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Dunblane, Bishop's Palace And Well

Palace (Medieval), Well (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Dunblane, Bishop's Palace And Well

Classification Palace (Medieval), Well (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) Bishop's Well

Canmore ID 24681

Site Number NN70SE 22

NGR NN 78111 01311

NGR Description NN 78111 01311 and NN 7812 0126

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

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

Archaeology Notes

NN70SE 22 78111 01311 and 7812 0126

(NN 7811 0132) (Rems. of) Bishop's Palace (NR) (In Ruins)

(NN 7812 0126) Bishop's Well (NR).

OS 25" map, (1932).

The Bishop's Palace was in ruins in 1579. It was a large and imposing building occupying a considerable portion of the ground from the Bishop's Close,(between the cross NN7817 0133, and the Haining NN

7815 0143,)to the present manse. The grassyard or Bishop's yard between the Palace and the River Allan formed the policies of the Palace, and the old well there was known as the Bishop's Well. The Bishop's Well is now waterless.

A B Barty 1944.

The remains of the Bishop's Palace consist of a block of four vaulted chambers, all but the extreme SE one being completely roofed. The overall dimensions of the remains are 24.0m NW to SE by 7.5m NE to SW by 3.7m medium height. The floors of the chambers are up to 1.1m below ground level to the East. At the East corner of the block is the base of what appears to have been a circular stair tower of which about six grassed over steps can be made out above ground level. To the SE alongside the garden wall of the manse, a stone wall in which a linked-tapped opening protrudes some 0.5m above ground level. A plaque described the remains as 13th century.

The Bishop's Well is a rectangular stone structure 2.0 x 1.0m and up to 0.5m deep, now dry and grass covered.

Visited by OS (RDL) 9 January 1964.

Bishop's Well removed.

Information from AA. LS Rev. 12 December 1979.

NN 781 013 An assessment was carried out by SUAT in advance of a proposed extension to the cathedral hall (centred NN 7814 0134). Four trenches were dug in the proposed development area. Three of these trenches located demolition rubble and mortar fragments below garden soil. These overlay a mortar and flagstone floor and robbed out wall line in one trench and a mortared stone wall and backfilled stone vault in another. In the fourth trench a cobbled surface was associated with medieval pottery. All these deposits relate to the demolished remains of the medieval Bishops Palace.

Sponsors: Central Regional Council, Dunblane Kirk Session.

D Hall 1994 b.

A small artefact assemblage was recovered during the assessment. A majority of the finds came from the demolition deposits recorded in all four trenches and from the overlying garden soil contexts. Among those finds recovered from demolition deposits were fragments of bottle glass including a neck fragment and part of a substantial, slightly kicked-up base bearing a scar which indicates the attachment of a pontil rod during its manufacture. Other finds included a small, copper alloy fitting, made by casting, and a crudely-shaped slate disc. The finds assemblage from the demolition deposits indicates an 18th to early 19th-century date range. Garden soils overlying the demolition deposits yielded a 19th to early 20th-century assemblage.

Sponsors: Central Regional Council, Dunblane Kirk Session.

A Cox 1994a.

NN 781 013 Further excavations were undertaken of the wall foundations and vault line previously located in 1994 (Hall 1994). The excavation of a larger area proved that two vault lines were present separated by a wall running N to S. The westernmost of the vaults and the southern face of its supporting wall had been badly damaged by a robber trench. An attempt was made to locate the southern side of this vault but this may have been removed by either robbing or undermining. Alterations to the propsed foundation design have been recommended to the Kirk Session.

Sponsors: Historic Scotland, Dunblane Kirk Session, Central Regional Council.

D Hall 1995.

NN 781 013. SUAT carried out a watching brief on foundation and service works. Further traces of a courtyard outside the bishop?s palace were located in a new service trench, and a new fragment of vault on a completely different alignment to those previously excavated (Hall 1995) was discovered below the cathedral graveyard wall. The piling method employed by the developers did not cause obvious damage to any buried remains.

Sponsors: Historic Scotland, Dunblane Kirk Session, Central Regional Council.

D Hall 1997.

The monument comprises the upstanding remains and the associated archaeological features which represent a small part of the formerly substantial medieval bishop's palace for Dunblane Cathedral.

Believed to have been built for Bishop Clement in the middle years of the 13th century, it seems likely, from recent excavation and survey, that the palace comprised four ranges built around a central courtyard. The extant ruins consist of four vaulted rooms making up the ground floor of the W range, a fragment of the S stair tower at their S end (on the S side of which survives a small section of walling which may represent the N wall of the adjacent S range) and evidence for the site of the N stair tower at their N end. To the N of these remains, beyond the graveyard wall, excavation has revealed the existence of two vaulted rooms of the N range.

The discovery of a vault fragment below the graveyard wall to the NW of the upstanding masonry may indicate the presence of an earlier palace built on a different alignment to that constructed for Bishop Clement. An adjacent earthwork may similarly indicate part of an earlier version of the palace.

Information from Historic Scotland, scheduling document dated 10 November 1998.


Publication Account (1997)

The extent of the palace is still not clear but there are references to ruins extending to the Library. On the north side, it had been levelled by the late nineteenth century. In 1903, while digging foundations for the Cathedral Hall, workmen uncovered a 90 ft (27.4 m) long vault, running parallel with the wall separating the kirkyard from the Cathedral Hall garden. The roof had been broken in many places and the vault itself had been backfilled with rubble. The arched roof of a second vault has also been uncovered on the kirkyard side of the garden wall.

Recent trial excavations, in advance of a proposed extension to the Cathedral Hall, uncovered a further length of partially robbed-out vault and the remains of a cobbled courtyard surface. Probably the western end of the same vault found in the Cathedral Hall, it was similarly backfilled with rubble. The roof of the vault lay c 0.8 m below the present ground surface. Although the ground plan and full extent of the palace remains unclear, it has been suggested that the main palace block faced the cathedral, with the gable walls facing the Allan Water. The upstanding vaults may then form part of a southern annexe, or west range, connected to the main block, albeit at an unusual angle, by a circular stair tower. The archaeological implications for the palace are therefore considerable. It has been shown to extend under Bishop's Close into the garden of, and under, the Cathedral Hall. It may equally extend in all directions from the visible ruins, into the grounds of the manse and the gardens of the cottages on the west of the roadway, as well as into the kirkyard.

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


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