The Hermitage at Calderwood

The Hermitage, Calderwood Glen on the fringes of Blantyre, was described as a rustic gazebo or summerhouse built of stone.

Calderwood Glen is an archaic division of Calderglen, a wooded river gorge on the eastern fringe of Blantyre and East Kilbride in South Lanarkshire.

Researched by Mr Chris Ladds, he writes “Mapped as early as 1859 on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map, the Hermitage in Calderglen is shown simply as ‘The Hermitage’, alongside the other title of ‘Grey Mare’.

jbsouterPhotographic and map evidence, as well as existing rubble from the Hermitage, indicate that it dates from the period 1780-1850. Considering the re-development of Calderwood Glen by the 8th Baronet occurred, between 1840 and 1845, the Hermitage is likely to have originated closer to that date range. When this folly hermitage was entire it would be best described as a rustic gazebo or summerhouse built of stone. The building stood approximately 12 feet tall including its pyramidal thatched roof which took up about 5-6 feet of its entire height. The masonry consisted of about ten courses of of rough dressed and pointed blocks of sandstone. In the southern face of the building was a window, vertically elongated, with a semi-circular top. The door was in the western face and was of identical design to the window. Some photographs suggest that another window may have been located on the northern side of the building.

This building was maintained during the SCWS ownership of Calderwood Estate, but by the end of World War I it had begun to fall into ruin, and by the mid 1920s was demolished. Now only two courses of rubble outlining the building remain.

The building was built on top of a large boulder in the middle of the Rotten Calder Water, with a spit of sand and river gravel and rocks tailing off to the north. The eastern side of the rock is a sheltered bay, above which the banks slope steeply up to the Blantyre farmlands. Water always flows on the western side, and at certain times of year flows on both sides, effectively cutting the location off as an islet in the river. The rock itself may have originated the name Grey Mare, as several references exist relating to river rocks and the title of Grey Mare.

Nearby is a marked grave that the hermit had died in 1722, so this little building i think was constructed to keep his legend living on. Here are several photos taken around 1900 of the hermit hut (hermitage).

Several pieces of evidence support the idea that a Hermitage or holy site has existed at this location for many centuries.The location of the Hermitage site is deep in the river gorge shortly downstream from Black Linn Falls.”

Pictured above around 1915 is Mr JB Struthers, landlord of the Auchentibber Inn and friends enjoying a day out at the folly. On a cliff-face high above this area (on the EK side) of the old crossing is the following inscription. “the pangs of life of death itself an o’er The Hermit’s weary heart shall throb no more He in this ruin found a home a tomb. Here where decay is robed in thickest bloom of earth when heaven’s own soft yet radiant beam, still sheds young beauty on old Calder’s stream. Yes here a chastened child of sorrow heard and felt Gods holy word. Reader a few short hours a few more throes of Human Grief thy fleeting days shall close. At the dread moment may the light divine which blest the dying Esermiteble shine”

During a recent crisp September morning Jim Brown of Blantyre and I walked to the site of the Hermitage, which is now obviously just a pile of stones in the river below the falls (the Big Linn), right out the fringes of Blantyre and East Kilbride. This is what is left today.



Add a Comment
  1. Hi Paul I have just realised that your copy of the inscription is the same one as scotlands places which has been wrongly transcribed. I’ll inbox you the real inscription. I don’t think it was a gravestone but simply a stone plaque describing the hut as the hermits cave. I have now been able to ascertain that the hermits cave and hut were one and the same. The intention in those simpler days was to make the masonry look rough and blend with the rock hence why they called it a cave. I have the fairy well inscription but this is the transcribed version which I think may be wrong to. Until I see the original is name book I won’t know.

  2. There are some traces of mortar on the cliff shortly above where the fairy well was, there was a landslide which buried the path some depth and covering the well site. The ground is waterlogged at the position indicating the underlying spring. Between the well site and the remains of the steps that led down the cliff side is a crude inscription simply saying chesters pool,.. The part where this is, is quite sheltered which may of helped preserve the heavily eroded inscription,.. Any other such inscriptions in the glen have not survived for several reasons, but this one just made it, the archaic use of pool suggests it’s an old inscription titling the well. I would assume that Chester was the hermit perhaps… I suspect that sometime in the 70’s or 80’s someone or some council authority may have removed the inscribed gravestone and the fairy well inscription as despite numerous searching, digging and depth testing with poles I can find no trace of either… And there are no records of them being removed that I have managed to find. At one point I carefully removed layer by layer the thick soul build up on one side if the hermitage rock in order to record what I believed was intact undisturbed archaeology and to examine the rock surface itself. I found a few shards of china but nothing else,.. Upon reaching the rock I found a large deeply incise crude inscription simply saying W.M. Which I assume refers to sir William maxwell who must of built the folly hermitage in the 1800-1840s. I should note here that David ure records in 1790 that there was a hermitage in Torrance glen , and this part of the river was part of Torrance glen at that time, so either the folly was earlier than the grand redevelopment of calderglen, or ure is referring to the original hermitage. The original inscription on the fairy well I have now traced as it was recorded in the original is name books, and is available on google search! ๐Ÿ˜Œ๐Ÿ˜Œ

  3. Hi Chris -I’ve tried in vain to find the carving on the rock when last visited this place in early 2014. I’ll edit this to show the description being on the tomb, rather than the cliff-face, with yourself as THE leading source of information on this subject. Old pictures i have of the fairy well are fairly clear of vegetation, but unfortunately not in a resolution to zoom in on any detail.

  4. This is Chris Ladds, as far as I am aware, the inscription you have reitterated was what was inscribed in the tombstone and not the cliff. Am I right in thinking that this inscription has been found on the actual cliff. There was an inscription above the fairy well on the masonry which had ten lines of writing however what it said is lost now to time as the fairy well is no more. the inscription above I thought was on the grave. I would be very interested to know where on the cliff face this is! ๐Ÿ™‚

Leave a Reply