Dumfries History

Dumfries history

Dumfries is a market town and former Royal Burgh within Dumfries and Galloway Region, it is located near the mouth of the River Nith. Dumfries and District was for several centuries ruled over and deemed of much importance by the invading Romans. There are many traces of Roman presence in history still to be found in Dumfriesshire, coins, weapons, military earthworks and roads left by their lengthened sojourn in this part of Scotland.

After the Roman departure, the area around Dumfries had various forms of visits by Picts, Anglo-Saxons, Scots and Norse. The town was of strategic importance in history due to its location at the mouth of the River Nith and the route from England through Dumfries into Dumfries and Galloway.

A Royal Castle was built in the 13th century on the site of the present Castledykes Park which probably formed the nucleus of the town. This Castle no longer exists, the stonework was dismantled and probably used for building in the town.

Dumfries history in the ‘Middle Ages’

Before becoming King of Scots, Robert the Bruce slew his rival Sir John Comyn “the Red Comyn” at Greyfriers Kirk in the town on 10th February 1306. Bruce was subsequently excommunicated as a result, less for the murder than for the location. Regardless, for Bruce the die was cast at that moment in Greyfriers and so began his campaign for the independence of Scotland. Bruce and his party then attacked Dumfries Castle, the English garrison surrendered and Bruce was victorious. He was crowned King of Scots barely seven weeks after, Bruce later triumphed at the Battle of Bannockburn which led Scotland to independence.

Once Edward received word of the revolution that had started in Dumfries, he again raised an army and invaded Scotland. Christopher Seton (Bruce’s brother in law) had been captured at Loch Doon and was hurried to Dumfries to be tried for treason in general and more specifically for being present at the Comyn’s killing. He was condemned and executed by hanging and then beheaded at the site of what is now St Mary’s Church.

In 1659 ten women were accused of witchcraft, they were found guilty and taken to the Whitesands, strangled at stakes and their bodies burnt to ashes.

In the eighteenth century in the then County Hotel, room six was known as Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Room. The Young Pretender had his headquarters there during his three day sojourn in Dumfries towards the end of 1745. The wood panelled room is still there although the property is now a retail unit, fortunately the room was protected by listed building consent. This hotel property is located opposite the fountain in the centre of Dumfries, adjacent to the present Mark’s and Spencer retail unit.

Robert Burns

Burns history museum

Burns Mueum, click to enlarge

moved to Dumfriesshire in 1788 to Ellisland Farm, he later moved to Dumfries town in1791, although still writing poetry his day job was as an exciseman sent to catch smugglers who plied their trade from some of the caves on the Solway Coast across the dangerous sands to England.

Inventor William Symington undertook a project to install an engine on a boat and that it would not catch fire. The trial took place on Dalswinton Loch near Dumfries,
He was able to prove that a steam engine was able to work on a boat, he went on to become the builder of the first practical steamboat.