Kirkbean Parish Heritage Society - Historic Sites

Preston Cross


Preston is first mentioned in 1296 when, after the battle of Falkirk, St.John de St. John was granted Balliol's lands of Buittle, Glasserton and Preston'.

Robert the Bruce granted the lands to Sir James Douglas, along with Buittle and other Balliol lands in 1325. By 1375 ‘all of the barony of Preston' was held by Sir James Douglas of Dalkeith. In 1451 William, 8th Earl of Douglas received a charter of confirmation of the superiority of the lands at Preston, with the lands still held by James Douglas of Dalkeith, but William was murdered 8 months later by James II at Stirling. In 1457 James Douglas of Dalkeith was created Earl of Morton, on the eve of his marrying the kings deaf daughter, Joan Stewart.

The 2nd Earl Morton resigned the lands and barony in favour of his son, also James, who was marrying Lady Katherine Stewart, the king's natural daughter. James and Katherine received a Crown grant for the lands. Wreaths is described as the Mains of Preston in 1529, when James V accused Robert, 4th Lord Maxwell of witholding the lands from Katherine, Countess of Morton.

In 1543 Katherine's grand-daughter, Elizabeth, married James Douglas of Pittendreich, and as part of the betrothal James was granted the earldom of Morton, the lordship of Dalkeith ‘including Preston, Borgue and Buittle' on the death of the 3rd Earl, which occurred five years later in 1548. After the execution of James, Earl of Morton in 1581 his lands and titles were forfeited, and passed to John, the 7th Lord Maxwell; but five years later king James VI changed his mind, reversed the attainder and the land and titles passed to Archibald, Earl of Angus and heir-male of Morton.

When he died three years later without male issue, the Earldom of Morton fell to a distant relative, Sir William Douglas of Lochleven, whose family still hold the title.

Preston was erected as a Burgh of Barony and Regality in 1663 and the newly established town is said to have had a jail and public buildings. The Old Statistical Account records that the village was inhabited, some years previously, by twenty-four farmers but that there were, in 1795, only three with their cottagers, while the New Statistical Account says that there was only one inhabitant in 1844.

The cross, apparently the market cross, is all that remains. It is said to have been lost after 1794 and to have been dug up shortly before 1850, erected on a new granite base with three steps and enclosed by a dry-stone wall. The shaft is 6 ft. 4 in. high, cut from a single block of yellow freestone.

West Preston


BUILDING (Post Medieval to 18th Century - 1601 AD? to 1800 AD?)


Ruined long building, visible on aerial photographs, but not shown on any Ordnance Survey map. This indicates that the

building was out of use, reduced and therefore not recorded by 1850. The other slight possibility is that it was constructed,

used and demolished within the first half of the 20th century, when there was no mapping undertaken in the area.


STRUCTURE (Unknown date)


'In March 1963 Mr Kirkland of Cowcorse Farm reported that a large stone had been turned up in one of his fields. Detailed examination showed that there was a stone structure of granite boulders forming an E-W channel topped by smaller stones, on which rested large flat sandstones, lying north-south.

The whole was 9 ft. 9 ins. long, 6 ft. 6 ins. broad and 2 ft. 9 ins. in height. The top lay about 8 ins. below present surface. The purpose of the structures is not clear. It was not a burial. It could have been a kiln of sorts except for the fact that there is no bowl or fireplace.

Wreath's Tower


It is not known who built Wreaths Tower, nor precisely when, and there is not enough of the original fabric left to date the tower positively. However, James, Earl of Morton and sometime Regent of Scotland in the minority of James VI, and traditionally associated with the tower, was known to have been an active builder. However, the use of the word ‘castle' only appears on charters after 1580and the first depiction of it is on Gordon's 1636 transcript of Pont's 1595 map (contra Maxwell-Irving, 2000, Wreaths is not shown on Pont's original map).

Fragmentary portions of the south and east walls survive, with the well for a wheel staircase in the south-east angle, and an adjacent doorway in the south wall. The tower was oblong in plan, with the main axis aligned east-west. The doorway surround does not survive, but is was drawn in the 19th century, and had a semi-circular head. The basement was vaulted, and the height of the stairwell indicates that it was at least four storeys high.

In 1621 Robert, 9th Lord Maxwell received the lands and barony of Preston ‘ with the castles and manor places'. A ‘James Maxwell of Wraithes' is recorded in 1655. After the 2nd Earl of Nithsdale founded preston town in 1663, it is thought that Wreaths was superceded as the principal residence by a newer building at Cavens. In 1667 John Corbet, the former bailie in Dumfries held sasine on the lands as ‘John Corbet of Wreaths', but in 1734 it was back with the Maxwells, and was held by Mary and Willielmina Maxwell in 1742. Around 1773 the lands of Preston, Wreaths and Cavens were bought by Richard Oswald of Auchencruive, Ayrshire, whose family held it throughout the 19th century.



CROPMARK SITE (Early Bronze Age to Roman - 2000 BC? to 400 AD?)


A sub-rectangular enclosure which is visible as a cropmark on aerial photographs, amongst less determinate features. It is possibly associated with a group of prehistoric cist burials uncovered in the immediate vicinity.

MDG5810 MAINSRIDDLE CAIRN (Early Bronze Age to Late Bronze Age - 2000 BC? to 701 BC?)


This cairn was removed about 1843. A cist containing human bones was found below the surface of the ground. The bones were re-interred. A rubbing-post marked the site in the late 19th century, but has subsequently been removed and the field ploughed.


BURIAL; CIST (Late Neolithic to Early Bronze Age - 2500BC to 1701BC)


A short cist was found by deep ploughing in the area centred NX 947565, in January, 1957. The cist contained an excellently preserved crouched burial, an early type of Beaker (datting between 2500BC and 2000BC) and a bone ring with one of the nerve holes enlarged suggesting adaptation for suspension, and not as a finger ring. The cist and its contents are on display in Dumfries Museum.


ENCLOSURE (Unknown date))


A possible oval enclosure and overlapping sub-circular one, can be seen as cropmarks on aerial photographs. The oval ditch surrounds a rising area of land, shown on OS maps. Whether it is simply recent drainage, or marking some earlier feature is not clear. A possible second, sub-circular enclosure is visible overlapping the oval one on the south-eastern side.


CREMATION (Unknown date)


Cremation burials, yielding burnt human bones but no pottery, were turned up by the plough at NX 9514 5647 in 1958, and

at NX 9492 5645 in 1965. As the field is under crop the find spots could only be pointed out on the map by the finder, Mr

Kirkland of Cowcorse Farm. The bones are now at Dumfries Museum.


FINDSPOT (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)


Several mesolithic chert and flint implements in a mixture of inland and coastal techniques have been recovered from the top of the raised beach where the Beck Burn cuts out through the old shoreline. They are now in Dumfries Museum.


MOUND (Unknown date)

HOUSE (19th Century to 20th Century - 1801? to 1920?)


In advance of landscaping, an unusually-shaped mound was investigated in July 1994. A number of standing stones, cairns with cists, cropmark enclosures and stray finds in the vicinity, suggested that the mound may have represented a focal point in the archaeological landscape, perhaps with burials inserted. Alternatively, or as a secondary use, it may have been a motte.

A total of ten trenches were opened, covering the summit, flanks and base of the mound. It was proved to have been geological, rather than artificial with evidence of later activity in the form of traces of 19th/20th-century structures, cut into the northern flank of the mound, the remains of a small group of cottages that once stood there.


ENCLOSURE (Early Bronze Age to Roman - 2000 BC? to 400 AD?)


Small rectangular enclosure (?) defined by a cropmark on aerial photographs. The long axis of the enclosure lies parallel to the road.



ENCLOSURE (Early Bronze Age to Roman - 2000 BC? to 400 AD?)


A sub-rectangular enclosure which is visible as a cropmark on aerial photographs adjacent to the site of a former cairn.


ENCLOSURE (Early Bronze Age to Roman - 2000 BC? to 400 AD?)


A sub-rectangular nucleus around 35m across, is visible on aerial photographs taken in the 1970s and currently held in Dumfries Museum


LIME KILN (Modern - 1901 AD to 2050 AD)

QUARRY (Modern - 1901 AD to 2050 AD)


About a half-mile south-west of Prestonmill, the remains of a small limestone quarry and kiln bank with traces of stonework, which is probably the outline of a single small kiln. Ainslie's map 1797 indicates a 'Marle Pit' and two kilns, although the OS six-inch map of 1850-1 has only one kiln marked. Torrorrie limeworks were probably developed in the late 18th century to supply lime to neighbouring farmers.


HOUSE; TOWER (Medieval to 18th Century - 1107 AD? to 1800 AD?)


The original tower house of Cavens is said to have stood at the site now occupied by Torrorie farm. Cavers or Cavens was a castellated house, similar to Wreaths and is said to have belonged to, and been occupied by, the Regent Morton in the late 16th century. It was occupied until about 1800, after which it was robbed, until in 1893 very few traces remained.



LINEAR FEATURE (Unknown date)

TRACKWAY (Medieval to 19th Century - 1107 AD? to 1900 AD?)


A double ditched trackway running NNW, crossing modern field boundaries and heading towards Torrorie.

About 160m east of the trackway is a sinuous linear feature.

Hangman Hill

MDG5835 HANGMAN HILL CAIRN (Early Bronze Age to Late Bronze Age - 2000 BC? to 701 BC?)


A "large, circular, conical cairn", on the top of Hangman Hill, itself seemingly artificial, was removed for building purposes

about 1844; and under this cairn was found a "kistvaen containing an earthen urn with ashes and some fragments of bones

under it." The site was marked by a stone, which cannot now be found. It is not known if the urn was re-buried.