Suggested Meaning:a new house built for lead miners and their families
Blaeu Coila (1654):No Entry
OS Name Books (1855-57):Newhouse
Location:Ordnance Survey (1858)


Newhouse (Robert Guthrie)

The Ordnance Survey Name Book entry for Newhouse reads –

A small house south of Straid, occupied by a shepherd

Although the small house of Newhouse stood south of the farm of Straid it was actually situated on the neighbouring lands of Littlemark and was originally built to house the miners, and their families, who worked at the nearby Afton lead mines on the banks of Dalleagles Burn.

Map 1: Newhouse & Ol Lead Miine (OS Map 1856) | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

The Afton Lead Mines

The Afton lead mines take their name from the Barony of Afton which compirised a number of lands in the parish of New Cumnock, including those of the Littlemark and Straid. It was created in 1706 for Sir William Gordon of Earlston, near St. John’s Town of Dalry, Kirkcudbrightshire adding the title of the 1st Baronet of Afton. He was succeeded by his brother Sir Alexander Gordon of Earlston, 2nd Baronet of Afton and he in turn by his eldest son Thomas Gordon, 3rd Baronet of Afton. In 1756 Sir Thomas acquired the lands of Stair, Ayrshire and established the family home at Stairhouse [1] . It was during his tenure as Baronet of Afton that the ‘Lead mines’ appeared on The Roy’s Military Survey of Scotland of the Lowlands (1747-55), south of Dalaglas, i.e. Dalleagles [See Map 2].

In 1761, Sir Thomas announced that the Mines of Afton had recently been relinquished by the ‘Governor and Company for smelting down lead by sea an pit coal’, a Quaker Company formed in 1692, also known as the London Lead Company and that the mines they were now available to be leased. [2]

THAT THE MINES of AFTON belonging to Thomas Gordon of Earlston, Esquire, lying in the parish of New Cumnock, and shire of Ayr, lately relinquished by the Governor and Company for smelting down lead by sea and pit coal, are to be set in tack, and entered to against the 26th of October next, for any reasonable number of years. The works are all in good order, the veins very promising , and bearing lead in the foreheads just now, and will be shown at the place by Mr Robert Harruse, Agent for said company. The proprietor may be spoke with at Stairhouse, and letters directed to him by Ayr post, will be duly answered.

Caledonian Mercury 6th May 1761

N.B. In 1710 the London Lead Company had taken over the Wanlockhead mining grounds in Dumfriesshire, and remained there for almost 20 years. [3]

Records of the Afton Mines go quiet for a time. Sir Thomas died in 1769 and daughter Catherine Gordon inherited his estate and the following year these passed to Colonel Alexander Stewart, later Major-General Stewart, through their marriage. Along with three business partners he established Afton Minerals to work the coal on the Afton estate, primarily at Straid.

Map 3: Lead Mines (Armstrong 1775) | Reprodued with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

In the 1780’s, John Muir a visitor to New Cumnock kept a diary of all aspects of parish activity. ‘Notes from a Diary’ were recorded by three known sources, the best known of which was Helen J. Steven where she devoted a chapter in her ‘History of the Cumnocks, Old and New’ to the notes [4]. However, with respect to the Afton Mines, the manuscript of Rev. Matthew Hutchison, minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, provides some additional observations from the minister [5] –

The first mention I find in these notes of mines and mining is in 1789*.  At that date we are told that the Afton mine began to be opened up by a rich English company.  And frequently afterwards I find mention of births, deaths and marriages at Afton mine.  I have been in doubt as to where this Afton mine was.  We are (not) told what sort of mine it was, whether coal or lead or what; I rather think it was not coal at least.  It is known that for a considerable time there was mining carried on near Straid on what is known as Afton Estate though it does not touch the Afton.  I thought at one time that this must have been the mine referred to.  More recently I have been informed that there actually was a lead mine worked near Afton Water; the exact locality I have not found.  This may have been at a date earlier than that of the English company.

Rev. Matthew Hutchison ‘Notes from Diary manuscript’

*N.B. H. J. Steven transposed the last two digits of the year, giving 1798 instead of 1789.

John Muir is certainly referring to the Afton Lead Mines on the banks of Dalleagles burn and indeed the Rev. James Young in the the First Statistical Account of the Parish of New Cumnock [6], compiled in 1790 and published in 1793, confirms that the lead mine was in the barony of Afton.

There is now a lead mine working in Afton barony, about 3 miles S.W. from the church, in which a company of Quakers have entered into a contract. Twenty miners are employed, and more are expected according to the apparent success.

Rev James Young, OSA Vol. VI, 1793

Thomas Kirkland’s article on ‘History and Tradition’ in The New Cumnock School-Fellows’ Annual Magazine (1898) recalls a melancholy incident at Dalleagles Burn and identified descendants of two of the miners’ families that were living in the parish a century later [7] –

What about the ten men who came from England to work the lead up Dalleagles Burn, and the tragic story of the two pools there, known as the English Girls. Two of these men, we know, settled here, the one represented by the Lee family in Bridgend, the others by the Browns of Westland.

The New Cumnock School-Fellows’ Annual Magazine (1898)

More recently local author George Sanderson followed up on the Rev. Young’s remarks about the miners and noted [8] –

– by 1800s births were being recorded with names not previously known in the village. Aaron Hardie, John lee and Mungo Walker were all born up at Newhouses (up Dalleagles Burn), Anthony Milligan, Robert McCaig and William Patrick at Dalleagles; William Hardie and John Meggat at Afton Mines .

George Sanderson


A new house built for lead miners and theior families

Revisiting the Old Parish Records (OPR) for baptisms/ births [Scotland’s Places] at Afton Mines and Newhouse in a chronological manner from 1780-1820 revealed the following names and pattern. It was not unusual for child’s birth-place to be recorded as the place where their father worked, other examples in the OPR include limeworks and collieries; presumably at a cottage or house nearby where the family lived.

It should be noted that OPR are not always complete, however it does appear that the early births were at the Afton Mines before an alternative residence , or a new house, was built as a home for lead miners.

Major-General Stewart had died in 1794, soon after the Quaker Company had taken the lease out on the Afton Lead Mines while Mrs. Catherine Gordon Stewart passed away in 1818 after which her lands in New Cumnock – Straid, Littlemark, Burnfoot and Brockloch – fell to two of her daughters . There is a large gap in baptisms at Newhouse from 1819 until 1837 (again taking into account the possibility of incomplete records) suggesting that the lead mines had probably run their course. Indeed a newspaper article in 1837 refers to them as the Afton old lead mines [9] –

POISONOUS HAY – The tenant of the farm of Littlemark, in the parish of New Cumnock, lately purchased a quantity of sprait, or coarse hay, which grew near the Afton old lead mines, and having given it to his cows, they were all suddenly taken ill, and ten out of twelve of them died. The three young cows in the same byre got none of the sprait, and they were not affected. It is supposed that the deleterious water from the lead mines* had saturated the hay after it was cut. -Glasgow Courier

Londonderry Standard 18th Feb 1837

*It later transpired that the water from the lead mines was not the source of the problem but instead the livestock had been struck down by an infectious disease [8].

By the 1841 Census, Robert Wilson, agricultural labour, his wife Margaret Taylor and infant daugher Ellen were living at Newhouse, while a further daughter, Joan, was born before the end of the year [Scotland’s Places]. Newhouse was no longer a house for lead miners and instead it housed those that worked on the land as agricultural labourers, shepherds etc.

However, there was another attempt to revive the Afton Lead Mines by an English Company in 1845 [10] –

NEW CUMNOCK – MINING ENTERPRISE . An English company have taken the minerals on the estate of Afton and Daleagles, where lead was wrought about 50 years ago; and although individuals and companies have since attempted to set it again a-going, their endeavours have been ineffectual, from want of capital. The present company, however, it is said, will expend £100,000 in giving it a thorough trial. They have already commenced clearing out the old levels, so that it will, ere long, be in a working state.

The Glasgow Citizen 22nd Nov 1845.

This is probably the same company that in 1847 acquired the lease of the Afton Minerals from Sir William Allason Cunninghame of Afton and Logan, a grandson of Mrs. Gordon Stewart, and that established the ill-fated Nithsdale Iron Company on the nearby lands of Bank [11].

However both ventures failed – no iron works, no lead mines as coal became king!

In due course Newhouse was renamed as Littlemarkhill, the hillside on the lands of Littlemark [12] and would later be home to coal miners and their families.

Map 4 : Littlemarkhill (OS Map) | Reproduced with the permission of National Library of Scotland

[1] New Cumnock History | Catherine Gordon Stewart
[2] British Newspaper Archive |Caledonian Mercury 6th May 1761
[3] Mine Explorer | Wanlockhead
[4] Helen J. Steven, History of the Cumnocks, Old and New (1899)
[5] Rev. Matthew Hutchsion ‘Notes of a Diary’
The typescript was made by Chris Rollie from a copy of manuscript notes on John Muir’s diary in the hand of Rev Matthew Hutchison, which was communicated in 2010 to Alex Jess (New Cumnock) from the archive of Hutchison’s great grandson by Nigel R. Smith (Campsie Glen, Glasgow) via Dane Love (Auchinleck).
[6] Reverend James Young, OSA Vol. VI, 1793
[7] Thomas Kirkland, The New Cumnock School-Fellows’ Annual Magazine (1898)
[8] George Sanderson , New Cumnock Far and Away (1992)
[9] British Newspaper Archive | Londonderry Standard 18th Feb 1837
[10] British Newspaper Archive | The Glasgow Citizen 22nd Nov 1845
[11] J. L. Carvel | The New Cumnock Coalfield (1938)
[12] New Cumnock Place-Names | Littlemark
By Permission of National Library of Scotland
Map 1: Ordnance Survey (1858) | Newhouse
Map 2: Roy Military Survey of Scotland (1747-1755) | Lead Mines
Map 3: Andrew Armstrong A new map of Ayrshire. (1775)   | Lead Mines
Mp 4: Ordnance Survey (1894) | Littlemarkhill
Ordnance Survey Name Books
By Permission of Scotland’s Places
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 49|Newhouse
Scotland’s People
Old Parish Records, Births, Marriages, Deaths, Census Records, Valuations Rolls, Wills & Testaments