MHG11638 - Earl's Cross; Dornoch


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Type and Period (1)

  • CROSS (Medieval - 1058 AD to 1559 AD)

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Full Description

(NH 8044 9040) Earl's Cross (NR) OS 6" map, (1960)
Thane's or Earl's Cross, is stated to have been erected as a memorial of battle of Embo, fought about year 1245, in which William first Earl of Sutherland defeated the Scandinavians but it belongs to a much later date. It is a tall shaft, expanded at the head, whereon rests a triangle of stone, perforated in the centre, a fragment of the original crosshead, which was circular and had arms expanding to the margin, with perforations between them. The cross is 7' 3.5" high. The edges of the shaft are chamfered, and at 4'1" above the ground is a projecting band, 10" deep, relieved on the E and W faces with a shield, that on the E charged with three stars of five points (two and one) for the Earl of Sutherland, that on the W indecipherable, but stated by Cordiner to have borne 'the armorial ensigns of Caithness'. The breadth of the shaft is 1'6", its thickness 8 1/2". The cross faces E and W. It is now enclosed within an iron railing.
C Cordiner 1780; 1788; Orig Paroch Scot 1855; R Pococke 1887; RCAHMS 1911, visited 1909.

Earl's Cross as described. Visited by OS (A A) 23 March 1971.

This monument consists of a free-standing stone approx 2.2m high. The head is much eroded and its original form, probably not a cross, is unclear. The head is now oval in shape with a triangular hole through it. Around the shaft runs a broad band with a shield on each side, possibly showing arms of Earls of Sutherland and of Caithness, both now badly eroded. The function of the stone is not clear but it may possibly have commemorated some significant event, have marked boundary of a land holding or have been a cross marking edge of a sanctury.
Info from Historic Scotland, scheduling document 10 June 1998.

NB: NH89SW0010 is the site of the other recorded cross of the pair (now missing) that marked the burial spot of the Norse leader (and other burials)

The cross stands within small fenced enclosure on top of slight knoll. All stone pieces are clamped together with long metal (copper?) clamps. Shields are too worn to identify designs. The cross gives the impression of a large sword, hilt uppermost with blade sunk into ground. See photos - HAW 11/2002

Sources/Archives (5)



Grid reference Centred NH 8044 9040 (10m by 10m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NH89SW
Geographical Area SUTHERLAND
Civil Parish DORNOCH

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