MHG11836 - Mercat Cross - Dornoch


A two metre high sandstone cross shaft which was formerly the focus of a number of annual fairs in the Burgh.

Type and Period (1)

  • MARKET CROSS (Medieval to 19th Century - 1058 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status

Full Description

(NH 7975 8970) The market cross of Dornoch, whose character suggests that it dates from the time of Dornoch's erection into a Royal Burgh in 1628, stands on site of its predecessor (mentioned in 1515) N of Cathedral yard, though RCAHMS (1911) say it stands W of Cathedral.
The head of the cross is missing. The shaft is of the common type, square at top and bottom, with chamfered corners, resting on a massive squared base, chamfered on upper edges and placed on a square stone platform.
(An unnamed dot-symbol on OS 25" map, (1900) at NH 7975 8970 is the cross.)
Orig Paroch Scot 1855; J W Small 1900; RCAHMS 1911; C D Bentinck 1926. <1>-<4>

The Mercat Cross was listed at Category B in 1971.

Market cross as described & illustrated. OS (AA) 31 3 1971.

Of considerable antiquity, dating from at least the 17th century. (Dornoch received a royal charter in 1628). Cross arms are missing from a square shaft with chamfered corners set on a square base. Fairs were held in Dornoch as follows:

Callan Fair - 3rd Wednesday of January
Cochran Fair - 1st Wednesday of March
Wemyss Fair - 2nd Wednesday of June
Margaret's Fair - 22nd July if a Wednesday; if not, 1st Wednesday thereafter
Bar's Fair - 22nd October if a Wednesday; if not, 1st Wednesday thereafter
Andrew's Fair - 22nd November if a Wednesday; if not, 1st Wednesday thereafter

The Industrial Archaeology of Sutherland (A Scottish Highland Economy 1700-1900) - Sinclair B Calder, 1974 <5>

The Mercat Cross was Scheduled in 2003.

Situated immediately N of Cathedral graveyard wall, chained railings around to define as small monument. Photograph. <6>

The Chairman of Dornoch Civic Society comments that this mercat cross, similar to other examples across Scotland, was probably designed simply as a post, contra <5> which suggests arms are missing. <7>

A brief desk-based report on the cross and its immediate surroundings was prepared by Pete Higgins of Archaeology North Ltd in May 2011. The cross is described as a 2 metre high sandstone shaft, square at the base and tapered above, ending in a square top with slightly concave upper surface. It is set on a sandstone base, itself sitting on a plinth and sandstone slabs forming a paved area around the cross. It is noted that most similar examples had some sort of decorative cap and the square top of the column may indicate this was so in this case.
The cross was the focus of several annual markets held in the Burgh which were held in the then unenclosed churchyard, the supports for the booths being driven into the ground. Following the erection of a wall around the churchyard as part of a wide ranging redevelopment of the town in 1812-14, the fairs were moved to the eastern end of the High Street. <8>

A watching brief was carried out by Archaeology North Ltd in 2011 during groundworks landscaping around the Mercat Cross. One human toe bone was recovered from the site as well as sandstone slabs which formed an approach to a pathway across the churchyard dating to 1812-14. <9>

In 2016 it was proposed to remove the structure from the statutory list as part of the Historic Environment Scotland Dual Designations Project, although it would remain a Scheduled Monument. <10>

Sources/Archives (10)



Grid reference Centred NH 7975 8970 (3m by 2m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NH78NE
Geographical Area SUTHERLAND
Civil Parish DORNOCH

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Related Investigations/Events (1)

External Links (3)

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