Category: Religion

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’


I was having a look through the National Library of Scotland’s maps, and playing with the different layers on the map viewer. This is a fabulous wee thing that allows you to find a place on a current map and then look at the same place on older maps, or vice versa. The sheet viewer will allow you to jump between different maps, from Timothy Pont in the 16th/17th century right up to the aerial photos taken in the middle of last century. The mosaic viewer doesn’t have anything like the the same stretch, but it has the nifty trick of sliding gradually between the modern map and the older one.

I use it a lot for  investigating names mentioned on maps that have since vanished, and to locate places I’ve discovered on the ground in the hope that an older map will identify it. A good example is Blaeu’s Atlas of Scotland from 1654:  its a goldmine of placenames, illustrations of churches and castles and other buildings and the estates that surround them. Lots of these places are still recognisable, but plenty aren’t.

A large religious building on Blaeu's Atlas, 1654. Compare the building size with others around it.

There’s a substantial church pictured north of Legbrannock, surrounded by what looks like a large estate  – it’s actually comparable with Blaeu’s depiction of Lanark! – with the name Chappell. Only thing I can think of close by is Chapelhall near Airdrie. Are they related? My geographical knowledge north of the Clyde is a lot shakier than the south, but something that huge should have registered with me at some point. So what is it?

I checked the area between Legbrannock and Chapelhall on a few maps. The 1859 OS shows a ‘site of Chapel and Burial ground’ beside the Chapelhall Iron Works which sat in a loop of the Shotts Burn. The ironworks have vanished by 1898, but the chapel site is still marked, with quarries across the burn and a coal mine just to the south. By the 1940s, the Chapelhall Works have appeared just to the west, making fire bricks, which still appears on the familiar brown and orange of the 1956 OS, which describes the site as as Chapel (site of). It also provided the grid reference (NS784632).

Next port of call: Scotlands Places, which suggests that this was a chapel dedicated to St Lasrach, which was used as a burial place for the Lanchope family from the 18th century onwards, that it was later covered with slag heaps and lost. Its correct GR is NS 7850 6322.

It also directed me to Origines Parochiales Scotiae, where I found this:

At Chapel on the bank of a stream north-east from the old house of Lauchope, there existed in the beginning of last century, a ruined chapel, then used as a burial-place by the family of Lauchope. On the 15th August 1529, John Jack had a grant for life from the king, of three acres pertaining to the chapel of Lessart, in the parish of Bothwell,  for upholding the chapel.

Origines Parochiales Scotiae, p 54

So Chapel is obviously an old name for Chapelhall, and Lasrach sounds like an alternative name for Lessart. There’s also a Lauchope House, but that’s another quest. So who was Lessart / Lasrach? A while later, I discovered that Lasrach is actually a Gaelicised version of Lasair (genitive singular to be precise), and that Lasair was a figure from Irish mythology (whose name meant fire). There’s also a Christian saint with the same name, with her feast day on May 1st, otherwise known to pagans as Beltane! Possibly the same figure, canonised by the Celtic church?

The chapel originally lay approximately around the tip of the letter ‘A’ formed by the paths in the bottom of the frame, underneath the trees alongside the burn.

This has been a fascinating hunt through geography, history, language and mythology with some startling results, but I still still don’t have an answer to my original question: why is the chapel and burial ground of Lasair drawn so much larger than any other building? If anyone can suggest an answer, I’d love to know.

Additional – 15th April 2012

A couple of 18th century comments suggest the chapel was actually part of a larger organisation, but whether a monastery, abbey or other foundation isn’t known.

Chapel, northeast from Lauchope, was formerly a religious house, of what order is not known

Old Statistical Account, p326

Chappell, which was formerly a religious house, of what order I know not; but is now converted into a burial place for Lachop’s family

Hamilton of Wishaw, Descriptions of the Sheriffdoms of Lanark and Renfrew, compiled about M.DCC.X, p136


Only thing is, that the only other illustrations of roughly the same size across the whole of southern Scotland are either towns or major castles. The mystery continues.

The Carlisle curse

There’s a Glaswegian link so stick with me.

In 1525, Gavin Dunbar, Archbishop of Glasgow, wrote a curse on the Border Reivers which was read out in all the parishes on either side of the Border, originally in beautiful Scots.

In 2001, part of the curse was inscribed on a huge round stone as part of a display in the Millennium Gallery of Carlisle’s Tullie House Museum, and shortly thereafter, the world went mad.

Carlisle suffered a series of disasters, from floods to foot and mouth. A local councillor claimed the stone was responsible and asked it be removed . The Bishop of Carlisle called the stone evil and asked that the current Archbishop of Glasgow, Mario Conti, would consider blessing the stone and lifting the curse. The council even discussed removing the stone – they decided against.

Except, Dunbar’s curse was against the Reivers (a murderous bunch if ever there was one, inclined to cattle theft, kidnapping, arson and blackmail) NOT against Carlisle, unless of course, there’s lots of guilty ancestral consciences there. And of course, the floods and foot and mouth affected a wider area than Carlisle.

This particular Glaswegian was fascinated and would have gone to see it on the way home from holiday, but since our son had kept us up till the early hours the night before, it was decided to continue north instead.

So in the end, Dunbar maybe attracted a few more visitors to Carlisle, but curses? Nah.

Dalzell Mausoleum

Took a wander down to Dalziel Old Churchyard today as the BBC had reported lead thieves had caused £15,000 damage to the roof of the Mausoleum.


All of the lead has been yanked out, smashing some of the tiles on both sides. The figure suggested is £15,000 worth of damage for approximately £100 of lead.

Lead guttering removed from Mausoleum.

Since we were down that way, we took a wander round into the old graveyard, which  is sadly dilapidated, but full of interesting headstones. There’s a wonderful project there for someone.

The mausoleum was built on the site of St Patrick’s Chapel (which was probably founded here because of the nearby well, also named for St Patrick). Not that there’s much of the original chapel left, just some stones at ground level.

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On the way back to work, we took a slightly different path and I was astonished to see a bridge crossing the burn, sitting behind locked gates. There’s no word of this bridge on the Dalzell Estate website, or the iron gates that shut it off, but it’s a fascinating mystery waiting to be solved.

It bugs me when authors don’t credit their research. Take this for example:

St Iten’s Well, at Cambusnethan, in Lanarkshire, at one time was held in good repute as a cure for asthma and skin diseases.

Thomas Frost, in William Andrews, Bygone church life in Scotland (1899)

Interesting, but compare it with this:

Many churches bear St. Aidan’s name. Among them are those of Cambusnethan in Lanarkshire and Menmuir in Angus. At the latter place is the saint’s holy well, which was renowned for the cure of asthma and other complaints.

Dom Michael Barrett: A calendar of Scottish saints (1919)

Are there two separate wells getting mixed up? Neither author explains who held the well in such repute, nor did they bother to name their sources. There’s probably been a misunderstanding that the original might clear up.

Frost reckons ‘Iten’ is a derivation of Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine and apparent discoverer of the True Cross back in the 4th century, but to be honest, that seems a bit unlikely. There are plenty of Celtic saints around, there’s no reason for a link with Byzantium, and the derivation just doesn’t match.  So far as the name goes, Aidan certainly seems a more likely source for ‘Iten’ than Helena.

I can’t find any other mention of St Iten’s Well anywhere, so where was it?

24th June 2011

I’ve since found this:

Aidan has not been forgotten in the matter of wells. There are four to him, viz, at Menmuir and at Fearn, in Forfarshire; in Balmerino, in Fife; and at Cambusnethan in Lanarkshire. This last, called St Iten’s Well, was noted for the cure of asthma and skin-disease.

James M Mackinlay: Folklore of Scottish lochs and springs (1893)

So, Round 3 to Cambusnethan. This is certainly the earliest mention I’ve found of St Iten’s Well so far, but the source of the story remains unknown. Could be the later writers are simply plagiarising earlier books (a bit like an undergraduate essay 🙂 )

More digging led to “The golden days of the early English church”, which says,

Bishop Forbes in the Kalendars of Scottish Saints says of his memorials in Scotland : ” The churches of Cambusnethan and of Menmuir were dedicated to the saint. Near to the latter church is St. Iten’s Well, celebrated for the cure of asthma and cutaneous diseases.”

Henry H Howorth: The golden days of the early English church (1917)

Round 4 to Angus?

However, our star pupil is Bishop Forbes mentioned above. The entry in Kalendars actually says,

The churches of Cambusnethan (Commissary Records, Glasgow) and of Menmuir were dedicated to this saint. Near to the latter church used to be S. Iten’s well, celebrated for the cure of asthma and cutaneous diseases.—(Jervise’s Land of the Lindsays, p. 241, Edin. 1853.)

Alexander Penrose Forbes: Kalendars of Scottish saints (1872)

Full marks to Forbes for decent attribution of sources. Sorry, Lanarkshire. At least you got a mention.