Three Merkland, Urr

My thanks to David Houston for passing on these field-names. Three Merkland consists of four units: Midtown of Urr, Three Merkland, Glen of Spottes and Spottes. In total, there are 36 fields, 34 of which David has provided the names for. This is a great addition to our records of the parish. Take grid square NX8167 as an example – the OS only records four names in this square: Quarry (dis) x 2; Blaiket Plantation, and Blackford. David’s list brings that number up to 17.


Midtown of Urr

Steep Field (1): The north-west part of this field is flat and level. The rest rises to the summit of a hill. The same hill rolls more gently down The Bushy Field (6). There is another Steep Field (26) in Three Merkland.

Long Field (2): This is one of two fields named Long Field, the other being field 34 in Spottes. Notably these are given in English; the Scots form would be Lang.

Markfast Field (3): This is one of several fields named after the farm or place they border. Markfast itself is a Gaelic name. The first element is marg ‘merkland’. Maxwell in his The Place Names of Galloway suggests Markfast might represent marg fas ‘waste merkland’.

The Hay Field (5): Meadows are hay-fields. It may be that this is relatively new name compared to Meadow (13) and Markfast Meadow (18). However, A New Dictionary of English Field-Names records a ‘Heyefeld’, Hertfordshire from 1396.

The Bushy Field (6): This was originally two fields; the boundary shown on the 1st & 2nd six-inch OS maps and NX86NW-A (1957) can still be seen under the ploughed earth on satellite imagery. There is nothing obviously ‘bushy’ about the field today. The name perhaps refers to the narrow group of trees in the field.

The Dairy Field (8): A New Dictionary of English Field-Names glosses ‘dairy’ names as ‘land on which a dairy was sited’. Judging from the maps, this doesn’t appear to be the case here; ‘land where dairy cows graze’ seems more likely.

The Marsh Field (9): A large body of water in the lower left-hand side of this field is marked in the on the 2nd edition six-inch OS map (but not the 1st ed); this is labelled as Mill Dam (DAM being the word for the body of water held back by the dam, rather than the barrier itself) on the 25-inch map published in 1894. This dam provided the water for the Corn Mill marked on these two later maps. Neither the mill nor the dam are marked on NX86NW-A published in 1957. However a building (presumably the mill) appears on the first edition six-inch map and is still marked on the 1957 map. It is no longer there. The outline of the dam can be seen as a patch of rougher ground on satellite imagery. I suspect that this is a relatively recent name; we might expect ‘Dam Field’ if it was older. However, it is not impossible that The Marsh Field pre-dates the dam.

The Wee Field (10): A small triangular unit of land by the farmhouses of Midtown. The bottom tip of this triangle is fenced off on the first edition six-inch map and the 1957 25-inch map, so this wee field was slightly wee-er than it is today.

Janecroft (11): Croft here is used in the sense ‘a piece of enclosed land, or small field, used for tillage or pasture’ rather than the more familiar contemporary sense of ‘smallholding’. It is a common name in the Borgue field-names database ( Crofts often had an adjoining dwelling, but none is marked on the first edition six-inch OS. That map shows that there were originally two fields, and this arrangement was still shown on NX86NW-A published in 1957. There is a pattern of naming fields with female first names in Dumfriesshire. This might be a western outlier of that naming practice.

Three Merkland

Cow Field 1 (12) & Cow Field 2 (17): The numerical names of these adjacent fields might imply that they were originally one field called Cow Field. However, the fields have the same layout on the first edition six-inch OS map and it is likely that they had different names at some point in the past, as numerical names like this are a relatively recent development.

Meadow (13): This field, Cow Field 1 (12) and Quarry Field (14) are now one large field. Three separate fields are marked on the 1st & 2nd six-inch OS maps and NX86NW-A (1957).

Quarry Field (14): The 1st edition OS six-inch marks a quarry at NX812671, at the lower end of the field. This is probably what the name refers to. However, there appears to be a larger, later quarry site at the east end of the field, partly in Loch Field (20).

Hardgate Field (15): Although the village of Hardgate now extends along this field, at the time of the 1st edition OS six-inch map the village didn’t come much further than halfway up this field.

Littles Field (16): David tells us that, “Littles Field (16) is called after a man who lived in the end cottage (Spring Cottage) in the row”. This row of houses is separate from the village of Hardgate on the first edition six-inch OS. The gap between the two has subsequently been filled with houses.

Markfast Meadow (18): Like Markfast Field (3), this field is named because it marches Markfast farm.

Middle Field (19): Middle Field lies between Markfast Meadow (18) and Loch Field in a north/south direction, and between Cow Field 2 (17) and Wee Boggy Field (22) in a north-east/south-west direction.

Loch Field (20): There is no loch in this field, nor is there any sign of one on earlier maps. Perhaps it once extended into the waterlogged Wee Boggy Field (22). LOCH in Older Scots could refer fairly small pools or ponds.

Blackford (21): This field borders Blackford, which the OS Name Books describe as, “A few houses on the Old Military Road leading from Hardgate to Dumfries some of which are in a state of delapidation [sic]” (OS1/20/88/37). There are no large burns near Blackford, so it’s not obvious what that name refers to. It may have been transferred from somewhere else or may be a surname.

Wee Boggy Field (22): A body of water was marked in this field from the first edition OS six-inch map up until 1957 (NX86NW-A), after which point it was presumably drained. Satellite imagery shows a long patch of rough ground running north-east, which corresponds to a depression in the field visible on LiDAR. This depression means that the area is likely to remain a wee boggy bit for the foreseeable future.

Daniels Field (23): John tells us that, “Park Hill Wood was always known as Daniels Wood hence field 23 is known as Daniels Field.” Park Hill is the only name recorded in the OS Name Books (OS1/20/88/40). It’s not clear who Daniel was or for how long this name was associated with the wood and the field.

Byre Field (24): A byre is a ‘cowshed’. Neither the 1st or 2nd editions of the OS six-inch map show a building in this field, though the 2nd edition shows a small enclosure not marked on the 1st. By 1957 (NX86NW-A) there are two buildings in this field, one of which sits in the enclosure marked on the 2nd ed. six-inch map.

Steep Field (25): Like Steep Field (1) a large portion of this field is on an incline. The east side of the drumlin called Park Hill takes up most of the field.

Glen of Spottes

Hermitage Field (26): David tells us this field “is so called because the farm over the march dyke is Hermitage.” Markfast Field (3), Markfast Meadow (18), Biggars Big Field (29) & Biggars Wee Field (30) are likewise named for marching a neighbouring farm.

Paddock (27): Paddock is a relatively recent field-name in Scotland, appearing in the 18th century. In Scotland and northern England, the usual word was parrock, from Old English pearroc ‘an enclosing fence’ which later developed the sense ‘an enclosure’. Parrock is ultimately from the same root as park, which was borrowed into English from French parc. Parks were much larger areas of closed land, and paddock (apparently a variant of parrock) become common in English from the 16th century onwards as a way of distinguishing smaller paddocks from larger parks. Park is a common word for ‘field’ in Scotland; however, as it was not always pronounced distinctly from parrock, it is often the case that some parks – which we might expect to be large fields – are in fact the size of wee paddocks. As can been seen on the map, Paddock (27) and Tup Park (28) are roughly the same size. However, these were marked as one field on the first edition six-inch OS. I imagine that Tup Park may have been the original name which persisted at 28, and Paddock the name given to the new enclosure at 27.

Tup Park (28): TUP is a Scots word for a ‘ram’. This word doesn’t appear too frequently in place-names. There is a Tup Knowe in Carsephairn (OS1/20/12/18) and in Ewes (OS1/10/20/38), and Tup Field is field no. 8 at Park of Tongland ( Tup Park Wood, New Abbey appears on the 2nd ed. six-inch OS at NX9682628. This field is notable for being the only PARK on the farm (see Paddock (27) above).

Biggars Big Field (29) & Biggars Wee Field (30): David tells us that these fields “are called this as the farm over the march dyke is Chapleton which belongs to the long established Biggar family.” Frew’s History of the Parish of Urr (1909, p. 68) records that: “Of the other agriculturalists of the parish the most prominent were the Biggars of Chapleton, the descendants of an old Irongray family, who came from Skinford, Dunscore, in 1829, and settled in Urr as tenants of Kingsgrange.”

Steppes Hill (31): Steppes looks like it is a surname. I can’t see a reference to the name in either Frew’s History of the Parish of Urr or M’Kerlie’s History of the Lands and their Owners in Galloway. However, as seen in Littles Field (16) and Daniels Field (23), fields – unlike farms – aren’t necessarily named after prominent landowners. Another possibility, though rendered less likely by the spelling Steppes, is that steppingstones are referred to. The Spottes Burn runs along the east side of the field, but I’m not sure if there was ever a crossing here.

Front Field (32): Two field are marked here on the 1st edition OS six-inch map. The field closest to farmhouse of Glen of Spottes was presumably called Front Field, which was later applied to the new field when the dividing fence came down. The two fields are still shown separately on NX86NW-A, published in 1957.

Mill Field (33): David tells us that, “Mill Field (3) gets its name because there used to be a saw mill and cottage (for the woodman) and a mill lade feeding the mill wheel from the Spottes Burn”. The mill lade and saw mill both appear on the 2nd edition six-inch OS and NX86NW-A (1957). The 2nd edition map also shows ‘Corn Mill’ and ‘Spottes Mill Bridge’ a little to the north. By 1957 the corn mill is gone, but the name Spottes Mill Bridge remains. The bridge is no longer named on the OS. The site of the mill is now mostly covered by trees, but the mill lade and outline of the saw mill buildings are picked up on LiDAR imagery.


Long Field (34): The bounds of this field match those on the 1st edition 6-inch OS map. However, the 2nd edition shows this field split into three, as is the case on NX86NW-A (1957). It is likely that the name Long Field dates from after this time, rather than preserving a name from the 19th century. It is not inconceivable, though, that the area was known as Long Field even once it was split into three parts.

Doocot (35): Doocot is etymologically a pigeon (doo/dove) house (cot/cottage). And as it happens the 1st edition six-inch OS shows just that at NX 8047 6648.

Home Field (36): ‘Home Field’ is used in a variety of ways in England, roughly in the sense of ‘a piece of land close(st) to a building’. Home Field is less common in Scotland, but it may be that this field was so named because it is close to Spottes Hall. However, I think we would be more likely to expect a name like Front Field (32). Another possibility is that Home here is Scots HOLM/HOWM ‘a stretch of low-lying, level ground, usually grassland, on the banks of a river or stream, liable to be inundated in time of flood, a water meadow’, a word synonymous with HAUGH. The banks either side of the Urr here are fairly high, and the 1st edition six-inch OS shows quite a narrow ‘line of inundation’. But while the left side of the field is on higher ground, but the east side matches Mactaggart’s definition of HOWM in his Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia: ‘flat pieces of land by a river or burn-side.’

Detail from Kirkcudbrightshire, Sheet 32: Survey date: 1848-50, Publication date: 1854
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland