MHG1976 - Clow Chapel, Scouthal Burn, Red Well


No summary available.

Type and Period (1)

  • CHAPEL (Early Medieval to 19th Century - 561 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status

Full Description

ND25SW 3.00 2331 5245

ND25SW 3.01 ND 233 524 Farmstead
ND25SW 3.02 ND 2328 5232 Mill (possible)

(ND 2331 5245) Chapel (NR) (Remains of)
(ND 2331 5246) Grave Yard (NR) (Site of)
(ND 2323 5242) Red Well (NR) (Chalybeate)
OS 6" map, Caithness, 2nd ed., (1907)

These are the remains of St Mary's Chapel, standing in its graveyard with St Mary's Well on opposite side of Scouthal Burn.
Only fragments remain of the chapel, which appears to have consisted of a chancel, 14 by 10ft, and a nave, about 26 by 16ft. The walls, apparently unmortared, have been some 4ft thick.
In 1726, chapel is described as having been 'ruinous before our time', and was used as a burial place only of strangers and unbaptised children. It seems to have been abandoned altogether about 1770. Scouthal Burn is said to occasionally disclose stones and bones belonging to graveyard. The area is known as 'The Clow', probably from 'Cladh' - a church-yard.
To W of chapel is an old enclosure with the foundations of several old rectangular buildings around it.
The Red Well is described by ONB (1871) as a healing well of great popularity in neighbourhood, and was believed to have been a holy well.
Name Book 1871; W Macfarlane 1906-8; D Beaton 1909; RCAHMS 1911, visited 1910; A MacKay 1914.

St Mary's Chapel is as described above. The interior wall face survives to a maximum height of 0.5m in NE of the nave, and the exterior wall face is exposed only in SE. There is no trace of the graveyard. There are no structural remains of 'Red Well' and the only indication is a small marshy area, reddish in colour.
In vicinity of chapel are four ruined buildings, one of which contains a corn-drying kiln, and several enclosures (The Clow).
Survey of St Mary's Chapel revised at 1:2500.
Visited by OS (N K B) 22 October 1965.

Extensive documentary search failed to locate any early reference to site. Excavation in 1975-7 indicated that nave was secondary and that chancel is the only remnant of a unicameral structure whose proportions of roughly four to one suggest a later date than Early Christian. A line of burning towards S wall of nave, which was thought to suggest presence of an earlier timber church, proved to be only a slight scatter of charcoal; but an L-shaped arrangement of large stones, possibly indicating an earlier foundation, was located a little to E of entrance, which was confirmed towards E end of S side of nave.
A slight ridge to N of nave suggested a churchyard enclosure, but a cut failed to locate this and only feature of interest was a series of skulls neatly placed in small cists. Decapitation had taken place, a wide range was represented, and some skulls showed evidence of re-burial.
Excavation of settlement nearby, which included a mill, showed it to18th and 19th century.
E Talbot 1977; Info from Ts of E Talbot's excavation report.

A further season of excavation has yielded more burials of skulls with upper seven vertebrae, and fragments of a possible 13th century jug were found close to foundations of nave wall.
E Talbot 1980.

The chapel remains are generally as described. There is no sign of the graveyard. The area of the excavations has been backfilled. The Red Well, at ND 2323 5248, is across the Southal Burn and on the W side of the road. It is set into the face of a natural bank and shows an open side, 0.6m wide by 0.4m high. The slab roofing of the well is partly collapsed.
Surveyed at 1:10,000.
Visited by OS (J M) 11 March 1982

Longhouse farm (ND 2330 5240), comprising;
A: Chapel, St Mary's. Dimensions: 10.5 x 7m. Rectangular structure with porch 5 x 5m on the NE wall. Orientation NE-SW.
B-D: See ND25SW 3.01
E: See ND25SW 3.02
R J Mercer, NMRS MS/828/19, 1995

Sources/Archives (1)



Grid reference Centred ND 2330 5240 (40m by 40m) (2 map features)
Map sheet ND25SW
Civil Parish WATTEN
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

Finds (1)

  • VESSEL (Undated)

Related Monuments/Buildings (3)

Related Investigations/Events (0)

External Links (2)

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