Hogback Stone

History of the Hogback Stone

Hogback stones are so named because it is thought that the curved slightly raised back resembles that of a pig (hog). There is, however, a wide variety of shapes and sizes of the stones which have been described as ‘hogback’. There are examples of such stones throughout the United Kingdom but they are concentrated in areas where there was a Viking influence in the 9th and 10th centuries. It has been suggested that the stone is carved to look like the roof of a house and indeed some have markings which resemble shingle or roof slates. In Scotland there are concentrations in Orkney, the Forth-Clyde Valley and the Borders where they are located in Ancrum, Bedrule, Edrom, Lempitlaw and Nisbet. It is thought that they are the grave covering of persons of importance or wealth although, interestingly, no bones have been found under the stones. This does not mean that they do not represent graves but rather that they may have been moved from their original site. The two stones in Ancrum and Lempitlaw are the best preserved in the Borders

Ancrum's Hogback Stone

The Hogback stone, dating from the early 12th century, is one of only seven known in the Scottish Borders and, in spite of recent deterioration, is probably the best preserved. It is one of the most important archaeological remains in the village. It is unlikely that it rests in its original site although it has an east-west axis and there is evidence that it is in a place of religious worship for many centuries as there was a church on this site in the possession of the Bishops of Glasgow from before 1170. If not on its original site it is more than likely that it was initially laid somewhere close to its present position, perhaps even within the church which was replaced by a new building in 1762 for when extensively repaired in 1832.There appears to be no specific reference (such as in the Statistical Accounts) to the Ancrum hogback stone by earlier antiquarians and writers. It was brought to light in modern times in 1921. Mr R Robson, a Hawick sculptor was working in the Ancrum churchyard. The church sexton, Mr James Scott, drew his attention to the top of the stone, protruding above the soil. He reported the find to J Hewat Craw (of the Berwickshire Naturalists Society), who conducted an excavation in 1922, which fully exposed the stone (see photograph above, courtesy of RCAHMS.) It was also re-excavated in 1969 by J N G Ritchie and J T Ritchie in 1969. It is not known if it lies over a grave as , at present, no documentary evidence exists regarding the excavations of 1922 and 1969. It is not known whether any excavations, other than uncovering the stone, ever took place.

Though commonly called a ‘hogback’ stone, it is described in ‘The Corpus of Romanesque Sculpture’ as a coped, tegulated grave cover. It is 2 metres long, between 0.34 and 0.49 metres wide and 0.32 metres high. On first exposure, the five rows of tegulations (scale or tile shaped ornamentation) were highly discernible, as was the roll moulding on the apex of the monument.

Current condition

The stone is of local red sandstone and measures approximately 200 cm long and 50 cm at one end and 35 cm at other end. It lies on a base of 10 cm height and rises to 30cm at its crown. There are five rows of semi-circular tegulae, many of which have been eroded in recent years. The term tegula comes from the Latin for a flat roof tile which was commonly used in Roman times. When originally described there was a roll moulding on the apex which is now less obvious. The upper surface has split from the base and has been slightly displaced with, in addition, a piece broken from the wider end. Much of the detail is lost due to a partial covering of moss and lichen. On examination of photographs taken previously there has been significant degradation in recent years.

Ever since its inception, ADHS has recognised the Hogback Stone in Ancrum Kirkyard as a foundation stone of the heritage of Ancrum and have been concerned about its condition and ongoing deterioration. In 2016 ADHS investigated possible sources of funding to restore and conserve the Hogback Stone but were unsuccessful. In 2017 ADHS decided to take on the challenge to restore and protect this large part of village history they initiated an ongoing effort to raise funds to restore and conserve the Hogback Stone.