Dr. Brewster

"Station House" - Old Stationmaster's Cottage
Old Harbour Road
Dwelling House

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.

Wigtown Station







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 closure.

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 railway yard.

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 dwelling.

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 corner.

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 repaired.

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 feature.

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 home.

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. House".

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 town.

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