Celebrations at Doomster Hill
Published: 23 July 2012
Doomster Hill in Govan, Scotland is being brought back to life!
On Friday 20 July 2012 locals celebrated the unveiling of a new walkway, community art work and new play park at the Riverside Housing Estate, which lies on the south bank of the River Clyde, opposite the new Glasgow transport museum. The family fun day included the opening of the riverside walkway Harland Way (named by the Riverside Youth Club after former shipyard Harland and Wolff) and the unveiling of 15 sculptures, including some commemorating the former assembly site.
Govan's rich history was highlighted in speeches by Scotland's Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and resident artist Matt Baker. Matt's public artwork Assembly marks the possible location of Doomster Hill, with curved bases representing the outline of the hill, built with cobbles salvaged from the industrial complex that once occupied the site. Assembly recalls both the ancient public gatherings, and also the summoning of workers to the shipyards that were once the lifeblood of modern Govan.
Doomster Hill has long-vanished from the Govan landscape. This huge artificial mound by the river was the thing site for the kingdom of Strathclyde for 200 years from around the year 1000AD. In the 11th century Strathclyde was absorbed into the kingdom of Scotland and the assembly place lost its royal significance, however it continued to serve as a local meeting place until 1600. Locals called it Doomster Hill or simply The Hillock, the name Doomster Hill coming from Dempster - the lawman (as still survives in the Isle of Man). Eventually the thing site fell into disuse and became a place associated with folklore and legend. It is said that children pressing their ears to the grassy slopes could hear fairies moving inside the hill. In 1840, a water reservoir for local dye-works was put on top of the hill, and around 10 years later the hill was completely demolished and levelled to make way for one of Govan's world-famous shipyards. The decline in heavy industry in the late 20th century resulted in the shipyard itself being completely demolished and today the original thing site lies under the Riverside Housing Estate. Although no trace of the hill survives, its size and shape can be discerned from old sketches made before its destruction in the 19th century. Its tiered or ‘stepped’ design is similar to Tynwald Hill in the Isle of Man, and recent excavations strongly suggest that a ceremonial route (radiocarbon dated to the 8th or 9th century) directly linked Doomster Hill to the early medieval church, just as a ceremonial route links Tynwald Hill in the Isle of Man to the Royal Chapel of St John’s. The former thing site is now being commemorated - firstly by a modern meeting of 100 locals in March 2012 and now a permanent reminder of the links to Govan's Viking past through the new artworks.