FORT KNOCKS

An­cient Car­man Hill mon­u­ment dis­rupted by van­dals

Lennox Herald - - NEWS - Jenny Foulds

Con­cerned calls are be­ing made to pro­tect an an­cient fort over­look­ing Ren­ton be­fore its his­tory is lost to van­dals.

The re­mains of a fort lies on Car­man Hill - with some his­to­ri­ans be­liev­ing it was once a royal citadel.

Many res­i­dents will have seen the large boul­ders while en­joy­ing a walk on the hill, which en­joys spec­tac­u­lar views over the val­ley of the River Leven and be­yond, but many won’t know the story be­hind the an­cient mon­u­ment.

And the lack of aware­ness is lead­ing the site, which is be­lieved to date back to the early me­dieval pe­riod, to be van­dalised by vis­i­tors etch­ing names into the rocks and cre­at­ing a cairn at the sum­mit.

Jamestown man Craig Jump was left shocked by the ex­tent of the dam­age af­ter re­cently tak­ing state-of-the art images of the fort us­ing a drone for the Vale of Leven His­tory web­site.

The aerial pho­tog­ra­pher reck­ons the lack of sig­nage alert­ing vis­i­tors to its an­cient past is con­tribut­ing to the van­dal­ism car­ried out by walk­ers who don’t know oth­er­wise.

He said: “On our visit peo­ple had started mov­ing rocks to cre­ate a cairn at the sum­mit and some of the rocks have names etched into them along­side Iron Age/Dark Age images which is a shame.

“We also met some dog walk­ers up there who were un­happy about it. Peo­ple will eas­ily walk past it and not know what it is be­cause there’s no sig­nage.

“It’s re­ally sad be­cause it’s a very im­por­tant, lo­cal site and it should be pro­tected.”

The boul­ders are known to have suf­fered some dam­age in 1863 dur­ing a royal party, as recorded in the 1927 book “The Old Vale and Its Mem­o­ries” by J.G. Tem­ple and James Fer­gu­son.

The res­i­dents of the Vale re­joiced in a fire­works dis­play fol­low­ing the mar­riage of the Prince of Wales (later King Ed­ward) to Queen Alexan­dra.

Youths car­ried coals, wood and tar to Car­man Hill and cel­e­brated with a great bon­fire, which cracked the big rocks badly, with the dam­age to be seen to this day.

How­ever, no­body knew at the time that the site had once been a hill-fort as its his­tory was only dis­cov­ered by aerial photography in 1954.

It has never been ex­ca­vated so lit­tle is known about its true past.

Ac­cord­ing to lo­cal his­to­rian Billy Sco­bie, ar­chae­ol­o­gists Les­lie and El­iz­a­beth Al­cock did some re­search into the site and con­cluded that it was once most prob­a­bly a royal citadel and could have pre­ceded Dum­bar­ton Rock as the seat of the kings of Strath­clyde Bri­tons.

If they are right, this lit­tle hill was once the cap­i­tal of Strath­clyde.

The citadel ap­pears to have been in use im­me­di­ately af­ter the de­par­ture of the Ro­mans and could also have been an equally im­por­tant tem­ple - or both.

There are how­ever no con­clu­sive an­swers and lo­cal his­to­ri­ans say an ex­ca­va­tion is re­quired to pro­vide more in­for­ma­tion on what was clearly a very sig­nif­i­cant fo­cus of power to the Bri­tons of Strath­clyde.

Billy said: “I’ve not been up there for a while but just this week I was look­ing up at Car­man from the Vale and I thought `am I imag­in­ing things or is that stone sit­ting taller then be­fore’?

“Clearly my eyes weren’t de­ceiv­ing me and if this is hap­pen­ing, then it does amount to van­dal­ism of a very im­por­tant site. I would love to see it ex­ca­vated. It’s in a very im­por­tant lo­ca­tion and de­serves to be given the credit that it’s due.”

A spokesman for His­toric En­vi­ron­ment Scot­land, which cares for and pro­motes Scot­land’s his­toric en­vi­ron­ment said the or­gan­i­sa­tion does not man­age the site but said it could be ex­plored if they were ap­proached by the owner or a lo­cal group.

High flyer Craig Jump’s dig­i­tal drone map of Car­man Hill (main) Credit: Tur­key Red Me­dia

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