Penpont Heritage Centre

Joseph Thomson


Joseph ThomsonJoseph Thomson was born in this house on 14th February 1858.  He and his family lived here until 1868 when they moved to Gatelawbridge where Joseph’s father, a stonemason, had leased a farm with a freestone (Sandstone) quarry.  

Educated locally at Penpont Village School and then at Wallace Hall Academy, Closeburn, Joseph was initially apprenticed into his father’s stonemasonry and quarrying business before deciding to enrol at Edinburgh University to study geology, mineralogy and natural history.  He graduated in 1878.

Crichope Linn

Joseph’s early influences were undoubtedly his parents.  From his father he inherited a love of books, especially enjoying the stories of the early African Explorers.  From his mother he inherited his love of nature, spending much of his time exploring the local countryside, developing an amateur interest in geology and botany.

This interest was further stimulated under the guidance of Dr Grierson, a local GP and antiquarian who had established a museum to which Joseph contributed items from his travels.   In 1872, Joseph had the good fortune to meet Professor Sir Archibald Geikie, Director of the Geographical Survey.   He was the man responsible for persuading Joseph to go to University and, later, for encouraging him to apply to join the Royal Geographical Society’s proposed expedition to East Africa, under the leadership of Keith Johnson. (See ‘Joseph Thomson and the Exploration of Africa’.)

Joseph Thomson MemorialJoseph Thomson is buried in Morton Cemetery, Thornhill.   A nearby memorial was erected to him in 1897.

 Recently, Javier Yanes, a Spanish science journalist has had an article published  on Joseph Thomson on 2nd August, the anniversary of Joseph's Death. 




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The Centre will open for the season on Saturday 7th April 2018, 2.00 - 4.00pm.  We will only be open on Saturdays during the season until further notice. We are happy to invite you to contact us to arrange a suitable time for a visit at other times. 


You can find the Post Office in the Joseph Thomson Room within the Centre on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons between 2.00 - 4.00pm.





We are pleased to have the Joseph Thomson Maasai Trust and the Olakira Le Maa Trust join our website. These new pages are: 

JT Maasai Trust

The Walk

The Olakira Le Maa Trust



 If you are looking for any heritage information please do not hesitate to contact us by clicking here.



We are planning to show some of the local films made by our Chairperson, Sophia Harkness during March 2018 and are also planning a talk by Hugh Buck, our secretary on his time in Kenya in the 60s. this will be introduced by Sophia.  Please check out the Forthcoming Events page for further information by clicking here.

Group Bookings

We welcome individuals, groups and school parties. Please contact us to arrange your booking.

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