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Dunblane, Kirk Street, Dunblane Cathedral

Cathedral (12th Century), Chapel (Period Unassigned), War Memorial(S) (20th Century)

Site Name Dunblane, Kirk Street, Dunblane Cathedral

Classification Cathedral (12th Century), Chapel (Period Unassigned), War Memorial(S) (20th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Dunblane Parish Church; Cathedral Church Of Saint Blaan And Saint Laurence: War Memorial Window And Plaques

Canmore ID 24672

Site Number NN70SE 15

NGR NN 78153 01381

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
© Copyright and database right 2017.

Digital Images

First 100 images shown. See the Collections panel (below) for a link to all digital images.

Administrative Areas

  • Council Stirling
  • Parish Dunblane And Lecropt
  • Former Region Central
  • Former District Stirling
  • Former County Perthshire

Archaeology Notes

NN70SE 15.00 78153 01381

Dunblane Cathedral [NAT]

OS (GIS) MasterMap, April 2010.

NN70SE 15.01 NN 7817 0139 Monastery (possible); Sculptured Stones; Cross

NN70SE 15.02 NN 7818 0141 Watching Brief; Human Remains

NN70SE 15.03 NN 78153 01349 Cathedral Hall

NN70SE 15.04 NN 7814 0134 Cist

NN70SE 15.05 NN 7811 0138 Cist

NN70SE 15.06 NN 78209 01341 Museum

NN70SE 15.07 NN 781 013 Cist

NN70SE 15.08 NN 781 013 Watching Brief; Cist (possible); human remains

Crown property in [the] charge of the minister.

(Undated) information in NMRS.

Dunblane Cathedral: The Building dates mainly from the 13th century, but embodies a square tower, once free-standing, the lower part of which is Norman work. The nave was unroofed after the Reformation, but the whole building was restored in 1892-5.

V G Childe and W D Simpson 1961.

The 12th century tower is a relic of the structure erected after the re-establishment of the bishopric in 1150. Nothing is known of the Cathedral between this time and the time of Bishop Clement (1233-58) who is believed to have partly, if not entirely, rebuilt the cathedral.

D MacGibbon and T Ross 1896.

The whole of Dunblane Cathedral is now in use as a place of worship.

Visited by OS (RDL) 8 January 1964.

NN 781 013 A watching brief was conducted in the nave at Dunblane Cathedral (NMRS NN70SE 15) in December 1999. Only 19th-century contexts were disturbed, although fragments of human bone and glazed floor tile were recovered.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

P Sharman 2000

NN 7815 0139 A watching brief was undertaken in April 2001 during minor excavations at Dunblane Cathedral (NMRS NN70SE 15.00). This structure, while having a medieval core, has seen a lot of restoration work over the centuries, particularly during the latter part of the 19th century. The aim of the current project was to excavate a small trench immediately outside (to the N of) an undercroft, with the aim of locating and repairing a pipe.

The trench reached a maximum depth of 70cm, and was dug down through reasonably loose deposits - stone, brick, blaze and ceramic drainpipe fragments, presumably representing fill of service trenches. Two white china sherds were noted, but not retained. This excavation revealed nothing but the high density of service trenches around the cathedral.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

D Stewart and G Ewart 2001

NN 782 014 A GPR survey of Dunblane Cathedral was carried out in February and March 2005 prior to a proposed rewiring of the cathedral.

A number of anomalies of possible archaeological origin were identified, mainly within the N and S aisles, ranging in depth from 0.35-1.4m. A large area of strong, complex anomalies situated within the N aisle at an average depth of 1.25m may be of archaeological interest, possibly representing areas of debris or previous foundations.

Report lodged with NMRS.

Sponsor: HS.

H Heard 2005.

Architecture Notes


National Library of Scotland

Builders Journal & Arch Review, Jan 14th 1903 - elevation of old choir stalls

Nattes Drawings Vol.3 No 48/54 - 6 drawings

RIBA Library

Drawings collection. James Cromer Watt, 1882 - perspective sketch of restored window

elevation & sketch of frame moulding

Scottish Records Office

GD 49/587

Letters concerning the restoration of the Cathedral. The Rev. Alexander Ritchie, Minister of Dunblane comments upon the success of the restoration. He gives particulars of the scheme of heraldic adornments for the bosses along the interior ridge of the nave rood and on the hammer beam. He explains that a beginning has been made with stained glass windows - by the insertion fo the Great East Window and 6 chancel windows facing South. The Minister's letter suggests that he hopes Barclay-Allardice may be interested in furthering the work.


GD 220/5/1987/2

Dunblane. Repair of the Church of Dunblane.

Assessment of the heritors' contributions towards repairing the public click in the steeple and two new dial plates. Letter James Russell to David Graeme of Orchill.



William Stirling - submitted plan for repairing church and converting part into a school, 1806 (not carried out)

James Gillespie Graham, 1817-19 (part restoration)

William Nixon - iron gates (Office of Works), 1845

Sir Robert Rowand Anderson, 1889-93

Sir Robert Lorimer 1912-14 (restoration) also fittings etc. 1928-30

Reginald Fairlie 1937 (adds. panelling, fitments and furniture of chapel)

(Undated) information in NMRS.


Publication Account (1985)

Dunblane is an attractive small town regaining a quiet charm now that the main Stirling-Perth road has been diverted east of the town centre. On higher ground flanking the River Allen and at the head of the main street, the cathedral stands surrounded by a close-like grouping of buildings, some of which date back to the 17th century. From the 13th century the cathedral was the seat of the bishop of the diocese of Dunblane, which stretched from the Forth to Strathearn. Before that date the episcopal centre was probably at Muthill but as a palt of the reorganisation of the church in the early 13th century, Bishop Clement moved to Dunblane and oversaw the construction of a new cathedral. After the Reformation, the cathedral fell into decay; only the choir retained its roof and, like Paisley Abbey (no. 57), it was converted for use as the parish church. During the late 19th century the cathedral was restored by the renowned Scottish architect Sir R Rowand Anderson.

There has probably been a church at Dunblane since Early Christian times but all that survives from this early period are fragments of sculpture and a complete cross-slab of 9th or 10th century date which are now situated in the north-west of the choir. The construction of the cathedral by Bishop Clement meant the demolition of the 12th century church, but its freestanding square bell-tower was incorporated, not quite at right-angles, into the south wall of the cathedral.

During the later middle ages the tower was progressively heightened and the two major building periods can readily be distinguished by changes in the colour of the stonework. Although work on the cathedral may have begun soon after the installation of Bishop Clement in 1233, the building was probably not completed until late in the century and modifications continued to be made up to the Reformation. Preserved within the sanctuary and at the west end of the nave there are rare examples of medieval stalls; the fine modem choir-stalls were designed by the Scottish architect Sir Robert Lorimer.

The cathedral is surrounded by a burial-ground which contains an interesting collection of 18th and 19th century gravestones, and, immediately outside the burial-ground, the Friends ofDunblane Cathedral have restored a late medieval house for use as a museum.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: The Clyde Estuary and Central Region’, (1985).

Publication Account (1997)

The tower of the cathedral is the oldest extant building in Dunblane, standing parallel with the nave and half in, half out, of the aisle of the cathedral. Evidently, when an older church was demolished, its almost certainly free-standing Romanesque belfry-tower was incorporated within the fabric of the new cathedral. It is possible that the lower four storeys of the cathedral tower, constructed from local stone, may have served as a place of defence as well as a place of worship for Culdees before the reorganisation of the diocese in the twelfth century. The upper portion of the tower is distinctively early sixteenth century in date and is noteworthy for the round projections of the parapet at the corners, clearly derived from castles.

The cathedral consists of a nave figure 10 with aisles of eight bays, an aisleless choir of six bays, with a chapel on the north and, prior to the Reformation, at least seven altars. The great west door is remarkable for the fourteen shafts in either jamb. Above this doorway are three large windows of equal size; and over them in the gable is a small oval leaf-shaped window, admired by John Ruskin.

The earliest existing portion of the cathedral, after the tower, is the chapel on the north side of the choir. This perhaps functioned as both chapter house and Lady Chapel and is a small and relatively plain building with five bays. The eastern portion of the cathedral was relatively well maintained during the post-Reformation period and the choir functioned as the parish church, rather than the nave, as had been the practice. After the Reform action, the roof of the nave of the cathedral collapsed and a large part of the building became ruinous. This state of disrepair was not uncommon in the post-Reformation period because much of the wealth of the medieval church had passed into secular hands. A roof-raggle on the east face of the tower is probably an indicator of an external porch over the south doorway of the cathedral. Another raggle is visible on the west side of the tower and may represent a structure extending into the kirkyard.

The cathedral only narrowly escaped the threat of demolition to make way for the railway. It was restored in the late nineteenth century and is now maintained by the Friends of Dunblane Cathedral. The cathedral is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and, therefore, any development here would require the consent of the Secretary of State of Scotland. Major development here is unlikely, but environmental improvements and the insertion of new services, both within the standing building and in the kirkyard area, will almost certainly disturb archaeology.

Over the last two centuries, improvements inside the cathedral have brought to light a number of important discoveries. In 1873, the floor-levels of the choir and chapter house were reduced, and in 1889-93 a sub-floor chamber was excavated for a new central heating system in the Lady Chapel. At a depth of 0.61m, two sculptured stones were found, dateable to the ninth, tenth or eleventh centuries. A stone coffin containing two disturbed skeletons was also found during groundworks in the choir. Any further groundworks may expose earlier phases of the cathedral and, perhaps, remains of an earlier church. Burials almost certainly survive, preserved beneath the present floor surface. Camden's Britannia, first published in 1586, describes the nave as being 'full of modern gravestones', and Bronze Age cists have been recovered from the north and north-west ends of the cathedral.

Information from ‘Historic Dunblane: The Archaeological Implications of Development’ (1997).

Project (February 2014 - July 2014)

A data upgrade project to record war memorials.


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