On a snowy January day in 2018, I set out to find a medieval carved stone. You know how I am with stones - they call to me, and I must answer! On a quiet street in Barrhead (southwest of Glasgow) sits this remnant of the Kingdom of Strathclyde. Known as the Arthurlie Cross, it is a stunning remnant of a large cross. It dates between 800 and 1000 AD and was intricately carved in the “Govan School” style. The original location isn’t known for sure as it has been moved multiple times, but early OS references suggest a place called Cross Stane Park.
In the late 1700s it was used as a footbridge which resulted in one side becoming quite worn. According to David Pride in his 1910 History of the Parish of Neilston, “The centre part of this surface is a good deal worn, and at one place near the middle the pattern has been almost obliterated by the tramping of many feet, a condition due to the fact that for many years the stone did duty as a footbridge across the stream in Colinbar Glen...”
It was also apparently used as a gatepost. By 1870 it sat in the grounds of Arthurlee house (Picture 2), David Pride goes on to say: “there is an iron ring indented into it, almost flush with the surface, and run in with lead, put there to receive the end of an iron bolt when the venerable pillar did duty as a gate-post at the entrance to a field, after its services as a footbridge were over. But now, in its extreme old age, this ancient relic has fallen upon better times, and once more stands erect upon a double block of hewn sandstone at the end of a walk in the garden, where it is carefully looked after by the present proprietor.”
Eventually the council moved the stone to its current location, where a googly-eyed American lass found it in the snow.
I am always excited and enthralled to be in the presence of carved stones, and as you know I have tracked down dozens of them across Scotland. But scouting this one in the falling snow was a special experience. There was nobody else around, and no noise but my own footsteps muffled by the snow. It was easily to let the imagination wander, to a time when this cross would have been an important feature in the landscape. Some stories say it marked the grave of the famous King Arthur, and I can picture centuries of local children with eyes wide in wonder as they were told that story. The true significance is not known, which forever adds to the intrigue and mystery.
Photo sources: 1. Taken by yours truly, 2018
2. “History of the Parish of Neilston” by David Pride