Holy Well: OS Grid Reference – NO 18505 09169
Also Known as:
- Chapel Well
- Roman Well
Travelling from Milnathort on the A91, in Gateside village, turn right down Old Town, and after the left bend in the road, park up. Access to the field where the Well is situated is through the gate on land next to the easternmost house on the south side of Old Town. Ask at the house first. Walk down the field towards the Chapel Den burn, and the ruins of the Well will be seen next to the burn just before the line of bushes that cross the field.
Archaeology and History
In his brief description of Strathmiglo parish, Hew Scott (1925) wrote:
“At Gateside…there was a chapel of St Mary, with Our Lady’s Well beside it.”
It was described in the nineteenth century Ordnance Survey Name Books by an informant:
“A small spring well on the north side of the Mill Dam. Supposed to have been used in the days of Popery as holy water and for other purposes when the building supposed to have been St Mary’s Chapel was in existence.”
Another informant wrote:
“…a Romish chapel is supposed to have been erected in this village and is borne out in a great measure by names of objects adjoining, namely Chapel Den, Chapel Well.”
“According to Doctor Small…it is stated, ‘The ancient name of this village called in old papers the Chapelton of the Virgin, changing its name at the Reformation.'”
This latter statement would seem to imply that the part of modern-day Gateside south of the main road (the north side was known as ‘Edentown’) was a pilgrimage centre of the Cult of the Virgin. The chapel was erected by the monks of Balmerino to whom it was known as ‘Sanct Mary’s of Dungaitsyde’. It was highlighted as the Chapel Well on the 1856 OS-map. Two long term residents informed me that the well is also known locally as the Roman Well.
While no trace of the chapel remains, the Well is evidenced by some low ruins of what had once been a red sandstone structure, and it was just possible to make out in the field the line of the pilgrim’s path to the well. But what a lovely serene place next to the burn! An ideal spot to meditate or daydream… The spring no longer flows, and a manhole in the field probably indicates the water supply has been diverted, perhaps to serve the long since closed Gateside Distillery?
James Wilkie, writing in 1938 of Chapelton of the Virgin –
“Through it ran the picturesque Cupar road, superseded today by the prosaic and toilsome highway. Not only do Druid shades and those of Legionaires long buried gather round it, but in the gloaming, if you have the sight, you may catch a glimpse of a white robed Cistercian monk, revisiting ‘Saint Maria’s Chappell of Gaitsyde’. Is he in search of the Ecclesiastical Ring of Silver that in the beginning of this century was turned up by the plough on the lands of Pitlour, or simply lured back to the Chapel Den and the Holy Well consecrated to Our Lady? Still a mediaeval air seems to breathe about the thatched cottages that in their early days lay under the protection of the Church. On their walls, Tropeolum glows red and beside them grow old-fashioned flowers whose ancestors may have sprung from seeds sown by the monks of Balmerino. The path to the burnside is trodden by fewer feet now”.
- Scott, Hew, Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae – Volume V, Oliver & Boyd: Edinburgh 1925.
- Wilkie, James, Bygone Fife North of the Lomonds, The Moray Press, Edinburgh & London, 1938.
- Personal communication Mr & Mrs Gall.
- On Canmore
© Paul T. Hornby 2016 The Northern Antiquarian