Digging up our illustrious past

AN amazing archaeological discovery has been made in Killearn after a 17th century laird’s house was uncovered.

As well as finding the lost ‘Place of Killearn’ which was built in 1688 and recorded in the 1790s - they also found its surrounding landscape.

The landowners, The Gordon Trust, gave permission for a community dig to be carried out to see if any of the house survived and to determine how much was left of the ‘pleasure ground’ around it. Stirling council’s archaeologist, Murray Cook, led the project with countryside ranger Dougie Flynn and Gavin MacGregor from Northlight Heritage. Many local people, pupils and staff from Killearn Primary School and Stirling Young Archaeology Club helped out and despite the rain more than 110 people turned up.

A local resident, Jacky Young, said: “Who knew there was so much history right there in the cowfield where we go sledging. Almost as soon as we put spade to earth we started turning up bits of roofing slate, window glass, pottery shards, nails and a few pieces that turned out to be clay pipes. It was like finding buried treasure.

“We were really disappointed when the rain on Sunday stopped us finishing. Hopefully we’ll be able to re-open the trenches soon and get to the bottom of the story. There’ll be a whole lot more of us too, so many people have been fascinated and hadn’t heard about it before.”

Gavin MacGregor said: “The energy and enthusiasm of everybody who worked together was fantastic, the dig was a great example of how people of all ages can have fun while learning about their past.

“Larches are still there and surprisingly the wood is threaded by an extensive network of what appear to be hollow ways - these could be routes used by people in the 15th to 17th centuries to get through and exploit the wood.”

Murray Cook, said: “The whole landscape represents an important rare survival of 17th a century garden and shows how pleasure and business were blended in what was cutting edge design.”

The three-day dig has rediscovered numerous plantations which were historically recorded as providing beauty and shelter to an ‘extensive tract of pleasure ground round the house’ and included ancient oaks and some of Scotland’s earliest larches.

The whole estate was accessed through a large gateway with monumental columns. The house was pulled down in the 1820s to build Killearn House. Stirling Council acquired the wooded part of the estate in 1979 from the Gordon Trust.

It is now known as Killearn Glen and is managed by the council’s countryside service and it’s an area of valuable nature conservation with mature oaks, various broadleaved trees and conifers, mixed shrubs and a spectacular display of bluebells in the spring. There are numerous paths through the woodland and visitors often see roe deer, voles, woodpeckers, jays and treecreepers, while the ground flora provides interest most of the year.

A designed waterfall, the Ladies Linn, was all that remained of the landscape and it was restored by Killearn Trust and Stirling council and is used by local people to cross the burn.

The foundations of the house survive buried under 40cm of soil and some of the artefacts found included roof tiles, windows glass, hand made nails, decorated glass and 17th to 19th century pottery.

For more information contact Murray Cook at cookm@stirling.gov.uk.