Cemeteries, Graveyards & Gravestones

Cemeteries, graveyards and gravestones that I have visited throughout the country.

Kilnaugkhton Chapel & Old Burial Ground, Isle of Islay, Scotland

In May 2016 we visited Islay, a large island off the west coast of Scotland, we were suppose to return this year, 2017, but the ferry was cancelled due to bad weather.  Sorting through some photos, I have realised now, that I have some more Islay photo’s still to post and some of the Isle of Jura.  

When we went to photograph the lighthouse at Carraig Fhada, we passed a burial ground that looked interesting.  After the photo shot with the lighthouse, we came back and I explored this beautiful located ancient chapel and its burial ground.

Kilnaugkhton Chapel sits on the west side of Kilnaugkhton Bay and was most likely built in the 1400’s, there is now only a roofless structure.  As you approach the chapel from its south side it gives the impression of having very low surviving walls. This is the result of the exterior level in the burial ground being raised over the centuries, leaving this side of the chapel almost sunk into the surrounding churchyard.

There are many worn grave slabs and there is a ‘Warriors Grave’, a knight in full armour.  Unfortunately or not, the grass had not been cut and everywhere, the bluebells and primroses were in abundance, more than I have ever seen before, so the knight was well hidden.  

 

Nereabolls/Nerabus Chapel and Carved Stones, Isley, Scotland

Last year 2016, we had a holiday on the Islands of Jura and Isley, off the west coast of Scotland.  Most of the time, the weather was bordering on being nice, but on the day we found the above sign, it had turn just a bit grey and dull.  I hadn’t read about this site, so it was a nice surprise, and also it was great to be the only explorer.   I could take my time and not have to worry about bodies, meaning of course live ones.

As I walked down the track, I wondered what I was going to find, it looked a little bit barren and quite small, but the name sounded interesting……. Nereabolls. Nerabolls is the name of the Hamlet, which is on the road from Port Charlotte to Portnahaven. I passed one stone enclosed burial ground, as I had seen a brown sign that looked very interesting. Very very interesting……’Ancient Burial Ground go Clan Donald’

Inside the fenced off area I found a collection of ancient grave slabs. Many of the slabs were discovered under a plot of turnips by a local farmer. The carved slabs have been cleaned and set on a gravel bed, covered by a protective glass cover to preserve them, but clear enough for visitors to study them.

I have changed all the tomb slabs to black & white, as the protective glass cover, plays havoc with the camera.

 

Several of the slabs are carved with foliated crosses, in the style of the Iona School 14th-15th century. another bears a sword blade and a pair of strange beasts that resemble a griffin and a lion. Another slab shows a galley with sail furled.   A small figure is shown climbing the rigging. Below the galley is a sword, with a lion and dragon figure fighting. Foliage issues from the dragon’s tail and transforms into an interlace pattern at the base.

The above stone could be ‘The Marigold Stone’, such symbols are frequently found in Ireland and most often dated to the 7th century, but they can’t be sure that is, but still a very interesting, carved with a circular pattern like a sunburst, with 16 radiating rays separated by grooves.

I made my way back to the remains of the chapel, which is thought locally to have been dedicated to St Columba and very probably dates to the 14th or 15th century. I had added the notice board, which tells you little more about the site.  The chapel site was traditionally owned by Clan Donald.  

 

 

 

The Antiquity of Kilmartin Churchyard, Scotland

 

Kilmartin Parish Church stands in the centre of  Kilmartin Glen, and just south down the glen, are a profusion of prehistoric remains, including a linear cemetery, numerous standing stones, and several sites with cup and ring carved rocks.  But for me, it was the graveyard and church that lured me in to explore this ancient site.   You can see the church from the road, and in 2014 we didn’t have time to visit, but in May of 2016, we did.  You know when you see sometime, and you hold your breath, think wow, this is going to be amazing, thats what I felt when we walked through the arch to explore.

I have already posted about some of the stones, those thought to be most at risk from weathering, under cover of a former mausoleum building at the rear of the churchyard, this post is of what is still in situ in the graveyard.

Together with the sub-circular form of the church graveyard, the stones hint at a much longer history of religious activity at Kilmartin, ranging in date from the 900’s to the 1600’s. 

 

 

 I think most of the mediaeval grave slabs in the raised enclosure, photos above, beautifully carved slabs that once covered the graves of members of the Malcolm family, are from St Columba’s Chapel in Poltalloch, which have been move to Kilmartin.  Many of the stones were the work of a group of sculptors working in the Loch Awe area through the 14th and 15th centuries.  The carvers may have had a workshop at Kilmartin itself or in the surrounding area.  The quality of the carvings of the highest order, and the designs are similar to others in the West Highlands, such as Kilberry, Keills, and Kilmory Knap.

I found an early Christian Stone with a cross very similar to the one I found on Tiree, a Hebridean Island, but as yet I haven’t found any information on it.

The above slabs are still in situ and have wonderful symbols on them.

I will post about the museum, church and the two remain stone crosses later.  It is worth a visit before going off down the Glen to visit the more well known sites.  

Killmartin Grave Slabs, Scotland

The information board invites you to step into this burial aisle for a glimpse of the Gaelic warrior culture that dominated the West Highlands in the Middle Ages….. and so we did, last May 2016.  Kilmartin is a small village in Western Scotland, famous for Kilmartin Glen, where there are over 320 prehistoric monuments in a six mile radius.  But for me, the graveyard of the village church holds untold stories of buried Highlanders, which got my imagination working overtime.  These grave slabs were collected from the graveyard, but there are still more grave slabs to be seen.  There are also historic crosses inside the church and next door you will find a museum that will tell you the story of the Glen.  This post is to show the grave slabs, that now stand side by side.

A little history for you……..Originally, the 23 stones would have been laid flat on the ground to cover a grave. After the Reformation, however, many of the stones were moved, and in 1956 they were moved inside a shelter to protect them from the weather. The symbolism of the motifs carved onto the slabs is the subject of much discussion and speculation. Many feature swords or claymores, some alone, others with surrounding designs of twining or interlaced foliage. Several depict armed men. 

The structure was originally built as a burial aisle for Neil Campbell and his wife Christiane in 1627. Neil Campbell became Bishop of Argyll, while Christiane was the daughter of Bishop John Carswell, who built nearby Carnasserie Castle in the late 1660s. Since 1956 their mausoleum has served as a lapidarium, sheltering the best of the medieval graveslabs identified in the churchyard.

More about Kilmartin to follow.

 

St Sebastian’s Church, Great Gonerby, Lincolnshire – Gargoyles & Angels

 

St Sebastian’s Church, Great Gonerby, Lincolnshire, another church which was well and truly locked, in May 2015, the same as on the first occasion that I tried to visit, in 2014.  I think actually that the exterior far out weighs the interior, from what I have read, although again it would be nice to make up my own mind.  Externally the 15th century builders added battlements and pinnacles to the roof line to give the building a uniform appearance. Below these, on the tower and clerestory, there is also a frieze of shields.   From what I have read that the earliest parts could be early 13c, the south arcade and the chancel.  Late Romanesque capitals on the eastern most bay of the north arcade suggest that there were transepts here that were superseded by the aisles. The north arcade is much taller than its southern counterpart and is in Perpendicular style.  The Late Romanesque capitals are worth a third visit, maybe one day.  The exterior is full of wonderful medieval gargoyles and grotesques,

There are some very interesting creatures on a frieze, although I only took a few photos, I’m sure that they must have a symbolic meaning, but as yet I have no idea.

The churchyard is full of fascinating headstones, including some “Belvoir Angels” winged angel faces, which are a type of early 18th century Swithland slate tombstone found in the district, named after the Vale of Belvoir, in the East Midlands.  

A little history ………The Belvoir Angel is a motif local to the Vale of Belvoir (Beever) and the Framland, in the East Midlands, carved in slate in the late 1600’s and first part of the 18th century. Usually found immaculately preserved on small slate headstones, it speaks of the blessing of God at the time of passing from the earthly to the heavenly state, with a protective angelic covering. A typical Belvoir Angel design has certain standard features, stylised as the following first photo.  

I found a lot of these angels in America and even one on the Isle of Lismore in Scotland.  There are highly decorative ones and the plainer ones are called Naive, which are the one I like most.

Dated 1719, a true Belvoir Angel Headstone.

A more ornate Belvoir Angel.

This angel is on stone and not slate, so is not a typical Belvoir, but still a nice angel.  It could be that the Belvoir Angels were expensive and some people copied them.

Again a more ornate Belvoir Angel.

An angel headstone, although not on slate.

A very ornate Belvoir Angel.

 

 

 

Soroby/Soiribidh Graveyard, Isle of Tiree, Sotland

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This is the last religious site, Soroby Graveyard, that we came across on the Isle Tiree, off the west coast of Scotland in May 2016.  There are many more sites, but those sites have hardly any remains left and it just makes it a bit difficult to post about a mark in a field……..I need at least a few rocks to get my imagination going.  Just want to point out, the whole graveyard was covered in primroses, they made a beautiful picture.

A little bit of history about the Parish Church at Soroby……The only visible surface-remains comprise a number of architectural fragments which survive in re-use as burial-markers and are distributed mainly in the N half of the cemetery and some may be from the 13th century. The church served the parish of the west half of Tiree until the union of Coll and Tiree parishes in 1618. The church is recorded in the 13th century, and it seems to have remained in use until at least the late 17th century.
It has been suggested that the site could possibly be identified as that of the Columban monastery of Campus Lunge, and the existence of the Early Christian carved stones here do suggest that this was an early and important ecclesiastical site. This may have had some connection with the probable Early Christian monastic site at St Patrick’s Chapel, 5km away……..we didn’t have time to look for St Patrick’s, but maybe next time we visit.dsc_0079

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The MacLean’s Cross

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Another wonderful beach, Soroby Bay.

Kirkapol Chapels, Isle of Tiree, Scotland

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One of the main reasons that we made a four hour long ferry trip to the Isle of  Tiree, in May 2016, off the west coast of Scotland, was apart from the love of visiting islands, to find ancient religious sites.  I was on the hunt for ancient grave slabs, and at the chapels of Kirkapol, I found two.  There is just something amazing about finding a grave slabs that have been in the same position for hundreds of years.

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The above photos show a 15th century sculptured grave slab, which shows, what maybe, the earliest representing of claymore (a Scottish great sword) in Scotland.  Unfortunately I didn’t find the other slab with the birds, it might have become too overgrown.  I did find one more, that shows just a plain claymore, the next photo under the information board.  What you do wonder, while exploring this wonderful site, part from the stunning location……who is buried under the grave slabs as they are no ordinary slabs, and where did they live.

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Having researched a small amount about these chapels, it would seem the smaller of the two buildings is a chapel, and the larger was the old parish church.

Some history ……….Both church and chapel are of similar architectural character, and are probably closely contemporary. It is difficult to ascribe a precise date to the surviving remains; the buildings can more probably be ascribed to the later Middle Ages, possibly the latter half of the 14th century.

The parish church of Kirkapoll first comes on record in 1375; it was dedicated to St Columba. It is not known when this site was abandoned as a place of worship, but the church may have continued in use into the 18th century.

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May 2016