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Joseph Thomson Local Heritage Centre

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Contact Information

01848 330700 or 01848 330411


Joseph Thomson Local Heritage Centre
Sundial Cottage
Marrburn Road


The Joseph Thomson Group manages the Local Heritage Centre in Sundial Cottage, Marrburn Road, Penpont, the birthplace of Joseph Thomson, Victorian African Explorer.

The story of Joseph Thomson’s  life and legacy is told as well as the cottage being the heritage base for the communities of Penpont, Keir and Tynron.

Joseph Thomson (14.2.1858 – 2.8.1895) is Penpont’s most famous son. He was a geologist, a geographer and  explorer who played an important part in the ‘Scramble for Africa’. He led six expeditions into previously uncharted lands. Excelling as an explorer rather than an exact scientist, he avoided confrontations with indigenous peoples, neither killing any natives nor losing any of his men to violence. “He who goes gently goes safely, he who goes safely goes far” was his mantra.  He is revered in the areas of Africa he explored by, particularly by the Maasai.

Joseph was probably born in the bedroom with the box bed where the exhibition celebrating his life and legacy is sited.  The other downstairs room is known as the villages room which has information, archives and artefacts from the three communities of Penpont, Keir and Tynron.

The cottage itself is of architectural interest. Joseph Thomson’s father, William Thomson was a master stonemason. In the cottage he built the cantilever stone staircase and outside the armoury building, pigsty and privy.

The Group holds  information about the three parishes and welcomes visitors keen to explore the surrounding area. Activities such as History Walks, and film shows are regularly organised by the group throughout the year.

The Centre is open weekends (2.00pm – 4.00pm) from Easter to the end of September. Appointments can be made to come to the centre outwith these times. We have a number of guides who are happy to meet with visitors and share information or respond to queries.  Contact via e-mail – or tel. 01848 330700 (answer machine) or Mrs Sophia Harkness, Chairperson, 01848 330411.

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