Howff stone

Howff stone Image

A MOSS COVERED stone discovered half submerged in a 500-year old graveyard has given up some of its secrets.

The burial marker stretches the history of Dundee’s Howff further back in time than previously expected and was found as part of a mapping exercise earlier this year.

Its discovery helped to cement “Hidden Gem” status for the site as part of Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017.

The Dundee Howff Conservation Group made the discovery when an archaeologist spotted a stone which appeared to be medieval, possibly dating to the 12th or 13th century.

Before the discovery the oldest visible monument in the cemetery was that erected in 1577 to the memory of James Muir, Burgess in Dundee.

Now an archaeologist and a stone conservator are visiting the Howff to partially excavate the medieval marker and find out how best to protect and preserve it for future generations.

Simon Goulding, chair of the Dundee Howff Conservation Group said “This has been a completely unexpected and fascinating voyage of discovery sparked by our desire to produce the most detailed map of the site since 1832.

“From our preliminary investigations the stone appears to have been reused for burials on at least two occasions, and has two faint inscriptions on it.

“One of them which dates to 1603, is a memorial to Christian Rutherford wife of David Lindsay, who was Master of Dundee Grammar School, and latterly the Bishop of Edinburgh.

“Lindsay was the man who crowned Charles I King of Scotland at Holyrood in 1633 and was related to the Lindsay-Crawfords.

“The Lindsay Earls of Crawford were buried at the church of Grey Friars monastery the site of which was converted to the Howff burial ground.”

Funding from Dundee Common Good Fund allowed the group to arrange for a stone conservator and archaeologist to come to the Howff to reveal as much detail as possible about this newly discovered medieval monument, assess the stone and temporarily re-bury it to protect it from the elements.

Graciela Ainsworth Ltd. of Edinburgh will assess the stone for conservation while Dr Oliver O’Grady of OJT Heritage from Perthshire will oversee the archaeological aspects.

Archaeological excavation of the stone will take place on Sunday (December 10) and Monday (December 11) and people are being encouraged to come to the dig to see history in the making.

The Howff is an A-listed historic site in the heart of Dundee. Home to some of the most ornate and detailed burial carvings in the United Kingdom and representing one of the most important collections of tombstones in the country, it charts over  four  centuries of life and death in the city.

Established in 1564 on the site of a medieval friary by a grant of Mary, Queen of Scots, it was used for meetings by the Dundee Incorporated Trades until 1776.

The overcrowded cemetery was closed in 1860 but three further burials were allowed with permission from the Secretary of State. The last was that of George Duncan MP for Dundee who was buried in 1878.

If you would like to follow the excavation process the groups Facebook page will be updated throughout the dig – www.Facebook.com/DundeeHowff

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