Kalemouth Carving, Eckford, Roxburghshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NT 714 275

Archaeology & History

Kalemouth carving (after R.W.B. Morris 1981)

“In the field “not far from the cairn” (just E of the farm), was a small convex gritstone boulder 25cm by 15cm by 15cm (¾ft  x ½ft x ½ft). On its fairly smooth surface is:Now housed in the National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh, this little-known petroglyph was rediscovered in 1957 by a Mr G.F. Ritchie, not far from the once-large Kalemouth neolithic tomb.  A carving that seems to be quite isolated (no others are known about in this area), this incomplete four-ringed design was in all probability a stray rock that came out of the cairn—although we don’t know this for sure.  It was described in Ron Morris’ petroglyph survey, where he told us,

“a cup-and-four-rings with 2 parallel grooves from the inner ring (which is incomplete) through the others (which are gapped)—the outer two being now incomplete also—a form of ‘keyhole pattern’.”

A near-identical carving on a similiar-shaped portable stone can be seen in Galashiels museum, whose history has seemingly been forgotten.

References:

  1. Morris, Ronald W.B., “The cup-and-ring marks and similar sculptures of Scotland: a survey of the southern Counties – part 2,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 100, 1967.
  2. Morris, Ronald W.B., “The Cup-and-Ring and Similar Early Sculptures of Scotland; Part 2 – The Rest of Scotland except Kintyre,” in Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society, volume 16, 1969.
  3. Morris, Ronald W.B., The Prehistoric Rock Art of Southern Scotland, BAR: Oxford 1981.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  55.540394, -2.452983 Kalemouth Carving

Overlee, Clarkston, Renfrewshire

Souterrains & Settlement (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NS 577 572

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 43802

Archaeology & History

Overlee Farm in 1896 – no remains highlighted

This was an astonishing-sounding place, little-known beyond the pages of specialist historians.  It has been described in modern terms as simply “subterranean structures”, “weems”, or “prehistoric underground houses”; but were this site still in evidence it would be a huge attraction!  From the literary descriptions we possess, the extensive remains found and destroyed sound very much like the much-visited fogous found throughout Cornwall, or more commonly known as ‘souterrains’ in Scotland—although there’s no mention of the place in Wainwright’s (1963) singular study on such monuments.  Despite this, here, on the south-side of modern Clarkston, it seems we once had a Renfrewshire equivalent to the prehistoric Cornish village and fogous known as Carn Euny.

The first known account of this site was written by James Smith (1845) in the survey for the New Statistical Account, who thankfully gave us a reasonably lengthy account of what was once here.  He told:

“About thirty years ago, on the farm of Overlee, which lies on the north bank of the river Cart, in the south-west angle of the parish, Mr Watson, the proprietor, on removing the earth from a quarry which he wished to open, discovered a great many subterraneous houses ranged round the slope of a small swelling hill. Each house consisted of one apartment, from eight to twelve feet square. The sides, which were from four to five feet high, were faced with rough undressed stone, and the floors were neatly paved with thin flag stones which are found in the neighbourhood.  In the centre of each floor was a hole scooped out as a fire-place, in which coal-ashes still remained, and seemed to indicate that their occupiers had left the place on a sudden.  That coal and not wood or peat had been employed as fuel, seemed at first an argument against the antiquity of the houses, until it was remembered that many seams of coal crop out on the steep banks of the river in the immediate vicinity, which may have been picked out for firing by the aboriginal inhabitants, as is still done to a limited extent by a few of the poorer classes in the neighbourhood. Near the fire-places were found small heaps of water-worn pebbles, from two to three inches in diameter, the use of which it is difficult to conjecture. They may have been used as missiles for attack or defence in the rude warfare of ancient days, or more probably they served the purposes of an equally rude system of cookery, by which meat was prepared for being eaten by heated stones placed round it, as is still done in many of the South Sea islands.  The floors of the houses were covered to the depth of about a foot with a rich black vegetable mould, which was in all likelihood the decayed remains of the roofs mixed with soil filtered from the surface.  As was gathered from the different appearances of the soil, in and over them, the houses were partly excavated from the hill and partly built above ground, and a level approach to the entrances was dug out of the slope.  The number discovered amounted to forty-two, of which thirty-six formed the arc of a lower and larger circle, and the remaining six, also circularly ranged, stood a little higher up the hill.  The writer is informed that the ruins of villages of a similar description have been discovered in several parts of Scotland; and there is an account of one very much the same as the above, recorded in the third volume of the Transactions of the Antiquarian Society of Scotland.  About twelve querns or small hand-mills were found near the site of these houses, and a grave lined with stone containing a rude urn filled with ashes.  These latter relics, however, may have belonged to a still distant but less remote antiquity. The old castle of Lee or Williamwood was erected near the place, and it is not improbable that, in procuring materials for the building from the freestone, of which the hill consists, the soil, which for so many centuries concealed the remains of the village, was thrown down upon it. Several years ago, the proprietor, in clearing away the old foundations of the castle, which interfered with the rectilineal operations of the plough, found within the square which they enclosed many human bones, which he avers were of almost superhuman magnitude.

“If the natives of the village, described above, deserted their homes hastily, as may be conjectured from the fact of the fuel remaining on their hearths, it may have been in terror of the Romans—one division of whose invading army must have passed not far from the place. In a direct north-east line from this hill, without any intervening eminence, and at the distance of about two miles, there are still very distinct traces of a small Roman encampment on the summit of a hill, the name of which, from the circumstance, is Camp Hill…”

Although the modern official description of these remains is simply that of “a settlement”, the idea that some of the remains here were souterrains seems beyond doubt.  The comparison James Smith makes with remains that were found shortly afterwards that were “very much the same”, unearthed at Cairnconon—or the West Grange of Conon, as Canmore call it—northwest of Arbroath, confirms this idea.

Just over a decade after Mr Smith’s initial account, the Glaswegian historian James Pagan (1856), in his huge History of Glasgow, included another description of the place from the pseudonymous 19th century writer “J.B.”  In what were called Desultory Sketches, much of what he wrote merely echoed the original notes by Smith, but they are still worth repeating:

“Specimens of the winter houses, or weems, were to be seen, till recently, in our own district, at Cartland Craigs, near Stonebyres, on the Clyde; and one very interesting example of the pit-houses was revealed in 1808, on the farm of Overlee, near Busby, in the vicinity of Glasgow.  The following particulars regarding these were communicated to the writer of this sketch, by the parish minister of Cathcart, who had his information from an eye-witness.

“While the farmer was removing soil to get at freestone, for building a new steading, he came on a cluster of subterranean aboriginal huts. They were forty in number, and ranged round the face of the hill on which the farm-house of Overlee now stands. These huts were of the most primitive kind. They were mere semicircular pits, cut out of the hillside, with a passage to the door, also dug out of the slope, on a level with the floor, as indicated by the different colour of the soil. Each consisted of one small apartment, about twelve feet square, five feet high, and faced with stone. The floors were neatly paved with thin flag-stones, found in the neighbourhood. In the centre of each was a hole for a fireplace, in which ashes were still visible. Near the fireplace were small piles of water-worn stones, two or three inches in diameter, probably for cooking food, by placing heated stones round it, as is yet done by some of the islanders in the Pacific Twelve hand-querns of stone for grinding grain were found in the houses. At a short distance, a grave was discovered, lined with stone, and containing rude urns filled with ashes, thus indicating that the inhabitants of this primitive cluster, near what is now Glasgow, burned their dead. Unfortunately, the whole of these curious pit-houses were ruthlessly destroyed.

“In some of the weems and pit-houses, small groups of pretty oyster-shells have been found, perforated with small holes, as if they had been strung together, and formed an ornamental necklace—shall we say for the lady-savage of that distant epoch?  In others were discovered bodkins and skewers, made of horn, probably to hold together the folds of the wild beasts’ skins forming the savages’ winter covering; the bones of oxen, neatly notched, as if for ornament; bowls made of stone, the hollow having been drilled out by the circular action of another stone, sharper and harder, aided by the grit of sand (one of which is now before me); arrow-heads and lances formed of flint or bone, some of the former of which I happen to possess; —nay, swords have been found, fashioned from the bone of a large fish! Heavy oaken war-clubs, too, must not be omitted from this curious catalogue.”

Although highly unlikely, there is the remote possibility that some remains of these underground ‘houses’, or souterrains, could possibly still be unearthed hereby.  In recent years we’ve encountered a number of good farmers and land-owners who’ve told us about souterrains beneath their fields that are not in any record-books.  Intriguingly, each one asked us, “who are you working for?” – and when we’ve assured them that we have nothing to do with the ‘official’ bodies, they’ve opened up and showed us.  In one instance, a land-owner in Angus told us how he was farming the field as he’d always done, “when my tractor fell into a huge hole in the ground – and there was another souterrain!”

Why am I telling you this?  Well, if you’re a local, maybe get round to Overlee and ask around some of the olde local people.  You never know what you might find!  And we could perhaps try find more about the other souterrain which the pseudonymous ‘J.B.’ said was “at Cartland Craigs, near Stonebyres, on the Clyde.”

References:

  1. McBeath, H.D., Walks by Busby and Thorntonhall, with Historical Notes on the Area, EKDC: East Kilbride 1980.
  2. Pagan, James (ed.), Glasgow, Past and Present – volume 2, David Robertson: Glasgow 1856.
  3. Ross, William, Busby and its Neighbourhood, David Bryce: Glasgow 1883.
  4. Smith, James, “Parish of Cathcart,” in New Statistical Account of Scotland – volume 7: Renfrew, William Blackwood: Edinburgh 1845.
  5. Stuart, John, “Notice of Underground Chambers recently Excavated on the Hill of Cairn Conan, Forfarshire,” in Proceedings Society of Antiquaries, Scotland – volume 3, 1862.
  6. Wainwright, F T., The Souterrains of Southern Pictland. RKP: London 1963.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  55.787536, -4.270462 Overlee souterrain

Middlesknowes, Oxnam, Jedburgh, Roxburghshire

Standing Stone (destroyed?):  OS Grid Reference – NT 7420 1487

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 58143

Archaeology & History

There’s considerable Bronze- and Iron-Age archaeology all round here (cairns, settlements, earthworks and more), but it seems that the once-proud standing stone highlighted on the 1899 Ordnance Survey map found on the higher ground a half-mile north of Middlesknowes, no longer stands where it had been standing for all those thousands of years.  What, pray, has become of it…?

References:

  1. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Roxburghshire – volume 2, HMSO: Edinburgh 1956.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  55.427192, -2.409084 Middlesknowes

Harlaw, Fairnington, Roxburghshire

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NT 666 286

Archaeology & History

One of those site place-names with a familiar ring to it: Har, boundary; law, tumulus (though it can also be used to mean ‘a meeting place’).  Nevertheless, whatever the precise origin of the name, the site here seems to have been destroyed.

Although listed by the Royal Commission in 1956 as a stone circle, John Barnatt thinks it may have been a tomb of sorts – which is what the place-name infers if we’re puritanical about it.  Alexander Jeffrey (1864) told us the most, saying that:

“A field to the east of Fairnington village is called Harlaw, from a circle of large stones which stood within it, but which have been removed to serve farm purposes.”

Its exact location is unknown, though the Royal Commission lads thought it probably “stood somewhere near the present Harelaw Plantation,” about a mile east of the village.  Any more info on this lost site would be most welcome!

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  2. Gelling, Margaret, Place-Names in the Landscape, Phoenix: London 2000.
  3. Jeffrey, Alexander, The History and Antiquities of Roxburghshire – volume 3, Seton & MacKenzie: Edinburgh 1864.
  4. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Roxburghshire – volume 2, HMSO: Edinburgh 1956.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

 

loading map - please wait...

  55.550127, -2.529895 Harlaw circle

Harestanes, Ancrum, Roxburghshire

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NT 641 240

Archaeology & History

Mentioned briefly by Burl (2000), this site is another of the countless megalithic monuments in our islands that has been destroyed.  References to it are few and far between, though the site was investigated by members of Scottish Royal Commission in March, 1947, and found absolutely no remains left.  In the first volume of their Roxburgh (1956) survey, they told:

“The stone circle that stood in the vicinity of Harestones Cottages had been reduced to a single stone by 1845, and this stone has since disappeared.  No details of the circle are recorded and the evidence for its exact position is contradictory.  Stobie’s Map of Roxburghshire (1770) marks the site a little to the NE of Harestones Cottages, while an estate map of 1795 is said to have placed it at the SW corner of this group of buildings.”

There is the distinct possibility of course that there once stood two independent ancient monuments in the vicinity, which would account for descriptions in the different site locations.

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  2. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Roxburghshire – volume 1, HMSO: Edinburgh 1956.
  3. Watson, G., “The Stone Circles of Roxburghshire,” in Transactions of the Hawick Archaeological Society, volume 20, 1908.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  55.509005, -2.569307 Harestanes

Hawksnest, Langshaw, Melrose, Roxburghshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NT 499 403

Archaeology & History

The Scottish Royal Commission reported how,

“in 1936 a cup-marked boulder measuring 3ft 10in in length, 3ft 8in width and 1ft 8in in thickness, was found in a cultivated field half a mile southeast of Hawksnest and 75 yards north of the road from Hawksnest to Ladhopemoor.”

The carved stone had been scarred a little by the plough, but had “23 shallow cup-marks on its upper surface varying from 1in to 1.75in diameter.”  This carving is curiously omitted from Ronald Morris’ Prehistoric Rock Art of  Southern Scotland (1981), so perhaps the carving has been lost.  Does anyone know owt more about it?

References:

  1. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Roxburghshire – volume 2, HMSO: Edinburgh 1956.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 

 

loading map - please wait...

  55.654072, -2.796998 Hawksnest carving

Frogden Circle, Linton, Roxburghshire

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NT 774 292

Also known as:

  1. Five Stones
  2. The Tryst

Archaeology & History

Less than a mile northwest of the hillfort on Linton Hill, modern OS-maps show the field-name of ‘Five Stone Field’ which is where, in bygone years, another important stone circle once stood.  Today unfortunately, not a single stone remains.  As the Scottish Royal Commission (1956) lads told:

“About a mile NE of Frogden, on the N side of the road between Frogden and Greenlees, there were formerly five or six upright stones forming a circle, ‘about the size of a cock-pit’ (1792 Statistical Account). This circle, which was adopted as a rendezvous by Border raiders in the Middle Ages and became known as The Tryst, has long since disappeared, but its approximate site is indicated on the OS map by the name Five…Stone Field.”

Folklore

One of many stone circles used as an old moot, or gathering spot.  This was described in one of the many footnotes to Sir Walter Scott’s (1802) Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, in which he told:

“At Linton, in Roxburghshire, there is a circle of stones surrounding a smooth plot of turf, called the Tryst, or place of appointment, which tradition avers to have been the rendezvous of the neighbouring warriors. The name of the leader was cut in the turf, and the arrangement of the letters announced to his followers the course which he had taken.”

This tradition was echoed around the same period in Robert Forsyth’s (1805) massive work on the history of Scottish life and landscape, saying:

“In different parishes, such as Moorbattle, Linton, and others, are to be found what are called tryst stanes. These are great stones commonly situated on high grounds. They are placed perpendicularly in rows, not unfrequently in a circular direction. It is said, as also the name imports, that in times of hostility they marked the places of resort for the borderers when they were assembling for any expedition of importance.”

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  2. Forsyth, Robert, The Beauties of Scotland – volume 2, Thomas Bonar: Edinburgh 1805.
    Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Roxburghshire – volume 1, HMSO: Edinburgh 1956.
  3. Scott, Walter, Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, James Ballantyne: Kelso 1802.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  55.556301, -2.359174 Frogden circle