Monday, June 27, 2005

Businesses trading in Castle Douglas in June 2005

There are over 230 businesses based in/ trading from Castle Douglas, of which at least 200 are locally owned and independent. 135 businesses operate within the 'town centre' (i.e. within area defined as town centre by Stewarty Local Plan/ Dumfries and Galloway Council.) Of these, 47 are either new businesses , have relocated or have changed owners in past five years - shown * Not bad for a rural market town with a population of less than 4000...

The following is a list, re-checked today 27 June 2005, of the town centre businesses. Planning permission has been given to Tesco for an edge of town supermarket on the basis that Tesco will not have an adverse impact on the vitality and viability of Castle Douglas existing town centre businesses.

The Save Our Stewartry Shops campaign (supported by many of these businesses) argued via planning objections that there would be such an impact, and that it would also be felt in neighbouring towns and villages, damaging our rural economy and society.

These arguments were dismissed out of hand.

We have therefore made this record of existing businesses and will keep it updated. as a record of the impact of Tesco on what is at present a thriving and dynamic small town, should they be stupid enough to go ahead and build a store here.

Starting on east side of King Street up from lower end to Market Hill and then down west side - including side streets. many have their own websites, will add on later.

  1. # Pye's - shop: newsagent also food and drink sells records.

  2. # Mckerlie's - electrical contractors office.

  3. #McGill Duncan - an art gallery

  4. #Holistics : therapy and spa centre and shop converted from house *

  5. #Bare Essentials : shop, lingerie *

  6. #Scott Country : shop, outdoor pursuits, fishing, shooting, clothing . Converted from house* website

  7. #Small Print : shop, offices supplies, potocopying and printing *

  8. #Sulwath Brewery : open for brewery tours and have bar/ beer garden. On site of Smart' s Bakery * website

  9. #Guy Pollock: cabinet maker. One of two furniture makers in town.

  10. #Carlos: restaurant

  11. #Douglas Books : shop, second hand and out of print books, good local collection *

  12. #Lily : shop handbags and accessories * website?

  13. #Video Venue : video/dvd rentals *

  14. #Littles :shop, pork butchers since 1924. Currently business for sale. One to watch.

  15. #Hazel's : shop, an Alladin's cave of second hand treasures. Also removals/ house clearance.

  16. #Caring for Carers: charity shop *

  17. #Kings Arms Hotel : may once have been farmhouse. Car park site of town's original brewery- pre-1920s

  18. #Gelston Picture Framers *

  19. #Small Engine Centre - repairs and spares for small engines.

  20. #PJ's Cafe

  21. #Inspiration: shop, young women's fashions*

  22. #Anne's Hairdressers

  23. #Jade Palace: Chinese restaurant

  24. #Merrick Hotel: Indian restaurant

  25. Spirit of Galloway : shop, specialists in whiskys and spirits *

  26. #Lyon: dentists

  27. #Street Lights: cafe/ bistro*

  28. #Victoria Wine: shop, off-licence

  29. # A.D. Livingston and Sons : shop/ workshop, restore, make and sell furniture. Established by my father and brothers in 1981
  30. #Willow: shop, occasional furniture, decorative furnishings*

  31. # 173 Deli : delicatessen, sandwich bar, stock local produce*

  32. # Supersave : shop, household goods, recently enlarged*

  33. # Enigma : shop, decorative furnishings, clothes*

  34. # Debra: shop, charity*

  35. # Semi-chem : shop, non -dispensining chemists

  36. # Semple and Ferguson: shop, electrical goods

  37. # Magick Broomstick: shop, new age, pagan, crystals, clothes, tarot, wands, body-piercing * website

  38. # Atticus: shop, ladies clothes *

  39. # Castle Douglas Cycle centre: shop, bikes* links to 7Stanes

  40. # Roland Alexander: hairdressers

  41. # Thompsons: jewellers

  42. # Gillespie and Gifford: solicitors, estate agent

  43. # Royal Bank of Scotland: bank. Impressive four storey granite building, built 1862 with granite from Craignair quarry, Dalbeattie. Although only 5 miles away, such local use of granite only developed after railway reached town in 1859.

  44. # Mackays: shop, clothes, adult, children. Part of national chain. Under threat direct threat from Tesco's diversification into cheap clothing.. Large modern (1970ies) store, unlikely to have alternative use so would become big eyesore if closed..

  45. # Superspar: small supermarket. Recently modernised, £100 000 investment. Under threat from Tesco, again a big modern building difficult to find alternative use for, so would become eyesore if closed.

  46. # Bue Bell: small hotel/ pub, very traditional. My grandfather used to drink here. Owner Colin has close links/ chairman of town's football club Threave Rovers.

  47. # Woolworths : national retailer. Large (for town) store, in key site opposite post office at centre of street. Under direct threat from Tesco's diverisfication into non-food goods. Again, if closed down, would have major impact on vitaility/ viability of town centre.

  48. Jenny Wren: shop, upmarket toys*

  49. # D.E. Shoes : shop, shoes, branch of national chain.

  50. # Lynsey Steweart: shop, just closed in June, was ladies clothes shop. If this stays empty will be bad sign for future. "Tesco blight", lack of businesses confidence.

  51. # Moss Chemists: dispensing chemists (taken over from Mcrindles Chemists)

  52. # Gowans: shop, fabrics for dressmaking, curtains, bed linen.

  53. # Gowan's : shop/ showroom, beds*

  54. # Gowans: shop, ladies clothes - on street, next two at rear along passage.

  55. # Gowans: shop, gents clothes

  56. # Gowans: shop, saver shop.

  57. # Moss Chemists: dispensing chemists

  58. # Livingston's : shop, gents tailors, established in 1896 by my great grandfather, now run by fourth generation of family.

  59. # Livingston's: shop, ladies clothes

  60. # S. Caven : workshop, clock repairs

  61. # Hewats: solicitors and estate agents. Originally a bank, another imposing building dating from 1860ies, local greywacke with sandstone (from Locharbriggs, Dumfriesshire)

  62. # Lloyds TSB: bank

  63. # Mad Hatter's: cafe*

  64. # Sunrise Wholefoods: shop, organics, including local cheese, wholefoods. Steve and Pauline who run it have own smallholding and supply seasonal organic veg.

  65. # Panache: shop, ladies clothes*

  66. # Livingstons: dress shop* Last shop on east side of King Street and 300 metres from (invisible, beyond Market Hill) Tesco site.

  67. # Sigley's: chip shop, first business on west/ top end of King Street and nearest point in 'town centre' to Tesco's, but still 200 metres from Tesco site, which is mutually invisible from town centre, beyond five spur roundabout at entrance to town.

  68. # The Royal: was hotel until 2004, now 'modern' - lots of tvs- pub*

  69. # Crown Hotel and restuarant. Old coaching inn.* website

  70. # Haughs: cars sales and garage. Off street through archway and down lane.

  71. # Great Wall: Chinese take-away

  72. # G.M. Thompsons: estate agents and also tourist accomodation providers. website

  73. # Imperial Hotel: another old coaching inn.

  74. # Bell Ogilvy: accountants
  75. Clydesdale Bank: wonderful sandstone building with fascinating architectural details. Clydesdale
  76. closing many branches, so may be under threat.
  77. # Low's: shop, newsagents. Very traditional.
  78. # Solicitors Property Centre: shop front for local estate agents.

  79. # Henderson's: shop, butchers, one of four in town. Their own made pies and haggis highly
  80. recommended.

  81. # McCowans: shop, fishing tackle, outdoor activities, pet food.

  82. # Tessera: clothes, furnishings. Owner very concerned about Tesco, from Ayr and has seen damage such developments can cause.*

  83. # Bryan Gowans: shop, paints, wallpaper, decorating*

  84. # Gowans: shop, carpets, floor coverings.

  85. # Gowans: shop, children's clothes .

  86. # Galloway Craft Guild: shop, local arts and crafts.

  87. # Therapy Centre: 5 businesses, beauticians, hairdressers etc*

  88. # Little VIPs: shop, children's clothes.* This is below Therapy Centre in large sandstone building , again with lots of architectural detail.

  89. # New Images : hairdressers*

  90. # Stewartry Care: nursing care for elderly.

  91. # Posthorn 90: shop fine arts, jewellery*
    # Barber's shop: gents hairdressers

  92. # Opticians

  93. # Post Office

  94. # Barry Smart' s: shop, newsagents, books, maps toys. Has strong selection of local books

  95. # Threave Home Hardware: shop, hardware.* In yet another architecturally strong sandstone building. Was (Until 1981) W& T Stewarts established in 1888 as furniture shop, cabinet makers and upholsterers and where my father and grandfather both served their apprenticeships before becoming partners. First William Stewart served his apprenticeship locally in 1840ies and still have his (and others) apprenticebook.

  96. # Corsons: shop, bakers

  97. # Phillpotts: shop, outdoor / sporting clothing. *Also organise Galloway Country Fair

  98. # Cobblers: shop, shoe repairs*
  99. # House of Chocolates and Deli: shop, hand made chocolates and deli * also shop for Castle Maclellan, award winning local (Kirkcudbright) food producers.

  100. # Galloway Gems: shop, crafts, artists supplies, crystals, gem rocks

  101. # Simply Delicious; cafe

  102. # Mitchells: shop, greengrocers and fishmongers, local fruit and veg in season

  103. # Cut Above: hairdessers

  104. # Halliday's : hairdressers

  105. # Dee Fish: shop, fishmongers, locally caught fish from Solway Firth/ Irish sea

  106. # Grierson's : butchers 'established 1838', have own farm, locally sourced meat

  107. # Cellar salon: hairdressers

  108. # Ballard's : shop, butchers, have own farm, locally sourced meat*

  109. # Corson's : shop, bakers, bakery at rear

  110. # Mair's: insurance brokers* . Was hardware shop until 2004

  111. # The Bible Shop: shop, books, Christian religious also Fairtrade products

  112. # Paws 4 Claws : shop, pet foods etc also tropical fish*

  113. # Sports: shop, sportswear*
  114. # internet cafe, fast food, pizzas, ice-cream* very popular with younger generation

  115. # Scottish Pantry: restaurant, also has garden at rear

  116. # Dunfermline Building Society

  117. # Bank of Scotland

  118. # Crallan and Winstanley : architects, above Bank of Scotland

  119. # Natural Choice: hairdressers

  120. - Kirk's shop, shoes. Kirk's are unique in at least 100 mile radius by stocking a full range of shoe widths and sizes. They used to be called 'saddlemakers' as well, but no longer offer this service.

  121. # Douglas Arms Hotel * Original building dates back (from stone in wall) to 1762. A coaching inn which pre-dates town (founded in 1791) Has cast iron plaque in wall with distances to local and national destinations, including London, 348 miles away, dated 1827. Has coat of arms of Sir William Douglas, founder of Castle Douglas on large sign on corner of building., complete with native Americans - he made his fortune through trade with Virginia and West Indies. This wealth created by African slaves on tobacco and sugar plantations.

  122. # Debbie's Flowers : shop, flowers*

  123. # Town Hall: not a shop, but imposing, almost Georgian style but Victorian built (1862) sandstone building, home to Castle Douglas Town Council until 1974 and where Tesco planning approval meetings were held in March and April 2005.

  124. # Douglas Arms: pub * was the Thistle, the 'only pub in town' as it proudly proclaimed.
    Fordy's chip shop.

  125. # Posthorn: fine arts, *website

  126. # Stepping Out : shop, ladies shoes *
  127. # Town Clock. Third on site, previous two burnt down
    # Impressions: shop, bags, luggage *

  128. # Rendezvous: cafe, sign of the future? Derelict and empty for nearly ten years

  129. # Thomas Cook: national travel agents

  130. # Kyle Fenwick: accountants

  131. # Autobar Leisure : shop, camping , cars and carvanning supplies*

  132. # Carson and Totter: accountants

  133. # Ranchers: decorative ironwork, also agricultural suppliers of gates etc

  134. # Vacant shop- empty for four months . Was charity, again sign of Tesco blight, Small Print had considered moving across road to this site, but decided to wait and see what impact Tesco will have, since most of their trade is with existing shops/ businesses in town.

  135. # Alba Herbs: shop, plants and fish, garden supplies*

Sunday, June 26, 2005

A stroll around Castle Douglas

Starting Point- the Market Hill Tourist Information Centre

1. 1 The Market Hill

From the low mound next to the Tourist Information Centre the wooded slopes of Keltonhill can be seen rising up in the distance beyond the British Legion and Swimming Pool [formerly Drill Hall] complex. Next to these is the Library, which dates to 1904. To the right can be seen the upper end of King Street, to the left the octagonal Wallets Mart building built around 1900 and the upper end of Queen Street. The yellow brick (from the Dalbeattie Brick Works) makes what is now the Seabright Nursery stand out.

Looking in the opposite direction, a line of Scots pines mark the site of Castle Douglas' railway station.

This area of Castle Douglas is very much the Victorian creation of railway and mart. Or, as local author S.R. Crockett put it

" In my own time, life centred about the Cross (the Town Clock), and so continued during all my life as a school boy [1867 to 1876]. But ever since, contrary to all the laws of gravitation, the town has been running faster and ever faster uphill, apparently to get a sniff of the cattle-marts on Monday, and to see the white smoke of the trains..."

The first recorded livestock auction took place on the Market Hill in 1819. In 1857, the town council built an enclosed Mart where the swimming pool now stands. This was then leased to Thomas Wallet, whose family were originally carters from Dalmellington in Ayrshire. The present site of Wallets Mart, closer to the Station Yard, was acquired later as the business took over rival concerns.

The railway from Dumfries reached the town in 1859 and was extended to Stranraer in 1861. A branch line to Kirkcudbright followed in 1864. Although the station was demolished after the was railway closed in 1965, the Station Yard remains a busy place. The sidings which could hold 200 cattle trucks are now occupied by industrial buildings. The old Goods Station is now a builders' merchants.

Sadly the Keltonhill Horse Fair, which was moved to the Market Hill (then an open field) about 150 years ago, has passed into history along with the Galloway breed of horses. Fortunately the Galloway breed of cattle has survived and Wallet's Mart still hosts their spring and autumn sales.

From the Tourist Information Centre, cross over King Street and turn right up hill. Then turn left into Cotton Street.

1.2 Cotton Street

Cotton Street descends steeply from the Market Hill past Buccleuch Scotch Beef's abattoir- the 'Slatterhoose Brae'. Just before the abattoir, where a house has now been built, there was a quarry. This would have been a source of building stone for the town. However, there are many brick built houses on Cotton Street. Most are based on variations of the same design, with pitched, rather than flat- roofed dormer style windows.

Nos 14 and 16 are of this style, but built using the yellow Dalbeattie bricks rather than the red bricks of Railway Terrace, further down the street.

Where a supermarket and car park now are, Sir William Douglas' cotton mill probably stood. After the failure of the cotton mill, this site was later occupied by Wallace's Foundry and the neighbouring Derby's Mill. The stream which failed to provide enough water to work the cotton mill ran along the back of Cotton Street. Now underground, it still runs beneath Cotton Street, across to King Street and down towards Carlingwark Loch.

On the opposite side of Cotton Street can be seen a series of schools. The largest, now a community centre, was built in 1910 by the Kelton School Board. Next to this is a school built in 1873 when the Kelton School Board was first set up. Its first headmaster was John Cowper. Cowper had previously been headmaster of the 'Free Church School'.

This school, a little further down Cotton Street is now converted into three houses [Nos 43 to 47 Cotton Street] and dates to the 'Disruption' of the Church of Scotland in 1843, when the Church split into two factions. There was strong support for the 'Free Kirk', allowing a church and school to be built in 1844. Local author S.R. Crockett attended this school after 1867. It was called 'Cowper's Schule' after its headmaster.

The earlier, parish, school was built in 1818 on Academy Street (where Castle Douglas Health Centre now stands) to replace one which had fallen into disrepair.

Next to the Free Church School is a cottage, now 49 Cotton Street. For many years this was a joiner's shop. Until recently, it was the last remaining 'unimproved' example of what was once Castle Douglas' basic housing stock. It is difficult to date, but the rough stone work around its windows is typical of the late 18th/ early 19th centuries. Until granite [from Dalbeattie] and sandstone [from Locharbriggs near Dumfries] became cheaper after the railway reached the town, local greywacke stone had to be used. This stone cannot be 'worked' to produce neat straight lines.

Crockett lived with his grandparents further down Cotton Street in a near St. John's Church. Ironically, since his grandparents were strictly religious Cameronians, this is now a licensed betting shop. St. John's was built in 1867.

A short detour can be made up Abercromby Road where a row of houses and another [United Presbyterian, 1870] church clearly show the contrast between weathered dark brown sandstone from Dumfriesshire and bluish native greywacke.

Looked at carefully, most buildings in Castle Douglas can be dated to 'before or after the railway'. Post- railway buildings are generally larger and more imposing and make use of granite, sandstone and brick as well as the local greywacke. Sandstone and granite were available earlier, but were more expensive and so used sparingly. Just to confuse things, many buildings have been altered and enlarged over the years.

So although Castle Douglas was founded in the late eighteenth century, many of its buildings reveal their later, Victorian, origins.

Return to Cotton Street and continue down hill towards

1. 3. Blackpark Road

At the foot of Cotton Street is the site of the town's gas works [1843]. To the left is Marle Street. This takes its name from the lime-rich clay Alexander Gordon drained Carlingwark Loch to reach. Used sparingly, marl was a valuable fertiliser. Over use was found to be damaging to the soil.

To the right is Blackpark Road. Blackpark farm took its name from the heavy, black, peaty soil of the surrounding marshland.

Although hardly the most picturesque area of Castle Douglas, it is worth walking along to the Blackpark Road railway bridge [now filled in]. Where Threave Rovers football pitch, the old rubbish dump [soon to become part of the golf course], the railway and sewage works now lie, a medieval parish boundary once ran along the course of a lost stream. A deep ditch cut across Castle Douglas golf course, under the railway, through the sewage works and then across the football pitch into Carlingwark Moss to find its way to the Dee along the route of the Carlingwark Lane. The stream mentioned in the Cotton Street section probably fed into this before it was diverted into Carlingwark Loch.

The boundary between Crossmichael and Kelton parishes appears to have followed the course of these lost streams. They marked the boundary between lands [in Crossmichael parish] gifted to a nunnery at Lincluden by Uchtred, son of Fergus of Galloway circa 1170 and those [in Kelton parish] which remained in the Lordship of Galloway until 1456. According to a local folktale, St. Ninian appeared to a shepherd boy here. The boy had lost a sheep on Christmas Eve. In the hope of finding the sheep, he made an offering of the last of his food at St. Ringan's Well nearby. The saint then appeared in the form of an old beggar and helped the boy find the lost sheep, which had strayed into the stream's deep ditch. [See Walk Three for more details]

This story suggests the Christianisation of an older, pagan, boundary between the 'sacred' site of Carlingwark Loch and its 'profane' surroundings. Return along Blackpark Road and continue straight on into Marle Street.

1. 3. Marle Street and Carlingwark Street

According to Crockett, Marle Street and ' Little Dublin' - the lower end of Cotton Street where several Irish families lived- were the first parts of what is now Castle Douglas to be developed. The basic 'cottage' style [as can still-just- be seen at 49 Cotton Street] of several houses in this area confirms his description of ' a little town built at the foot of a hill and ever since running a race up it.'

Carlingwark Street crosses Marle Street and lies on the route of the Old Military Road. This is the lowest part of Castle Douglas and where the roads cross, the remains of a timber and earth dam were found 200 years ago. These may actually have been the remains of a prehistoric track way across boggy ground. A similar construction was found on the far side of Carlingwark Hill. The route of Carlingwark Street / the Old Military Road ran through what are now the grounds of Carlingwark House, crossing Alexander Gordon's canal [Carlingwark Lane] by a bridge which led onto the row of houses called 'The Buchan'.

At the top of the hill was an inn. Robert Burn's stayed there in 1789. Just over one hundred years earlier, in 1685, William Auchinleck was shot by government soldiers during the 'Killing Times' outside an inn, which was also on Carlingwark Hill. There are a few old cottages here, but most of the houses are more modern. If the weather is clear, from Meadow View which runs parallel with Carlingwark Street, the Galloway Hills can be seen.

Where the street ends, turn left down the rough track towards Carlingwark Loch. This is called Crone Lane and in the field on the right once stood the Three Thorns of Carlingwark, allegedly the scene of 'Druidical rites' including human sacrifice. However since the last of the thorn trees could still be seen in early 19th century, and since Druids worshipped in groves of oak trees 2000 years ago, this seems unlikely.

Cross over the main road to enter Lochside Park

1. 4. Lochside Park

Lochside Park stretches around the north end of Carlingwark Loch. It was formerly the town common. Looking at the loch today, it is difficult to imagine how it would have appeared in the 1770s and 80s when it was the centre for Alexander Gordon's marl works. The loch must have been almost completely drained in order to expose the marl beds and allow his workmen to dig the marl out. Certainly, according to contemporary accounts, when the Carlingwark Canal was cut through Carlingwark Hill in 1765, the level of the loch dropped by between 8 and 10 feet, far enough to reveal a crannog ( a wooden round house built over water) at the south end. This crannog is once more under water.

Until recently, there were two Christian places of worship over looking the park and the loch. One of these, formerly St. Andrew's church [1869], is now the Lochside Theatre.

A short stroll through Lochside Park, turning left up past the caravan site leads to St. Ninian's Episcopal church [ 1856 to 1861] on St. Andrew Street. The church began as a mission for railway navvies. More recently it has benefited from its association with the Gordons of Threave, resulting in the addition [2001] of an award winning new church hall.

Turn left along St. Andrew Street. Of interest here is Lochvale, with its entrance up a short flight of steps. There is a date at the top right hand gable - which could be 1810, 1813 or 1815. Joseph Train [1779- 1852] lived here from 1826. Train worked, like Robert Burns, as an Exciseman. He was a friend of Sir Walter Scott's and passed on both local folklore and 'antiquities' [for example the Torrs Pony Cap] to Scott. Scott's novels Guy Mannering, Redgauntlet, the Heart of Midlothian, The Antiquary and Old Mortality all feature stories and characters based on Galloway sources supplied by Train. Unfortunately this association with Scott distracted Train from an earlier plan to write a history of Galloway.

Across from Lochvale is The Brae, originally built in 1803, but with Victorian additions. St. Andrew's Street continues towards the Town Clock, but at Queen Street, turn right.

1.5. Queen Street

The Kings Arms Hotel on the corner of Queen Street and St. Andrew Street may originally have been a farm house, predating Castle Douglas. Later, like the Douglas Arms, Crown and Imperial hotels, it became a coaching inn. In what is now its car park, there was a brewery owned by the Hewetson family. The tradition of local beer making has now been revived by the Sulwath Brewery in King Street. ( Further down Queen Street there was a tannery, but there are no plans to revive this industry).

There were other 'industrial' buildings on Queen Street, including a bakery and a blacksmiths. In a lane leading through to King Street granite setts can be found. These can be compared with the cobble stones in A.D. Livingston and Sons yard [see King Street section]. The cobbles and setts are reminders of the past importance of horse power - they give a better grip for horses hooves than smoother road surfaces do. In the summer, horse and carriage trips can be taken around the town from the Market Hill.

Queen Street is now a residential street. Several of the houses date back to the early days of Castle Douglas. Between 64 and 66 Queen Street is the date 1822 . Half way up Queen Street is St. Ringan's church, St. Ringan being an alternative version of St. Ninian - as is St. Trinian. The oldest part of St. Ringan's dates back to 1801. By 1870 it had become the Cameronian (Reformed Presbyterian) kirk and S.R. Crockett's grandparents travelled the 7 miles from Laurieston to attend it. The Cameronians used sandstone to refront the church and added its tower.

Richard Cameron was a leading figure amongst the later Covenanters who refused to accept religious changes imposed by Charles II. Indeed, on the 22nd June 1680, Cameron, his brother and about twenty others rode into Sanquhar in Dumfriesshire and declared war on the king... Although a 'spiritual' rather than a physical declaration of war, this provocative act could not be ignored. Seven troops of horse were sent to quell this 'republican' rebellion and on July 22nd both Richard Cameron and his brother were killed in a fight with government troops at Airds [ or Ayrs] Moss in Ayrshire.

Believing that they were faced with a civil war in the south west, Charles II and his brother James [briefly to be king James VII and II] tried to crush the revolt. Ultimately they failed and the Cameronians fought for king William in 1688 against the supporters of James VII/ II. These first Jacobites were led by 'Bonnie Dundee', who as 'bluidy Claverhouse' had tried to destroy the Cameronians in the Killing Times. Even as late as 1724, the Galloway Levellers drew on the local Cameronian heritage in their uprising against those they described as 'Jacobite' landowners.

Gradually, however, the politically dangerous 'radical republican' aspects of the Cameronians faded away. In time they became the rather conservative religious sect to which Crockett's grandparents belonged, as earlier had Sir Alexander Gordon who was Sheriff of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright in the 1780s - hardly a position to be given to a dangerous revolutionary!

It is very difficult to associate today's 'kirk on the hill' as St. Ringan's was known, with the ferocious religious and political conflicts of the 17th century. And yet it, like so many places locally, bears witness to the deep currents of a dark and disturbing past which still run beneath the tranquil surface of the present.

Quiet Queen Street can be followed back up to Market Street. Turn left here for King Street.

1. 6. King Street

To fully appreciate King Street, it is best seen at the beginning of Castle Douglas Food Town week [usually the end of May] when the street is closed to traffic and thronged by thousands of people. Without the clutter of cars and delivery lorries, its broad, half mile long expanse is revealed.

With its hundred or so shops and businesses, King Street is the dynamic, commercial and economic, centre of the town. In turn, the street draws shoppers not only from across Dumfries and Galloway (to the chagrin of the much larger town of Dumfries) but also from across the south of Scotland and the north of England. A city like Edinburgh can match the range and diversity of Castle Douglas' shops, but not their concentration along (and beside) one main street.

However, why not, as well as peering into every shop window and craft workshop, 'lift the eyes unto the rooftops' and discover a treasure of architectural delight? For example, the many sandstone faced buildings on King Street rejoice in a riot of sculptural details. Lion heads, thistles, roses, stars and scallop shells can all be found. This last feature, the scallop shell, is actually a recent contribution to the fascinating architectural detail of King Street. Most date mainly from the 1890s and can be compared and contrasted with the more formal style of the Town Hall [1862] on St. Andrew Street. The Royal Bank [1864] illustrates the very different impression created by the use of granite.

To get a 'behind the scenes' glimpse of King Street, visit the garden behind Designs Gallery and Cafe . A conservatory has recently been built onto the cafe, creating a very pleasant spot to pause for refreshment before visiting A.D. Livingston and Sons next door. The buildings here, now a furniture restorers and makers workshop, began as a warehouse with stables. The original cobble stones can still be seen in the yard. These are just water rounded stones- quite different in appearance from the granite setts mentioned in the Queen Street section. The patchwork of differing styles of stonework and brickwork which can be seen here is fascinating.

To try to document the actual shops and businesses would be an interesting but exhausting project. Although a few, Livingstons the Tailors [1896] for example, can be traced back through time, continuing change is the rule. At the rate of two or three per year businesses close and new ones take their places, whilst some existing businesses have the confusing habit of moving from one location to another.

For shoppers, this constantly shifting pattern simply offers more interesting opportunities for 'retail therapy'. For older residents and returning exiles it offers the opportunity to spend hours arguing where exactly Mc Guffog's or Blackadder's shop once was...

Whilst visitors frequently comment on how much they appreciate the unique diversity of the Castle Douglas' shops, local residents can take them for granted. At the time of writing (April 2004), the Letters page of the Galloway News has been dominated by the threat -or opportunity- posed by a proposal to build a new supermarket in the town.

On a final point: King Street does not end at the Town Clock [the third on the same site, the two earlier ones were both destroyed by fire]. A good spot to relax after this tour of Castle Douglas is one of the town's more recent attractions- the Sulwath Brewery, which has a limited (10am to 4pm) pub licence. The Brewery occupies the site of a former bakery, on the left below the Town Clock.

Friday, June 24, 2005


Tesco are a huge UK based multi-national corporation, the British equivalent of Wal-Mart.

Castle Douglas is a very small rural market town (population 4000) in the bottom left hand corner/ far south west of Scotland. Since 2000, Castle Douglas has promoted itself as a 'Food Town' with a focus on supporting, via the many independent retailers and businesses in the town, local food growers and producers. More details can be found at

In February 2004, Tesco announced that they wanted to build a supermarket in Castle Douglas.

In April 2005, Tesco were given planning permission to build their supermarket.

At present (June 2005) work has yet to start on building the supermarket.

Castle Douglas is in the process of becoming a 'Fairtrade' town.

The purpose of this blog site is to act as a last line of defence against Tesco.

From discussions with Tesco, it is clear that they are worried that any negative impact they will have on Castle Douglas ' would be bad for our corporate image'. Tesco also claim that they respect the 'heritage values' of Castle Douglas as a Food Town and those of the surrounding area - the 'Stewartry of Kirkcudbright', a district name which dates back to the Middle Ages when the semi-independent Lords of Galloway ruled the area through a 'steward'.

Although Tesco claim [ from lengthy telephone converation November 2004 with a Tesco PR person] that Castle Douglas has a national reputation as a 'Food Town' and so would be an equal partner in any marketing attempts by Tesco to use the Food Town theme as a form of 'greenwash', we doubt this.

Our intention is to use this blog to highlight what is at risk here and the damage supermarket giants like Tesco have already caused in other communities.

As part of our year long campaign against Tesco, we have a list of every business currently trading in Castle Douglas town centre. There are 132 businesses on the list. The impact of Tesco on this town will be fully documented.

Furthermore, thanks to Friends of the Earth, Corporate Watch, the New Economics Foundation and the Scotttish Green Party plus much hard work done by the 'Save Our Stewarty Shops ' campaign over the past year, the Castle Douglas Tesco issue has already achieved a strong local, Scottish and UK level media profile - from BBC Radio 4's Today and You and Yours programmes through to an almost weekly presence in the local press (Galloway News and Galloway Gazette).

So far, so good. But despite the best efforts of Save Our Stewarty Shops, Tesco still managed to get planning permission. The task now is to use the resources of the internet and world wide web to encourage Tesco to 'think again'.

To conclude: in the words of the late William Burroughs;

"LISTEN TO MY LAST WORDS anywhere. Listen to my last words any world. Listen all you boards syndicates and governments of the earth. And you powers behind what filth consummated in what lavatory to take what is not yours. To sell the ground from unborn feet forever -

"Don't let them see us. Don't tell them what we are doing."

Are these the words of the all-powerful boards and syndicates of the earth?

"For God's sake don't let that Coca-Cola thing out - "

For Coca Cola, read Tesco. Tesco depend on the fact that we cannot see what they are doing to towns like Castle Douglas and to communities around the world. That no-one has, yet, fully documented their destructive impact.

Well now someone is. So think about it Tesco. Is the tiny contribution your Castle Douglas store can make to your £2 billion/ year profits really worth it?