MHG39323 - Cemetery, St Mary's Chapel - Crosskirk


Remains of possible C12th chapel.

Type and Period (1)

  • CEMETERY (Medieval - 1058 AD? to 1559 AD?)

Protected Status

Full Description

St Mary's Chapel [NR] (rems of) [NAT] OS 1:10,000 map, 1975.

'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 ommissions and inacuracies. Published 1992.
J Aitken : 20/12/02
Remains of poss C12th chapel said in 1726 to be dedicated to St Peter (W Macfarlane 1906) but which writers from Pennant in 1769 (T Pennant 1774) onwards have assigned to St Mary, an assignation supported by the fact that a holy and healing spring well, 15 chains to S and associated with chapel, bears that dedication. There is no local traditional dedication.
Much the oldest surviving ecclesiastical structure in Caithness, the chapel consists of nave and reconstructed chancel, an anachronistically early feature occurring in the form of sloping door jambs more suited to an Irish-type chapel than to an orthodox medieval structure. Both nave and chancel are roofless, the latter having been rebuilt on the old foundation in 1871 to serve as a burial place for the Gunn family. It measures 11 ft 3 ins E-W by 10 ft 9 ins N-S with walls 2 ft 6 ins thick. Separated from the chancel by a solid wall pierced by a doorway, the nave measures 17 ft 10 ins E-W by 10 ft 11 ins N-S within 4 ft thick drystone walls of irregularly coursed local whinstone. The N wall is 8 ft high, about its original height; the S wall is damaged but still stands 6 to 7 ft high; the W wall is badly damaged, especially externally, and stands to a height of 11 ft 8 ins and the E wall stands 15 ft high. Enough survives of each wall to establish that there has been no window. In the W wall there is an entrance, now closed up, 2 ft 3 ins wide at ground level, 1 ft 9 ins wide at the top, and 3 ft 11 ins high. The entrance to chancel is of similar height, 2 ft 9 ins wide at ground level and 2 ft 1 in wide at the top. Chapel is surrounded by a graveyard, still in use in 1872, enclosed by stone walls.
W Macfarlane 1906; T Pennant 1774; Name Book 1872; J Anderson 1873; RCAHMS 1911, visited 1910; Information from H Dryden (MS and plans in NMAS library, SAS Mss Nos. 22 & 190).

Generally as described, the chapel contains seven recumbent grave slabs on which the earliest discernible date is 1692. The graveyard is still in use.
Resurveyed at 1:2500. Visited by OS (N K B) 28 October 1964.

This was possibly an early religious site since a Pictish symbol stone and evidence of occupation as late as the 8th century were found in the nearby broch (ND07SW 4).
E W MacKie 1975.

St Mary's Chapel, Crosskirk (Information from DoE name plate) is as described by the previous authorities.
Visited by OS (N K B) 13 August 1981.

St Mary's Well is now dry and in a dilapidated condition.
Visited by OS (J B) 28 August 1981. (see MHG1226 for well 300 metres south of chapel)

A grass-covered wall, 31 m long and 0.5 m high, runs NE from the NE corner of the chapel, which is probably superimposed on it.
R J Mercer 1982.

Scheduled with adjacent broch (ND07SW 4).
Information from Historic Scotland, scheduling document dated 30 June 1995.

West Caithness Local Plan, May 1987: P27/2.52. Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites.
POLICY - In considering development proposals, the Council will safeguard scheduled Ancient Monuments and important Archaeological Sites insofar as this is compatible with their aim of achieving a sound employment for the local population.
J Aitken : 22/05/01.

NGR adjusted based on 2009 vertical aerial photographs. <1>

Sources/Archives (10)



Grid reference Centred ND 0249 7008 (36m by 36m) (2 map features)
Map sheet ND07SW
Civil Parish REAY
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

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