Castleton (7c), Airth, Stirlingshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NS  8551 8819

Archaeology & History

Looking down on C-7c

Near the northwestern end of the small geological ridge that runs to the west of Castleton farmhouse, close to an awesome nine-ringed carving, we find this more simplified triple-ringed petroglyph.  And although the carving is easy enough to describe, its labelling (as ‘Castleton 7c’) is rather troublesome.  As with other carvings in this locale, the name of the stone is based on a survey done by Maarten van Hoek in the mid-1990s.  But van Hoek’s sketch of Castleton 7c and the one shown in our photos, whilst very similar, possess attributes that aren’t on van Hoek’s drawing.  Now this isn’t too odd, as many petroglyphs look different when lighting conditions change; to the point where some features you can see one day are almost invisible the next.  But this carving has attributes that are very difficult to miss – and van Hoek’s detailing tended to be good.  But, all this aside: until we can verify with certainty one way or the other and despite my suspicions that this isn’t what van Hoek described, I’m still entering this carving as Castleton 7c. So – now that bit’s out of the way…!

When we visited the site two years ago the day was dark and overcast, so we didn’t really have good conditions for seeing any faint carvings.  But this wasn’t faint, thankfully.  It was completely buried beneath soil and gorse bushes, but thankfully Paul Hornby managed to unearth the one you can see in the photos.  If it is the Castleton 7c petroglyph, it was rediscovered by van Hoek on one of his ventures here in 1985.

Carving showing wavy lines on right
…and from another angle

When we visited the site we only managed to uncover a small section of the stone, as the roots of the surrounding gorse prevented us from seeing more. (it’s tough stuff unless you’ve got the right gardening equipment!)  The section we uncovered consisted of a cup-and-triple-ring.  This is consistent with van Hoek’s sketch and description; but we also found there were two very notable ‘arcs’ on the outer edge of the rings—nearly opposite each other—as if another, fourth ring had been started.  You can’t really miss these elements – and even in the poor lighting conditions we had, these outer arcs are very evident on a number of photos – especially when they are expanded to full-scale.  However, as I mentioned, we were unable to uncover all the rock; but when van Hoek was here there was far less herbage.  What he saw on this carving was as follows:

“Deturfing part of this ridge revealed a fine cup with three rings with a broadly pecked tail; one solo cup; one large oval ring with small central cup; and a faint cup with two rings, the outer one incomplete.  The rock slopes 12º ENE.”

Crap drawing done in crap lighting
van Hoek’s 1996 sketch

The “broadly pecked tail” he mentions is also not really clear in any of the 60 photos we took.  There is a faint line that runs through the three rings, into the central cup and out the other side: a single curving line no less.  It’s certainly visible, but it’s far from broad.  But there are a number of other lines coming out of the rings.  These maybe just natural scratch marks, or even scratches acquired from farming activity.  It’s difficult to say.  In the poor light that we had, there as looked to be a single cupmark a few inches away from the rings, but this isn’t consistent with the position of the cupmark on van Hoek’s sketch.

There’s a simple solution to all this: we need to revisit the site and expose more of the rock.  At least that will tell us once and for all whether this is the same as van Hoek’s stone, or whether we’ve found yet another new carving. Watch this space, as they say! 😉

References:

  1. van Hoek, Martin A.M., “Prehistoric Rock Art around Castleton Farm, Airth, Central Scotland,” in Forth Naturalist & Historian, volume 19, 1996.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.072784, -3.840828 Castleton CR-7c

Castleton (5f), Airth, Stirlingshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NS 85584 88087

Archaeology & History

As with other carvings in this locale, the name of the stone is based on a survey done by Maarten van Hoek. (1996)  It’s a pretty simplistic design within the impressive Castleton complex, found at the southeastern end of the gorse-covered rocky ridge, about 70-80 yards west of the farmhouse.  It was uncovered on a visit here by Nina Harris, Paul Hornby, Frank Mercer and Lisa Samson on Sunday 19 November, 2018.

The cup-marked stone
Large cup & arc of 3

Unlike the others in the Castleton complex, this carving is probably of interest only to the hardcore petroglyph hunters.  The design consists of at least ten cup-marks on the uncovered section of the rock, one of which appears to have a broken circle with two ‘entrances’ either side of it, so to speak.  The most notable element in the design is close to the edge, where an arc of three cups almost corners a larger cup right at the edge.   There may be more carved elements to be found on the westerly side of the stone, which was covered in deep vegetation when we came here.

References:

  1. van Hoek, Martin A.M., “Prehistoric Rock Art around Castleton Farm, Airth, Central Scotland,” in Forth Naturalist & Historian, volume 19, 1996.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.071877, -3.839595 Castleton 5f carving

Castleton (2), Cowie, Stirling, Stirlingshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NS 85494 88272

Also Known as:

  1. Castleton 9 (van Hoek)

Getting Here

Castleton 2 carving, Airth

If you’re travelling from Stirling or Bannockburn, take the B9124 east to Cowie (and past it) for 3¾ miles (6km), turning left at the small crossroads; or if you’re coming from Airth, the same B9124 road west for just about 3 miles, turning right at the same minor crossroads up the long straight road. Drive to the dead-end of the road and park up, then walk back up the road 350 yards to the small copse of trees on your left.  Therein, some 50 yards or so, zigzag about!

Archaeology & History

Petroglyphs can be troublesome things at the best of time: not only in their ever-elusive root meanings, but even their appearance is troublesome!  This example to the east of Cowie in the incredible Castleton complex is one such case.  It is undoubtedly a multi-period carving, probably first started in the neolithic period, added onto in the Bronze Age, and maybe even finished in the early christian period.  You’ll see why!

It’s been described several times in the past, with Maarten van Hoek (1996) telling how it was rediscovered,

“by Mrs Margaret Morris in 1986 in the birch-coppice at Castleton Wood. A fragment of outcrop rock with a distinct cup-and-three-rings, rather oval-shaped like others in the area.”

The main cup-and-3-rings (photo, Paul Hornby)

But as our own team found out, there’s more to it than that.  Like many of the Castleton carvings, vital elements have been missed in the previous archaeological assessments.  But it’s an easy thing to do.  The carved design here almost ebbs and flows with daylight, shadows, changes in weather, bringing out what aboriginal and traditional peoples have always told us about rock itself, i.e., it’s alive, with qualities and virtues that can and do befuddle even that great domain of ‘objectivity’—itself an emergent construct of an entirely subjective creature (humans).  But that’s what petroglyphs do!—whether they are part of a living tradition, or lost in our striving modernity, exhibiting once more that implicit terrain of animism.  And this carving exemplifies it very clearly.

The primary visual design is the odd triple-ring, which isn’t quite as clear-cut as the earlier descriptions would have you think.  In the drawing below by van Hoek (1996), three complete elliptical ‘rings’ are shown; whereas on its northern edge where the outer ring is closest to the rock edge, we find that the ‘ring’ has carved lines that run off and down the slope of the stone towards ground-level.  It also seems that from the inner second-ring, a natural scar in the rock has been heightened by pecking, creating an artificial carved line running from near the centre and ‘out’ of the three rings.  You can make this out in the accompanying photo, above.

van Hoek’s 1996 sketch
The more complete design

Additionally we found two very faint carved ‘eyes’ or trapezoids pecked onto the stone, obviously at a much earlier date than the notable triple-ring—which could almost be modern!  They would no doubt have excited the old archaeologist O.G.S. Crawford (1957), whose curious theory of petroglyphs was that they were images of some sort of Eye Goddess.  Archaeo’s can come out with some strange ideas sometimes…

Fainter still was another triple-ring—albeit incomplete—with what appears to be a very small central cup-mark, just below and between the two ‘eyes’.  It was first noticed by Paul Hornby when he was playing with the contrast settings on his camera, in the hope of getting clearer photos of any missing elements.

Very faint triple-ring, bottom-left of photo (photo by Paul Hornby)

“Can you see this?” he asked.  And although very faint indeed (on most days you can’t see it at all), it’s undoubtedly there: another multiple-ringer all but lost by the erosion of countless centuries, and older still than the ‘eyes’ above it.  In all the photos we took of this stone, from different angles in different weathers (about 100 in all), this very faint triple-ring can only be seen on a handful of images.  But it’s definitely there and you can see it faintly in the attached image (right) to the bottom-left.

A final note has to be made of a possible unfinished, large circular section with a cross cut into the natural feature of the stone.  It’s uncertain whether this has been touched by human hands (are there any geologists reading?), but it’s something that we’re noticing increasingly at more and more petroglyph sites.  They’re not common, but it has to be said that we found two more man-made ‘crosses’ attached to multiple cup-and-rings near Killin just a few weeks ago.  Also, folklore tells us that not far from this Castleton cluster, a christian hermit once lived….

References:

  1. Crawford, O.G.S., The Eye Goddess, Phoenix House: London 1957.
  2. Morris, Ronald W.B., The Prehistoric Rock Art of Southern Scotland, BAR: Oxford 1981.
  3. van Hoek, M.A.M.,”Prehistoric Rock Art around Castleton Farm, Airth,” in Forth Naturalist & Historian, volume 19, 1996.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks as always to Nina Harris, Fraser & Lisa Harrick, Paul Hornby, Frank Mercer, Penny & Thea Sinclair, for their additional senses and input.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.073503, -3.841260 Castleton (2)

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

St. John's Well, Isle of May, Fife

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – NT 65858 99107

Also Known as:

  1. Pump Well

Archaeology & History

St John’s ‘Well’ on 1855 map

This seems to be the only ‘St John’ dedication on the Isle of May: a small island littered with more saint’s names, seemingly, than Iona and Lindisfarne combined!  Illustrated on the 1855 OS-map, without name—and on the present-day large-scale OS-maps too, 20 yards or so from its 1855 position—the standard archaeo-historical records say nothing of the place.  Thankfully antiquarian and folklore accounts have preserved evidence of its title.  When the Victorian traveller Thomas Muir (1868; 1883) visited the Isle of May, he told how the islanders struggled to maintain a good water supply during a drought there in the 1860s.  St. John’s Well was, he told,

“A pump standing by the path above Kirk Haven. The water good, but a little brackish. During all the drought of this summer we pumped water out of this well to supply our cattle.”

After Æ. J.G. Mackay’s (1896) visit to the island he told that here, along with the other holy wells on May,

“their brackish waters have lost the magic virtue they were credited with in early christian, possibly in pagan times.”

In more recent times it was described in W.J. Eggeling’s (1985) natural history survey.  St. John’s Well was,

“the well within the high, cylindrical, whitewashed wall-surround lying across Haven Road from the Coal House. Also known as the Pump Well.  It is a guiding mark for boats entering Kirk Haven.”

Folklore

St. John’s Day (June 24) was the christian name given to the traditional Midsummer Day, or days, around which good heathen festivals occurred; but we can find no ritual accounts of activity specific to this Well. Help!

References:

  1. Dickson, John, Emeralds Chased in Gold; or, The Isles of the Forth, Oliphant: Edinburgh 1899.
  2. Eggeling, W.J., The Isle of May, Lorien 1985.
  3. Mackay, Æ. J.G., A History of Fife and Kinross, William Blackwood: Edinburgh 1896.
  4. Muir, Thomas S., The Isle of May – A Sketch, Edinburgh 1868.
  5. Muir, Thomas S., Ecclesiological Notes on some of the Islands of Scotland, David Douglas: Edinburgh 1883.
  6. Simpkins, John Ewart, Examples of Printed Folk-lore Concerning Fife, with some Notes on Clackmannan and Kinross-shires, Sidgwick & Jackson: London 1914.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

St. Andrew's Well, Isle of May, Fife

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – NT 65375 99592

Archaeology & History

St Andrews ‘Well’ on 1855 map

In John Dickson’s (1899) fine work on the history and antiquities of the Forth islands, he describes a number of all-but-forgotten holy and medicinal wells that could be visited in the 19th century—this one included!  It was highlighted, without name, on the 1855 OS-map of the island, a short distance west of the curiously named Holyman’s Road.  Aerial views of it today seem to indicate that the well was surrounded by walling, which may have been an old well-house—although the archaeological record here is silent. Mr Dickson told us:

“St. Andrew’s Well, beside the Altar Stones, contains the best water on the May and is entirely used for domestic purposes.  This spring frequently dries up during the summer months and, in these circumstances, the islanders obtain a supply from Crail.”

Although it is still shown on modern large-scale OS-maps (as ‘St Andrew’s Well’), its present condition is unknown.  If this has become boggy and overgrown, it is a sure case for renovation, despite its desolate geography; and especially considering that St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, whose festival date is November 30 (thought originally to have been Samhain, or Halloween—the old heathen New Year’s Day).  If any visitor or islander could send us photos of the site, that would be awesome!

References:

  1. Dickson, John, Emeralds Chased in Gold; or, The Isles of the Forth, Oliphant: Edinburgh 1899.
  2. Eggeling, W.J., The Isle of May, Lorien 1985.
  3. Mackay, Æ. J.G., A History of Fife and Kinross, William Blackwood: Edinburgh 1896.
  4. Muir, Thomas S., The Isle of May – A Sketch, Edinburgh 1868.
  5. Muir, Thomas S., Ecclesiological Notes on some of the Islands of Scotland, David Douglas: Edinburgh 1883.
  6. Simpkins, John Ewart, Examples of Printed Folk-lore Concerning Fife, with some Notes on Clackmannan and Kinross-shires, Sidgwick & Jackson: London 1914.
  7. Taylor, Simon & Markus, Gilbert, The Place-Names of Fife – volume 3, Shaun Tyas: Donington 2009.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

Mineral Well, Portobello, Edinburgh, Midlothian

Healing Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NT 314 735

Archaeology & History

This was one of two medicinal springs that could once be found in old Portobello village. Like its companion Chalybeate Well nearly a mile northwest, in the early 19th century those entrepreneurial types tried fashioning these waters into being a Spa Well.  It didn’t really work and the fad passed after just a couple of decades—and soon after the local people had completely lost their water supply here.  The best historical account of it is in William Baird’s (1898) magnum opus on Portobello.  He told how the well,

“was, at the beginning of the century, situated in a garden near to the main road, where there was a well with drinking cups for the accommodation of visitors, a small sum being charged from those using it.  The supply here having in some way become interrupted the spring was neglected for a time. It found vent, however, lower down and nearer to the Promenade at the foot of Joppa Lane. About fifty years ago there was a pretty large open basin, in the centre of which the water bubbled up about half a foot. It was of a red brick colour. Unfortunately on the starting of a pump on the Niddrie Bum to drain the water from the Niddrie coal pits, the supply of water was again interrupted, and this excellent mineral spring, which was strongly impregnated with oxide of iron and sulphate of lime and magnesia, ceased to flow with its former fulness.”

In 1869, the Industrialists dug into the Earth to construct their promenade and, after countless centuries, the waters of this old medicinal well finally died and fell back into the deep Earth…

References:

  1. Baird, William, Annals of Duddingston and Portobello, Andrew Elliot: Edinburgh 1898.
  2. Bennett, Paul, Ancient and Holy Wells of Edinburgh, TNA: Alva 2017.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.950069, -3.098860 Mineral Well

Sheep Well, Isle of May, Fife

Healing Well (lost):  OS Grid Reference – NT 654 993

Archaeology & History

Wells that are dedicated to sheep are none-too-common—and this one on the remote Isle of May between Edinburgh and Fife only received its commemoration, tradition tells, not too many centuries back.  It is described singularly in John Dickson’s (1899) fine work, where he informs us that,

“The Sheep Well lies to the west of the lighthouse.  Said to have got its name from a sheep having been drowned in it.  Its water is useless for household purposes, and it occasionally becomes dry during the hot season.”

Its present condition and precise location is unknown. If an islander chances upon this site and knows its present condition, please get some photos and let us know how it’s fairing.

References:

  1. Dickson, John, Emeralds Chased in Gold; or, The Isles of the Forth, Oliphant: Edinburgh 1899.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  56.185431, -2.558199 Sheep Well