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Dornoch Cathedral, graveyard

A Scheduled Monument in East Sutherland and Edderton, Highland

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Coordinates

Latitude: 57.8804 / 57°52'49"N

Longitude: -4.0296 / 4°1'46"W

OS Eastings: 279740

OS Northings: 889690

OS Grid: NH797896

Mapcode National: GBR J7FW.T1Z

Mapcode Global: WH4DN.26F4

Entry Name: Dornoch Cathedral, graveyard

Scheduled Date: 24 March 2003

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM10828

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Crosses and carved stones: sculptured stone (not ascribed to a more specific type); Ecclesiastical:

Location: Dornoch

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: East Sutherland and Edderton

Traditional County: Sutherland

Description

The monument comprises the medieval and later graveyard of Dornoch Cathedral, which includes the possible site of the early Christian St Finnbarr's Church. The monument is situated at about 10m OD in the centre of the small town of Dornoch.

The cathedral was founded around 1233 and razed in 1570, after which it was partially restored in the early 17th century as a parish church and re-built in the 19th century. In about 1926, foundations were revealed during grave-digging at the E end of the graveyard. These were of indeterminate date and nature and could have been associated with either an early Christian church or the 1730 tolbooth.

James Loch cleared the area to the S of the cathedral in 1811, when he also built the existing graveyard wall. Most of the funerary monuments date to between 1760 and 1920, although some grave markers may be earlier.

At the W end of the graveyard is the 'Plaiden Ell', which appears to be a re-used gravestone. The standard ell, a unit of measurement, was 37.2 inches long. Often, an ell was fixed to a public place by burgh officials to avoid argument with the market traders. Scotland adopted English imperial weights and measures after the Union of the Parliaments in 1707.

Some examples survive elsewhere, including on the wall of the townhouse in Dumfries, the shaft of Kincardine mercat cross (now in Fettercairn), and on a wall in Market Square, Dunkeld. The Dornoch example would have been used to measure 'plaid', a length of twilled woollen cloth, usually tartan.

The area to be scheduled comprises the entire graveyard, including the graveyard walls, in which archaeological evidence is likely to survive. It is irregular on plan with maximum dimensions of 122m E-W by 42m N-S, as marked in red on the accompanying map. The surfaces of all existing paths, to a depth of 30cm, are excluded from the scheduling to allow for routine maintenance. Dornoch Cathedral itself is in use as an ecclesiastical building and is also excluded from the scheduling.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance as a medieval, and probably earlier, ecclesiastical centre associated with the Bishops of Caithness. Its significance is increased because of the availability of documentary sources and because the graveyard retains considerable archaeological potential.

The secular associations of the monument, namely the presence of the ell measure in the graveyard and the location of the site adjacent to the medieval market place, add to its importance as this ecclecsiastical site is a focal point for our understanding of the development of the early burgh.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the monument as Dornoch, High Street, Dornoch Cathedral, NH78NE 5 and Dornoch, Schoolhill, St Finbarr's Episcopal Church, NH78NE 18.

'Castle Street Dornoch Cathedral and Walled Graveyard. (Cathedral of St Mary and St Gilbert. Church of Scotland Parish Church' is Category A Listed, HB 24632.

References:

Bentinck C D (1926) DORNOCH: CATHEDRAL AND PARISH, Inverness, 38, 62, 134, 143, 270-271, 335, 348, 377-412 & 497.

Campbell H F (1892) 'Notes on the Cathedral of Caithness, at Dornoch', TRANS ABERDEEN ECCLES SOC Vol. 2, No. 2.

Close-Brooks J (1986) EXPLORING SCOTLAND'S HERITAGE: THE HIGHLANDS, Exploring Scotland's Heritage series, Edinburgh, No. 53, 115.

(1996), HISTORIC DORNOCH: THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL IMPLICATIONS OF DEVELOPMENT, unpublished.

Mair C (1988) MERCAT CROSS AND TOLBOOTH: UNDERSTANDING SCOTLAND'S OLD BURGHS, Edinburgh, 121-125 & 222.

OPS (1855) ORIGINES PAROCHIALES SCOTIAE: THE ANTIQUITIES ECCLESIASTICAL AND TERRITORIAL OF THE PARISHES OF SCOTLAND, Edinburgh, Vol. 2, No. 2, 597-647.

RCAHMCS (1911) SECOND REPORT AND INVENTORY OF MONUMENTS AND CONSTRUCTIONS IN THE COUNTY OF SUTHERLAND, Edinburgh, Nos. 102-103, 36-37.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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