Waulkmill Glen ruin

In Waulkmill Glen woods, just west of Corselet Road, sits an enigmatic ruin. The two storey, tall, rectilinear structure is built from dressed sandstone, with a bay at the southern end. The bay, which is in good overall condition, has three windows and an entrance. The building first appears on the Ordnance Survey map (1858-64), but the map appears to show it as unroofed and does not name it or label its function. The structure contains numerous large windows, and there is some evidence of an internal division towards the northern end. There is no evidence of chimneys or hearths, but there are traces of studwork (small, rectangular, regularly spaced holes) within a coarse render, which would have supported lath and plaster.

The northern end of the structure was at one time linked to a further single-storey feature, as evidenced by stones keyed into the outer wall face of the structure. One of the most interesting features of this building is the extensive, built channels that run both around and beneath it. The channels appear to be stone lined and extend westward toward the Brock Burn. The building evokes both a residential purpose, suggested by the generous bay, the well-dressed stone and the interior plaster, and an industrial purpose, suggested by the apparent lack of heating, the large windows and the water channels. It may be that it served two purposes.

The building’s function has been the cause of much debate; speculation ranges from an unfinished hunting lodge for the Maxwell family to Charles Tennant’s house, set away from the main area of the bleachfields. Both of these suggestions are plausible, but lack evidence to support them. It seems likely, given the date of the building’s appearance on the Ordnance Survey map, that it is related to the bleachfields/printfields developments. The Darnley Bleachfield was in decline by the 1860s, and it may be that the structure was allowed to deteriorate following a relatively short period of use. Perhaps it was here that Tennant experimented with developing chemical bleaching compounds – close to sources of lime, plenty of water power and large windows to allow for a light and airy working environment along with office space. The water channels do suggest that the structure was connected to some process that produced liquid waste.

It is also possible that the building served as a ‘woman house’, as described in the First Statistical Account by the Reverend Monteath (1791, 149). He mentions such places where women who were not married lived during the summer season while they worked at the bleachfields. He describes the women as migratory, often only staying in one place for a season before moving on. He records that in 1791, there were 93 women in the parish of Neilston, living in seven such establishments near almost every bleachfield. The building could have been intended for this use but never finished, or little used before the demise of the Darnley Bleachfield. The lack of chimneys would suggest it never actually served a domestic purpose such as this.