Townhead, Rothesay, Isle of Bute, Argyll

Settlement (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NS 086 635

Archaeology & History

Pottery remnants

Somewhere beneath the modern cemetery and adjacent factory close to St. Mary’s church on the southern outskirts of Rothesay, right by the roadside, was once an important prehistoric settlement.  All remains of the site however, have long since been destroyed.  An axe that was found here was held in the local museum.  There are several scattered accounts of the place, one of which was written by J.G. Scott (1968), who reported that,

“between 1914 and 1929, a series of finds — pottery, a polished stone axehead, a saddle quern, hearths and remains of shallow trenches — was made at Townhead…at a now disused gravel pit.  Excavations in 1929 revealed several slots in the original gravel surface, which suggested the remains of sleeper beams for wooden buildings.  All the pottery recovered was neolithic… Amongst it were sherds of two vessels of Rinyo-Clacton ware.  Most of the rest of the pottery…showed well-developed rims, often thickened and bevelled externally and sometimes everted.  This pottery recalls the Abingdon style of southern Britain, and has been termed Rothesay ware by the writer.

“Sherd from one of these Rothesay vessels were associated with charcoal, possibly from a hearth, with hazel-nut shells and small fragments of bone.”

Scott told that radiocarbon analysis dated the finds  at around 2120 BC.  A couple of hundred yards away are the enclosed remains of St. Mary’s Holy Well, whose waters may well have been of magickal repute all those centuries ago…


  1. Scott, J.G., “A Radiocarbon Date for a West Scottish Neolithic Settlement,” in Antiquity journal, volume 42, no.168, December 1968.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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