Recording Gravestones Border Castles and Families Witchhunt in Scotland 1563 - 1727 Mutiny on the Bounty - the Truth Duns Scotus Clocks and Clockmakers Elizabeth Murray Duchess of Lauderdale 



"Churches of  the Mediaeval Borders"


Talk by Peter Ryder  25th. September 2019


At a well attended meeting  members of the Society were treated to a fine talk by Peter Ryder, a well-known author and archaeologist, on the ‘Churches of the Mediaval Border’.  His talk concentrated on the medieval gravestones in the graveyards or burial enclosures attached to Border Churches, both extant and  in ruins.  His talk, whilst concentrating on the Borders, had wider horizons as Peter drew on examples from Dumfries and Galloway, Northumbria and Cumbria.  He explained to members the difference between burial slabs, headstones and hogbacks. 

His very enlightening talk included an explanation of the symbols carved into the various types of stones.  For example a sword on a man’s slab, clipping shears for a woman, a crook for a shepherd, a chalice for a clergyman, etc.

Peter enlivened his talk with some more contemporary stories.  He surprised his audience with the fact that medieval stone thefts are currently on the increase but are not a 20th/21st century crime.  Sir Walter Scott’s garden at Abbotsford has part of a medieval gravestone from Melrose Abbey!

He also mentioned that many medieval stones were recycled and that, on close inspection, a goodly number of lintels over doors and windows in some old farm  buildings have some of the symbols mentioned above, marking them as mediaeval slabs. War also had its effect!.  An American tanks regiment unwittingly used the slabs from one enclosure as hardstanding for their armoured vehicles

Peter has spent many years identifying, photographing and cataloguing mediaeval stones in the north of England and southern Scotland. He maintained the best time to photograph stones was at dusk under a sheet covering the slab.  As a consequence he toured the area in the summer months on a motorbike, often with his wife as pillion, visiting graveyards at 11pm!  We were left with this amusing picture of  a man extremely knowledgeable about his subject and most willing to pass this on in an enthusiastic and entertaining way.