City’s for­got­ten Vik­ing stone to get new home

● 11th cen­tury Swedish relic has been fenced off in re­cent years

The Scotsman - - Features - By BRIAN FER­GU­SON Arts Cor­re­spon­dent

It is one of the most his­toric relics to be found in the heart of Scot­land’s cap­i­tal – but lies fenced off from the pub­lic in the shadow of the iconic vis­i­tor at­trac­tion it pre-dates.

Now the city’s lit­tle-known “Swedish Rune­stone”, which has been Ed­in­burgh since the 18th cen­tury, is set to be moved from its home in one of the most in­ac­ces­si­ble cor­ners of Princes Street Gar­dens af­ter more than 200 years.

Ed­in­burgh City Coun­cil has agreed to re­lo­cate the Vik­ing Age grave­stone, which fea­tures a runic mes­sage in­side the form of a ser­pent, to a prom­i­nent location at Ed­in­burgh Univer­sity’s main cam­pus in or­der to give it the at­ten­tion it has long been de­nied.

The 11th cen­tury stone, one of just three of its kind in the UK, has been in Ed­in­burgh

0 The Swedish Rune­stone is not easy to see now but its planned new location in Ge­orge Square will make it more ac­ces­si­ble since 1787, when it was do­nated to the So­ci­ety of An­ti­quar­ies of Scot­land by one of its ear­li­est mem­bers, Sir Alexan­der Se­ton. His un­cle, Ge­orge Se­ton, a West Loth­ian-born shipowner and mer­chant, be­came the banker to the Swedish king in the early 18th cen­tury and in­her­ited Ekol­sund Castle, a royal res­i­dence at Enkop­ing.

Orig­i­nally lo­cated on the Royal Mile, it was later do­nated it to the Princes Street Gar­dens’ pro­pri­etors to en­sure it was given a more prom­i­nent po­si­tion over­look­ing the park, be­low the castle es­planade.

How­ever safety and se­cu­rity con­cerns over the area be­low the spec­ta­tor stands for the Tat­too have pre­vented ac­cess in re­cent years.

Its new home will see it move next year to a new land­scaped gar­den in Ge­orge Square, out­side the school of Scan­di­na­vian stud­ies and en­ter the Na­tional Mu­se­ums of Scot­land col­lec­tion.

Don­ald Wil­son, the coun­cil’s cul­ture con­venor, said: “I had never heard of the Swedish Rune­stone un­til the re­lo­ca­tion pro­pos­als came up and I would imag­ine that would be the same for most peo­ple in the city, even though it has been in the gar­dens since the early 19th cen­tury.

“It will now be in a much more prom­i­nent and ac­ces­si­ble po­si­tion. It’s a sig­nif­i­cant his­toric relic with an as­ton­ish­ing story – it just shows you that this his­toric, an­cient city never ceases to amaze.”

A spokesman for Na­tional Mu­se­ums Scot­land said: “We sup­port the project to bring the Swedish Rune­stone into more prom­i­nent pub­lic view with ap­pro­pri­ate in­ter­pre­ta­tion so that peo­ple can see it and ap­pre­ci­ate its sig­nif­i­cance. The fact that own­er­ship will trans­fer to our col­lec­tions means that the on­go­ing con­ser­va­tion of this im­por­tant ob­ject will be as­sured and given due pri­or­ity, safe­guard­ing it for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.”

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