Cambuskenneth

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A mile south of Abbey Craig and the Wallace Monument, Cambuskenneth may have been named after Kenneth mac-Alpin who defeated the Picts at the Battle of Logie in the 9th century. Cambuskenneth was an Augustinian abbey created by King David I in 1147. The Battle of Stirling Bridge took place nearby in 1297 when William Wallace defeated the invading English army.

Cambuskenneth was visited by King Edward I of England in 1303-1304 during one of his many invasions of Scotland. Robert the Bruce held a parliament at the abbey in 1326 to confirm that his son would become King David II. In the 15th century King James III and his wife were buried in the Abbey although they were moved by Queen Victoria in 1865.

During the Church Reformation the Abbey and its lands passed to the Governor of Stirling Castle and some of the stonework of the Abbey was used in the extension of the Castle. Only the foundations, a gateway and the late 13th or early 14th century great bell tower of the Abbey survive - the only example of a free-standing belfry in Scotland.

CAMBUSKENNETH TOWER, STIRLING [1]

The first mention of Cambuskenneth in local records is a charter by King David I dated 1140. In a later charter King David grants the Church the lands of Cambuskenneth, the fishing between Cambuskenneth, Polmaise and other lands. The Abbey of St Mary’s at Cambuskenneth was an Augustinian foundation and it remained in the hands of the Church until the Reformation. All that exists of the Abbey on site at present is the Belltower. After the Reformation the land fell into the Crown and came into the hands of the Earl of Mar. In 1570, the Earl of Mar, who was then the Regent of Scotland, instructed Mars Wauk his townhouse adjacent to the Holy Rude Church at the top of Broad Street. In the work, the best remains of the Abbey of Cambuskenneth can be seen. The Earl, being a sensible and frugal person, used the best stone that was available from his lands to build his house and the closest and best one available was that which had been used to construct the now ruinous Abbey.

In 1709 Cambuskenneth and Craigton was purchased by the Trust for the sum of £61,972 Scots. The title as previously mentioned was the barony title. A barony title was the highest feudal tenure in the feudal system of landholding which presently exists in Scotland though there are now proposals to do away with the feudal system. With a barony title additional rights were granted to the landholder, the most important of these, were the right to hold a barony court, certain additional property rights, the right of nobility and the right to sit in the Scottish Parliament.

The majority of land surrounding the present village of Cambuskenneth is in the ownership of the Trust and comprises the property of Hood Farm, which is a combination of the old Ladysneuk, Tower Orchard and Hood Farm. The farmland extends to approximately 144 acres of some of the most fertile land in the whole of the Stirling area. Cambuskenneth and Abbey Craig and the Craigton only came under the jurisdiction of the then Burgh of Stirling in 1939. In 1709, when the property was purchased by the Trust up until that date, Cambuskenneth lay in the county of Clackmannan.

The history of Cambuskenneth is closely parallel to the History of Stirling itself. In 1127 Stirling was created a Burgh and in 1140, King David I granted the lands of Cambuskenneth to the Augustinians for the purpose of establishing a monastery. The town of Stirling and the monastery at Cambuskenneth existed uneasily together for many centuries. There was constant friction, not only because Cambuskenneth was outwith the sway of the Burgh council and in another county, but because of the benefits from the Forth that accrued to the Abbey. One example of this can be seen from what happened on the 26th day of July 1530 or at least from what the Abbot alleged. Apparently the Provost and Council of Stirling at their own hands and with the assistance of certain ruffians attacked net fishermen leasing the fishings from the Abbot and destroying their nets. The Abbot was none too pleased and the Provost and Councillors were, upon the authority of the Court of Session in Edinburgh, summoned to appear before the Abbot at Stirling to explain their actions. In 1532 the authority of the Court was exercised to ensure that the Provost and the Council made due recompense to the Abbot.

To the west of the Belltower all that remains of the Abbey the foundations of the old medieval village which surrounded the monastery can be seen. The late Georgian and early Victorian village of Cambuskenneth is situated around the streets of South and North Street. The only quick dry link between the town of Stirling and Cambuskenneth being the ferry which after almost daily service since 1140 fell into disuse when the Cambuskenneth Bridge was constructed in the early part of this century to help the unemployed during the Depression.

The village of Cambuskenneth has expanded very gradually over the years and when the Trust released areas of ground for development. The latest development was in the 1970s and that was the creation of the Ferry Orchard site.

Cambuskenneth was at one time particularly famous for its apples. The Cambuskenneth Red variety is still well known in many parts of America though the last remaining apple trees were unfortunately destroyed in Cambuskenneth in the 60s.


FROM BOOK -

The massive tower depicted in the accompanying plate is nearly the sole remaining vestige of the great Abbey of St. Mary, Cambuskenneth, the power and ancient opulence of which have no unapt representative in its massive and strong proportions, and simple yet dignified decorations. Although only about two miles distant from Stirling Castle, it is situated within the county of Clackmannan, close on the edge of the River Forth which -

"in measured gyres doth whirl herself about,
That, this way, here, and there, back, forward, in and out;
And like a sportive nymph, oft doubling in her gait
In labyrinth-like turns, and twinings intricate,
Through those rich fields doth run."

It would be difficult to imagine a better description of the Forth at Cambuskenneth, than Drayton has here given of the Ouse. Windings would be an improper term for a succession of circular sweeps, in which two parts of the river, miles distant by the course of the stream, sometimes come within not many yards of each other accorss the land. More descriptively they are termed "links," or "loops," an in one of these stands the remains of the Abbey- the old tower with it's staircase nearly complete, the broken gothic arch of a gateway, some crumbling walls, and the hoary remnants of an orchard, which in their green old age still annually recall to remembrance the proverbial profciency of the monks in the science of horticulture. For many miles up and down, the loops of the river wind through a cake of deep rich alluvial mould, which must have been one successive garden when the surrounding rocks, yielding to the pressure of a later cultivation, were a rugged wilderness. It is a popular rhyme of the district that "a loop of the Forth is worth an Earldom in the north," and the heavy rich crops of those higher classes of grain produce, for which only a limited portion of the land of Scotland is adapted, still in some measure justify the comparison. The view from the tower is one of the finest mixtures of the grand in nature, and the cultivated in art that British scenery [2] can exhibit. Close around are the windings of the river, and the rich abundant produce-further off rise the rocks and towers of "Grey Stirling, guardian of the North," and at greater distance to the west and north, the Highland mountains and the bold chain of the Ochills. The style of architecture is fully developed in the plate-it is the early English, with the slightest possible marks of a transition into the immediately succeeding era, as in the cusped niche over the doorway.

This establishment was founded by King David, about the year 1147[3]

There is a great deal of additional information and history about this famous place. When visiting Stirling you MUST stop by and take in the view, serenity, and reflect on what happened here. Though in ruin, Cambuskenneth Abbey has an incredible energy to it.

Sources/Footnotes:


  1. Steel Engraving from The Baronial and Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Scotland. illustrated by Robert William Billings, Architect 1845-1852
  2. Funny, I thought it was Scottish scenery..remember it's 1852... Ed.
  3. Spottiswood's Religious Houses, pg. 239



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