Old Scone

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Scone, a parish containing the hamlet of Old Scone and the town of New Scone, in the SE of Perthshire, on the E bank of the river Tay. It consists of a main body and a detached section, the latter lying 5 miles NE of the nearest part of the main body, between the parishes of Cargill and Kettins, to the latter of which it is annexed for ecclesiastical purposes. The area is 717½ acres. The main portion is bounded N and NE by the parish of St Martins, E by the parish of Kilspindie, SE by a detached section of the parish of Kinnoull, S by the parishes of Kinfauns and Kinnoull, and W by the parishes of Perth, Tibbermore, and Redgorton. On the W the boundary line follows the Tay for 4½ miles, and elsewhere it follows the courses of two of the burns for a short distance, but it is mostly artificial. The length, from Colen Wood on the N to the point on the river Tay where the parishes of Kinnoull, Perth, and Scone meet on the S, is 3 7/8 miles; the extreme breadth, from the point on the E where the parishes of St Martins, Kilspindie, and Scone meet, near Blackcraig, to the bend of the Tay at the NW corner of the policies of Scone Palace on the W, is 5 miles; and the area is 7237¼ acres, of which 139½ are water. The surface rises in gentle undulations from the Tay towards the eastern boundary, where it attains an extreme height of over 500 feet. The whole is fertile and well cultivated, and there are numerous belts and clumps of trees. The surface of the detached portion immediately SE of Burrelton has been practically noticed under Kettins. The prevailing rocks are basalts and sandstones, both of which are quarried. Along the W side near the Tay is a strong rich clay, elsewhere the soil varies from good deep black loam to a light sandy gravel. The drainage is carried off by the Tay and some small burns flowing into it. Of these the chief are one in the N at Stormontfield, one flowing from Muirward Wood farther S, two flowing through the policies of Scone Palace, and one to the S of New Scone, flowing through the Den of Scone. The principal antiquities are two stone circles, each about 21 feet in diameter, in the SE of the parish-one to the WNW of the town of New Scone, and the other about 1 mile to the NE near Shianbank; a cairn in the N near Barclayhill House; traces of a reach of Roman road which, coming from Ardoch, crossed the Tay at Derders Ford, W of the palace of Scone, and passed in a straight line N by E till it left the parish near Colen; remains of a Roman camp on this road, N of the Palace policies; and the site of an old fortification called Gold Castle in the NW of the Palace policies. The old palace and the Mote Hill * are subsequently noticed. The great Earl of Mansfield (1705-93), being one of the Stormont family, was connected with the parish though born at Perth, and Scone was itself the birthplace of David Douglas (1799-1834) the traveller and botanist. The parish is traversed by the roads from Perth to Blairgowrie, Coupar-Angus, and Newtyle. Scone contains the hamlet of Old Scone, the town of New Scone, the village of Stormontfield, and a small part of the burgh of Perth. Stormontfield is separately noticed, and the two Scones are described afterwards in this article. The chief residences are Scone Palace and Bonhard House, the latter the seat of Alexander Macduff, Esq. The Earl of Mansfield is the principal landowner; and 3 others hold each an annual-value of £500 or upwards, 5 hold each between £500 and £100, and there are a considerable number of smaller amount.

* Called also the Bote Hill; the Gaelic name is Tom-a-mhoid, ` the hill where justice is administered.`

The parish is in the presbytery of Perth and the synod of Perth and Stirling; and the living is worth £450 a year. The churches are noticed under the town. Under the school board the New Scone and Stormontfield schools, with respective accommodation for 311 and 59 pupils, had (1884) an average attendance

of 225 and 29, and grants of £218, 12s. 6d. and £36, 2s Valuation (1860) £12, 329, 6s. 9d., (1885) £14, 414, 3s. 6d. Pop. (1801) 1670, (1831) 2268, (1861) 2199, (1871) 2240, (1881) 2347, of whom 1125 were males and 1222 females, and 864 were in the landward part of the parish. Houses (1881) in landward part 161 inhabited, and 7 uninhabited.—Ord. Sur., sh. 48, 1868.

The town of New Scone is near the centre of the southern part of the parish, on the road from Perth to Blairgowrie, 2 miles NE of Perth. Occupying a fine airy position well sheltered on the E, it dates from the beginning of the present century, and its houses are mostly neat substantial buildings. There is a post office under Perth, with money order and savings' bank departments, a public hall and reading-room, a public school, and Established, Free, and U.P. churches. The public hall is a Romanesque building, erected in 1879-80 at the junction of Albert and Coupar-Angus roads, and the hall has accommodation for 400 persons. The school, Elizabethan in style, was opened in March 1876. The parish church, erected in 1804, and enlarged in 1834, has 638 sittings. The U.P. church, built in 1810, has 560 sittings. The Free church is small. Pop. of town (1841) 1364, (1861) 1403, (1871) 1477, (1881) 1483, of whom 692 were males and 791 females. Houses (1881) 324 inhabited, 20 uninhabited, and 4 being built.

The hamlet of Old Scone, 11/8 mile to the WNW, may be said to have practically disappeared, but the site is interesting, from its connection with old Scottish history. In the early part of the 8th century we find Scone appearing as the capital of Pictavia, one of the four kingdoms into which the modern Scotland was then divided. Occupying a position between the two divisions of the Northern and Southern Picts, it seems to have become naturally the central point of the Pictish government, and in 710 it seems to have been here, at the Mote or Bote Hill that Naitan, King of the Picts, publicly ` renounced the error by which he and his nation had till then held, in relation to the observance of Easter, and submitted, together with his people, to celebrate the Catholic time of our Lord's resurrection,' and it was probably from this that the mound acquired its name of Caislen Credi or Castle of Belief. This change in the date of the keeping of Easter led to the expulsion of the Columban missionaries who had exercised ecclesiastical sway within the Pictish territories for over a century, and so caused the quarrel between the Picts and Dalriadic Scots that afterwards, in 844, led to the union of Dalriada and Pictavia under Kenneth Mac Alpin. Under Kenneth it remained the capital of the kingdom, and appears too as the place of keeping of the famous Stone of Destiny, which is traditionally said to have been brought by this monarch from Dunstaffnage. This myth represents it as having been the stone which Jacob used as a pillow at Bethel, but which, having passed into the possession of Scota, daughter of Pharaoh, who married Gaythelos, son of the King of Greece, and contemporary with Moses, was by her carried first to Spain, then to Ireland, and ultimately to Dalriadic Scotland, being all this time a sort of talisman for the owners, and held in high reverence as their liafail or stone of destiny, as set forth in the old rhyme-

` Ni fallat fatum, Scoti. quocunque locatum.
Invenient lapidem, regnare tenentur ibidem; `

or, as Bellenden has rendered it-

` The Scottis sall bruke that realme, as natyve ground
(Geif weirdis fayll nocht) quhair evir this Chiar is found.

Wyntoun, in telling the story, says that the stone was brought to Ireland† by Simon Brec, son of the King of Spain, and that it was afterwards by Fergus-Ercson transferred to Iona, and thereafter to Scone; while the Rhyming Chronicle makes Simon Brec the son of Milo, King of Spain, who did not live till more than a thousand years after Pharaoh's time, and all the later chroniclers agree that the stone was finally transferred to Scone by Kenneth Mac Alpin, when he united the Picts and Scots under one sovereignty. Such is the rough tradition, but Dr Skene has shown that for its later more polished forms, and for the identification of the mystic stone with that at Scone, we are indebted to Baldred Bisset, who was one of the commissioners sent to Rome to plead the cause of Scottish independence before the Pope, and who was desirous of thus strengthening his cause. That the stone was looked on as mystical, and held in high reverence, is undoubted, though the reason cannot now be definitely ascertained. Dr Joseph Robertson supposed that it might have been brought from Iona, and was possibly the stone used by Columba as a pillow, but the block is of no rock found in that island, and is indeed a mass of dull reddish or purplish sandstone, with a few imbedded pebbles, and having as much resemblance to the sandstones of the neighbourhood as to any other deposits. Dr Skene thinks that in all probability it was a stone used by St Boniface-an Irish missionary who was concerned in the conversion of Naitan and his people to the Roman method of calculating Easter-as an altar, and hence the veneration; and he points out that a stone on which the kings of Munster were seated when crowned, was believed to be the stone altar used by St Patrick in his service after the conversion of the king of Cashel. There seems to be a difference between both the Scone and Munster stones, and those used in the common Celtic custom of inaugurating kings while they stood on some rock or large stone, for both of the former slabs were movable and were kept in churches. After the kingdom of Scone passed into the kingdom of Alban in A.D.900, Scone still remained the capital, for in 906, when the Mote Hill was the scene of a solemn assembly where King Constantin and Cellach, Bishop of St Andrews, resolved on a union of the Pictish and Scottish Churches, it is spoken of as regalis civitas, and from this time onwards the same hill was frequently the meeting place of rough parliaments. In 1054 a battle was fought in the neighbourhood between the forces of Siward, Earl of Northumbria, and Macbeth. Siward was the uncle of Malcolm Ceannmor, and, anxious to place his nephew on his rightful throne, he ` went with a large army into Scotland, both with a naval force and a land force, and fought against the Scots, of whom he made great slaughter, and put them to flight, and the king escaped. ' The struggle was, however, so keen, and so many of Siward's men were killed, that he had to retire, and Macbeth's rule over Scotia was maintained for other three years. From the reference to a naval force, Siward would seem to have brought ships, which operated along the Tay.

† It is a curious fact that while the Scottish stone was said to have been brought from ireland, the Irish stone of Tara was, according to tradition, brought from Scotland.

After the kingdom of Alban became the kingdom of Scotia, and still later, when Celtic finally passed into feudal Scotland, neither the importance of the place nor of its mystic stone diminished. ` No king, ' says Fordun, ` was ever wont to reign in Scotland unless he had sat upon this stone at Scone; ' and this may possibly have been so, though there is no contemporary evidence of the fact prior to the 12th century, when John of Hexham states that in 1153 * Malcolm IV. was crowned here, and from this time onwards Scone was the regular place of coronation till the begining of the reign of James IV. Subsequent to that time the only king who was crowned at Scone was Charles II. in 1651. Of most of the ceremonies no particulars have been recorded, but of that of Alexander III. a graphic account has been given by Fordun, and of that of Charles a full account is given in a thin quarto printed at Aberdeen in 1651, and reprinted by Dr Gordon in his Monasticon (London, 1875). The last king crowned seated on the mystic stone was Alexander III., as the relic was in 1296 carried off to London by Edward I., who, much given to relic worship, seems to have held it in as high esteem as the Scots themselves, and evidently regarded it as the palladium of Scotland. His first intention was to make for it a magnificent shrine, which was to serve as a coronation chair for the English kings, but this idea was abandoned in favour of that of a chair of bronze, and then of one of wood, which has been used as a coronation chair for all the English and British sovereigns since, and underneath the seat of which the stone still remains. Some doubt was at one time expressed as to whether this stone at Westminster is that formerly at Scone, because in the treaty of Northampton in 1328, it was stipulated that the relic should be given back. Complaint is, however, afterwards made that the stipulation had not been fulfilled, and there cannot be the slightest question as to the identity. The Abbey of Scone stood to the W of Old Scone on the site of the present palace. It was founded by Alexander I. in 1114 for Augustinian monks, whom he brought from the priory of St Oswald at Nastlay, near Pontefract in Yorkshire. The new foundation was dedicated by Alexander and his wife Sibylla to the Virgin, St Michael, St John, St Lawrence, and St Augustine; and it seems to have replaced an older church dating from the time of St Boniface, and dedicated to the Holy Trinity. During the Wars of Independence the monks of Scone were, like so many of the Scottish churchmen, thoroughly opposed to the English claims, and so we find their home destroyed by the English army in 1298, and Edward petitioning the Pope to take the Abbey out of the midst of a hostile population, while, later, Abbot Thomas was one of those who took part in the coronation of Robert Bruce and suffered in consequence, being sent to England as a prisoner. The Abbey possessed a precious relic in the head of St Fergus (circa 700), for which James IV. provided a silver case. From traces which have been observed of its foundations, the abbey wall is supposed to have enclosed an area of 12 acres. About 100 yards due E from the SE corner of the present palace is an old burying ground, and here in 1841 part of the abbey buildings were laid bare. The church is supposed to have stood here. About 70 yards N of this is the Mote Hill ` the hill of belief ' of the chroniclers and the Mons Placiti of the Regiam ajestatem-with a flat area, on the top, of 100 by 60 yards. The Abbey buildings and the old palace, properly the house of the abbots, were destroyed by a mob from Perth in 1559. ` Some of the poore in houp of spoyle and sum of Dundie, to considder what was done passed up to the same Abbay of Scone; whairat the Bischopis servandis offended, began to threattene and speak proudlie; and as it was constantlie affermed one of the Bischopis sonis stogged through with a rapper one of Dundie, for because he was looking in at the girnell door. This brute noysed abrode, the town of Dundie was more enraged than befoir, who, putting thame selffis in armour, send word to the inhabitantis of Sanet Johnestoun, ` ` That on less they should support thame to avenge that injurie that thai should never after that day concur with thame in any action. " The multitud easelie inflambed, gave the alarme, and so was that Abbay and Palace appointit to saccage; in doing whairof they took no lang deliberation, bot committed the hole to the merciment of fyre; wharat no small nomber of us war offendit, that patientlie we culd nocht speak till any that war of Dundie or Sanct Johnestoun. ' So complete was the destruction, that hardly any ruins even remained. The building of a new palace was begun by the first lay com mendator, the Earl of Gowrie, and on his forfeiture the property was bestowed by King James VI. on David Murray of the house of Tullibardine, who became Baron Scone in 1605, and Viscount Stormont in 1621. He finished the palace and erected the old gateway 200 yards to the NE of the present mansion. The old abbey church having fallen, he also, in 1624, erected a parish church on the top of the Mote Hill. Of this only an aisle now remains, containing a magnificent marble statue of the first Viscount, and other family monuments. During the January of 1716 the Chevalier St George lived here for about three weeks ` in all the grandeur of an English King, ' dining and supping alone and being served on the knee by the lord of the bedchamber in waiting. Prince Charles Edward also visited the house in 1745. After the succession of the Stormonts to the Mansfield title the old palace seems to have dissatisfied them, and a new mansion-house, the present Palace of Scone, was erected in 1803-8 at a cost of £70,000 from designs by William Atkinson of London. It is a castellated edifice, somewhat heavy and cumbrous, but contains many fine paintings, and the greater part of the old furniture and furnishings have been preserved, including a bed that belonged to James VI., and another, the hangings of which were worked by Queen Mary when a prisoner in Loch Leven Castle. The music gallery occupies the site of the old great hall where the coronation ceremonies took place. The situation is pleasant, on an extensive lawn sloping gently up from the Tay; and the well-wooded and beautiful grounds known as Scone Park stretch along the river for about 2 miles. Among many noble trees may be noticed Queen Mary's sycamore, and an oak and another sycamore, both planted by James VI. The Queen and Prince Albert here spent the night of 6 Sept. 1842. In the grounds is the old cross of Scone-a narrow pillar, 13 feet high, with a sculptured top-the original position of which was about 30 yards E of the ancient gateway already mentioned. Scone Palace is the seat of William David Murray, present and fourth Earl of Mansfield, ninth Viscount Stormont and Baron Scone (b. 1806; suc. 1840), who holds 48,039 acres, valued at £40,697, 16s. per annum, viz., 31,197 acres in Perthshire (£23, 052, 6s.), 795 in Fife (£638, 8s.), 1705 in Clackmannanshire (£3617, 9s.), and 14, 342 in Dumfriesshire (£13, 389, 13s.). See Comlongan and Schaw Park.

* Dr Hill Burton's statement that Malcolm III. was crowned at Scone has been traversed by Dr Skene. See Celtic Scotland, vol. i., p.431.

See also the Liber Eeclesie de Seon (Edited by Cosmo Innes for the Bannatyne and Maitland Clubs in 1843); Skene's Coronation Stone (Edinb. 1860); his Celtic Scotland (Edinb. 1876-80); Urquhart's History of Scone (1884); chap. viii. of Thos. Hunter`s Woods and Estates of Perthshire (Perth, 1883); and for the burning of the Abbey, Knox's History of the Reformation.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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