Plaiden Ell

Contributed by Historylinks Museum

The Ell was an ancient measure of length mostly used for measuring cloth. It came from the latin for arm 'ulnia' and was assumed to be the average length of a person's arm. There are Flemish, Polish, Danish, English and Scottish Ells and they were all of different sizes. The Scottish Ell was standardized in 1661 to 37 inches (the English Ell was 45 inches but was never standardized). In 1824 English measurements were imposed in Scotland and the Ell fell into disuse. Here in Dornoch is one of the very few Ells to survive as currently only 2 others are known - at Dunkeld and Fettercairn.
The Ell at Dornoch is named the Plaiden (cloth) Ell and is situated in Dornoch Cathedral graveyard where in the Medieval period several fairs were held each year. This stone is marked with two metal points which measure 39 inches so possibly the stone may pre-date standardization.

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