The Scottish Army Camped at Kirkhill by Broxburn in 1679

On Tuesday 17 June, 1679, the Scottish Army was encamped at the park of Kirkhill near Broxburn as it prepared to advance into the West to face the Covenanters in battle…They would broadly advance along the line of the present day M8…



The park of Kirkhill, lay around Kirkhill House in Uphall parish. It was the property of Lord Cardross, a moderate presbyterian.

Map of Kirkhill

Two letters from the Earl of Linlithgow, one of the government commanders, tell their story.

‘Kirkhill-park, [Tuesday] June 17th, 1679.

My lord,
I am come to the place of our liggering this night in the park of Kirkhill. Most of the regiments and troops with the artillery and ammunition are not yet come up. Since my coming here, I did send out a small party of horse and dragoons towards Monkland [in Lanarkshire], who has discovered a party of the rebels near West-Calder, they are about an hundred horse. So soon as all our horse and dragoons are come up, I intend to send a stronger party out to engage them. The gross of their body is lying about the Haggs, from whence, as I am informed, they send parties over all the country.’ (Wodrow, History, III, 99n.)



The Covenanters’ Army was camped for a few days about Old Monkland Kirk, Shawhead Muir and the Haggs, all of which lie in Old Monkland parish, Lanarkshire. Robert Hamilton, their commander, was based at the Haggs. Today, the house at Haggs, or Rosehall/Douglas Supply as it was later known, has been demolished and the area is known as The Wilderness/Mill Bank. The house was described in c.1700:

‘Nixt upon the same [North Calder] water, stands the house of Rosehall, formerly called Haggs. This stands upon the north side of the water, within the paroch of Old Monkland, about a large quarter of a mile S. B. from the kirk, and much about two miles N. W. from the kirk of Bothwell. It is a very handsome house, with a prodigious planting and parks. It now belongs to Sir James Hamilton of Rosehall.’

Map of Haggs

Linlithgow goes on to mention that a substantial body of the militia, which was largely drawn from the eastern shires, was in a perilous condition several miles to the north west at Linlithgow:

‘Most of the heritors of the several [eastern] shires are at Linlithgow, with whom I have sent a company of dragoons to keep guard with them. My lord, it is very sad to have so many militia regiments here, and hardly one bit of bread to eat, which, if not remedied by your lordship, I leave you to judge of the event. I hope all of us here will do our duty in our stations, but men must eat.
What rout[e to the West] is to be taken to-morrow must be according to our intelligence this night. But for the present I can say no more, but that I am,
My lord,
Your lordship’s most humble servant,
Linlithgow.’ (Wodrow, History, III, 99n.)

Kirkhill House

Kirkhill House © Anne Burgess and licensed for reuse.

On the following day, Linlithgow sent a second report:

‘Kirkhill-park, [Wednesday] June 18th, 1679

My lord,
I received your lordship’s of yesterday’s date: and for to give your lordship an account of the state of our affairs, and numbers of the militia regiments; we have here the regiments of East Lothian, the Merse, that Perthshire regiment commanded by the marquis of Athole, the other was at Linlithgow last night, and will join us this morning; the two Fife regiments, the regiment of Angus, I believe, will join us in our march this day, and the militia regiment of the town of Edinburgh; these of them that are here having joined us late the last night, and the others not being yet come up, makes me incapable of giving your lordship an exact account of their numbers, but as near as I can conjecture, the eight militia regiments that we have, will make up about five thousand men. The heritors of the several shires are not yet come up, except those that came from the east with us, who are lying in the little towns most adjacent to this place. These that came from Stirling are lying at Linlithgow and Falkirk. So soon as we are all joined, I shall not fail to give your lordship a more exact account of our numbers, both horse and foot.’ (Wodrow, History, III, 100n.)

Just four days before the battle of Bothwell Bridge took place, the King’s forces were scattered across Linlithgowshire and eastern Stirlingshire.

From his previous letter, it is clear that the Earl of Linlithgow had considerable concerns over feeding his expanding force. As they advanced into the hostile western shires, where sources of food would become harder to obtain, that logistical problem could have proved catastrophic for them in a drawn out campaign. Bringing their enemy to a decisive battle was a priority for the government force. To achieve that required good intelligence about where the enemy were located and their strength.

‘We are to join at Blackburn, and from thence we will take our measures according to our intelligence.’ (Wodrow, History, III, 100n.)

From Kirkhill, the different elements of the King’s forces were to rendezvous to the west at Blackburn.

Map of Blackburn

‘It is impossible to know the number of the rebels, until we force them to draw together, they being now dispersed over the country. All the account we have of them is, that their body is lying about the Haggs. I am just now despatching some intelligent persons to go in to the places where they are, for intelligence. Yesterday I gave your lordship an account of a party of the rebels of about an hundred horse, that we saw, upon the left hand, in our march. I commanded out a party of horse and dragoons to go to them, but before they came within any distance of them, they run for it. This is all the account I can give for the present I am, My lord,
Your lordship’s most humble servant,
Linlithgow.’ (Wodrow, History, III, 100n.)

It appears that the government army rendezvoused at Blackburn on the following morning, moved forward and encamped east of Kirk O’s Shotts.

Map of East of Kirk O Shotts

The enemy party spotted by Linlithgow’s men on 17 Jane may have been the same party that alarmed the Covenanters on the morning of Thursday 19 June. A brief skirmish took place close to the government camp beside Kirk O’ Shotts on the Thursday night. As the British Army advanced from Kirk O’ Shotts, a secret mission was launched to the Covenanters .

For the Covenanters of Broxburn and Uphall parish, see here.

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Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please link to this post on Facebook or retweet it, but do not reblog in FULL without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine

~ by drmarkjardine on February 25, 2015.

3 Responses to “The Scottish Army Camped at Kirkhill by Broxburn in 1679”

  1. Interesting to think how the Covenanters had declined militarily by 1679. It was a far cry from the Civil War period and the formidable military they had created in Scotland and Ireland under figures like Alexander Leslie.

    • Hi Colin, the Covenanters’ army was raised in districts that supported the cause. it was not well organised, but clearly there was some enthusiasm. They were not well equipted and lacked much in the way of cannon. There leadership varied between experienced veterans and young committed men. However, they were also at odds with each other over what the rising was about. in the end, at least in 1679, wiser heads decided/forced the army to move to a defensive position across the Clyde and opened negotiations with Monmouth. It was too late, unless there achueved a draw at Bothwell Bridge. If that had happened, then the pressure would have built up on the government force over how to sustain themsleves in the field. At least, that is what I think now. So certainly not as formidable a force as that under Leslie, but then their opponents were also weak in some key respects. The Scottish army was not big and the militia were untested and, at least in some sections, less than enthusiastic about taking part. The use of English regiments helped bolster the government side. Mark

  2. […] Hamilton Muir, the King’s army was moving west towards them. On 17 June, elements of the latter were assembling near Broxburn, and on 19 June, a brief skirmish was fought near their camp at Kirk O’ Shotts. Two days later, […]

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