Kinneil Estate

“I remember when there used to be a city here.”

With that facetious saying, my brain took off. David and I were in the small town of Bo’Ness, looking out over a field where used to stand a medieval village. The village built up around the Kinneil Estate, the home of the Dukes of Hamilton.

Today, and for the past two and a half centuries, the ruins of the village church and the moss-covered, weathered gravestones are all that remain of Kinneil village. The village was cleared out in the 17th century and the land turned into a park. The church burned down in 1745, during its occupation by Scottish rebellion soldiers, but the wall which does still stand is part of the original church built in the 12th century.

It is odd to think about, backwards even. Today the expression is so overused as to become cliché: “I remember when this city used to be fields.” Even I even find my self aching to utter the words aloud when I go back to Dubuque, though I was only there less than ten years ago, and hardly qualify as an old-timer in that city.

Standing in a field seeing the results of entropy rather than progress, is a little disconcerting. No, even entropy is expected. The Kinneil village church burned down in 1745, and was left to its own decay. The village itself, however, was torn down. The people forced to move, the buildings razed, and the land turned into a park.

Decay happens, old buildings are torn down to make new ones, trees are levelled in order to accommodate population growth. Yet, rarely do I see a city torn down and recreated into a park. “I remember when there used to be a city here.” The shock of the empty field is, I suspect, because the field is empty. Usually, when history is cleared away, there is a new purpose for the land.

Haweswater Dam, in the Lake District of England, holds back the Mardale Reservoir, so named for the village of Mardale now buried under 18.6 billion gallons of water. The tourist board has stated when reservoirs have had to replace villages, the new lakes were created with special attention to how they would look in relation to the natural beauty people expect of the Lake District. Destruction, but with a new purpose for the land: water for Manchester and scenic beauty for tourists.

Rarely is it possible to stand somewhere completely empty and wonder if this used to be someone’s house, or a road, or am I standing smack dab inside a wall? I stood looking out over the field, wondering what the buildings looked like, how many people lived there, and whether they were glad to leave when it was time to move. Did they bring their children and grandchildren to the empty field? Did they stand in one spot and say, “This is where I was born?”

“I remember when there used to be a city here.”

My friends and family have always joked that I was born a Little Old Lady, but no matter how old I feel, even I am not old enough to remember a 15th century village in Bo’Ness, Scotland.