MHG8777 - St. Michael's Chapel - Kirkmichael


The former St. Michael's Chapel, Kirkmichael.

Type and Period (1)

  • CHURCH (Medieval to 19th Century - 1058 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status

Full Description

The former St. Michael's Chapel, Kirkmichael.

NH76NW 1 7058 6585.
(NH 7058 6585) St. Michael's Chapel (LB) OS 6" map, (1959)

St. Michael's Church was parish church - and origin of name - of Kirkmichael, became 1662 church of combined parishes of Kirkmichael and Cullicudden, now called Resolis. It continued in use until a new church was built at Resolis 1767. Thereafter it was allowed to fall into decay. Part of centre of church was re-roofed in 19th century for use as a mausoleum. NSA (written by Rev D Sage - 1836) 1845; Name Book 1875; W J Watson 1904; H Scott et al 1915-61.

The remains of St. Michael's Church are oriented E-W, and consist of an unroofed chancel and nave. The roofed central portion, 7.1m square, is a private burial place of Munros of Poyntzfield. The chancel measures 5.8m x 5.4m externally with walls 0.7m wide. The most interesting feature of building is remains of a wall which projects westwards from NW angle of mausoleum. It is constructed of poorly-bonded, uncoursed, rubble-masonry, with small stone pinings. It is 3.6m in length, 1.3m high and 0.8m wide, with remains of an archway visible on its inside face. It obviously pre-dates mausoleum and chancel in construction, and is probably a section of original N wall of church. Name of church was confirmed locally.
Visited by OS (R B) 21 January 1966.

The remains of the church and its surrounding burial ground were listed at Category B in 1971.

The ruins of the church were Scheduled in 1992.

A proposed schedule of works for consolidation of the church was prepared by F Geddes in 2000 at the request of the Highland Council. The report includes elevation drawings, both internal and external photographs and a structural survey. <1>

HAW- site visit 11/9/2002: Photos: church building is supported with wooden props, holding up one side. Badly overgrown with ivy etc in parts. Holes in slate roof on both sides. Graveyard has been extended with relatively modern extension. Possible that original boundary survives as grass covered stone bank. Possible also that what was originally part of church building has been reused as base for later mortuary chapel/walled family tomb.

Site visit HAW 1/10/2003: new support props holding up the church, & several of the gravestones have been boxed with the spare timber. SMC has been granted for removal of ivy, but this work has not yet started - HAW 10/2003

Site visit 20/10/2003 following ivy cut back, photos of church - HAW 10/2003

Ongoing works at Kirkmichael are aimed at informing a conservation strategy that will save the building from collapse. This phase of standing building recording work in Oct-Nov 2006 by F Geddes was concerned with interrogating the nave E gable and chancel for evidence of roofing. The chancel of Kirkmichael (possibly dating to 1500), now an unroofed mausoleum, was almost certainly roofed during the early history of the building; evidence for this is plain in the detail of the E gable, the side walls and internal finishes. The nave E gable is uniformly sneck-harled with a shell-rich rough lime-based mixture, showing no evidence of an early abutting roof. This harl extends across the blocked doorway that formerly provided access between the nave and chancel. Burial monuments dating to the 18th century are set into this finish, suggesting that the chancel was blocked off and unroofed sometime in the 18th century. This assertion is supported by the general trend towards the alteration and changing use of chancels after the Reformation summarised by Richard Oram (2003) in his history of the parish.
Archive to be deposited in NMRS, including digital photographs.
Sponsor: The Kirkmichael Trust.

Nine photographs of the chapel during stages of renovation in 2012 were submitted by F Geddes. <2>

Four small test pits were excavated by Highland Archaeology Services, assisted by volunteers, in 2013 in the internal corners of the chancel and mausoleum at Kirkmichael. The work aimed to establish the nature of any wall footings or foundations and adjoining surfaces to inform conservation and reconstruction work. All test pits were 0.6 x 0.6m and bounded on two sides by the surviving wall structures. Test pit 1 was located in the SW corner of the Gun Munro mausoleum and was excavated to a depth of 0.45m. An organic-rich layer containing plant material was uncovered, which was of even depth and appears to represent a floor layer. Foundation stones were found to underlie the current walls, at a depth of 0.45m below the current floor level and protrude for c.0.3m inside the building. Made up of undressed local sandstones, this foundation differed from the roughly-dressed red sandstone blocks forming the walls. Given the small area exposed, it was considered possible that they represented residual stones from a previous wall or robbed out floor layer. Test pits 2, 3 and 4 were excavated to depths between 0.5–0.9m, but did not reveal any foundation or lower course wall layers. In some areas changes in render were noted, including a yellow clay sealing the gaps between stone in the lower wall of the easterly chancel, also known as the Urquhart mausoleum. Articulated human remains or those discovered within an identifiable burial cut were left in situ, but small fragments of disturbed human remains were recovered, as well as nails, shells, pottery fragments and glass sherds. Further investigation was recommended to clarify the results. <3>

A programme of investigative work was undertaken by Highland Archaeology Services during restoration work. A watching brief was undertaken, August 2016 – August 2017, throughout ground-breaking works to enable installation of drains, paths, services and signage. An excavation to lower the floor levels of the kirk was undertaken in October and November 2016. Excavations within the kirk revealed an earlier phase of wall and some material that may be related to a building or renovation phase. There was also a considerable depth of modern material, including wooden box-like structures and excess soil from grave digging. Many modern artefacts were recovered including bottles and vases. A scatter of 17th- and 18th-century coins are thought to have been imported with grave digging material, along with many disarticulated and fragmentary human remains. An unexpected find was a flint arrowhead, which may have also been imported with gravedigging spoil. The human remains have undergone basic analysis and have been reinterred within the graveyard. Twenty monumental grave ledger slabs were recorded during the watching brief. The majority of these were inscribed and dated from the 17th and 18th century. Three 17th-century slabs featured an inscribed claymore sword, which appears to be part of a local tradition during the post-Reformation period to include a known but suitably secular motif on monumental grave slabs. All the slabs were able to be preserved in situ. Fragmentary disarticulated human remains were recovered, assessed, and reinterred within the graveyard. <4>

Following reassessment by Historic Environment Scotland as part of their national Dual Designations Project, it was proposed that the site would be descheduled but the listed status of the building and burial ground would be retained. This was following a major restoration project of the building and burial ground by the Kirkmichael Trust. <5>

The proposed statutory designation changes by Historic Environment Scotland came into effect on 17/05/2018. <6>

GIS spatial data amended in 2019 according to location of building as shown on modern OS mapping. <7>

See also:
NH76NW0199 Graveyard
J Aitken : 12/12/02

Sources/Archives (12)



Grid reference Centred NH 7059 6585 (15m by 10m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NH76NW
Geographical Area ROSS AND CROMARTY
Civil Parish RESOLIS

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Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Investigations/Events (5)

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