Medieval Lanark – a walled town
I love the idea of time travel – finding portals that allow you to travel into a history that’s still alive through fragments in the environment. Clues like echoes or ghosts of souls that trod before us.
Lanark has twelve remaining Medieval public waythrough ‘time passages’ in the form of Closes (covered alleyways) from the High Street, then the King’s Highway.
Two years ago I visited 5 local primary schools and did a ‘town planning’ art project with the children. The children were asked how Lanark could be a better place. Classroom teachers then developed the ideas with the children which led to a wonderful exhibition at The Tolbooth.
Linking ideas of art, history, landscape, street design, architecture, environment, play, nature, gardens and community… the children worked individually and in groups and came up with BRILLIANT ideas.
Seriously, I think children should have more of a say in the decisions that go on in the community. Their ideas were both creative and imaginative as well as thoughtful and loving, showing a high level of concern for others and the environment.
One simple recurring theme was that Lanark’s Closes were dark and scary. Since then the Closes have been sympathetically painted in a light colour and lighting has been installed. During lockdown I was commissioned by Discover Lanark to illustrate the history. The panels were put up in town a month ago.
Each panel has information about the history, and ‘underground’ type map and an illustration that I hope is a ‘time passage’ in itself. Hopefully children will no longer find the closes scary but find humour and a history treasure trail in the drawings.
The more I looked the more I found. If you look at the entrance of Bernard’s Wynd, the entrance is set back to the level of the original Medieval wall. The higgledy piggledy Medieval town was later straightened out with buildings required to be built forward into a straight line.
Interesting to note how the Tolbooth still sticks out. Perhaps it was too important at the time to be changed. I believe it was council rooms then! Although looking at the thatched buildings in the old postcard it looks as though there may have been a close running in that direction that was built over when straightening occurred. Just noticing that now looking at the postcard in the context of the closes. More clues! Love it!
The line of the enclosed Medieval building at Bernard’s Wynd continues through the inside of The Horse and Jockey pub next door. Will definitely need to go and check that out when doors open.
At the back of Bernards Wynd are stone remnants of two arched Medieval windows, the house where William Wallace is believed to have stayed while in Lanark.
The Tolbooth is opening with Close Encounters on 26th April to celebrate Lanark’s historic past.
Exhibited will be 12 beautiful atmospheric paintings depicting the backs of the Closes by restoration architect turned painter, Ronnie Cruwys of Drawing the Street and the 12 original illustrations for the street panels. Plus historic photographs will be shown on the screen.
All original artwork is for sale – twenty four opportunities to invest in a little bit of Lanark’s history!
Ronnie and I look forward to seeing you there.
Thanks for reading
See all the close images below poster…