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Gatehouse of Fleet, Kirkcudbrightshire

Historical Description

GATEHOUSE OF FLEET, a burgh of barony, manufacturing town, and port, partly in the parish of Anwoth, but chiefly in the parish of Girthon, stewartry of Kirkcudbright, 7 miles (W.) from Kirkcudbright; containing 1832 inhabitants, of whom 419 are in the parish of Anwoth. This place, which was built on the site of the ancient town of Fleet, about the middle of the last century, takes its name from an old tenement, the only house at that time in existence, which was situated at the gate of the avenue leading to Cally. The mansion of Cally was the family seat of the founder, James Murray, Esq., of Broughton, and is now the residence of his descendant, who is lord of the manor and superior of the burgh. Gatehouse is pleasantly seated on the river Fleet, near its influx into Fleet bay, and consists principally of three spacious and well-formed streets, parallel with each other, and of which the eastern leads to a handsome stone bridge of two arches, connecting it with that portion of the burgh lying on the opposite bank of the river. The houses are well built and of good appearance; the inhabitants are amply supplied with water; and the immediate vicinity of the town abounds with pleasingly-diversified and interesting scenery. The chief manufacture is that of cotton, introduced here by James Murray, Esq., who for that purpose induced Messrs. Birtwhistle and Sons, from Yorkshire, to erect two large mills, which for some years have been conducted by their lessees, John Mc Kie and Company, by whom the business is carried on with great success. One of these mills was destroyed by an accidental fire in 1840, but has been rebuilt, and fitted up with machinery of the most improved kind. Both are in full operation, affording employment to 200 persons. The works are driven by two water-wheels of fifty-five horse power, supplied by a tunnel cut from Loch Whinnyan at an expense of £1400; and the average quantity of cloth annually made is 60,000 pieces, twenty-four yards each in length. A brewery has been established upon a moderate scale. There is a tannery on the west bank of the river; green hides are dressed in the town, to the amount of £400 annually; and about 60,000 bricks are made in some works a little to the north.

The trade of the port consists chiefly in the exportation of cotton goods, leather, and agricultural produce; and in the importation of cotton, wool, timber, lime, coal, wine, and groceries. Several vessels belong to the port, averaging eighty tons' burthen: in 1840 the number of vessels that entered inwards was forty-two, of 931 tons' aggregate burthen; and in the same year sixteen cleared outwards, of 395 tons. The harbour, called Boat-green, about 300 yards below the bridge, is accessible for vessels of 160 tons, and has been greatly improved, at a cost of nearly £3000, by the Murray family, who in 1824 constructed a canal 1400 yards in length, into which they diverted the waters of the Fleet, which previously inundated the lands at every tide. By this work, the navigation from Fleet bay to the town has been much facilitated, and a considerable tract of marshy ground reclaimed. From two rocks on opposite sides of the canal, a swivel bridge has been thrown across, which has removed the road from the demesne of Cally, and affords an easier approach to the town. A market is held on Saturday, which is amply supplied with provisions of all kinds: there are large markets for cattle, for eight successive weeks, beginning on the first Friday in November; and a fair is held on the 27th June, or Monday after. Gatehouse was erected into a burgh of barony, by royal charter, in 1795, and is governed by a provost, two bailies, and four councillors, annually elected by the resident proprietors of £2 annually. The magistrates exercise civil and criminal jurisdiction within the burgh, but only to a small extent; and there is a prison for the temporary confinement of petty offenders, but it is seldom used. The post-office has a daily delivery; and a branch of the Western bank of Scotland has been established. Facility of communication is afforded by good parish roads, kept in repair by statute labour; and the turnpike-road from Dumfries to Portpatrick passes through the town.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 1851 by Samuel Lewis