Category: Placenames

This 19th century Tourist’s Guide to Glasgow is not only a fascinating read, but has some beautiful colour plates at the end.

Glasgow University, from Tourist’s Guide to Glasgow, 1887

There’s one of the university without its spire that is stunning, as well as views of the Clyde, Trongate, George Square, the Royal Exchange (with hat-free Duke of Wellington statue 🙂 ) and some beautiful images of the cathedral.


Buchanan Street, from Tourist’s Guide to Glasgow, 1887

However, the image of the Stock Exchange caught my eye, because at the bottom of Buchanan Street, a church can be clearly seen in St Enoch Square. Enoch is actually a linguistic mangling of Thenew, who was mother of St Kentigern/Mungo, so it’s no surprise that there would be a church there – I’d just never known of one before.

What I had heard of was a holy well, dedicated to St Thenew, with an associated chapel, marking where Thenew was supposedly buried.

There’s more details about how the well was used:

It was shaded by an old tree which drooped over the well, and which remained till the end of the last century. On this tree the devotees who frequented the well were accustomed to nail, as thank-offerings, small bits of tin-iron – probably manufactured for that purpose by a craftsman in the neighbourhood – representing the parts of the body supposed to have been cured by the virtues of the sacred spring – such as eyes, hands, feet, ears and others

Andrew Macgeorge, Old Glasgow, the place and the people, 1880

St Enoch's Square, NLS maps

St Enoch’s Square, NLS maps

Holy wells often have an associated chapel. Wells and natural springs were commonly important in pre-Christian times and they were often consecrated when Christianity took over to encourage continuity of religious practice. Since folks were coming along anyway, you may as well convert them while they’re around.

It seems likely from the description that this was a ancient sacred place, especially given the metalwork being used as votive offerings. Part of St. Enoch Square seems to have been the burial ground associated with the chapel so it’s not surprising that the church is named for St Enoch as well. So far as I can tell, the chapel fell into ruins following the Reformation, a new church was built in 1780, and the final St Enoch church was demolished in 1926 after the congregation moved.

It turns out that this area was part of the ‘Old Green’ and therefore, common land. Interesting that Argyle Street, St Enoch Square and Jamaica Street had already been named when Glasgow Council advertised the land for sale in 1777; wonder if there’s any connection to Andrew Buchanan’s advert for “a street to be opened directly opposite to St Enoch’s Square” the previous week!  (Senex: Old Glasgow and its environs).

All connection to St Thenew/St Enoch beyond the name is now invisible, but it’s intriguing to wonder if the cemetery, chapel, well and churches are a reason why the Square has managed to remain an open space.

More information
Sidelights on Scottish History by Michael Barrett
Glasgow history blog with lots of photos from old postcards, including St Enoch Church.
The Glasgow Story has a page on St Enoch Church, and a beautiful sketch from 1797
Holy wells in and around Glasgow
Canmore has data on St Enoch’s Church and the well
The Glasgow Story has a nice map from 1894, claiming to represent Glasgow in 1547, showing chapel, cemetery and the well a t the end of a ‘vennel’


Strathclyde Park is massive. Covering land between Bothwell, Bellshill, Hamilton and Motherwell, it can be tough to figure out where exactly you are. As usual in this part of the world, the history of the place is pretty much ignored, but there’s plenty of interesting material around.

This afternoon was one of the first decent days in weeks – yesterday the weather couldn’t decide between hailstones, snow and blue skies so it attacked with all three – so we decided on a wee dauner round a part of the park we hadn’t been to before, mostly in the South Calder Glen.

There’s Roman antiquities all over the place round here, although they’re mostly invisible. The car park lies east of Bothwellhaugh Fort, we walk along the line of the Roman road (now called Watling Street) and we’ll circle back round eventually to the bath-house at the bottom of the hill. More of that later.

South Calder Glen is lovely with sandstone cliffs and winding paths, but as we walked upstream the path was mostly on the top of the cliffs so there wasn’t much to see. Except maybe the viaduct, which remained invisible to me until I almost tripped over it, much to the hilarity of everyone else. I was just too busy checking out the many lumps and bumps in the landscape. You’ve heard of not seeing the wood for the trees, but I’ve never heard of not seeing the 100 foot tall viaduct for the trees.

Further upstream the path descends to the riverbank and you can see a waterfall in the distance, which turns to be a dam or a weir. The derelict walls beside it belonged to Holm Forge – about which I can find remarkably little, except that they manufactured spades and shovels. The woods beside the Forge naturally became known as Forge Woods, and the subsequent housing estate was named Forgewood.

We crossed the South Calder at Holm Forge Bridge, an ugly beast, and headed back downstream, momentaily stunned by the aerobatics of a trio of ducks who landed in perfect formation on the river. Looking at Scotland’s Places later, I noticed an antiquity marked ‘Wallace’s Cave‘ just after the viaduct. RCAHMS says this is a mistake: there is no cave here, but the Ancient Family of Cleland describes it. We certainly didn’t notice anything, but then if you can’t see a flippin’ great viaduct in your way, a sandstone cave isn’t likely to jump out at you.

The path follows the riverbank before heading uphill and meeting Bellshill Golf Course. Nearby was located Orbiston House, and you can still see the walled garden, the doocot and the icehouse. The river loops back on itself here so there’s a bit more hiking before you cross again, most of it downhill until you reach the Roman Bridge and the bath-house.

The bath-house belonging to Bothwellhaugh Fort was discovered when Strathclyde Loch was being created, and it was subsequently moved from its original location to protect it.

The Hunterian Museum has a beautiful little bit of roof tile complete with a dog’s pawprint from the bath-house. The sort of artefact that everyone smiles at, especially people who wouldn’t smile at the word artefact (which is I suppose, most people). The tile was the Pop Up Museum’s Curator’s Choice for January 2012 (which reminded me of it)

If you look on old maps of this area, a road is marked as Roman, the current Watling Street. The continuation of this road leads back up to the car park from the bath-house. Is it still Roman? It’s certainly an old road, but how old remains a mystery.

The final tired stroll uphill was accompanied by silly stories of runaway Roman soldiers mixing up their words and calling Celts,  kilts and vice versa, complete with a dog that kept running across the potter’s handiwork.

It’s taken a long time to get out for the first time this year. Hopefully the weather will hold on another weekend soon 🙂

Secrets of Knowetop

Knowetop is an area of Motherwell, close to Dalzell House. It features, amongst other locations, Knowetop Primary School, Our Lady’s High School, Modyrvale Health Centre and Firpark Stadium, home of Motherwell FC.

Fir Park is easy – it’s built on the old part of Dalzell Estate where there actually was a plantation of firs. Very straightforward 🙂

Modyrvale is one of the earliest written versions of the placename, Motherwell. Why is was given to the Health Centre is at present unknown.

Knowetop itself was once not much more than a row of cottages. Few of the current buildings appear on the 19th century 25″ Ordnance Survey map, but I noticed that a branch of the main railway line curved through it. So I looked at the modern map to look for clues to where it had run and realised that Knowetop Avenue now follows the same line. The line itself ran to Parkhead Colliery. From the maps I can find, the mineral railway branch vanished between 1914-1938.

Apart from the match of the routes on the map, you’d never know that a railway was once here.

St Bride

East Kilbride was Scotland’s first new town. The ‘East’ was added to distinguish it from ‘West’ Kilbride in Ayrshire, although there are several other Kilbrides in Scotland. At school, I was always told that East Kilbride meant the church of St Bride or  St Brigit.

Later, I learned about early Christianity in Scotland, and realised that Kil-Bride indicated a cell (Gaelic: cill) or monastic settlement dedicated to St Brigit. That makes it a pretty old settlement.

Brigit supposedly founded the first nunnery in Ireland. Big deal.  It never explained to me why this Irish saint was remembered in west central Scotland?

Well,  Stuart McHardy’s book On the trail of Scotland’s myths and legends, suggests that St Brigit might actually be a Christianised version of the pagan goddess, Bride. Obviously there’s no way of confirming this now, but there’s an interesting pointer to the past at East Kilbride Old Parish Church.

Check out the aerial view of the kirkyard wall. A circular churchyard like this often suggests a pagan site that’s been Christianised in an attempt to promote Christianity by superceding older practices. I’m not suggesting that this is evidence of paganism in East Kilbride, but it does suggest that the site has been used for a long, long time.