By Unknown author - Alexander Gordon's Itinerarium Septeptrionale, 1726., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6873715

Arthurs Oven – Roman Temple

The largest surviving Roman Temple in Scotland stood above the River Carron for 1500 years until a landowner (Sir Michael Bruce) allegedly demolished it for the stones to line a mill dam in 1743. The temple was positioned to be seen by ships coming up the Firth of Forth and a harbour was possibly situated below the temple. (See Camelon, Arthur’s O’on and the Main Supply Base for the Antonine Wall (jstor article and NLS login required))

The temple was first mentioned in a history of Britain “HISTORIA BRITTONUM” by Nennius in the year 828. He talks about the wall and present facts disputed today.

“The above-mentioned Severus constructed it of rude workmanship in length 132 miles; i.e. from Penguaul, which village is called in Scottish Cenail, (KInneil?) in English Peneltun, to the mouth of the river Cluth and Cairpentaloch, (Kilpatrick?) where this wall terminates; but it was of no avail. The emperor Carausius afterwards rebuilt it, and fortified it with seven castles between the two mouths: he built also a round house of polished stones on the banks of the river Carun (Carron?): he likewise erected a triumphal arch, on which he inscribed his own name in memory of his victory.”

The text can be read on Gutenburg at History of the Britons (Historia Brittonum) and another translation is at http://kmatthews.org.uk/history/hb/Genealogia%20Brittonum%20complete%20text%20and%20translation%20A4.pdf

In 1528, the Ponts map of Scotland number 32 has it marked and sketched. ( see https://maps.nls.uk/rec/295) so it appears well known.

Antonine Wall in yellow dotted line and Arthurs Oven in yellow with a sketch.
Used with permission under CC-BY licence – NLS maps (excellent site)

A Roman relief panel found on Hadrian’s wall at Gilsland railway station shows a structure similar to Arthur’s Oven.

Wood relief from Wall Mile 47 showing what looks like Arthurs Oven
From Gilsland (Rose Hill) – courtesy of Mike Bishop

Sir Michel Bruce of Stenhouse born in 1709 was a wealthy landowner fully aware of the Roman heritage of the temple as it had been surveyed many times. He had 14 children. In 1743 there was a lot of bad weather in the Falkirk area with high tides and winds and Arthurs Oven was “thrown down”. (Ref Tuesday, Mar. 1, 1743 Publication: Daily Advertiser (London, England) Issue: 3780)

It is reported that the stones were used to line a mill dam two weeks after the original collapse and the fact that the foundations were removed caused some anger. ( see John Clerk August 5th 1743, The antiquarian Repertory 1809)

Location of Mill dam unknown but possible at weir? Stirlingshire, Sheet XXIV Survey date: 1861, Publication date: 1865
Used with permission under CC-BY licence – NLS maps (excellent site)

The destruction of Arthur’s Oven in 1743 upset many people and a replica was built at Penicuik House in 1767 by John Clerks son. It is on private property so can not be seen.

In researching this article I came across the hand drawn image below in a copy of a book from 1720. It’s age and accuracy I do not know. There are three sets of drawings of Arthur’s Oven – by William Stukeley , Alexander Gordon and John Adair.

Handwritten sketch of Arthur’s O’on from “An account of a Roman Temple..” ( see link below)

References

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

%d bloggers like this: