Crieff some 6 000 years ago !

The last few decades have seen an incredible increase in knowledge about our town or t o be specific that part of it lying immediately to the south near the banks of the River Earn .The Beauly to Denny power line with its Eiffel Tower like structures has caused not a little consternation amongst those living in its shadow . The project is now making its way through the Strath and in the course of work near Pittentian Farm to the south east of the town , the remains of a timber circle have been revealed . It is believed to date back over 5000 years and is similar to others previously excavated in other parts of Scotland . Fragments of burnt clay, flints and bone have turned up on the site which lies approximately a mile from the Neolithic cursus found during the construction of the Strathearn Campus . Archaeologists from Northlight Heritage who were responsible for the dig are quoted in the Strathearn Herald this week ( 9 March 2012 ) as saying theories include beliefs that the structure may have been some kind of temple or community meeting place with the timber posts being some sort of totem pole or poles that may have had carvings representing each different family in the community .

The proximity of the Pittentian circle to both the cursus and the ancient Stayt ( Parliament ) of Crieff with its Neolithic ancestry is fascinating .

What was the Stayt of Crieff ?

An earlier blog shows the coat of arms of Crieff with the Steward sitting on his chair atop a large mound clutching the scales of justice and with the jougs or stocks of the town beside him . The Steward was the representative of the Earl of Strathearn and administered justice on a regular basis at the Stayt in what is now Broich Road .

The Stayt or Stait of Crieff means simply a place . It’s spelling varies over the years and in the many citations and historical documents – Stede- Steid – Scait- Skait and Skath – all are synonymous !

Unforgivably no trace of its location remains It has even been removed from the current Ordnance Survey maps ! It lies in the farm field approximately opposite to the Goods Entrance to the Campus in Broich Road and approximateely6 12 metres into the field ! Amazingly it was investigated in 1860 and a written account recorded by one Mungo Headrick , an ancestor of the late Fraser Neill , well known Crieff auctioneer and valuer .Sadly much of this has been forgotten and until recently with the discovery of the cursus , totally ignored !

The Stayt of Crieff was where the Earls of Strathearn held Court and his Steward or Seneschal administered justice . When Robert the High Steward of Scotland, nephew of David ll (afterwards Robert ll) was Earl of Strathearn, he held a court
“ apud Creffe” on 8th May 1358 ( Charters of Inchaffrey Abbey ), and this appears to be the first record of the court we have.

From the Statistical Accounts we learn that the Old Tolbooth in Crieff was erected in 1665 for the accommodation of the steward’s court, “ which from this period ceased to be held in the open air. “ It is known that some forty volumes of records of the steward’s court were stored in the Tolbooth, and that they were destroyed by soldiery quartered there in 1798, who feeling cold on a winter's night used the ancient tomes for fuel!

What then has this to do with the Neolithic era ? In the month of November 1860 the mound was levelled and ploughed over, and in the course of the operations two cists containing human remains were exposed, along with an urn of clay the measurement of which is given as 5 inches in height by 5 inches across the mouth.

The hillock 36 feet in diameter and surrounded by a wall of earth and stone that was the Stayt of Crieff throughout the Middle Ages was in fact much earlier - a Neolithic tumulus or barrow with its burial chamber below !We are beginning to see that our local heritage dating back an incredible 6 000 years is still with us . The Stayt , the Cursus and the Pittentian Circle are our Neolithic jig saw . It is time for the authorities to realise that this must be publicised and descriptive signage erected to benefit not only the local citizens but also the outside world at large !


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