Bute, St Blane's Church

Burial Ground, Church (12th Century), Font, Monastic Settlement

Site Name Bute, St Blane's Church

Classification Burial Ground, Church (12th Century), Font, Monastic Settlement

Alternative Name(s) Kingarth; Saint Mary's Chapel, Saint Blane's Chapel

Canmore ID 40292

Site Number NS05SE 5

NGR NS 09491 53446

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Ordnance Survey licence number 100020548. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Kingarth
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Buteshire

Archaeology Notes

NS05SE 5 09491 53446

(NS 0949 5343) St Blane's Church (NR) (Remains of)

(NS 0948 5340) The Nunnery (NR)

(NS 0943 5335) Ancient Dwellings (NR)

(Name: NS 0930 5367) Wall (NR)

OS 6" map (1924)

NS05SE 5.00 Burial ground; monastic settlement; church; font

NS05SE 5.01 Cross incised stone; early medieval

NS05SE 5.02 Cross incised stone; early medieval

NS05SE 5.03 Cross slab; early medieval

NS05SE 5.04 Cross slab; early medieval

NS05SE 5.05 Cross; early medieval

NS05SE 5.06 Cross; early medieval

NS05SE 5.07 Cross; early medieval

NS05SE 5.08 Cross; early medieval

NS05SE 5.09 Cross; early medieval

NS05SE 5.10 Cross; grave slab; early medieval

NS05SE 5.11 Cross; early medieval

NS05SE 5.12 Cross; early medieval

NS05SE 5.13 Cross base; socketed stone; early medieval

NS05SE 5.14 Cross; gravestone; early medieval

NS05SE 5.15 Cross; gravestone; early medieval

NS05SE 5.16 Cross; gravestone; early medieval

NS05SE 5.17 Cross; gravestone; early medieval

NS05SE 5.18 Cross; gravestone; early medieval

NS05SE 5.19 Cross; gravestone; early medieval

NS05SE 5.20 Cross; gravestone; early medieval

NS05SE 5.21 Cross; gravestone; early medieval

NS05SE 5.22 Cross; early medieval

NS05SE 5.23 Cross; early medieval

NS05SE 5.24 Gravestone; early medieval

NS05SE 5.25 Grave slab; medieval

NS05SE 5.26 Burial enclosure; 20th century

NS05SE 5.27 Chapel

NS05SE 5.28 NS 09410 53559 Building

NS05SE 5.29 NS 09434 53508 Building

NS05SE 5.30 NS 09440 53487 Structure; Building (Possible)

NS05SE 5.31 NS 09454 53589 Building

NS05SE 5.32 NS 09531 53354 Building; Quarry

NS05SE 5.33 NS 09454 53296 Quarry

NS05SE 5.34 NS 09530 53454 Quarry

NS05SE 5.35 NS 09444 53569 Quarry

NS05SE 5.36 NS 09425 53601 Quarry

NS05SE 5.37 NS 09524 53558 Quarry

NS05SE 5.38 NS 09518 53575 Quarry

NS05SE 5.39 NS 09513 53610 Quarry

NS05SE 5.40 NS 09435 53369 Farmstead; Manse

NS 094 534 A shallow hole, caused by the collapse of a mature tree, was recorded prior to back-fill. An alignment of four large water-washed boulders was recorded, which probably reflect a structure built against the inside face of the outer precinct wall of the pre-12th century Monastic enclosure, located c12m W of the N entrance.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland.

G Ewart 1995.

NS 094 534 A watching brief was undertaken by Kirkdale Archaeology during masonry works on a small Early Christian chapel situated 25m to the SW of the main chapel of St Blane's. The walls and general area were photographed, and plans were made. No finds were removed from the site.

A fuller report has been lodged with the NMRS.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

G Ewart and D Stewart 1997

An excavation was carried out in 1997 which found the traces of the trenches (and associated spoil) dug in 1896 by Charles Weir Schultz for the Marquess of Bute. The excavations carried out in 1997 were intended to act as a reconnaissance exercise to determine the potential of the site for further investigation. It was concluded that the Victorian investigations dug down and into natural clay. Their spoil was bulldozed in the mid 1980s when imported material was dumped on the site to build up and level the site.

L Laing and D Longley 1997

NS 095 534 Site 7 St Blane’s

This site is in the care of Historic Scotland. Apart from the chapel, there are features of settlement interest. The mortared footings of a large strictly rectangular 3-celled are interpreted as those of the 16th century manse. Rather tumbled remains of several small oval structures survive under the cliff 50m north> a corn kiln was excavated north of the church (Milligan 1963, 53-61).

Proudfoot and Hannah 2000

NS 09491 53446 Monastic site and medieval church: Several buildings located SW/W of church, under the cliff. There are the footings of a large, strictly rectangular 3-celled building, c. 15 x 7m. The possible remains of 17th century manse. Rather tumbled remains of several small oval buildings c. 50m N.

Information from Bute Natural History Society Deserted Settlement Survey (1991-9)

(RCAHMS WP000273)

The monastery of Kingarth was supposedly founded by St Blane in the 6th century, and he was commemorated as 'fair Blaan of Cenn Garad' in the 9th-century Martyrology of Oengus (a). The death of Daniel, bishop of Kingarth, was recorded about 659 and subsequent bishops, abbots and a 'religious priest' were named in the annals at intervals up to 790 (b). The later history of the monastery is not known, but the carved stones described below show its importance as a burial-place until the 12th century, when a parish church serving the S half of Bute was erected (c).

The monastery was situated in a small valley 1.8km from the extreme S point of Bute, and 1km E of Dunagoil Bay and the adjacent hill-fort. The site is bounded to the SW by wooded cliffs, and to E and S by curving drystone walls, much restored in 1895-6. The more massive of these walls, up to 1.5m in width, encloses a roughly oval area measuring about 200m from NW to SE by 120m, and an annexe extends for 190m to the NW. In the NW angle of the main area there is a massive circular enclosure, 10m in diameter within a wall 2.5m thick, known locally as 'the Cauldron', which may have been a secular residence pre-dating the monastery (d). St Blane's Well is situated near the foot of the cliff W of the church.

The highest ground at the centre of the main enclosure is occupied by the 12th-century church, a nave-and-chancel building with Romanesque ornament (e). It stands in an oval burial-ground which is linked by steps to a lower S churchyard, traditionally reserved for the burial of women. Extensive conservation-work on the church and enclosures was carried out in 1895-6 for the 3rd Marquis of Bute by the London architect R W Schultz (f), who also excavated two groups of structures. One of these, situated to the SW and locally identified as the manse, was of L-plan and was probably of post-medieval date. The amorphous structures to the S of the churchyard included hearths and curving wall-footings, and most of the early medieval artefacts preserved in the Museum of Scotland were found in this area. They include pottery, whetstones and polishing stones, partly-worked rings of shale, an ingot-mould and crucibles and a series of motif-pieces. Some of these are incised on broken roofing-slates, and the motifs comprise groups of letters, interlaced and spiral ornament, and animals (g). A hoard of 12th-century coins and gold ornaments was found about 350m SE of the church in 1863 (h).

Both churchyards contain numerous graveslabs and markers, most of them much worn, including several early and later medieval stones (i). Other early stones were found in 1895-6, re-used in the walls of the 12th-century church, but their present location is unknown. The socket cut into a flat-topped boulder outside the NE enclosure-wall is of uncertain date (j).


(a) Anderson 1922, 1, 176-7; Stokes, Oengus, 175, 184-5, where in the later notes he is identified as a bishop with his chief seat at Dunblane.

(b) Anderson 1922, 1, 176, 198, 228, 236, 248, 254; Macdonald, A D S, in Laing, L and J and Longley 1998, 553-5.

(c) Origines Parochiales, 2, part 1, 210-12; Cowan, Parishes, 112.

(d) Hewison 1893, 1, 167-222, pls opp.p.166; Schultz album, pl.1 (in Bute Museum, photographic copies in NMRS); Radford 1968, 116 and fig.18 on p.115. For 'the Cauldron' see NMRS database NS05SE 8.

(e) MacGibbon, D and Ross, T, The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland (1896-7), 1, 292-8, and 3, 625-7; Galloway, W, in Archaeologia Scotica, 5 (1890), 317-35.

(f) Stamp, G, Robert Weir Schultz, architect, and his work for the Marquesses of Bute (1981), 41-2 and passim.

(g) Schultz album; Anderson, J, in PSAS, 34 (1899-1900), 307-25; Laing, 'Sketches', 131, 133-4. Re-excavation in 1997 showed that early features in this area had been obscured by modern landscaping (Laing, L and J and Longley, D, in PSAS, 128 (1998), 551-65).

(h) PSAS, 5 (1862-4), 214-15, 372-84; NMRS database NS05SE 6.

(i) For drawings of medieval stones see ibid., figs.28, 32-5. Allen (Allen and Anderson 1903, 3, 409, no.5) classified as Early Christian a slab whose ornament was sketched by Hewison (1893, 1, 219), but it appears to be of later date. Hewison (loc.cit.) also refers to 'a fragment of a small Latin cross-head'. This may be the cross with tenoned base, probably a medieval gable-finial, which was sketched by Schultz at Mount Stuart in 1894 (sketchbook in NMRS).

j) Hewison 1893, 1, 192-3; NMRS database NS05SE 10. The socket measures 0.3m by 0.1m.

(k) An almost identical creature appears on the stone at Fairlie, Ayrshire (Allen and Anderson 1903, 3, 475).

Fisher 2001, 73-7.

The site is as described previously. On the date of visit a stone font was identified at NS 09457 53426.

Visited by RCAHMS (AGCH, IP) 18 March 2009.

Architecture Notes

NS05SE 5 09491 53446

St Blane's Church and Monastery (S Cruden 1960): St Blane's Monastery was built at an unknown date prior to 574. There is clear evidence of Christian burial there in the 6th and 7th centuries, also that the monastery became a cultural centre around that time. Its list of abbots extends to 790, when the Viking raids began.

St Blane's Church, in use as the parish church of Kingarth until the early 18th century is a fine 12th century Romanesque building consisting of a nave and chancel; the E end of the chancel appears to be of inferior masonry and may be a later rebuild, and the nave was extended to the W in the 15th century. The partly restored walls stand to eaves level, on what was probably a natural eminence, artificially made up to provide a more level surface for the cemetery, which is in two parts. The lower part is traditionally known as the women's burial ground. Within it is a small oblong building, oriented E-W which could have been a Celtic oratory. Extensive excavations by the Marquess of Bute in the late 19th century revealed a wall, apparently dry-built, some 3-4ft wide, now standing 2-3ft high, enclosing an area of 2 or 3 acres. In good condition, it was repaired in 1896.

Traces of further walls running out to the N may not be early. The church and graveyards stood near the centre of the enclosed area. Below the churchyard and still within the enclosure much-ruined irregular lines of stones suggest groups of cells like those found at Tintagel. There are further traces of buildings above the churchyard at the foot of the western outcrop.

Both graveyards are filled with lines of graves marked by cover-stones, mostly of 12th-13th century date. Others may be early, as are some of the stones found during the excavations; they date to the 8th or even 7th century. Excavations at NS 095 534, immediately outside the cashel wall, revealed a corn kiln; 12th-13th century pottery was found (I D Milligan 1963). Much of what is now visible dates from the re-Christianisation of Bute during the period of Norse rule, probably in the 11th century, but some of the sculptures and possibly the enclosure wall and parts of the ruined buildings should be ascribed to the pre-Norse period (C A R Radford 1967).

E W MacKie 1975; J K Hewison 1893; I S Munro 1973; W J Watson 1926;

C Thomas 1971; J Anderson 1900

Centred NS 0942 5353. St Blane's Church (name verified) and monastic settlement occupies a level site which is tucked away in the hills above Dunagoil farm. The occupation area of two hectares is bounded on the W by a near vertical 70ft high rock face and enclosed on the other sides by a restored cashel wall fromw hich another wall (now traceable merely as footings) branches off to enclose a further 0.5 hectares of level ground. The relationship of these two walls cannot now be ascertained. The ruined church and its two graveyards are as described. The walling of the Celtic cell (published as The Nunnery on OS 25") in the lower graveyard is up to 0.6m high and nearby are two gravestones with incised cross designs, and a flat topped earthfast socket stone 0.9m in diameter with a socket 0.4m by 0.1m.

The remains of excavated buildings with walling up to 0.5m high lie to the SW and NW of the church; those to the SW (Ancient Dwellings on OS 25") are almost certainly cells while the latter, two rectangular structures 7.0m by 6.0m and 7.0m by 5.0m are of unknown date and purpose. A crude stone basin, possibly a font, rests near the well (NS05SE 9).

Two circular 'platforms' which are 0.2m high, 6.0m in diameter and probably represent the footings of small buildings are the only traceable features within the outer enclosure wall. The origin of these features however is uncertain. The excavated corn drying kiln is now only recognisable as a 4.0m diameter, 0.2m high bank and lies just outside the main entrance in the cashel wall at NS 0950 5351.

The finds from this site are in Rothesay Museum.

Surveyed at 1:10 000.

Visited by OS (BS) 10 November 1976.



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