NS3977 : Mound beside the River Leven

taken 10 years ago, near to Renton, West Dunbartonshire, Great Britain

Mound beside the River Leven
Mound beside the River Leven
The large rounded mound shown in this image has a distinctly man-made appearance; it stands in isolation on what is now an otherwise flat area of land.

It is hard to get an accurate sense of scale from this image, but the mound measures 35 metres across; its height is therefore about 6 metres (NS3977 : Top of a mound). Maps from the latter half of the nineteenth century show the mound, but leave it unexplained. A report at WoSAS has some comments on the site: LinkExternal link

Two traditional explanations have come down to me, indirectly, from a former head gardener of Strathleven Estate. The first is that this is a burial mound, but, for reasons that are given below, it seems unlikely that this is an antiquity. The second is that the mound was created for the occupants of nearby Strathleven House (NS3978 : Strathleven House, built c.1690), who did not wish to see the huge cones of Dumbarton Glassworks from the windows of their home (these three cones dominated the Dumbarton skyline from c.1777 to 1850, and stood at what is now the site of NS3975 : Dumbarton Health Centre; see NS3975 : The Artizan Bridge).

Some simple calculations confirmed that mound lies exactly on a line between the house and the glassworks site; this does not confirm the explanation, but it does show it to be plausible. A bare mound of soil would probably be as much of an eyesore as the glassworks; the planting of trees on and around it would have improved its appearance (and would greatly have increased the height of the area blocked from view; the glassworks cones were large in themselves, but they would also have produced much smoke).

The WoSAS link cited above mentions what appears to be a bank or levee, probably flood defences, depicted on the first-edition OS map of c.1860 as extending eastwards from the mound, but now gone (see NS3977 : View from mound). On a later occasion, I noticed a river embankment that may have been the base upon which those defences were built: NS3977 : Old embankment (detail).

On NW side of the mound itself, set precisely at the foot of the slope, are some sections of a line of stones, consisting of a single course of large blocks of red sandstone; the line curves to follow the line of the mound's outer edge: NS3977 : Remnants of mound's kerb. This was probably built to demarcate or contain the base of the mound. I looked for traces of similar lines of stones on the other sides of the mound, but found none.

Of the two traditional explanations given above for this mound, traces of a bounding wall, of recent times, makes the second of them (namely, blocking Dumbarton Glassworks from view) the more likely.
Mound beside the River Leven
A conspicuous artificial mound whose original purpose is unclear. Some stories about its origin were passed on to me: one is that it was built by the inhabitants of Strathleven House to block the cones of Dumbarton Glassworks (c.17771850) from view. Whether or not that is so, the mound, shown on early OS maps, does lie on the line between the house and the former site of the glassworks.
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NS3977, 310 images   (more nearby )
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Date Taken
Friday, 28 August, 2009   (more nearby)
Wednesday, 2 September, 2009
Geographical Context
Woodland, Forest  Historic sites and artefacts 
Near (from Tags)
River Leven 
Place (from Tags)
Vale of Leven Industrial Estate 
Mound   (more nearby)
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 3960 7791 [10m precision]
WGS84: 55:58.0392N 4:34.2897W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 3962 7796
View Direction
South-southwest (about 202 degrees)
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