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1.2 Tangible Remains of Scottish Friary Buildings

The position of many of the houses of all three orders of friars (and of the Trinitarians, so often included among them, although not a mendicant order) near to the heart of modern towns has meant that very little has survived above ground. The combination of damage or looting at the Reformation, although not as extensive as was once imagined, with later systematic removal of re-usable building materials, and finally re-development, has denuded Scotland of almost all upstanding evidence of mendicant architecture. Of some forty-five houses of the Franciscan, Dominican and Carmelite Orders, not to mention eight Trinitarian houses, only fragments of three, Franciscan at Inverkeithing, Dominican at St Andrews and Carmelite at South Queensferry are still extant, along with part of the central area of the church at the Trinitarian house at Dunbar (Figure 1). At Elgin, the Franciscan church remains, although much restored, while the Franciscan church at Aberdeen stood until the early years of the 20th century, when it was demolished to make way for a new facade for Marischal College; fortunately a few photographs (copies held at Aberdeen Library and Information Services, Local Studies) and measured drawings were completed before its removal (Cooper 1903-4). Out of the considerable number of friaries which flourished north of the border between the 13th and 16th centuries, the standing remains are extremely few.

Of the medieval friaries of the Carmelite Order in Scotland, only the choir and crossing of the church at South Queensferry now remain upstanding, although part of the nave stood until the mid-19th century. Also surviving above ground are the foundations of the Carmelite church at Luffness in East Lothian (RCAHMS 1924, 1-2). Some investigations were undertaken at South Queensferry in the 1970s (Wallace 1971). It is also possible that part of the lower walls of the claustral buildings may survive, forming portions of a boundary wall to north of the church.

The evidence from upstanding remains has been enhanced by excavations at a number of friary sites since the 1970s – for example at the Dominican friaries in Stirling (Page and Page 1996; 1998) and Perth (Bowler and Hall 1984; Cachart 2004) at the Franciscan houses at Glasgow (Dalland 2003; 2004) and Jedburgh (Dixon et al. 2000).

In Aberdeen itself, since the completion of the excavations reported here, some productive excavation work has taken place at the site of the former Franciscan Greyfriars' house and several watching briefs and larger explorations have been possible within what was the precinct of the Dominican Blackfriars' establishment.

The site of the Carmelite friary at Linlithgow was extensively excavated in the 1980s (Stones 1989) as were portions of structures at Perth (Stones 1989). Further excavation took place at Tullilum, Perth in 2007 and 2014 and is ongoing at the time of writing (Derek Hall, pers. comm.).


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