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Ulbster, 'the Ulbster Stone'

Cross Slab (Pictish), Pictish Symbol Stone (Pictish)

Site Name Ulbster, 'the Ulbster Stone'

Classification Cross Slab (Pictish), Pictish Symbol Stone (Pictish)

Canmore ID 8431

Site Number ND16NW 13

NGR ND 1255 6879

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/8431

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2018.

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Thurso
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Caithness
  • Former County Caithness

EARLY MEDIEVAL CARVED STONES PROJECT

Ulbster (St Martin), Caithness, Pictish cross-slab

Measurements: H 1.52m, W 0.91m, D 0.20m

Stone type: Old Red Sandstone

Place of discovery: NO 3356 4185

Present location: Caithness Horizons, Thurso.

Evidence for discovery: Stuart records a tradition that the stone was dug up in the churchyard of St Martin’s Chapel at Ulbster in 1770, set upright and later re-used as a graveslab (1856: 14). In the 19th century it was moved to Thurso castle and set upright on an artificial mound in the grounds (Allen & Anderson 1903: pt 3, 33-5). In the first half of the 20th century it was moved to Thurso Heritage Museum (now Caithness Horizons; ARC 64).

Present condition: worn.

Description

Face A: an equal-armed cross on a narrow shaft and a rectangular base extends across almost the entire face. The cross is filled with interlace, geometric in the centre of the cross-head and curvilinear elsewhere. The terminal panels of the arms contain designs based on four triquetra knots. Two cattle and another animal with paws occupy the spaces above the arms of the cross. A pair of bear-like animals flanks the lower arm of the cross, while below them on the right are a flower symbol, a horse and a sleeping foal, and on the left two men crouched on either side of a cauldron and a tightly coiled serpent. An inscription in Gothic letters, The Ulbster Stone, was carved across the upper arm of the cross, probably in the 19th century.

Face C: an equal-armed cross filled with interlace based on four triquetra knots, flanked closely by eight symbols, some of which touch or even encroach upon the cross. They are the crescent and V-rod, the Pictish beast, the salmon, the lion, the double disc, the double crescent, the step and the S-dragon.

Date: ninth century.

Compiled by A Ritchie 2016

EARLY MEDIEVAL CARVED STONES PROJECT

Ulbster (St Martin), Caithness, Pictish cross-slab

Measurements: H 1.52m, W 0.91m, D 0.20m

Stone type: Old Red Sandstone

Place of discovery: NO 3356 4185

Present location: Caithness Horizons, Thurso.

Evidence for discovery: Stuart records a tradition that the stone was dug up in the churchyard of St Martin’s Chapel at Ulbster in 1770, set upright and later re-used as a graveslab (1856: 14). In the 19th century it was moved to Thurso castle and set upright on an artificial mound in the grounds (Allen & Anderson 1903: pt 3, 33-5). In the first half of the 20th century it was moved to Thurso Heritage Museum (now Caithness Horizons; ARC 64).

Present condition: worn.

Description

Face A: an equal-armed cross on a narrow shaft and a rectangular base extends across almost the entire face. The cross is filled with interlace, geometric in the centre of the cross-head and curvilinear elsewhere. The terminal panels of the arms contain designs based on four triquetra knots. Two cattle and another animal with paws occupy the spaces above the arms of the cross. A pair of bear-like animals flanks the lower arm of the cross, while below them on the right are a flower symbol, a horse and a sleeping foal, and on the left two men crouched on either side of a cauldron and a tightly coiled serpent. An inscription in Gothic letters, The Ulbster Stone, was carved across the upper arm of the cross, probably in the 19th century.

Face C: an equal-armed cross filled with interlace based on four triquetra knots, flanked closely by eight symbols, some of which touch or even encroach upon the cross. They are the crescent and V-rod, the Pictish beast, the salmon, the lion, the double disc, the double crescent, the step and the S-dragon.

Date range: ninth century.

References: ECMS pt 3, 33-5; Blackie & Macaulay 1998: no 11; Fraser 2008: no 104.

Compiled by A Ritchie 2016

Archaeology Notes

ND16NW 13 1255 6879.

(ND 1255 6879) Standing Stone (Sculptured) (NAT)

OS 6" map, Caithness, 2nd ed., (1907)

This symbol stone once stood in the ancient burial ground attached to the ruined church of St Martin at Ulbster (ND34SW 28) and was subsequently placed over a grave there which assisted in the defacement of the front side; at some other unknown date it was removed and placed upright on an artificial mound in the grounds of Thurso Castle where its exposed position (especially the front face turned to the Castle and the sea) has led to further defacement of the sculpture; the front has also been mutilated in the upper third with the modern inscription in Gothic letters 'The Ulbster Stone' by which name it is also known.

It is a sandstone slab, 5ft high by 7 1/2ins thick and is 3ft wide at the top but 2ft 6ins at the bottom. It is sculptured on the two main faces partly in relief and partly with incised lines. This monument has more symbols than any other.

Between 1910, when the RCAHMS saw it in the grounds of Thurso Castle, and 1956 it has been removed to an unknown site (information from OS revisor).

RCAHMS 1911, visited 1910; J R Allen and J Anderson 1903.

This stone now stands in the entrance doorway of Thurso Museum. The large artificial mound in the grounds of Thurso Castle on which it stood is a reult of landscape gardening (information from Hon R M Sinclair, Thurso East)

Visited by OS (E G C) 18 April 1962.

This stone is now inside the Thurso Library and Museum building (Accession no: ARC 64).

Visited by OS (J M) 16 February 1982.

Class II symbol stone.On the face is above the cross are carved a cow and other animals.Below the cross are two kneeling figures with a cauldron together with a horse and a colt.Below these is a serpent and a flower to the right.

On the reverse is another cross with pairs of symbols in the quadrants

Upper left - elephant over a salmon

Upper right - crescent and V-rod over a beast

Lower left - fish-monster over a step

Lower left - double-disc over a double-crescent.

A Mack 1997

References

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