Friday, January 2, 2009

Ancient burial mounds in Livingston, West Lothian

I came across the following article in the Google Books version of the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia by D. Brewster, published 1830.

There are several remains of the original British in habitants still visible in the county particularly a large cairn of stones upon Lochcoat Hill and another on the banks of the Forth about a mile west from Barnbugle Castle Near Kirkliston there is a circular earthen tumulus surrounded by large rough stones at some distance from each other and some sepulchral tumuli on the south bank of the Almond opposite to Livingston House.

This got me wondering if these ancient burial sites still existed in Livingston.

Where was Livingston House?
Livingston House was known locally as Livingston Peel and stood between Eliburn and Livingston Village

According to W.F. Hendrie's "The history of Livingston":

By 1483, the tower from which de Leving defended his lands stood on a rampart of ground and was surrounded by a thirty foot moat, full of water.

Livingston Village grew around the peel, and the foundations of the peel have been recreated in Peel Park which is adjacent to Leving Place (itself named after the family who originally built the peel). I have highlighted the location on this aerial photograph.

Click on the photo to see a larger version:

The peel eventually belonged to Sir Patrick Murray (1632-1671) who acquired it in 1652. He created a garden in the grounds with over 1000 species of plant which eventualy moving to Edinburgh on the site currently occupied by Waverley station. It became the Royal Botanic Garden and then moved to its present site in Inverleith, Edinburgh.

Where are the burial mounds now?
I did a search on Microsoft Live Maps which has good aerial photography of Livingston and directly due south of the Peel site is the Kaims area (streets like Kaims Drive and Kaims Place). Kaims may suggest a series of mounds (kame or kaim being the Scots word for a mound, used mainly these days as a scientific term for certain types of glacial feature). There are still some undulations to the east of the houses next to Alderstone Road near the entrance road to the football stadium.

Click on the photo to see a larger version:

Are these the same mounds referred to in the 1830 article or have they been cleared to make way for some of the houses and development in Livingston?


  1. Gordon - this may be of interest to you, and certainly gets me wondering when I pass them, if indeed they are the ones next to "Club Earth" and the skatepark on the banks of the Almond, opposite Howden Park. "Four tumuli on the banks of the Almond have been regarded by tradition as memorials of some great ancient battle in their vicinity" - taken from Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

  2. Very interesting.
    I always thought those ones were created at the time of the development of the town but maybe not. The location given in the book I found it in was opposite Livingston Peel.

    1. Cannot recall the source of the information on these multiple mounds in and around what used to be the 'trim course. It has been suggested from local lore that they are actually some kind of memorial to an ancient battle in or around this site.

  3. The land in the photo has been used for the building of social housing now unfortunately. or fortunately for those who have lovely new homes.