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Date 30 June 2010 - 2 August 2010

Event ID 632634

Category Recording

Type Excavation


NJ 7233 1708 The 16th and final excavation season of a project designed to investigate the role of bishops’ palaces in medieval Scotland and their architectural development took place 30 June–2 August 2010.

The summer palace of the bishops of Aberdeen at Fetternear was largely surrounded by a moat. The removal of a baulk across the moat close to its SE terminus provided further evidence for posts and postholes belonging to structures mentioned in DES 2007. Another section of the moat was investigated on the E of the site. A 1.94m long wooden beam was uncovered lying where the moat stepped down at its outer edge. The moat was made narrower after the mid-14th century by the construction of a masonry wall which runs N–S on the inside of the moat (DES 2004). This wall seems to have replaced a palisade, evidence for which was detected in 2006 on the SW of the site (DES 2006).

The wall butts a clay-bonded masonry structure, the SE and SW corners of which were excavated. This building

contains two chambers of unequal size, the smaller being at the E end. Several complete quarries of medieval window glass suggest that this building had lancet windows. It also had a stone drain, bonded into the lowermost course of the masonry on the downhill (outer) side of the structure. The drain ran in an E–W direction. This building may have served as the chapel or oratory of the bishop’s palace, adding to our earlier interpretation (DES 2003).

W of this structure, the basal course of a length of walling was encountered, running E–W. The wall was heavily

disturbed. Finds in the deposits overlying this feature included medieval pottery, a slate disc or counter and a jeton. These finds, along with two styli from previous years’ excavations, suggest that this part of the site was where the administration of the bishop’s estate took place. There were also large amounts of animal bone.

S of this feature a series of medieval layers were removed down to natural peat. The earliest contained a high proportion of slate fragments, on top of which were laid horizontal slates which were identified by Prof Allan MacInnes as being from Luss or Inchmarnoch, Bute.

The evidence from this season’s excavation complements our findings from previous seasons when other areas of activity within the palace were encountered. In 2005 and 2006, the kitchens of the 14th-century palace were located at the SW corner of the site. A substantial wall running E–W, robbed out in the 19th-century excavation (DES 1996), continues under the present drive leading to the ruined mansion. It may have formed part of the great hall, and medieval pottery sherds, both imported and local wares, along with the animal bones, provide evidence for feasting. The finds from this season add substantially to this interpretation. This area separates the service quarters from the administrative area and the probable chapel. Last year an entrance to the palace was discovered with the excavation of the sole plate of a timber trestle bridge at the SE of the site

(DES 2009).

Finds associated with the post-medieval tower house and the mansion were also recorded amongst rubble dumped in a pit cut into the moat fill at the E of the site. Three chamfered stones of granite were found. They are likely to date from the late 16th century and to have come from a building which formerly stood at 90° to the tower house or from the tower house itself. A highly weathered finial carved from freestone was also recovered from amongst the dumped rubble.

Archive: Aberdeenshire SMR and RCAHMS (intended)

PZ Dransart and J Trigg – Scottish Episcopal Palaces Project

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