Moat Brae and Greyfriars Church

History & Heritage
The low grass mound is the Moat Brae, hinting of a medieval castle which may have stood on it. Greyfriars church now stands here.

About Moat Brae and Greyfriars Church

The low grass mound rising above the Harbour Square car park was possibly a late 12th century castle motte built by the Lords of Galloway to defend the their fleet of war galleys drawn up on the river bank below. By the 1230s, Kirkcudbright ships were trading across the Irish Sea. In 1455 town received its royal charter, which allowed its merchants to trade with continental ports. In the 16th and 17th centuries wine was regularly imported from the south-west ports of France.

Shortly after this, a friary was built on the Moat Brae for the Franciscans – the grey friars. The name is retained in the Episcopal Church now standing here. The friary was largely demolished in the 1570s but part was retained to become the town’s parish church. That church was rebuilt and enlarged in 1730, with a burial ground round about it. When the present parish church was opened in 1838, it was partly demolished to become a school in 1914 and then converted into the present church in 1922. A remnant of the old parish church survives as the chancel of the present church in which is a monument to Thomas MacLellan and his wife Grissell Maxwell dating to 1597. It was erected by their son, Robert, the first Lord Kirkcudbright.

Former warehouses can be seen by the river and the Harbour Cottage Gallery, formerly ‘The Ship Inn’ in the 1850s, which after falling into dereliction was saved from demolition to be restored and re-opened as the Harbour Cottage Gallery in 1957.

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