Making History: The Lost Peden’s Pulpit in Coilsholm Wood #History #Scotland
Is there a lost site used by the outlawed field preacher, Alexander Peden, waiting to be rediscovered in Coilsholm Wood near Failford? It appears that there might be and that it is not the same site as Peden’s Cove, which lies by the River Ayr Way. Can you find the mysterious Peden’s Pulpit?
In 1875, Archibald Adamson wrote about one of his rambles around Tarbolton parish, Ayrshire as follows:
‘The Rev. Alex. Peden was schoolmaster in Tarbolton before he entered the ministry. In Coilhome wood there is a ledge of rock called “Peden’s Pulpit,” and further up the river Ayr there is a cavity in the face of a cliff called “Peden’s Cave,” in which it is said the good man often concealed himself during the troublous times of the Persecution. The “Pulpit” overlooks a level piece of ground which is enclosed by lofty banks and precipitous cliffs, and when he preached on it his auditory sat on the green sward with their firelocks and broadswords over their knees, a necessary precaution at the period, as many of the churchyards in Ayrshire abundantly testify.’ (Adamson, Rambles Round Kilmarnock (1875), 72-3.)
‘Peden’s Cave’ appears to refer to Peden’s Cove, which Adamson states was a place where Peden ‘often concealed himself’ in the 1680s. The steps at Peden’s Cove are also said in local legend to be a place where Peden preached, allegedly to hearers across the river. Peden certainly preached in Coilsholm Wood, which lies above the Cove and along the same bank of the River Ayr.
However, it is Adamson’s description of a separate, second site called ‘Peden’s Pulpit’ is of considerable interest.
According to Adamson, ‘Peden’s Pulpit’ lay in Coilsholm Wood and somewhere down the River Ayr from Peden’s Cove. The Cove lies about 1km down the River Ayr Way from Failford, so the Pulpit, which seems to lie down stream from frm the Cove, should be in the wood beyond the Cove.
Adamson described Peden’s Pulpit as a ‘ledge of rock’ in Coilsholm Wood ‘that overlooks a level piece of ground which is enclosed by lofty banks and precipitous cliffs’ and that ‘the green sward’, an area of short grass, below the pulpit was large enough to a body of hearers.
Obviously, the landscape has changed a little from Adamson’s days. You can see the NLS maps of the area at that time here. However, one would imagine that the ledge of rock may still exists. There is an open area of ground marked on the old OS map that no longer exists. Perhaps that was ‘the green sward’, or perhaps it was not. In the 1750s, Coilsholm Wood was larger that it was in Adamson’s day, but he states that the pulpit was in the wood in 1875, so it almost certainly lies either in, or on the edge of, the modern wood. Presumably it lay somewhere between Peden’s Cove and the edge of the wood near Clune.
If you want to know what to expect from a walk in Coilsholm Wood, there are a lovely set of pictures here from Tookiebunten.
Does Peden’s Pulpit still exist? Can you find and photograph it?
If you do, let me know via the contact email or twitter (for latter see below). I will update the blog to record your discovery.
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