Saturday, 30 January 2010

Skin and Bone: Life & Death in Medieval Perth - exhibition

As part of its celebrations to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the granting of the Royal Burgh Charter to Perth by King William the Lion of Scotland in 1210, Perth Museum has launched the Skin & Bone: Life & Death in Medieval Perth exhibition. Access is free and the exhibition runs throughout the year.

From the council's website:

The Royal Burgh of Perth has been a thriving town for over 800 years. The town has grown considerably since its early days in the 11th century and, although only St John’s Kirk stands to visibly remind us of that medieval past, every day we walk over the buried remains of the old town.

The special exhibition includes loans from other collections and features the Hammermen Book - the medieval guild record book - and the Perth Psalter prayer book both from the National Library of Scotland, and the Hammermen’s stock box from St John’s Kirk, which was used in the 15th century and later to collect fines from local metalworkers in and around Perth.

Finds from excavations in the latter part of the 20th century form a large part of the exhibition. Digs on Perth High Street, Mill Street, Canal Street, around Horsecross, St John’s Kirk and several other places turned up some incredible objects, bodies and buildings.

Skeletons discovered beside the Kirk during pedestrianisation work, believed to be from the medieval burial ground, will be on display, along with other skeletons uncovered during work around Horsecross. One of these, nicknamed “Robert” by excavators, appears to have been murdered and dumped in a hastily-dug pit near the site of the current Museum and Art Gallery.

The remains of several dogs that have been found under the streets of Perth city centre reveal that medieval Scots enjoyed keeping pets - the skeleton of one appears to be that of a lap dog. Another appears to be the remains of a fighting dog, illustrating a more grisly side to medieval leisure pursuits.

Other items on show will be an ornately carved ivory knife handle recovered from Perth High Street excavations, one of several inidcations that some medieval residents of Perth were high status individuals.

A set of iron scissors, pins, jugs, a candle holder and an anvil base are some of the items that will show how Perth was a thriving centre of crafts and trades in and before the 16th century.

A chess piece made of jet which was recovered from Meal Vennel and parts of other board games recovered during excavations give an idea of how people in medieval Perth liked to spend their leisure time.

Also on display - kindly lent by Perth and Kinross Council Archives - will be one of only two surviving medieval copies of the charter from King William the Lion confirming Perth’s royal burgh status, making this a must-see exhibition for 2010.

For the full release visit

My family's connection with Perth is very strong, the Patons having moved there in the 1770s, and with several cousins of mine still resident there today. So if you don't visit, I'm gonna take it personally! :) Incidentally, if you have weaver ancestors from Perth, visit my site at, where some records have been made available and a summary of the handloom trade from 1770-1844 based on a university project I carried out a few years ago.

Have fun!

Scotland's Greatest Story

1 comment:

Carol said...

I have a real soft spot for Perth. My late brother was born there and I try to visit when I make one of my visits to Scotland. Great place.