‘Billy’s Bridge’ on eighteenth century maps after Billy Marshall who had a camp near the bridge. Marshall was known as the Galloway Tinker, renowned for both leading Bonnie Prince Charlie across the sands, for making a living from holding up travellers through the area and for living until age 120 during which time local legend has it that he married 17 times!
By the end of the century the bridge had been modernised and simply renamed the ‘Balloch Bridge’, although it is not known exactly when.
The Corse of Slakes (or Old Military) Road itself was built in the mid eighteenth century following a time of general unrest and Jacobite rebellion in various parts of the country in the earlier 18th century.
The Government felt as though they required better communications with all parts of the country, including Galloway which they felt was impenetrable, and they also wanted easier access for troops travelling to Ireland via Portpatrick.
The potential for a road was surveyed in 1757 and built by the military in 1763-4. The men were closely supervised and were expected to build 1 ½ - 2 ½ yards per day depending on the type of ground on which they were working. They started work at 3am and finished at 1pm and it appears that some worked for farmers after they had finished their own stint or were asked to work on for a few more hours but paid overtime in cash. They were billeted upon the local population compulsorily but the landlords were paid 22 pence per week plus each man’s peck of oatmeal per week.
About 40 women appear to have also worked with the troops and they were allowed half a peck of meal per day. The local inhabitants did not take kindly to having troops billeted on them, though this was only for 92 days per year.
The original road was diverted by Drumraik in 1811, the original having continued along the banks of the Balloch Burn to Hill House, presumably because Hill House was at this time being reconstructed from a farm house into a mansion house.
Map Grid References:
Balloch Bridge: NX 4920 5909, an old bridge, not dateable and now modernised.
Waulk Mill: NX 4850 5885 (a single unroofed building annotated ‘Waulk Mill’ (in ruins) is depicted on the 1st edition of the OS 6 inch map (Kirkcudbrightshire 1853, sheet 42), but is not shown on the current edition of the OS 1:10000 map (1993).
Ballochanamour Farmstead: a farmstead, comprising one roofed building, one unroofed structure annotated ‘Ruins’ and one enclosure is depicted on the 1st edition of the OS 6 inch map (Kirkcudbrightshire 1853, sheet 42). One unroofed building of two compartments is shown on the current edition of the OS 1:10000 map (1993).