|Date||28 August 2014|
|Location||Stirling||NS 79079 93839; 56.12190°N, 3.94663°W|
The hollow, known as The Valley, situated between Stirling’s castle esplanade and the Church of the Holy Rude, was used as an event ground during the Stuart era. It served as a venue for gatherings such as jousting tournaments, horse fairs and markets. The site is now occupied by the Old Town Cemeteries, a complex comprising the old kirkyard, Valley Cemetery, Mars Wark Garden, Drummond Pleasure Ground, and the later Snowdon Cemetery. By the mid 19th century Holy Rude’s kirkyard had become desperately overcrowded and the adjoining Valley Cemetery and Mars Wark Garden were therefore created in 1857-59. The adjacent Drummond Pleasure Ground, with its Star Pyramid – a monument to Scottish civil and religious martyrs – was completed in 1863. The complex was designed not only as a graveyard, but also as a recreational and educational public park aimed at the increasing numbers of tourists arriving in Stirling since the railway had reached the town in 1849.
The central area of Valley Cemetery features statues by sculptor Alexander Handyside Ritchie (1804-1870), who was born in Musselburgh and studied in Edinburgh and Rome, of three pivotal figures in the history of the Reformed Church in Scotland – John Knox (c 1514-1572), Andrew Melville (1545-1622) and Alexander Henderson (c 1583-1646).
Also prominent in the cemetery is the Martyrs’ Monument, another work by Ritchie. This marble statue was created in 1859 and commemorates the Wigtown Martyrs – Margaret Wilson, 18, and Margaret McLachlan, 75 – who, clinging to their Covenanter principles, refused to recognise James VII as head of the Church and were executed for treason by drowning in the Solway Firth. The Covenanters were members of a religious movement committed to preserving the changes of the 1560 Scottish Reformation (where the Church broke with the Papacy) and to maintaining the Presbyterian system, where the Church was governed by a session of representatives, rather than by bishops appointed by the crown. After the restoration of the monarchy, the Covenanters were persecuted and attending their open-air gatherings became a capital offence.
A £1.7m restoration of the Old Town Cemeteries was completed in 2009 with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Stirling Council, Historic Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage.