Whalebone Arches

Dec 7, 2020

Fife Council archaeologist Douglas Speirs is currently compiling a list of whalebone arches in Scotland, and has contacted me to ask whether SGLH members know of any examples in their local areas. There were once hundreds of these arches, created in the 19th century from whales’ jawbones, many of them serving as ornamental features within Scotland’s gardens and designed landscapes. Most of them have disintegrated with the passage of time, but a few survive, such as the well-known one which has stood over the entrance to the so-called Whalebone Walk on the Edinburgh Meadows since 1886, currently undergoing restoration. There is another surviving example over the entrance to the Netherurd estate in the Scottish Borders, now protected as a Category ‘B’ Listed Building, and two more on the St. Martin’s Abbey estate near Perth. I shall be grateful for news of any other whalebone arches known to SGLH members, whether historical or still extant, especially if anything is known about their background and history.  Please send information to me at dingwall@guidelines.scot , which I shall be pleased to pass on to Douglas.