Bell Stane, Queensferry, Midlothian

Legendary Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NT 1292 7840

Bell Stane on 1896 map

Bell Stane on 1896 map

Archaeology & History

An intriguing site that needs adding to the Northern Antiquarian due to the foraging research of the Edinburgh historian Stuart Harris (1996).  Although the Bell Stane has been ascribed by the Canmore researchers to be just,

“a stone near the Mercat Cross on which the hand bell was set (rung to herald the opening of the weekly market or annual fair),”

Mr Harris dug deeper and found other references which led him to think that the site was “a conspicuous boulder or standing stone.”  I have to agree with him.  In his outstanding work on the historical place-names of Edinburgh and district, Harris wrote:

“The Bellstane…is noted on Ordnance Survey 1854 as the name of an object just outwith the burgh boundary and in the southwest corner of the little square that now bears the name.  Whilst it has been surmised that it was a stone named for a handbell rung beside it on market days, in point of fact a burgh council meeting of 1642 (quoted in Morison’s Queensferry, p.131) records that a piece of ground hitherto waste and unused, within the burgh but near the bellstane, was to be set aside for markets and fairs in times coming; and the clear inference is that the name belonged to the stone before any markets were held near it.  In absence of a reliable description of the stone or of early forms of its name, the origin of the name can only be guessed at.  Similar names (of sites) in Kirknewton and Whitburn are no better documented, but the early forms of Belstane in Lanarkshire (BellitstaneBellistaneBelstane and Bellstane prior to 1329 and Beldstanein 1452) suggest that its first part may be Anglian ballede or early Scots bellit (from a Celtic root, ball, white), making the name ‘the stone with a white or pale patch or stripe on it’ — such as one with a band of quartz running through it.  A conspicuous boulder or standing stone of this sort on this spur of higher ground above the shore would have been a useful meith or landing mark for boats making for the narrow landing place at the Binks.”

If anyone uncovers additional evidence about this Bell Stane that can affirm it as a standing stone (or otherwise), we will amend its status.

References:

  1. Harris, Stuart, The Place-Names of Edinburgh: Their Origins and History, Gordon Wright: Edinburgh 1996.
  2. Morison, Alexander, Historical Notes on the Ancient and Royal Burgh of Queensferry, West Lothian Courier: Bathgate 1927.
  3. Orrock, Thomas, Fortha’s Lyrics and other Poems, privately printed: Edinburgh 1880.

© Paul Bennett,  The Northern Antiquarian 2016

 

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  55.990624, -3.397520 Bell Stane

Clachan Aoraidh, Balquhidder, Perthshire

Stone Circle (ruins):  OS Grid Reference – NN 5389 2076

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 24151
  2. Worshipping Stones

Getting Here

Clachan Aoraidh, looking W

Along the A84 road betweeen Callander and Lochearnhead, take the small road west when you reach Balquhidder Station, towards Balquhidder village.  Go along here for 1½ miles (2.5km) as if you’re gonna visit the Puidrac Stone; but 200 yards past this, go through the gate on the south-side of the road into the boggy field for about 150 yards towards the River Balvag.  You’re looking for several stones, as in the photos.  You’ll find ’em. (you may get soaked though!)

Archaeology & History

The stones, looking NW

After many thousands of years, this innocuous-looking group of small stones found in the very boggy field immediately west of the Puidrac Stone looks nothing like it once did. Some modern academics would have you think there was nothing here of prehistoric interest, but oral tradition and earlier writings tell otherwise. Although not shown on the early OS-maps, it was first described in James Gow’s (1887) articulation on the antiquities of the area, in which he told:

“A short distance east from the present (Balquhidder) parish church, in the haugh below the manse, there are seven stones remaining of a circle which appears to have been about 30 feet in diameter; only one stone is in its original upright position, but there are fragments of others lying about; as usual, they are known as “Clachan-Aoraidh,” or worshipping stones, and are not likely to be disturbed during the lease of the present tenant.”

Looking E, with Puidrac Stone just visible left of telegraph post

A few years later when Thomas Ross (1919) visited the area with a Prof Cooper and others, they reported the single standing stone still in position and the anglicized name of the Worshipping Stones was still in evidence amongst locals.

Arc of fallen stones by the trees

Nowadays the site is in ruin.  Two of the stones stand out when the rushes aren’t too high, with one earthfast and its companion prostrate; but as you can see in the photo (right), there remains a sunken arc of two other stones laid down, running away from the larger ones, with a fifth overgrown and nearly covered by vegetation and the young trees.  In all probability, tradition is probably right here: this is the remains of a stone circle.

Folklore

The field in which these denuded megalithic remains are found, was, wrote Thomas Ross (1919),

“the site of a long-popular market called ‘Feill Aonghais’, i.e., St Angus’ Fair.  It was held, according to Mr Campbell, in May; according to Mr Gow, on “the Saint’s Day, the 6th of April.”  It was quite the custom…to hold a fair after divine service on the Patronal Feast. The folks came to “kirk and market” on the same day, and mixed good fellowship and manly sport with their worship and their business.”

If you were to hold a fair there nowadays, likelihood is it would get flooded!  Christian myths tell of a “St. Angus” taking over whatever the heathen traditions were in this domain, more than a thousand years back.

References:

  1. Gow, James M., “Notes in Balquhidder: Saint Angus, Curing Wells, Cup-Marked Stones, etc”, in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries Scotland, volume 21, 1887.
  2. Ross, Thomas, “Saint Angus’ Stone, Balquhidder,” in Transactions of the Scottish Ecclesiological Society, volume 6 – part 1, 1919.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.356558, -4.366375 Clachan Aoraidh circle

Colpy, Culsalmond, Aberdeenshire

Stone Circle (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – NJ 6411 3261

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 18272

Archaeology & History

Colpy Circle site on 1868 map
Colpy Circle site on 1868 map

Just like the stone circle a half-mile east at Kirkton of Culsalmond, nothing now remains of this megalithic ring.  It was first described very briefly by Rev. F. Ellis (1845) in the New Statistical Account as a “druidical temple”: one of two hereby, “on the farm of Colpie, although now almost obliterated. Several urns were dug up in making a road near one of them”—implying that one of them was a cairn circle or funerary monument of some kind.  This was subsequently affirmed on the early OS-map and then described in Fred Coles’ (1902) survey, where he wrote:

“Site of a stone circle, the road going to Jericho Distillery having been made through it, and, on the south side of this road, the site of a cairn. Within the possible diameter of the circle an urn was found.”

Folklore

A few hundred yards west of the circle an ancient fair used to be held, known as St Sair’s Fair, named after St Serf.  Although St Serf’s Day is July 1, early records show that the fair—held in a long field with the curious name of ‘St Sairs Market Stance’—was to be held on the Wednesday after the last Tuesday in June.  For a stone circle, this is too close to Midsummer to be a coincidence!  Early records show that the fair was granted in 1591 and subsequent years thereafter.

St Serf is a very peculiar mythological figure with quite shamanistic traits and tales around him.  In truth, many of these early saints were little more than lapsed shamans, utilising natural magick and medicine in the olde traditions, but which became grafted onto the incoming christian mythos.  The evidence for this is quite overwhelming!

References:

  1. Barnatt, John, Stone Circles of Britain – volume 2, BAR: Oxford 1989.
  2. Browne, G.F., On Some Antiquities in the Neighbourhood of Dunecht House, Aberdeenshire, Cambridge University Press 1921.
  3. Burl, Aubrey, “The Recumbent Stone Circles of North-East Scotland”, in Proceedings Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 102, 1973.
  4. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of the British Isles, Yale University Press 1976.
  5. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  6. Coles, Fred, “Report on Stone Circles in Aberdeenshire (Inverurie, Eastern Parishes, and Insch Districts),” in Proceedings Society Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 36, 1902.
  7. Ellis, F., “Parish of Culsalmond,” in New Statistical Account of Scotland – volume 12: Aberdeen, William Blackwood: Edinburgh 1845.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  57.382500, -2.598631 Colpy, Culsalmond

Deanside Well, Glasgow, Lanarkshire

Healing Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NS 5974 6534

Also Known as:

  1. Meadow Well

Archaeology & History

Probable site of Deanside Well, 1857
Deanside Well ‘pump’ in 1857

This little-known well—destroyed about two hundred years ago—was said to be one of the finest of all of the water supplies in the Glasgow district in pre-industrial days.  The Glasgow historian Andy MacGeorge (1880) told it to be “a spring which was then, and for long afterwards, in great repute.”  It was described as early as 1304 CE in a grant by Robert, bishop of Glasgow, allowing the christians to take water from the well and into their convent.  The Latin transcript told:

“Noveritis Ros intuita caritatis, Dedisse fratribus Predicatoribus de Glasgu, Fontem quendam qui dicitur Meduwel in loco qui dicitur Denside scaturientem, in perpetuum conducendum in claustrum dictorum fratrum, ad usus necessarios eorundem”  (Meaning, “Know ye that I Rosh, of charity, Among His brethren shared with the Preaching Friars of Glasgow, the gushing fountain called Meadow Well or Deanside as the place is called, to the cloisters is said to meet the needs” of the monks.”)

There is the possibility that the well was deemed as ‘holy’ due to it being of vital use to the bishop and monks, but I can find no record of it being ‘blessed’ as such; and the exact site of the bishop’s convent has been lost to history.  In 1574 the “Deynside Well” needed cleaning due to  people clogging up the waters with earth and stones; and sometime in the 18th century the spring of water was turned into a draw-well.

A northern antiquarian by the name of ‘ Senex’ (real name, Robert Reid) visited the Deanside Well at the end of the 18th century, telling of its whereabouts:

“In the year 1789 I had occasion daily to mount and descend the Deanside Brae, upon business, so that the state of the place at that date is quite familiar to me.  The whole of the Deanside Brae was then vacant ground, as is shown in the old Maps of Glasgow.  The Deanside or Meadow Well was situated in a meadow at the west end of Grayfriars’ (or Bun’s) Wynd, close to the footpath leading up to the Rottenrow; it is now on the street, at 88 George Street, opposite to the lane leading into Shuttle Street.  The Deanside Well was then in a rural spot, the whole lands on the west, as far as Partick, being garden grounds and com fields.

“In Stuart’s Views the lonely foot passage up the Deanside Brae, to the Rottenrow, is very distinctly shown. The well stood at the south extremity of the said footpath, about the centre of the wynd.”

‘Senex’ also told that an ancient fair was held in “an enclosure” at the northwest corner of Shuttle Street, close to the Deanside Well.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, Ancient and Holy Wells of Glasgow, TNA 2017.
  2. MacGeorge, Andrew, Old Glasgow, Blackie & Son: Glasgow 1880.
  3. ‘Senex’, Old Glasgow and its Environs, D.Robertson: Glasgow 1864.
  4. Stuart, Robert, Views and Notices of Glasgow in Former Times, R.Stuart: Glasgow 1848.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.860760, -4.242579 Deanside Well