Kilbarchan West Parish Church

Church, Churchyard

Site Name Kilbarchan West Parish Church

Classification Church, Churchyard

Alternative Name(s) Old Parish Church

Canmore ID 43219

Site Number NS46SW 21

NGR NS 40112 63242

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

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

  • Council Renfrewshire
  • Parish Kilbarchan
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Renfrew
  • Former County Renfrewshire

Archaeology Notes

NS46SW 21 40112 63242.

The present Kilbarchan West Church, formerly the parish church, was erected in 1901 and replaced a church built in 1724 dor which see NS46SW 140.

A 12th century tombstone and a stone dated 1727 are built into the 18th century wall surrounding the churchyard.

J C Hill 1953; A Hallifax-Crawford 1967

NS 401 632 Excavation of a 2 x 25m area was undertaken in September 2002 along the S boundary wall of the churchyard in advance of its reconstruction.

It was discovered that the upper 1m or so of deposits consisted of a raising of the ground surface within the graveyard; much redeposited charnel was found, indicating that this material derived from elsewhere within the churchyard. A single grave had been excavated after its deposition, the ornamental coffin fittings suggested a date of c 1870. Other finds from the infill include a large quantity of pottery of a wide date range, from a sherd of White Gritty ware (c 14th/15th century), through late medieval and 17th/18th-century green-glazed wares, to a wide range of later pottery types of the 18th and 19th centuries.

The former (pre-mid-19th-century) graveyard surface was revealed at about 1m depth. A number of stone monuments that had been entirely buried remained in situ towards the E end of the excavation area. These include two early 18th-century table tombs, one upon ornamentally carved supporting stones at either end, and the other supported by six elaborate 'balusters' (stone legs). A vertical graveslab/header stone was also exposed, bearing the inscription 'IB IB : 17 29'. A further small un-named grave marker of 19th-century character was revealed towards the W part of the excavation area.

A further 64 burials were excavated below the level of the early graveyard surface. The majority of these lay within wooden coffins, apparently of pine. Some coffin lids remained where they had collapsed into the coffin below. Three had been decorated with embossed strips of ?zinc, displaying stamped floral motifs; some fragments of fabric survived where overlain by the metalwork. Two of these had also been decorated with strips and lozenges of material.

The burials were tightly packed, very often intercutting, with a high likelihood in some areas that some or many had been in family groups. The upper burials revealed further layers of burials immediately beneath (approximately every 6 inches or less in places). Finds, particularly ceramics, from the grave fills indicate a later 18th-century to earlier 19th-century dating. The quantity of domestic refuse within the general matrix suggested that the graveyard fill in this area, a homogenous dark humic soil, derived from a nearby domestic context, perhaps a backland area. A particular find of note is a ceramic bird whistle with an almost clear lead glaze and details picked out in light green and brown that, pending formal identification, has the appearance of Saintonge ware.

The lower level of burials had been laid directly onto bedrock or slightly cut into bedrock. Many of the lower burials were on a different alignment to those above, and those on the S side of the excavation area had been cut by the present wall, which documentary sources suggest had been constructed in c 1790.

There was no indication that the medieval cemetery had extended to enclose the excavation area. In the central part of the trench an apparent area of metalling was exposed, some 2m below the present surface, directly overlying bedrock. Pottery recovered from this suggests a late medieval date. The surface of this feature had been truncated and no boundaries were identified, rendering interpretation problematic - perhaps a building platform or early road surface.

The graveyard wall itself was successively dismantled as the excavation progressed. This process was monitored closely as it was clear that many reused stones were incorporated. Each stone was examined upon removal, and those that displayed significant detail put aside and recorded. While a number of stones displayed tooling that could perhaps have been medieval or 17th century, only one retained a moulding, and this a simple chamfer. It is likely that at least some of these derived from the predecessor of the present church building of 1724.

Archive to be deposited in the NMRS.

Sponsor: Renfrewshire Council.

T Addyman, D Connolly and K Macfadyen 2002

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