Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Arbirlot, carved stone 20m south of Manse

A Scheduled Monument in Arbroath West, Letham and Friockheim, Angus

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Latitude: 56.5541 / 56°33'14"N

Longitude: -2.6502 / 2°39'0"W

OS Eastings: 360126

OS Northings: 740422

OS Grid: NO601404

Mapcode National: GBR VT.G0FM

Mapcode Global: WH8S7.8J7F

Entry Name: Arbirlot, carved stone 20m S of Manse

Scheduled Date: 30 November 1923

Last Amended: 30 March 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM145

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Arbirlot

County: Angus

Electoral Ward: Arbroath West, Letham and Friockheim

Traditional County: Angus


The monument is a medieval carved stone, likely to date to between AD 850 and 1600. It is an undressed block of whinstone set vertically in the ground and measures about 1.70m high by 0.85m wide. Several motifs are inscribed on the E face of the stone. These include two small crosses with expanded arms placed towards the top and bottom of the stone and, between the crosses and to the left and right of centre, two rectangular symbols resembling open books. There is a small circle just below the upper cross. The upper book is connected with the lower cross by a zigzag line. Faint grooves run down the middle of the stone and are traversed by a horizontal feature adjacent to the lower book. The monument stands at around 45m above sea level in the garden of the Manse. The stone was found around 1836 in the foundations of the old kirk, 140m NNE of its present position, but stood in the garden of the former manse for many years before being re-sited in 1984. The monument was last scheduled in 1935 but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The area to be scheduled is a circle 2m in diameter, centred on the middle of the stone. It includes the stone described above and an area around that is included for the stone's support and preservation, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

The stone survives in good condition, with most of the carvings clear and distinct. It is reported that the stone was identified among the foundations of the medieval church around 1836, but researchers do not know precisely where it was originally sited. The stone may have been reused in the fabric of the medieval church building or may have functioned as a grave cover. We know that the stone has been moved at least twice, so its presence in the Manse garden does not constitute evidence that buried archaeological remains may exist there. However, the stone does emphasise that the ground around the present Arbirlot parish church was a focus for medieval ecclesiastical activity.

The monument has an inherent capacity to inform our understanding of medieval stone carving, and may have the potential to further our knowledge of the social and religious context in which sculpture was commissioned and created. The carvings on the stone are of different depth and style and probably date from more than one episode, indicating a development sequence in the use of the stone. The stone may be a late example of the reuse of a prehistoric standing stone to carry Christian motifs, although this possibility is difficult to evaluate given the uncertainty about the history of this stone before its discovery around 1836. The faint grooves running down the middle of the stone may have been intended to depict a sword, with a horizontal feature to the right of and adjacent to the lower book possibly representing the sword guard.

Contextual characteristics

The stone was included in the survey of 'The Early Christian Monuments of Scotland' undertaken by J Romilly Allen and published in 1903. The survey included all sculptured monuments whose symbolism, ornamentation or epigraphy was considered to pre-date the adoption of European ecclesiastical architecture in the early 12th century. Romilly Allen attributed the stone to his Class I, but it is not now accepted as a Pictish symbol stone. The stone can instead be compared with monuments of Class III, a varied class used for monuments not included in Class I (undressed blocks of stone bearing exclusively incised symbols) or Class II (upright cross slabs sculpted in relief). The Arbirlot stone is a relatively late example of the practice of carving motifs onto undressed or crudely dressed stone blocks. In this respect it does resemble earlier Pictish Class I stones, some of which may date to as early as the 6th or 7th centuries AD. Nearby examples are at St Vigeans, 4.5km to the ENE, and Aberlemno, 17km to the NNW.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant contribution to the understanding of the past, in particular the study of early medieval stone sculpture in eastern Scotland. The Arbirlot stone is in good condition and bears an unusual combination of motifs. Although not in its original location, its provenance is relatively well understood. The stone post-dates the well known Class I and Class II Pictish symbol stones, but helps to demonstrate the variety of stone carving produced in Scotland in the following centuries. Its loss or diminution would impede our ability to understand the sculpture of eastern Scotland, as well as our knowledge of the early medieval society that produced it.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the site as NO64SW 69. The Angus SMR reference is NO64SW0069.


Allen, JR and Anderson, J, 1903 The Early Christian Monuments of Scotland, Edinburgh

Jervise, A, 1859 'Notices descriptive of the localities of certain sculptured stones in Forfarshire', Proc Scot Antiq Scot, 2, 449

Mack, A, 1997 Field Guide to the Pictish Symbol Stones, Balgavies.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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