Old Town Cemetery, Stirling

The Wigtown Martyrs Monument

Martyrs’ Monument. The marble statue was created by Alexander Handyside Ritchie in 1859 and the encasing glazed cast-iron structure was added in 1867 by architect John Thomas Rochead, designer of the National Wallace Monument.

Date

28 August 2014
Location

Stirling

NS 79079 93839; 56.12190°N, 3.94663°W

Information

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.

Further Reading

Old Town Cemetery Stirling;
Margaret Wilson (Scottish martyr) (Wikipedia)

 

Star Pyramid, Drummond Pleasure Ground

The Drummond Pleasure Ground was laid out in 1862-63 by local evangelist and nurseryman William Drummond (1793-1888). Its centrepiece, the Star Pyramid, was built by William Barclay and a bible was sealed within an inner chamber of this sandstone monument when it was nearing completion in 1863.

Steps to the Star Pyramid

Stone globes in front of the Star Pyramid. These were originally surmounted by bronze eagles, which disappeared in the 1960s or 70s.

Old Town Cemetery

Old Town Cemetery

The Wigtown Martyrs Monument

The Martyrs’ Monument depicts an angel watching over Margaret Wilson (c 1667-1685) reading to her younger sister Agnes. Margaret and the elderly Margaret McLachlan were executed by drowning by the incoming tide in the Solway Firth for refusing to renounce their beliefs.

Old Town Cemetery

Old Town Cemetery

Old Town Cemetery

Old Town Cemetery

Old Town Cemetery

Old Town Cemetery

Old Town Cemetery

Old Town Cemetery

Old Town Cemetery

Old Town Cemetery

Old Town Cemetery

Old Town Cemetery

Andrew Melville

Statue of Andrew Melville (1545-1622) by Alexander Handyside Ritchie. Melville was born near Dundee and held academic positions in Poitiers, Geneva, St Andrews and Sedan. He was responsible for carrying through John Knox’s reforms of the Church after the latter died and he set up the Presbyterian form of church governance. He served as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland several times and his opposition to state involvement in the Church brought him into conflict with James VI. He was, as a result, held in the Tower of London from 1606 until 1611. After his release he moved back to France where he lived the rest of his life.

Old Town Cemetery

Old Town Cemetery

Old Town Cemetery

Gravestone of William Crawford (1836-1894), local china merchant and early property speculator and developer.

Old Town Cemetery

Old Town Cemetery

The Wigtown Martyrs Monument

Martyrs’ Monument

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10 thoughts on “Old Town Cemetery, Stirling

  1. A fine set. The Martyrs’ monument is a strange thing, a mixture of images that I find quite disturbing. I love the way you have brought out the incidental juxtaposition of sculptures and shapes in the graveyard, such as image 11. This is very different to your Welsh sets, and I am sure it’s not entirely to do with the lack of rain or slate 🙂

    • Thanks, Iain. I did find the atmosphere there quite distinct from that of the cemeteries here in the slate quarrying communities. The ornate iton ‘bandstand’ structure encasing the marble statues was quite a contrast to the Calvinistic plainness of the pyramid at the other side of the graveyard.

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