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

 

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  55.787536, -4.270462 Overlee souterrain

Stock Well, Glasgow, Lanarkshire

Healing Well (lost):  OS Grid Reference – NS 593 648

Also Known as:

  1. Ratten Well

Archaeology & History

This long lost well near the middle of Glasgow was known by this name as early as 1345.  Close to the River Clyde, a wooden structure was built around the well—a stock—and its waters were used by local fishermen.  A local fair used to be held hereby.  It has long since been built over and its original position no longer seems to be known.

Folklore

The old traditional tale behind this site was written in a short piece in the Scottish Journal of Topography oh so long ago now… One pseudonymous “R.M.S.” said that:

“Stockwell Street in the city of Glasgow, is pretty well-known, and everybody in the locality is aware of the ‘Ratten Well’ with its impure waters.  It is said that, in days of yore, when Sir William Wallace had occasion to be in that quarter, he and his party met a band of englishmen at the well.  A battle ensued, and the bodies of the englishmen, who were defeated, were thrown by the incensed Scots into the well.  “Stock it well! Stock it well” exclaimed Wallace, from which expression the street received its name.  So says tradition; and it is even yet believed that the bad quality of the water is owing to the putrefaction of the dead bodies of the englishmen.”

The one thing we can be certain about in this story, is that the Scots wouldn’t be stupid enough to dump dead bodies into their own fresh water supplies.  We must assume some englishman or dodgy corporation was responsible for that bit!

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, Ancient and Holy Wells of Glasgow, TNA 2017.
  2. Brotchie, T.C.F., “Holy Wells in and Around Glasgow,” in Old Glasgow Club Transactions, volume 4, 1920.
  3. MacKenzie, Peter, Reminiscences of Glasgow and the West of Scotland – volume 1, John Tweed: Glasgow 1865.
  4. “R.M.S.”, “Stockwell Street, Glasgow,” in Scottish Journal of Topography, Antiquities & Traditions, volume 2, July 8, 1848.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.856002, -4.250144 Stock Well

Langside House, Cathcart, Glasgow, Lanarkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone (removed):  OS Grid Reference – NS 5726 6128

Also Known as:

  1. Bluebell Woods
  2. Canmore ID 44291
  3. Langside Stone

Archaeology & History

The Langside House, or Bluebell Woods carving

Amidst where now the busy city spreads on the south-side of Glasgow, there was once an excellent multi-ringed prehistoric petroglyph to be seen.  According to the official records, it was all alone – but I don’t buy that for one minute! (petroglyphs rarely occur in isolation)  However, it looks as if this might have been the last of its kind in the area, betwixt where now large houses grow in the landscape of Langside and Battlefield, a few hundred yards south of the hillfort-topped Queen’s Park.

Before being noticed by archaeologists, the stone was apparently being used as a stone seat in the woods for people to sit on!  It was probably a part of a larger monument, perhaps a cairn of some sort.  Certainly from the sketches we have of it, it was part of a larger piece of stone and was likely to have had companions, but records seem to be silent on the matter. The most detailed description of it comes from the pen of northern antiquarian Fred Coles (1906), who gave us the following literary portrait:

“The first notice of the Stone incised with the design shown below was due to Mr W. A. Donnelly, who contributed a description and a sketch to The Glasgow Evening Times of 25th June 1902.  Later, Mr Ludovic Mann, at my request, sent me certain notes he had taken of the cup-and-ring-marks.  But prior to this, the Stone itself had, on the instigation of Mr Donnelly, I think, been removed from its site in the wood, and placed near one of the entrances to the new Kelvinside Museum.  There I saw it and made measurements in July 1903.

“The Bluebell Wood lies in a curving line to the west and south of Langside House, and the cup-marked Stone was at a point in the southern extremity of the wood, above and north of the river Cart.  It is interesting to be able also to record that the longer axis of the Stone lay almost precisely north and South, and the opposite axis east and west.*  The Stone is of a hard, whitish sandstone, a good deal weathered and rounded at the edges. It measures 4 feet 9 inches in length and 3 feet 2 inches in breadth, and varies in thickness from 2 feet 6 inches to 1 foot 7 inches.  The striation of the Stone has helped to efface the cuttings which, though perfectly clear and measurable, are shallow in proportion to their width.  And this feature I have endeavoured to portray in the accompanying illustration (above).  Beginning at the north end of the Stone, there is one cup placed just where the outermost ring of that group touches the edge of the Stone.  The ring has a groove leading towards but not into a central cup, and four other cups are placed on the two outermost rings, there being four rings in this group.  The middle group consists of a central cup and three rings, flanked on the west by a row of three cups (one of which is the largest of all), and on the east by a double row of six cups, three of which are almost obliterated.  This middle group is imperfectly concentric, two of its arcs running into the fourth ring of the group on the south, which has a fine deeply picked central cup.  All the better-preserved rings are very nearly 1½ inches in width of cutting.

“The diameters of the outermost rings in each group are: of the north group, 1 foot 9 inches; of the middle group 1 foot 5 inches; and of the south group 1 foot 7 inches.  The cups vary in diameter from 3 inches to 1½.

“Considering the extremely easily weathered nature of this Stone, and the fact that its sculptured surface has already suffered much ill-usage, its present position, near the entrance of the Art Galleries, entirely unprotected by a railing and exposed to all sorts of abuse by casual passers-by as well as the weather, is not a fit and proper place for a Stone of such interest.”

A few years after this, the local historian Ludovic MacLellan Mann (1930) wrote a piece for the Glasgow Herald, in which he thought that both this and another carving in the area,

“commemorate chiefly…an eclipse of the sun seen in Glasgow district in the year 2983 BC, at three o’ clock in the afternoon of the sixth day after the Spring Equinox.”

A fascinating idea…  Mann was intrigued by the theory that petroglyphs represented astronomical events or maps of the skies – and we know from cultures elsewhere in the world that some carvings had such a function; but it’s not integral to all carvings by any means.

The stone was included in Ron Morris’ (1981) survey, merely echoing the description of Fred Coles, adding nothing more.  And so it seems that the carving is still in the museum somewhere.  Canmore has it listed as “Accession no: 02-78”.  Does anyone know of its present situation?  Can anyone get a photo so we can give it a more fitting site profile?  It looked a damn good carving!  And, if anyone lives nearby, I note that there are small patches of the old woodland still visible on GoogleEarth: therein, perhaps, a diligent explorer may just find another carving….

References:

  1. Coles, Fred, “Notices of Standing Stones, Cists and Hitherto Unrecorded Cup-and-Ring Marks in Various Localities,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 40, Edinburgh 1906.
  2. Donnelly, W.A., “Letter”, Glasgow Evening Times, 25 June, 1902.
  3. Mann, Ludovic MacLellan, “The Eclipse in 2983 B.C. – Discovery near Glasgow,” in Glasgow Herald, 17.09.1930.
  4. Morris, Ronald W.B., “The Cup-and-Ring Marks and Similar Sculptures of South-West Scotland,” in Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society, volume 14, 1967.
  5. Morris, Ronald W.B., The Prehistoric Rock Art of Southern Scotland, BAR: Oxford 1981.
  6. Morris, Ronald W.B. & Bailey, Douglas C., “The Cup-and-Ring Marks and Similar Sculptures of Southwestern Scotland: A Survey,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 98, 1966.
  7. Small, Sam, Greater Glasgow: An Illustrated Architectural Guide, RIAS: Edinburgh 2008.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:  Huge thanks to beautiful Aisha for putting me up.

* Although Coles did note how its earlier use as a stone seat probably negates his axial measurements.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.823689, -4.279978 Langside House

Lady Well, Glasgow, Lanarkshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – NS 60376 65323

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 45037

Getting Here

Lady Well on 1865 OS-map

Lady Well on 1865 OS-map

Get yourself to Glasgow Cathedral—wherein you’ll find St. Mungo’s Well—and walk down John Know Street.  A coupla hundred yards down, across the road is a small street called Ladywell Lane (there’s no signpost for it though), running below the cemetery and leading to the back entrance of the giant Tennent’s Brewery.  At the bottom of this, up against the wall on your left, is the Lady Well.

Archaeology & History

The origins and early traditional history of this once famous sacred well are sadly lost due to the intrusion of industrialism.  It was obviously a place of some considerable repute and lent its name to local quarries and fields hereby.  Used extensively by local people for countless centuries, things were to change in 1715 when the waters of this and other wells were to be kept clean by one John Black, “at a salary of 400 merks yearly.”  The Glasgow historian Eyre-Todd (1934) told that,

“Black was to furnish them with chains, buckets, sheaves, ladles, and other necessary graith, aswell as with locks and iron bands.  He was ‘to cleanse, muck and keep them clean,’ and to lock and open them in due time, evening and morning.  In case of failure he was liable to a penalty of £100 Scots.”

Lady Well in 2015

Lady Well in 2015

Lady Well in 1883

Lady Well in 1883

That’s a helluva lot of money in those days!  Even when M’Ure (1736) described it, only in passing, he had nothing to say about its curative properties or local rites.  Once the Industrialists take control, the ways of local people are sanitized, sterilized and ‘progress’ outlaws tradition.  The only reference to an earlier sacrality is in Mr Russel’s (1883) article, where he said simply, that the Lady Well was “so called after a fountain at the bottom of the Craigs…sacred in Popish times to the Virgin.”

The construction that we see today—of the well in its little enclave—was first built in 1835-6.  The waters became polluted after they were redirected below the Necropolis and have not been used since (although they still flow out of the wall a couple of yards to the right, stinking!).  The architectural feature was cleaned up and restored by the local brewery in 1983.

The site may have derived its name from one Lady Lochow, who lived nearby and built a hospital at the old Gorbels in the 14th century.  However, an intriguing ingredient relating to the dedication of the Lady Well is the incidence of a St. Anne’s Street that used to exist immediately to the east, as seen on the 1865 OS-map above.  St. Anne may well be the mythic character behind the naming of this Lady Well, although I can find no literature to prove this.  In the christian mythos, St. Anne was a very important character indeed: the mother of the Virgin Mary no less!  However, as hagiographers from Attwater (1965), to Baring-Gould (1898) and Butler (1866) all tell, her biography is piecemeal—which is most surprising considering she was JC’s granny!  Anne’s festival date was July 26 (a couple of days after Sirius enters the northern hemisphere); she was the patron saint of midwives, grandmothers and also miners, who invoked her as the deity who produced gold and silverakin to the Earth Mother Herself!  It’s obvious that Anne’s original mythic nature was subdued, as she represented an archaic root of matriarchal triplicity of the Virgin, the Lady and Old Woman and not the patriarchal triplicity of the incoming christian cult.  The christian mythos at this Lady Well (as elsewhere) replaced one facet of the indigenous prima mater in Glasgow, known as the Cailleach—as shown in her attributes of midwife, grandmother and the deep Earth.  If local historians can find field-names or wells dedicated to the Maiden, the Lady and the Carlin (or their variant titles) nearby, the lost layers of archaic Glasgow’s indigenous animistic folk memories could be mapped out once again…

References:

  1. Attwater, Donald, The Penguin Dictionary of Saints, Penguin: Harmondsworth 1965.
  2. Baring-Gould, S., The Lives of the Saints – volume 8, J.C. Nimmo: London 1898.
  3. Bennett, Paul, Ancient and Holy Wells of Glasgow, TNA 2017.
  4. Brotchie, T.C.F., “Holy Wells in and Around Glasgow,” in Old Glasgow Club Transactions, volume 4, 1920.
  5. Butler, Alba, The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and other Principal Saints – volume 7, James Duffy: Dublin 1866.
  6. Eyre-Todd, George, History of Glasgow – volume 3, Jackson: Glasgow 1934.
  7. Greene, E.A., Saints and their Symbols, Sampson Low: London 1897.
  8. MacIntosh, Hugh, The Origin and History of Glasgow Streets, James Hedderwick: Glasgow 1902.
  9. M’Ure, John, History of Glasgow, D. MacVean: Glasgow 1736.
  10. Walker, J. Russel, “‘Holy Wells’ in Scotland,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol.17 (New Series, volume 5), 1883.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.860841, -4.232425 Lady Well

Craigenkirn, New Kilpatrick, Dumbartonshire

Long Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – NS 51839 78157  —  NEW FIND

Getting Here

Aerial view of the cairn

Aerial view of the cairn

Take the A809 road several miles north out of Glasgow, between Bearsden and Drymen.  Once out of the suburban sprawl, passing Milngavie, you’re heading to the famous Carbeth hutters.  Before this, note the gold course on your right (east).  Park here and cross the road where a gate and overgrown footpath takes you onto the grassy hills.  Keep to the fence-side for about 700 yards until it veers downhill.  Don’t walk downhill!  Keep in the same direction into the short grasses and, veering gradually left, downhill for a couple hundred yards ahead and, across a small boggy area, you’ll note some large upright stones in front of a mound.  That’s it!

Archaeology & History

The SE stone 'entrance'

The SE stone ‘entrance’

There is no previous reference to this site which was found, quite fortuitously, by Nina Harris of Organic Scotland a few years ago.  She visited the site a number of times, puzzling over the curious line of possible standing stones at the edge the grass-covered mound—wondering if it was anything at all.  A few months ago she took us to see the place…

Modern gunshot cup-marks on entrance stone

Modern gunshot cup-marks on entrance stone

The site has been damaged and elements of it have been stripped for walling that are visible all around here.  The cairn is more than 55 yards in length, running from its southeastern stone ‘entrance’ to the gradually diminishing northwestern edges.  At its widest it is 14.6 yards (13.5m) across, near its southeastern end.  The main three standing stones at its entrance are four-feet tall at the highest, with one of them leaning upon another; an adjacent fourth stone, smaller than the main three, is more embedded into the cairn mass a couple of yards away.  Cup-marks on one of the three larger uprights here are recent gunshot marks; whilst the possible cup-marks on the largest upright are natural.

Line of ealling runs to the cairn

Line of ancient wall runs up and over the cairn

Looking NW along the cairn mass

Looking NW along the cairn mass

In standing on top of the long cairn, just above the large stones, you can see how sections of it have been stripped away.  Just beneath the surface is a line of internal walling, with what seems to be another one running parallel.  These run for a few yards until we reach a large circular depression within the overall cairn mass, a yard deep and 6-7 yards across; on the northern edge of which we can clearly see a section of walling beneath the surface.  When we look at the aerial view of this on Google Earth, we can clearly see how this walling actually begins way outside of the cairn mass itself, as a much denuded line of it (probably medieval in origin, though possibly Iron Age) curves across the grasslands from the west, crosses the long cairn and re-emerges on the other side of the adjacent boggy ground at its southeastern edges and continues on its way: indicating that the cairn mass beneath the wall is much older than the walls running across it.

"X" marks the spot!

“X” marks the spot!

The main three 'entrance' stones

The main three ‘entrance’ stones

Audrey Henshall (1972) described the existence of another prehistoric chambered tomb like this one at Cairnhowit 1.95 miles (3.14km) southwest, and we find the Stockie Muir long cairn 3.12 miles (5.02km) to the northwest, clearly showing that the incidence of this monument is not an isolated one.  Others can be found not much further away.  The existence of the raised geological plate known as Carneddans Wood just over a mile south may have once been home to another chambered cairn.

Please note that the grid reference for this site fixes on the southeastern section of the cairn, where the upright stones are.

References:

  1. Henshall, Audrey S., The Chambered Tombs of Scotland – volume 2, Edinburgh University Press 1972.

Acknowledgements:  First and foremost to Nina Harris, for unknowingly finding the place; also to Paul Hornby and Marion Woolley for visits to the site.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.973549, -4.375814 Craigenkirn

Cochno (05), Duntocher, Dumbartonshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NS 50301 73655

Also Known as:

  1. Auchnacraig
  2. Canmore ID 44536

Getting Here

The sprayed Cochno-5 stone

The sprayed Cochno-5 stone

Along the A810 Bearsden to Dunochter road, 100 yards past the Faifley roundabout, turn right up Cochno Road. Go up for literally 1 mile and hit the car-park.  Go back onto the road and walk uphill.  Barely 50 yards up, turn right and walk down the track.  About 350 yards along its bendy route, some grasslands appear on your right and there, about 40 yards away, is the large Cochno-5 carving.

Archaeology & History

First described by James Harvey (1889) in association with adjacent carvings, he told that “there are eight isolated cups, two of which have a diameter of 2½ inches” on this stone.  Harvey was one of those who loved the idea that our ancestors were etching cup-marks as receptacles for collecting blood and similar christian fantasies. It was a bittova fad at the time.

Close-up of topmost cupmarks

Close-up of topmost cupmarks

The sprayed Cochno-5 stone

James Harvey’s 1889 sketch

As we can see, the kids have sprayed their own ID onto the stone.  It’s highly unlikely that they were even aware of this being a prehistoric site as there’s nothing to indicate it as such, and I know of archaeologists who wouldn’t have even seen the cup-marks on the stone, so we can’t really apportion blame. (We must recall that businessman Tom Lonsdale and Ilkley Council branded such things as “twenty-first century informal unauthorised carvings” when they sought and succeeded to get large amounts of cash to justify their own ‘brand’ of vandalism and called it ‘art’.  Very common amongst those social types.)

References:

  1. Harvey, James, “Notes on Some Undescribed Cup-Marked Rocks at Duntocher, Dumbartonshire”, in Proceedings Society Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 23, 1889.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks to the awesome Aisha Domleo and her little dynamic duo for helping us get to this site.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  55.932570, -4.397856 Cochno (5)

St. Peter’s Well, Houston, Renfrewshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference — NS 40764 67503

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 43125

Archaeology & History

St Peters Well on 1863 map

Located on the north side of the village, in a field east of Greenhill Farm, this old Well was once (still is?) covered and protected by an old well-house.  References to its mythic history are few and far between.  St. Peter’s Day was June 29, which may relate to the last vestiges of midsummer rites local people held here; or perhaps when the genius loci was more notable.   The Old Statistical Account of 1790 told that the burn which runs past the well was called St. Peter’s Burn; but T.C.F. Brotchie (1920) thought that an old place-name given to the village is telling:

“Houston is a very ancient village,” he wrote, “and it was known long ago as Kilpeter, which is the ‘cell or church of Peter’.  The name of the farm near to the well is Chapelton, ‘the place of the chapel’, and I venture to think that when the saintly Peter came a-wandering to Renfrewshire, he established his habitation or cell adjacent to the well, blessed its water, and in that medieval times a chapel was also built there, its memory being enshrined in the place-name Chapelton.  Crawford mentions that on St. Peter’s Day vast numbers of people used to come to Houston.  He does not state the reason, but I fancy these people came to pay their devoir at the holy well of St. Peter.”

Mr Brotchie was probably right!

(I haven’t yet visited this site.  If you travel to this site, please send us your field notes and accompanying photos to let us know of its present condition. All due credits will be given to any and all contributors, obviously.)

References:

  1. Brotchie, T.C.F., “Holy Wells in and Around Glasgow,” in Old Glasgow Club Transactions, volume 4, 1920.
  2. Morris, Ruth & Frank, Scottish Healing Wells, Alethea: Sandy 1982.
  3. Walker, J. Russel, “‘Holy Wells’ in Scotland,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol.17 (New Series, volume 5), 1883.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.874289, -4.546730 St Peter\'s Well

Cooper’s Well, Partick, Glasgow, Lanarkshire

Healing Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NS 5619 6654

Archaeology & History

Along the B808, between Beith Street and Byres Road, where it meets the main Dumbarton Road, the memory of Cooper’s Well is preserved in the street-name.  It was one of more than a dozen springs in the area, but was one of the most renowned by local people.

Although not shown on the early OS-maps, thankfully the local historian and folklorist—and early environmentalist, it must be said!—James Napier (1873), gave a good account of it in his excellent work on the traditions of the area:

“Cooper’s Well was situated on the side of the road at the north-west end of Well Street, at the corner of where the Gas-work wall now is.  It was about three feet deep, and had two steps leading down to the water from the road.  Two sides and back were walled up higher than the road, and covered with a stone slab.  It was celebrated in the neighbourhood as a drinking water, being strongly chalybeate, and therefore could not be used for cooking purposes.  Although shallow, it was never frozen during winter (so that it must have come from a considerable depth), and it was cold in summer.  On a warm summer Sunday evening we have seen people, not only from all parts of the village, but from the gentle houses in the neighbourhood, carrying water from the Cooper’s Well to drink.  It is from this well the street has its name.  The Gas-work dried up the well.  There was a story current of some Glasgow people who were visiting at Mr. Sharp’s of Horslethill.  Mrs. Sharp had been baking some oatcakes with butter or dripping in them, which caused them to be very fine and short.  The Glasgow gentlemen were anxious to know how they were baked, and were told that they were baked with the Cooper’s Well water, some of which they had got a drink of.  Shortly after some of the gentlemen sent out their servants to Partick for a supply of the water, but the servants could not succeed in making the cakes so nice as those got from Mrs Sharp.  For long after this, butter-cakes were known in and around Partick as Cooper’s Well bread.”

I have to admit I’ve not visited this site, but presume that all trace of the site has disappeared.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, Ancient and Holy Wells of Glasgow, TNA 2017.
  2. Napier, James, Notes and Reminiscences Relating to Partick, Hugh Hopkins: Glasgow 1873.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.870503, -4.299891 Coopers Well

St. Oswald’s Well, Cathcart, Glasgow, Lanarkshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – NS 5883 6056

Also Known as:

  1. Kirk Well

Archaeology & History

St Oswald, or the Kirk Well, on 1863 OS-map
St Oswald, or the Kirk Well, on 1863 OS-map

St. Oswald’s Well was described in Hew Scott’s (1920) magnum opus as being  beside the parish church of the same name, but other references to it are scant.  An old well-house was built besides or over the waters, which subsequently became known as the Kirk Well due to its proximity to the church, 125 yards to the northwest.  All trace of it appears to have gone.  The road to the west of the site also 125 yards away, called Kirkwell Road, seems to be the last piece of folk memory that remains.

St. Oswald himself was a British tribal leader of Northumbrian descent who, legend tells, went to Iona and became a christian.  He had to leave the island eventually and go back into Yorkshire to bring peace back into the northern counties.  Whether this Well of his was dedicated to him as a result of his journey from back south from Iona, we do not know. His saint’s day is August 5—very close indeed to that old heathen celebration time of Lughnasadh or Lammas.  Most likely this is not just a coincidence, but will have related to what local folk were doing before the christian impositions.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, Ancient and Holy Wells of Glasgow, TNA 2017.
  2. McNeill, F. Marian, The Silver Bough – volume 2: A Calendar of Scottish National Festivals, Candlemas to Harvest Home, William MacLellan Glasgow 1959.
  3. Scott, Hew, Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae – volume 3: Synod of Glasgow & Ayr, Oliver & Boyd: Edinburgh 1920.
  4. Steele, Joyce, Seeking Patterns of Lordship, Justice and Worship in the Scottish Landscape, Glasgow University 2014.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  55.817576, -4.254658 St Oswald\'s Well

Cockplay Well, Auchinloch, Lanarkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – NS 6438 6962

Archaeology & History

The name of this site alone insisted that I bring it to people’s attention!  If it was a healing well relating to its name, I wonder what it was used for!  It’s described just once in the New Statistical Account (1845) for Lanarkshire, where Pete Brown said briefly:

“On the south side of the road from Auchinloch to Glasgow, there is still the Cockplay Well, over which many proprietors and feuars have a servitude.”

Two roads came out of the village at the time of the NSA notes: one to the immediate west and the other to the south.  None of the maps cite the place-name ‘Cockplay’, but two ‘wells’ occur on the outgoing western road. One is in the village itself, behind some cottages; this is not likely to be the site in question, as the description would surely have stated that the well was in the village.  However, “on the south side of the road” one mile west of the village, roughly halfway between Wallace’s Well and Cardyke there is a ‘Well’ shown on the early OS-maps.  This has to be the most likely contender.

The etymology may revolve around variants on the word old english word cocc, which in this instance is likely to be ‘bird/s’ or a cock, as a in the male domestic fowl; effectively making it the ‘well where the birds played.’  More help and information on it would be good.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, Ancient and Holy Wells of Glasgow, TNA 2017.
  2. Brown, Peter, “Parish of Cadder,” in The New Statistical Account of Scotland – volume 6: Lanarkshire, William Blackwood: Edinburgh 1845.
  3. Parson, David P., The Vocabulary of English Place-Names – volume 3, EPNS: Nottingham 2004.
  4. Taylor, Simon & Markus, Gilbert, The Place-Names of Fife – volume 5: Discussion, Glossaries, Texts, Shaun Tyas: Donnington 2012.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  55.900461, -4.170681 Cockplay Well