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Archaeology Notes

Event ID 697831

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Archaeology Notes

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/event/697831

NS06SW 4 03489 61262.

(NS 0348 6125) St Ninian's Chapel (NR) (Rems of)

OS 6" map (1957)

Excavations in 1952 and 1954 showed that this site was first occupied by a pagan burial ground of long cists, diversely placed with a tendency to lie N-S. One burial was accompanied by a fragment of an undatable jet armlet. A circular enclosure with a wall of stones and turf, 72' in diameter, was then formed, leaving some of the graves outside. It had been completely removed on the NE, but on the SE, where best preserved, it was 3' thick and 3' high, its top just below modern ground level. On the ESE, the enclosure wall incorporated a fragment of an older wall running at right angles to it, but there is no evidence to show what type of structure it belonged to. Most of the graves now lying within the enclosure are oriented. At a time when some at least of the oriented graves had collapsed, a small oratory, St Ninian's Chapel, some 21' x 13' within 4' thick walls, was built. Its altar of rough masonry faced with slabs, had a fossa or cavity for relics at the S end.

Two kitchen middens containing large quantities of shells and bones were piled against the enclosure wall in the SE, and a similar midden occupied the site of the wall in the SW. No datable finds were made.

The chapel, founded from Whithorn, was built in the 6th or early 7th century and Radford suggests, from its simplicity that it was abandoned with the arrival of the Norse in the 9th century. Thomas, however, states that it must have continued to be a cult centre through the Middle Ages, as only this would account for the survival of the name.

W G Aitken 1955; C A R Radford 1967; C Thomas 1971

NS 0349 6126. St Ninian's Chapel (name verified) is situated on a narrow peninsula. The chapel oriented E-W measures 6.3m by 4.0m internally and the walls are 1.2m wide and 0.9m high with an off centre entrance in the S side.

It is enclosed by the remains of a near circular stone wall 24.0m E-W by 23.5m transversely overall. This wall, best preserved in the S, has several courses of masonry (up to 0.3m high) visible in the outer face whilst the inner face is barely traceable and it is not possible to give an accurate wall width. There is now no evidence of either the altar, the burials or the kitchen middens.

Surveyed at 1:10 000.

Visited by OS (TRG) 10 November 1976

This site was noted during a coastal zone assessment survey undertaken by CFA Archaeology Ltd to characterise the state of coastal erosion and the threat it poses to cultural heritage sites. A gazetteer in the report included a note of existing records and new sites when discovered. Where the site was located, notes included condition, period/date and recommendations.

Commissioned by The Scape Trust and Firth of Clyde Forum on behalf of Historic Scotland.

Cressey and Johnson 2004

This chapel and the enclosure in which it stands are generally as described by the Ordnance Survey in 1976, though some recent consolidation work has been undertaken in the SE and SW corners of the interior of the chapel. 'St Ninian's' is depicted on 18th century estate maps (Foulis 1758-9; May 1780-82) and on the 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map (Argyllshire and Buteshire 1869, Sheet CCIII).

Visited by RCAHMS (GFG, JMH) 6 May 2009.

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