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Law Ting Holm

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Title: Law Ting Holm  
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Subject: Scandinavian Scotland, Shetland, Thing (assembly), Camas Uig, Bjaðok
Collection: Freshwater Loch Islands of Scotland, Shetland, Thing (Assembly)
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Law Ting Holm

Law Ting Holm
Law Ting Holm is located in Scotland
Law Ting Holm
Law Ting Holm
Law Ting Holm shown within Scotland
OS grid reference HU416427
Norse name Lawthing Holm[1]
Meaning of name flat island of the parliament
Area and summit
Area <1 ha [2]
Highest elevation <5 metres (16 ft)
Island group Shetland
Local Authority Shetland Islands Council

Law Ting Holm (also known as Tingaholm[3]) is a small promontory at the north end of the freshwater Loch of Tingwall, Mainland Shetland, Scotland.[2] It was once an islet entirely surrounded by water, joined to the shore by a stone causeway 1.7 metres (6 ft) wide and 42.7 metres (140 ft) long.[1][4] In the 1850s the levels of the loch were lowered and the holm evolved to its present form.[5] The Loch of Tingwall is west of the town of Lerwick and has one additional island - Holm of Setter.

Law Ting Holm


  • Norse parliament 1
  • Other Thing Sites 2
  • THING Project 3
  • Wildlife 4
  • The arts 5
  • See also 6
  • Notes 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Norse parliament

Law Ting Holm was the location of Shetland's local parliament until the late 16th Century.[5][6][7] There are documents relating to assemblies taking place in Tingwall from as early as 1307, although the only reference to the Thing (assembly) meeting on the holm itself comes from a letter dated 1532.[5][8]

As was common with other such meeting places, a mound may have been made from handsful of earth from the various local þings represented at the meeting, so that all members could say that they were on their home ground. A small, much eroded mound can still be seen and the remains of a wall were found on the perimeter of the island, suggesting the creation of secluded area for meetings.[1][7] Locations where the deliberations of the assembly could be seen but not easily overheard are typical of þing sites.[9] The stones on which the "Ford" and other officials of the meeting sat, were reportedly removed at some time in the 18th century to improve the grazing potential.[4]

In the 1570s Earl Robert Stewart moved the thing to nearby Scalloway Castle, although the holm was used once more in 1577 when over 700 Shetlanders brought a complaint against the local Foud, Lawrence Bruce, before royal commissioners from Edinburgh.[10]

Writing in 1774, Low[11] reports that the stone seats had been ripped up to create more room for grazing, although in 1809 Edmonston [12] suggests that the sites of a stone table and bench can still be traced upon the holm. Excavation undertaken in 2011 as part of the HERA funded Assembly Project revealed the remains of a Late Iron Age/ Pictish settlement at the Law Ting Holm but did not produce clear evidence of later activities. However, archaeological finds indicate that the causeway continued to be maintained well into the 19th century.[13][14]

Other Thing Sites

Thing assembly sites are found throughout Northern Europe, as a result of a shared Norse heritage. They are often identifiable by their shared thing, ting, ding and fing place names. Examples include Þingvellir in Iceland, Tynwald Hill in the Isle of Man, Fingay Hill in England, and Dingwall in Scotland.

Tingwall is just one of a number of 'ting' names found in Shetland. The parish names Sandsting, Aithsting, Delting, Lunnasting and Nesting all suggest that a wider network of local thing sites once operated in the islands . The names Gnípnaþing, Þvætaþing and Rauðarþing can also be found in early documents, but have since gone out of use.[5]

THING Project

Law Ting Holm is one of a number of sites included in the Northern Periphery Programme's three year transatlantic THING Project.[15] The Project, which includes partners from Iceland, Norway, the Faroe Islands, Orkney, Shetland, Highland Scotland and the Isle of Man, aims to explore and promote the shared links between the Northern European thing sites, and develop sustainable business and tourism opportunities in each of the partner regions.[16][17] Amongst other things the delegates explored the possibility of a transnational World Heritage nomination, based on an expansion of Iceland’s existing World Heritage site Þingvellir, at a meeting in Dingwall in September 2011.[18] This initiative was publicised by the Shetland Islands Council sponsored "Move.Shetland" newsletter[19] and the results of the process will be published in a report in 2012.[20][21]


Tufted duck, red-breasted merganser and common and black-headed gull frequent the loch, which is also home to Shetland's only mute swans.[22]

The arts

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) premièred Chris Stout’s composition Tingaholm in Lerwick on 4 March 2012, a piece named after the Þing site.[18]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Law Ting Holm" Shetlopedia/Way Back Machine. Version of 8 September 2010. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Get-a-map". Ordnance Survey. Retrieved 31 July 2010.
  3. ^ "Tingaholm, Tingwall" Shetland Heritage. Retrieved 30 May 2012.
  4. ^ a b "Law Ting Holm". RCAHMS. Retrieved 15 August 2010.
  5. ^ a b c d Smith (2009)
  6. ^ Graham-Campbell and Batey (1998) p. 67
  7. ^ a b "Thing" Shetlopedia/Way Back Machine. Version of 1 October 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  8. ^ Ballantyne & Smith (1999) p. 196
  9. ^ "Law Ting Holm, Shetland". Retrieved 15 August 2010.
  10. ^ Ballantyne & Smith (1999) pp. 183-224
  11. ^ Low (1774) p. 154
  12. ^ Edmonston (1809) p. 130
  13. ^ Coohlen & Mehler (2011)
  14. ^ Coohlen & Mehler (2014)
  15. ^ "The THING Project - THing sites International Networking Group". Northern Periphery Programme. Retrieved 10 June 2012.
  16. ^ "Home". Thing Project. Retrieved 10 June 2012.
  17. ^ "Thing Sites". Thing Project. Retrieved 10 June 2012.
  18. ^ a b "News" Thing Project. Retrieved 10 June 2012.
  19. ^ "May 2010 Newsletter" Retrieved 3 August 2010.
  20. ^ "Documentation for supporting serial nomination of Thing Sites at the UNESCO World Heritage list". Thing Project. Retrieved 10 June 2012.
  21. ^ The Shetland News (15 April 2010) Retrieved 1 August 2010.
  22. ^ "Tingwall Central Mainland Law Ting Holm Shetland Parliament". Retrieved 15 August 2010.


  • Ballantyne, John, H. & Smith, Brian (2009). "Shetland Documents 1195-1579". Lerwick. Shetland Times Ltd & Shetland Council. ISBN 1 898852 48 0
  • Coolen, J. and N. Mehler (2011): Archaeological Excatavations at the Law Ting Holm, Tingwall, Shetland 2011. Data Structure Report/Interim Report. "TAP Field Report No 4". (pdf) Retrieved 28 May 2012.
  • Coolen, J. and N. Mehler (2014): Excavations and Surveys at the Law Ting Holm, Tingwall, Shetland. An Iron Age settlement and medieval assembly site. British Archaeological Reports (BAR) British Series 592. Archaeopress. ISBN 978-1-4073-1226-2
  • Edmonston, Arthur. (1809) View of the Ancient and Present State of the Zetland Islands.
  • Graham-Campbell, James and Batey, Colleen E. (1998) Vikings in Scotland: An Archaeological Survey. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 978-0-7486-0641-2
  • Low, George. (1774) A Tour through the Islands of Orkney and Schetland. Kirkwall.
  • Smith, Brian, (2009) "On the nature of tings: Shetland´s law courts from the middle ages until 1611". New Shetlander No. 250, 37-45.

External links

  • - official website for the Northern European Thing Sites Network
  • - website for the NPP funded THING Project
  • - information about the HERA funded Assembly Project.

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