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Scotland in the Middle Ages
Chapter X - Dwellings - Architecture and Arts Connected with it


Early dwellings — Caves — Subterranean built chambers — Galleries in Orkney — Early strongholds of wood — Circular hill forts — Some very remarkable — Cathertun — Barmekyn of Echt — Vitrified forts — Picts' houses — "Druid's circles" — Some of their purposes — Sculptured monuments — Symbols of unknown meaning — Limitation of the sculptured monuments, as to place (Lowland Scotland) and time (eighth and ninth centuries) — Earliest Christian buildings — Round towers — History of art depending on architecture — Attempt to fix eras of architectural style — Old Whithern and Iona quite gone —First style extant, Norman or Romanesque — Its date — Next, "First Pointed" — Third, "Middle Pointed" — Later style — Collegiate churches — Ornamental arts subserving architecture — A word about heraldry — Stained glass — Symbolical meaning of church architecture — Workmanship in iron and wood — Timber roofs — Stucco ceilings — Wood carving — Dunblane — King's College, Aberdeen — Tiles — Ancient seals, baronial and ecclesiastical — Coins — A charter of 1159 with portraits of David I. and Malcolm IV. — Hoard of silver ornaments found in Orkney — Its date fixed to the ninth century — Architectural art as applied to domestic buildings — Scotch castles of the time of David I. and earlier, all gone — Remains of those of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries — Kildrummy — Lochindorb — Bothwell — Baronial tower of the fifteenth century — Causes of its poor style — Subsequent additions — Ornate style introduced by James IV. and James V. — Stirling — Linlithgow — New style of castle mansion — Lord Dunfermline and Earl of Strathmore its leaders — Fyvie — Pinkie — Glammis — Spread especially in Aberdeenshire — Castle Fraser — Craigievar — Crathes — Craigston, etc. — Dwellings of the people — Never retrograding — Change and improvement — Constant and still continuing — Burgh domestic architecture.

Let us examine a little how our forefathers dwelt and were lodged, the mechanical contrivance shown in their habitations, and the rude but interesting beginnings of constructive and masonic skill, which required great development before they deserve the name of Art. At the same time we shall find it convenient to consider that class of antiquities which are at least akin to habitations, the structures of an early age for defence, for religious and legal meetings; and monolithic monuments, whether for commemorating the dead, ascertaining boundaries of estates, or preserving the memory of some historical event.

In thus approaching the proper ground of the antiquary, I trust I may escape falling into the common error of that respectable class. I will not ask my readers to form a rash determination upon any or those points, regarding which, it requires extensive comparison as well as much previous study to justity any expression, even of confident opinion. There are many remains of antiquity, many classes of such in this country, which are much less known, and, as to their purposes, much more mysterious than the Cyclopian remains of Greece or the barrows and (now) subterranean palaces of Nimroud and Nineveh. I feel that I shall disappoint my younger readers when I pass by such interesting relics without pronouncing decidedly upon their dates and, still more, upon their original design and use. I cannot help it. The proper study of antiquities is hardly begun among us; and much of the discredit and ridicule that have fallen upon it and its votaries, arises from the crude and presumptuous judgments passed upon individual cases and objects as they arise, instead of investigating each with reference to the family to which it belongs. To do this well requires much previous learning, a knowledge of the history and antiquities of cognate nations, especially a familiar acquaintance with their historical collections. But above all, it requires a careful and patient examination of similar remains, where they exist in our own country. That, at least, the public has a right to demand before adopting a theory or explanation, which may not be untenable as applied to one instance, and yet may become palpably absurd when tried by its application to others.

We do not know from which side the first stream of colonizers took possession of Scotland. If our Celtic forefathers arrived from the South, it must have required all their skill to make it a comfortable habitation. In some districts, perhaps, the native forest furnished the early squatters with materials for their huts and wigwams. And of these we must not look for any vestiges. But on our eastern coast, where wood is scarce, and yet the soil and neighbouring sea, its fishing and harbours, were attractive, the new-arrived strangers would seek their shelter from the weather, their protection against beasts of prey, as well as concealment from other hostile settlers, in those caves which are sufficiently abundant everywhere. Many such, unassisted by art, are yet found, not unfitted for human dwellings. Where the rock is dry, and the vault spacious enough, these were habitations ready and commodious. Where the arch of the great architect, Nature, was too low for their purpose, their rude tools of stone or brass enabled them to enlarge it. Caves showing abundant traces of this artificial enlargement are to be seen in many districts. I need hardly put you in mind of those of Hawthornden. On the banks of the little river Ale, which falls into Teviot at Ancrum, are a wonderful number of similar caves, all more or less showing the hand-work of their ancient occupants.

From such habitations which they disputed with their legitimate possessors, the bears and wolves, the natives of this country swarmed off into new hives, not very dissimilar in appearance, nor superior in comfort. These were the under-ground chambers which are still found in several places in Scotland. There are some of these of great size, and well defined, near Airlie in Angus. I am acquainted with some in the heights of Aberdeenshire — on the high moorland which separates the valley of the Don from Strathbogie, not far above the ancient castle of Kildrummie. They are almost invisible from without. Within, they are cased with rough stones, and roofed with the same materials, gradually converging and supported by the pressure of the earth upon their outer extremity, with no approach to the principle of the arch. In the Orkney islands such apartments are found, somewhat more artificial in construction. An officer, now engaged in the survey of the northern coast, has bestowed some of the forced leisure of those stormy seas upon opening up some of the remarkable souterains of Orkney. I have seen his drawings and very accurate plans of these, which exhibit a more advanced state of society — if we may use the term for that mole or rabbit sort of existence — than any I have met with elsewhere. One consists of a pretty long gallery, with apartments branching off it. The height of the gallery could admit of a man of Orkney stature standing and walking upright. The apartments on either hand, if human dwellings, were for night use. But observe — in that region of storm, and placed between a coast constantly strewed with drift-wood, and an exhaustless supply of peat fuel on the moor — there is no vestige of a chimney, nor any means of admitting light. At the end of the green hillock, under which he supposes the ancient Orcadians to have lived, Captain Thomas assured me he found the remains of ashes of wood or peat, that must have been accumulated for many years; and interspersed among them, the remains of bones of animals and of the horns of a deer, which he concluded were used for the food of the inhabitants.

Such were no doubt the abodes of the people, chosen for concealment, and little capable of protecting cattle, or bulky property. Their early, and indeed aboriginal strongholds, again, varied with, the situation and material. We have the green mound, steeply escarped, and giving barely room on its summit, for the wooden castle of which the material was supplied by the neighbouring forest — the little island of firm land in midst of a mountain lake, or still more impracticable morass — sometimes a structure of piles in the lake where there was no natural island — the circular redoubt, like a larger pen for cattle, placed high on a hill side to guard against surprise, surrounded with a wall of heaped earth, or of stone, and a dry ditch, such as afforded protection for the cattle and their owners, against the hurried onslaught of a foraging enemy. Some of these forts are more elaborate and remarkable. One stands on the striking height of Cathertun, looking across the valley of Strathmore. Another, nearly similar, I had an opportunity of inspecting carefully very lately. It is called the "Barmekyn," and crowns the summit of a conical hill of perhaps 300 feet high, which rises from the hollow of Echt, in Mar. The interior of the fort is not levelled — it is oval, 120 by 100 yards, surrounded by no less than five walls, three of earth, two of stone, and these defences occupying altogether 20 yards across. The outer wall of stone, though much weather worn, appeared to have been built of stones rudely squared, but without mortar. It stands in places still 8 feet high. The entrances to the east, west, and south, were curious. The narrow path of approach is made to wind in a zigzag through the walls, so as not to have the openings of any two of the walls opposite to each other.

Of the same class, were the vitrified forts which crown the tops of many of our hills, and which have exercised the ingenuity of antiquarians too much, and with too little success, for me to speculate upon their mode of formation. I may observe, however, that the vitrified wall in no cases rises to any considerable height, seldom more than a few inches, and that the vitrification is generally very partial; from which I infer, only, that it was caused by the use of fires for other purposes, and not lighted for saving mortar and producing a concrete and solid wall.

But however these curious vitrifications were produced, all that class of strengths are such as a people in the infancy of the arts would have recourse to. There is little skill or ingenuity shown in their structure. We have a rude outer fence, and no remains nor appearance of any building or habitations for the people who trusted to it in time of need.

Considerably different from these, and still more perplexing as to their origin and purpose, are the bell-shaped circular buildings, vulgarly called, "Picts' Houses," and which are met with, round our northern and western coasts, and in the islands. They are frequently found, several in the same vicinity, and often three or four within sight of each other. The most perfect I have seen, and I believe the most perfect that exists, is on the little island of Mousa in Shetland. The chambers, if they may be called so, of this tower are in the thickness of the walls. There is no appearance that the centre space was ever roofed over; and what adds to the difficulty of appropriating this singular building to any purpose, there is no chimney nor fire-place anywhere, which seems to shut out the possibility of its being used as a permanent residence in the northern climate and exposed situation in which it, and most of the same class are placed. It seems more likely that they were places of occasional resort, perhaps for storing the property or the plunder of a people spending their lives in coasting piratical expeditions; but this leaves the very artificial and uniform shape of these "Picts' Houses" altogether unaccounted for. Mr. Worsaae, a Dane, and most intelligent and learned in the antiquities of Scandinavia, assures me there is nothing at all resembling them in the old land of the North-men. One of these towers near Dunrobin was carefully examined lately, and, in particular, the rubbish removed from the chambers and galleries; and in one of these was found a skeleton. The ground of the centre area was removed to a good depth, and the search produced only remains of fire in the middle space, and several of the common small querns or hand-mills.

I must be pardoned for this unsatisfactory way of raising difficulties without furnishing or seeking a theory for their solution. I stated in the beginning that it must be so; for in no other country has so little been done for throwing light on national antiquities as in Scotland. No one has even taken the trouble to visit and compare all the specimens of each class in our own country, still less to compare them with the existing monuments of neighbouring or cognate nations. But each pretender blurts out his own crude and undigested theory, formed from a specimen or two nearest to himself, and which is overturned as soon as a few other instances force themselves on the student's observation.

Much more is this rash and ignorant way of observing and theorising of our antiquaries to be regretted in reference to another and still more interesting class of Scotch monuments — I mean those erect sculptured stones of high antiquity which meet us everywhere in the northern shires.

I wish to distinguish between them and the circles of standing stones commonly, though improperly, called Druids' circles, found over all Scotland, and of which the Stones of Stennes, in Orkney, are the type and grandest specimen. Those circles vary in size and number and height of the stones, and in having or wanting avenues of stones leading to them, and, more rarely, concentric circles. But for the most part they will be found, where the soil has not been disturbed, to have cairns of sepulture around them. Many of them have a stone laid flatways in the circumference of the circle, which is generally considered as an altar; and, I believe invariably, the stones are undressed by the mason's tool, and altogether without inscription or sculpture. There is evidence of history or record to show that some of these circles were used, even within a comparatively recent period, as places of public meeting and of justice; and there is reason to believe they were originally the places of those assemblies common to all the Teutonic peoples, where the tribe met to discuss its common affairs, to devise laws, and to administer law. That they were in some way consecrated, and served for temples of religion also, is indeed most probable, though we have no evidence on the subject. But we cannot easily conceive a primitive society which does not blend religion and its rites with law — the lawgiver and the judge with the priest. In this view, the cairns and marks of sepulchre will appear as appropriate to these places of legal and religious meeting, as a cemetery to a Christian church. In one of those circles on the bank above Inverness was dug up a rod of gold, simply crooked at the top like a rude crozier or an ancient lituus. A few miles distant, at Clava, in the rocky valley of the water of Nairn, there are the remains of quite a little city of such circles, of small size, some having in their circumference what were long thought to be mere cairns of loose stones, but are now found to cover rudely-formed chambers, the roofs formed by converging stones without arches. A similar chamber has been discovered in the centre of the great circle in the Lews. It would be a considerable boon for our antiquities if any student of our history were to endeavour to fix the limits of the districts of those stone circles ; and important results might he derived from it for the history of our original peoples. I have not myself found them in the West Highlands, the ancient territory of the proper Scots; while the greatest and most remarkable are in Orkney and the Lews.

I wish to distinguish from those circles of unhewn stones, a somewhat later, hut more interesting and yet more mysterious class of our national antiquities — the sculptured monuments, standing singly or in small irregular groups, which are found chiefly in the North, hut of which the most interesting and also the most numerous specimens occur in Strathmore — at Glammis, at Meigle, at Aberlemno. In chronicles and ancient Church records we find mention of setting up great stones and stone crosses to mark the place of death of some great man (Fordun relates that the place of Alexander III.'s fatal fall was marked by a stone cross), and of others to distinguish the boundaries of estates and jurisdictions. Thus the Steward of Scotland marked the marches between the monks of Paisley and his chace of Fereneze; and Lesmahagu, the church of St. Machutus, had the extent of its girth or sanctuary defined by four crosses which stood around it. We could have no difficulty, then, in accounting for the ancient stone cross, was it not often accompanied by a species of hieroglyphics which set the speculations of the antiquary at nought. You must not suppose that it is the mere ornaments of the artist, however grotesque, that appear inexplicable, or, indeed, that excite our curiosity. There is a class of symbols represented on these stones, of such constant recurrence as to preclude the possibility of their being the work of chance, and yet of forms which suggest no feasible explanation or meaning. For the most part, those symbolic sculptures are conjoined with carved crosses (though generally on the other side of the stone), suggesting the idea that they may have existed as monuments before, and that the symbol of Christianity may have been superinduced over those of pagan times. Others have thought that the stones being boundary stones, the cross on one side denoted the possession of the Church, while the figures on the reverse had reference to the occupations or dignities of the conterminous lay lord. I must say, however, that the person who has devoted most study to this subject has arrived at the conclusion that these sculptured pillars are in all cases sepulchral. The sculpture is not in general in a style of good art; but I have been much struck with the freedom, spirit, and grace of some figures of horses and horsemen on the stones in the church-yard of Meigle. There, too, occurs the interesting representation of a chariot — the only real evidence to support the ancient historians who make the inhabitants of rocky, boggy, woody Scotland, a race of charioteers. The more ancient and ruder of those monuments have no other sculpture but the symbolical figures I have already alluded to. Such are "the Maiden Stone" in the Garioch, Aberdeenshire, and the older of the stones of Aberlemno in Angus.

The later have ornaments of different kinds; processions — as that really majestic monument at Forres — battles, and hunting scenes; but over and through all these representations, the ever-recurring symbols of unknown meaning. [The Stone of Forres is without the mysterious symbols.]

One of these monuments is interesting on several accounts. It is preserved at the church of St. Vigeans in Angus. Owing to having been buried in the ground till lately, it is particularly fresh and sharp in its sculpture, but I think it is of later workmanship than most of the others bearing the symbols. Here, they are as distinct as if cut only yesterday. The animals appear to me curious; we have good figures of the tusked boar and the bear, both, no doubt, objects of the chase. But the most interesting peculiarity of this stone is that it gives a short inscription in legible letters. When I speak of this as a singular instance of an inscribed stone of this class, I should mention the well-known stone at the manse of Ruthwell, decyphered by the lamented Mr. Kemble. It is inscribed in what we are now desired to call Saxon Runes, and it resembles monuments found in Man, and also in Scandinavia — quite a distinct family from our northern Scotch sculptured monuments.

But while I profess that nothing is yet ascertained regarding this class of monuments; that no theory or plausible conjecture has been offered respecting their purpose, the meaning of those constantly recurring symbols, the people who made them, you are not to suppose that intelligent inquiry directed to an object is ever without some results. We have learned to limit and define the district in which these symbolical monuments occur. They are confined to the eastern lowland of Scotland, extending from the garden of Dunrobin to the base of Largo Law. In no other country are they found, nor in any other district of Scotland. In the short time to which any attention has been directed to these singular antiquities, it is something to have ascertained that the Irish antiquary is as ignorant of them as the Scandinavian, and that among the monuments of Wales and Bretagne, however nearly they may be approached in general design, there is nothing apparently the same, or equivalent to the two most remarkable of their mysterious symbols.

Secondly, by comparison of the ornaments of those sculptured monuments with works of art, and especially with illuminations of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, we can nearly limit the period of their production to the eighth and ninth centuries.

There remain in some of the remotest of the Western isles, ruins of buildings of the rudest kind, without chiselled stone, without mortar, but plainly ecclesiastical. No history nor real tradition touches these. We love to associate them with the early followers of Saint Columba, the apostles of those isles, and they may be ranked as the most ancient of our Christian edifices.

Great uncertainty, at one time, prevailed regarding the purpose and the era of the round towers of Ireland. That has lately been much removed by the careful researches of Mr. Petrie. The two similar buildings of Scotland, at Brechin and at Abernethy, may now be without hesitation placed after the introduction of Christianity; and whatever other purpose they were intended to serve, there can be little doubt that, as has been proved of those in Ireland, they were used as belfreys; probably before bells were hung in buildings, and when the mode of assembling a congregation was by a hand bell rung from the top of the bell tower. No record alludes to the erection of these two venerable Scotch towers. They are now surrounded with buildings, which, though of some antiquity, are modern as compared with them. To judge from c the comparison of the masonry alone, with the most ancient of our other ecclesiastical buildings, they cannot be ascribed to a lower age than the tenth, or even the ninth century.

I trust it is not expected that I should attempt anything like a detailed or systematic history of Scotch art. Meagre as our materials are for such a history, they would extend far beyond the space which I can devote to the subject. All that I can hope to do is to direct attention to a few of the proper objects of intelligent interest, connected with the arts, at each period of our history, rather to furnish matter of speculation and inquiry, than in the hope or wish of bringing forward fully considered and definite results.
The buildings of a people are perhaps always the oldest specimens of art among them; and the religious buildings called forth so much of the zeal of early Christians, that all the other arts may be considered as ancillary to architecture. Even painting, which now stands so high among the fine arts, was first used only as one of the means of church embellishment. In all discussions upon early art, then, we must look to architecture, not only as the foundation, but as the great end to which other arts were directed, and it is of the greatest consequence to aim at some precision in the history and dates of the successive styles of architecture, as they developed themselves in this country.

It would, no doubt, be very desirable in such an attempt to rear the architectural edifice upon historical ground, to produce evidence of the foundation of each church, to warrant the assertion we make of its antiquity, and fix even a precise date. But in Scotland, this is not to be hoped for, and we are obliged to take the rudiments of our chronology of architecture from the richer record stores, and longer and more learned investigation of the subject by the scholars of England. We know, indeed, from the best authority, that Saint Ninian, in the fourth century, built his church of stone, contrary to the custom of that time, whose white walls, shining over the waters of the Solway, obtained its name for Whithern, the cathedral of the bishops of Galloway. But that structure and all vestiges of it have long disappeared.

In like manner, the historical and legendary memorials of Iona furnish no clue to the date of the existing architectural remains, or only give negative assistance. Whatever may have been the edifice that cradled the Faith in that stormy region, wave after wave of the Pagan Norsemen had long obliterated that gloriosum cζnobium — all that had been hallowed by the presence of Columba and his disciples. We know historically, or rather by the superior evidence of charters, that none, even calling themselves successors of the old "family of Columba," tenanted his little island in the twelfth century. Early in that century the Cluniac monks were introduced into Scotland, planted first at Paisley by the Stuarts, and before the end of it, had obtained possession of Iona. The remains of ecclesiastical buildings on the island are theirs, and the church is a well-marked specimen of the period of transition between the Norman or Romanesque, and the succeeding style of "first pointed," which we need not hesitate to place in its true date, the beginning of the thirteenth century.

I could be well pleased to travel onward in this manner, endeavouring to reconcile the facts of history with the existing appearances of architectural remains; and with later buildings it gets both easier and more satisfactory; but I must not occupy your time with these researches, when I fear I shall hardly be able to communicate some of the foundations of such study, already elaborated to our hands.

The first period of our architecture has been usually named the Norman, and perhaps more appropriately the Romanesque. It came into England, as is now admitted, a short time before the Norman conquest. In its early stages it is plain and extremely massy.

Short circular pillars, and arches semicircular or inclining to the horse-shoe, are the distinguishing-marks of this style, which preserves its character singularly during an extraordinary progress of mere ornamental embellishment. The style which, at its commencement, was the most simple, like the cavern hewn from the rock — the first efforts of men unused to wield the chisel — became, before it was superseded, ornate, and absolutely overwhelmed in ornaments, mouldings of wonderful variety in the arches, capitals of the most fantastic design, and the walls striped with rows of niches and pannels, often taking the pretty form of arcades of interlacing arches. Even the pillar shafts were broken, sometimes, into zigzag and spiral lines, which did not produce that lightness which seems to have been missed; and the invention of artists could go no farther in mere surface ornament. Through all, the character is preserved — the massy round pillar, the semicircular arch, the unbuttressed wall — and not to be confounded with any subsequent style, any more than a Grecian portico with the architecture of Delhi or of the Alhambra.

The period of this style extends in English examples from a little before the Conquest till late in the twelfth century. Speaking roughly, we may assign to it in Scotland all the twelfth century.

Of this period in Scotland, we can point with some certainty to the nave of Dunfermline, which we know to have been dedicated in 1150; St. Rule's tower at St. Andrews, a very curious and somewhat anomalous specimen, though historically fixed between 1127 and 1144; the cathedral of St. Magnus of Kirkwall, founded about 1138, but taking long years in building, and displaying the changes of style of that period in its architecture; the chancel and the western gable of the abbey church of Jedburgh. Leuchars in Fife, and Dalmeny on this side of the Firth, are two interesting specimens of rural parish churches, both of rich, late Eomanesque work, and both exhibiting the peculiarity of the circular apse, which must have been common of old, but of which I am acquainted with very few Scotch specimens still entire. Still later in this style, we have the choir of the cathedral of St. Andrews, begun in 1162; Kelso; a little part of Coldingham; several fragments of the rural churches of the Merse; the western gable of Arbroath; a beautiful remnant preserved within the park at Tyninghame; a single arch, seen on the southern side of the chancel of Holyrood; the little chapel of St. Margaret in our castle; a few arches of Kinloss in Moray, which, if placed in this period, are, I think, the only specimen of Romanesque work in the North.

If you would impress on your minds the character of that most peculiar style, compare these with the specimens fixed and chronologized in England. Or, whoever is happy enough to have leisure for such studies, and opportunity to follow them in England, will find fine specimens of the earliest and severest Norman in the Tower of London, especially in the chapel in the top of the white tower, the white washing of which formed an item in the expenditure of Henry II., in the crypt of Winchester Cathedral, built before 1100; or, nearer and more cognate, in the gigantic nave of Durham, founded by our own kings, and the kingly lords of Northumbria and Lothian, which is so evidently the pattern and type, on a grander scale, of our Dunfermline. Of the later Norman, the English examples are innumerable. There are none more striking than the beautiful parish church of Ifftey, looking up the vale of the Isis to the towers of Oxford; or the Galilee of the cathedral of Durham.

II. The next century gave a new order of architecture; and it is very important for us in Scotland to understand it, since that was the great age of church building in this country. Here again the public history of the country gives and receives light from the study of art. You have seen that the real golden age of Scotland — the time of peace with England — of plenty in the land — of foreign trade flourishing — of internal police — of law and justice — was the period of a full century following the treaty between William the Lion and Richard Coeur de Lion, comprehending the reign of William and the long reigns of the second and third Alexanders. Now, that century is the time when we can ascertain most of our fine and great churches to have been built, and their style is what Rickman calls the "Early English," and later artists the "First Pointed."

To this period we owe undoubtedly a large part of the magnificent cathedral of Elgin, though so roughly handled by the Wolf of Badenoch in the end of the fourteenth century, that the bishops called their restoration a rebuilding. There are, worthy of note, also, the cathedrals of Brechin, Dunblane (of beautiful work, and still very entire), Whithern, Dornoch; the abbey churches of Arbroath (sadly decayed, and still more spoilt by ignorant restoration), Paisley, Coldingham, Kilwinning, Inchcolm, Restennot, Dundrennan, Feme, Cambusken-neth, Inchmahome, Sweetheart, Pluscardine; the later parts of Dunfermline and Jedburgh, Holyrood, Dryburgh, and, more important, the great cathedrals of St. Andrews and Glasgow.

This was the era of those enthusiastic fraternities or associations for church building which assisted in erecting most of the beautiful churches of Europe, and which undoubtedly bestowed that singular uniformity which characterizes the ecclesiastical buildings of the same era, during the twelfth and following centuries. We find notice of a society of this kind having for its chief object the restoration of the cathedral of Glasgow, after it had been burnt down in the reign of William the Lion. It was instituted by Bishop Jocelin about the year 1190, and had a special charter of protection from King William the Lion.

Among the accounts of the building of churches of that period, it seems remarkable that we never hear of the architect or the artist who furnished the plan; and yet the symmetry and fine proportions of those old churches bespeak no common design nor vulgar workmen. It is common among us to say those beautiful churches must have been built, or at least designed by foreign artists. But the same defect of information is found in other countries, and this has driven foreign antiquaries to the conclusion that churchmen studied architecture (for which they have indeed some other foundation), and were for the most part the architects of their own buildings, aided and no doubt counselled, in matters of taste, by the members of the church-building fraternities.

The "First Pointed" period is recognized by the pointed arch — the tall and more slender pillar, composed of clustered shafts round a circular pier, often divided by one or more bands, and with capitals plain or wrought in infinite variety — the long, narrow, lancet-headed window, without much feathering, and none at all till towards the end of the period, but often in pairs, or three together — bold buttresses, at first unbroken in height, but towards the end of the period divided into stages — The roof high in the pitch — when of stone, groined, and with the crossings richly ornamented with bosses — wooden roofs frequent, and tall steeples coming into fashion. A frequent and distinguishing ornament of this style is the toothed ornament. Speaking roughly again, the style of Early English, or First Pointed, lasted during the thirteenth century.

III. The style which succeeded is that which Packman christened "the Decorated," while later writers have named it, more appropriately, "the Second or Middle Pointed." It was known in England from the beginning of the reign of Edward L, but was chiefly prevalent in the reigns of his successors, Edward II. and III.; and this, the perfection of English Gothic, may be said to have terminated with the fourteenth century. That was not an age of building of churches in Scotland. Occupied with continual wars with a foreign enemy, or domestic feuds and troubles arising from a weak government, people saw with indifference the magnificent churches of the previous age fall rapidly to ruin; while the poor monks of the once venerated convents were turned out to beg the bread which they had long shared liberally with the poor. A few instances, we have, however, serving to mark the perfect parallelism, during the first part of that time, of the art in England and Scotland.

You recognize the Middle Pointed style by its window-tracery, at first in regular geometrical figures, circles, quatrefoils, etc.; latterly, flowing in elegant waving lines; weather-mouldings, or drip stones, over door and window; often running into triangular canopies richly crocketed; niches everywhere, especially in the buttresses. The mouldings are quite peculiar. Frequent ornaments are a four-leaved flower, and a ball-cup, taking the place of the toothed ornament peculiar to the previous style.

I need hardly mention Melrose as the splendid type of this most perfect style. Its building extended over the latter half of the fourteenth century, and the first half of the fifteenth.

Of this style, too, we have the northern cathedrals of Fortrose and Aberdeen; the latter begun in 1366, and not finished for about a hundred years.

But here I must notice two peculiarities of Scotch architecture: —

1. Some of the features of the Norman style — in particular, the semicircular arch and the round pillar, though not generally in conjunction, continue with us much lower than in England, and break out occasionally through well-defined specimens of ( all the later styles.

2. We cannot assign so definite a termination to the "Middle Pointed" style as the English do. With us, it did not so plainly give way before the prevalence of the "Perpendicular," as the next English style is called, but rather underwent a modification in the latter part of the fourteenth century, from our greater communication with France, which introduced a sort of imitation of what has been called the "Flamboyant" style, the architecture of France contemporary with the "Perpendicular" of England. The English architects do not admit this as a separate style, but pronounce it a degenerate "Decorated;" and it has most of the features of "Decorated," running, however, more into extremely waving lines, thin and weak mullions, and groining ribs, and generally inelegant combinations of mouldings. Part of the importation from France was the polygonal apse, not known before in Scotland, and rare in England; while in France and Germany they are of common occurrence.

A fine specimen of the Scotch Middle Pointed period is the Douglases foundation of Linclouden, built before 1400. The cathedral church of Dunkeld, we know from Abbot Milne, its historian, was not begun till 1400, though to a hasty examiner this interesting ruin has an earlier appearance.

Another of much interest, and to which we look back with regret, was our own Trinity Church or College Kirk, the foundation of the piety of Queen Mary of Gueldres, which has lately been swept away to give room for a railway coal-store.

Most of our collegiate churches of Scotland came within this period of "Decorated," or Flamboyant — belonging to the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth centuries. I need not point out to you Dalkeith and Linlithgow; each within half an hour's distance. Other specimens are Corstorphine, and St. Duthacs of Tain. You will find almost all this class -running into the three-sided apse, with double doorways having flattened heads enclosed within a Pointed arch. Battlements are comparatively rare, and the corby-stepped gable begins to prevail towards the end of the period, with gabled or saddle-backed towers.

Hitherto I have said nothing of what may be called the surface ornament of our old churches. I hope it will not alarm any one if I venture merely to allude to the science of heraldry — a study which of old engaged the attention of all that were gentle-born — which is now left to the tender mercies of the lapidary and the coach-painter. Requiescat! I shall not try to unfold the mysteries of the noble art of blazon. I might indeed suggest the great importance of some knowledge of heraldry to the student of historical antiquities. For the pursuit of family history — of topographical and territorial learning — of ecclesiology — of architecture, it is altogether indispensable; and its total and contemptuous neglect in this country is one of the causes why a Scotchman can rarely speak or write on any of these subjects without being exposed to the charge of using a language he does not understand.

But my present object is very limited; nothing more than to bid you observe how heraldic blazoning is mixed up with almost all the fine arts of the middle ages. In architecture it soon took a prominent place among what may be called surface ornament — not affecting the shape and frame, the type and style of building, but furnishing in infinite variety subjects of embellishment, mixed with much of personal interest. If the shield of rich blazoning, or the cognizance of some old name, covered with dust and dirt, still creates an interest on the wall of a ruined church, or as part of the tracery of a monumental tomb, we may imagine what effect was produced by the brilliant colours of the old herald's "tinctures," adorning not only the walls, but repeated in the tiles of the pavement, and glowing in the gorgeous colouring of the windows; when each bearing and difference — the square banner of the knight and the squire's pennon — told a universally understood history of the founders and benefactors of the church, and perhaps called up some memory of battle or siege, and of honour won in the field or tourney-yard.

Of stained glass we have scarcely a fragment remaining in Scotland. All that have come under my own observation are a few handfuls of broken pieces, dug out from the rubbish around our old churches — none of it serving to hint the subject of the painting, but showing often the broad, bold handling, the rich and full colour, the masses of shadow and light — in short, the knowledge of effect, which seemed, until lately, altogether to have deserted the modern worker in this beautiful art.

While the walls and roofs of churches were adorned with heraldic escutcheons and devices, and the windows glowed with the brilliant colours of the herald, and the higher artist thought it no unworthy object to devote himself to the decoration of God's house, all the details of the building became matter of minute and scrupulous attention, which, in later ages, may have sometimes run into superstitious observance. Not only the disposition of the altar and its furniture, the shapes of windows, the position of fonts and screens, the whole form and structure of the sacred edifice, were all studied, as having deep and important symbolical meaning — — speaking a language known to the initiated.

The effect of this was evidently to inspire a sentiment, to raise the aim, and improve the taste, not only of the chief artist, the architect himself, but of all those designing or working in the subordinate departments. Under such an influence, even the carpenter and smith become something more than men of rule and hammer. Accordingly old locks, keys, and hinges, old chandeliers and iron railings, though often of workmanship which a Sheffield artisan would contemn, are frequently of admirable and effective designs. Whoever has seen the iron rail that tops the lordly pile of Glammis Castle, will easily understand what I mean.

So it was with the worker in wood. You may sometimes meet with an old church chest, more frequently with doors, with pannels, and with chairs or stools that had been made and used for church purposes; and I cannot think it is the charm of antiquity alone that places these, as works of design, so immeasurably above the conveniences of our modern workshop. Of timber roofs I need not speak. They are often of admirable design, and requiring great scientific skill in their construction. Those of our ancient churches — where, however, timber roofs were not very common — were no doubt planned and directed by the architect, and not left to the invention of the carpenter; while the later roofs of this sort — those of Darnaway great hall and our Edinburgh Parliament-house — are of a period subsequent to our present inquiry, and one of them at least — probably both — the work of foreign artists. In passing, I may allude to the beautiful stucco ceilings of the seventeenth century, though that also is below our period. The castle of Craigievar, in Aberdeenshire — Glammis, in Strathmore — some of the apartments in Holyrood, and many of our old country houses in Angus, Fife, and the Lothians — especially in and around Edinburgh — furnish excellent specimens of that art, requiring more artistic taste than our stucco work of the present day; for you will observe the old work was done by the hand and tool, without the common use of moulds.

But that which chiefly exercised the skill of the worker in wood, and still preserves memorials of exquisite taste and of most dexterous handiwork, is the carving — whether of screens, of stalls, or of pannels — that adorned our ancient churches. Some fine old stall work is still preserved — though most of it not in situ — in Dunblane Cathedral; but it is in King's College, Aberdeen, that we have perhaps the most beautiful wood-work that now remains in Scotland. There we find both canopied stalls and a fine open screen of very delicate cutting, and pannels covered with exquisite tracery of varied patterns. The date of this work is the very beginning of the sixteenth century.

Inferior, perhaps, work of art, but not of less effect as an architectural aid and ornament, was that manufacture of paving-tiles with which we know that many — I may say, all — of our churches were more or less paved. Of their various kinds it is unnecessary to speak. In many places of Scotland they have been found plain or glazed, but I believe only in one have they been discovered enriched with patterns or designs. These are part of what covered the chapel floor of the Abbey of North Berwick. They are of fine bold designs — not heraldic — and with the pattern raised in such relief that, if really used for the floor, they must have been very inconvenient to walk over.

Another shape or offspring of the architectural taste of the early ages, are the ancient seals, which form an important section of mediaeval antiquities. In those of laymen — king, earl, baron, and knight — we can trace the first introduction of heraldic device, and, onwards, all the refinements of heraldry; while the Church seal-cutters have used for their ornaments tracery adopted from the shrine and window work of churches; and in many specimens you find that heraldry and that Gothic tracery combined with the same happy effect which is so often found in the heraldic adornments of our old churches. As mere works of art, these old seals show great skill in figure and combination, and evince undoubtedly a clear perception of the beautiful. But when you consider that in them we read the first adoption of the cognizance of each noble name — the descent and alliances of most of our old families — while the arms, though commonly surrounded simply with the name and style of the individual, are sometimes in combination with the proud battle-cry of the race, or with a motto of peace and affection, approaching to the sentiment on a modern lady's seal-ring, you will see that a knowledge of them is not only calculated to give precision to history, but to throw light upon the modes of life and thought of our ancestors. In both respects they seem to me more important than the useful study of medals.

Of the artists of our earlier coins we know nothing, except a few of their names; as, for instance, in the reign of William the Lion — Adam and William the moneyers of Berwick, Adam and Hugh of Edinburgh, Folpolt or Folpold of Perth, Raul of Roxburgh, etc.

We have no coins, probably, of earlier date than those of David I., which are rude indeed, but not much inferior to those of the contemporary monarchs of England. In the reign of William the Lion, in-like manner, the coinage, now abundant and of many different mints, keeps parallel, and similar to that of England. From such vile representations of humanity, we pass downwards, regularly and steadily improving, both in design and execution — marking, I think, that we could not be much indebted to foreign artists. At some periods, however, we do find foreigners employed, and we can still point to some of our early gold of good workmanship, minted by Bonaccio of Florence, in the reign of Robert III. But such foreign superintendence must have ceased long before the best period of our coinage; and I cannot see any reason to doubt that it is to native skill and taste, we owe those beautiful coins of James V., which may bear a comparison with those of any country at any time.

Without inquiring too curiously whether this is its right place, I must be allowed now to notice among the objects of art of the twelfth century in Scotland, one of singular interest. I have given some specimens of our ancient charters, which were usually very brief and very small. In some instances, however, as charters of foundation, or general confirmations to religious houses, the king or chancellor of the day, indulged in greater verbosity and breadth of parchment. When Malcolm IV. saw fit to ratify all former endowments to his grandfather's great abbey of Kelso, it seems to have been his wish to do it with all solemnity. The writing of charters of that period is always careful and elegant; but this great charter was to be distinguished by a novel ornament. The Gothic initial M of the king's name, formed of intertwined serpents, as is common in Anglo-Saxon MSS., is made to serve as a frame of two compartments, in each of which is painted a portrait of a crowned king in his royal state, in the most brilliant colours, and relieved with gold. On the right hand sits an aged monarch with a beard of venerable length, bearing in his hands the sword and globe of sovereignty. On the other, a youthful king with fair beardless face, holding in his right hand the sceptre of actual rule, and having the sword of office laid across his knees. This superb charter is dated in 1159. David I., the venerable founder of the Abbey, had died, full of days and of honour, six years before. Malcolm the IV., the reigning king, was then seventeen; and when we consider the object of the charter, and the circumstances in which it was granted, it really leaves no room for the most sceptical to doubt that these are portraits executed in 1159 of the reigning prince and of his grandfather, who must have been still fresh in the memory of his people.

It is seldom that we can have a work of art of so high antiquity, stamped thus precisely with its date and subject. One other instance I may mention of art, of yet more early date, well ascertained. I wish I could fix the place or country of manufacture c as definitely.

In the summer of 1857, some boys playing on the sands of the Bay of Skaill, in Orkney, turned up several small pieces of metal which they showed, and soon discovered to be silver. There was speedily no want of diggers, and the little cache on the Orkney sea-shore, produced in all about sixteen pounds weight of silver. It was chiefly in the shape of torques and massive mantle-brooches, worked with careful, and sometimes pretty ornaments ; but with a singular uniformity of design, as if the artist had but little invention, or considered himself bound to a conventional type or style. There were a few little ingots or bars of silver — suggesting the idea that the deposit contained the treasure of a silversmith's work-shop — and there were (fortunately) a number of silver coins. Some of the coins are Oriental, of that kind which were in common currency over Northern Europe in the middle ages. One is a coin of Khalif Al Motadhed, bearing to be struck at Al Thash (a town of Transoxiana) in the 283d year of the Hegira, corresponding with a.d. 896. But two of the coins are English, of which one, a "St. Peter's penny," coined at the city of York, numismatists place, with confidence, in the early part of the tenth century; the other, bearing the impress "Ζthehtan rex totius Britanniζ," is limited by that king's reign to the years 925-941.

It was not a case of old wreck. There were a few grey stones ingeniously disposed, so as to point and lead to the spot, when one knew where about to look, and that is all. I conjecture it to have been the hoard of a northern pirate of the tenth century, fresh from the plunder of a good town where the silversmith's booth had naturally attracted his chief attention, who had buried his spoil to wait his return from another cruise, and had returned no more. The silver brooches and ornaments — the best and most authentic guide we have to Northern art of the tenth century — and the coins found along with them, are now in the museum of the Scotch Antiquaries.

To return from this long digression from the subject of architectural art — our field is much narrowed when we come to civil and domestic architecture. Of the rude dwellings of our aborigines I have already spoken. In them is little art, and nothing that can be called architecture. But in the reign of David I., and even earlier, history and contemporary charters notice numerous royal castles, and we cannot doubt that the masons who were erecting Dunfermline and St. Rule's for the saintly king, must have applied their new-born art to constructing those places of dwelling and defence for their patron, and for many of his Southern followers — each a prince in possessions and magnificence. We can point where those dwellings were. We know that on the rocks of Edinburgh and Stirling — at Roxburgh, Perth, Forfar, and other usual residences of royalty, as well as at the chief places of the greater earldoms, March, Fife, Athol, Angus, Strathern, Mar — castles were built for security and enjoyment, at the time when such sumptuous fabrics were erecting for the Church here in Scotland; and while castles and houses were building in England for the very brothers and cousins of our Northern settlers. But of such civil structures of the Norman or Romanesque period, we have only the vestiges remaining — a mass of shapeless masonry, disclosing marvellous strong mortar, or more frequently a mere foundation, faintly distinguishable through the green sward. I believe that, of the secular buildings of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, we have not a fragment affording any architectural feature.

Of the thirteenth and the following century, we have somewhat more. That was the age of those. stately garrison piles, still the pride of England and Wales, and it was a time when men's minds were more turned to castles than to church building. Many of the events of the wars of Wallace and Bruce turn upon the attack and defence of our Scotch castles. Barbour has thrown a romantic interest around Turnberry, Douglas, Brodick, Bothwell, Kildrummy; and the history of that glorious war perpetuates Dunstaffnage, Forfar, Brechin, Linlithgow, not to mention the great strengths of the kingdom, Edinburgh, Roxburgh, Stirling, Dunbar, and indeed a royal castle, as the proper and almost necessary accompaniment of each royal burgh. Most of those castles of residence and defence were sacked and burnt and demolished many times during that fierce struggle. But the masonry of that time was much enduring; and enough remains of Kildrummy, of Lochindorb, of Bothwell, of Caerlaverock, to show the style and plan of those fortresses, and to satisfy us that they followed the English model in everything but size. Some remaining parts, such as the round tower and chapel, of the ill-used castle of Kildrummy (which has served as a quarry for the country round), and some parts of Bothwell and Dirleton, all reaching back to the period we are studying, and all, be it observed, in striking situations, show the characteristic architecture of that castle-building age with much beauty of composition and detail. But like Edward's Welsh castles, those Scotch thirteenth and fourteenth century castles, are too much of the nature of fortresses for receiving garrisons, to furnish what we are chiefly seeking, some indications of domestic life.

These are found much more in the fifteenth century baronial tower, so peculiar to our country, although evidently built after the model of the primitive Norman donjon, long antiquated and disused in England. Take the middle of the fifteenth century — the chief time of these square towers — and observe the condition of Scotland. Since the death of Robert Bruce, a century of cruel wars and the most wretched misgovernment had impoverished the country almost to starvation. Many of our great families were extinguished ; all the old grand way of life forgotten. The chivalrous manners — the noble simplicity of knights and ladies, so charmingly, and I think so truly, painted by Barbour — had been swept away. When again, with some breathing time of peace, and by the efforts of James I., agriculture had a little revived, and the Government encouraged building and "policy" in the desolate country — the buildings were like the people, poor and mean in taste. The chief thing aimed at was security against marauding bands and unfriendly neighbours. I need not describe to you the Scotch castle of that time — the single, square, gaunt tower, rising story above story, each floor consisting of but one apartment, the door placed high for safety, the walls thick, the window-openings narrow and jealous. Such a dwelling, and we have plenty of them, though few in their unmitigated bareness, recalls the time when the rural baron and his family visitors, vassals, retainers, servants rural and domestic, lived and scrambled for their food, all crowded together in the one hall — a gloomy cold apartment — when the offal of the board was fought for by the dogs below it, and the garbage was hid among the foul straw which might be renewed when harvest produced a supply — when the furniture was limited to the moveable boards on which the meat was served, and a few stools and settles of deal — when carpets, curtains, window-glass, comfort, cleanliness, were unknown — when the women had no separate apartment but their sleeping-room, and no tastes that made such life irksome.

This style, which contrasts so unfavourably with the ruins of that which had preceded it by a century, fortunately did not continue long in its utter rude nakedness. As security increased, and the education and tastes of the people improved, dwelling-houses of more comfort were built up beside the sixteenth century tower — tall, lean, high-roofed, single dwellings, full of small rooms and small windows; and such additions and re-additions were constantly taking place in the century which succeeded the period of square towers, and preceded the next marked change of domestic architecture. James III. was addicted to masonry and other art, and his son and grandson were men of princely taste, and showed it in their dwellings — Witness the remains of old Holyrood, Falkland, Stirling, and Linlithgow. But, except by one or two great courtiers, such palatial architecture could not be imitated; and it required skilful modification to adapt that over ornate style to the modest means of the Scotch gentry. It was not till the storm of the Reformation had subsided under the peaceful sway of James VI. — scarcely, indeed, before his accession to the English throne had given stability to government, and opened a way of riches to many a Scotch lord and laird — that a style of country house was introduced in Scotland, which, preserving the rude ancestral tower, surrounded it with graceful ornament, and added convenient accommodation in good keeping with the now decorated castle. The two leaders of the new style were their own architects, and both men of excellent taste. The Lord Chancellor (Alexander Seton, Lord Dunfermline) taking as his nucleus two ancient ecclesiastical mansions, produced the beautiful house of Pinkie, and the lordly pile of Fyvie, besides minor edifices at Elgin and elsewhere. His rival in architecture, the first Earl of Strathmore, applied his taste — may we not call it genius? — to supplementing, raising, grouping, lighting, ornamenting without, decorating within, the rude mass of an old Scotch keep. His first essay was upon his tower in the Carse of Gowrie, then known as Castle Lyon, now called Castle Huntly. But his great triumph was in producing from such materials the castle of Glammis, an edifice out of the common rules of art, and perhaps contrary to them, but which no artist can approach without admiration.

Those two master builders were but the type of their age. Castle-building, or castle-adorning, was in high fashion in the beginning of the seventeenth century; and, strangely, it fixed on Aberdeenshire as its favourite field, where castle mansions of Frasers, Gordons, Forbeses, Burnetts, and Urquharts still exist to teach our presumptuous age a lesson of humility. All those chateaux, and the less adorned country houses of that period, mark a great improvement in the comfort and in the tastes of our gentry. We cannot figure houses like Castle Fraser to have been built and inhabited by any who were not gentlemen and ladies, in the best sense of the word.

I wish it were possible to trace changes in the dwellings of the people — the middle and lower ranks — corresponding to those well marked steps of progress in the higher. But the cottage and the old farm house were of too perishable materials to furnish the outline of their history. One thing is sure. Looking back through all the time that record or chronicle can show us, the manner of life of the labourer may have been depressed by wars and famine, and pestilence — may have been kept stationary by hopelessness; but, as compared with the unlabouring class, it has never retrograded. This is not the place to notice the efforts of the modern Scotch agriculturist which have not only increased beyond all former belief the produce of the soil, but are mitigating our climate, and improving the health of the people. The improvement in their own dwellings was slow to follow; but it has come. Old men still remember when the dwelling of the Scotch peasant farmer was not secure against wind or rain with no window, or none made to open —with the damp earth for floor, with dunghill and green pestilent pool at the door. The "black hut" that is still to be seen in a few glens of the Highlands, is a less unhealthy abode than the houses of the yeomanry and peasantry of three-fourths of Scotland were half a century ago. The change is still going on universally over Scotland, not in fancy cottages, dressed up to please the lord or the lady, but in the acquisition of habits of cleanliness and comfort, which require better accommodation for our cattle now than was bestowed on human beings in the last generation.

Of burgh domestic architecture, I suppose we have none older than the sixteenth century. But of that we have good specimens around us, in those solid stately houses that seem likely to survive many changes of fashion, and which show that the burgess of the Reformation period lived in greater decency and comfort than the laird, though without the numerous following, which no doubt gave dignity if it diminished food. I am not sure that this class has gone on progressively, either in outward signs of comfort, or in education and accomplishment, equal to their neighbours. The reason, I suppose, is obvious. The Scotch burgher, when successful, does not set himself to better his condition and his family within the sphere of his success, but leaves it and seeks what he deems a higher.


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