Lady Well, Dundee, Angus

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 4026 3072

Also Known as:

  1. Our Lady’s Well

Archaeology & History

Lady Well on 1776 map

One of at least five sacred wells that could once be visited in Dundee: like its compatriots they have all fallen under the hammer of the Industrialists and flow no more.  Our Lady’s Well could once be seen, said Maxwell (1884), “flowing from under the Chapelshade Braes,” its waters “bright and sparkling,” but today it has been drained and laid to rest beneath the road.  Its memory however, has been preserved in the modern place-names of the Ladywell Roundabout and the nearby Ladywell Avenue.

The well was mentioned as far back as 1409 when, as Alex Lamb (1895) found, it was referred to in a contract between the Constable of Dundee and the burgesses.  It flowed freely until the beginning of the 18th century when, as Maxwell told us, “the water from the Lady well was impounded and conveyed in pipes for supplying other cisterns throughout the town.”  Previously, the water from here was one of many springs and burns that fed the larger Castle Burn down to the sea.

References:

  1. Lamb, Alexander C., Dundee: Its Quaint and Historic Buildings, G. Petrie: Dundee 1895.
  2. Maxwell, Alexander, The History of Old Dundee, David Douglas: Edinburgh 1884.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

St. Mary’s Well, Dundee, Angus

Holy Well (lost):  OS Grid Reference – NO 401 301 (approximation)

Archaeology & History

Cited just once in the “Register of the Great Seal” (Registrum Magni Sigilli) in the year 1512 CE, this Fontis Beate Marie, or Well of St. Mary has long since disappeared.  Its exact location in the city has been forgotten, but it seems likely to have been close to St. Mary’s Church.  Further research is needed.

Links:

  1. Saints in Scottish Place-Names

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

St. Clement’s Well, Dundee, Angus

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 4035 3024

Also Known as:

  1. Bishop’s Well
  2. Saint’s Well

Archaeology & History

One of at least five sacred wells that formerly existed in old Dundee, this one dedicated to St. Clement was associated with the ancient church, also of his name.  It could be found a short distance south of the church—itself long gone—”rising out of a knoll overhanging the river bank,” wrote Alexander Maxwell (1884) and possessing considerable renown to local people.  This great Dundee historian found several early references to it in old council registers: one of which, from 1589, described a conflict regarding the building of a school on land owned by Andro Renkyne.  And it was on this piece of land where St. Clement’s Well emerged.  The school was built and then Rankyne built a gable up to the edge of the school but, in doing so, cut off his own access to the holy well.  This somewhat short-sighted action of Renkyne’s was subsequently remedied in 1607 by Dundee Council.   Maxwell told us:

“The Council “grantit him licence to strike furth ane windok in the north side wall of his tenement in St. Clement’s kirkyard, near to the well in the schoolhouse closs, or within the bounds of the said well, to the effect he may draw water furth of the well to his awn service, with this provision that he hald the windok continually close, except at sic time as the water is drawn thereat, and that he close up the windok with stane wark quhenever he beis requirit.”

The waters—”reputed to have sovereign virtues”— were protected and covered by an old well-house.  When Alex Lamb (1895) came to write about it he told that it was of a circular form with “unmistakable traces of splendid workmanship.”  On its stone roof was what seemed to be a somewhat crude carving of a bishop and because of this it acquired the name “Bishop’s Well.”  Another title given it by some locals was the Saint’s Well.

In the middle of the 19th century the remains of the well-house could still be seen, albeit in a state of neglect between the school building and Renkeyne’s house.  But their end was nigh.  Maxwell continued:

“When the buildings were demolished a few years ago, the saint’s old well — its water yet pelucid and fresh — was discovered at the angle where the school joined to Andro’s house. Above it was the window which he struck furth for drawing water; but it had long before been built up and the purpose of it forgotten, and its curiously recessed position and uncouth masonry only served as a puzzle for ingenious antiquaries.”

Subsequently he lamented the demise of the well telling how it had “been covered over by the extension of the Townhouse.”

Folklore

Alexander Maxwell (1891) told how the church was used as a shrine by local people and fishermen, as St. Clement of Rome had been cast into the sea chained to an anchor and so became the patron saint of sailors.  He thought such properties, “would, no doubt, be in request for the supply of ships.”

St. Clement himself was a very early, first century saint, said to have died in 99 CE.  His festival date is 23 November.

References:

  1. Lamb, Alexander C., Dundee: Its Quaint and Historic Buildings, G. Petrie: Dundee 1895.
  2. Maxwell, Alexander, The History of Old Dundee, David Douglas: Edinburgh 1884.
  3. Maxwell, Alexander, Old Dundee, David Douglas: Edinburgh 1891.

Links:

  1. Canmore notes on St Clement’s Well

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Tods Stone, Monifieth, Angus

Standing Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 486 339?

Archaeology & History

The only reference I can find about this site is in A.J. Warden’s (1880) massive survey of the county of Angus—previously called ‘Forfarshire’—where, in his discussion of the hillforts of the area, he told us that,

“About a quarter of a mile distant from The Laws is the Gallow Hill of Ethiebeaton.  In a field, a little to the south, there formerly stood a large upright stone called Tods Stone.”

All trace of it disappeared when quarrying operations were undertaken there, also destroying a number of prehistoric tombs close by.  The monolith may have had some association with the tombs, but we cannot be certain.

The name of the stone, tods, probably derives from the word ‘foxes’, although we cannot be certain of this either, as there are a variety of other Scottish dialect words relating to ‘tod’that may have had bearing on the name.

If anyone has any further information about this long lost site, we would gladly welcome it.

References:

  1. Grant, William (ed.), The Scottish National Dictionary – volume 9, SNDA: Edinburgh 1973.
  2. Warden, Alex J., Angus or Forfarshire – volume 1, Charles Alexander: Dundee 1880.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


White Caterthun Carving, Menmuir, Angus

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NO 54671 66022

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 35007

Getting Here

White CaterthunCR01

The carving below the walling

Many ways here, but from the nearest town of Brechin, take the minor north road out of town (not the B966) to Little Brechin, heading roughly north to the renowned hillforts of White and Brown Cathertun (ask a local if needs be).  Park up and walk up the slope to White Cathertun, following the immense walling around to the right.  Near where you reach the opposite side of the hillfort, look down the rocky slopes for a large boulder, just on the edge of the walling.  You’ll find it!

Archaeology & History

Although Canmore include this cup-marked stone in the site-profile of the incredible White Caterthun hillfort, it should really have an entry of its own, as it’s age and nature very probably pre-date the construction of the giant fortress.  But, this aside, if you’re visiting the hillfort (an incredible place!), at least give this heavily cup-marked stone your attention too.

Looking across the carving

Looking across the carving

Close-up of the main cups

Close-up of the main cups

Probably neolithic in origin, there was a small portable cup-marked companion found 30 yards away, suggesting perhaps that a cairn might once have stood on this hilltop—but tradition is silent on the matter.  No other petroglyphs of any note have been located nearby, which is unusual.  In all probability other carvings remain undiscovered, particularly in the hills immediately to the north.

Consisting of around 80 cup-marks, several of which appear linked by carved lines, the stone has been bound together with concrete and metal bolts after some idiot damaged it in the 19th century.  It was first described by Miss Christian Maclagan (1875) in her stunning megalithic survey of the period.  She wrote:

“To Sir James Simpson’s list of cup-markings we are able to add the one at the Caterthun, on a large block 6 feet long, which is quite covered with very distinctly cut cup-markings.  It is a block of basalt…and the cups are so very clear and sharp in their lines that their freshness can only be accounted for by the stone having lain with the markings buried in the ground.  This curious stone has been quite recently broken in two.  It is a pity to see it so destroyed, because it is valuable to the antiquary in helping to establish a very remote antiquity for the fortification.  It lies on the north side of the fort, among a chaos of stones, having probably once formed the side of a gateway.”

A few years later the late great J. Romilly Allen (1882) visited the site and gave us his description, telling:

“On the west side (of the hillfort), 10 yards north of the boundary of the fir plantation that covers one-half of the hill is a cup-marked boulder… The stone has been broken in two, and one portion of it lies at the foot of the stone rampart just above the first outer ditch, whilst the other half has been rolled down the hill by some mischievous person with more muscles than brains, and is to be found immediately below, where its further progress was arrested by coming in contact with the outermost wall.  The two fragments when placed together measure 6 feet 9 inches long by 3 feet wide, and 1 foot 9 inches thick.  The stone is greenish quartzose slate, and on its upper surface are carved eighty cups, varying from 1½ to 2½ inches diameter.  In two cases two cups are united into one by a connecting groove.”

J. Sherriff's 1995 drawing

J. Sherriff’s 1995 drawing

J.R. Allen's 1882 drawing

J.R. Allen’s 1882 drawing

The most recent description and illustration of the stone is in John Sherriff’s (1995) survey. When we visited the carving recently we noticed three cup-marks etched onto the side of the stone, with a possible carved line running above one of them—but due to the bright sunlight on of the day of our visit, it was difficult to say whether this was a geological in nature or not (bright daylight can hamper good visibility of many carvings).  Check it out!

References:

  1. Allen, J. Romilly, “Notes on some Undescribed Stones with Cup Markings in Scotland,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries Scotland, volume 16, 1882.
  2. Kenworthy, J., “White Caterthun: Cup-Marked Stone”, in Discovery & Excavation, Scotland, 1980.
  3. MacLagan, Christian, The Hill Forts, Stone Circles and other Structural Remains of Ancient Scotland, Edmonston & Douglas: Edinburgh 1875.
  4. Sherriff, John, “Prehistoric Rock-Carvings in Angus,” in Tayside & Fife Archaeological Journal, volume 1, 1995.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


Formal, Bridge of Craigisla, Lintrathen, Angus

Standing Stone (fallen):  OS Grid Reference – NO 25618 54024

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 31046

Getting Here

Standing Stone on 1865 map

Standing Stone on 1865 map

From Alyth village, take the B954 road north for several miles.  At the sharp bend of the road when you’ve crossed the Bridge of Craigisla, a few hundred yards along take the next road left.  Barely 100 yards along, stop!  Walk into the where the large farm-buildings are and keep your eyes peeled on the ground, just in front of the first farm building.  A large long stone measuring about 7-feet (2.1m) is thereby beneath your very feet!

Archaeology & History

Formal Stone, laying down

Formal Stone, laying down

At the edge of the farm-buildings this all-but-forgotten standing stone lays prostrate, almost hidden, and slowly being covered by the soil and grasses, nearly falling away past the eyes of history.  It’s a pity, as this fallen stone would have stood some six-feet upright, with a couple of feet of it underground.  When it was mapped by the Ordnance Survey lads in the 1860s, a portion of the stone remained standing.  This was echoed in the survey of the Object Name Book in 1861 in which the buildings of Formal were described:

“A fine farm house and offices the property of the late Robert Smith Esqr. of Balharry – in the stackyard is a broken standing stone, to which my attention was drawn by Alexander Annand of Blackdykes and the (parish) Minister.”

Thankfully the present-day farmer here would like to have the stone stood back upright, so hopefully its resurrection aint gonna be too far away.

Formal Stone, looking east

Formal Stone, looking east

Formal Stone, looking south

Formal Stone, looking south

The stone isn’t lying in its original upright position.  It used to stand nearly 10 yards east of here, and was knocked down and rolled into its present spot when an earlier adjacent building was erected.  Another large boulder in the corner where the walls meet (at NO 25585 54044), just through the gates, may also have had some megalithic relationship with the fallen monolith.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Fenton Hill, Airlie, Angus

Souterrain (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 3044 5040

Also Known as:

  1. Airlie II
  2. Canmore ID 32376

Archaeology & History

One in a cluster of at least seven souterrains that could once be found to the east of Alyth, this was first described in notes by David Whyte in the 1845 New Statistical Account as being “about a mile to the south” of those at Barns of Airlie.  Although Whyte told that the two places “are separated by a deep hollow but are within view of each other,” the explorer F.T. Wainwright (1963) was unable to locate the precise spot, despite several visits.  Three earlier writers (Anderson, Jervise and Warden) merely echoed notes of there being a cluster of sites hereby and made no personal explorations of their own.  Without the expertise of local people, the exact status of this underground chamber remains unknown…

References:

  1. Anderson, Joseph, Scotland in Pagan Times – volume 1: The Iron Age, David Douglas: Edinburgh 1883.
  2. Jervise, A., “Notice of Antiquities in the Parish of Airlie, Forfarshire,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 5, 1864.
  3. Royal Commission of Ancient & Historicc Monuments, Scotland, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Scotland: Central Angus, RCAHMS: Edinburgh 1983.
  4. Wainwright, F T., The Souterrains of Southern Pictland, RKP: London 1963.
  5. Warden, Angus J., Angus or Forfarshire – volume 1, Charles Alexander: Dundee 1880.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


Brae of Airlie, Airlie, Angus

Souterrain (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 3102 5187

Also Known as:

  1. Airlie IV (Wainwright)
  2. Canmore ID 32383

Archaeology & History

This was one amongst a good cluster of souterrains that existed hereby, remains of which may still exist beneath the ground.  It was rediscovered in the 19th century through a series of most curious events—owing more to the local belief in spirits and witches than any archaeological rationale.  Mr A. Jervise (1864) told the story in his essay on Airlie parish:

“The circumstances which led to the discovery of one of these weems is curious.  Local story says, that the wife of a poor cottar could not for long understand why, whatever sort of fuel she burned, no ashes were left upon the hearth; and if a pin or any similar article was dropt at the fireside, it could not be recovered.  Having “a bakin” of bannocks, or oatmeal cakes, on some occasion, one of the cakes accidentally slipped from off “the toaster,” and passed from the poor woman’s sight!  This was more than she was prepared for; and, believing that the house was bewitched, she alarmed her neighbours, who collected in great numbers, and, as may be supposed, after many surmises and grave deliberation, they resolved to pull down the house!  This was actually done: still the mystery remained unsolved, until one lad, more courageous and intelligent than the rest, looking attentively about the floor, observed a long narrow crevice at the hearth. Sounding the spot, and believing the place to be hollow, he set to work and had the flag lifted, when the fact was disclosed, that the luckless cottage had been built right over an “eirde” house.  The disappearance of ashes, and the occasional loss of small articles of household use, were thus satisfactorily accounted for; but, unfortunately, although the site of this weem remains, as well as that of another near the same place, both were long ago destroyed, and the materials of which they were constructed used for a variety of utilitarian purposes.”

Or to put it simply: right beneath the fireplace, a small opening into the souterrain below appeared, into which all things fell.  F.T. Wainwright (1963) placed the position of the site “about 100 feet east of the road between Barns of Airlie and Brae of Airlie, about 200 yards from the former.”  On the 1865 OS-map, this spot is marked with a small unnamed building.  No excavation has ever been tried here

References:

  1. Jervise, A., “Notice of Antiquities in the Parish of Airlie, Forfarshire,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 5, 1864.
  2. Wainwright, F T., The Souterrains of Southern Pictland. RKP: London 1963.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


Barns of Airlie (2), Airlie, Angus

Souterrain (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 3052 5152

Also Known as:

  1. Airlie III (Wainwright 1963)
  2. Canmore ID 32385

Archaeology & History

There are no remains left of this old ‘weem’, earth-house, or souterrain as they are now commonly known.  It was one of at least seven separate souterrains beneath the fields between the Barns of Airlie and Brae of Airlie, but very little is now known of this one.  The first and only real note of the site was given in Mr A. Jervise’s (1864) essay on the antiquities of Airlie parish.  Nearly a hundred years later when F.T. Wainwright (1963) went to investigate any possible remains, he found very little, telling:

“A possible location for Airlie III…presented itself on 24 June, 1951, when Mr D.B. Taylor and I noticed a considerable number of boulders and slabs cast up in the field which lies over the wall from the entrance to Airlie I (souterrain).  The farmer was aware that there was a heavy concentration of stones spread over an area of two or three thousand square feet, but he could add no further information.  In 1951 we were not able to do more than record this possibly significant scatter of stones—it lies between 150 and 200 feet west from the present entrance of Airlie I on a bearing of 260º—and to note that it could very well indicate a souterrain settlement.”

Many of the scattered stone have subsequently been removed for use in walling and no trace remains of the site.

References:

  1. Jervise, A., “Notice of Antiquities in the Parish of Airlie, Forfarshire,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 5, 1864.
  2. Wainwright, F T., The Souterrains of Southern Pictland. RKP: London 1963.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 


St. Madden’s Well, Kirkton of Airlie, Angus

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – NO 3179 5188

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 32367
  2. St. Madan’s Well 
  3. St. Medan’s Well

Getting Here

One of the present issues of St. Madden's spring looking south.
One of the present issues of St. Madden’s spring looking south.

At Kirkton of Airlie, park next to the church and walk north eastwards along the track, past the houses ‘Crabra’ and ‘Cleikheim’ and the spring that once supplied the Holy Well will be seen on the opposite side of the burn in a small fenced off enclosure. To the north east of the enclosure is a small hillock known as St Medan’s Knowe.

Archaeology & History

According to the Ordnance Survey Name Books, St Madden’s Well was located in a hamlet called St Maddens, which has since been almost entirely destroyed.  In the mid nineteenth century a number of stone coffins and pottery were recovered from around the site, and the well was described as,

“filled up and defaced, the spring…still to be seen issuing into the mouth of a covered drain that was made some few years ago”.

There are now two issues of water from the spring, while nothing now remains of the original well housing. An adjoining resident informed me that the local landowner had gone to some trouble to try to find any evidence of the well housing, but had found nothing.

St. Madden's Well highlighted in red on the 1865 6" OS Map.
St. Madden’s Well highlighted in red on the 1865 6″ OS Map.

As is often the case with these early mediaeval Scottish saints there is some confusion as to St Madden’s identity. To some writers his Saint’s day is accepted to be April 29th, and he has been identified as Saint Middanus, abbot of the monastery of Holywood, but Bishop Alexander Forbes considers he is more likely to have been a Bishop Medanach listed in the Dunkeld Litany.

To confuse things even more, J.M. MacKinlay (1904) wrote:

“The Hamlet of St Madden’s or St Medan’s in the parish of Airlie, where are also St Medan’s Well and St Medan’s Knowe, probably retains the name of St Modan, believed to have been a contemporary of St. Ronan.  Skene says: ‘Modan appears in the Scotch calendars as an abbot on the fourth February, and as a bishop on the fourteenth November; but the dedications to him are so much mixed up together that it is probable that the same Modan is meant for both'”.

Andrew Jervise provides the following quote about St Medan:

“..bishop and confessor whose feast is held on 14th November was in great favour with King Conran c.503 – Coll. for Aberdeen and Banff.”

The other issue of the spring.
The other issue of the spring.

Whosoever St Madden was, his quadrangular bell was the subject of an extant fifteenth century deed whereby the bell with its appurtenant parcel of land was granted to the Countess of Moray as dewar (hereditary keeper of a Holy Relic with appurtenant land), together with “the infeftment being completed by (the Countess) being shut up in a house and then receiving the feudal symbols of earth and stone.” On the death and subsequent disposal of the estate of the last dewar in the nineteenth century, the bell was sold along with a load of rubbish, its true identity and value not being realised at the time.

References:

  1. Andrew Jervise, The History and Traditions of the Land of the Lindsays, Edinburgh, Sutherland & Knox 1853.
  2. Andrew Jervise, Epitaphs and Inscriptions from Burial Grounds and Old Buildings in the North East of Scotland, Edinburgh, Edmonston and Douglas 1875.
  3. James Murray MacKinlay, Influence of the Pre-Reformation church on Scottish Place-Names, Edinburgh and London, William Blackwood and Sons 1904.
  4. Dom Michael Barrett, A Calendar of Scottish Saints, Fort Augustus 1919.
  5. Bishop Alexander Forbes, Kalendars of Scottish Saints, Edinburgh, Edmonston and     Douglas 1872.
  6. Scotland’s Place Names
  7. Andrew Jervise, Notice of Antiquities in the Parish of Airlie, Forfarshire, in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, June 1864

© Paul T. Hornby 2016 The Northern Antiquarian