Ancient Monuments

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Muirkirk, remains of tar works, mines and structures east of Garpel Water

A Scheduled Monument in Ballochmyle, East Ayrshire

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Latitude: 55.506 / 55°30'21"N

Longitude: -4.0709 / 4°4'15"W

OS Eastings: 269302

OS Northings: 625533

OS Grid: NS693255

Mapcode National: GBR 3Z.V5QX

Mapcode Global: WH4S1.FVPW

Entry Name: Muirkirk, remains of tar works, mines and structures E of Garpel Water

Scheduled Date: 28 February 1997

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM6640

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Industrial: mines, quarries

Location: Muirkirk

County: East Ayrshire

Electoral Ward: Ballochmyle

Traditional County: Ayrshire


The monument consists of several elements of Muirkirk's industrial past concentrated in one area. These can be divided into three groups, all dating from the late 18th century. The first of these includes the remains of the tarworks and the associated workers' cottages (Coltburn Rows); the second comprising the coal mines and a drainage system, and the third a limestone quarry.

The area to be scheduled contains the following features:

1. The remains of the tar works, set up by Lord Dundonald in 1786 and sold to J.L. Macadam in 1790 (hence the monument to Macadam on the site of the tarworks, set up in 1931). The structural remains consist of the grass-grown foundations of 34 tar kilns and a still-house. To the NW of the tar works can be seen the remains of the workers' cottages known as Coltburn Rows. The tar works were in operation for only a few years and closed in 1809.

2. The coal mines immediately to the W of the tar works, probably the earliest in the district. The coal mining remains include bellpits, very closely spaced with their associated spoil heaps and horse-engine platforms, and the remains of opencast workings. Also included is the artificial water course which runs alongside the SE of the scheduled area, built to divert water from the Colt Burn as a drainage measure.

3. To the south of the coal mines, a large limestone quarry with an inclined plane leading from its SW corner connecting it to one of the network of tram and trackways.

The area to be scheduled includes the tar works, the associated workers' cottages, the coal mines, limestone quarry and drainage channel and the land between and around these features. The boundary runs clockwise along the fence to the E of Macadam's Cairn, due S from the end of that fence and then E along the old course of the Colt Burn until it reaches the new course of the Colt Burn where it turns SW following that course as far as the track.

It turns due S following the track until just before the ford where it turns SW until it reaches Garpel Water. The boundary then runs NW along the E bank of Garpel Water until Tibbies Brig (not included in the scheduled area) where it turns NE until reaching the fenceline to the SW of Springhall. It then runs along the N side of the sheepfold, but excluding the above-ground structure of the sheepfold itself heading ENE until it reaches the track where it began.

The area so defined is irregular in shape with maximum dimensions of 765m N-S by 860m E-W and a ground area of approximately 30 hectares as marked in red on the accompanying map extract.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument to be scheduled is of national importance as a very well-preserved group of late-18th and early-19th-century industrial remains. These include coal and ironstone mines (early examples), a limestone quarry, Macadam's tarworks and associated buildings (e.g. Coltburn Rows) and a drainage system.

In addition to the remarkable field characteristics of the upstanding remains the area proposed for scheduling has the archaeological potential to reveal further historical and technical information on some of early industrial Scotland's most important industries.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as NS 62 NE 16.


Butt, J. (1967) The Industrial Archaeology of Scotland.

Findlay, T. (1986) A Miscellany.

Hume, J. R. and Butt, J. (1966) Muirkirk 1786-1802 The Creation of a Scottish Industrial Community, Scot. Hist. Review, Vol. 45, 160-183.

RCAHMS (1991) Muirkirk, Ayrshire: An Industrial Landscape.

Reader, W. J. (1980) Macadam: the McAdam Family and the turnpike roads, 1798-1861.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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