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How a single block of stone managed to close the border between Scotland and England for the first time in 400 years

1 December 2017

In December 1950, the border between Scotland and England was closed for the first time in 400 years.

Police put roadblocks in place to catch a group of Scottish students who had taken the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey in an audacious raid.

As William Murray, the Viscount Stormont, explained in Mary Berry’s Country House Secrets, the stone has been of great significance to Scots since it arrived at Scone Palace nearly 1200 years ago.

“The stone was brought here by in 840 by the first king of Scotland, Kenneth MacAlpin,” said William.

“Some people say it is a Roman altar, some people say it came from the Holy Land, but what we do know is that the stone has been used for important coronations [including] James I, Charles II [and] MacBeth.

“The original stone was taken from here in 1297 by what I call ‘the bad guy in Braveheart’, Edward I, the Hammer of the Scots, and he took it to Westminster, where all coronations since have used it.”

But on Christmas Day in 1950 four young Scottish Nationalist students broke in to Westminster Abbey in a bid to return the stone, also known as the Stone of Scone, to Scotland.

And despite roadblocks and searches the police never found the stone. Four months later it mysteriously turned up at Arbroath Abbey and was taken to London.

On St Andrew’s Day 1996 the stone was officially returned to Edinburgh, but some believe it should now be moved to a permanent home in Perth.

A replica of the Stone of Destiny sits at Scone Palace

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