Edinburgh, Holyrood Park, General And Perimeter Wall

Park, Wall

Site Name Edinburgh, Holyrood Park, General And Perimeter Wall

Classification Park, Wall

Alternative Name(s) Queen's Park; Holyrood Royal Park; King's Park

Canmore ID 52219

Site Number NT27SE 197

NGR NT 2744 7348

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Ordnance Survey licence number 100020548. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Edinburgh, City Of
  • Parish Edinburgh (edinburgh, City Of)
  • Former Region Lothian
  • Former District City Of Edinburgh
  • Former County Midlothian

Archaeology Notes

NT27SE 197 27 73

Holyrood Park, also known as the King's or Queen's Park, was created in 1541 by James V when he had the ground 'circulit about Arthurs Sett, Salisborie and Duddingston craggis' enclosed by a stone wall. The establishment of the Park accompanied the development of Holyrood as a royal residence following the move from Edinburgh castle instigated by James IV.

The earliest records of the land that now falls within the Park date from 1128-47, and indicate that in the early 12th century it was divided between royal demesne and the estate of Treverlen (Duddingston), then in the hands of Uviet the White (see NT27SE 3935). At this time, the royal demesne was used for hunting, and, according to legend, David I founded Holyrood Abbey by way of gratitude, having been spared during a hunting trip from death by an aggressive stag bearing a cross (or rood) between its antlers; it seems more probable, however, that the dedication of the abbey originates from its most precious relic, a fragment of the True Cross, inherited by David I through his brothers from his mother, Queen Margaret. With the foundation of Holyrood Abbey in 1128, David I granted demesne lands to the Augustinian canons, and Uviet endowed the abbey with part of Arthur's Seat. From the outset, Holyrood Abbey provided a royal guesthouse for the king and his court, and its popularity increased during the 14th and 15th centuries, so much so that in 1501 James IV began to build a palace at Holyrood. By 1542, it had displaced the castle as the principal royal residence. During these centuries, the Park acted as a sanctuary, however, in the early 16th century, the use of sanctuary for common criminals was repealed, and, following the Reformation, religious sanctuary was also abolished. With the annexation of monastic lands in the late 16th century, Holyrood Park reverted to the Crown and became a debtors' sanctuary related to the royal palace.

In 1564, while under crown property, Queen Mary created an artifical loch in Hunter's Bog as a resort for her courtiers, and in 1646, Charles I made Sir James Hamilton of Prestonfield House (NT27SE 94.00) and his heirs Hereditory Keepers of the Park. The Park remained in the care of his family for the next two hundred years, until the increasing unpopularity of the extensive quarrying of Salisbury Crags (see NT27SE 3946) led to the Crown reassuming control of the Park in 1846. During Queen Victoria's reign, her consort Prince Albert introduced various measures to landscape the Park, including drainage schemes and the removal of scrub vegetation, as well as the construction of the Queen's Drive, Dunsapie Loch and St Margaret's Loch. Further areas have been added to the Park since 1846, in particular the grounds immediately to the east of the palace and abbey (the Parade Ground), which were acquired in the late 19th century from the Belleville estate (see NT27SE 3955). The present boundary was completed in 1926 with the donation of the strip of ground to the east of Duddingston Loch.

The wall enclosing Holyrood Park stands as testimony to this chequered past and ranges in construction material and technique. At numerous points on its perimeter, there is evidence for its modification, restoration and rebuilding. There are several pedestrian entrances into the Park, and four road entrances - Holyrood, St Leonards, Duddingston and Meadowbank - all of which are marked by lodges dating to the second half of the 19th century. The lodge at Dumbiedykes is dated to 1903. The OS maps depict these lodges, together with several structures associated with the pastoral use of the Park, but only the shepherd's cottage at Wells of Wearie survives; sheep were removed from the Park in 1977 following concerns of ecological damage. Amongst the other notable features infringing on the boundary of the Park, there is the Innocent Railway, now a public footpath and cycleway, which cuts through the southern margin of the Park (see NT27SE 3979) and was opened in 1831 to carry coal from Dalkeith into the city, while around Duddingston Loch boathouses and curling ponds are shown on the OS maps, and reflect the increasing use of the Park for recreation.

Visited by RCAHMS (ARG), 17 January 2000

Wickham-Jones 1996; RCAHMS 1999; NMRS, MS/726/96 (55-6, 68-71, 72-4 and 81-2, nos. 41, 66-74, 76-82 and 101).

NT 2730 7395 An archaeological assessment was undertaken to determine the impact of the various cultural events that are staged in the park each year. A desk-based assessment was undertaken in advance of a programme of trial trenching that comprised five long trenches covering 1000m2. The assessment identified a spread of archaeological features and structures dating to the late medieval and post-medieval periods. This included a possible outer precinct boundary for Holyrood Abbey, which defined a group of post-holes and pits of medieval date. The remains of post-medieval boundary walls of likely 16th or 17th-century date were identified in the area previously known as St Anne's Yard. Garden features and demolition spreads were also encountered. These are related to a substantial post-medieval building, eventually known as Clockmill House, which was demolished at the end of the 19th century.

A full report has been lodged with the NMRS.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

S Stronach and C Moloney 2000

NT 277 723 A site visit was carried out to a section of the Holyrood Park boundary wall near to Wells o' Wearie in February 2000. Part of the wall had been dismantled where a large tree had damaged it. The affected area of the wall was photographed, the profile drawn, the line of the wall planned, and the area was located with reference to a nearby brick building.

Rig and furrow was noted in the area, but without excavation it could not be related to the wall.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

A Radley 2000

NT 2712 7402 A minor excavation and recording exercise was undertaken in July 2001 in the area of a collapsed portion of the Holyrood Park boundary wall towards the N side of the park, just SE of Croft-an-Righ. This work is still in progress.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

G Ewart 2001

Architecture Notes

NMRS Print Room

Inglis Photograph Collection Acc/No 1994/90

Holyrood Park, General

2 different views of St Margaret's Loch

View from a rooftop near Holyrood Park Road into the park showing glasshouses



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