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Mains of Torhouse, laird's house and farmstead

A Scheduled Monument in Mid Galloway and Wigtown West, Dumfries and Galloway

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Coordinates

Latitude: 54.864 / 54°51'50"N

Longitude: -4.5166 / 4°30'59"W

OS Eastings: 238583

OS Northings: 555033

OS Grid: NX385550

Mapcode National: GBR HH6V.KW5

Mapcode Global: WH3TZ.L0GJ

Entry Name: Mains of Torhouse, laird's house and farmstead

Scheduled Date: 21 September 2017

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13660

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: house

Location: Wigtown

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Mid Galloway and Wigtown West

Traditional County: Wigtownshire

Description

The monument comprises the remains of an mid-18th century laird's house with associated ancillary buildings and structures including a stackyard, threshing barn and corn drying kiln. A raised trackway links the lairds house to a yard containing the latter three structures. The monument is located in the Machars of Galloway on a raised platform within an area of marshy ground surrounded by a number of low lying hills and the River Bladnoch.  

The laird's house is rectangular in plan and is two storey and an attic in height. The front is composed of a symmetrical five bay elevation with a central doorway consisting of an ornate doorpiece with panelled jambs and rusticated voussoirs. Above the doorway is an empty recess, which once held an armorial panel dated 1744 commemorating the marriage of John McCulloch of Torhouse to Mary Boyd. The building stands to full height with flat skews to the gables and a carved cornice although no trace of the roof structure remains. It is likely that a central stair divided the building laterally on both the ground and first floor. There is a small extension on the north-east side of the building which is also ruinous. To the east of the laird's house are the remains of other buildings which stand up to 1.8m high. To the south and east of these are two enclosures now surviving as low stone walls and a metalled trackway which leads through the remains of gateway into the complex.

A range of agricultural buildings, stackyard and corn drying kiln are located approximately 260m to the east of the laird's house. Three buildings measuring 22m east-west to 5.5m north-south stand to the north of stackyard in which stooks (stands for drying sheaves of cut grain stalks) are still visible. Immediately to the north of the buildings is a large circular corn drying kiln.

The scheduled area is irregular on plan, to include the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes all modern fences to allow for maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

The monument is a well-preserved example of a 18th century laird's house with associated buildings and structures. The laird's house is largely intact and survives to wallhead height and retains features such as its elaborately moulded doorpiece in a rustic baroque style, window surrounds and wallhead cornices. It provides opportunities to understand the construction techniques and evolution of this type of building as well as the architectural influences which informed its design.

Although the structure of the laird's house appears to mostly date to the 18th century, documentary references and map evidence demonstrates that there is a long history of occupation on the site, dating to at least the 15th century. The earliest reference to Torhouse is when a Finlay McCulloch of Torhouse is documented in 1466 although the Ragman Rolls (1296) records several McCullochs in Wigtownshire. The site was mapped in the early 17th century by Robert and James Gordon as 'Torhous Mackullo'. This work is mostly based on Timothy Pont's late 16th century work, indicating a significant house on the site at that time.

The house itself contains structural evidence which shows that either an earlier building was radically adapted in the 18th century or, perhaps more likely, masonry from an earlier building from the site was re-used in the construction of the house. While the door and windows in the front elevation form a consistent design, the windows and doorway of the rear elevation vary in detail and some appear to use masonry from an earlier building, potentially dating to the 16th century. Further analysis of the structure could provide important information on the chronological development of the house.

The monument is located on a low raised mound bounded to the north, east and west by marshy ground. There is no indication that this mound is artificial, however, it is likely that it was first occupied in the medieval period as a naturally defensive site. Apart from the re-used stonework within the house, there are no visible structural remains of any earlier buildings on the site. However, there is the high potential for buried archaeological remains related to the medieval occupation of the site. The interior of the building appears to be undisturbed and therefore it is likely that further archaeological deposits associated with the monument's construction, use and abandonment survive. No excavations have taken place outside the house and therefore the area immediately around the building and its ancillary structures retains significant archaeological potential, notably for any remains any domestic accommodation and any middens or formal gardens.

The ancillary structures and buildings are less intact than the laird's house, however, the layout and function of many of these features are still understandable. The ancillary buildings and structures provide an opportunity to understand the layout and function of a laird's house and its component parts - both domestic and agricultural. The stackyard area is the least well preserved part of the site but still retains many original features, such as stooks (stands for drying corn), the corn drying kiln and architectural elements such a ventilation slits in the threshing barn. Survey or excavation of these structures could provide important information on the chronological, function and a form of these structures.

Contextual Characteristics

Mains of Torhouse is a rare example of an 18th century laird's house with its component parts. Lairds were landed proprietors who held land directly or indirectly from the Crown. As the homes of the lesser gentry, laird's houses are a crucial part of the settlement pattern in this period, standing between towerhouses and mansions on the one hand, and more humble dwellings on the other. They have the potential to inform our understanding of the nature of settlement and society in the early modern period.

The occupation of this site seems to have spanned the pre-Improvement and Improvement periods and has the potential to shed light on lairds' involvement in this process. The house at Torhouse is a good example of a laird house's from the first half of the 18th century (an early Type II laird's house as defined in Strachan 2008) being a five-bay, rectangular, gable-roofed block of two main storeys and an attic. It has a symmetrical plan in which a single large room is placed on either side of a central staircase on each floor. However, this example is unusual in that the central bay is give particular emphasis with the rustic baroque doorpiece, armorial panel and an embellished window surround at first floor level. Further research could increase our understanding of the influences which informed the design of the house.

There are relatively few examples of laird's houses in Dumfries and Galloway and the majority of those that survive have been adapted for continued occupation. Mains of Torhouse represents an important example of a laird's house that was abandoned yet survives in a recognisable and understandable form and retains its ancillary buildings and structures.

Associative Characteristics

The monument has associations with the McCulloch family who are on record as coming from Wigtonshire on the Ragman's Roll in the late 13th century. The family are first recorded at Torhouse in 1466 and occupied the lands and farm until 1822.

Mains of Torhouse is marked on Gordon's map of coast (1636-52), Blaeu's Atlas of Scotland (1654), Adair's map of Galloway (1685), Moll's maps of Scotland (1745), Roy's Military Survey of Scotland (1747-55) and Ainslie map of the County of Wigton 1782.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance as it contributes to our understanding of early modern laird's houses, as well as wider early modern society. The site has a range of significant features including a post-medieval lairds' house, ancillary structures and associated agricultural buildings. Historical documents provide a context for these remains and demonstrate that the site has a long history of occupation dating from at least the 15th century through to the early 19th century. There is high potential for archaeological remains to survive relating to the occupation of the site include the buried remains of an earlier house/s. The laird's house is a well preserved example of an early to mid-18th century laird's house which has unusually decorative features. The survival of its associated agricultural buildings and structures adds to its rarity and importance. Overall, this site can significantly expand our knowledge and understanding of medieval and post-medieval high status settlement as well as their chronology, design and the cultural and societal influences that have informed their development.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

Adair, John 1865. A mape of the west of the Scotland containing Clydsdail, Nithsdail, Ranfrew, Shyre of Ayre, & Galloway/ authore Jo. Adair.

Ainslie, John 1782. A map of the County of Wigton.

Ainsle, John 1821. Ainslie's Map of the Southern Part of Scotland.

Blaeu, Joan, 1654. Gallovidiae, Pars Occidentalior, in qua Vicecomitatus Victoniensis cum Regalitate Glenucensi, [vulgo], The Sherifdome of Wigtoun wt the Regalitie of Glen-Luze, both in Galloway / auct. Timoth. Pont.

Gordon, Robert 1636-52. A map of the coast from Loch Ryan nearly to the head of the Solway.

Moll, Herman 1745. The west part of Galloway : Contains the Shire of Wigton / by H. Moll.

Ordnance Survey 1850. Wigtownshire, Sheet 19 (includes Kirkcowan; Kirkinner; Penninghame; Wigtown). Six-inch 1st edition.

Ordnance Survey 1895. Wigtownshire 021.09 (includes Kirkinner; Wigtown). 25 inch 2nd and later editions.

Ordnance Survey 1896. Wigtownshire Sheet XXI.SW (includes Kirkinner; Wigtown). Six-inch 2nd and later editions.

Ordnance Survey 1907. Wigtownshire Sheet XXI.SW (includes Kirkinner; Wigtown). Six-inch 2nd and later editions.

Ordnance Survey 1908. Wigtownshire 021.09 (includes Kirkinner; Wigtown). 25 inch 2nd and later editions.

Ordnance Survey 1961. NX35. 1:25,000 maps of Great Britain.

Strachan, Sabina 2008. The Laird's Houses of Scotland: From the Reformation to the Industrial Revolution, 1560-1770.

HER/SMR Reference

MDG26026

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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