Issue: Spynie Palace and the Bishops of Moray:

Subtitle history, architecture and archaeology
Publication Type
21_2002_LEWIS_Spynie_Palacepdf.pdf (118 MB): Download (3 MB): Download (100 MB): Download
Author John H Lewis
Denys Pringle
Editor John H Lewis
Publisher Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
Year of Publication 2002
Volume 21
Number of Pages: 223
ISBN 0-903903-21-0
Subjects / Periods
BIAB: Palaces (Royal Or Bishops')
Source biab_online
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The ruins of Spynie Palace near Elgin are a survival largely from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; however the site was a bishop's residence for a much longer period from the twelfth to the seventeenth centuries, and archaeological excavations, coupled with historical research, have illuminated the way in which the palace buildings and defences developed through several centuries. The report on the excavations includes a historical introduction covering the bishopric and bishop's residence from 1120 to 1973; the excavation of the palace enclosure and surrounding area, including towers and the curtain wall. Specialist reports on finds include coins, jetons and other numismatica; small finds of metal, stone and bone; prehistoric, medieval and post-medieval pottery; window and vessel glass; clay tobacco pipes; leather and textiles; architectural fragments and building materials; burnt and industrial debris; faunal remains (mammals, fish, birds and marine molluscs; and dendrochronology of timbers. The report concludes with a general discussion of the site and the palace at different periods of its history, and appendices cover the furnishing of the palace in the seventeenth century, and the cache of objects in the watergate passage. Includes a glossary, and French, German and Spanish summaries.
1 - 12
This chapter considers historical evidence for the bishopric of Moray from 1120-1224, the origins of which are obscure. There are also sections on the bishop's residence at Spynie (1224-1460) and the 15th-century rebuilding of the palace. There is an account of Bishop Patrick Hepburn (1538-73) who was the last Roman Catholic incumbent before the Reformation. This is followed by the Protestant Bishops (1573-1689) and the period of abandonment (1689-1973).
13 - 15
16 - 101
The excavation results have been divided into seven major periods, reflecting the principal phases of occupation of the site. This broad chronological framework which is somewhat artificial is intended to facilitate understanding of the long and complex history of the palace: period 1 - pre-bishopric; period 2 - the early years of the bishopric (12th century); period 3 - 13th-century occupation; period 4 - the remodelling of the palace (14th century); period 5 - the upgrading of Spynie Palace (late 15th and 16th centuries); period 6 - the final years of the bishopric (17th century); period 7 - post-bishopric occupation. Each of these is described and illustrated in some detail.
Nicholas M McQ Holmes
Julie Franklin
Helen Smith
Naomi Crowley
C P Graves
R Murdoch
Dennis B Gallagher
Clare Thomas
Thea Gabra-Sanders
Mary Markus
Michael Spearman
Tanya O'Sullivan
Sheila Hamilton-Dyer
Coralie M Mills
102 - 166
This chapter comprises specialist reports on a range of material: coins, jetons and other numismatica; metal stone and bone objects; pottery of prehistoric, medieval and post-medieval date; window glass; vessel glass; clay tobacco pipes; leather; textiles; architectural fragments; building materials; burnt and industrial debris. Reports on faunal remains and the dendrochronology of timbers also appear in this section.
166 - 180
This chapter discusses the excavation results by period. As well as the early occupation identified at and near the palace, several other prehistoric sites have been noted on or close to the former edge of Spynie Loch (period 1). Only tantalising glimpses have been revealed of Spynie's occupation during the first two centuries of the bishopric (periods 2 and 3). The first of the great rebuilding programmes began in the 14th century when more attention was paid to comfort and convenience rather than security (period 4). The second major rebuilding programme began in the later 15th century and continued into the early 16th resulting in the palace's final layout which is still evident today (period 5). From the completion of the great rebuilding programmes of the late 15th and early 16th centuries until its final abandonment towards the end of the 17th century, the palace must have undergone many repairs and alterations, many of them minor but some quite substantial (period 5a and 6).
Dennis B Gallagher
181 - 191
There are surviving inventories of the contents of Spynie Palace taken during the first half of the 17th century. The documents are transcribed and a glossary is included.
192 - 194
During the removal of infill from the watergate passage a cache of numismatic objects and jewellery and two associated wallets and a textile bag were recovered.