Other NamesGreenhead Road, Greenhead Playing Fields.
Suggested Meaning:1. at the head of an open piece of grassy ground
2. at head of a piece of grassy ground
elementScots green ‘An open piece of grassy ground’
elementStandard Scottish English head ‘head, top’
Blaeu Coila (1654):N/A
OS Name Books (1855-57):Greenhead
Location:Ordnance Survey (1895)
Early Forms
Greenhead (OPR 1786, 1796 – 1803/20), Greenhead row (1845), Greenhead Street (1861).


Greenhead Row in the foreground with Afton Bridgend behind (Photo Courtesy of Bobby Grierson)

The Ordnance Survey Name Book (1855-57) entry for Greenhead reads –

Two rows of cottages, situated on the south of Afton Bridgend.

The Authorities for Spelling of the name were John Lee, New Cumnock, Mr. McKenzie, Afton Bridgend and Mr. Campbell, Greenhead.

Map 1: Greenhead (OS Map 1857) | Reproduced with the National Library of Scotland.

At that time the parish of New Cumnock was considered to comprise of the 5 villages – Pathhead, Mansfield, Castle, Afton Bridgend, and Couplagate. The village of Afton Bridgend stretched from the Afton Bridge to the junction of the path west of the Meeting House (Reformed Presbyterian Church) as well as including Greenhead to the south; while east of the Meeting House was the village of Couplagate (Couplaliggate) [1,2].

Could the land between the Greenhead rows and and the houses at Afton Bridgend served as a . a bleaching green for the Afton Bridgend village. That is to say Greenhead rows were located at the ‘head of the green’. If such a green did exist, then it may be expected to have been shown on the Ordnance Survey map, as was the case with Castle Green, New Cumnock [3] as well as various outher such greens throughout the County. Furthermore, there are no local records of such a green and in any case the name seems to pre-date the growth of the village at Afton Bridgend, as disussed below

Lennox family & Greenhead

The earliest reference to the stand-alone place-name Greenhead in the parish of New Cumnock is found in the baptism records of the children of James Lennox & Betty Howatson.

I. James Lennox & Betty Howatson

Together, James and Betty had 12 children born in the period 1771-1793, however only the records of their sons John (b.1786) and Alexander (b.1795) included their place of birth, i.e. Greenhead. It is fair to presume that three other children baptised between 1786-1795 were born at Greenhead, while it is also not necessary to preclude those born outwith that period.

There are no baptism records associated with any other families at Greenhead during this 22 year period (although it should be noted that the majority of baptism records do not include place of birth) and therefore it is unlikely that Greenhead comprised of two rows of cottages at that time.

II. William Lennox & Margaret Kerr

At the beginning of the following century William Lennox (son of I. James Lennox & Betty Howatson above) & Margaret Kerr, had 3 children born at Afton Bridgend* (1803-1808) and then five children born at Greenhead (1810-1820).

*although Afton Bridgend is given as place of birth, it may be a reference to Greenhead, Afton Bridgend

During this period another family, Michael Hunter & Agnes Sharp had two sons (1814, 1818) born at Greenhead, suggesting more than one cottage at that time. This branch of the Lennox family later settled at Polquhirter, in the parish. However the relationship between the Lennox family and Greenhead reappears in later years.

Meanwhile, a new family, that of Hugh Simson (Simpson) & Mary Gibson appeared at Greenhead and had 5 children born there, over a ten-year period (1823-1833). In 1830, Elizabeth the daughter of Mungo Douglas and Flora Miller was born at Greenhead. Suggesting at least two cottages.

Census Records

There is no mention of the Lennox family in the Census Records of the parish of New Cumnock [Scotland’s Places]. Furthermore, the early Census Records [Scotland’s Places] do not record Greenhead as an address and the occupants are included under the addresses of Afton Bridgend (1841, 1851) and then New Cumnock (1861). [N.B. in ‘’ the address is recorded as the Reformed Presbyterian Manse (1861), i.e. the building adjacent to the Meeting Room had been replaced by the Reformed Presbyterian Church – clearly as indication of the vicinity of Greenhead].

It is not until the 1871 Census that Greenhead appears as an address, under the name Greenhead Street, and it comprised of 14 houses and 52 occupants. The occupations of the inhabitants included coalminer (7), coalwork labourer (8), coal pit sinker (1), labourer (1) and shoemaker (1), reflecting the growth of the New Cumnock Coalfield during this time.

Valuation Rolls
III. Robert Lennox & Elizabeth Symington

Members of the aforementioned Lennox family make a reappearance in the 1875 Valuation Rolls under Robert Lennox, born in 1820 at Greenhead, the son of II. William Lennox & Margaret Kerr. He was now a tenant farmer at Knockmurran, Coylton, suggesting that perhaps the family worked on the land when previously living at Greenhead and later Polquhirter. Robert owned 6 houses, a blacksmith’s shop and a public house in Afton Bridgend at which time the innkeeper was George Kerr – a relative perhaps of Robert Lennox’s mother Margaret Kerr?

Robert Lennox passed away at Knockmurran in 1877 and ownership of his properties passed to his trustees, his widow and two sons namely – ‘Mrs Elizabeth Symington or Lennox (widow), Charles Lennox and Robert Lennox, farmers, High Knockmurran by Patna, Trustees of the late Robert Lennox, farmer, High Knockmurran by Patna‘ [Scotland’s People] – although High Knockmurran is near Patna, it is in the parish of Coylton.

The 1885 Valuation Rolls reveal that the portfolio of the Trustees properties at Afton Bridgend village had expanded and now consisted of two groups. The first comprising of their existing properties in Afton Bridgend including the public house and the second the two Greenhead rows comprising 16 houses.

The address ‘Greenhead, Afton Bridgend‘ appears in the 1895 Valuation Rolls and the Trustees’ properties continue to consist of their Afton Bridgend and Greenhead properties. This pattern continued until 1913 and the death of Elizabeth Lennox, after which the properties were divided between her sons Charles and Robert Lennox. In terms of the Greenhead properties, Charles Lennox, the eldest son inherited row 1, comprising initially of 6 houses (and later 5), along with a field while Robert Lennox inherited row 2, comprising 10 houses while soon after Robert sold the public house & house at Afton Bridgend to the tenants Jane Kerr and Mary K. Gilbert.

The Valuation Rolls of 1930 & 1935, recorded that six properties in Greenhead were uninhabitable. By 1940 Greenhead, row 2, had been demolished completely while only one of the five houses at Greenhead, row 1 was deemed inhabitable and Charles Lennox continuned to own the field, with John Campbell, carter as tenant. The families from Greenhead moved into the new houses at Holm Road and Glebe Street in the north side of Afton Bridgend [4].

Map 2: Greenhead and Afton Bridgend (OS 1896) | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Greenhead – ‘at the head of a piece of grassy ground’

There are two known previous occurrences of the place-name Greenhead in the parish of New Cummock that had disappeared prior to the publication of the OS Survey Name Book Ayrshire (1885-57).

Greenhead of Knockshinnoch

The earliest reference is found in the Will & Testament of 97 year old ‘Bessie Cannon in Greenhead of Knockshinnoch, dated 3rd April 1700‘ [Scotland’s Places, Wills & Testaments]. The lands of Knockshinnoch had been held since the late 15th century by the Dunbars of Knockshinnoch; a branch of the family of the Dunbar barons of Cumnock. Knockshinnoch Tower served as the family home and changed hands in 1676 when the lands of Knockshinnoch were acquired by Hugh Douglas of Garallan. A datestone of 1694 carrying the initials and armorial bearings of Douglas and his wife Margaret Craufurd can be seen in the gable end of the current byre at Knockshinnoch farm [5]. It was during Douglas’s tenure that Bessie Cannon was resident at Greenhead of Knockshinnoch. Other lost ‘-of Knocksinnoch‘ names are Cairn of Knockshinnoch and Bridgend of Knockshinnoch – found in the Old Parish Records.

Greenhead of Garrive

The reference is found in the baptism record ‘26th October 1810, William, lawful son to the deceased Alex Cumming and Mary Dove in Greenhead of Garrive‘. The lands of Garrive were susbtantial and at one time were home to Hew Craufurd, the first minister of the parish of New Cumnock (1653-1694). Other ‘-of Garrive‘ names found in the Old Parish Records are Midton of Garieve and Burnside of Garieve. All these names have since been lost and the lands of Garieve have been renamed Mansfield with Mansfield Mains and Hall of Mansfield the major farms [6].

Armstrong’s Map of Ayrshire (1775) illustrate Knockshinnock and Garrive as significant houses attached to tree enclosed ground.

Map 3: Knockshinnock & Garrive (Armstrong 1775) | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland N.B. Braehead on the map is unknown.

The Ordnance Survey Name Books Ayrshire (1855-57) reveals six other ocurrences of the place-name Greenhead. These appear to fall into the following two categories

  • A – properties e.g., farms & cottages associated with grander properties e.g. castles, large house.
  • B – properties e.g., buildings (houses) & cottage near a named village green.
Parish Greenhead Associated building / places
A1. Kilmarnockfarm houseCraufurland Castle
A2. Maybole farmstead, dwelling housesAuchendrae House
A3. Riccartoncottagenear Haining Place
A4. StevenstonfarmKerelaw Castle (ruins)
B1. Loudonrange of buildings east side of the public green
B2. Mauchlinea neat cottagenear Loan Green
Ordnance Survey Name Books Ayrshire (1855-57)

Element: green

Standard Scottish English green ‘bleaching green’

As discussed above there are no records, including maps, of a public green, e.g. a bleaching green at Afton Bridgend.

Scots grene, grein, green n. ‘An open piece of grassy ground in front of a house’

The place-name element green in the four Greenheads in Category A above along with Greenhead of Knockshinnoch (1700) fit well with the definition for grene and its variant green given in ‘A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue’ which covers up to 1700 [7] –

Grene, Grein, n. Also: greine; greyn(e; green.b. An open piece of grassy ground, esp. that forming part of the grounds of a manor-house or castle.

Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd.
Scots green n. ‘A piece of grassy ground in front of a house’

In the Scottish National Dictionary, which covers 1700 onwards, the definition for green takes a slight change with a broader scope which still fits with Category A Greenheads, along with both Greenhead of Knockshinnoch and Greenhead of Garrive [8] –

Green III. n. 1. A piece of grassy ground: (1) in front of a house, freq. in combs. as kirk-, manse-, etc. green. Gen.Sc.

Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd.

So which best fits Greenhead, New Cumnock?

Closer to home, than the other Greenheads in Ayrshire, is Greenhead in the parish of Sanquhar, Dumfriesshire, 10 miles to the south-west of Afton Bridgend. The OS Map (1856) shows Castle Mains farm with the ruins of Sanquhar Castle close by, to the west, while some 400 yards to the east across open land is Greenhead farm, i.e. at the head of the green that stretches from the castle grounds.

Map 4: Sanquhar, Castle Mains & Greenhead (OS 1856) | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Compare that with the landscape at New Cumnock where Castle Mains sits to the south east of the site of Cumnock Castle while 450 yards to the south sits the two rows of cottages at Greenhead. The major difference to Sanquhar is that the land between Castle Mains, New Cumnock and Greenhead is not open land and as such it is necessary to visualise the landscape before Afton Bridgend developed as a village.

Map 1: Greenhead (OS Map 1857) | Reproduced with the National Library of Scotland.

in 1790, the Reverend James Young, in compiling the Statistcal Account, writes [9]-

two villages having been built near the church and on Afton Water, where there was but one house in 1757

New Cumnock, County of Ayrshire, OSA, Vol. VI, 1793

The Armstrong Map (1775) shows open land between Mains (Castle Mains) and what would become the village of Afton Bridgend. The Greenhead of that time would not be ‘two rows of cottages‘ but rather originally a cottage of that name. It is probable that this Greenhead pre-dates Greenhead of Knockshinnoch and Greenhead of Garrive, both perhaps having to append the ‘-of Knockshinnoch‘ and ‘-of Garrive‘ respectively, to differentiate themselves from this Greenhead (i.e. effectively Greenhead of Castle Mains).

(N.B. The Castle Green situated on the west bank of the Afton Water between Castle Mains and the site of Cumnock Castle was established as a village green in 1837, taking its name from the Castle village which in turn took itss name from Cumnock Castle [3].)

Standard Scottish English head ‘head, top, end’

The place-name element is fairly common and is found in several place-names in the parish including Braehead, Gatehead, Greenhead, Pathhead and Waterhead all pronounced locally as Scots heid ‘head, top’ [10]. It is also interesting to note the reference to Greenfoot (1737) in the Old Parish Baptism records.

Removing the buildings and associated gardens that lay south of Castle Mains farm from the OS Map 1895 (see map 5) gives some idea of the extent of the piece of grassy ground that stretched from the farm to a cottage at Greenhead, at the head of the green.

The green in question is more likely to be associated with Castle Mains rather than Cumnock Castle.

Map 1: Greenhead (OS Map 1857) modified | Reproduced with the National Library of Scotland.

Mason Avenue & Greenhead Road

The Greenhead rows were demolished in preparation for the building of new houses. The road from Afton Bridgend to Greenhead is shown on the map below, with one small building at its far end.

Map 5: Remains of Greenhead | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Ayr County Council Housing Association constructed a new road from Afton Bridgend stretching to where the Greenhead rows once stood with houses on either side of the road and named this new development Mason Avenue, after local councillor Mr. James Mason.

Church & Manse, Temple Brae, Cafe and junction of Mason Avenue with Afton Bridgend (Photo courtesy Alex Jess)

However the name Greenhead was preserved in the form of Greenhead Road, albeit as the name given to a much smaller housing development some 300 yards east of Mason Avenue and forever disassociated with the original site of Greenhead. This was in line with naming many of the new streets after farms, hills etc. in the New Cumnock landscape.

Map 6: Mason Avenue & Greenhead Road (OS1950s) | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Greenhead Playing Field

The parish had outgrown the exisiting Glebe Playing Fields in the heart of the town and additional facilities in particular football pitches were in high demand. In 1953 the need for playing fields in the district including the parish of New Cumnock proved to be quite a controversial issue regarding major issues such as cost and location. Part of the funding had been earmarked for that year by the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation, which survives to this day as the UK wide charity CISWO. In September of that year ‘ground adjoining the Greenhead site, i.e. land to south of the new houses at Mason Avenue, was identified as the location for the new playing fields and the project costs were revised down to £3,600 [11].

A letter from the County Clerk said the Youth Service and Further Education Sub-Committee had resumed consideration of the question of the provision of playing field facilities in July, and it was reported that the Housing Committee had now agreed to make use of ground adjoining the Greenhead site. In the light of this decision and other information, the revised estimated cost of the schemes was drawn up.

The Cumnock Chronicle , September 25, 1953

The Cumnock Chronicle kept their readers informed of the progress or indeed lack of progress. The work began in Spring of the following year and by the Summer, as well as two football pitches there was talk of there likely to be a cricket pitch and perhaps a hockey pitch too. Iron gates were to be erected at the Mason Avenue entrance to the field while a fence was to be erected around much of its perimeter. In addition, a footpath from Mounthope Terrace at the top of the east bank, down into the park was also to be constructed. The field was later tilled, harrowed and levelled by the end of the year but due to bad weather no grass had been sown.

In early Spring 1956 further delays were encountered by waterlogged pitches and vandalsim (apparently something not unique to today’s much maligned younger generation). Indeed at a Cumnock District Council meeting the subject of goalposts were raised at which the District Clerk was asked if these would be the moveable variety, he replied he did not think so , as “Councillors would pass the pitch some morning and find the posts in the burn“. The goal posts were erected in May and good use was being made of the field by the ‘young people of the village‘, although no official opening ceremony had yet taken place.

Map 7: Mason Avenue & Greenhead Road (OS1950s) | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

A pavilion was erected, to be used chiefly by football teams and for other events when need be. Nearby a permanent dais, a ceremonial platform, was built for the crowning of the Gala Queen, the main event of the annual Gala Day in the town. (This was a much welcomed addition since previously a temporary dais had to be erected every year against Tweedie’s garage wall at the Glebe playing field.) Children and adults from various streets in the town would dress up and decorate their street lorry in a particular theme, for example – current events either local or national, countries of the world, films, etc. – Redree Place were always the lorry to beat! The lorries would drive round the town and would be followed on foot by ‘the walkers‘ in fancy dress and make their way to Greenheid, where they would be judged and prizes awarded. The highlight however was the crowning of the Gala Queen, accompanied with her entourage and last year’s Gala Queen. Other events would be happening across a crowded field and a good time was had by all.

Those big Gala days are gone now as the population of the town dwindled however the community spirit remains as strong as ever.

New Cumnock Gala Day Photos

The field included two football pitches, supported with a pavilion, for use by school football teams and local amateur sides such as Greenhead and Lanemark football clubs. Of course there was plenty of spare grass in between suitable for ‘friendly’ kick-abouts any day of the week.

Swings, round-abouts and banana-boats etc. were added later!

The football club has since changed its name to New Cumnock Community Club and currently play in the Ayrshire Amateur League 2nd Division where they are making a strong challenge for promotion (as off February 2023).

Photograph of Greenhead Row
Courtesy of Robert Grierson, Cumnock History Club

[1] New Cumnock Place-Names: Afton Bridgend (in progress)
[2] New Cumnock Place-Names: Couplagate
[3] New Cumnock Place-Names | Castle Green
[4] George Sanderson , New Cumnock Long and Faraway
[5] New Cumnock Place-Names: Knockshinnoch (in progress)
[6] New Cumnock Place-Names: Mansfield
[7] Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. | grene, green
[8] Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. | green
[9] Reverend James Young, New Cumnock, County of Ayrshire, OSA, Vol. VI, 1793 p.99
[10] Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. | heid, head
[11] Cumnock Chronicle , September 25, 1953

Reproduced with the Permission of National Library of Scotland
Images used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) licence.
Map 1: Ordnance Survey Maps – Six-inch 1st edition, Scotland, 1843-1882 (1857) |Greenhead
Map 2: Ordnance Survey Maps – 25 inch 2nd and later editions, Scotland, 1892-1949 | Greenhead & Afton Bridgend
Map 3: Andrew Armstrong, A new map of Ayrshire. (1775)|Knockshinnoch & Garrive  
Map 4: Ordnance Survey Maps – 25 inch 1st edition, Scotland, 1855-1882 (1856) | Greenhead, Sanquhar
Map 5: Ordnance Survey, 1:25,000 maps of Great Britain – 1945-1971 (1953) | Remains of Greenhead
Map 6: Ordnance Survey National Grid maps, 1944-1971 (1961) |Mason Avenue
Map 7: Ordnance Survey National Grid maps, 1944-1971 (1961) |Greenhead Playing Fields

Ordnance Survey Name Books
By Permission of Scotland’s Places
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 49|Greenhead, New Cumnock
A1: Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 33 | Greenhead, Kilmarnock
A2: Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 46 | Greenhead, Maybole
A3: Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 53 | Greenhead, Riccarton
A4: Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 57 | Greenhead, Stevenston
B1: Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 43 | Greenhead, Newmilns (Loudon)
B2: Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 44 | Greenhead, Mauchline

Scotland’s People
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