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November 17th 1789

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The island Abbey

In the ancient earldom of Strathearn, the Abbey of Inchaffray occupied an important place. Founded by the 3rd Earl Gilbert around 1200, it was built on an island on the river Pow, near to the village of Madderty, and by the time of the Reformation had the tithes of no less than twelve parishes and the revenues from other lands.

Ecclesiastically, the Abbot of Inchaffray was a person of some importance and was present at the battle of Bannockburn. He is said to have walked round the Scottish lines encouraging the soldiers to fight for their rights and liberties. Bareheaded and barefooted and holding a crucifix up high he prayed for a Scottish victory. At Flodden in 1513, the Abbot of Inchaffray was also present but was considerably less successful than his predecessor and died in the battle.

The Earls of Strathearn were good friends to Inchaffray and there are charters granting the Abbot the “tithes and obventions of all kinds……with common pasture and all other easements”  of the churches of Aberuthven, Madderty and Cortachy “to be held by him and his heirs in pure and perpetual alms as freely as any church in the whole realm of Scotland.” 

Gifts of land were also made to the Abbey and the 5th Earl went one better by granting to the monks one of his serfs with his children. “Malise, Earl of Strathearn, makes known that he has given to the Abbott and convent of Inchaffray, in pure and perpetual alms, John, called Starnes, son of Thomas, son of Thor, with all his children; and granted to Inchaffray all right and claim which he had in the said John or his offspring. He forbids any of his men molesting John or any of his offspring.” 

After the Reformation, the Abbey gradually fell into decay. By two Acts in 1641 and 1649, the proprietors of the lands beside the Pow agreed to deepen the channel of the river. This had the effect of draining the surrounding area and placing the Abbey outwith the river. A description of the place was given by John Dow in 1789. “The whole buildings were formally surrounded with water. Around the building was a wall of ashlar (a squared stone used for building) to keep off the water. To the north on a rising hill was a place called Scar Law Knowe where they tried their criminals, and on the south side was a little mound called Tillie Chandu on which they were executed and where the executioner’s lodge stands to this day.” 

Today, the remains of Inchaffray Abbey are hidden in a small wood and lie some 100 metre from the channel of the Pow.

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