Abernethy Round Tower

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Alternative Names The Round Tower; Abernethy Church; Abernethy Churchyard
Canmore ID 27914
Site Number NO11NE 1
NGR NO 18991 16393
Former Region TAYSIDE
Former County PERTHSHIRE
Datum OSGB36 - NGR

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Notes and Activities

Archaeological 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.

Books and References

Brash, R R (1862) The round tower of Abernethy, with drawings', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, vol.3
Page(s): 303-19 illust.

Butler, D (1897) The ancient church and parish of Abernethy, Edinburgh
Page(s): 170-87 Held at RCAHMS D.13.22.ABE.R

Childe, V G (1961) Guide to the Ancient Monuments of Scotland,
Page(s): 112

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