Forgotten Scots royal burial site to be explored by Stirling academic

Perth Charterhouse
21 February 2017

The burial site of James I of Scotland – brutally murdered 580 years ago today – is set to be explored in a project led by a University of Stirling archaeologist.

Professor Richard Oram, Dean of Stirling’s Faculty of Arts and Humanities, and colleagues will attempt to locate the city of Perth’s ‘Charterhouse’, a monastery of Carthusian monks commissioned by James I as a showcase and future mausoleum for his dynasty. 

James I was killed, on 21 February 1437, by Sir Robert Graham, an acolyte of the Earl of Atholl, in a bloody struggle for the Scottish throne. The monarch and his wife Joan were both buried in the ‘Charterhouse’.

Today, 21 February 2017, experts in archaeology, Scottish history and 3d visualisation from the University of Stirling, the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), and the School of Simulation and Visualisation at The Glasgow School of Art, announced a joint venture that seeks to locate the Charterhouse site – and the tombs within it – and recreate it as a virtual museum for the 21st century.

Partnerships 

Project lead Professor Oram said: “Stirling are global leaders in the area of cultural heritage: committed to sharing our knowledge with the world, we’re proud to play a central role in this partnership.

“Perth’s Charterhouse was unique in Scotland. James built it to be the spiritual focus of his dynasty and poured huge sums of money into it to create a splendid setting for his tomb.

“Medieval descriptions speak of the magnificence of the church, but nothing of it remains above ground to be seen today – the whole monastery was plundered and demolished at the Reformation.

“Working with our archaeology colleagues and the wider community in Perth, we aim to locate the Charterhouse buildings and recover as much of their plan as possible to allow us to ‘build’ a virtual reconstruction of the complex and restore the jewel in the crown of the city’s lost medieval heritage. Unearthing this almost forgotten building will transform understanding of Perth’s place in James I’s ambitions: locating the royal tombs within the church would be the icing on the cake.”

Dr Lucy Dean, the newest member of the Centre for History team at UHI and co-investigator on the project, added:  “In the early fifteenth century, Perth was at the geographical heart of the country, a few miles from the inaugural site of Scottish kings, and the setting for parliaments, exchequers, church courts, royal ceremonial, and a bustling hub for trade in the later fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. The murder of James I was a pivotal moment that saw a rapid end to Perth’s status.

“The Charterhouse Project will allow the local, national and world communities the opportunity to discover and re-discover the fascinating history of this lost capital through innovative research and delivery methods. Moreover, both the research and the products it will produce will offer innovative educational tools and involvement for all levels from primary to high education and beyond.”

Project lead at the Glasgow School of Art’s School of Simulation and Visualisation, Paul Wilson, said: “The Charterhouse Project offers the opportunity to use state of the art 3D visualisation techniques to bring this exciting period of history to life, and to create a vivid sensory experience of James I’s burial place in 360 / 3D Super High definition which would be accessible across a range of different platforms and devices.”

Public engagement

The public will have a chance to learn more about the project on Saturday 25 February 2017 through a digital presentation at Perth Museum and Gallery (10am – 12 noon). A walking tour of the city (12.30pm -2pm) will offer the opportunity to hear about King James I’s dreams to make Perth the capital of Scotland, how these were violently ended in 1437, and how archaeological and historical research are helping to tell the story.

The team will work closely with Perth and Kinross Council and local groups (including Culture Perth and Kinross, Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust, Alder Archaeology, and Perth Society of Natural Sciences) as the project is developed.

This partnership announcement comes after Stirling recently launched an ambitious new educational partnership with Historic Environment Scotland (HES) and Forth Valley College (FVC), which will promote and develop expertise in managing Scotland’s heritage assets, as well as providing new training opportunities from apprenticeships to postgraduate level qualifications.

Background information

Rachel MacBeath, Communications Officer, University of Stirling, 01786 467 760 or r.a.macbeath@stir.ac.uk

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