Charles Abercrombie and the new road from Ayr to Maybole
Estimates for Monkwood Bridge
Inscriptions on Monkwood Bridge
Design for Drumgirnan Bridge
Grant from Commissioners of Supply
Photo 1: Inscription on downstream face of Monkwood Bridge.
No longer used by the main road between Ayr and Maybole, the stone, single-arched Monkwood Bridge (also known as Auchindrain Bridge: NGR NS 335154) spans the River Doon beside the modern bridge on the A77. Until the new turnpike road between Ayr and Maybole was made in 1796 to 1798, the main route connecting the county town with Carrick and Galloway was on the line of the present B7024, through Alloway and Culroy, which, despite the improvements of the last two hundred years, is still recognisably the road described in October 1794 thus: "so much more steep and inaccessible than necessary as to occasion the utmost inconvenience to every traveller and a much greater expence in the Carriage of every article". 1 If you are not convinced of this, try cycling on it.
Charles Abercrombie was employed to survey a new line "which would make that Road almost entirely level the whole way from Ayr to Maybole perhaps without at all increasing its length or at worst verry [sic] inconsiderably". His report and plan were presented to a meeting of the Carrick road trustees in Maybole the following September, following which a sub-committee was appointed to inquire into the funds available for making the road. 2 Since the intended new road was not included in the current turnpike act for the county, the trustees had to ensure that none of the existing roads in the district would suffer from a diversion of resources. 3
In October 1795, the sub-committee reported that "in all probability at least £400 might be applied to any publick purpose competent to the trustees besides keeping the old roads in repair and reserving a considerable sum for contingencies". 4 The new line actually involved about three and a half miles of completely new road costing about £100 a mile. The rest of the route lay on existing roads (the road from Ayr to Dalrymple at one end, and that from Maybole to Dalrymple at the other), which required some amendment. Of the new road to be made, one mile lay in the parish of Ayr and would be made on the funds of that parish. The spare funds of the Carrick district were therefore ample to finance the remaining two and a half miles; no new debt was needed by which their income "would be forestalled and locked up". Back to top
The only difficulty was bridging the River Doon. Abercrombie estimated the cost at £500 for a single-arched bridge, and £725 for three arches. A subscription for this was quickly raised, amounting to over £600 by November 1795. 5 A subscription was not a gift, but a form of investment. The subscriber would hope to have his or her money repaid with interest. The funds for this might have come from the conversion money of the two parishes, or from the toll money of the road. In the event however, most of it came from the bridge money of the county: in 1797 the commissioners of supply made a grant "not exceeding £600 ... for Building a Bridge over the water of Doon ... a Bridge over the Rivulet of Smiethstone, and another over the Rivulet of Culroy", all on the line of the new road. 6 This, according to the usual form, would be payable when the bridges were built.
By July 1797, the new road was nearly completed and the two small bridges were contracted for and partly constructed. However, there was as yet no contract for the bridge over the Doon. Three contractors had submitted proposals, of which "Mr Abercromby the surveyor recommended the acceptance of that by Smith and Watson as the cheapest and best". 7 Another proposal was to come from "Mr Rutherford Architect", for which they decided to wait before making a choice. Although the actual decision is not recorded in the minutes, subsequent entries and the inscription on the bridge confirm that the contract for Monkwood Bridge went to Rutherford. The bridge was probably built during the summer of 1798. It had certainly been completed by October of that year, when Richard Campbell of Helentonmains, a Carrick trustee in his own right and factor to the Earl of Cassillis, acting as treasurer for the committee, presented his accounts for the work, revealing a total expenditure of £844:10s. 8 Back to top
At the same time it was noted that the collector of conversion money for the parish of Maybole was to settle with "Mr Cairncross as to his claim upon the Trustees for making out designs for the new bridge", from which it appears that the trustees had commissioned their own plans for the bridge before deciding to accept Rutherford's proposal. This was probably Hugh Cairncross, the clerk of works (or "undertaker" of the works) for the rebuilding of Culzean and the new house at Dalquharran. 9 Cairncross and James Johnstone, 'overseer at Dalquharran', were also involved in searching for quarries and making plans in connection with the road.
There was a substantial balance owing to Rutherford in May 1799, amounting to £430:4s:6d, for which he was given an assignment of the toll collected at the bar at Auchindrain. 10 Considering the money reported to have been subscribed, the bridge grant of £600 and a cash credit of £700 the trustees arranged from Messrs Hunter & Co. of Ayr, one might wonder why the sum required to pay him was not readily available. Some twelve years later, with Rutherford dead, his representatives sought immediate settlement of the remaining £200 of the debt. 11
The records of the roads trustees refer to one Mr Rutherford. However from the inscription on Monkwood bridge it is plain that there were two, John and James. Both were alive early in the 19th century. It is recorded that in 1804 John and James Rutherford, builders, were owed £36:10s by the directors of Ayr Academy; 12 and that in 1806, here described as architects, they were tenants of a house in Mill Vennel, Ayr. 13
Monkwood Bridge, like Drumgirnan Bridge described below, is distinguished by the quality of the inscriptions and by a carved head on the capstone.
Photo 2: Inscription on upstream face of Monkwood Bridge
Photo 3: Crowned head on upstream face of Monkwood Bridge Back to top
Drumgirnan Bridge (also known as Kilkerran Bridge: NGR NS 306042) crosses the Water of Girvan on a minor public road in the vicinity of Kilkerran, within 150 metres of the B741 Crosshill to Girvan road. At the end of the eighteenth century two turnpikes ran the length of this part of the Girvan valley: one on the west side from Maybole to Girvan, and one on the east from Crosshill to Girvan. Both were included in the 1774 Ayr Roads Act. 14 A link between the two was provided by a branch road extending from the Balloch road at Auchalton (NS 329043), crossing the road on the east at Ladyburn (NS 312040), across the Girvan by a ford at Drumgirnan and later the bridge, and continuing west to meet the other at a point then described as being "near Dalziellely" (NS 297045). Drumgirnan Bridge was erected in 1799 on this minor road, which was included in the 1774 act as a branch of the Balloch road.
Following the erection of Airds Bridge (NS 293033) in 1817, the Crosshill to Girvan road was diverted at Ladyburn, over Drumgirnan and Airds bridges, to rejoin the former line at Maitland (NS 289025), thus diverting the public turnpike to the far side of the river from its former course, which ran close to Kilkerran House. This diversion, which was eventually extended by the construction of Hamilton Bridge (NS 309050) in 1825 returning Drumgirnan Bridge to its branch road status, has been described by Ronald Brash in an earlier edition of Ayrshire Notes. 15
In 1798 the Ayrshire commissioners of supply granted £53:10s "to build a bridge over the water of Girvan at Drumgirnan", from which it appears that the greater part of the cost was borne by the local landowners, and in particular by Sir Adam Fergusson. 16 The surviving minutes of the Carrick roads trustees, which contain so much concerning Monkwood Bridge, are devoid of any record of the erection of Drumgirnan Bridge. It is mentioned only later, in connection with the diversion of the road.
Design for Drumgirnan Bridge, John & James Rutherford 17
Photo 4: Inscription and head on upstream face of Drumgirnan Bridge
Photo5: Inscription and head on downstream face of Drumgirnan Bridge Back to top
There are inscriptions and capstone heads on both outer faces of this bridge. The use of such heads on two bridges, Monkwood and Drumgirnan, is perhaps not enough to describe the feature as a hallmark of the Rutherfords. Airds Bridge, presumably not by the Rutherfords since at least one of them died some years before it was built, has indistinct inscriptions and a capstone which may once have boasted a head. In addition, all three bridges have a reticulated pattern on the stonework of the arches. Does anyone know of any other bridges with similar features?
This article was first published in Ayrshire Notes No. 15 (1998).
(1) Ayrshire Archives (AA), CO3/5/12, Minutes of the roads trustees for the district of Carrick, Maybole, 17th October 1794.
(2) AA, CO3/5/12, 25th September 1795.
(3) Turnpike acts typically lasted for 21 years, so many had assumed that the 1774 Ayr Roads Act would be succeeded by a new act in 1795, in which it would have been possible to include the new road. But the term of the 1774 act was for a full 21 years from the time when the 1767 act would have expired; that is, until 1809. It was succeeded by a new act in 1805. See also David McClure, Tolls and Tacksmen (AANHS Monograph, 1994).
(4) AA, CO3/5/12, 20th October 1795.
(5) AA, CO3/5/12, 4th November 1795.
(6) AA, CO3/1/4, Minutes of the commissioners of supply for Ayrshire, Ayr, 1st May 1797.
(7) AA, CO3/5/12, 26th July 1797.
(8) AA, CO3/5/12, 29th October 1798.
(9) Margaret H B Sanderson, Robert Adam in Ayrshire (AANHS Monograph, 1993).
(10) AA, CO3/5/12, 2nd May 1799.
(11) AA, CO3/5/14, Minutes of the roads trustees for the district of Carrick, Maybole, 20th July 1811.
(12) Air Advertiser, 1st November 1804; (information from Rob Close).
(13) Air Advertiser, 23rd January 1806; (information from Rob Close).
(14) David McClure, Tolls and Tacksmen (op cit).
(15) Ronald W Brash, An Early Nineteenth Century Ayrshire Bypass in Ayrshire Notes 3, 1992.
(16) AA, CO3/1/4, 30th April 1798.
(17) Fergusson of Kilkerran Records, NRA(S) 3572/2/305, Design for Drumgirnan Bridge, by John & James Rutherford, 29th August 1798. [Private collection. Photograph D. McClure by permission]. Note this item was added to the article on 1st August 2000. Back to top