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You are here: Information & History | General History - Origins

General History

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General History - Origins

In prehistoric times, the natural place to settle would have been by the river Avon with its fertile holms and abundance of natural resources. Evidence of early man can be found throughout the parish, enabling us to build a picture of how the community of Stonehouse developed over the centuries. The fact that a stone cist was found in the old kirk cemetery in 1937, confirms this site as a place of pagan burial.

Some believe that before the dawn of recorded history on a small mound half a mile to the West of the village possibly stood the “standing stones”. On these sacred grounds stood monuments to the religion of a time run by priests known as ‘druids’, meaning ‘knowledge of the oak’. Not only were these men priests but wise men, law makers and law enforcers. The Celts way of life was ruled and governed by Druiadic festivals, tribal law and knowledge passed down only to boys of noble or royal birth. This was passed on down the generations by word of mouth but never written down. Understandably this is why so little of their lifestyle is known today. Contrary to belief their ceremonies did not take place at the stones, but in the privacy of the woods.

Sacrifices tended to be small animals like chickens and occasionally a goat. Human sacrifices were rare and almost always Roman.The stones were thought to have been religious meeting places similar to our churches, hence the expression “let’s go to the stanes”, a saying used until recent times, simply meaning “let’s go to church”.

If there were standing stones present in the parish it is most likely that it would be a singular, or trio of stones; being more popular on the South West coast of Scotland, rather than the more commonly recognised circular collection of stones found in the North of Scotland and Southern England. There still exists today three standing stones at Avonholm overlooking the Avon between Stonehouse and Glassford. A single stone can also be found towards Quarter, known as the ‘Crookedstane’. The fact that a stone cist was found in St.Ninian’s graveyard confirms this site as a place of pagan burial. It is possible that the word ‘Stanes’ has been corrupted over the centuries into the present Stonehouse.

In far off Rome an army was assembling and in the year 55BC Julius Caesar invaded England bringing it under the rule of the Roman Empire, later invading Scotland in 80AD. By the year 142AD the ‘Antonine Wall’ was been built between the Clyde in the West and the Forth in the East. The Romans tried to invade further North where they found the Picts and the Celts a formidable force, especially the Damnii tribe whose domain covered Stonehouse parish. The Damnii were one of the most powerful and civilised of all the tribes whose language can be traced in the names of many of the localities and streams around Stonehouse.

After the birth of Jesus, Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire and by 300AD became the official religion of the Empire.Around the middle of the 4th century a man called Ninian was born near Solway where he was converted to Christianity. He travelled to Rome and after a period of study moved to France to continue his instruction in Christianity. His ultimate goal was to bring Christianity to his homeland of Scotland. Legend tells us that he brought earth from ‘Candida Casa’ (house of white stone, near Whithorn) and with his monks, scattering it on ancient burial grounds of pagan worship. It is recorded that the consecrated earth from the old kirk cemetery was taken from Stonehouse to consecrate the grounds of the Glassford kirk cemetery.

Stonehouse is among the oldest parishes in Scotland and so it is very difficult to trace its origins. It was common to name towns after the first stone house built which was more often a church. These early settlement houses were built with a layered combination of wattle and daub (interlaced rods, twigs and clay. When Ninian preached the gospel on his travels his stonemasonry skills would have been invaluable to him in building his churches.

Robert Naismith wrote of the culminations of the word ‘Stonehouse’ including Stanes, Stannas and Stanhus. The oldest recorded mention of Stonehouse appear from a notice stating that the parish of Stonehouse and the churchyard were to be dedicated in the ninth century to St.Ninian. The earliest records of a landowner in Stonehouse appears about the year 1220, for between the years 1214-49, Sir William (the Fleming) de Douglas of Stanhus appears as a witness to a charter along with Sir Archibald Douglas. The Douglases were the chief landowners of the parish until the reign of James II who endeavoured to destroy the Douglases and install the Hamiltons to the Barony of Stonehouse. Thereafter the proprietors of the parish have been well documented by Naismith and the Statistical Accounts.

‘STONE KNOWES’; These are burial stones on top of a mound of earth. Knowe is the Scots word for ‘knoll’ meaning a round hillock or mound. The old kirk cemetery is built on such a mound and it is easy to see how the word may have been corrupted to the present Stonehouse. The inscription STAN HOWSE on the early 18th century pewter plates of the Parish Church have a similar sound in its pronunciation.

Principally known as a weaving community, Stonehouse has developed and adapted to social and industrial change over the centuries. Having always retained its strong agricultural identity and beautiful natural environment, Stonehouse’s character and future have been shaped and enriched by its inhabitants throughout the years.

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