Milngavie’s origins can be traced back to pre-Roman times. The area was situated between the Caledonian tribes of the North and the ancient Britons of the South.
The area around Milingavie was ruled by the Danni tribe – one of the wealthiest and most powerful of the North Briton tribes. Little is known of their history.
The Roman Army invades the Lowlands
‘Barbarians’ vs Roman Legions
During this occupation in AD 142 a great defensive wall was constructed so as to guard the more settled southern districts from the fierce incursions of the barbarian tribes of the north. This `Anntonine Wall` streched from the Clyde to Bo’ness on the Forth, a distance of 60 kilometres. The Anntonine Wall is named after the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius who had ordered its construction.
At fixed intervals along the wall it had forts. One such fort was situated at Bearsden – a neighbouring town of Milngavie. Milngavie lay to the north of the wall on the high ground, about Craigmaddie, Mugdock, and other points on the Kilpatrick hills, were detached forts, the remains of which can in some places still be traced. They are thought to be outposts of the Romans.
Building A Road
No doubt the Milngavie area was of some importance to the Romans, guarding one of the major passes from the north. The Damni tribe of Milngavie would have benefited from the close proximity of the Roman’s fort. They would have profited by the building of roads, trade, learnt some of the Roman technology – farming, medicine, etc. They would also be able to have a more peaceful existence.
Bearsden Roman Bath House:
When the Romans left the area in AD 5, the area of Milngavie was repeatedly invaded by tribes from the north, and all traces of order was destroyed. This resulted in a long period of savage conflict between rival tribes who fought for control of the region. There were many bloody battles between the Picts from the north and the Strathclyde Britons of the south.
Mugdock is believed to have been a place of strategic importance, with a great battle in Arunan near Strathblane. Close by are an unusual group of stones known as the `Auld Wives Lift`, on Craigmaddie Muir. Local folklore says that they were placed in memory of some battle. Following this long era of conflict Christianity was introduced to the Kingdom of Strathclyde by St Ninian and later St Mungo.
Earldom Of Lennox
In the late 11th Century there was an increasing number of Saxons & Normans arriving from England. They brought with them many English customs, and soon organised manors, baronies or larger districts of country which were awarded to them, similar to those in England.
One such district was the Earldom of Lennox, which included the Parishes of: Fintry, Kilsyth, Campsie, Strathblane, Baldernock, Balfron, Drymen and Inchcalleoch, now Buchanan. The Earls of Lennox were the first known rulers of the district in which Milngavie is situated. Mugdock Castle was one of the Earl’s many fortified castles. In 1425 he was executed for treason against King James I.
Subsequently, the Earl of Montrose was granted most of the land that had belonged to the Earl of Lennox. The Earl of Montrose lived mostly at his houses Mugdock, Garscube and Kincardine. A decendent of the family, Sir John Graham, became the new ownerof Mugdock Castle, a large part of Dumbartonshire and a smaller part of Stirlingshire. In the 18th Century the family moved out of the Castle of Mugdock. It eventually fell into ruin.
A number of Estates around Milngavie were formed out of the early baronies:
- Dougalstoun Mansion & Estate
- Kilmardiny Mansion Estate
- Mains Estate, Mansion House
- Craigallian House & Estate
- Craigend Estate & Castle
- Craigmaddie Estate, Mansion House & Castle
- Bardowie Estate & Castle
The River Allander has played an important part in the development of Milngavie. Once the River reaches Milngavie, its geographical position naturally lends itself to taking advantage of the rivers power, through the use of water wheels and pumps.
For hundreds of years the Montrose family owned a corn mill that stood on the river at Milngavie. It was here that the crops from the surrounding lands were threshed. Bit by bit the lands of the Montrose family were steadily sold off, however, they kept ownership of the mill. The mill was a major factor in the growth in what is now Milngavie.
Originally only a small number of houses surrounded the mill. By 1800 there were around 200 inhabitants. From then on the town quickly grew in size. As the Montrose family sold off its land, small farms were formed and local agriculture increased.
From the early 1800’s industry in Milngavie increased. The Bleachfields at Clober being one of the earliest enterprises. Other industries that developed included: cotton spinning works, a paper mill, block printing works, dye works, etc. As industry grew, so did Milngavie’s population. By 1900 it had a population of over 2000.
In 1863 a railway line was opened between Milngavie and Glasgow. It was planned to continue to Strathblane and the North. However, this was not carried out. With the arrival of the railway Milngavie quickly grew in prosperity and population.
In 1921 George Bennie, an engineer and inventor, first announced his plans for a revolutionary new form of transport in Milngavie. Bennie had a test line for his Railplane system constructed in 1929-30 over an LNER railway siding to Burnbrae Dye Works at Milngavie. Sadly, Bennie was unable to secure sufficient investment, and both the track and Railplane were sold for scrap in 1956.
For more information on the Bennie Railplane, visit: Bennie Railplane