Thank you to everyone who had a go at guessing what my mystery object was! I’m now going to reveal its identity.
It is, as many of you guessed, a tidal gauge. Marking the water level in feet, it is attached to the wall of the small harbour of North Berwick on Scotland’s east coast. Some of you were very close to getting the location, which is amazing. Well done!
You can see the full length of the gauge in the photos below. The Roman numerals go up to 16 feet, but I photographed it at a very low tide, when it was measuring less than a foot of water.
I don’t know how old the marker is – I’d say less than 100 years, because the rust is deceptive – but the harbour itself is much older. It was built around 1150 as a port for pilgrims making their way to the shrine at St Andrews. Amazingly, the small harbour would have welcomed up to 10,000 pilgrims each year. The Earls of Fife set up a ferry service to transport them from North Berwick across the Firth of Forth to a point in Fife that became known as Earlsferry. From there they would have walked the last 20 or so miles along the pilgrims’ path to St Andrews.
In 1154 Duncan, Fourth Earl of Fife, founded a hospital at North Berwick to care for the sick and the poor. Nearby was a church dedicated to St Andrew, where pilgrims could pray for safe passage. Nothing now remains of the hospital, but the porch of the ancient kirk is still standing. I’ll tell you more in an upcoming feature!
Photos copyright © Jo Woolf
Take a look at these features on The Hazel Tree:
- St Andrew’s – the glorious Cathedral
- The legacy of St Rule (updated feature, with a video from the top of the 100-foot-high St Rule’s Tower!)