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Moot Hill royal assembly place and Scone Abbey, 100m north east of Scone Palace

A Scheduled Monument in Strathmore, Perth and Kinross

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Latitude: 56.4232 / 56°25'23"N

Longitude: -3.4373 / 3°26'14"W

OS Eastings: 311442

OS Northings: 726595

OS Grid: NO114265

Mapcode National: GBR V6.Q9DC

Mapcode Global: WH6Q5.5TG7

Entry Name: Moot Hill royal assembly place and Scone Abbey, 100m NE of Scone Palace

Scheduled Date: 9 November 2017

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13595

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Ecclesiastical: abbey; Secular: meeting place, thingstead, moot hill

Location: Scone

County: Perth and Kinross

Electoral Ward: Strathmore

Traditional County: Perthshire


The monument consists of the remains of the royal assembly and ceremonial inauguration site at Moot Hill and the medieval abbey of Scone. The abbey and Moot Hill lie immediately northeast of the Palace of Scone, about 50m above sea level.

The royal assembly site at Scone originated as a power centre in the early medieval period. The moot continued to act as a royal focal point and was the primary coronation site for Scottish monarchs throughout the medieval and into the post medieval period. It is a large flat-topped artificial oval mound. The mound is approximately 100m in diameter north-south by 70m transversely and is surrounded by a ditch approximately 8m to 9m wide by 3m deep, which survives as a buried feature.

The priory, later abbey, at Scone was founded by King Alexander I sometime between 1114 and 1122. It comprises the buried remains of the abbey church, the foundations of other monastic buildings, and any buried archaeological structures and deposits located in the surrounding area.

The scheduled area is irregular on plan, to include the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes the Mote Church and Mausoleum. Also excluded are the above ground elements of modern fences, boundary walls, gates, fixtures and fittings, signs, lights and street furniture. The top 200mm of the garden lawns and surfaced paths are also excluded to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic Characteristics

This monument survives as the remains of the Moot Hill, the site of medieval royal coronation and assembly and the buried remains of part of the Augustinian abbey, specifically the church, cloister and ranges.

Royal Assembly Place and Moot Hill

The Moot Hill at Scone is a large artificial or heavily modified natural mound, surrounded by a substantial ditch which now survives as a buried archaeological feature. While the mound has been further modified in the post medieval period, with the construction of a later parish church and mausoleum on its summit, it retains its overall form to a marked degree. There is significant potential for the survival of buried archaeological deposits relating to the early medieval and medieval period, both on and around the mound. These features, artifacts and ecofacts will allow a better understanding of the development sequence of the assembly site and the activities that occurred there. The ditch is a particularly important feature, which having been partially excavated has provided evidence of its medieval origin. Given the long history of use at the site these buried remains have the potential to inform our understanding of how the site developed and how its use changed over time. In addition to its research potential, the Moot Hill is an impressive physical monument that dominates the landscape at Scone.

Augustinian Priory and later Abbey

The abbey survives as buried remains and building foundations and the scheduled area includes the church and part of the medieval cemetery. The limited excavation undertaken at the Abbey has uncovered the robbed foundations of the Abbey church and other associated structures and medieval graves which relate to the Abbey. The remains of church fabric found in the Palace rockery and during excavation give an indication of the ornate decoration and high quality of the medieval church. Our understanding of these physical remains are further supported by extensive documentary records, the church is depicted on Timothy Pont's map of the area. The buried foundations of the major monastic buildings indicate the location and form of other structures and offer a high potential to understand many details of monastic life at Scone.

The architectural features can support a detailed understanding of the form and development of the main buildings and their architectural influences. There is high potential for further research and analysis. Buried archaeological remains can provide much additional information about the layout, development and character of the site. Some of this potential has been demonstrated by recent excavations. Artefacts such as pottery and metalwork together with plant and animal remains can provide evidence for the daily life of the canons and for their economy and trading contacts. There is also potential to identify ancillary buildings relating to the canons' agricultural activity and for scientific study of human burials that can inform understanding of diet, disease, stature, age and cause of death.

Scone Abbey had an extended development sequence. The church was adapted many times, reflecting changing architectural tastes and the need to rebuild after specific events. There is high potential to refine the chronology and understanding of the abbey's development, using scientific dating of buried remains alongside architectural and artefact studies. There is also potential to explore how the economy and character of the abbey changed through time. Its function changed at the reformation, when a mob burned the abbey in 1559. It continued in use until it was gifted by the Crown to the Ruthven family who held the site until the Gowrie conspiracy of 1600. The site was then transferred to David Murray, Lord Scone, who was created the Viscount of Stormont in 1621. After the reformation, the site was converted into a secular palace that was most likely located on the site of the abbot's residence. A later parish church was constructed on the Moot Hill and after the church shifted to a location further east, the site later became a mausoleum for the Viscounts of Stormont.

Contextual Characteristics

Royal Assembly Place and Moot Hill

Assembly mounds, coronation locations, thing sites and judicial gathering places are common features in northwest Europe, and have a long history. While there are many important assembly sites in Scotland, such as Doomster Hill in Govan, Finlaggen in Islay, Dingwall, in Caithness and Law Ting Holm in Shetland, none are as well-known or have such a clearly recognised importance as Scone. The assembly site of Scone rose to prominence in the early medieval period. The mound may date from this period but it could also be a reused prehistoric feature. A similar development has been argued for other assembly sites; at Tynwald on the Isle of Mann, it has been suggested that the assembly mound is a modified prehistoric barrow. Whatever the origin of the mound at Scone by the ninth century it had become a regional power centre acting as the primary assembly place for the Kingdom of Scotland, a coronation site and potential royal centre. The importance of Scone for the kingdom is highlighted by its interchangeable use in historic documents with Scotland and Alba, as the early Kingdom of Scotland was often referred to as the Kingdom of Scone. This is very similar to the relationship between the royal site of Tara and the Kingdom of Ireland.

The earliest reference to the Moot Hill is a document from the tenth century referred to as the Chronicles of the Kings of Alba, which mentions the Hill of Faith in Scone. It was on the Hill of Faith in 906 that King Constantine II and the Bishop Cellach met and the King swore to uphold the customs of the church, the earliest reference to the Moot Hill and to a coronation carried out at the site with the involvement of a church official. This may have marked the transition from the coronation being a solely secular practice to one that had significant church involvement. Tradition has it that it was around this time that an ecclesiastical centre was founded at the site, possibly a Culdee monastery.

The site continued to be the primary assembly site and coronation centre for the Kingdom of Scotland through the medieval period. The Stone of Scone, more commonly referred to at the Stone of Destiny, played a central role in these ceremonies up until it was removed by Edward I of England in 1296. In the high medieval period, Scone continued to act as a royal power centre, and it was common for Scottish parliaments to be held there and charters to be issued from Scone and later at nearby Perth. The site's role in coronation continued after Scone was no longer a significant royal centre. This shift occurred under the Stewarts (Stuarts) when Stirling became the principle royal residence and power centre. Of the Stewart monarchs only James I and James IV were crowned at Scone, James II being crowned at Holyrood in Edinburgh, James III at Kelso, James V, Mary and James VI all being crowned at Stirling. The Union of the crowns in 1606 ended the Scottish coronation tradition but the connection with Scone was briefly revived when Charles II was crowned at Scone in 1651. He was to be the last Scottish King to have his coronation at Scone, though Bonnie Prince Charlie symbolically stopped at Scone during the Jacobite rising of 1745.  

Augustinian Priory and later Abbey

Alexander I founded the Augustinian priory at Scone, probably because there was a pre-existing religious body at Scone associated with the assembly place, perhaps a Culdee foundation.  Scone was the earliest Augustinian chapter in Scotland and was a daughter house of Nostell in Yorkshire. The Melrose Chronicle records the foundation of Scone as 1115; the church was also recoded as being dedicated by Bishop Turgot of St. Andrews who died in 1115, further supporting this early date. A later foundation charter suggests a foundation date of 1120, but we can be certain that the priory was well established by 1122 when Alexander I granted Scone an island on Loch Tay for the foundation of a new house.

The first prior Robert of Scone was originally a canon from Nostell priory and he was to have a profound role in aligning the Scottish church with religious practises favoured in England and continental Europe. Robert, later appointed Bishop of St. Andrews in 1124 by Alexander I, oversaw the introduction of Augustinian chapters at St. Andrews, at Hollyrood in Edinburgh and Augustinian Arrouaisian canons at Cambuskenneth Abbey in Stirling. The early foundation of Scone makes it one of the earliest foundations of a continental monastic foundation in Scotland with only the sites of Dunfermline, Selkirk and Kelso being earlier foundations of European monastic orders.

The close association of the priory and later abbey at Scone with the Scottish Crown increased its importance in the medieval period. The incorporation of the abbey into the inauguration ceremony of the Scottish monarchs further strengthened this relationship between Scone Abbey and the Crown. This is detailed in the surviving account of the coronation of Alexander III, where the abbey played a significant role in the coronation ceremony.

The strong relationship between secular and religious authority represented at Scone is mirrored in other medieval kingdoms throughout Europe, such as the coronation centre of the Holy Roman Empire at Aachen, the Cathedral of Rheims where the kings of France were crowned, the royal centre at Prague and the English coronation centre at Westminster. Westminster became intricately linked to Scone when Edward I has the Stone of Destiny removed from the abbey at Scone and taken to Westminster to act as the English coronation stone. This was part of Edward's and later English monarch's attempts to show symbolic dominance and lordship over Scottish Kings and the nation of Scotland. The abbey at Scone is also an important royal burial site containing the burials of King Robert II of Scotland and Maud, Countess of Huntingdon and wife of David I.

Associative Characteristics

Scone was an early medieval royal centre; it was the location of many of the most important Scottish medieval parliaments and was the coronation location for many of the kings of Scotland. The royal assembly site of Scone including the Moot Hill and abbey have a strong association with the Stone of Destiny. It was from the abbey at Scone that the Stone of Destiny was seized by Edward I of England and taken to Westminster Abbey. The abbey at Scone is the location of the burials of King Robert II of Scotland and Maud, Countess of Huntingdon and wife of David I.

The abbey was burned and looted in 1559, by a mob from Perth that had been incited to destroy the site during a sermon by John Knox. This event is considered one of the key monuments of the Scottish Reformation. The site continued in importance after the medieval period and was depicted by Timothy Pont in 1583 and again by Slezer in 1693, who illustrated the later alterations to the site. Rutherford's sketch of the palace in 1775 records the site before the construction of modern Palace in 1802. The prominence of Scone has grown in the modern period through its association with the Stone of Destiny, and the Moot Hill and abbey has become a major feature in modern Scottish national consciousness and a physical reminder of Scottish nationhood. 

Statement of national importance

This monument makes a significant addition to the understanding and appreciation of the past, particularly the emergence of the Scottish nation, the role of assembly places and medieval abbeys in this process. The early date of the foundation makes Scone important in our understanding of the role of such religious institutions in the religious and political development of Scotland during this period. The upstanding Moot Hill retains its structural characteristics to a marked degree and there are associated buried archaeological remains below and around the Moot Hill with high potential to enhance knowledge and understanding of the site. The Moot Hill and the abbey would have been dominant features in the historic landscape. The Moot Hill continues to make a major contribution to today's landscape. The physical remains of the Moot Hill and the important buried remains of the abbey are supplemented by rich documentary and historical records that add to the understanding of both the royal assembly place and the monastery and their development over time. The Moot Hill at Scone is unique in being the main assembly site associated with both the coronation of Scottish Kings and the Stone of Destiny. Therefore our understanding of Scotland's past would be seriously diminished if the monument were lost or damaged. The remains of the Moot Hill at Scone hold a prominent place in the national consciousness.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID (28191).

Local Authority HER/SMR Reference MPK5474, MPK3308 and MPK3309

Fawcett, Richard, 2003. "The Buildings of Scone Abbey", in Richard Welander, David J. Breeze & Thomas Owen Clancy (eds.), The Stone of Destiny: Artefact and Icon, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Monograph Series Number 22, (Edinburgh, 2003), pp. 169–80

O'Grady, O J T. 2007. Scone Abbey and Moothill, Perth and Kinross (Scone parish), geophysical survey', Discovery Excav Scot, vol. 8, 2007. Cathedral Communications Limited, Wiltshire, England, pp. 67-168

O'Grady, O J T. 2007. Moothill and Abbey Archaeological Survey Scone Project, Preliminary report on geophysical survey, July 2007.

O'Grady, O J T. 2008. MASS Project 2008 Annual Report, Archaeological excavations in Scone Palace grounds.

O'Grady, O J T. 2009. Moothill and Abbey of Scone Project Annual Report.

O'Grady, O J T. 2009. Moothill and Abbey of Scone Project - Moothill and Scone Abbey, Perth and Kinross (Scone parish), excavation and geophysical survey', Discovery Excav Scot, New, vol. 10, 2009. Cathedral Communications Limited, Wiltshire, England, pp. 158-159

Richard Welander, David J. Breeze & Thomas Owen Clancy (eds.) 2003. The Stone of Destiny: Artefact and Icon, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Monograph Series Number 22, Edinburgh.


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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