Joseph Thomson Local Heritage Centre

Historic Sites

Sundial Cottage, Marrburn Road, Penpont, Thornhill, Dumfriesshire, DG3 4BL

    Welcome to the Centre which celebrates local culture and the life of Victorian explorer Joseph Thomson, Learn about his travels, see his home's unique period features, discover unusual histories and enjoy the scenic beauty of Nithsdale.

    In this cottage Joseph Thomson, famous explorer of Africa, was born in 1858. His father, William Thomson, was a master stonemason who was responsible for the cantilevered staircase and the armoury building, both unique architectural features for a cottage of this type. Since the sole occupant for almost the entire 20th century did not modernise the building, once common features that are now virtually non-existent are still present: a separate wash house and outside boiler, and a pigsty and privy out the back.

    The Centre was developed jointly by the communities of Penpont, Keir and Tynron and is run entirely by local volunteers to commemorate the remarkable, though short, life of Joseph Thomson and to celebrate the wider culture of the local communities. Thomson travelled extensively in Africa, for the Royal Geographical Society and others, and did so with good humour, warmth and human sympathy at a time when violent confrontation was common. He wrote about his adventures with aplomb and great popular appeal during his life time, stories which are still very readable today. Other well-known local characters, such as Kirkpatrick Macmillan, inventor of the bicycle, as well as artefacts and stories from the everyday life of the past also have their place in the Centre, besides the history of the Penpont Rifle Volunteers, whose rifles were stored in the armoury.

    Visitors can browse around the rooms, outbuildings and back garden at their leisure and ask our volunteers about any more detail. Whether you are searching for your roots in this area, are interested in the history of the bicycle, the Rifle Volunteers, local life or Joseph Thomson, to name but a few options, our archives, books and audio-visuals can be consulted for research, information and pleasure.

    Close to Drumlanrig Castle and the KM Trail bike route, with a campsite and a tearoom nearby, visitors can also simply absorb the village atmosphere in the beautiful natural setting where the Scaur Glen opens out into the Nith valley, overlooked by the distinctive bulk of Tynron Doon.

    Opening Times
    4 Apr 2016 - 13 Sep 2016

    Open every Saturday and Sunday from 2.00pm - 4.00pm

    Visitors are also very welcome outwith these times: please ask at the Tearoom at the village crossroads, or phone there on 01848 330880. Alternatively, leave a message on the Centre's answer phone or by email, and someone will get back to you.

    Groups are welcome. Since it is a small cottage, please let us know numbers in advance.

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