"Station House" - Old Stationmaster's Cottage
Old Harbour Road
First train (not public) ran from Newton Stewart
to Wigtown at 12.10pm on 2nd March 1875.
A search of books relating the early history of the railway
has failed to uncover any mention of Wigtown Station buildings
or their actual date of construction. This is all the more
surprising when it is specifically stated in some of the books
that there were no buildings at the stations of Kirkinner,
Whauphill and Sorbie when train services commenced after the
line had been extended southwards to Garlieston, and that
wooden structures at these stations were provided at a later
date. Equally there is no mention of the construction of,
or of alterations to, any of these station master's houses
in these books.
Both buildings were built of stone and roofed with slate.
The original Wigtownshire Railway Company was constituted
at a public meeting in Newton Stewart on 6th October 1971,
just before the railway plan was to be formalised through
the promotion of a Bill in Parliament. As stated earlier,
the first trains started running in 1875, but no records of
buildings construction at Wigtown Station have come to light
so far. Two station masters are noted as living in lodgings
in the town in the censuses of 1881 and 1891.
1881: Stationmaster (James Adair, aged 20, unmarried, born
in Old Luce) residing as lodger with widowed dairy keeper
Elizabeth McMaster in the house in the South Main Street immediately
to the west of the bank opposite the County Buildings. He
had one windowed room.
1891:Stationmaster James Milroy, aged 34, married, born in
Kirkmabreck, with wife born in Fodderty (aged 32) , baby son
and baby daughter residing in house at High Vennel. They had
5 windowed rooms, and were between two houses of 7 windowed
rooms each. The station master's house seems to be the third
from the south end of the Vennel (probably the one beside
the present 27, North Main Street, as the older house sticking
out into the street would still be standing then).
The station master's house is therefore unlikely to have
been built before this latter date of 1891. A building outline
does appear on the 1909 Ordnance Survey and one can thus guess
that it could have been erected between 1891 and 1909.
The railway station building lasted until freight services
ceased in October 1964. Like every other structure on the
Whithom branch line, it was completely demolished by contractors
whose men were under strict instructions to "leave nothing".
(personal conversation with workmen). Within a couple of years,
all trace had gone except for the platform remnants. The station
site had been, latterly, notable for its two large monkey-puzzle
trees, but even they have been felled since the final railway
Stone from this building, and probably also some of the stone
of the substantial goods building in the station yard, seems
to have gone to build the house of the late Mr. Brown at "Morroch",
Whithom, but this is yet to be confirmed.
There was also some possibility that stone might have been
used for the 1965 house at "Port Briar Croft", Isle
of Whithom, but, from information given by the present owner
there, I understand that this house's stone came from Whithom
Station, and from demolished buildings in or at the Garlieston
The "Station House" is one of at least four similar
buildings constructed originally with an apparently identical
ground plan. These were constructed at Wigtown, Kirkinner,
Whauphill, and Sorbie stations in order to house the station
masters. Like the others, the stationmaster's house in Wigtown
was sold off by British Railways after the Newton Stewart
to Whithorn passenger train service ceased in September 1950.
The exact date of the sale has not yet been researched. Much
modified since then, the house still exists as an occupied
The garden surrounding the house was bounded on the Harbour
Road side by a stone wall, and, on the railway yard side,
by a tall palisade fence consisting of old railway sleepers
stood vertically on end. A small gate in this allowed access
to the small triangular field between the station and the
goods sidings. The field was retained as part of station yard
property when the stationmaster's house was sold by the railway.
In common with the other three, Wigtown's house, as originally
built, seems to have had a square outline with four internal
rooms, three of which abutted on a fireplace on one side of
a central triangular stone construction with three flues,
one for each fireplace. This construction projected up to
the centre of the roof ridge and was capped by a stone chimney
stack bearing three chimney pots. At some point, each house
seems to have been enlarged with similar two room extensions,
apparently stone and/or brick with roughcast, built on to
the back door side of the originals. The two extra rooms had
back-to-back fireplaces flued to a separate two-pot chimney
stack in the ridge of the extension. The actuality and date
of such alterations is speculative at the moment, but could
have coincided with the availability of piped water supply
and the conversion of one room in the original house into
a proper bathroom. Originally water for all these houses probably
had to be carried from a nearby well, as is known to have
been the case in Wigtown (see following diagram sheets).
Ownership passed through the hands of successive railway
companies ending up with British Railways in 1947.
Alterations To The Property
1949-1968: At the front, the Trotters added a small glass
porch to enclose the north-facing front door. This converted
the front house access to face west, a direction more sheltered
from winds. Similarly enclosing the side/rear door, a lean-to
glass "conservatory" was also added at the back
This conservatory extended southwards from the door along
the west wall almost to the rear corner of the house. They
also substantially altered the kitchen by installing an enclosed
smokeless fuel fire. The house acquired the formal name of
"Station House", instead of just being the station
house, at around this time.
!969 - 1971: Dr. and Mrs. Brewster had a concrete kit garage
constructed in the south-west corner of the garden. This was
accessed by a proper entry drive from a gate in the north-west
A new connection to the town water main was made and a new
underground pipe was laid, crossing the bridge in a road trench
dug in the road just inside the south parapet wall.
The original supply to Station House had crossed the railway
through a pipe, said to be cast-iron, inside a wooden box
secured to the outside of the road bridge below the south
parapet and just above the arch. Fifty or sixty years ago,
one of the major "dares" for adventurous children
was to cross the railway, with feet on this box, and fingertips
clinging to the parapet above.
The old pipe had originated as a branch of a wider pipe supplying
the old station buildings. There it had branched again to
supply a low-lying water trough in a field beside the Maidland
to Station Harbour farm track, (which is an old right of way
and which provided another access to the station for foot
passengers from Bladnoch). It was Wigtown lore that the trough
spigot always froze and burst in icy weather. The resulting
drop in the branch pipe pressure would deprive both the station
and the station house of running water until the damage was
In this connection(!), it is also worth recording that the
engineering map/drawing of the bridge supplied by British
Railways, (who still owned the bridge and whose permission
had to be obtained before laying the new pipe), failed to
depict that crossing the bridge underground, was a high-voltage
electricity supply cable, part of the main town power supply.
Now kept in reserve for use in the event of failure affecting
the town's inland power connection, it connects the shore
transmission line to the lower town substation transformer.
The cable ran, and still runs, under the road along the inside
of the south parapet wall of the bridge. Fortunately it was
discovered unrecognised by the pipe-laying plumber before
the pneumatic drills being used to excavate the road penetrated
the cable's insulation cover!
Miss Roberts, with great vision for a lady of her age, made
major alterations to the kitchen and to the rear of the house
where she installed a new east facing window in a new eastward
extension of the south east corner. She also landscaped the
garden, including the excavation and formation of a pond/rockery
The present owner has made alterations inside the main part
of the house so that it is now almost impossible to recognise
the original interior layout. In addition the two rear rooms
originally altered by Miss Roberts have been further extended
and the garden has been further beautified. An architectural
ground plan of the present house layout is in the possession
of the present owner.
The last few railway-appointed and stationmaster tenants included
a Mr. Bland (who was promoted and moved to become Newton Stewart
stationmaster in ?1946-7)
He was followed by a Mr. Hettrick who could have been the
last railway tenant. There was also a Mr. Todd, but, so far,
I have been unable to confirm any dates for his tenure.
Known still-living people in Wigtown with railway recall
abilities, include Mr. John Hughes, Mr. Thomas McCulloch,
and Mr. Robert McGarvie, all of whom worked at the station,
Thomas Fiskin, who fired locomotives, Mr. Alan Gordon, whose
father, although based at Newton Stewart station, drove the
Wigtown rail delivery lorry, and Mr. Raymond McConchie who
knows nearly every thing about old Wigtown. There are also
Mr. John Harkness, Blackcraig, who, based on the Stranraer
Motive Power Depot, drove locomotives on the line, and Mr.
Peter Allan, Newton Stewart, whose father was at one time
he Wigtown Station ticket clerk. Not all these people have
been interviewed in the time available.
After the passenger service ceased, the house was purchased
from British Railways by the Misses Trotter who, I think,
lived in Dumfries and used the house part-time as holiday
In 1969 it was bought by Dr. M. F. Brewster.
In 1971 it changed hands again to Miss Gwyneth Roberts, a
widely-travelled and remarkable old lady, whose childhood
had been spent in Wigtown, and whose light, to locals, remained
proverbially "hidden under the bushel". At the same
time, her increasing
eccentricities as a respected old lady, and her obdurate,
indefatigable determination to drive cars for ever, gave rise
to a myriad of humorous stories, now ensconced for ever in
local lore, - regrettably to the overshadowing of the wonderful
benevolence, compassion, philanthropy, and public-spiritedness
of her pre-Wigtown younger life.
Following her death on 28th January 1990, the house was sold
to its present occupant.
Miss Gwyneth Roberts. Lived at Station House 1971 to 1990.
Although Miss Roberts was born in India, she was sent back
to the home country for schooling. She talked of her childhood
memories of Wigtown when she stayed with her grandparents.
Her mother had been one of a large family born to Wigtown
bank manager James McLean. James McLean's wife, Miss Roberts's
grandmother, Elizabeth Simson, was a daughter of the Wigtown
customs and excise officer, John Simson, who lived at "Beechwood".
Mr. Simson had been married to Christian (Christina) Dunn
Stewart of Barrachan .
Although there could be other relevant relationships involved,
the above-noted Stewart descent probably explains how it was
that, after her retirement, Miss Roberts came to be living
near the Isle of Whithorn with life tenure of a cottage attached
to Tonderghie house.
Tonderghie house and estate, originally a Stewart property,
eventually had been inherited by a nephew of Miss Roberts.
When he decided to sell the property, Miss Roberts, not wishing
to stay in her cottage with the possible awkwardness of strangers
as immediate neighbours, decided to return to stay in her
childhood town. In this way, she came to live in "Station.
Her varied and interesting past had included being headmistress
of the Quaker School in Wigton, Cumbria, and organising the
care of refugee children in Germany after the Second World
War. She had been involved with the Girl Guides organisation
since its formation, and kept this interest and contact after
moving to "Station House", encouraging and supporting
the local Wigtown guides to the end of her life.
Perhaps just two instances of the lore that surrounded her
might suffice to depict what a character she was.
She always looked as if she was well wrapped up when she
was out in her car. In fact, she had two Jack Russell terriers,
and one of these used to park itself round the back of her
neck whenever she started driving.
Many local younger people could, in their ignorance, make
remarks about "incomers" moving into the town. In
her latter years Miss Roberts liked to boast of being a true
Wigtonian, and that she and Miss Park, 1, South Main St.,
another alleged "incomer", were the only remaining
people in their age group who had actually grown up in the