St Kentigern and the Hoddom Monastery

Dr Chris Lowe conducted excavations in advance of sand quarrying on the site of the Christian Monastery at Hoddom Bridge (reported in the DGNHAS Transactions of 1991). In about AD 600 St Mungo had built a large monastery with many buildings of timber. For the small chapel and a baptistery, stones from the ruins of the nearby Roman fort at Birrens were used. Dr Lowe found the ditch and palisaded bank that protected the site, and several internal structures, many of wood. The most important structure was this rectangular stone building, which sits just inside the defences. It was approached by a curving sunken paved corridor. The heavily paved floor, thick walls and use of clay mortar has led to its identification as a baptistery for immersion baptism. Two fragments of Roman inscription embedded in the walls confirmed that the building was constructed of recycled stones, carted over from Birrens Roman Fort.

Finds from the site gave dates from the 8th and 9th centuries and later. Excavations by the Royal Commission in 1915 next to the River Annan had located parts of a small church, now covered by the old graveyard 300 metres east of the bridge. This was also made of stones from the Roman site. In the apse of the chapel was a building inscription of the Sixth Legion (now lost).

The 1991 excavations of the stone structure, inside the monastery’s protective ditch and bank that runs across the top of the photograph. Photo A.W. from the excavation camera platform, by kind permission of Dr Chris Lowe.
Dr Chris Lowe’s excavation plan (1991) from Trans. DGNHAS LXVI
The baptistery under excavation (D & G Council)

(left)   The stone recording work by the Victorious Sixth Legion, from the chancel wall of the early Christian church under the existing graveyard close to the River Annan.   (right)  One of the two inscribed stones from the walls of the baptistery, recording work at Birrens fort by detachments from Germany of the Eighth and Twenty Second Legions.  The other NVMIN inscription is visible at the bottom of the above excavation photogrqph.

Following the 1640 order by the Church of Scotland for the destruction of all idolatrous depictions of Christ, several early crosses on the Hoddom site of similar style and importance to the surviving Ruthwell Cross were smashed into pieces.  Many fragments were later rescued and built into the wall of a summerhouse at Knockhill; these were extracted and transferred to Hoddom Castle for safe storage before the Second World War, but then used as hardcore to widen the east drive of the castle to accommodate tanks.  Their destruction is considered to be the greatest loss of important early mediaeval sculpture in South West Scotland.

Part of the centre of a cross depicting Christ in Majesty, photographed at Knockhill. (RCAHM East Dumfriesshire Volume).

St Kentigern (518 – 603), usually known by his alternative name St Mungo, is the patron saint of Glasgow Cathedral.  For some years St Mungo made Hoddom Monastery his Episcopal Seat in the Brittonic Kingdom of Strathclyde, before he finally returned to Glasgow. 

Modern pilgrims walk the Kentigern Way from Hoddom to Glasgow, now starting at Annan Old Parish Church at the statue of Edward Irving.  

Annan and the Kentigern Way

The Kentigern Way is a relatively new Pilgrim Route leading from Annan, via Hoddom to Glasgow Cathedral.

Kentigern is the alternate name for St Mungo, the patron Saint of Glasgow. He lived in the 6th Century at the same time as St Columba, who when they eventually met encouraged him to travel south from his Glasgow base to carry out missionary activities. He travelled to the Solway Firth estuary where the King of Rheged granted him some land at Hoddam, just North of Annan. After many years in the area, he returned to Glasgow where he was ultimately laid to rest in a tomb in the crypt of Glasgow Cathedral.

The Kentigern Way is a 150-mile walk recreating his route back to Glasgow, taking Annan Old Parish Church as a starting point. It is a beautiful scenic walk taking in the Annandale Way, Southern Upland Way, the Cross Borders Drove Road, the John Buchan Way and the Clyde Walkway. The inaugural pilgrimage started on the 8th of October 2021 with Bill and Christine Jack accompanied by members of the Annan Churches for the Annan to Hoddom stretch. Bill and Christine reached Glasgow Cathedral on the 19th of October where a Service of Dedication for the Kentigern Way was held.

The walkers at Annan Old Parish Church on the 8th of October 2021