Marten Dalrymple (or Marton)

Marten Dalrymple was a landed gentleman whose estates possessed rich resources of coal and iron. He planned a pre-steam railway to carry the products of his industry from the Monklands canal to Berwick, which gained the support of gentry all along the route, was the subject of a survey by Telford, and was cut short only by his death. His glowing obituary (below) presents him as the model of the enlightened industrialist.

- 23 November 1809
Fordell and Cleland
William Dalrymple of Cleland and Fordel, 1748-1794
Diana Molyneux (d. 27 Apr 1817 at Lancaster), daughter of Mr Molyneux of Preston. As a widow she lived at 30 George Street where it seems likely Marten made his Edinburgh residence.
30 George Street
Fordell and Cleland
Landed gentleman with industrial interests. He owned the Omoa iron works at Shotts. Here is a description from the 1790s when his father was running it:
The Omoa iron work, the property of Colonel William Dalrymple of Cleland, lies on the confines of this parish, towards the South-West. It was erected in 1787. The sityation of this work is particularly eligible. The Colonel has throughout his estate here, which is of considerable extent, a seam of coal 2 feet 5 inches thick; 2 feet above the coal, ball iron-stone is found, the balls lying pretty near each other. This stone is superior to any thing of the kind, hitherto found in this part of the country: 3cwt. of calcined stone yield 1cwt. of metal; it smelts also without the help of iron ore. Two feet nearer the surface there are two strata of iron stone, each from 6 to 9 inches thick. Below the 2 feet 5 inches of coal, there is another coal 9 feet in thickness, of an excellent quality. There is here each day raised 36 tons of coal, 26 tons of which go to the furnace; the other ten, from their smallness, being unfit for charring, either serve to blow the engine or are sold to the country. Nine tons of calcined stone a-day go to the furnace, which casts at the interval of 18 hours, and yields about two tons of pig iron, generally of an excellent quality. There is here a cupola blown by the engine, which produces cast work of any form employers please. Orders of this sort, answered by Colonel Dalrymple, have given great satisfaction. The coal is raised here from 18d to 20d per ton (the coal falling below 4 inches square excepted), whih brings the miner only 9 1/4 d. per ton: Ball iron stone in raising 2s 6d: stratum iron stone 18d. There are employed here 40 miners, besies other 40 smelters and persons otherwise engaged, and 12 horses. The weekly expence at this work is 80l Sterling, which finding its way to farmers and workmen of every class in the neighbourhood, improves their situation beyond what hitherto they had experienced, in this inland country.' (3)
Wealth at death
At his death he was a rare recipient of an obituary in the Caledonian Mercury (4 December 1809), which is glowing in its praise:
'DIED. At Cleland House, on the 23d ult. much and deservely regretted, Marton Dalrymple, Esq. of Fordel; eminently distinguished for the best qualities both of the head and heart. He was a warm friend, a tender parent, an affectionate husband, an indulgent master, an able man of business, and a most excellent country gentleman. The great national design of a Rail Road from Glasgow to Berwick, now in contemplation, owed its origin to his ingenuity; and, when carried into execution, it will remain an honourable monument of his enlightened views, his sound judgement, and his indefatigable and persevering activity. While private worth and public usefulness are held in esteem, the memory of this gentleman will be dear to his numerous friends, and to the populous neighbourhood in which he resided.'
It would seem the interesting proposal for a pre-steam railway (presumably working by gravity) lapsed without his leadership.
Chapel connection
baptism (1799)
Frances Spence
Ingram William (1799), Moleneaux (1801), also daughters at Cleland House in 1802, 1805, 1807 and 1808
Marten proposed 'an IRON RAIL ROAD from the Monkland Canal to Lanark, Peebles, Kelso, and Berwick-upon-Tweed' in June 1809, to carry coal, iron, slates, limestone, freestone, lead, corn, and cotton at 'One Penny per Ton per Mile' (3 June). The committee appointed to commission a survey included Colin Mackenzie, Walter Scott, John Tod's father Archibald Tod of Drygrange, William Forbes's brother John Hay Forbes, and Janet Hay's brother John Hay of Haystoun (5 August). On 7 September it was reported that Telford was conducting a survey, but the project was cut short by Dalrymple's death two months later. (5)
Further Research
C. J. A. Robertson, The origins of the Scottish railway system 1722-1844 (Edinburgh: John Donald, 1983); John Thomas, A regional history of the railways of Great Britain, vol. 6: Scotland – the Lowlands and the Borders (David & Charles, 1971); Worling, M.J. Early Railways of the Lothians, (1991); Dendy-Marshall, C.F. A history of British Railways Down to the year 1830, (1938); Lee, C.E. The Evolution of Railways (1943); Baxter, B. Stone Blocks and Iron Rails, (1966). Plans of the railway are in the NLS.


  1. Registers of Charlotte Chapel (NAS CH12/3)
  2. Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1818
  3. Sir John Sinclair, The Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-1799 vol.7 p.598-9
  4. Inventory NAS SC36/48/6/145
  5. Caledonian Mercury, 1809

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