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Benslie Wood, Kilwinning

Discussion arising from a research posting by John Loney.  Click for original posting.
Benslie Wood is at NS337429 (OS Landranger 70).

See the response from David Easton of RCAHMS below.

Further information from John Loney

Here is a copy of the relevant section from the Spanish website tranlated
using www.freetranslation.com and www.spanishdict.com. The translation is a
bit iffy though! 

"But, what signifies when the profane geography begins to reabsorberse in the
Sacred Geography?  In effect, recent archaeological studies carried out in
the immediacies of the Scottish town of Kilwinning, in the quadrant
north-east[?] of the same one, in ground of the county of Irvine, have shown
the ruins of an old church fortificada [fortification?] built in the top of
an elevation whose slopes smooth out for the time.  Nowadays, said elevation
of the land is found cover by the so-called Wood of Benslee.  The contour of
said mount, seen since up, sample a perfect Celtic cross that is to say an
equal cross of arms inscripta in a circle with the remainders of the church
in the centre determined by the intersection of both arms of the cross.  This
disposition could be discovered studying an old map raised by the General Roy
(CIRCA 1750-55) to asked of the Duke of Cumberland, the butcher of Culloden,
after the Jacobite Rebellion of 1746.  The Hno. ·.  René Guénon already had
alerted for the unmistakable thing of certain signs, among which is found the
reaparición [reappearance?] of vestigios [vestiges?] of epochs that were
supposed disappeared..  "

 This text appears at the very end of the website
 Benslie Wood is spelled Benslee which is the 19th century spelling on old

Note from David McClure, 2nd September 2002.

The wood appears unnamed on the 1:50000 Landranger Map at NS337429.
The database of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments
of Scotland lists no site in that vicinity.  I have emailed the commission
to find out if there is any record there of the work reported on the Spanish web site.

Response from David Easton, Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland

The following is reprinted with the permission of David Easton and RCAHMS

Thank you for your e-mail concerning 'the ruins of an old church' and archaeological studies carried out at Benslie Wood, Kilwinning, Ayrshire.

We have no knowledge of any archaeological excavations in this area, nor has Discovery and Excavation, Scotland published by the Council for Scottish Archaeology recorded any such activity.

This, however, does not preclude the fact that someone may have carried out this work and has not yet published the results.  There is also the possiblity that it has been reported to West of Scotland Archaeology (WoSAS) based in Glasgow.

With this in mind, I have undertaken a small examination of the documents mentioned in your e-mail.  We hold a copy here of General Roy's survey of Scotland and I have had a look at the section for Benslee(Benslie).  At the location of this wood is an odd shaped park or 'baroque park' feature.  This 'wood' has similarities to a 'Celtic' cross shape, but is in fact a topographical feature mapped by Roy's surveyors.  It has all the appearance of a possible small hunting park or baroque garden layout similar to that found at the Optagon Park, Alloa Estate, Clackmannanshire.  I would therefore suggest that the interpretation by the Spanish website may be erroneous.

The Ordnance Survey, whose data we inherited were very thorough in their recording and they have no information about any chapel or church in this area. After checking the Roy's Survey, I examined the Ordnance Survey Name Book of the 1850s which notes all named features on the 1st edition OS maps.  As I had noted a 'Chapel Cottage' (NS 3276 4269) to the W of Benslie Wood, I checked this entry, all that it said was that the cottage had been 'newly erected' 

On examining the CANMAP/CANMORE database I note that there were three references in the area with 'chapel' in the name.  NS34SW 30, Chapel Park (NS 3400 4400), supposedly within the Montgreenan Estate, was the site of a find of a hoard of silver coins.  NS34SW 18 and 47 at Chapelholm Wood (NS 323 426 and NS 328 426 respectively) record enclosures as cropmarks from aerial photographs and a plantation bank also recorded from aerial photographs.

The preponderance of 'chapel' names in the area does suggest a religious element, I would however, advise very strong caution in this interpretation as we have found situations similar to this elsewhere which led to nothing.  We cannot ascertain from the evidence the exact location of a possible church, which may have been at Benslie Wood, but the 'name' element on the maps would suggest other locations nearby.

I hope you find this helpful and I would point out that the CANMAP/CANMORE database is not only dependant on our own survey work but that of others who are prepared to send us the information.  Whilst the database is comprehensive it is not totally comprehensive.

Yours sincerely
David Easton

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