Inventory Battlefield

Battle of Bothwell BridgeBTL5

Date of Battle: 22 June 1679

Status: Designated


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Designation Record and Full Report Contents

  • Name
  • Summary Information
  • Overview and Statement of Significance
  • Inventory Boundary
  • Historical Background to the Battle
    • The Armies
    • Numbers
    • Losses
    • Action
    • Aftermath and Consequences
  • Events and Participants
    • Context
  • Battlefield Landscape
    • Location
    • Terrain
    • Condition
  • Archaeological and Physical Remains and Potential
  • Cultural Association
    • Commemoration and Interpretation
  • References


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Local Authority
South Lanarkshire
NS 71003 57509
271003, 657509

Overview and Statement of Significance

The Battle of Bothwell Bridge is significant as it brings to an end the 1679 Covenanter rebellion. This was the largest of the Covenanter uprisings of the 17th century and features many figures who were prominent in Scottish political and military history in the latter part of the century. It is also final major battle between the Covenanters and their Government opponents.

The Battle of Bothwell Bridge was a major defeat for the Covenanter army against the Government troops lead by the Duke of Monmouth. The catalyst for the Covenanter uprising was the hard-line repression of their conventicles by Government forces. An attempt by Government dragoons to break up a conventicle at Drumclog in Lanarkshire on 1 June 1679 had resulted in a battle victory for the Covenanters.

Following this triumph a confident Covenanter army marched on Glasgow but failed to take the city. A Government army under the Duke of Monmouth hurried north to meet the Covenanters positioned to the south of Hamilton. The overwhelming Government victory at Bothwell Bridge effectively signalled the end of the Covenanters' military activities.

Inventory Boundary

The Inventory boundary defines the area in which the main events of the battle are considered to have taken place (landscape context) and where associated physical remains and archaeological evidence occur or may be expected (specific qualities). The landscape context is described under battlefield landscape: it encompasses areas of fighting, key movements of troops across the landscape and other important locations, such as the positions of camps or vantage points. Although the landscape has changed since the time of the battle, key characteristics of the terrain at the time of the battle can normally still be identified, enabling events to be more fully understood and interpreted in their landscape context. Specific qualities are described under physical remains and potential: these include landscape features that played a significant role in the battle, other physical remains, such as enclosures or built structures, and areas of known or potential archaeological evidence.

The Inventory boundary for the Battle of Bothwell Bridge is defined on the accompanying map and includes the following areas:

  • Land to the north of Bothwell Bridge. The direction of the advance of the Government troops and their initial deployment to assault and cross the bridge.
  • The south bank of the river at the bridge. The position of the Covenanter troops defending the bridge and the advancing Government army.
  • The high ground on the south and south-east of the bridge. The position of the remaining Covenanter army and the probable route of the Covenanter's rout.
  • The terrain of the river crossing and the views out from the higher ground on the north and south of the river. The views out to the river from both the initial Government position and from the Covenanters stronghold are key to understanding the manoeuvres of both armies and the outcome of the battle.

Historical Background

On the morning of the battle, a Covenanter army of about 4,000, led by Sir Robert Hamilton, gathered on the south bank of the River Clyde. The Duke of Monmouth had left Edinburgh four days before at the head of 5,000 Government troops. As they reached the river, they realised that the bridge at Bothwell was held against them by the Covenanters, who were drawn up on the higher ground to the south of the river. Monmouth seems not to have wanted a bloodbath and initially tried to negotiate the surrender of the Covenanter army, but they refused the terms offered. With a fight now inevitable, the Government troops had the prospect of having to take the bridge and establish a bridgehead on the other bank. A small detachment of 300 Covenanters with a single cannon held the bridge against them. The main bulk of the Covenanter army was deployed on the slopes above the bridge to the south, posing a major threat to any crossing.

The Covenanter defenders put up a tremendous fight. Their musketry kept the Government dragoons from taking the bridge, while their single cannon was so effective that it caused the Government gunners to abandon their guns temporarily. However, the defenders received no assistance from the main army: as they began to run low on ball and powder, they asked for supplies but were refused as none could be spared. After holding the bridge for a period of between one and three hours, the remaining defenders retreated in the face of a dragoon charge, and the bridge was taken by the Government.

Having forced the bridge, the Government army crossed the river unmolested and were able to form up without an attempted counter-attack by the Covenanters. In failing to commit his main force at this juncture, Hamilton allowed the enemy to redeploy on the south bank of the river. Hamilton's reasons for inaction have never been clear; it may have been incompetence, or it may have been because the Covenanter army was riven with factionalism and virtually impossible to control. The effect of this inaction negated all of the tactical advantages that the Covenanters had, letting the Government army get into a position where the outcome was inevitable.

The Covenanter cavalry tried to break the Government line, but were forced back repeatedly until they ran into their own infantry, causing them to break and run. As the lines broke up, a rout began; the Covenanter sources suggest that the officers were the first to abandon the field, leaving their men to their fate. Monmouth gave orders for quarter for the Covenanters, but Claverhouse seems to have taken revenge for his defeat at Drumclog and 400 men were killed in the rout. Roughly 1,200 were taken prisoner and marched to Edinburgh, where they were held prisoner at Greyfriars Kirk.

The Armies

Covenanter: The Covenanter army was c.6,000 (4,000 foot and 2,000 horse). However, while they may have had superior numbers, the Covenanter force was not a cohesive unit. In part, this was because of a lack of military training and experience, but it was also because of a failure among the high command to agree on a common manifesto. Faction disagreements were a continuing problem, largely between John Webb's moderates, who were willing to make an accommodation with the king, and Hamilton's extremists, who saw open rebellion and deposition of the king as the only answer to an ungodly monarchy. This division was to deny the Covenanters any chance of success at Bothwell Bridge. Despite a surge of recruits in the immediate aftermath of Drumclog, large numbers soon began to melt away as discontent set in and the likelihood of an all-out encounter with a large Government force seemed likely.

Government: The Government army numbered around 5,000 men. It is easy to overestimate the potency of the Government army, in comparison to what was effectively an entirely untrained force of armed civilians. However, the majority of the Government force at the battle was made up from militias raised in Fife and Lothian. Although Monmouth was commissioned by the king to raise two new regiments of foot, 800 dragoons and three troops of grenadiers, this was easier said than done. Although these quotas were not reached, the Government army did benefit from a cadre of well-experienced officers, particularly among the horse, with the likes of Major Theophilus Ogelthorpe, Major Edmund Maine and Captain Henry Cornewell, adding to those already in the field under Dundee, Home and Airlie. No more than four cannon could be found, and these were manned by skeleton crews with little experience. The use of Highland troops in the form of the Atholl Highlanders was to presage the involvement of clans in the later Jacobite rising (1689), which once again saw Catholics and Episcopalians (Jacobites) pitted against Presbyterians.


No further information.


The vast majority of casualties were incurred on the Covenanter side, though claims that as few as half a dozen Government troops were killed seem a little unlikely. One of the eyewitness accounts claims that no more than ten Covenanters were killed on the field (Ure 1923), the remainder of the usually quoted 400 fatalities being incurred in the bloody rout. Around 1,200 Covenanter's were taken prisoner, and many of them were initially held in Greyfriar's churchyard in Edinburgh.


On 22 June Monmouth made one last attempt to disperse the Covenanter army without bloodshed by calling a parley. However his terms of unconditional surrender were unacceptable to the Covenanter command and battle declared. When the fight for the possession of the bridge began, it was between the entire Government army and a very small body of the Covenanter rebels who did what they could. According to some accounts the rest of the Covenanter army continued their factional squabbles ' though one account notes that they were disposed in 11 units.

The tenacity of the Covenanters on the bridge and along the river bank was to make the Government advance extremely difficult, and for between one and three hours, (depending on the account) they fought off assaults by infantry and dragoons and at one point even used their musket and cannon fire to push the Government gunners away from their artillery pieces.

Despite these set-backs for the Government force, the Covenanters failed to capitalise on their position; this was partially because of the difficulties inherent in having taken up a defensive position behind barricades. The Covenanter force on the bridge and along the river bank beside it (which was effectively a forlorn hope left to conquer or die) eventually began to run out of ammunition. Despite their pleas, they remained unprovisioned. According to one account, a barrel of raisins was delivered; this may have been a mistake, but some thought it treachery inspired by the factional divisions.

With the barricades broken down, and with the dragoons, several hundred foot and the artillery providing cover in the vanguard, the entire body of the Government army made the crossing quite unopposed ' and any chance of Hamilton emulating William Wallace's success in 1297 at the battle of Stirling Bridge was lost. Despite desperate attempts by Hamilton and certain of his officers to deploy their forces, who were loitering on the high ground overlooking the river, Monmouth was given plenty of time to deploy his army in line on the south bank of the river. Although he appears to have had superiority in numbers, Monmouth's right was vulnerable, and so he placed the Atholl Highlanders and five troops of English dragoons in a hollow. This may have been the small valley through which the Park burn still flows into the river, although today the final stretch of its journey is made through a culvert underneath the A725.

There is a vivid account by Thomas Brownlee, Laird of Torfoot of the last attempt to defend the bridge. He was a Covenanter dragoon commander, and took part in the desperate attempt by those who had originally defended the bridge to break the Government line as it made the crossing

'Torfoot,' cried Nesbit, 'I dare you to the forefront of the battle.' We rushed at full gallop. Our men seeing this, followed also at full speed. ' We broke the enemy's line, bearing down those files we encountered. We cut our way through their ranks. But they had now lengthened their front. Superior numbers drove us in. They had gained entire possession of the bridge. Livingston and Dalzell (infantry) were actually taking us in the flank ' A band had got between us and Burley's infantry. My friends,' said Hackston to his officers, 'we are the last to leave the field. We can do no more. ' We must retreat.'

Despite fierce attempts by the likes of Ure, Hackston and the rebel cavalry to turn back the Government line as it shook itself out after crossing the bridge, the tide began to turn overwhelmingly in favour of the Government. The cannon were placed in the centre of the line and opened fire with devastating effect. The rebel horse broke and fell back on the infantry, as Ure notes, trying to get away through a gap between the units. The whole army then turned to rout and Brownlee states that it was 'no longer a battle, but a massacre.' Some accounts state that Hamilton, the rebel commander, took no part in the fight, whereas Brownlee has him fighting desperately on foot, and at one point broke away from the melee covered in blood to instruct Brownlee to save the colours, which he did by wrapping them round his body. It is difficult to know how much of this is exaggeration, containing as it does every cliché of the heroic last stand, but given that this appears to be the only relatively detailed account it cannot be disregarded out of hand.

Although commentators are in agreement that Claverhouse seems to have gone on a killing spree in revenge for his defeat at Drumclog, Monmouth appears to have called for quarter. This was not heeded and in the ensuing flight, some 400 Covenanters are reported to have been killed, with around 1,200 captured.

Aftermath & Consequences

The defeat of the rebel force was to bring the last and most serious Covenanter rebellion to an end. The Killing Times were, however, to leave a legacy which would impact widely across the British Isles. Indeed, this battle was an introduction to many of the figures who were to have major roles in subsequent conflicts. Monmouth's presence in Scotland brought him into contact with a group of staunch Protestant supporters who would support him in the Monmouth rebellion of 1685 in his vain attempt to overthrow his uncle, James VII & II, who they feared would re-introduce Catholicism. The Scottish part of the rebellion was to be led by Argyll but was to stall almost immediately, while Monmouth suffered a resounding defeat at the battle of Sedgemoor, where his rebel army was ironically to face, among others, Oglethorpe's dragoons. Both Monmouth and Argyll were subsequently executed.

The Covenanter insurgency was also to set in stone a series of allegiances and grievances which would play themselves out in the Jacobite risings that from 1689 would plague Scotland for over half a century. Many of those loyal to the crown and Government of the time would join the Jacobites, and indeed John Graham of Claverhouse, 'Bonnie Dundee' to his friends but 'Bloody Clavers' to his enemies for his actions against the Covenanters, would lead the first Jacobite rising (he was killed at the battle of Killiecrankie in 1689). Former Covenanters, however, were generally supporters of the Crown, which in 1714 passed to the Hanoverian dynasty, and seek revenge for their treatment during the 'Killing Times'. Notable here was the group of Covenanters named for their martyred leader Richard Cameron, the Cameronians. In the Battle of Dunkeld that followed Killiecrankie, the stubborn defence of the Cameronians kept the Jacobites at bay and forced them to retreat.

Events & Participants

The battle was the culmination of a prolonged period of Covenanter conflict in Scotland, brought about when the restored monarchy of Charles II attempted to roll back the control of Scotland by Presbyterianism, which included attempts to impose episcopacy (the governing of the Church by a hierarchy of bishops) on the nation. The origins of this conflict went back to the signing of the National Covenant in 1638 in response to attempts by Charles I to impose his will on the Scottish church through, among other things, episcopacy and the enforced introduction of the Book of Common Prayer. Charles II's attempts to impose an episcopal structure on the church caused many Presbyterians to return to opposing royal government, with both moderates and radicals united in opposition. One manifestation of this was the holding of conventicles (a mixture of a religious meeting and a political rally, held in the open air) that appeared to be revolutionary in character. Despite an initial low level response to these by the Crown, in the 1670s there was a campaign to end conventicles and force Presbyterians to attend Episcopal services. This policy was implemented by military commanders such as John Graham of Claverhouse, who earned the epithet of Bloody Clavers.

The suppression of the conventicles increased the tensions in Lowland Scotland, with matters coming to crisis point in 1679. On 1 June 1679, an attempt by Claverhouse to suppress a conventicle resulted in the Battle of Drumclog, where the Government dragoons were routed by a large body of Covenanters. This success was taken as a sign of divine favour and within days, the Covenanters had an army of 7,000 near Hamilton having already conducted an assault on Glasgow. In response, the Duke of Monmouth marched from Edinburgh on 18 June with 5,000 men to confront them.

The most famous participants were on the Government side. The commander of the Government army was the Duke of Monmouth, the eldest of Charles II's illegitimate sons. He had become the senior officer in the British army on the death of George Monck in 1670, and had commanded troops in the Third Anglo-Dutch war against the Dutch, and in the Franco-Dutch War against the French on the side of the Dutch. He was given the task of putting down the Covenanter rising on his return to Britain, and with his success he far outshone his uncle James, who was to become James VII & II. This was particularly because he was Protestant, unlike his uncle, and this same factor may explain his apparent lenient attitude towards the Covenanters that led him to attempt to negotiate their surrender and issue orders to give them quarter. He went on to oppose his uncle in 1685, when he raised an army in rebellion on his own account. However, he was no more successful than the Covenanters and, after his defeat at Sedgemoor in Somerset and subsequent capture, he was beheaded on 15 July 1685.

John Graham, Earl of Claverhouse and Viscount Dundee, commonly known now as Bonnie Dundee, was an experienced soldier with a history of fighting for the Crown. He had led the suppression of the conventicles in south-west Scotland for Charles II with particular zeal. He had been defeated by a Covenanter force at Drumclog, nearly being killed during the engagement, before being involved in the subsequent Government victory at Bothwell Bridge on 22 June 1679. His actions against them earned him the lasting hatred of the Covenanters, who nicknamed him as 'Bluidy Clavers', while his Highland allies knew him as 'Black John of the Battles'. He was one of the first of the Scottish nobility to reject the ascendancy of William and Mary, and had been declared a traitor even before William and Mary accepted the throne of Scotland on 11 April 1689. Graham raised the standard for James at Dundee Law in early 1689, before embarking into the Highlands to build support for the cause, all the while evading General Mackay's pursuing army. Killiecrankie was Graham's first and last battle for the Jacobite cause, as he was fatally wounded by gunfire during the charge. Sources differ on whether he died on the field or of his wounds a short while later, but without his leadership the Jacobite cause in Scotland was irrevocably weakened.


Scotland's history in the 17th century was very different from that of England. The struggle over religion, which was a struggle for political control, began earlier in Scotland with the Bishops' Wars in 1638 and 1640, and continued through the upheavals of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms (1641-53), to the Jacobite risings that ran from 1689 into the middle of the 18th century. The Covenanter movement was one part of this long civil war, beginning in the period of the Bishops' Wars and ending in the reign of James II at the battle of Bothwell Bridge.

The Covenanters were those who supported the position that any changes in the Government of church or state could only take place after the approval of free Parliaments and General Assemblies of the church. In 1638, this was a compromise position that united moderates and radicals against the intransigence of Charles I in his attempts to impose the Book of Common Prayer on the Scottish Church. The subtext to the whole situation was that Charles and the Royalist cause stood for royalist absolutism and the Divine Right of Kings to rule; the Covenant stood for limitations through elected bodies on the power of the crown. These positions were irreconcilable and led to war, which continued after the execution of Charles and the coronation of his son, Charles II, who unsuccessfully tried to claim the throne in 1650 from Scotland. His first attempt at restoration failed at the battle of Worcester in 1651.

The victory at Worcester, which ended the fighting of the Second English Civil War, brought a temporary end to the fighting in Scotland. The effect was to increase the tensions within the Covenanter movement, as moderates and radicals found that with no common enemy, the factions now began to fall upon each other. This factionalism had been a longstanding problem and had undermined Leslie's army at the battle of Dunbar in 1650 (where those of insufficiently moral character were sent away; unfortunately, that included many of the most experienced troops). This was worsened by the Restoration in 1660, when Charles II was invited back to the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland. In the course of the Restoration, many scores were settled, and Royalists took a harsh revenge on their Presbyterian enemies.

The Restoration was initially accepted, at least grudgingly by all but the more radical elements of the Covenanters. Various individuals that had been particularly prominent in pressing the radical position were executed, but that would have been relatively unproblematic had matters rested. However, the forces of reaction were not content and they pushed for a reversal of all that had changed since the 1630s; in particular, ministers were required to accept the imposition of episcopacy or be excommunicated. This was enough to bring supporters of the Covenant back out to conventicles (a combination of religious meeting and political rally), and there was an initial incident in 1666 with the battle of Rullion Green, when a group of Lanarkshire men were intercepted by dragoons while marching on Edinburgh and routed. The Scottish royalist Government varied between leniency (such as the Indulgence of 1669, which allowed ministers to return to the church without having to swear loyalty to the Episcopal system) and repression. However, as the conventicles spread in popularity, repression became the more frequent, and Government troops attacked the conventicles with lethal force.

The skirmish at Drumclog on 1 June 1679 was one such attempted suppression of a conventicle. A small mounted Government force under Claverhouse was routed by a much larger body of Covenanters, partly as a result of Claverhouse's mistakes. The event was to inspire a dramatic upsurge in the number of people willing to take up arms for the Covenanting cause, being seen by many as a mark of divine favour. It also convinced the Government that it had a major rebellion on its hands, especially after the Covenanters went on to assault Glasgow. Lord Linlithgow, commander-in-chief of the king's forces in Scotland, raised a militia army in Edinburgh. By the middle of June, no fewer than 7,000 rebels were gathered on Hamilton Muir on the south side of the Clyde in the vicinity of Bothwell Bridge. However, the new army was riven with disagreement and spent more time debating the finer points of Presbyterian dogma than readying themselves for battle ' and in any case a large faction of the force were of a more moderate disposition and did not believe that fighting was an appropriate response to their situation. For many, the initial enthusiasm was not to survive the offer of clemency upon surrender of the cause offered by the Duke of Monmouth, who had been sent north by the King to bolster the resolve of the ineffectual Lord Linlithgow. On his arrival in Edinburgh on 18 June, Monmouth took command of a small force of regular troops bolstered by militia, which in total gave him a force of some 5,000 men.

On 20 June, Monmouth's force engaged and routed a rebel outpost, but despite this and the arrival of Covenanter reinforcements at Bothwell on the same day, Hamilton was still unwilling, or unable, to muster his army into anything resembling a fighting force. Imminent crisis was signalled by the arrival of the Government army on the north side of the river at the opposite end of the bridge. In response, a small detachment of rebels under Hackston and Turnbull barricaded the bridge and stationed their 300 men on and around the bridge house on the south side of the river. The bridge was also covered by a single piece of brass ordnance, the only piece of artillery possessed by the Covenanters on the field (though Brownlee refers to a 'little battery of cannon', which may imply more than one gun). Musketeers were also positioned along the river bank, from where they would effectively prevent any attempt to cross the river away from the bridge.

Battlefield Landscape

The general location of the battlefield is well understood through eyewitness and secondary accounts especially from Covenanter sources. These do not however give detailed information on the historic terrain and its character.

Prior to the battle, the Covenanter army is reported to have assembled on Hamilton Muir, while the government army camped on Bothwell Muir on the north side of the river.

Much of the main action is securely located as the initial phase centred on the bridge itself, while the final action took place immediately to the south of the bridge on the slope which rises up from the river bank. Roy's map of the 1750s shows the ground on both sides of the river close to the bridge as unenclosed ploughed fields. The north side of the bridge was fed by two roads, one to the left side of the bridge heading north-west and the other to the right heading north-east. The ground was generally open, with little settlement beyond the village of Bothwell. From the south, the bridge was approached by two roads: the Hamilton road running due north with a second road ran in from the west, joining the former close to the southern end of the bridge. On the south side of the Clyde the land was again generally open fields but with some enclosure. Roy's map gives little suggestion of the moorland noted on both sides of the river in the primary sources.

On the north side of the river, the Government army may have initially deployed on a spur of high land overlooking the bridge. Similar high ground on the south side appears to have been the location of the Covenanter troops.

Both the Covenanters and the Government army, once it had crossed the bridge, would have been restricted by the Whistleberry burn, which debouches into the river to the west of the bridge on the south bank. Several accounts mention a 'hollow ground' as the position of the Atholl Highlanders and the dragoons on the Government right. These troops may well have been located in the steep ravine of the burn.

The battle was fought on the banks of the River Clyde. The sloping ground of the river valley rises up from the water on both the north and south sides to higher, more level ground. The topography of the river valley and its hinterland played a key role in the manoeuvres of the armies and although there has been considerable development across these areas with the residential suburbs of Bothwell now extending almost to the river bank to the north of the bridge, the overall character of the battlefield has survived well. Important landscape features including the steeply sloping banks to the north and south of the bridge have remained essentially unchanged. The spatial relationship between surviving elements of the battlefield landscape such as the river crossing and the positions of the Covenanters on the high ground to the south and the Government troops to the north overlooking the bridge survive well and their movements can still be easily read and understood.

The north side of the defined area has seen extensive development with the spread of Bothwell. However pockets of undeveloped land survive, including the Covenanter's Field, and these have high potential for in-situ remains associated with the battle. The south side of the river is less developed, with areas of woodland and open ground surviving within an industrial landscape. It is possible that the river may have changed course a little, as General Roy's map shows the bend to the east of the bridge being sharper than it is today, but this could simply be a reflection of the limitations of 18th century mapping.


The action is accurately located as the initial phase centred around the bridge itself, while the final action took place immediately to the south of the bridge, on the slope which rises up from the river bank.

As previously mentioned one of the very few areas of the battlefield to have survived modern development is the so-called Covenanter's field, which probably corresponds to the centre or centre-right of the Government line. The extent to which both banks of the river have been subject to change since the battle is uncertain, though the southern side has obviously been affected by the construction of the A725. The residential suburbs of Bothwell now extend almost to the river bank to the west of the bridge, while an area of woodland survives to the east as part of Strathclyde Country Park. General Roy's map provides little evidence for change in the course of the river, although he does show the bend to the east of the bridge being sharper than it is today, but this may simply be a reflection of the limitations of eighteenth century mapping.


Roy's map of the 1750s shows the ground on both sides of the river in close proximity of the bridge as given over to arable agriculture with unenclosed ploughed fields. The north side of the bridge gives way to two roads, one of which forks to the left and the north-west and the other to the right and the north-east. Trees appear to fringe the north bank of the river here, but whether this was the case at the time of the battle is uncertain. The ground is generally open, with little in the way of settlement outside of the village of Bothwell to the north of the bridge. From the south, the bridge was approached by two roads ' one aligned directly north-south, the Hamilton road, and the other coming in from the west and joining the former close to the end of the bridge. Again, the land around these roads is generally open fields but there is some enclosure beginning to take hold. There is little suggestion of the moorland noted on both sides of the river in the contemporary accounts of the battle.

Brownlee's account has the rebels positioned on the high ground from where

'Hamilton was labouring to bring down the different positions of our main body into action.'

This position is also noted by Aiton in 1821 when he described the rebels positioned on the brow of the brae near the bridge. Initial Government deployment is likely to have taken place on similar terrain on the opposite side of the river, where the ground drops down from a spur toward the bridge. At the time of the battle, both of these areas seem to have been a little less ordered than when Roy's maps were prepared around 70 years later. The Covenanter army is reported to have assembled on Hamilton Muir, while the Government army camped on Bothwell Muir. However, the parkland landscape suggested on Roy's map on the south side of the river and associated with Hamilton Palace may already have been in place by the time of the battle, as some accounts refer to Little Park.

By the time of the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map, published in 1864, the road pattern is pretty much the same as today, although a third road comes off the bridge to the north and travels northward between the two forks shown on Roy's map. The area between and around these roads has been enclosed around small farms and the bridge is marked as the site of the battle.

Roy's map gives a good idea of how the rest of the landscape has changed in the intervening years. The area occupied by the Government force on the north side is clearly shown as a spur of high ground, which is still apparent today in the gradients of the roads and indeed in the slope in the Covenanter's Field. Likewise, the ground on the south side, occupied by the Covenanters, rises up sharply from the river; it is apparent that the modern A725 follows the course of a much older road, which may well have provided a line along which the Government force could readily deploy once crossing the bridge.

Similarly, the Hamilton road, along which the Covenanter's advanced to the bridge and retreated during the rout, follows the same route today as shown on Roy's map. The land either side of the road has been taken up by a water treatment works and various light industrial/retail units. There is potential for pockets of ground surviving undisturbed on both sides of the road. The most obvious of these is the area of open ground directly through the old estate gates which today serve as the entrance for the water treatment works. That the estate was taking shape as early as the time of Roy's map is evident from the avenues of trees to the east side of the road.

The ground closest to the bridge on both sides of the river is shown on Roy's map as open, arable ground. A north-south running ravine which carries a burn into the river runs parallel with the Hamilton Road on the south side. This is likely to have had a major influence on the deployment of both armies, and probably represented the western extent of their positions, Government right and Covenanter left, though it is recorded that part of the Government right was positioned in a hollow, which is likely to be this feature. On the east side of the Hamilton road the ground slopes fairly steeply down to the flood plain of the river, and this is likely to have placed a limit on deployment, especially by the Covenanters who deliberately occupied the high ground in the immediate vicinity of the bridge. This position placed them at a distinct advantage over the Government troops who would have no option but to deploy at the bottom of the slope, but only once they had all passed through the bottleneck of the bridge.

The accounts give relatively little further information, though two points are of note. Ure's account makes mention of a hollow burn, in which he placed his men in ambush on the left flank of the Covenanter position. Once again, it seems likely that he is talking about the ravine carrying the burn here and the strengthening of the Government right may have been in response to this.


Today, Bothwell has extended right up to the river bank with the bridge giving direct access to the town. Small pockets of open ground survive on the rebel side of the bridge.

On the south side of the bridge there has been considerable development in the form of a sewage works. Industrial units fringe both sides of the north-south road and the outskirts of Hamilton approach the Clyde to the west. The area around the burn is still undeveloped and today is known as the Back Muir Plantation and there may be some potential for archaeology here.

The bridge is a category A listed building and the Covenanter monument is listed at category B.

Archaeological & Physical Remains and Potential

An archaeological evaluation and metal detecting survey was undertaken in 2006 in advance of a proposed housing scheme within a field 50m from the north end of Bothwell Bridge known as the Covenanter's Field. A number of musket balls were recovered which may represent bullets fired at the Government army as they took up position on the high ground against the Covenanters stationed on the bridge. However, the evaluation was limited in scope and there may be further munitions and other artefacts relating to the battle within this field.

Although the bridge is generally considered to have been widened and modified in the 19th century, it seems likely that the present bridge is the result of a demolition of the former structure and a rebuild from scratch. There is certainly no obvious evidence of older elements surviving within the present structure. Some evidence for the earlier structure can be seen in the form of heavily worn sandstone blocks sitting beneath the footing of the present bridge, particularly on the Bothwell side of the river. This does, however, suggest that the bridge was at some point demolished and entirely rebuilt. This is further suggested by old illustrations of the bridge that depict it at the time of the battle; not only does it have a gateway sitting on it, but the structure has a pronounced humped back, whereas the modern bridge sits horizontally.

Rebel deployments, and those of the Government army once it had crossed bridge, would have been restricted by the Whistleberry burn, which debouches into the river to west of the bridge. The Government army may have deployed along the east-west running road which is fringed by open agricultural land to the south. The hollow ground referred to as the position of the Atholl Highlanders and the dragoons on the Government right may be the land which drops down toward the burn.

Extensive ground on both the north and south side of the river has been lost to development, but there are still areas that are relatively open and could preserve physical traces of the battle. The primary sources suggest that the loss of life on the battlefield was relatively small, with most of the fatalities occurring during the rout. This reduces the likelihood of human remains in the near vicinity of the bridge, but suggests that there may be burials further to the south on the line of the rout.

Cultural Association

An obelisk monument dedicated to the Covenanter role in the battle was erected close to the south end of the bridge in 1903. A number of ballads were written about the battle shortly after it took place and Sir Walter Scott included the battle and the events leading up to it in his novel Old Mortality.

The site of the battle was used as a place of commemorational worship and social gathering well into the 20th century, and a photograph taken in 1946 shows a large crowd of people, many of them young army cadets, gathered together in the field to the north of the bridge. The period of Covenanter conflict is still firmly lodged in the public consciousness and the battle remains a significant historical event in Scotland.

Commemoration & Interpretation

The site has long been an important focus for the commemoration of the battle, which is today regarded by some as the Covenanters' Culloden: it was the last battle of the struggle and saw a resounding defeat delivered by the Government.

An obelisk monument was raised by the Covenanter Association in 1903. The most important memorial however is probably the field to the north of the bridge, which according to recent archaeological work appears to represent at least one location for the advancing Government army. The Covenanters' Field, as it is known, was owned by The Battle of Bothwell Bridge Commemoration Service Committee until the 1980s when, due to lack of funding, it was given to the local authority to be held for safekeeping and protection. A photograph from 1946 shows a very large crowd in the field and gives some idea of the long standing importance of this location as a site of commemoration.



Brownlee, T & Brownlee, W C 1822 Narrative of the battles of Drumclog and Bothwell Bridge: the former fought on the 1st and the latter on the 22nd of June, 1679 between the King's troops and the Covenanters. Andrew Young, Glasgow.

Brownlee, W C & Duncan, W 1823 A Narrative of the Battles of Drumclog and Bothwell Bridge : fought between the armies of King Charles the Second and the Covenanters, the one on the 1st, and the other on the 22nd of June, A.D. 1679. William Duncan, Edinburgh.

Information on Sources & Publication

Despite the plethora of documents relating to the Covenanter period, there are very few eyewitness accounts of the battle that provide any useful information on its character and location; however, those that do exist provide reasonably accurate descriptions of the bridge and the relationship of the opposing armies on both sides of the river. The fullest of these accounts are those by Thomas Brownlee, Laird of Torfoot, who was a Covenanter cavalry commander and involved in the thickest of the fighting in the battle's early stages and James Ure, of Shargarton, who was a Covenanter infantry commander. The two accounts paint quite different pictures of the battle and are perhaps symptomatic of the differences of opinion which were to hamstring the Covenanter cause. Brownlee's account was first published in pro-Covenanting circles in the USA in the early 19th century (it was to prove very popular in Scotland in the 1820s, where among other things it was published as a cheap book). It is a rather flattering self portrait, full of daring-do and close shaves. He was obviously a supporter of Hamilton and paints him in the thick of the fighting.

Ure, on the other hand, paints a slightly less colourful picture, and though again shown to be in the thick of things, seems to have been aware that his account would not go down well with some of his erstwhile comrades-in-arms. His account is possibly more useful in understanding the battle, as he describes more of what he saw generally rather than concentrating on the detail of his personal experience to the same degree as Brownlee. He claims never to have laid eyes on Hamilton throughout the entire battle, the implication being that he played no part in it, and is quite critical of the behaviour of the officers as a whole, which has drawn criticism of his accounts from the pro-Hamilton faction (for instance, in a footnote to his comment about the shameful retreat of the Covenanter horse, which broke the infantry behind them, the editor criticises him for not recording that Hamilton was quick to admonish those involved).

Numerous secondary works include accounts of the battle, though there is some considerable variation as to the events described and the majority of these are very poorly referenced. No contemporary maps of the battle are known to exist. There is however a possible contemporary drawing of the battle which may be by the Dutch artist Jan Wyck (incidentally, one of his pupils was John Wootton, who was later to paint the battle of Sheriffmuir, fought in 1715). The drawing, which is reproduced in Aiton's 1821 account of the battle, shows a perspective landscape with the river running through the centre and the bridge, with its gate, occupying the centre. The Covenanters are shown on the right hand side deployed in ten blocks, one of which appears to be men lying down. This contrasts with a number of secondary accounts that refer to eleven blocks (in fact, the Government army on the other side of the river are shown to be arrayed in eleven blocks). Troops are also shown fighting on the bridge, while Covenanter musketeers are shown firing from behind a court yard wall running along the river bank. The yard is attached to a cluster of houses, which suggests a settlement on that side of the river (although there is only one building shown on Roy's much later map). Wyck may be confusing the location of Bothwell and indeed the single building on the Government side of the river is more in keeping with the probable situation on the Covenanter bank. This apparent confusion suggests that his painting was somewhat removed by time and perhaps even by space to the event and so perhaps should not be regarded as an accurate portrait of the battle, though details such as the men lying down are interesting and may be based on personal accounts by eye witnesses.

Primary Sources

No further information.

Cartographic & Illustrative Sources

Roy's map c. 1750 ' shows open nature of battlefield with agricultural fields on north side of Bridge.

Secondary Sources

Anon 1780 The Life and Transactions of James Sharp, Arch Bishop of St Andrews : giving a particular account of his betraying the Church of Scotland, and other acts of perjury and cruelty during his life. Printing House West Bow, Edinburgh.

Aiton, W 1821 A history of the rencounter at Drumclog: and battle at Bothwell Bridge, in the month of June, 1679, with an account of what is correct, and what is fictitious in the 'Tales of my Landlord', and reflections on political subjects. W D Borthwick and Co, Hamilton.

Bothwell Bridge Memorial Committee 1903 The Scottish covenanters, civil and religious freedom : speeches at the unveiling of the National Memorial, Bothwell Bridge, June 20, 1903, by Lord Overtoun of Overtoun, the two hundred and twenty-fourth anniversary of the battle. Bothwell Bridge Memorial Committee, Bothwell.

Brownlee, T & Brownlee, W C 1822 Narrative of the battles of Drumclog and Bothwell Bridge : the former fought on the 1st, and the latter on the 22nd of June, 1679 between the King's troops and the Covenanters. Andrew Young, Glasgow.

Brownlee, W C & Duncan, W 1823 A Narrative of the Battles of Drumclog and Bothwell Bridge : fought between the armies of King Charles the Second and the Covenanters, the one on the 1st, and the other on the 22nd of June, A.D. 1679. William Duncan, Edinburgh.

M'Crie, T n d The Bothwell Bridge prisoners, Tracts on the martyrs and Covenanters; no 16 [Glasgow]: W R M'Phun Glasgow.

McNeill, P G B & MacQueen, H L 1996 Atlas of Scottish History to 1707. University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh.

Narrative of the Battles of Drumclog, and Bothwell Bridge.

Veitch, W, Brysson, G, McCrie, T, Spencer, J J, Blackwood, W & Cadell, T. Memoirs of Mr. William Veitch, and George Brysson, written by themselves; with other narratives illustrative of the history of Scotland, from the Restoration to the Revolution. : William Blackwood : T. Cadell Strand, Edinburgh ; London 1825.

About the Inventory of Historic Battlefields

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

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The inventory is a list of Scotland's most important historic battlefields. Battlefields are landscapes over which a battle was fought. We maintain the inventory under the terms of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

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