Britannia, by William Camden

Sterling Sheriffdom.

Big S STerlingshire borders to the North-east upon Lennox, and is so named from its principal town: For fruitfulness of soil, and the number of Gentry, it is outdone by no County in Scotland; ⌈It is usually reckoned within the bounds of the ancient Damnii; but it hath been the opinion of one, who hath considered these matters very accurately, that this, as well as the adjacent part of Dumbartonshire, belonged to the Gadeni; a name, referring to this narrow neck of land. It is encompassed to the West with Dunbartonshire, to the South with part of Clydesdale and part of Dunbartonshire, to the East with the shire of Linlithgow, and to the North with the Firth and river of Forth: where it is longest, it is about twenty miles; and where broadest, twelve miles over. The South part is high hilly ground, somewhat moorish, and fit for pasture; but that which lies upon the Firth of Forth is very fertil, and abounds with Coal.⌉

Here is that narrow neck of Land ⌈aforesaid,⌉ by which Glotta and Bodotria, or (to use the language of these times) Dunbritton Frith, and Edenborough Frith, Arms of different seas, which come a great way up into the Country, are kept from joining. This, Julius Agricola, who went thus far and farther, first observ’d, and fortified the streight with Garrisons; by which means, all Britain on this side was then in the possession of the Romans, and their Enemies removed as it were into another Island; so that Tacitus was right in his judgment, that no other Bound of Britain was to be sought for. Nor indeed, in after-times, did either the Valour of their Armies, or the Glory of the Roman name (which could scarce be stopped) carry the limits of their Empire farther in these parts; although they harrassed them, now and then, with inrodes. But, after this glorious expedition, Agricola was recall’d, and Britain (as Tacitus says,) lay neglected; nor did they keep their possession thus far. For the Caledonian Britains drove the Romans back as far as the River Tine; insomuch, that Hadrian who came into Britain about forty years after, and reformed many things in it, made no farther progress, but commanded that the God TerminusThe God Terminus. (who was wont to give ground to none) should yield to Hadrian, and retire backwards out of this place, as he had done in the East to this side Euphrates. Whence that of St. Augustine,Aug. de Civ. Dei, l.4. c.29. The God Terminus, which gave not place to Jove, yielded to the will of Hadrian, yielded to the rashness of Julian, yielded to the necessities of Jovian. So that Hadrian contented himself to make a Turf-wall between the rivers Tine and Esk, one hundred miles on this side Edinborough-Frith. AElius But Antoninus Pius (who being adopted by Hadrian, bore his name, and was stiled Titus Ælius Hadrianus Antonius Pius) did again, under the conduct of Lollius Urbicus, whom he sent his Lieutenant into Britain, repel the Barbarians beyond Edinborough-Frith, and build another Wall of Turf, besides that of Hadrian, according to Capitolinus. To prove which wall to be in the very place we are now treating of (and not drawn by Severus, as is commonly believed,) I will produce no other Witnesses than two ancient Inscriptions dug up here; one of which is fixed in the wall of a house at Calder, and informs us,Antoninus Pius’s wall. that the Legio Secunda Augusta built the wall for three miles and more; the other is in the Earl Marshal’s House at Dunotyr, which hints, that a party of the Legio Vicesima Victrix, made it for three miles more. But take them here, as Servatius Rihelius a Silesian Gentleman, who made curious observations upon these Countries, copied them for me.

Imp. cæsari
T. ælio hadri
Ano antonino
Avg. pio p. p.
Leg. xx. val. vic. f.
Per mil. p. iii.

Imp. cæs. tit. io ælio
Hadriano anton.
Avg. pio p. p. leg. ii. avg.
Per. m. p. iii. d. cixvis.

At Calder, where this latter Inscription is, there is another stone to be seen, on which, within a Laurel Garland supported by two little Victories, we read thus;

Garland leg ii avg fecit

And in a Village, called Miniabruch; this Inscription was removed out of the Minister’s house, into a * * Nobilis.Gentleman’s †† Exædificatur., then in building:

D. m.
C. j v l i
Coh. i. hamior. Cohors primæ Hamiorum.

But when, in the Reign of Commodus, the barbarous nations had pass’d the wall, and harrass’d the country; Severus (as I have already said) repaired the Wall of Hadrian. But afterwards, the Romans, again, brought under their subjection all the Country between. For (as Ninius has told us) Carausius under Dioclesian repaired this Wall, and fortified it with seven castles. Lastly, the Romans fortified this place in the reign of Theodosius the younger, under the conduct of Gallio of Ravenna.

Now (saith Bede) they made a Turf-wall to no purpose, building it not so much with stones as with turfs (as having no artificer that understood so great a work) between two Friths or arms of the sea, for many miles together; that, where the fence of water was wanting, there, by the help of a wall, they might defend their Marches from Incursions of the Enemy. Of which work (that is to say, of a very broad and high wall) the plain footsteps are to be seen at this day. This wall began (as the Scots report)Ninnius. at the River Aven, which falls into Edinborough-Frith; and having passed over the little River Carron, reaches to Dunbritton. But Bede, as I said but now, affirms that it begins in a place called Pen-vael, that is, in the Pictish tongue, the head of the wall; in the British Pen-gual, in the English Pen-walton, in the Scotch Cevall (all which names are undoubtedly derived from the Latin Vallum;) and that the place is almost two miles from AbercurvigAbercorn. or Abercurning. It ends (as the common people think) at Kirk-Patrick, the birth place of St. Patrick the Irish Apostle, near Cluyde; but according to Bede, at Alcluyd; and as Ninnius tells us, at the City Pen-Alcloit; which may seem to us but one place. But this Wall is commonly called Graham’s Dyke,Graham’s Dyke. either from Graham, a valiant Scot who signalized himself in breaking through it, or from the mountain Grampius, at the foot whereof it is visible. The Author of Rota Temporum calls it the Wall of Aber-corneth, that is, of the mouth of the River Corneth, where, in Bede’s time, was a famous Monastery (as he tells us) on the English side of the Pale, but near the Frith, which divided the English Lands from those of the Picts.

Hard by this wall of turf, where the River Carron cuts Sterlingshire in two, to the left are two Mounts cast up, which they call Duni Pacis;Duni Pacis. and almost two miles lower, an ancient round piece of building, twenty four cubits high, and thirteen broad, open in the top, and framed of rough stones without lime, and having the upper part of each stone so tenanted into the nether, that the whole work rising narrower and narrower, supports it self by mutual interlacings.

round house of polished stone

Some call this the Temple of the God * * See Buchan. l.4. in Reg. Donald.Terminus; others, who father every thing that is magnificent upon Arthur, Arthur’s Oven;Arthur’s Oven. others also call it Julius Hoff, and suppose it was built by Julius Cæsar: but I should rather have thought, by Julius Agricola, who fortified this part; had not Ninnius informed me, that Carausius erected it for a Triumphal Arch. For he (as Ninnius writes) built upon the bank of Carron a round house of polished stone, erecting a Triumphal Arch in memory of a victory; and rebuilt the Wall, and fortified it with seven Castles; ⌈so that what Hectior BoethiusLib.3. tells us from Veremundus, That it was evident from an Inscription taken away by King Edward the first, that it was a Temple dedicated by Vespasian to the honour of Claudius, must probably be a mistake.⌉

In the middle, between Duni pacis and this piece of building, on the right hand bank of Carron, there is yet a confus’d Appearance of a little ancient City, where the common people believe there was formerly a Road for Ships; ⌈(and it is true, that some years ago an Anchor was found, a little to the west of Duni Pacis:)⌉ They call it Camelot (a name often used in King Arthur’s story,) and contend, but in vain, that it is the Camalodunum mentioned by Tacitus. From the name of the River Carron, that runs under it, it may rather seem to beCoria Damniorum. the † † See Discourse of the Roman Wall in Scotland.Coria Damniorum, mentioned by Ptolemy. caesar ⌈The footsteps of the Streets, and some Vaults, are still to be seen.⌉ And now take the verses of Buchanan, that incomparable Poet, upon this boundary of the Roman Empire at Carron.

Roma securigeris prætendit mœnia Scotis,
Hic spe progressus posita, Carronis ad undam
Terminus Ausonii signat divortia Regni

A frontier wall against the Scottish force
The Romans rais’d, nor farther urg’d their course;
Content to keep their own, on Carron’s shore
They fix’d the bounds of their resisted power.

⌈Nigh the Duni Pacis beforementioned, is Kilsyth,Kilsyth. belonging to an ancient Cadet of the Family of the Levingstons, who in the year 1606. was a Lord of the Session, and his Successor was by King Charles the second, in the year 1661, created † † Now, forfeited by Attainder.Viscount of Kilsyth. Here the Marquis of Montross obtained a signal Victory.⌉

In this Sterlingshire, on the East side, we have a prospect of Callendar-Castle,Callendar. belonging to the Barons of Levingston;Barons Levingston. ⌈which, with the Lands of Almond, were purchased by James, second Son to Alexander the first Earl of Linlithgow, who by King Charles the first was created Lord Almond, and then Earl of Callendar, in the year 1641.⌉ And at Cumbernald,Cumbernald. hard by, dwells the Family of the Barons Fleming; which Seat was bestowed upon them by King Robert Brus, for their good service, in valiantly and loyally defending their country; on which account they had also conferred upon them the honour of Hereditary Chamberlains of Scotland. And this family ⌈who had enjoy’d the Dignity of Barons from the time of King James the second,⌉ * * Very lately, C.was, by the favour of King James the sixth, farther honoured with the title of Earl, upon his creating J. Baron Fleming Earl of Wigton.Fleming Earl of Wigton. In the neighbourhood stands Elphingston, honoured with its Barons, who were advanced to that dignity by King James the fourth, ⌈and whose residence this is; adorned with a large wood, of Firrs, &c.⌉ Frith of Eden. And, upon the crooked windings of the Forth (where it is capable of a bridge) stands Sterling, commonly called Striveling, and Sterling-Borough; which is over-top’d by a strong Castle of the Kings, standing upon the brow of a steep rock; and was beautified with new buildings by King James the sixth. It † † Hath been, C.was long under the command of the Lords of Ereskin, as Castellans; who had often had the charge and tuition of the Princes of Scotland, during their Minority. But they are much mistaken, who think that our good and lawful money of England, commonly called Sterling-money,Sterling-money. takes its name from hence: ¦ ¦ Vid. Som. Gloss. Easter­lingus.for that came from the Germans, who were termed Easterlings by the English, from their living Eastward; and who were first called-in by King John, to reduce the Silver to its due fineness: and such money in antient writings is always called Easterling. But Johnston’s verses upon Sterling shall supply the rest.

Regia sublimis celsa despectat ab arce
Pendula sub biferis mœnia structa jugis.
Regum augusta parens, Regum nutricula natis,
Hinc sibi Regifico nomine tota placet.
Hospita sed cuivis quovis sub nomine, amicus
Sive es, seu non es, hospes an hostis item.
Pro lucro cedit damnum. Discordia tristis
Heu quoties procerum sanguine tinxit humum!
Hoc uno infelix, at felix cætera, nusquam
Lætior aut cœli frons, geniusve soli

The lofty palace with proud state looks down
On circling walls that grace the subject town.
Mother and Nurse to Prince’s dearest cares,
And ever proud of the great name she bears.
But ah! too fondly kind to friends and foes,
While none her hospitable seats refuse.
Such gains too oft’ to fatal losses turn.
What fewds, what slaughters must she ever mourn?
Hapless in this; all other joys attend,
No purer air she owns, no richer land,
And wealth and pleasure wait at her command.

Banocburn. About two miles hence, the river Banoc runs between very high banks on both sides, towards the Forth, with a stream which in the winter is very * * Rapidus: but in the Errata, trepidus.rapid; famous for as glorious a victory as ever the Scots obtained, when Edward the second King of England was put to flight, and forc’d to save himself in a Boat; and the finest Army that England had ever sent out, was routed by the valour and conduct of King Robert Brus. Insomuch, that for two years after, the English did not in the least disturb the Scots. A neighbouring Field is infamous for the murder of James the third; slain here by certain Noblemen of Scotland, who had arm’d the Son against the Father. Whether the fault was more his than their’s, I know not; but this I am sure of, the Example was very pernicious.

Alauna. Ptolemy seems to place his † † See Discourse of the Roman Wall in Scotland.Alauna somewhere about Sterling; and it was either upon Alon, a little River that runs here into the Forth, or at Alway, a seat of the Ereskins, ⌈heretofore⌉ hereditary Sheriffs of all the County without the Borough; ⌈which Office belongs at present to the Earls of Callender.

Besides Sterling, here is Falkirk,Falkirk. a Burgh of Barony, well built upon a rising ground, and much beautified with buildings by the first Earl of Kalendar, brother to the Earl of Linlithgow, a person famous for his valour and conduct.

Near Sterling also, stands the Abbey of Cambuskeneth,Cambuskeneth. which belonged to the Monks of the Order of St. Augustin, and was founded by King David. To which we will add, Emanuel,Emanuel. a Nunnery of the Cistercian Order, founded by Malcolm the fourth, and standing upon Evan-water.⌉

I have not read of any one honoured with the title of Earl of Sterling, ⌈till Sir William Alexander (the King’s Lieutenant in Nova Scotia, and who had precedency of all those Baronets), was created, first Viscount, and then Earl of Sterling, by King Charles the first.⌉


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52