Lady Well, Airth, Stirlingshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NS 89801 86524

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 46862
  2. Lady’s Well
  3. Spaw Well

Archaeology & History

Site of the Lady Well, Airth

Once to be seen flowing on the south-side of the Pow Burn below Airth Castle, all traces of this once sacred site has fallen prey to the usual advance of the so-called ‘civilized’.  In literary terms, the site was first described in church records from 1657—as Ladieswell—and the accounts we have of the place from then are most revealing in describing the traditional use of the place by local people.  It was a sacred site, obviously, chastised by the madness of the christian regime of the period, in their attempt to destroy indigenous customs and societal norms.  William Hone (1837) gave an extended account of what some people were up to in his Everyday Book:

“In 1657, a mob of parishioners were summoned to the session, for believing in the powers of the well of Airth, a village about six miles north of Falkirk, on the banks of the Forth, and the whole were sentenced to be publicly rebuked for the sin. –

“”Feb. 3, 1757, Session convenit. Compeared Bessie Thomson, who declairit scho went to the well at Airth, and that schoe left money thairat, and after the can was fillat with water, they keepit it from touching the ground till they cam horm.”

“”Ffebruary 24. — Compeired Robert Fuird who declared he went to the well of Airth, and spoke nothing als he went, and that Margrat Walker went with him, and schoe said ye beleif about the well, and left money and ane napkin at the well, and all was done at her injunction.”

“”Compeared Bessie Thomson declarit schoe fetch it horn water from the said well and luit it not touch the ground in homcoming, spoke not as sha went, said the beleif at it, left money and ane nap-kin thair; and all was done at Margrat Walker’s command.”

“”Compeired Margrat Walker who denyit yat scho was at yat well befoir and yat scho gave any directions “

“”March 10. Compeared Margrat Forsyth being demand it if scho went to the well of Airth, to fetch water thairfrom, spok not by ye waye, luit it not touch ye ground in homcoming? if scho said ye belief? left money and ane napkin at it? Answered affirmatively in every poynt, and yat Nans Brugh directit yem, and yat they had bread at ye well, with them, and yat Nans Burg said shoe wald not be affrayit to goe to yat well at midnight hir alon.”

“”Compeired Nans Burg, denyit yat ever scho had bein at yat well befoir.”

“”Compeired Robert Squir confest he went to yat well at Airth, fetchit hom water untouching ye ground, left money and said ye beleif at it.”

“”March 17. Compeired Robert Cochran, declairit, he went to the well at Airth and ane other well, bot did neither say ye beleif, nor leave money.”

“”Compeired Grissal Hutchin, declairit scho commandit the lasses yat went to yat well, say ye beleif, but dischargit hir dochter.”

“”March 21. Compeired Robert Ffuird who declairit yat Margrat Walker went to ye well of Airth to fetch water to Robert Cowie, and when schoe com thair, scho laid down money in Gods name, and ane napkin in Robert Cowie’s name.”

“”Compeired Jonet Robison who declairit yat when scho was seik, Jean Mathieson com to hir and told hir, that the water of the well of Airth was guid for seik people, and yat the said Jean hir guid sister desyrit hir fetch sum of it to hir guid man as he was seik, bot sho durst never tell him.”

“”These people were all 44 publicly admonishit for superstitious carriage.””

The practices continued.  In 1723, a Mr Johnstoun of Kirkland, writing about the parish of Airth, also told of the reputation of the well, saying,

“Upon the south side of the Pow of Airth, upon its very edge, is a spaw well famous in old times for severall cures, and at this day severalls gets good by it, either by drinking or bathing. Its commonly called by the name of Ladies well. Its about two pair of butts below Abbytown bridge.”

The fact that he told us it was “good for bathing” suggests a pool was adjacent, or at least the tiny tributary between it and the Pow Burn gave room for bathing and had a curative reputation. (there are many pools in the Scottish mountains with this repute – some are still used to this day!)

It was then described by Robert Ure in the first Statistical Account of 1792, where he told how the people were still using the waters, despite the crazy early attempts to stop them.  “There is a Well, near Abbeytown Bridge,” he told,

“called Lady-Well, which is thought to be medicinal.  Numbers have used it, and still use it as such.  It is supposed to have obtained that name, from the holy water, in the time of Popery, being taken from it, to supply the abbacy, or Catholic Church, then at Airth.”

Lady Well on 1865 map

But we know that its origins as a celebrated well pre-date any christian overlay.  People were reported visiting the site from as far away as Edinburgh, such was its repute!

Much later when the Ordnance Survey lads came here, showing it on their first map of Airth, they made their own notes of the place, saying briefly,

“A small well close to the Pow Burn – it is supposed to have derived its name from the Custom of dedicating wells to the Virgin Mary – so Common prior to the Reformation. It is not a mineral well.”

Ugly plastic pipe is all that remains

But its demise was coming.  In the wake of the christian Industrialists and their myth, subsuming the necessary integral sacrality of the Earth, the waters of the well were eventually covered.  When the Royal Commission (1963) lads gave the site their attention in October 1954, they reported that “no structural remains” of any form could be seen here, and in recent years all trace of the well has vanished completely.  When we visited the site a few months ago, perhaps the very last remnant of it was a small plastic pipe sticking out of the muddy bankside, dripping dirty water into the equally dirty Pow Burn.

It would be good if local people could at least put a plaque hereby to remind people of the history and heritage that was once so integral to the way they lived their lives.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, Ancient and Holy Wells of Stirling, TNA 2018.
  2. Fraser, Alexander, Northern Folk-lore on Wells and Water, Advertiser Office: Invermess 1878.
  3. Frost, Thomas, “Saints and Holy Wells,” in Bygone Church Life in Scotland (W. Andrews: Hull 1899).
  4. Hone, William, The Every-day Book – volume 2, Thomas Tegg: London 1837.
  5. MacFarlane, Walter, Geographical Collections Relating to Scotland – volume 1, Edinburgh Universoty Press 1906.
  6. MacKinlay, James M., Folklore of Scottish Lochs and Springs, William Hodge: Glasgow 1893.
  7. Morris, Ruth & Frank, Scottish Healing Wells, Alethea: Sandy 1982.
  8. Murray, G.L., Records of Falkirk Parish – volume 1, Duncan & Murray, Falkirk 1887.
  9. Reid, John, The Place-Names of Falkirk and East Stirlingshire, Falkirk Local History Society 2009.
  10. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments Scotland, Stirling – volume 2, HMSO: Edinburgh 1963.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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Salachary Stones, Kilmartin, Argyll

Standing Stones:  OS Grid Reference – NM 8405 0403

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 22831

Getting Here

Two of the Salachary stones

Roughly halfway between the staggering standing stone at Kintraw and the farmhouse of Salachary a coupla miles east along the A816 road to Kilmartin, a small overgrown car park nearly hides on the south-side of the road, just below the forestry.  50 yards west of this, a small track winds uphill.  650 yards (0.6km) up here, once it levels out, a hairpin in the track veers NW; ignore it, instead walking into the marshy grass in front of you (south) for 50-60 yards up and round the small rocky crag.  Once you get round the edge of this, immediately east, you’ll see one of the tall monoliths 50 yards ahead of you.

Archaeology & History

Rediscovered in recent times by Marion Campbell (1962), this damaged row of three tall standing stones is cited in Swarbrick’s (2012) poorly-arranged survey as being “difficult to find in broken ground”; although patience brings the stones clearly into sight for any explorer.   They’re big too!  Sadly only one of them still remains fully upright—but that one’s nearly 9 feet tall!

In Miss Campbell’s initial description of the site, following their rediscovery, she told how,

“A chance sighting led to the discovery of a group of three monoliths, one erect, one sloping and one prostrate, on the West side of a wide glen leading S from the upper part of the Bealach Mor; the site commands a fine view into the northern hills. The spot is about 550ft above sea level and this is therefore the highest group of standing stones so far recorded in the area.

“The erect stone is 8ft 4in x 2ft x 1 ft, lozenge-shaped in section, with a pointed top. The leaning stone, also lozenge-shaped, is 10ft x 1ft 8in x 1ft, and pointed. The fallen stone is over 11ft x 2ft wide, too deeply buried in turf for the thickness to he measured. The stones appear to have stood in line, the nearest points of the first and third stones 9ft apart and the line joining them running north and south.  Along a ridge running S behind the stones are a number of small ruins, oval and rectangular, in old cultivations. No surviving placename has been recovered for the site so far.”

Section of the fallen stone

Indeed, no subsequent investigation has led to either an early name nor any traditions about the site, and the stones cannot be found on any early maps of the area.  A pity, as they’re quite impressive stones and would have had some old stories known of them in ages gone by.

Twenty years after Miss Campbell’s discovery, in May 1982, the stones were visited and surveyed by the Royal Commission lads.  Their description very much tallied with Miss Campbell’s, but it’s worth citing anyway.  They told us that:

“On a terrace on the W side of an unnamed valley to the S of Bealach Mor and about 850m SW of Salachary, there is a setting of three large standing stones which is aligned from N to S.  Only the N stone is still upright; it measures 0.7m by 0.72m at the base and rises with straight sides to a pointed top at a height of 2.75m.  The central stone is of similar proportions, but it now leans to the NE at an angle of about 15° to the horizontal.  The S stone, which measures 3.4m by 0.65m has fallen with its top to the SE.”

Looking north

Looking west

Around the same time, Clive Ruggles (1984) assessed the Salachary stones for any potential astronomical alignments and found—as Alexander Thom & Aubrey Burl did in their own survey (1990)—that as they pointed virtually north-south they stood beyond any solar or lunar functions.  Thom found the stones align almost perfectly north-south, with a notch in the southern horizon at 178°, and on the northern horizon the hilltop of Meall Reamhar at 2° west of north.  This northern line may relate to the airt of death, although no other immediate archaeological remains have been found to fortify this idea (however, other unrecorded standing stones are close by and their relationship with Salachary has yet to be adequately assessed).

Aubrey Burl’s first description of this stone row told us:

“There are three stones in a N-S row situated on a terrace on the W side of a glen.  The N stone, with a pointed top, stands 8ft 4 (2.5m) high.  The central stone leans dramatically at 20°.  It is 10ft (3m) in length.  The S stone is prostrate and half-buried.  It is 11ft (3.4m) long.  The row is about 13ft (4m) long.  From the site there is a fine view of the northern hills.”

Alexander Thom’s plan

Royal Commission’s plan

In truth, the main north-south axis relates to the more open geological avenue of the landscape.  Both the east and west are all but blocked by crags and hills, and the stones seem to have been positioned to echo the hollowed section of the landscape.  The land runs in curious geological folds and has a distinct genius loci which I enjoyed in differing (usually wet) conditions when I used to live nearby.  The site is well worth a walkabout if you’re in the area – and there are more unrecorded stones still hiding in Nature’s rocky folds nearby.

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, From Carnac to Callanish, Yale University Press 1993.
  2. Campbell, M. & Sandeman, M., “Mid Argyll: An Archaeological Survey,” in Proceedings Society Antiquaries Scotland, volume 95, 1964.
  3. Campbell, Marian, Salachary, Kintraw’, in Discovery & Excavation Scotland, 1962.
  4. Ferguson, Lesley, “A Catalogue of the Alexander Thom Archive Held in the National Monuments Record of Scotland,” in Records in Stone (ed. C. Ruggles), Cambridge University Press 1988.
  5. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Argyll – volume 6: Mid-Argyll and Cowal, HMSO: Edinburgh 1988.
  6. Ruggles, Clive L.N., Megalithic Astronomy, BAR: Oxford 1984.
  7. Ruggles, Clive L.N., “The Stone Alignments of Argyll,” in Records in Stone (ed. C. Ruggles), Cambridge University Press 1988.
  8. Swarbrick, Olaf, A Gazetteer of Prehistoric Standing Stones in Great Britain, BAR: Oxford 2012.
  9. Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Stone Rows and Standing Stones – volume 1, BAR: Oxford 1990.
  10. Weston, Garth, Monuments and Mountains, Ashridge: Bakewell 2007.

Acknowledgements:  This site profile could not have been written without the help and of Nina Harris, Paul Hornby, Frank Mercer and Belinda Sales.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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Samson’s Stone, Waltonhill Farm, Craigrothie, Fife

Legendary Stone: OS Grid Reference – NO 36312 09667

Getting Here

Lighter coloured Samson Stones visible from road south of farm

Travelling South along the A916 just past Craigrothie, turn right down to Chance Inn, and turn left at the T junction. and follow the road on to just past the left hand bend when Waltonhill Farm will be seen on the right. The Stones form part of the structure of a dwelling house and are not accessible to the public, but are visible from the public highway further down the road as the light coloured irregular shaped stones at ground level either side of the door of the south-facing house.

Archaeology & History

According to a piece published in the Fife Herald & Journal in 1905:-

“Once upon a time, so runs the legend, Samson challenged the devil to match him at boulder throwing. As challenger, Samson stood on the West Lomond; Satan stood on the East. The signal was given; two mighty rocks whistled through the air. ‘The De’ils Stane‘ fell where it now lies, on the road-side about a quarter of a mile west from Waltonhill Farm. Samson, though handicapped by three miles greater distance, flung his stone fully four hundred yards beyond that of Satan, and with such force that it split into three parts; which parts are now built into Waltonhill barn.”

The light-coloured, irregularly-shaped stones at ground level are the likely remains

This is of course a variant of a creation myth that is to be found throughout Britain, of an Age of Giants who strode the land quarrelling with each other and the mortal humans. The original names of the Giants have been lost in the aeons of oral transmission of the legend from pre-history, and replaced by that of a probably equally legendary Middle Eastern strong man from the Christian’s Bible, in combat with the Christian’s Naughty Man. And to prove the point of Christianity’s superiority over the old animistic cults of the land, the De’il has to be demonstrably the Loser.

Another view of the Stones

The house owner told me that what is now the farmhouse bearing the stones, was originally the barn, that they rebuilt after 40 years of dereliction, and interestingly she had heard something about some Samson’s Stones, but not about the nearby De’il’s Stane, which shows that these ancient legends are still being orally transmitted.

The Stone was thrown over 10 miles from West Lomond (right). No wonder it split!

There are five ‘odd’ stones either side of the doorway, along the base of the wall facing the Lomond Hills, of irregular shape and lighter colour than the rest of the building’s walls. These are the likely candidates for the Samson’s Stones (unless anyone can come up with more convincing evidence). While the legend speaks of three stones, it is quite feasible that the masons dressed these when they built the original barn, making five stones out of the three. They look like they may be successive horizontal slices of a larger square to triangular sectioned stone. Pure speculation on the writer’s part, but are these the remains of a lost standing stone(s) that had to be demolished in order for the barn to be built, pieces of which were incorporated into the building to give the original stone’s magical protection to the farmer’s animals and crops?

Reference:

  1. Fife Herald & Journal, 1st November 1905, quoted in John Ewart Simpkins’ County Folklore – Volume VII: Fife, with some notes concerning Clackmannan and Kinross-shires, Folk-Lore Society by Sidgwick& Jackson: London 1914.

© Paul T Hornby, The Northern Antiquarian 2018

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De’il’s Stane, Waltonhill, Craigrothie, Fife

Legendary Stone: OS Grid Reference – NO 36304 09352

Also Known as:

  1. Devil’s Stone

Getting Here

Travelling South along the A916 just past Craigrothie, turn right down to Chance Inn, and turn left at the T junction. and follow the road on to just past the left hand bend when Waltonhill Farm will be seen on the right. Continue south down the road a few hundred yards until it takes a slight right turn. The De’il’s Stane, a huge flat faced slab of rock, will be seen at the roadside on the left side of the road, partly obscured by gorse.

Archaeology & History

According to a piece published in the Fife Herald & Journal in 1905:-

“Once upon a time, so runs the legend, Samson challenged the devil to match him at boulder throwing. As challenger, Samson stood on the West Lomond; Satan stood on the East. The signal was given; two mighty rocks whistled through the air. ‘The De’ils Stane’ fell where it now lies, on the road-side about a quarter of a mile west [sic] from Waltonhill Farm. Samson, though handicapped by three miles greater distance, flung his stone fully four hundred yards beyond that of Satan, and with such force that it split into three parts; which parts are now built into Waltonhill barn”.

The roadside location, just south of the bend

The De’il’s Stane, a huge slab of rock!

This is of course a variant of a creation myth that is to be found throughout Britain, of an Age of Giants who hurled rocks around and strode the land quarrelling with each other and the mortal humans . The original names of the Waltonhill Giants have been lost in the aeons of oral transmission of the legend from pre-history, and replaced by that of a probably equally legendary Middle Eastern strong man from the Christian’s Bible, in combat with the Christian’s Naughty Man. And this was of course done to prove the point of Christianity’s superiority over the old animistic cults of the land, and the De’il had to be demonstrably the loser.

De’ils Stane thrown by the Man in the Red Velvet Suit from East Lomond (Left)

Owing to the Stone being partly hidden by gorse, it was not possible to make a close inspection of the rock for carvings etc. A further visit will no doubt be made to try to clear some of the gorse so a closer inspection can be made. The Stone’s size (approximately 15′ high by 20′ wide by 4′ thick) and the way it is resting against a natural bank, does give a credence to the legend of its having been slung by a giant from East Lomond, clearly visible nearly 7¾ miles away.

Reference:

  1. Fife Herald & Journal, 1st November 1905, quoted in John Ewart Simpkins’ County Folklore – Volume VII: Fife, with some notes concerning Clackmannan and Kinross-shires, Folk-Lore Society by Sidgwick& Jackson: London 1914.

© Paul T. Hornby, The Northern Antiquarian 2018

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Swithins Well, Rothwell, West Yorkshire

Healing Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 3442 2686

Also Known as:

  1. St. Swithin’s Well

Archaeology & History

Swithins Well on 1854 map

Highlighted in the fields on the south-side of Rothwell village on the 1854 OS-map, Swithin’s Well was, according to historian Andrea Smith (1982), previously known as a holy well, dedicated to the obscure Saxon saint of the same name.  Although no ‘well’ relating to St Swithin comes from any early texts, the field and farmhouse of ‘Swithins’ were cited in records from the Cartulary of Nostell Priory in 1270 CE; then subsequently in a variety of records throughout the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries.  According to Miss Smith (1982),

“The first recording of St Swithin’s Well, Rothwell…was on an estate map of 1792 (‘Plan of St. Clement’s lands in the parish of Rothwell in the County of York, two-third part of the tithes of corn and grain of which belong to the King in right of His Ducky of Lancaster’, PB), and the field-names arising from it—Swithin’s, Swithin’s Barn, Swithin’s Lane Close—serve to give an indication of the well’s past importance as a local landmark.”

When she visited the site around 1980, she reported finding,

“several wet patches running in a line westwards downhill, but the farmer’s wife seemed certain that this was a broken drain and nothing else could be seen in that field or neighbouring ones, which could have been the well.”

Very recently, the Wakefield pagan and antiquarian Steve Jones went to see if the well or any remains of it could still be seen and told us:

“We went looking for the well down a footpath but it was obviously filled in when a colliery was nearby in the early 20th century and (there is) no trace of any spring now.”

Another one’s bitten the dust, as they say…..

But we must note that the grand place-name authority, A.H. Smith (1962) found no references to St. Swithin here and instead suggested the name derived from the old Norse word, sviðinn, ‘land cleared by burning’, which is echoed in the old local dialect word swithen, ‘moorland cleared by burning’ (Smith 1956), and similarly echoed in Joseph Wright’s (1905) magnum opus, where—along with meaning ‘crooked, warped’—it means “to burn, superficially, as heather, wool, etc.”   There is also a complete lack of any mention to the saintly aspects of this place in John Batty’s (1877) primary history book on Rothwell parish, and yet he cites numerous other springs and wells in the region that have fallen out of history.

References:

  1. Batty, John, The History of Rothwell, privately printed: Rothwell 1877.
  2. Jones, Steve, Personal communication, Facebook 27.08.2018.
  3. Rattue, James, “The Wells of St Swithun,” in Source, Summer 1995.
  4. Smith, Andrea, “Holy Wells Around Leeds, Bradford & Pontefract,” in Wakefield Historical Journal 9, 1982.
  5. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire – volume 2, Cambridge University Press 1961.
  6. Smith, A.H., English Place-Name Elements – volume 2, Cambridge University Press 1956.
  7. Wright, Joseph, English Dialect Dictionary – volume 5, Henry Frowde: Oxford 1905.

Acknowledgements:  Many thanks to Steve Jones of Wakefield for his informing us about the status of this site.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 

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Gilfeilzie Well, Alyth, Perthshire

Sacred Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 2675 5071

Also Known as:

  1. Well of Gilfeilzie

Archaeology & History

Long lost, this was a sacred well whose history has all but fallen away.  Were it not for the historian James Meikle (1925), whose excellent survey of Alyth parish cites a record and brief narrative of the site, we’d no longer know it ever existed.

It was located 1¾ miles northeast of Alyth, roughly halfway between the giant and mightily impressive Barry Hill hillfort (NO 2623 5039) and the lost stone circle of Hell Hole (NO 2801 5066).  It is the name of the Well itself that invited scrutiny in Meikle’s place-name book which, he told, meant a hut, but also a “cell, shrine in a temple,” or “at the church.”  No church has ever been recorded here, although a small hamlet was in the adjacent field to the west—long since cleansed by the English in the genocide known as The Clearances.  The well was shown and named on an 18th century estate map by William Panton in 1772, as Meikle told us,

“near the south bank of the Slatenty Burn, known there are the Burn of Babylon.  The well is now drained, but it was evidently within what is the first cultivated field east of the heath-covered skirts of Barry Hill, and 40 or 50 yards from its north-east corner.  Above the well and above the old loan from Inverqueich, and mostly within the same field, were half a dozen scattered cottages, with a kiln…; and as baptisms in 1649 tend to show that there were more houses than one in Gilfeilzie, the whole group must have been so named.”

When Paul Hornby and I visited the place yesterday, we could find no trace whatsoever of the well.

References:

  1. Meikle, James, Places and Place-Names round Alyth, Alex Gardner: Paisley 1925.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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Tammie Blair’s Well, Dunblane, Stirlingshire

Healing Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NN 780 010

Archaeology & History

Which one is Tammie Blair’s Well?

It’s difficult to work out the exact position of this lost well, even from Alexander Barty’s (1944) description of the place.  There are several unnamed ‘Wells’ on the early OS-maps very close to where this one was said to be, but in the end I’m relying on (sort of) educated guesswork regarding its precise location.  Please forgive my ineptitude here…

That aside, it’s another water source that has long since gone and is only remembered thanks to Mr Barty’s excellent local history research in the first-half of the 20th century.  He told us:

“This well stood beside the path which leads from the Bridgend up the right bank of the Allan to the Haugh.  A drawer of water at one time had to go down about 15 steps to the well.  It may have been constructed after the making of the railway, as previously a little burn flowed from the Bridgend west of the railway down to the Allan, the lower part of which is still open next Willowbank House.  This well may therefore have been made by the Railway Company to supply dwellings in Bridgend.  It took its name from a man, Blair, who had charge of the railway gates there prior to the erection of the iron footbridge over the railway line.”

It may be the ‘Well’ marked lower-centre on the above 1863 OS-map above.  But I aint sure.

References:

  1. Barty, Alexander B., The History of Dunblane, Eneas Mackay: Stirling 1944.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks to the staff at Dunblane Library for their help.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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Bishop’s Well, Dunblane, Stirlingshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NN 78126 01281

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 24681

Archaeology & History

Bishop’s Well on 1899 map

This now-lost holy well was a place whose history was integrally tied to the adjacent and also destroyed Bishop’s Palace: a large ostentatious building that was already in ruins in 1579, just below Dunblane Cathedral. It was the water supply for the bishops who lived here; although exactly when it received its original dedication, and by whom, seems unknown.

The best description we have of it is in Alex Barty’s (1944) excellent history work on Dunblane, where he wrote:

“Perhaps the best-known well in Dunblane was the Bishop’s Well, in the Bishop’s Yard or Grassyard.  This well is now dry and the explanation is that it was fed by a strong stream from about Kirk Street which was incorporated into the town sewer when it was laid in Kirk Street.  There was a right-of-way, or at least a  privilege, held by some of the inhabitants to pass through the north end of the Manse ground out by a gate which still exists and down a path to the well.”

Mr Barty informed us that the line of the footpath was still visible in his day, but it has long since gone.  When Archie McKerrarcher (1992) wrote about the site, he described minor remains of it still extant, telling that “the Bishop’s Well can be seen marked by circular stonework in the grass”; but this has now also been destroyed.  One would think that the local christian community would at least have tried to preserve this ancient site.

References:

  1. Barty, Alexander B., The History of Dunblane, Eneas Mackay: Stirling 1944.
  2. Dennison, E.P. & Coleman, R., Historic Dunblane: The Archaeological Implications of Development, RCAHMS: Edinburgh 1997.
  3. McKerracher, Archie, The Street and Place-Names of Dunblane and District, Stirling District Libraries 1991.

Acknowledgements:  To Paul Hornby in his help seeking out this site; and to the staff at Dunblane Library.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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Market Cross, Glanton, Northumberland

Cross (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NU 0708 1445

Archaeology & History

This site has long since gone, but its existence is worthy of note.  Indeed, when Dippie Dixon (1895) wrote about it in his classic work, faded memory was all he could tell of it too, saying:

“Glanton once possessed a market cross.  Not a vestige of it now remains; but it is said to have stood about the centre of the village, on a slight knoll facing the Whittingham road…”

This would place it close to the old Red Lion pub.  Old crosses that are found at the centre of a village or township represent (albeit forgotten) the spot whence the community was born: a faded form of an omphalos, in the christian guide; later debased into little more than where markets and trade was done. When the ‘market’ wasn’t active, it was the gathering place for local people. As George Tyack (1900) told us:

“The village cross, in its more humble way, played the same part in the rustic life of its neighbourhood as did the high cross in the more bustling life of the town. Such public matters as stirred the still waters of rural existence were there discussed: the items of news from the great world without that reached the village gossips were there recounted, and the summons to the yearly Manorial Court, and other notices not suitable for procalmation in church, were there made public.”

This is the mundane function of the cross.  In its earlier status, it was the animistic symbol not only of the centre of the village, but the origin of the world itself, where moots or gatherings took place annually, calendrically, to ritually re-establish and commemorate the birth of the local tribe and their world through consecration.  But all of this has long since faded…

References:

  1. Dixon, David D., Whittingham Vale, Robert Redpath: Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1895.
  2. Eliade, Mircea & Sullivan, Lawrence E., “Center of the World,” in Encyclopedia of Religion – volume 3, MacMillan: New York 1987.
  3. Tyack, George S., The Cross in Ritual, Architecture and Art, William Andrews: London 1900.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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Meikle Findowie, Little Dunkeld, Perthshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 96105 39143

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 86434

Getting Here

Meikle Findowie stone

Along the A822 road between Dunkeld and Milton, 4.7 miles (7.6km) west of the A9, turn left down the track signposted ‘Meikle Findowie’.  About 700 yards along the track you reach modernised farmhouse and here, on your left, a track takes you east.  You’ll notice some ruins a couple of hundred yards along.  The standing stone is by its side.

Archaeology & History

Looking eastwards…

Beside the old trackway that runs east-west past Meikle Findowie, above the ancient flood-plain of the breathing River Braan, a solitary stone lives by the more modern shadow of old sheep-folds.  Tis a quiet little fella, less than 5 feet tall, that you could almost pass as a forgotten gatepost if you chattered when walking by. But it’s much more ancient than any old gate…

It nestles below the old hill of Airlich, with its beautiful stone circle and huge ancient enclosures higher up: a chunky old stone with no carvings or other human marks upon it.   Tis a site site worth visiting before heading uphill, to the megalithic ring of enchantment.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks as always to Paul Hornby for getting us to this site.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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