top of page

Lost villages

This is project is a Partnership initiative between The Kinneff Old Church Preservation Trust and The Howe o’ the Mearns Heritage Association.


Research is currently taking place to establish a record of four “Lost Villages” on the Mearns coastline between Catterline and Inverbervie.

The four old fishing villages are:

  • Crawton: where the ruins of a few cottages remain

  • Gapool or Gawpol: situated above Braidon Bay of which there remains no trace

  • Shieldhill: situated just below the Old Church of Kinneff, where the ruins of a few cottages remain

  • Little Johnshaven:  just south of Shieldhill where a single ruined cottage and the remains of a salmon bothy can still be seen today



  • To establish and signpost the locations of these three villages

  • To provide summary feedback of the research, by means of an on-going display in the Old Church

  • To enlist the help of visitors to the church and graveyard, by gathering and sharing information

  • To provide a final display by April 2013, in the Old Church, and on the websites of both organisations.



Can you help?

We would welcome any information which will assist in our research, from personal recollections to family ancestry. 


We are aware that visitors come from all over the world to visit the Old Church in Kinneff. The connection with the Scottish Regalia being smuggled from Dunnottar Castle by the minister’s wife and hidden under the pulpit of the church is a unique moment in Scottish history.


From the comments in the visitor’s book, we are also aware that many people visit to try to establish family connections, and also to pay their respects to family members who are buried there. If you visit the church, we would urge you to sign the visitor’s book and to add any comments or information requests in the folder as well. 


Findings of the research will be displayed in the Maggie Law Maritime Museum, and on the websites of Maggie Law Maritime Museum and the The Kinneff Old Church Preservation Trust.

Researchers Ray Milne and Neal Weston are leading on this Project, and can be contacted on:

Little Johnshaven

Once a salmon fishing station and often worked with the fishermen of Shieldhill, it is believed that the salmon fishing stopped in Little Johnshaven in 1953. The salmon fishing stations along the North East coast of Scotland were mainly the property of the Crown Estates and every seven years these stations were auctioned and leased to the highest bidder.

Access to papers from the firm of Joseph Johnston of Montrose, which operated most of the salmon fishing stations around the area, shows Little Johnshaven is listed.

Little Johnshaven


It is recorded that there were fishermen in Shieldhill in the mid 15th century. The surname of Watt is prevalent.  In the mid 18th century there were as many as five boats in the small cove,  supporting nine families - a total of thirty one inhabitants.  They fished out of Crooked Haven, just under the cliffs from Shieldhill.  The yearly catch would have consisted of haddock, ling, skate, whiting, cod,  flukes and mackerel - all caught by line.   A large mainstay would have been the trapping of crab in creels and it is believed that during the 19th and early 20th century the Shieldhill men helped out at the herring fishing in the bigger settlements of Gourdon and Stonehaven. The fishermen also fished for salmon during the salmon season and assisted the fishermen at Little Johnshaven.


An aerial view of the site of Shieldhill.

Remains of the Winch: the metal bar and eye, driven into the cliff face at Shieldhill are all that remains of the winch that was used to drag the boats up the shore


Shieldhill Cottages: ruins of cottages are what little remains of Shieldhill today. The shed for the blondine winch is seen middle left.


The Watt family of Shieldhill.


Also known as Gawpol, Gap-hill, Gapple, Gawpule  - the name is variously recorded - this village was situated above Braidon Bay, with a track leading down to the shore. The history of this settlement is difficult to trace, but the name(s) is recorded in various sources, and it is implied that there were two working boats in 1625.   Today there is no real trace of any settlement.  However, a few dressed stones at the edge of the field behind Todhead Lighthouse, the proximity to a natural spring, and a track leading to the shore, seem to pinpoint the most likely site.  Records from the mid 18th century, would suggest that ten or twelve fishermen would have worked two boats, supporting about eight families and a settlement of about forty to fifty people.

In the 1760’s there is some  suggestion that the village of Gawpool fell victim to the Press Gangs which took away the men and the boys for forced service in the Navy.  Whether for that reason or others, the village became unviable.


Looking north over the fields above Braidon Bay, very little remains of where Gawpol once stood.


Todhead Lighthouse viewed from Braidon Bay.


Braidon Bay and Catterline viewed from Todhead.


All that remains of Gawpol? This pile of stones contains several dressed stones and lies close to a natural spring.


Looking north towards the site of Gawpol and Braidon Bay; Todhead Lighthouse can just  be see on the right.



Unlike the other “lost” villages, Crawton today is a thriving residential hamlet, although no commercial fishing takes place.   When fishing was impossible during the winter months, the villagers of Crawton would work on the neighbouring farms.  The last fishing boat, the “Petunia,” left Crawton in 1912.  Like the other villages, one of the reasons for its demise was that there was nowhere to build a jetty or pier which could facilitate the larger boats.


Crawton today


Crawton looking south towards Todhead

Ruins at Crawton, believed to have been a small farm.

All photographs by Neal Weston and used with permission.

bottom of page