|Scottish Gaelic: Sgàin|
Scone shown within Scotland
|OS grid reference|
|Council area||Perth and Kinross|
|Lieutenancy area||Perth and Kinross|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|UK Parliament||Perth and North Perthshire, Pete Wishart, MP|
|Scottish Parliament||North Tayside, John Swinney, MSP|
|List of places: UK • Scotland •|
Scone (pronounced /ˈskuːn/ skoon; Modern Gaelic: Sgàin; Medieval: Scoine) is a village in Perth and Kinross, Scotland. The medieval village of Scone, which grew up around the monastery and royal residence, was abandoned in the early 19th century when the residents were removed and a new palace was built on the site by the Earl of Mansfield. Hence the modern village of Scone, and the medieval village of Old Scone, can often be distinguished.
Both sites lie in the historical province of Gowrie. Old Scone was the historic capital of the Kingdom of Alba (Scotland). In the Middle Ages it was an important royal centre, used as a royal residence and as the coronation site of the kingdom's monarchs. Around the royal site grew the town of Perth and the Abbey of Scone.
In Gaelic poetry Scone's association with kings and king-making gave it various poetic epithets, for instance, Scoine sciath-airde, "Scone of the high shields", and Scoine sciath-bhinne, "Scone of the noisy shields". Scotland itself was often called the "Kingdom of Scone", "Righe Sgoinde". A comparison would be that Ireland was often called the "Kingdom of Tara", Tara, like Scone, serving as a ceremonial inauguration site. Scone was therefore the closest thing the Kingdom of Scotland had in its earliest years to a "capital". In either 1163 or 1164 King Malcolm IV described Scone Abbey as in principali sede regni nostri, "in the principal seat of our kingdom". By this point, however, the rule of the King of the Scots was not confined to the Kingdom of Scotland, which then only referred to Scotland north of the river Forth. The king also ruled in Lothian, Strathclyde and the Honour of Huntingdon, and spent much of his time in these localities too. Moreover, the king was itinerant and had little permanent bureaucracy, so that any idea that Scone was a "capital" in the way the word is used today can make very little sense in this period; but in the medieval sense Scone can in many ways be called the "capital of Scotland".
In the twelfth century, various foreign influences prompted the Scottish kings to transform Scone into a more convincing royal centre. A village was established there, perhaps in the reign of Alexander I of Scotland. In 1124 the latter wrote to "all merchants of England" (omnibus mercatoribus Angliae) promising them protection if they are to bring goods to Scone by sea. Scone however did not lie on a navigable part of the river, and it was at the nearest suitable location, i.e. Perth, that the new burgh which certainly existed in the reign of David I of Scotland was built. Perth lies 1½ km from the site of medieval Scone, which is almost identical to the distance of Westminster Abbey from the City of London (2.2 km). King Alexander I also established a Benedictine priory at Scone, sometime between 1114 and 1122. In either 1163 or 1164, in the reign of King Máel Coluim IV, Scone Priory's status was increased and it became an abbey. The abbey had important royal functions, being next to the coronation site of Scottish kings and housing the coronation stone (until it was taken away by King Edward I of England). Like other Scottish abbeys, Scone probably doubled up as a royal residence or palace. Scone abbey's obvious function was like the role that Westminster Abbey had for the Kings of England, although by the time records are clear, it appears that Scotland's Norman kings were crowned on Moot Hill (the coronation mound) rather than inside the abbey. This can be attributed, as Thomas Owen Clancy points out, to the importance in Gaelic tradition of swearing the inauguration oath in colle, on the traditional mound, the importance of which continental fashions were apparently unable to overcome. However, the parallel with Westminster certainly existed in the mind of Edward I, who in 1297 transferred the Abbey's coronation relics, the crown, sceptre and the stone, to Westminster in a formal presentation to the English royal saint, Edward the Confessor.
Like Tara, Scone would have been associated with some of the traditions and rituals of native kingship, what D. A. Binchy describes as "an archaic fertility rite of a type associated with primitive kingship the world over". Certainly, if Scone was not associated with this kind of thing in Pictish times, the Hibernicizing Scottish kings of later years made an effort do so. By the thirteenth century at the latest there was a tradition that Scone's famous inauguration stone, the Stone of Scone, had originally been placed at Tara by Simón Brecc, and only taken to Scone later by his descendent Fergus mac Ferchair when the latter conquered Alba (Scotland). Indeed, the prominence of such a coronation stone associated with an archaic inauguration site was something Scone shared with many like sites in medieval Ireland, not just Tara. Such "unchristian" rites would become infamous in the emerging world of Scotland's Anglo-French neighbours in the twelfth century ".
Scone's role therefore came under threat as Scotland's twelfth century kings gradually became more French and less Gaelic. Walter of Coventry reported in the reign of William I of Scotland that "The modern kings of Scotland count themselves as Frenchmen, in race, manners, language and culture; they keep only Frenchmen in their household and following, and have reduced the Scots to utter servitude." Though exaggerated, there was truth in this. Apparently for this reason, when the Normanized David I of Scotland (Dabíd mac Maíl Choluim) went to Scone to be crowned there in the summer of 1124, he initially refused to take part in the ceremonies. According to Ailred of Rievaulx, friend and one time member of David's court, David "so abhorred those acts of homage which are offered by the Scottish nation in the manner of their fathers upon the recent promotion of their kings, that he was with difficulty compelled by the bishops to receive them". Inevitably then this was bound to have an impact on the significance of Scone as a ritual and cult centre, yet the inauguration ceremony was preserved with only some innovation through the thirteenth century and Scottish kings continued to be crowned there until the end of the Scottish kingdom. Moreover, until the later Middle Ages kings continued to reside there, and parliaments, often some of the most importance parliaments in Scottish history, frequently met there too.
Although Scone retained its role in royal inaugurations, Scone's role as effective "capital" declined in the later Middle Ages. The abbey itself though enjoyed mixed fortunes. It suffered a fire in the twelfth century and was subject to extensive attacks during the First War of Scottish Independence. It also suffered, as most Scottish abbeys in the period did, decline in patronage. The abbey became a pilgrimage centre for St Fergus, whose head it kept as a relic, and retained older festivals and fame for musical excellence. In the sixteenth century the Scottish Reformation ended the importance of all monasteries in Scotland, and in June 1559 the abbey was attacked by reformers and it was burned down. Some of the monks continued on at the abbey, but by the end of the century monastic life had disappeared and continued to function only as a parish church. In 1581 Scone was placed in the new Earldom of Gowrie, created for William Ruthven. The latter was forfeited after the Gowrie conspiracy of 1600, but in 1606 was given to David Murray, newly created Lord Scone, who in 1621 was promoted to Viscount Stormont. The abbey/palace evidently remained in a decent state, as the Viscounts apparently did some rebuilding and continued to reside there, and it continued to play host to important guests, such as King Charles II, when he was crowned there (indoors) in 1651. It was not until 1803 that the family (now Earls of Mansfield) began constructing another palace at the cost of £70,000, commissioning the renowned English architect William Atkinson.
Constructing the new palace meant destroying the old town and moving its inhabitants to a new settlement. The new village was built in 1805 as a planned town (compare Evanton, built in 1807 by its landowner for similar motives), and originally called New Scone. It is 2 km east of the old location and 1½ km further from Perth. Until 1997 the town was called "New Scone", but is now referred to simply as Scone. The town had 4,430 inhabitants according to the 2001 Census for Scotland, 84.33% of whom are Scottish; it is demographically old even compared with the rest of Scotland.
The site of Old Scone is mostly in the grounds of the modern palace, which is a popular tourist attraction. Visitors come to see the gardens in the palace grounds, the exotic birds which roam freely in the grounds, Moot Hill (which is in the grounds), and the palace.
Scone is mentioned in William Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth (Act 2, Scene 4), as a place for coronation of Macbeth after he kills the former King, his cousin Duncan. It is also the last word of the play: "So, thanks to all at once and to each one / Whom we invite to see us crown'd at Scone."
on the Isle of Man.]]
A moot hill or mons placiti (statute hill) is a hill or mound historically used as a meeting place. In early medieval Britain, such hills were used for moots, meetings of local people to settle local business. Among other things, proclamations might be read; decisions might be taken; court cases might be settled at a moot. Although some moot hills were naturally occurring features or had been created long before as burial mounds, others were purpose-built.
|Look up moot in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
The word "moot" or "mote", of Old English origin, derives from the verb to meet. Initially referring to any popular gathering, in England the folkmoot in time came to be a more specific term for a local assembly with recognized legal rights.
Many moot, "mote" or "mute" hills are known by that name today. Others have local names such as Court Hill, Justice Hill, Judgement Hill, Moat Hill, Bonfire Hill, etc. Many are also associated with names such as knock, knowe, or law.
Many other names are used for prominent earthworks, depending to some extent on their location within the United Kingdom, and some of them are known to have served as moot hills at some point in their existence. Terms include Tumulus, how, howe, low, tump, cnwc, pen, butt, toot, tot, cop, mount, mound, hill, knoll, mot, moot, knol, motte, and druid hill. Often the names are combined, as in Knockenlaw, Law Mount, etc.
Some hills known today as "moot hills" were actually historically mottes (from an unrelated French word meaning "mound"), the remains of a motte-and-bailey castle. (In this fortification, a wooden or stone keep was built atop a small mound, usually man-made, which was in turn surrounded by a ditch and an outer ward called the "bailey".) In some cases a mound built as a motte may have seen later use as a functioning moot hill.
Moots may have met on existing archaeological mound sites such as tumuli or mottes; others on entirely natural mounds such as the one at Mugdock or natural mounds which were modified for the intended purpose. One common aid to identification is size: most moot hills, in addition to lacking signs of defensive walls and ditches, are smaller than most mottes.
Some known moot hill sites are surrounded by water, such as Mugdock, Mound Wood and Court Hill at the Hill of Beith; others may well have been, such as Hutt Knowe. Such inaccessibility would have required the use of a boat or raised walkway. Wood Mound is clearly man-made and therefore the relationship between these sites and water may have had some functional or religious significance. Silbury Hill is an example of how many Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments were built in liminal or cross-over points in the landscape, and close to water.
Francis Grose in 1797 published his 'Antiquities of Scotland', and going from the 1789 date of the numerous engravings this was a little over forty years from the abolition of the abolition of this aspect of the feudal system. Grose states mote hills, or places for administration of public justice, for considerable districts; and courts hills, whereon the ancient lairds held their baronial courts, before the demolition of the feudal system. These mote and court hills serve to explain the use of these high mounts still remaining near our ancient castles. He goes on to say -
In ancient times, courts for the administration of justice were generally held in the open fields, and judgement was both given and executed in the same place; in every earldom, and almost every barony and jurisdiction of any considerable extent, there was a particular place alloted for that purpose; it was generally a small eminence, either natural or artificial, near the principal Mansion-house and was called the mote hill, or in Latin, mons placiti. In that place all the vassals of the of the jurisdiction were obliged to appear at iwdain times; and the superior gave judgement in such cases as fell within the powers committed to him by law or custom; in the same spot too, the gallows was erected for the execution of capital offenders; hence these places commonly go by the name of the Gallows Knoll; near the royal palaces there was usually a mote hill, where all the freeholders of the kingdom met together, both to transact public offices, and to do homage to their sovereign, who was seated on the top of the eminence. The mote hill at Scoons this day universally known. It is highly probable the Hurly Heaky (named after the sport of sliding down a slope on a trough or sledge; tobogganing) was the mote hill of the Castle of Sterling, or perhaps of a much larger jurisdiction. In 1360, a deadly feud which had long subsisted between the Drummonds and Menteaths, at that time two of the most powerful families in Perthshire, and which had heen the cause of much rapine and bloodshed, was composed by the interposition of Sir Robert Erskine and Sir Hugh Eglington, the two great justiciaries of the nation, in the neighbourhood, if not on the very mount. Our authority says, " Super ripam aquae de Forth juxta Strivelyn."
This mode of distributing justice appears to have been the custom of almost all nations, in the more early days of their state; and that it only to give their judicial procedures a greater appearance of impartiality and justice, by being carried on in public view, but because there were not houses large enough to contain the numbers that usually attended them. The court of Areopagus, at Athens, sat for many years after its first institution, in the open air.
|Look up moot in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
It is known that in Scotland, Brehons or Judges administered justice from 'Court Hills', especially in the highlands, where they were called a tomemoid (from Scots Gaelic tom a' mhòid) - that is, the Court Hillock. In ancient times suitable buildings would rarely have existed and there was usually no alternative other than to use an outdoor gathering place. It is said that Irish colonists brought with them Brehon law, the use of Moot hills and the law of Tannistry. Every baron had a moot hill and the chartularies of religious houses record that they too used moot hills for holding courts.
The moot hills' part in the practice of law derives from the introduction of feudalism by the Normans in England or in Scotland by the Scottish kings such as David I 1125-1153 who introduced feudalism and delegated very extensive jurisdiction over large areas of land to men like the Walter the Steward (Renfrew & the northern half of Kyle) or de Morville (Cunningham) and they in turn delegated quite extensive powers to their own vassals. These invitees, largely of Norman, Fleming and Breton origin were, under feudal charter, given significant grants of land, were invited and did not come as conquerors as had been the case in England. There were in certain instances a close connection between the old Celtic thaneages (a hereditary non-military tenant of the crown) and the new feudal baronies.
There was therefore no wholesale displacement of native lords in Scotland. In 1200 all the earls north of Forth and Clyde were still of Celtic descent; and as late as 1286, eight of the earldoms in Scotland were still in the hands of those of native stock. Many native lords were granted or confirmed in their lands in feudal form. Within a few generations, regular intermarriage and the Wars of Independence had removed most of the differences between native and incomer, although not those between Highlander and Lowlander.
Burgh courts were held in the open air, round the market cross, a standing stone, a moot hill or a prominent tree. These courts were held three times a year - the chief court after Pasch (Passover or Easter), the next after Michaelmas, when the magistrates or burgh-reeves were elected, and the third after Yule or Christmas. All burgesses were bound to attend.
A Barony was an area of land, not always contiguous, granted by the Crown to a Tenant. Baronies became a unit in administration and law, however the actual size was variable and they merged or separated from time to time. The holder or Baron had power to hold courts which dealt with civil and criminal cases of less than major importance. Some crimes were reserved for royal courts, namely murder, rape, robbery with violence, fire raising and treason. To come under the jurisdiction of a baronial court, the crime had to have been committed within the barony or concerned its people or property.
In England a Baron was a peerage title, this was not the case in Scotland. He or she held their land directly from the King or Queen. After c1700 the emphasis was on administration, a good neighbourhood and economic and other rules for the benefit of those living within the Barony. In 1747 the criminal jurisdiction of a Baron Court was much restricted. The Barony was largely a self-governing community, however there was a system of appeals to the Sheriff and the Central Courts.
The term baron had simply meant "man" originally; later the term baron came to imply holding the barony lands immediately of the King. Finally baron came to mean one who held such lands "of the King" with accompanying rights and duties and the therefore the word came to mean one who held as 'tenant in chief' of the King's lands erected by Charter 'in free barony'. Sir John Skene in his glossary of Scots legal terms defines it as In this Realme he is called ane Barrone quha haldis his landes immediatlie in chiefe of the King and hes power of pit and gallow. The Barons of Scotland continued to have the right to sit in the Scottish Parliament until 1594.
Baronies were social units and their courts a form of council which enabled the area of the barony to function effectively as an early form of self-government. In mediaeval law the barony required a principal residence at which the legal process could be formally transacted. Many abandoned castles motes therefore continued in use for this purpose. The baron and the baron baillie, his deputy, and the Council, were concerned with such matters as: responsibility for repair to ditches and hedges, assessment of damage caused by cattle found on another's ground, under thirlage laws, the maintenance of the mill race in good order and free from weeds and the mending of the mill dam. Even cases of neighbours using "unreasonable language", and "miscalling one another" were brought before the court. The court might also regulate the rotation of crops and the manuring of the ground. Ecclesiastical courts also existed as shown by the example of the Abbot of Kilwinning's court hill near Beith. 
The feudal Baron appointed the Officers of a Baron Court. Barons therefore had public law executive and judicial authority over the public affairs of that Barony. The officers were:
By the Heritable Jurisdictions Act 1747 the powers of life and death were removed from the Baron Court and the criminal jurisdiction was very significantly reduced but not entirely abolished. The hereditary jurisdictions of Regality Courts and of the Sheriff Courts were abolished and the owners received significant sums in compensation. It can be stated therefore that most moot and gallow hills ceased to have a role in the judicial process at that time.
The Abolition of Feudal Tenure, etc (Scotland) Act 2000 removed all the remaining aspects of the feudal baronial system, apart from the baronial titles themselves. The entire system whereby land was held by a vassal on perpetual tenure from a superior, was, on this appointed day, abolished.
This phrase described the jurisdiction of a Baron in criminal cases. A pit, according to Mackenzie was a form of dungeon or prison cell, not a pit for drowning the condemned. Others take the view that the pit was the drowning pool for women and the gallows for the men. It is not clear why men were more likely to be hung and women drowned in a fen, river, pit or 'murder hole', however it may relate to ideas of decency. In Norse law the reason was that men, were sent to Wodan, and women were given to Ran (a sea goddess) or Hel. In Norse tradition the pit and gallows stood on the west of the moot-places or the prince's hall ready for use.
The 'furca and fossa', or the 'pit and gallows', refers to the high justice including the capital penalty. The furca was a device for hanging slaves in ancient Rome and refers to the gallows for hanging men; the fossa was a ditch filled with water for the drowning of women. As previously stated, the hereditary right of high justice survived until 1747 when it was removed from the barons and from the holders of Regalities and sheriffdoms, by the Heritable Jurisdictions Act 1747.
It is not clear that the moot hill was also the actual site of executions; folklore, tradition and the association of separate 'gallow' places names with moot hills on balance suggests that the usual place of execution was a separate 'gallows hill'. At Gardyne Law however an eye witness recalled that judgement and execution took place on the same law. It does seems unlikely that in those superstitious days meetings would be held at places of death; at Mugdock separate moot and gallow hills are a good example. Such gallows may have been built of worked timber or a Dule Tree may have been used. RCAHMS records show that human bones have been frequently found in association with 'gallows' place name sites, but not at 'moot' sites. The term 'murder hole' may relate to the drowning sites, bones have been found close to some of these.
An Ayrshire story tells of how an Ayrshire baron once strung up an innocent man, just because his visitor had never seen a man hanged before. Hopefully this was an isolated example, however the system suffered from many faults due to bias, lack of legal training, etc., etc. As stated, a right of appeal to Regalities and sheriffdoms courts did exist. Details of the sometimes shocking excesses of baron bailies can make painful reading. As their power was great and generally abused, so many of them enriched themselves. They had many ways of making money for themselves, such as (1) the bailie’s darak, as it was called, or a day’s labour in the year from every tenant on the estate; (2) confiscations, as they generally seized on all the goods and effects of such as suffered capitally; (3) all fines for killing game, blackfish, or cutting green wood were laid on by themselves, and went into their own pockets. These fines amounted to what they pleased almost. (4) Another very lucrative perquisite they had was what was called the Herial Horse, which was the best horse, cow, ox, or other article which any tenant on the estate possessed at the time of his death. This was taken from the widow and children for the bailie, at the time they had most need of assistance. This amounted to a great deal of extra income for the baillie of a large barony.
At times it would be necessary to summon people to come to the mote for judgement, proclamations, gatherings, etc. This was sometimes done by ringing a bell, which was fitted upon or beside the moot hill, especially when a date for the meeting had not been previously set. At Greenhills near Barrmill in North Ayrshire a different method is said to have been employed, namely that of raising a flag at the Bore stone; a prominent site near the moot hill. It is likely that bonfires would have been lit as a signal, either from the smoke during the day or the light at night. A 'Bonfire hill' place name survives at Stewarton in East Ayrshire. The Tarbolton moot was still used for lighting bonfires up until the 19th-century at least and the name Shinny Hill is suggestive of traditional bonfires; a 'Shinicle' being a halloween bonfire.
It is interesting to note the significance of direct links with the land shown by the standing on 'home' soil at the Scone moot, the use of soil from each parish in the building of the Tynwald Hill and the discovery of soil from several distant locations at the centre of Silbury Hill. This practice may link with beliefs that lay behind the ceremonies at the petrosomatoglyph footprints on Dunadd and at other sites.
In the 15th-century the Tinwald Mote near Dumfries was still the legal head of the barony, where sasine (possession) was given by the ceremony of handing the grantee, before witnesses, a handful of earth and stone from the head messuage called the Mote near the church of Tynwald. In mediaeval law the barony required a principal residence at which the legal process could be formally transacted, which explains why many such motes as that at Ellon were retained, here by the earls of Buchan, when little else remained of their possessions in the district. The mote still carried the dignity of the earldom.
The sasine is the legal act of register of land ownership, pronounced sayseen. Interestingly, in the context of the significance of the physical aspect of soil and stone, the act of conferring sasine was originally (for example in 1615) effected by the handing over of a bowl full of earth from the land and / or a stone of the house by the proprietor or seller to his heir or the buyer, who was then said to be seized of the land or house. Likewise the land rent payable was symbolised by the passing of a bowl of grass and the tithe as a bowl full of grain. The act of homage for holding a fief also involved the act of investiture. enacted by the delivering of a turf or a handful of earth to the individual to whom the land was being granted.
In Scotland feudalism and its bonds of allegiance to the local laird was associated with the Jacobite risings with the result that the Hanoverian Government took steps to undermine the system. After 1747 the moot hill was not used as a part of the baronial court process and the requirement for a gathering place for soldiers was also a thing of the past. The construction of Moot halls did away with the need to meet in the outdoors. Moot hills gradually ceased to have any significant role and many have suffered the final ignomy of being ploughed out and their existence almost or actually forgotten. Place names and local folklore have preserved the memory of a few, however records suggest that the majority have been destroyed. A few moot hills ended up with unlikely secondary uses, such as Knockenlaw, which was used as the 'blast wall' for a gunpowder magazine and Chapel Hill which was used as a viewing point for watching horse racing.
A few, notably the Tynwald Hill in the Isle of Man, continue to have a function in the 21st century. Some were built on and took on a new role, such as the moot hill at Riccarton near Kilmarnock, which had a kirk (church) built on it in 1823.
Many baronies lands were merged with other baronies at one time or other and therefore some of the associated moot hills would have ceased to have a role well before the demise of the baronial courts in 1747. Moot hills in this category may have remained as features of the landscape, but often without any local traditions relating to them being recorded. Place names are a guide, especially if local traditions have survived as well. Written records often survive, such as in 1346 a William Baillie, the Baillie of Lambistoun or Lambimtoun, vulgarly called Lamington is listed by Dalrymple amongst the prisoners taken by the English at the Battle of Durham which had taken place on 17 October of that year. He was in the company of a Thomas Boyd of Kilmarnock and Andrew Campbell of Loudoun. This helps to confirm that modern day Lambroughton was a barony. Pre-reformation and other old gravestones often recorded the occupation of the individual, especially if they had held important roles such a baron baillie.
Records of these sites have often been lost & therefore the barony and other associations have only been made where the evidence is credible, backed up by written records, place names or by oral folklore.
Beith Court Hill
The Court Hill of Beith from the field above.
Beith Court Hill
The view from below the Beith moot hill.
Beith Court Hill and
Details of the hill at Beith and the deeply excavated Boghall Burn.
Beith Court Hill
Details of the boulders used in the construction of the Beith Court hill.
trial of petty cases, according to their charter, on its summit.
Beith Court Hill
The Court Hill at Beith.
Smith states that there were no Moot Hills in Carrick.
"Moot hill" and its chapel today.]]
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