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Abernethy Round Tower

Human Remains, Pillory, Round Tower, Cinerary Urn

Site Name Abernethy Round Tower

Classification Human Remains, Pillory, Round Tower, Cinerary Urn

Alternative Name(s) The Round Tower; Abernethy Church; Abernethy Churchyard

Canmore ID 27914

Site Number NO11NE 1

NGR NO 18991 16393

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
© Copyright and database right 2016.

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Perth And Kinross
  • Parish Abernethy (Perth And Kinross)
  • Former Region Tayside
  • Former District Perth And Kinross
  • Former County Perthshire


Abernethy 6 (?St Bridget), Perthshire, cross-slab

Measurements: H 0.66m, W 0.48m, D 0.10m

Stone type: yellow sandstone

Place of discovery: NO 1899 1639

Present location:

Evidence for discovery: found during grave-digging in churchyard and erected near the church in the later nineteenth century.

Present condition:


This is a rectangular slab incised with a linear cross.


References: Butler 1897, 237; ECMS pt 3, 341-2.

Compiled by A Ritchie


Abernethy 10 (?St Bridget), cross-slab fragment

Measurements: H 0.78m, W 0.51m, D 0.19m

Stone type: sandstone

Place of discovery: NO 1899 1639

Present location: Abernethy Museum Trust.

Evidence for discovery: found in the churchyard prior to 1897.

Present condition: very worn.


This fragment of a straight-sided cross-slab is carved in relief on both broad faces. Face A displays the upper part of the shaft of a cross with the start of a curve out to the side-arms. the shaft is plain but is outlined by a roll-moulding. Face B is very damaged but appears to show a panel of ornament of unusual composition.


References: Butler 1897, pl III; Proudfoot 1997, 53 (no 9).

Compiled by A Ritchie 2016


Abernethy 8 (?St Bridget), Perthshire, ?cross-shaft fragment


Stone type:

Place of discovery:

Present location: lost

Evidence for discovery:

Present condition:


From the photograph in Butler 1897, this appears to be the upper part of a cross-shaft, carved in relief with a plain roll moulding and figural ornament. It is very worn and appears to have been trimmed for re-use as a building stone. One broad face is shown in the photograph. It bears a horse and barely discernible rider, the horse with its head tucked down and a large oval eye. Below the horse’s body is a mesh of legs ending in eight feet, four facing forwards and four backwards (Odin’s horse, Sleipnir?). There are traces of interlace above the horse and figures below its feet but they are too defaced to identify.


References: Butler 1897, pl 7; Proudfoot 1997, 51 (no 7).

Compiled by A Ritchie 2016

Archaeology Notes

NO11NE 1 1899 1638

(NO 1899 1639) The Round Tower (NR)

OS 6" map, Perthshire, (1938)

For adjacent Old Parish Church (NO 1902 1640) and present parish church (NO 1899 1644), see NO11NE 2 and NO11NE 111 respectively. For Pictish Symbol Stone ('Abernethy no. 1') at foot of tower, see NO11NE 19.

The Round Tower at Abernethy is one of the two remaining in Scotland dating from the end of the 11th century (V G Childe 1961) although earlier authors (A Small 1823 and R R Brash 1862) were of the opinion that it was of an earlier date, the top having been rebuilt as a belfry in the 11th or 12th century, when the door and four upper windows were added.

In 1821 excavation inside the base exposed a skeleton and 'fragments of a light green urn, with a row of carving round the bottom of the neck'. Below these were some flagstones, with many more human bones below, including seven skulls, all male.

The Tower which is 72ft high has an iron joug or pillory attached to it, and beside it is preserved a Pictish symbol stone.

The tower now acts as a belfry to the church.

A Small 1823; R R Brash 1862; V G Childe 1961.

NO 1899 1638. The tower is as previously described. The pictish symbol stone (V G Childe 1961) is the same one as NO11NE 19 which see.

Visited by OS (W D J) 4 August 1965.

In March 1994, as a result of the cutting of a drainage track by contractors during environmental improvement works, accidental damage was caused to the circular foundation base of the tower. SUAT was commissioned to record the exposed archaeology.

The foundation plinth appeared as a collar, of larger diameter than the tower itself. It comprised a single course of roughly faced, rectangular, pink sandstone blocks with a dark grey clay matrix bonding. Two of the stone blocks had been removed at an earlier date, possibly during the insertion of a service cable. One block was cracked as a result of the ongoing groundwork. The foundation blocks overlay a conglomerate, 0.16m thick, of grey-brown clay, containing small pebbles and stone fragments. It would appear that the foundation plinth represents the top of a deeper foundation of similar diameter as the tower, and therefore undisturbed by the drainage track. No direct dating evidence was recovered.

Sponsor: Tayside Region Roads Department.

J R Mackenzie 1994.

The round tower at Abernethy is in the care of Historic Scotland and remains in good condition; the iron jougs are attached to the external wall.

Visited by RCAHMS (JRS), 27 November 1996.


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