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Click here for information about the ancient Capelrig Cross.


Additional pictures by Harold Storey have been added - click here to view.  

Addition information about the history of Capelrig House is available here


Capelrig Cross

The reason for the siting of the Capelrig Cross, a Celtic cross, near Holm Farm, Barcapel in the lands of the old Capelrig Estate is now lost in the mists of time. It does however provide evidence of religious activity in Mearns from the 9th or 10th century. A number of these free standing  crosses existed to the south and south west of Glasgow and one explanation for finding them over such a large area is that they were boundary markers of ecclesiastical areas.

The name Capelrig or Chapelrig, which is documented as early as the 12th century, is thought to be derived from “Chapel on the ridge”. A chapel, possibly associated with St. Conval, may have stood on this site and been associated with the Capelrig Cross. Although no trace of a  church or chapel has been found, A. D.  Lacaille, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, in his paper to the Society 1927, reported that he had examined the lower walls of some of the buildings at Holm Farm and he considered that they were of ancient construction. He also reported on the existence of some ancient structure which, although obscured by a stable partly built over it, could possibly be the original chapel. He considered that  the proximity of a medieval circular, stone roofed doocot, similar to those frequently found near monasteries, suggests that there may have been an ecclesiastical settlement in the area..

The site of the cross with the Holm Farm in the background

After the Reformation, the lands of Capelrig became a temporal lordship, but suggestions that the cross was erected by the Knights Templar or their successors, the Knights Hospitaller, to mark their ownership cannot be substantiated as the cross predates their occupation of the Capelrig lands.

By 1926, when Lacaille carried out his detailed study of the cross, the lands where it was sited to the north of Capelrig House had been purchased by Sir Thomas Clements who built Barcapel House. He agreed that, in order to protect the cross from further damage, it should be removed and preserved in a Glasgow Museum.

Mr Alexander Anderson was in charge of the removal and before excavations began the surrounding area was examined. Flat slabs were found, suggesting that there could have been a pavement at the foot of the cross and a path leading to it.


The discovery of the socket.

      The gentleman top left is T. C. F. Brochtie, Director of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery

Initial attempts to move the shaft were not successful and it was only after digging much deeper that it was discovered that it was fixed into a large boulder which in turn was fixed in place with a mixture of clay and small gravel. This, according to Lacaille, indicated that the cross stood in its original position.  

The socket with the remains of the surrounding fence

The top of the cross was missing and the total length of the remaining shaft was 7 feet 7 inches, tapering from the base to the head, making it one of the largest of its type in Renfrewshire. Carved from blonde sandstone, the cross-shaft is decorated with rectangular, framed panels with interlace ornamentation of Celtic pattern on all four faces, although these are extremely worn through weathering and also from animals in the field.

The four faces of the cross. The darker areas indicate the remaining carving.

In 1926 the cross was removed to Kelvingrove Art Gallery where it was on display for many years. At present it is stored in the Glasgow Museum Resource Centre.

The cross in the Glasgow Museum Resource Centre today

The Legend

There is a legend associated with the cross in local folklore. An old rhyme gives some clues.

“Yont Capelrig and Lyon Cross

And eke the auld hare stane

There’s rowth o’ bonnie siller lies

Wha finds the king will sain.”

The site of the cross is reputed to be one of the points of a triangle, at the centre of which great treasure is to be found.  A second point is in the middle of the Ryat Linn reservoir. The legend however does not disclose the position of the third point!


All photographs are reproduced by kind permission of Glasgow Museums.

The full text of A D Lacaille's paper can be found at:

"The Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland - Volume  61".

 The Templars  

Founded in 1118 AD, ostensibly to protect pilgrims to the Holy Land, the Knights Templar became immensely rich, acquiring property throughout Christendom.  They owned the  lands of Capelrig and had smaller holdings in most of the estates of Mearns; at Newton, Southfield, Broom, Blackhouse, Shawhill and Burnhouse.  In 1309, the Knights Templar lost their lands to the Knights Hospitaller which was a military order but, unlike the Knights Templar, maintained  their charitable status which included the healing of the sick.  During building operations at Mearns Kirk in 1932, a sculptured stone inscribed with a cross inside a circle with a sword parallel to the cross was discovered. It is thought to be a Templar stone and today it lies against the wall of the church.


 The Templar Stone at Mearns Kirk

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