Denovan is an ancient name: Brythonic in
origin and thereby predating the Gaelic place-names of the district. It
almost certainly would have been in use when the Romans were here. The
locals still pronounce it correctly as Diniven, where Din- .has a short
duration and the emphasis is placed upon -iven, as we should expect in a
Celtic word where the noun usually precedes the adjective. The first element
is din, 'a fort'; the second refers to the Avon Burn which runs on the
western march of Denovan.
Near Denovan is the site of a great Battle
fought between the Picts & the Romans, which after fierce fighting neither
side was victorious. The place became known in Gaelic as 'Diun-na-Bais',
Hill of Death', later into the Parish of Dunipace.
In the medieval
period Denovan with the greater part lying to the north of the burn. The
place-name may well have been applied to a vitrified fort which lies on a
summit within the lands of Braes of Denovan.
Several ancient burials have emerged
during the course of gravel quarrying.
The principal seat of the barony was
Herbertshire Castle, now lost. Denovan was from at least the thirteenth
century held by the Earls of Angus and then, after the Wars of Independence,
by the Douglas family, descendants of Good Sir James Douglas, who died at
the hands of the Saracens while carrying the heart of Bruce to the Holy
The earliest record recovered so far is from 1462 when 'Thomas
Gardner of Denovane' was one of several people named as witnesses in a land
dispute concerning Cambuskenneth Abbey which possessed lands contiguous with
Denovan on its eastern boundary.
A more specific reference comes in 1510
when we find 'Littil and Hekill Dunovane'.
A family associated with
Denovan are the Forresters from 1604 to 1789.
Also of interest is a
charter of 1610 which makes mention of 'Lytill Dynnoven with the mill and
mill lands'. The site of the mill can still be seen.
The people of
Denovan were staunch Royalists and supported Charles II and were 'out with
the Prince' (Bonnie Prince Charlie) in the 1745 uprising.