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Abbey Strand

Tom Gomez

Joined January 2008

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Artist's Description

An Historic Scotland Category A Listed Building

Taken during our latest Scottish Bubblemeet to Fife (Saturday 19th March 2011) and Edinburgh (Sunday 20th March 2011).

This shot is from the Sunday outing in Edinburgh.

The Abbey Strand is a short street, lying immediately outside the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which represents the very last section of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.

Today the buildings which remain in the Strand date from the 16th and 17th centuries and include Holyrood Abbey Sanctuary Bookshop (the two storey stone building on the right) and Thomson’s Court (the three storey and attic white building on the left). Both buildings date from the early 16th century.

Abbey Sanctuary is an Historic Scotland Category A Listed Building (HB Number 28207).

Thomson’s Court is an Historic Scotland Category A Listed Building (HB Number 28208).

According to legend, the Abbey (now a ruin in the grounds of Holyrood Palace) was founded in 1128 as the monastery of the Holy Rood (Cross) by David I, King of Scots, as a way of giving thanks for a miraculous recovery after a hunting accident.

The Abbey offered sanctuary to the pursued, in times when minor theft could warrant a hanging, and inflexible debt collectors would use violent means to intimidate their debtors.

A brass letter ‘S’ on the road marks the sanctuary line. This was the boundary of the Sanctuary and was originally extended to criminals. The first record of a debtor taking sanctuary in Holyrood is in 1531.

At midnight on a Saturday, the debtors, or ‘Abbey Lairds’ as they were known, could leave the sanctuary for twenty-four hours of freedom as, under Scot’s Law, legal proceedings could not be taken on a Sunday. Most of them took advantage of this opportunity to visit friends or go to church.

Sanctuary was a defined area, five miles in circumference, taking in most of Holyrood Park. Those in need of ‘protection’, applied to the Bailie of the Abbey and if their application was successful and on payment of a fee, they were granted sanctuary.

During the last 200 years of the sanctuary, Holyrood sheltered around 2,000 people. The population of debtors included clergymen, lawyers, officers of the army and navy and members of the aristocracy. Thomas De Quincy, author of Confessions of an English Opium-eater, was resident in the abbey Sanctuary off and on between 1835 and 1840.

The ancient right of sanctuary within the grounds of Holyrood has never been repealed, however, the need for a debtors’ sanctuary ended in 1880 when imprisonment for debt was abolished.

The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Camera: Canon EOS 60D
Lens: Canon EF-S 17-85mm IS USM


Single RAW image Tonemapped in Photomatix 4.0.2.

Related shots can be found at: Edinburgh or you can look at all my HDR shots.

Artwork Comments

  • Photography  by Mathilde
  • Tom Gomez
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  • David Smith
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  • Lynda Heins
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  • Phil Thomson IPA
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