MHG31346 - Burial ground - Old St. Peter's Church


No summary available.

Type and Period (1)

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

Protected Status

Full Description

ND16NW 10 1204 6861.

(ND 1204 6861) Ch (NR)
OS 6" map, (1971)

The ruins of St Peter's Church are situated in the old part of Thurso adjacent to the river. It is cruciform, without aisles, measuring externally across the transepts 79ft E-W by 82ft transversely, and has a low, vaulted apsidal cell at the E end of the choir. Adjoining the S side of this cell is a curiously planned staircase tower placed acutely to the main wall, and with a long vaulted passage leading from it into the church. The building is unlikely to belong all to one period, nor to have been planned originally as it now appears. The apsidal cell has more affinity to a 12th century structure such as St Margaret's Chapel, Edinburgh Castle (NT27SE 1.3) than to the 16th or 17th century, to which the nave and transepts belong. The dedication of St Peter suggests and early date and it is stated that Gilbert Murray, Bishop of Caithness (d. 1245) founded a church in Thurso. The church and churchyard are neglected. The church, occupied as the parish church until 1832, appears to have had a part used as a court-house and prison in the early 18th century and is now roofless and rapidly falling into ruins, though the walls of the church are almost entire. In the W wall of the burial ground is a tablet with initials TW and GC with the date 1357. Date and initials bear the characteristics of a later date, probably 16th century.
RCAHMS 1911; D MacGibbon and T Ross 1887-92; M E C Walcott 1874

Two graves were found to the east of the current churchyard in 1896 during the digging of foundations for a kipper smoking house. This would imply a previously larger extent for the burial ground (see MHG1410 for detail).

The old church and burial ground were scheduled in 1929.

The remains of the church are as described and illustrated by the previous authorities. A wooden tablet outside the gate of the graveyard gives the information that the church was founded about 1220 by Gilbert, Bishop of Caithness, partly rebuilt in 1636, when the tower was erected, and closed in 1832.
Visited by OS (E G C) 18 April 1962.

(ND 1204 6861) St Peter's Church (NR) (remains of)
OS 50" map, (1965)

The old church and burial ground were listed at Category A in 1975.

No change to the previous field report except that the wooden tablet has been replaced by a metal plaque at the gate in the S wall of the graveyard. The plaque, erected by Thurso Society and Town Council in 1974, reads: 'Old St Peter's Kirk. Founded circa 1220 by Gilbert Murray Bishop of Caithness. Closed to worship 1832'.
Visited by OS (J M) 1 October 1981.

The ruined kirk of St Peter, although enlarged and extensively rebuilt in the first half of the 17th century, incorporates considerable remains of what may have been an early 12th century Bishop's minster or Head Kirk.
H Gordon Slade and G Watson 1990

'Caithness Monumental Inscriptions', pre 1855
Monumental inscription survey completed by A.S.Cowper & I.Ross.
The survey may not include inscription information after 1855 and each inscription transcribed does not give the full details that appear on the stones, abbreviations used. Some omissions and inaccuracies. Published 1992. <1>

West Caithness Local Plan, May 1987: P27/2.53. Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas.
POLICY - The Council endeavours to preserve buildings or groups of buildings which are of outstanding value. Continuity of the use is the prime factor in considering the nature of proposals to alter such buildings.
J Aitken : 22/05/01.

Site visit 27/09/2002: the church and particularly the grave stones and wall mermorials are being vandalised. See photos. - HAW 9/2002

It was proposed that the old church and burial ground be removed from the statutory list in September 2016 as part of a Historic Environment Scotland project looking at dual designations of sites in the Highlands, though they would remain a scheduled monument. <2>

The old church and burial ground were removed from the statutory list by Historic Environment Scotland on 22/09/2016. <3>

See also:
ND16NW0010 Old St Peter's Church, Thurso
ND16NW0299 Font
ND16NW0300 Graves
ND16NW0301 Runic inscribed cross

Sources/Archives (9)



Grid reference Centred ND 1203 6861 (55m by 37m) (2 map features)
Map sheet ND16NW
Civil Parish THURSO
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

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Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

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