10.4.3.2 Metalwork

The Medieval annular brooch tradition lasted longer in the Highlands than elsewhere in Scotland (Shiels and Campbell 2011), and in the Post-Medieval period large Highland brooches, some in silver, many of brass, were used by Highland women in the 17th century to fasten plaids (Calder 1989, 152). A number of these are provenanced, including a number of fragments from metal detecting, with finer examples in many local museums (see Case study Medieval Annular Brooches). Other jewellery includes betrothal brooches and rings.

Gold annular brooch from Ardvreck Castle, Sutherland, incised on one side with the inscription ‘Feir*God*In*Hiart*C*M*A*1600’. On the other side there is an abstract floral pattern. ©IMAG

Silversmiths were active in Highland burghs from an early time, producing high quality work, but also more everyday objects such as cutlery, snuff boxes and rings for the (relatively) less wealthy (Calder 1989, 74). The practice of marking objects with distinctive marks allows production centres to be determined. The work of Highland gold and silversmiths is covered by Moss and Roe (1999). The Tain industry was discussed by Quick (2012).

Metal detecting has produced a huge range of material in the last decades, some of it diagnostic to the period, others less so. For example, a number of 17th and 18th jaw harps have been found, suggesting a common musical instrument carried about, but then discarded when the tongue broke. This body of evidence remains to be quantified and assessed, with then comparisons to other areas of Scotland.

Jaw harp from Knocknagael (IMAG 2013.025). ©Michael Sharpe

Portable nesting cup weight sets are also known, many from metal detecting. Many interestingly are 17th century examples manufactured in Nuremburg whose standards should not have been permitted in Highland burghs (see 10.7). Some Highland museums have collections of official county weights and measures, for example Dingwall Museum and Golspie Heritage Centre, both for 1826.

Official weights and measures from Golspie on display at Golspie Heritage Centre. ©Susan Kruse

Coins present one of the most ubiquitous metal detected finds, primarily Scottish but also English and from other countries. More work could be done pulling the Post-Medieval finds together, and correlating with other known activities, for example movements of soldiers or drovers. Many are disclaimed from Treasure Trove, making it essential that good records and photographs are made of these items before they are returned to finders.

Trade tokens also appear from the late 18th century (Calder 1989, 179-180). Analysis of Highland finds would highlight Highland firms minting them, but also tokens from outwith the Highlands circulating here, shedding light on economic connections.

The obverse of a copper halfpenny trade token of Mackintosh, Inglis & Wilson of Inverness. The token dates from 1793. ©National Museums Scotland

Beggars’ badges were issued by the church, permitting holders to beg within the parish. Usefully they often note the parish name or abbreviation and date (Kerr and Lockie 1962). Few survive, but examples are known from Croy near Inverness (dated 1742), Killearnan, Easter Ross; references also appear in Kirk Session records of Inverness (Kerr and Lockie 1962) and Kiltearn (Case Study Kiltearn Old Kirk). 

Beggars’ badge from Croy. ©National Museums Scotland

 

Case Study: Medieval Annular Brooches

Case Study: Kiltearn Old Kirk

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