There are abundant assemblages of medieval metal objects for Perth and Kinross. Unsurprisingly, the burgh of Perth has produced particularly large numbers of metal artefacts, mostly of iron, copper alloy and lead. Some items were probably imported, but many were made locally. By the 16th century the hammermen, metal workers who used hammers, were one of Perth’s incorporated trades. Relatively detailed records of the trade survive from the 1510s onwards, part of which have been published (Hunt 1889).
Archaeological investigation has produced physical evidence for metalworking within the burgh of Perth. Signs of medieval iron-working were found at Meal Vennel in Perth (Cox et al 1997, 742). The Perth High Street excavations revealed evidence for medieval casting of ornamental metal items, probably lead and copper alloys, and repairs to larger metal objects (Goodall 2012, 89). Meanwhile, a stone mould for casting penannular brooches was discovered during a watching brief on Perth’s Skinnergate (Smith et al 2011, 135–7). There is also possible evidence for smelting or refining metals in the backlands at Perth Theatre (MPK20120; C Fyles pers comm).
Relatively few items made from precious metals have been excavated in Perth, presumably a sign of their rarity and value to contemporaries. A group of fused copper-alloy brooches, and ring-casting moulds, were recovered at 80–86 High Street (MPK5767; Moloney and Coleman 1997). Cupellation tiles from the House of Fraser site on King Edward Street in Perth are also probably related to precious metalworking (MPK3360; Bowler et al 1996). Any further evidence for the working of gold or silver would be of considerable interest.
Interestingly, the Perth hammermen’s guild also included metalworkers based in Dunkeld. Thus far, very little archaeological evidence of metalworking has been found at Dunkeld, although half of a sandstone mould for making lead spindle whorls was discovered in the area (MPK2461; Perth Museum accession 119; Hall 2004, 48). Metal-detecting near Dunkeld Cathedral also turned up an interesting lead spindle whorl converted from a 13th-century Papal bulla (MPK12698; Perth Museum accession 1999.65). This item both hints at domestic reuse and refashioning of metal objects, and at a potentially amuletic significance (Hall 2004, 48).
Raw materials for metalworking were often imported to Scotland, and there is evidence for this in the medieval customs records for Perth. However, at least some iron was produced in the Middle Ages from bog deposits in Perth and Kinross. Medieval bloomeries, a basic type of smelter, have been excavated on Rannoch Moor (Aitken 1970; Reid 1984; Photos-Jones and Atkinson 1999). Written evidence suggests that the 16th century saw efforts to expand the mining of metal ores in the region, including the prospecting of new sites between ‘the wattir of Tay and the Sherefdome of Orkney’ (Cochran-Patrick 1878, 5). Research in the 1980s provided an initial overview of some of the sources of raw materials used by Scottish metal workers (Spearman 1988b). However, further interdisciplinary investigation, using landscape surveys, scientific analysis and written records, may help us discover more about the origins of the raw materials for metalwork in medieval Perth and Kinross.