Holy Well (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – NS 7932 9454
Also Known as:
- Whiskey Well
- Whusky Well
Archaeology & History
Once found beneath the northern foot of Gowan Hill, below the old hillfort and close to Stirling’s famous castle, the Industrialists, as usual, built over and destroyed this piece of ancient heritage in the 20th century, leaving us only a few words and an old drawing to remember it by. It was one of several holy wells in and around Stirling, most of which have fallen prey to the same scavengers in the march they call ‘progress.’
Thankfully the local writer J.S. Fleming’s (1898) talked about the well in his fine work, where he told:
“This Well is situated at the foot of the Gowan Hills, and adjacent to the skating pond, as shown in (the) sketch. Though part of the waters of this Well have been abstracted, and led, by means of a pipe, to a neighbouring factory, it still gives off a considerable flow of water. The local name, “Whusky Well” is supposed to be given this Well on account of the virtues of its waters for mixing with whisky, without any perceptible deterioration of the latter. We can find no allusion to this Well in any of the Burgh Records, and Dr. Rogers gives no reason for its dedication to the Virgin Mary. We do know, however, that “St. James’s Chapel of the Crag” was situated only 200 or 300 yards distant, and is referred to frequently as receiving alms from King James IV, especially on 26th July, 1496, of 14s. We learn from a charter by Robert III to the Canon of Cambuskenneth Abbey, dated 10th March, 1402, that he grants “to God, and the blessed Virgin Mary, and to the said Canon,” this Chapel, or Hospital of St. James, at the end of the roadway of the Bridge of Stirling; and that King James II, on 24th June, 1456, grants the said Chapel, or Hospital, to the town of Stirling, ” to the praise and honour of God, the blessed Virgin Mary, his mother, and Saint James the Apostle.” May not this well have had connection with St. James’s chapel, an appanage of Cambuskenneth Abbey, dedicated to our Lady the Virgin, and thus give reason for its name, ” Our Lady Well? ” Saint James’s Chapel was held by Sir Robert Cristisoun, as part of his emoluments as master of the Grammar School, whose right was challenged in 1522; and in November, 1562, having become ruinous, the stones of the Chapel were directed by the Magistrates to be “brocht to the utility and profit of the common work,” — strengthening the town’s wall. A northern boundary, in a charter of the Abbot of Aberbrothock, dated 1299, of lands in the burgh, is described as “the land of Saint Marie of Strivelin.” There is also “a Ladyrig,” but its situation is not indicated and, therefore, its connection with the Well is hypothetical.”
In early references of the site by Ordnance Survey in the 1860s and 1890s, it was only described and shown as the Whiskey Well.
- Bennett, Paul, Holy Wells and Healing Springs of Stirling and District, forthcoming
- Fleming, J.S., Old Nooks of Stirling, Delineated and Described, Munro & Jamieson: Stirling 1898.
- Roger, Charles, A Week at Bridge of Allan, Adam & Charles Black: Edinburgh 1853.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian