Chapelhope is a farm is at the head of the Loch of the Lowes. It derives its name from the former chapel which can be traced in the turf at NT 23048 18986. This was originally known as the ‘Rodono Chapel’, a name which first appears in the Melrose Abbey records as ‘Rodanoch’ in a charter of Alexander II dated 1235.

In 1436 James I erected this Melrose Abbey holding into a free regality, taking the Abbey servants there from jurisdiction of the Forest bailies. This must have boosted the population as, on 16 August 1566, Mary Queen of Scots and her husband Lord Darnley and divers nobles held an ordinance ‘Apud Rodono’ to prevent any from shooting guns in the Forest as the deer had been ‘ sae halelie distroyit that oure Soveranis can get na pastyme of hunting now quhen their Hienessis is pursposlie reparit in this cuntrie to that effect’.

By 1643 the lands of Littlehope alias Rodono Chapell appear in the Valuation Roll as ‘Chapelhope and Langbank’.

AP of the area between the Chapelhope Burn and the Old School.

Top left and centre is the circular chapel site. Middle right above road there is the squarish shape of The Standard Knowe. Below the modern road are the remains of a quite extensive settlement which show up in the series of air photographs.

The Chapel.

At NT 23048 18986, there is a nearly circular banked enclosure c 40 in diameter. Within this is ‘the mouldering lines of the chapel (33ft long by 18ft broad)’ according to Craig Brown; 24 feet by 14 feet in the Inventory of Selkirkshire; c 10m by 5.2 overall and internally 7.2m by 4.2m according to my stepped measurement. We all agree that the building is on an east-west alignment.

Divining rods indicate that it was an apse-ended building with a narrow east end and a door in the middle of the south side. Within the banked enclosure are numbers of closely packed graves, all on conventional east-west lines.

Dating must await excavation.

‘The Standard Knowe’.

To the east of the chapel site is an artificial mound at NT 23124 18963. This has been long revered as The Standard Knowe ‘a relic, probably, of the rural court held there by Queen Mary and Darnley just after the murder of Rizzio’ Craig Brown p151. We know that Mary and her court came for a day’s hunting at Rodono on 16th August 1566 but the idea of a specially prepared mound for her standard probably owes more to the highly imaginative mind of James Hogg than anything else.

Many years ago I had identified this as a burial mound but a closer look (and a lot more experience) revealed that the squarish mound had an internal chamber measuring approximately 3.5m by 3m and an entrance to the east. The mound is enclosed within a raised bank with an entrance on the north-west side. This is surrounded by a number of grave shapes, not on the usual east-west alignment but in circles pointing towards the mound.

This ground-form has become familiar to me from several known Early Christian locations in the Borders viz St Mary’s Chapel, Yarrow; Over Kirkhope Ettrick; Kilbrae, Peeblesshire; the original site of the Coninie Stone, Manor Water. All are on artificial mounds, have an internal chamber and surrounding grave shapes pointing inwards.

Are these the cells of ‘hermits who in the manner of St Cuthbert chose the remote solitude for a life of austerity and devotion’?

Other Known Sites.

At Over Kirkhope Ettrick, there is an interesting low mound beside the burn at NT21244 12031. Divining rods make this about 6.3m square with an internal 4m square chamber, an entrance facing East and a low surrounding turf wall.

St Mary’s Chapel, Yarrow. In the corner of the 17th/19th century burial ground there is a raised square shape with a 3.5m by 2.5m chamber and a narrow doorway facing east.

In putting these forward for consideration as early monastic ‘kils’, I know that there are many heaps of stones/mounds around the edges of fields in the Borders but if I find a flattened pile of stones with a small chamber in the middle and rings of grave shapes around it, I am quite happy to accept it, potentially, as an unknown hermit’s cell. I know several other sites which pass the test but these will have to be placed on the back burner for some time.

10 November 2016. Walter Elliot


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