2.8.1 Historical perspective

From the late 18th century, an interest emerged in the protection of early medieval carved stones, culminating in the 1890s with the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland’s creation of a national corpus, published in 1903 (Allen and Anderson 1903; see Section 2.3). Early efforts to record gravestones were also stimulated by the desire to encourage better protection (e.g. Jervise 1875–9). To secure the future of carved stones, many 19th-century owners patriotically gave them to the National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh, at a time when this was only significant archaeological museum in Scotland. There were also local initiatives to secure the preservation of monuments, as at Meigle and Govan (Buckham 2015b). As more monuments came into care, the state and others heritage bodies acquired monuments that comprised of or contained carved stones. No sooner was the Ancient Monuments Protection Act passed in 1882 than some of the earliest (and controversial) casework for the first Inspector of Ancient Monuments involved finding ways to protect carved stones on the sites they had been found on, rather than pass them to museums (Foster 2001). With this Act the collecting practices of those looking after monuments and those managing museums collided since there was now an active drive to preserve stones locally. How to house and display collections of carved stones was also an early concern at monuments in state care (e.g. St Andrews: Foster 1998b). Such heritage activity related to carved stones is not much documented in published sources until the end of the 20th century, although government files in the National Archives of Scotland have potential as a largely untapped source. Although archives and other sources, such as Kirk Session records, can contain some useful information (Boyes 1999), the research value of this information is presently largely untested.

The last decade of the 20th century and first decade of the 21st saw Historic Scotland, the lead government agency for the historic environment, give carved stones a prominence. In 1999 a joint meeting of the Ancient Monuments Board and Historic Buildings Council convened to discuss post-Reformation gravestones, while in 2000 the Ancient Monuments Board took the preservation and presentation of Christian monuments as its theme (as did the Ancient Monuments Board for Wales in 2001). The various HS initiatives reflected the combined efforts of the Technical Conservation Research and Education (TCRE) Division under Ingval Maxwell and Ancient Monuments Division (AMD) under Professor David Breeze. For the latter ‘carved stones’ was an identified thematic strand with staff who took an overview of it. It is no co-incidence that this is the time when the NCCSS was founded. Inspectors in the AMD led on the production of government policy and guidance for carved stones (Figure 3; Scottish Executive 2005; a development of the 1992 policy only published as an Appendix in Maxwell 1994) and an interpretation plan for carved stones across HS’s estate, an attempt to raise the profile of the resource and engender more joined up thinking and working across the Agency (described in Foster 2002b; 2005a). The AMD also produced a succession of short but attractive guidance leaflets for owners and others to inform them about the significance of the monuments on their land and to advise them on how to look after them (Figure 63). However, it is notable that HS never produced anything in a similar vein to English Heritage’s 2011 Designating Listing Selection Guide: Commemorative Structures guidance to help assess the significance of individual stones. Around the same time, the group in the AMD dealing with the collections at monuments in state care, under Richard Welander, began research to evaluate the extensive ex-situ architectural fragments surviving at the monuments, a long-term strategic initiative that is now starting to bear impressive fruit (see Section 2.5Elgin Cathedral Redisplay Project: Case study 21). As part of the national WWI commemorations, Scottish Government launched a Centenary Memorials Restoration Fund to support the conservation of war memorials of all types and dates in Scotland.

Front cover of a leaflet

Figure 63: Historic Scotland information leaflet from 2001 offering guidance on carved stones. Crown Copyright: Historic Environment Scotland

TCRE, the universities and others it worked with were strong proponents of stone conservation research (not specifically carved stones). Part of a wider international research community of interest (see e.g. Ashurst and Dimes 1990; the SWAPNET network; International Congress(es) on the Deterioration of Stone, meeting for the 13th time since its inception in the 1970s in Glasgow in September 2016; ICOMOS International Scientific Committee for Stone), they also initiated a lot of complementary research on related materials, important for composite monuments. This is not the place to produce a review of wider stone conservation literature (see Henry 2006; Doehne and Price 2010) but it is notable that the focus of HS scientific research in relation to carved stones was gravestones. The literature that TCRE produced is now dated (see Section 2.7 for an assessment of this work and the identification of gaps). The present research growth area is consolidants (for earlier research see Young et al. 1999).

TCRE commissioned Research Reports, Technical Papers and Technical Advice Notes in relation to understanding stone decay (weathering, the impact of biological growths, in particular), preventative and remedial treatments (such as removal of graffiti, use of biocides) and the effectiveness of treatments (stone cleaning and its consequences). The development of techniques for monitoring the condition of carved stones, assessing risks and identifying priorities for action was and remains an issue (e.g. Thomson and Urquhart 1999; Thomson 2000; Condition monitoring at Ormaig: Case Study 37). There is a useful history of TCRE’s interest in gravestones and graveyards in Buckham 2002, including the establishment of the Carved Stones Adviser Project (CSAP) in 2001, a joint initiative with AMD, and TCRE’s commissioning of a national assessment of gravestones and graveyards (SUAT 1999). One role of the CSAP was to evaluate the Historic Scotland Practitioners Guide (Maxwell et al. 2001). This led to the identification of new areas for guidance, such as Health and Safety, the HS electronic graveyard leaflets, and the establishment of the Graveyard and Cemetery Liaison Group (which ended in 2006, with the Carved Stone Adviser post), which acted as a cross-sector advisory group for Health and Safety and other policy development. HS organised a conference on graveyards (Dakin 2002) and CSAP devised literature on recording (including condition adapted from the Carved Stones Decay in Scotland Project: Yates et al. 1999), funding and research.

Historic Environment Scotland has more recently produced shorter INFORM Guides and Short Guides to provide practical advice for a wider readership about some of these issues. See Section 10.8 for details.

In recent years HES developed, in the form of the architect Dr Michael Burgoyne, and has retained to a degree, a significant amount of expertise in the conservation of rock art sites. Pooling and sharing this knowledge, along with that of independent researchers working on rock art projects, including those involving volunteers (notably Tertia Barnett), is highly desirable.

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