THE MOATHILL OF HAMILTON AND CADZOW FOREST
(Via GREEN CAR TO UDDINGSTON)
JOIN CAR AT JAMAICA STREET OR GLASGOW CROSS.
Route—Jamaica Street—Glasgow Cross—The Gallowgate—Parkhead Cross—Tollcross—Mount Vernon—Broomhouse—Powburn Toll—Uddingston—Bothwell—Hamilton.
THE first mail coach from London to arrive in Glasgow drew up at the door of the Saracen’s Head Inn on the evening of the 7th July, 1788. So great was the interest excited on this occasion that the landlord of the inn, Jamie Buchanan, accompanied by a crowd of horsemen, rode out as far as Tollcross to meet the coach. This famous old Glasgow inn stood in the Gallowgate from 1755 to its demolition in 1905. Tenement dwelling houses now occupy the site. When this old inn was built the Gallowgate was a vastly different gait or street from the grey tenemented vista that greets the eye to-day. It is curious to think that the inn was reared outwith the city proper; the advertisement of the opening, which is printed in the “Glasgow Courant” for October, 1755, says the Saracen’s Head is “without the Gallowgate Port where the Port formerly stood.” This Port or city gate was known as the East Port and it stood to the west of the entry of St. Mungo’s Lane or Burnt Barns, now known as Ross Street. It extended across the road or Gallow gait, a massive erection with a huge oaken gate or yett, which was locked at mirk and excluded access to the country beyond. In 1812 during the formation of the first common sewer in the Gallowgate from Kent Street westward to the Molendinar Burn, the foundations of this Port were cut through, and amongst the stones was discovered an immense key rather more than a foot in length, which, on good grounds, is supposed to be the key of the ancient Port. It is now preserved in the Glasgow Collection at the Art Galleries, Kelvingrove. The opening advertisement in the “Courant” of 1755 is quaintly frank. After describing the bed chambers in this “convenient and handsome new inn,” it says that “the beds are all very good, clean and free from bugs,” doubtless a welcome announcement to the travellers in an age which regarded the bug somewhat in the light of a domestic retainer.
The inn was built on a site which for centuries had been occupied by the chapel and burying ground of “little Saint Mungo’s,” a spot that had been hallowed from a remote antiquity. The chapel stood beyond the city near to the trees called “the Trees of St. Mungo” and the spring of water called “Saint Kentigern’s Well.” It is of interest to state that this holy well is still to be seen within the “back greens” of the tenements now occupying the site, and interesting also to know that the famous Saracen Foundry was so named from the fact that it was established in 1851 by Walter Macfarlane in Saracen Lane, adjoining the Saracen’s Head Inn. On its removal to Possilpark the name Saracen Street was applied appropriately enough to the main thoroughfare in the new district in the northwest of the city.
The Saracen’s Head was, in its earlier years, the chief rendezvous of all distinguished strangers, and the place selected for balls, country outings, magisterial and other public dinners. When, in 1773, Dr. Samuel Johnson, with Boswell, returned from their tour in the Hebrides, they stayed at the Saracen; while the old Lords of Justiciary, when on the western circuit, always resided there, and from the inn walked in procession along the Gallowgate to the Court Hall in the Tolbooth at the Cross. In these old days the Gallowgate extended little further than the East Port or Saracen’s Head. Beyond this was a narrow hedge-rowed country road that wended its way between pleasant green fields to the old village of Camlachie. The road was carried over the Molendinar Burn by a little bridge almost where the street is now spanned by the railway bridge; a little bit off the Gallowgate were the wells of the Four Sisters, built wells and locked on Saturday night, but even the dour presbyterianism of the time admitted the human necessity for water, so those who wanted water on the Sunday went to “the Spout of Stone” upon the edge of the Molendinar whence the liquid from the wells could be drawn—hence the place-name Spoutmouth.
The wells of the Four Sisters (who were the four sisters?) the mail coaches, the old inn, and the pleasant country road have long vanished, but they have left a fragrant memory, a memory of the days when there stole into the city a breath full of the meadows, a breath that is lost midst the acres of dull streets, our heritage from the sordid industrialism of the pursy Victorian age.
And so up the Gallowgate goes the car past Barrack Street, where, in 1795, were built the Infantry Barracks, the first regiment quartered therein being the Argyllshire Fencibles—the Barracks were built on the Butts, the heath land on which the ancient Burghers mustered for weapon-schawing and the practice of archery—past the Cattle Market, erected in 1818 on a plot of ground called Graham Square, and to Camlachie, no longer “a wee country village.” Camlachie is an old place. It is alluded to in “A Survey of the Town’s Marches,” dated 1590, where we read that “Aleson Watson has set forth her Dyk upon the East Lone (Gallowgait Road) that passes fra Litell Sanct Mungois Kirk to Camlachie Brig.” This brig crossed the Camlachie Burn, a pellucid stream fringed with ash trees in 1798, when the soldiers of the York and Cheshire regiments, then in the Barracks, were wont in their leisure hours to catch silver eels and trout in this burn! On our right here Janefield Street, that leads to famous Celtic Park, recalls the building in 1764 of Jeanfield mansion by Robert M‘Nair, grocer and general dealer and a well-known rich local eccentric of the period, The house stood upon an eminence called the Little Hill of Tollcross. It was acquired in 1797 by John Mennons, the editor and printer of the “Glasgow Advertiser,” the forerunner of the “Glasgow Herald.” After passing through various hands Jeanfield estate was sold in 1846 to the Eastern Cemetery Joint Stock Company, and it is now the Eastern Necropolis. Camlachie has other memories, memories of the Walkinshaws who owned the lands, and one of whom, Clementina, yielded to the embraces of Prince Charlie and left her Glasgow home to be his mistress. Burns writes of her as The Bonnie Lass of Albany. In the Walkinshaw mansion, known as Camlachie House, built in 1720, General Wolfe lodged when a subaltern serving in Glasgow and before he had earned fame and death by the taking of Quebec.
On through Parkhead and Tollcross, described both in 1850 as “staid villages” inhabited chiefly by thinking weavers of advanced and enlightened political opinions, past the pleasant glades of Tollcross Park, where the old mansion house has been converted into an attractive museum for children, on through the windy and healthy suburb of Mount Vernon, of old Windyedge, but renamed after George Washington’s house by the Virginia merchant, George Buchanan, who bought the estate in 1758, and so to Uddingston by Broomhouse and Powburn Toll, through the bonnie woodlands of Daldowie. Uddingston affords a glimpse of trim gardens with neat cottages peeping shyly out of their sylvan loopholes of retreat.
At Uddingston we board the county car which takes us through Bothwell, a place of ancient days with a beautiful kirk and chapel, the latter well preserved pre-Reformation work of the early fifteenth century. There is much to see within the chapel—Celtic stones and other curious pieces of sculpture—while the kirkyard boasts of at least one monument bearing an inscription calculated to tickle the palate of the student of philology or the collector of epitaphiana. Thus—
Erected by Margaret Scott, in memory of her husband, Robert Stobo, late smith and farrier, Gouk Thrapple.
“My sledge and hammer lie declin’d,
My bellows’ pipe have lost its wind,
My forge’s extinct, my fire’s decay’d,
And in the dust my vice is laid,
My coals is spent, my iron is gone,
My nails are drove, my work is done.”
On our right and on the banks of the Clyde between Uddingston and Bothwell town stands the ancient and ruined castle of Bothwell, an historic place and throbbing with historic lore. It is an ancient keep built on the Norman plan, solid and frowning. In 1297 Sir Andrew Moray of Bothwell, along with Wallace, defied Edward I. A year later this English monarch lodged in Bothwell Castle. His successor, Edward II., visited Bothwell Castle in 1310, and after Bannockburn in 1314 the Earl of Hertford found it a refuge, as it was then garrisoned by the English. From the Morays it “went wi’ a lass” to the Douglases, Earl Archibald the grim, an illegitimate son of Earl James “The Good,” having married the daughter of Thomas de Moray, and through this lady acquired the Castle and Barony of Bothwell. On the opposite bank of the Clyde and crowning a precipitous bluff are the mouldering ruins of Blantyre Priory, a twelfth century erection, and of which Dorothy Wordsworth in the famous tour of 1803 said: “nothing can be more beautiful than the little remnants of this holy place.”
And at Bothwell we cross the Clyde by the famous Bothwell Brig, widened in 1826, but the same bridge as that on which there took place on the Sabbath morning of 22nd June, 1679, the battle in which 15,000 government troops countered some 5,000 Covenanters, who abandoned their strong position on the bridge at the command of the reverend prophets who accompanied them, and thereby invited defeat.
When the car reaches Hamilton, alight at the gates which give entrance to the Hamilton Palace grounds. The stately sweep of avenue which leads to the palace—now, alas, in process of being demolished—and the meadows by the Clyde are familiar to thousands, but relatively few know that this far-flung meadowland shelters in its heart the hoary survivals of a long-vanished age and people. Follow the avenue until the palace comes into view, on the right, which it does when the wall of the orchard ceases to obstruct the view; on the left here, there is a gateway leading into the meadow or low park. Inside this gate a walk of half a mile over the meadow, always keeping the palace on the right and shaping your course to the left at an angle, say, of forty-five from the gate, and you will note ahead the grey and weather-worn cross of the sketch and its venerable neighbour, the tree-clad moathill. It is a beautiful spot, islanded by trees and shrubs, bird-haunted aisles, through which the Clyde glints, a quiet backwater of pleasant sights and sounds, where it is difficult to realise that we are within a couple of miles of the great hive of industry known as Hamilton.
On this spot stood the mediaeval township of Hamilton, the direct successor of the early British community that clustered around the moathill, and the germ from which sprang, in the sixteenth century, the existing town of Hamilton. Netherton was the name of the vanished township, and the relic before us is known as Netherton Cross. It may have served the purpose of a mercat cross, but its art motives, spirals (the only other example of the spiral to be found in the Glasgow district is on an erect cross-slab at Rosneath), zoomorphs and figures, suggest emphatically a more remote antiquity than that assigned to the Scottish mercat cross. It is very probable that this fine free-standing cross by the Clyde either marked the limit of sanctuary or commemorated the forgotten saint who brought Christianity to the district. A precise date cannot be named for its erection, but comparative methods would justify perhaps a tenth century limit.
Of the mediaeval township not a trace remains. The adjacent tumuli and the cross, witnessed the birth of medieval Hamilton; they saw its demise. They were old when Bannockburn was fought, hoary with years at the clash of Bothwell Brig; they remain waifs from the past which have floated down the stream of time to the present restless age. As objectives of an afternoon ramble I can cordially recommend them to the attention of the wayfarer. Hamilton’s Park has other interests. There is the palace, fast hastening to decay by the hands of man; it ought to have been preserved as a marvellously fine example of classic architecture by the celebrated Glasgow architect, David Hamilton, and built by James Connel, who erected also the Burns’ monument by Alloway’s auld haunted kirk. The noble portico of the palace is still in situ. It is worthy of examination. Each pillar is 25 feet in height, three feet in diameter, and formed of an entire stone; these monoliths were quarried at Dalserf and put up in 1822, the other sections of the palace being of older date. Then there is the mausoleum, a vast casket of domed silences, and alongside the palace, and inside the ducal walls, is the quaint old Tolbooth of Hamilton, a barred and bolted edifice of late sixteenth century Scottish architecture, a disused building, but yet sturdy enough to defy the most daring of Jack Sheppards.
Before leaving the grounds call at the chamberlain’s office adjacent to the Tolbooth, and secure a permit for a ramble through the magnificent forest of Cadzow, known locally as the High Parks of Hamilton. A permit is granted courteously to all who ask. Then from Hamilton Cross follow the car lines for half a mile to Broken Cross, where there is a public school, and where we leave the main thoroughfare, and the road to the right takes us out of the town and over the railway to Barncluith and the field paths and the pastures.
A writer of 1700 describes Barncluith (the Baron’s Cleuch or glen) as “situated upon the water of Avon, very near to the entrance to the great parks of Hamilton, a pleasant place with fyne terras walks, fruitfull gardens and pleasant woods.” The foot of old Father Time has fallen lightly on Barncluith. Terraces and gardens and shady walks are as beautiful to-day as they were a couple of centuries ago. There is a comparatively modern mansion, gabled and battlemented, and with heavy mullioned windows. The old “Place” stands alongside, a finely-preserved memorial of a bygone age, and still inhabited. It was long the property of Lord Ruthven, and is now the property of the Bishop family. An ancient well is seen within the palings on the left as we go up hill, an interesting bygone as one of the few canopied wells left in the West of Scotland; we met another in our Houston ramble, St. Peter’s Well, in the fields. The entrance gates to Cadzow Forest are right ahead, and note here the beauty and colour of the landscape composition embracing the well, the woodland path, the turreted keep and the green braes, a rare ensemble for the artist and lover of the picturesque.
Inside the gates our path goes up a gentle slope, passing a Grecian monument “to the memory of William Duke of Hamilton, who died in 1863.” So to the old stile by the silent shadowed avenue, a cool retreat in the gladsome summer days, a quiet haunt where the soft woodland airs and the drowsy hum of insect life soothe the jangled nerves of the city dweller and clarify the mental outlook. From the stile by the quaintly pillared gateway we look upon a wonderful scene, a grove of immense oaks, the venerable remains of the Caledonian forest which extended anciently across Scotland from the eastern to the western oceans. Some of these patriarchs of the forest seem old enough to have witnessed the rites of the Druids. The one I sketched measures 26 feet in circumference, four feet from the base. Its heavily knotted and gnarled trunk suggested a birth coeval with the coming of St. Mungo to the banks of the Molendinar.
Amidst these patricians of the woodland world there still wander the wild cattle of ancient Caledonia, beautiful but ferocious animals, milk white with jet black ears, muzzles, horns, and hoofs, wonderful survivals linking the present with that distant past when, “in sunless caves, man found a hidden home.”
Past the field of the white cattle the road goes sharply downward on the left, down to the valley of tog the Avon and the mouldering ruins of Cadzow keep, embossed in the woods in ivy and creeping shrubs. It is an ancient habitation, the home for centuries of the Hamiltons, whose devotion to the unfortunate Queen Mary wellnigh occasioned their total ruin. It certainly brought about the ruin we gaze upon to-day, for in 1572 the Scots Parliament passed an Act ordering “the castel of Hamyltoune to be demolished and causayn down quhilk.” The work of destruction was thorough and “Cadzow’s towers in ruins laid.”
By these crumbling walls “the past returns, the present flies”; it is a place of strange memories of kings and queens and belted knights, but the strangest of all is surely that of the face graven on the living rock, which, says local legend, may be heard to moan on the anniversary of that winter’s eve in 1568, when Sir James Bellenden turned out Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh’s wife, naked, into the open woods of the Pentlands, where next morning she was found raving mad—a horror that had a bloody sequel when, at Linlithgow, the bullet of Bothwellhaugh abridged the ambitions of that ambiguous politician and wire puller, the “Good Regent” Murray. It is but fair to mention that this story of horror is traditional only; facts point to it being propaganda designed like some modern examples to excuse the perpetration of a crime.
From Cadzow’s storied walls the road goes downward, and a stately bridge carries it over the romantic Salvator Rosa-like chasm of the Avon, where the wayfarer may feast his eyes on a world of faery. The path goes onward and upward, past Chatelherault, built in 1730. This Gallic chateau strikes a curious note in our Scottish landscape. It is the sough of the disordered dream of a Hamilton Duke who had too much money to spend, a fantasy of architecture suited doubtless to the blue skies of southern France, but an anachronism in this land of a grey clime and straight edged solidity in building construction. Our ramble may end here; it is a rare ramble, as those who take it will know. The roadway dips down and the car lines lie ahead.