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Grange of Elcho, nunnery 180m ENE of Tay View

A Scheduled Monument in Almond and Earn, Perth and Kinross

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Coordinates

Latitude: 56.3803 / 56°22'49"N

Longitude: -3.3919 / 3°23'30"W

OS Eastings: 314144

OS Northings: 721759

OS Grid: NO141217

Mapcode National: GBR 20.1ZYK

Mapcode Global: WH6QC.WW0N

Entry Name: Grange of Elcho, nunnery 180m ENE of Tay View

Scheduled Date: 12 July 1972

Last Amended: 21 April 2017

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3232

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Ecclesiastical: nunnery

Location: Rhynd

County: Perth and Kinross

Electoral Ward: Almond and Earn

Traditional County: Perthshire

Description

Circa 1941. Group of buildings forming part of a large purpose-built World War II Prisoner of War camp. 15 semi-circular corrugated metal Nissen huts lining approach to SE and group of 11 similar huts to NE. Huts of varying lengths, 16-foot span, brick base courses and rendered ends, corrugated iron roofs, most with door flanked by timber windows to each end, timber and corrugated iron catslide dormers to the lengths; to NE group, 2 pairs of smaller huts linked together. Mostly timber casement windows with varying glazing patterns.

INTERIOR: Nissen huts mostly very plain. Some smaller huts in NE group have sanitary fittings, likely to be post-war.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

The monument consists of the buried and upstanding remains of a medieval nunnery, comprising a partially excavated church and the unexcavated remains of associated buildings. Two ditches have been recorded as cropmarks to the north and south of the nunnery, indicating they survive as buried deposits below the plough soil, and the southern ditch is also faintly visible as a slight linear depression. The ditches likely formed part of an enclosure around the nunnery buildings, though their slightly eccentric layout relative to the nunnery may suggest they were dug at a different date, perhaps earlier.

Although the nunnery has been subject to limited excavation, this has not had a significant impact on the archaeological potential of the site and the majority of it remains unexcavated. Limited excavation of the church has demonstrated two phases of construction and evidence for post-reformation re-use of the site. The recovery of substantial quantities of glass, roofing slates and paved flooring provide evidence for the structure and architecture of the church, while human remains indicate the presence of burials. Therefore there is good potential for the survival of further structural remains and archaeological deposits, including occupation and abandonment debris, artefacts and environmental remains such as charcoal and pollen within, beneath and around the remains of the nunnery and within the ditches. The buried archaeological deposits, artefacts and ecofacts have the potential to add to our understanding of ecclesiastical structure, land-use and environment during the medieval period, to clarify the chronology of the site and to provide information about the layout and economy of a medieval nunnery.

Documentary evidence indicates that the nunnery was founded in the early 13th century, before around 1247, and was occupied until 1559. Limited excavation of the church has demonstrated two phases of construction, with evidence for post-abandonment re-use, showing the monument had an extended sequence of development. Scientific study of the form and construction of the nunnery has the potential to clarify the date of the remains and the development sequence at this site, and to provide information about the design, construction and development of a medieval nunnery.

Contextual Characteristics

Nunneries were rare institutions in medieval Scotland. Elcho was one of seven Cistercian nunneries in Scotland listed in a document written around 1516, the others being Haddington, Eccles, Coldstream, St Bothans, Manuel and North Berwick. Two other Cistercian nunneries had ceased to exist by this time, and one further nunnery (at Iona) was not Cistercian. The nunnery at Elcho is of particular importance as the only Cistercian nunnery north of the Forth, and as a surviving example of one of a small number of medieval nunneries.

The nunnery was one of four religious foundations along the River Tay, including the Augustinian Priory of Scone (Canmore ID 28192), the Tironensian Abbey at Lindores (scheduled monument number SM836; Canmore ID 30109) and Balmerino (scheduled monument number SM827; Canmore ID 31747), another Cistercian house. The proximity of these religious houses can give important insights into the medieval landscape and add to our understanding of monastic organisation, the development of Scotland's monastic tradition and connections between religious foundations.

The nunnery at Elcho has the potential to broaden our understanding of the nature and chronology of medieval ecclesiastical foundations and the role of women in medieval religious life in Scotland, particularly in relation to monasticism.

Associative Characteristics

The majority of Scottish Cistercian nunneries were founded in the second half of the 12th century and only had a loose connection to the Cistercian Order centred on Cîteaux in France, as the Order did not give formal recognition to such houses until early in the 13th century. The foundation of such houses demonstrates the powerful influence of the monastic reform movement as promulgated by the Cistercian Order, and the desire of some women in the medieval period to live an austere, enclosed, religious life. Elcho is of particular significant as one of the last Cistercian nunneries to be founded.

The significance of the site is enhanced by our knowledge of the site from the historical record. Records suggest that the nunnery was founded by David Lindsay of Glenesk and his mother Lady Marjory, before 1247. A David Lindsay of Glenesk is recorded as having died in Egypt on the 7th crusade around 1279. If, as seems likely, this was the same man, this provides an insight into medieval religiosity, particularly how European-wide movements, such as monasticism and crusading, impacted on Scotland.

Historic documents record the names of six of the prioresses of Elcho are, largely as a result of legal disputes; Agnes of Arroch (1282), Elizabeth of Aberlady (1405), Isabella (1445), Margaret Swinton (1493-1511), Elizabeth Swinton (1511-1529) and Eufame Leslie (1529 – 1559). Other notable events include the death of Ranald MacRuaridh in 1346 along with seven of his men at the nunnery as a result of a quarrel with the Earl of Ross. The nunnery was burnt by the English in 1547, after which Sir John Wemyss lent the nuns money to help with the rebuilding of their church and other buildings. The nunnery was attacked by reformers in 1559 and subsequently abandoned.

The testament of Eufame Leslie, the last prioress of Elcho, provides an important insight into the fate of the inhabitants of such institutions after the reformation. At the time of her death in 1570 Eufame Leslie was lodged in a property in Perth with two of her servants, one of the nuns had married a burgess of Perth and was in receipt of a pension from the prioress, while three others were owed a similar pension but their whereabouts are unknown. Such information is rare, particularly for nunneries.

The nunnery was described as lying in waste in 1570 when Andrew Moncreiff was granted the perpetual Commendatorship by the Crown and conveyed the nunnery along with its orchards and precincts to his brother William. The nunnery was erected into a temporal lordship for Lord Scone, later Viscount Stormont, in 1606 and confirmed by a charter in 1610. Sometime after the 17th century the property was acquired by the 1st Earl of Wemyss. When touring Scotland in 1760 Bishop Pocock visited the remains of the nunnery and described it as comprising 'the tower of the church and the foundations of the buildings'.

Statement of national importance

The monument is of national importance because it makes a significant addition to our understanding of medieval ecclesiastical foundations, specifically the Cistercian Order and medieval nunneries. The monument is a rare survival with good potential for the preservation of buried features and deposits, including architectural remains and burials. It can help us understand much about ecclesiastical architecture and the role of the church within medieval society.  It makes a significant contribution to our knowledge of the role of women in monastic religious life in Scotland, which is not well understood. This importance is enhanced by the documentary records associated with the site. The loss or damage of the monument would diminish our ability to appreciate and understand medieval nunneries and religious houses in Scotland, the development of monasticism in Scotland and the role of the church in wider medieval life.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

Hellen, J A, 'Temporary settlements and transient populations. The legacy of Britain's prisoner of war camps.' Erdkunde. Archive fur wissenschaftliche Geographie (Bonn), 1999, Vol. 53, No 4, pp.191-219. Hellen, J A, 'Revisiting the past: German Prisoners of War and their legacy in Britain.' Rozvoj Ceske Spolencnosti V Evropske Unii III (Praha), 2004, p220. Hellen, JA, 'Reparation, re-education, reconciliation, Britain's German POW camps revisited, Transcript of Public lecture, 21 April 2005.' Hellen JA, unpublished notes taken from ICRC records in Geneva. Thomas, R JC, Project Report. Twentieth Century Military Recording Project, Prisoner of War Camps (1939-1948), (2003), National Monuments Records Centre, English Heritage, pp18-43. Scotland on Sunday, Spectrum magazine, 18 December 1994, pp8-9. The Express, 15 December 1999, pp34-35. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments in Scotland records.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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