Tower Street in Cumnock is a roadway that has lost its former importance over the centuries.

The present street leads uphill from the Tanyard, between the bus stance and the car park, to the side of the Pawn Stairs, before making its way along the back of the Square to Glaisnock Street.

Before 1770 this was one of the main roads through the town, as the Square was still being used as a graveyard until then.

The street formed part of the main road north-south, which passed along Bank Lane and then round the corner to make its way along Townhead Street, leading to both Dumfries and Edinburgh.

The lower part of the present Tower Street, from the Pawn Stairs to the Tanyard, was the original route to Ayr, crossing the Glaisnock Water at the Dub Ford.

The oldest Ordnance Survey maps don’t name anywhere as Tower Street, for the lower part of it was originally known as the Townfoot (in contrast to the Townhead), and the upper part of the street, alongside the Square, was known as Back Street.

There still exist one or two old references to Back Street in early documents. The two streets were given the single name of Tower Street sometime before 1890. Originally laid with cobbles, these were lifted and tarmacadam was laid in 1907.

Cumnock Chronicle: Bank LaneBank Lane

The name Tower Street comes from an old inn that once stood in it. The site of this is now the small parking area at the top of the street.

The inn was called the Blue Tower, and it was at one time one of the main inns in the town, used by travellers passing through. It is thought that the inn had been erected in 1666.

It was here that the Covenanting minister, Rev David Houston, was held overnight under guard, being transported as a prisoner to Edinburgh for trial in 1688.

Houston mainly preached in Ireland, but he had been arrested and held in gaol in Dublin for six months.

The party escorting him to Edinburgh stayed overnight at the inn on 19-20 June 1688. The Cumnock folk heard of his concealment there, and on the following morning were able to ambush the soldiers escorting him under guard at the Bello Path, east of Lugar.

He was able to escape, but not before he suffered head injuries, his legs having been tied below the stomach of the horse to prevent him from getting away. He later became a minister in Ireland, where he died in 1696. The Blue Tower Inn was demolished prior to 1899.

Another older building in the street was known as Lambie’s Court. This may refer to Alexander Lammie, boxmaker, who owned premises here (around 1851).

These were offered for sale in 1884, when it was occupied by Alexander Patrick’s shoemaking workshop and houses, with garden ground behind.

A Miss Margaret Lammie had a small school in the street in the first half of the nineteenth century. Also, in 1883, Hugh Kennedy of the Square had a shoemaking workshop here.

In Tower Street were the premises of Samuel Galbraith, a well-known local grocer. The façade of his shop was rebuilt in 1877 to plans drawn up by the local draper, joiner and architect, John Baird, of Institute fame.

The original drawings of the shop front are now preserved in the Baird Institute Museum. Galbraith’s built a new jam and preserve factory in Tower Street in 1893.

In 1902 plans were passed by the council for the erection of a new Model Lodging House in at 79 Tower Street. The architect was Allan Stevenson of Ayr. The building was constructed of brick and had 7,265 square feet of flooring.

The lodging house had accommodation for 100 inmates and there was a dining room, day room and kitchen. The new model was opened on 26 October 1903. It was operated by Cumnock Model Lodging House Company which was established in February 1903 with £3,000 in capital in £1 shares.

The Galbraith family were major shareholders, and when Samuel Galbraith died at Torquay in 1926 he left 1,221 shares in the company to the town council to provide three newspapers daily for the residents and to help ‘down and out’ applicants.

Cumnock Model Lodging House Company Ltd was placed in members’ voluntary liquidation in 1945 and the model lodging house in Tower Street was offered for sale. It was reckoned that it could make a suitable small factory or garage.

A number of other shop premises existed in Tower Street at one time. Hugh Climie had a butcher’s shop here before moving to Glaisnock Street in 1880, after which Mrs Connell used it as a fancy dress warehouse.

This referred to ‘fancy’ or quality dresses, as opposed to dressing-up clothes.

Some older folk may recall that the surgery was also located in this street before moving into a new building in Townhead Street.

Between the wars it was realised that many of the older properties in Tower Street were below a suitable standard and in 1935 a slum clearance order was issued by the council and demolitions commenced.

In February 1936 some old buildings were being demolished in the street. One of these was thatched, and when it was being pulled down an old door lintel was discovered which bore the date 1703.

Many of the buildings were still there in the early 1970s before the bulk of the street was cleared.

In 1965 the Senior Citizens’ Club premises were erected in Tower Street by Cumnock Town Council at a cost of £6,500 and remained in use until 2013 when

they were burned to the ground.

Today, Tower Street only has a few properties bearing that address – a few flats located in buildings adjoining the Square, and the Top o’ the Brae chip shop.