Kipps, Linlithgow, West Lothian

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NS 9909 7387

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 47920

Archaeology & History

Site shown on 1856 map

In an Address to the Scottish Society of Antiquaries in the middle of the 19th century, Sir James Simpson (1862) pointed out the outright destruction and vandalism that incoming land-owners (english mainly, and probably christians too) had inflicted on the monuments of the Scottish people.  Stone circles and two cromlechs, he said, that had existed in this part of West Lothian for thousands of years, were recently destroyed when Simpson was alive.  One of them was here at Kipps.  He told:

“In 1813 the cromlech at Kipps was seen by Sir John Dalzell, still standing upright.  In describing it, in the beginning of the last century, Sir Bobert Sibbald states that near this Kipps cromlech was a circle of stones, with a large stone or two in the middle; and he adds, “many such may be seen all over the country.”  They have all disappeared; and latterly the stones of the Kipps circle have been themselves removed and broken up, to build, apparently, some neighbouring field-walls, though there was abundance of stones in the vicinity equally well suited for the purpose.”

Simpson suggested, quite rightly, that efforts should be made to resurrect the old monument.  In his day the fallen remnants of the ‘cromlech’ that had stood inside the circle were still in evidence and it was highlighted on the early OS-map of the region; and when the northern antiquarian Ratcliffe Barnett (1925) came walking here earlier in the 20th century he told he could still see “the remains of an ancient cromlech, which stood within a circle of stones.”  Around the same time, the Royal Commission (1929) lads looked for these remains but seemed to have gone to the wrong site, “a quarter-mile northwest of Kipps Farm”, where they nevertheless found,

“a tumbled mass of boulders containing about thirty stones, one being erect; they vary from 6 by 3 by 1½ feet by 4 by 3 by 2½ feet, and are probably the remains of a cairn.”

When the renowned chambered tomb explorer Audrey Henshall (1972) followed up the directions of the Royal Commission, she was sceptical of giving any prehistoric provenance to the rocks there, describing them simply as geological “erratics.”

The very place-names Kipps may derive from the monument, for as Angus MacDonald (1941) told, “the word seems to come from Gaelic caep, ‘a block’”, but the word can also mean “a sharp-pointing hill, a jutting point, or crag on a hill”, and as the house and castle at Kipps is on an outlying spur, this could be its meaning.

Folklore

Local lore told how lads and lassies would use the stones as a site to promise matrimony with each other, by clasping their hands through a gap on the top boulder.  Using holes in or between stones to make matrimonial bonds, where the stone is the witness to the ceremony, occurs at many other sites and became outlawed by the incoming christian cult, which took people away from the spirits of rock, waters and land.

References:

  1. Barnett T. Ratcliffe, Border By-Ways & Lothian Lore, John Grant: Edinburgh 1925.
  2. Duns, J., “Notes on a Burial Mound at Torphichen, and an Urn found near the ‘Cromlech’ at Kipps, Linlithgowshire”,  in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 12, 1878.
  3. Henshall, Audrey S., The Chambered Tombs of Scotland – volume 2, Edinburgh University Press 1972.
  4. Lewis, A.L., “The Stone Circles of Scotland,” in Journal Anthropological Society Great Britain, volume 30, 1900.
  5. MacDonald, Angus, The Place-Names of West Lothian, Oliver & Boyd: Edinburgh 1941.
  6. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Midlothian and Westlothian, HMSO: Edinburgh 1929.
  7. Simpson, James Y., “Address on Archaeology,” in Proceedings Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 4, 1862.

Acknowledgements:  Accreditation of early OS-map usage, reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.947189, -3.617379 Kipps circle

Gormyre, Torphichen, West Lothian

Standing Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NS 9836 7315

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 47916

Archaeology & History

A couple of fields east of one of Torphichen’s Refuge Stones (a prehistoric thing by the look of it!), another standing stone could once be seen.  It wasn’t a particularly big fella, and its existence may have completely fallen out of history were it not for the Scottish Royal Commission (1929) lads who visited and described the place thus:

“In the fourth field north-east of Gormyre Farm is a narrow, upright, pointed boulder of schist, 3 feet 10 inches high and 1 foot 6 inches wide at base, which is roughly pentagonal.  The greatest width on the east face is 20 inches, on the west face 8 inches; but the faces die into each other at the upper part till the section becomes triangular.”

A few years after the Royal Commission boys had been here, the land-owner saw fit to uproot the stone and dump it at the side of the field.  In the 1980s, when the Royal Commission lads came to visit the site again, they reported that the “standing stone no longer exists”—probably meaning that the land-owner had destroyed it.  Some idiotic land-owners do this sort of thing.

When we visited the arena a few weeks ago, Frank Mercer and I found a couple of stones at the side of the adjacent field which may have once stood upright, but if the early accounts of its position are correct, we were looking in the wrong place.  Another visit is required to see if we can find it in the undergrowth along the field edges.  If not, another one has bit the dust, as they say…

References:

  1. Mackay, P.H.R., Sanctuary and the Privilige of St. John, WLHAS: Edinburgh n.d. (1976?).
  2. Royal Commission Ancient & Historical Monuments Scotland, Inventory of Monuments & Constructions in the Counties of Midlothian and West Lothian, HMSO: Edinburgh 1929.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.940821, -3.628696 Gormyre stone

Standing Stone, Linlithgow, West Lothian

Standing Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NS 99 77

Archaeology & History

Not included in the Canmore listings, nor that of the Scottish Royal Commission (1929), this lost standing stone once stood somewhere in Linlithgow town itself.  It was referred to in the huge but obscure Registrum Magni Sigili Regum Scotorum from 1586 through to 1614 as one of the street-names in the town, written several times as ‘Standandstane’ — which, as MacDonald (1941) told in his fine survey, means literally a “Standing Stone.”  The place was also referred to several times in other local accounts, dating from 1664, but was last mentioned in 1699 and, it appears, disappeared soon afterwards.

Perhaps some record of the site may be available in local witchcraft or folklore accounts.  Does anybody know?

References:

  1. MacDonald, Angus, The Place-Names of West Lothian, Oliver & Boyd: Edinburgh 1941.
  2. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the Counties of Midlothian and West Lothian, HMSO: Edinburgh 1929.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  55.975878, -3.612126 Standing Stone