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Hilton Of Cadboll, 'our Lady's Chapel'

Chapel (Pictish), Grave(S) (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Hilton Of Cadboll, 'our Lady's Chapel'

Classification Chapel (Pictish), Grave(S) (Period Unassigned)

Canmore ID 15260

Site Number NH87NE 6

NGR NH 8731 7687

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

C14 Radiocarbon Dating

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/15260

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Fearn
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Ross And Cromarty
  • Former County Ross And Cromarty

Archaeology Notes

NH87NE 6 8731 7687

(NH 8731 7687) Chapel (NR) (Remains of)

OS 6" map, Ross-shire, 2nd ed., (1907).

See also NH87NE 7.

At Hilton of Cadboll, a chapel dedicated to the Virgin 'Our Lady's Chapel' is mentioned in 1610 (Watson 1904). Within an earthwork enclosure traces of a chapel structure are clearly visible in the form of a small rectangular walled building. The direction is due E-W, some 30 athwart its surrounding earthwork. It was from this site that the Cadboll Stone (NH87NE 7) was removed (Davidson 1948).

In association with the chapel was a well called 'Oure Lady-Well' situated near the angle of the Kail-yard dyke (Watson 1904).

W J Watson 1904; J M Davidson 1948; Reg Magni Sig Reg Scot 1984.

The turf-covered remains of this chapel measure 12.0m E-W by 6.5m. No entrance is evident. Attached to the W gable is a semi-circular enclosure which probably housed the 'Cadboll Stone' (NH87NE 7) before it was removed. The chapel stands within a sub-rectangular enclosure bounded by a ruinous turf-covered wall, which has at one time been extended to the NE and SE. This has presumably been the burial ground, but there are no signs of headstones. A broken font lies in the burial ground immediately N of the chapel. There is no trace of the well.

Revised at 1:2500.

Visited by OS (I S S) 5 September 1972.

NH 8730 7689 Geophysical surveys were undertaken between the 25th August and 12th September 1997. Both the magnetometer and soil resistance surveys identified a concentration of anomalies to the east of the chapel enclosure situated on an area of relatively high ground. At the centre of this group lies S2 a possible building of similar size and orientation as the so-called chapel (S1). Around S2 both geophysical surveys identified several large irregular anomalies many of which appear to be archaeological in chararcter.

A linear anomaly identified by the soil resistance survey (F5, Int.3) runs SSW from this group of anomalies terminating before the area of sand dunes next to the firth. At this point the soil resistance survey located two further large anomalies. F5 would seem to be a track, possibly with a gully running on either side of (F7, Int.2).

Although it cannot be assumed that these possible archaeological features are contemporary, the group of anomalies centred on S2 may well represent the remains of a building(s) sited on high ground at the base of the steep slope connected by a track to some kind of activity nearer the shore of the firth. Given that S2 shares the same proportions and orientation as S1, S2 amy be the predecessor of the chapel or an associated building inphase with S1. It would also appear to be likely that the complex of archaeological remains around S1 continue to the west of the fenced area and probably to the north, although this could not be tested due to extremely poor ground conditions.

The 'L' shaped earthwork at the eastern end of the site may well be associated with the above activity as an attempt to define or control access to the site.

J Garner-Lahire 1998.

NH 8730 7688 An area of 6m square was excavated outside the W gable of the chapel at Hilton of Cadboll, in order to locate the base of the Pictish cross slab, now in the NMS, prior to the erection of a reproduction on the site. The base was not located, but the excavations revealed that the D-shaped 'annexe' against the W gable was probably the result of 19th-century disturbance. Some of the sculpted debitage from the re-dressing of one face of the cross slab in the late 17th century was retrieved.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

P Sharman and J Triscott 1998.

Chapel - outside survey area.

CFA/MORA Coastal Assessment Survey 1998.

NH 873 768 Archaeological monitoring was carried out while a trench was cut W of the chapel enclosure (NMRS NH87NE 6) designed to take a concrete foundation for the reconstructed Hilton of Cadboll stone. The trench comprised a hole more than 4m square in plan and with a depth exceeding 1m. A geophysical survey indicated the possibility of wall lines in this area.

The low ridge of material into which the replacement Stone of Cadboll is to be inserted appears to be a bank of wind-blown sand that has accumulated against the W side of the chapel enclosure.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

D Stewart 2000.

NH 8731 7687 Further excavations were undertaken at the Hilton of Cadboll site in August and September 2001. The excavations aimed to retrieve all the remaining carved fragments from the 9th-century Pictish slab (NMRS NH87NE 7) which is thought to have been defaced in the 17th century; to reveal the extent of the stump which was found earlier in the year by Kirkdale Archaeology (see above); and to relate the stump with the chapel and the outer enclosure.

The excavations revealed that there were at least two settings for the Hilton stone about 6m outside the W gable of the chapel. The discovery of broken collar slabs and other flat slabs were indicative of some complexity in the setting and possible associated burials.

The stump was excavated and taken for temporary storage locally. The newly revealed W face depicts a cross base and interlaced beasts and the E face completed the bottom panel of the Hilton of Cadboll stone, with a gap of about 0.2m. The slab had broken at the top and the bottom and there was still a fragment of the tenon in one of the settings. The bottom of the designed panels are not level on either side, and there are rough marking out lines below the panel on the E face suggesting some redesigning of the E face.

The chapel wall was constructed of massive sandstone blocks, bonded with shell mortar, with a rubble core. No direct dating evidence was found but it is thought to be a medieval chapel, which perhaps went out of use at the Reformation. The outer enclosure bank consisted of a drystone wall with an earthen bank probably of post-medieval date.

Three skeletons were excavated and another two were partly revealed. These had different alignments, from SW-NE to N-S, indicating a range of dates. These individuals were not buried in stone cists, suggesting that they were medieval and post-medieval.

About 500 carved fragments were retrieved from the excavations, thought to be derived from the lost cross face and from the damaged E face. These include figurative pieces as well as interlacing, bosses and key patterning. (GUARD 1078).

Sponsors: Historic Scotland, National Museum of Scotland, Highland Council, Ross & Cromarty Enterprise.

H F James 2001.

NH 872 768 Cabling for lighting the new Hilton of Cadboll stone carved by Barry Grove required some excavations within the Guardianship area of the Hilton of Cadboll Chapel site. This was subject to a watching brief carried out on 13 March 2006 as a requirement of Scheduled Monument Consent. No archaeological evidence was found, however, and the affected area is believed to have been within the extent of the trench excavated by GUARD in 2001.

Report lodged with Highland SMR and Library Service, and NMRS; archive will be deposited with RCAHMS.

Sponsor: Historic Hilton Trust.

John Wood 2006.

Activities

Aerial Photography (September 1969)

Oblique aerial photographs of Hilton of Cadboll village and site of 'Our Lady's Chapel', photographed by John Dewar September 1969. Two of the photographs are showing the village of Balintore.

Excavation (August 2001 - September 2001)

NH 8731 7687 Further excavations were undertaken at the Hilton of Cadboll site in August and September 2001. The excavations aimed to retrieve all the remaining carved fragments from the 9th-century Pictish slab (NMRS NH87NE 7) which is thought to have been defaced in the 17th century; to reveal the extent of the stump which was found earlier in the year by Kirkdale Archaeology (see above); and to relate the stump with the chapel and the outer enclosure.

The excavations revealed that there were at least two settings for the Hilton stone about 6m outside the W gable of the chapel. The discovery of broken collar slabs and other flat slabs were indicative of some complexity in the setting and possible associated burials.

The stump was excavated and taken for temporary storage locally. The newly revealed W face depicts a cross base and interlaced beasts and the E face completed the bottom panel of the Hilton of Cadboll stone, with a gap of about 0.2m. The slab had broken at the top and the bottom and there was still a fragment of the tenon in one of the settings. The bottom of the designed panels are not level on either side, and there are rough marking out lines below the panel on the E face suggesting some redesigning of the E face.

The chapel wall was constructed of massive sandstone blocks, bonded with shell mortar, with a rubble core. No direct dating evidence was found but it is thought to be a medieval chapel, which perhaps went out of use at the Reformation. The outer enclosure bank consisted of a drystone wall with an earthen bank probably of post-medieval date.

Three skeletons were excavated and another two were partly revealed. These had different alignments, from SW-NE to N-S, indicating a range of dates. These individuals were not buried in stone cists, suggesting that they were medieval and post-medieval.

About 500 carved fragments were retrieved from the excavations, thought to be derived from the lost cross face and from the damaged E face. These include figurative pieces as well as interlacing, bosses and key patterning. (GUARD 1078).

Sponsors: Historic Scotland, National Museum of Scotland, Highland Council, Ross & Cromarty Enterprise.

H F James 2001.

Watching Brief (January 2001 - February 2001)

NH 8730 7688 As part of the ongoing assessment of the archaeological context of the scatter of stone debitage identified in July 1998, an area W of the chapel ruins (NMRS NH87NE 6) was sampled and all stone fragments retrieved in January and February 2001. This exercise revealed the apparent stump of the Cadboll Stone itself still in situ, with surviving carving visible. This discovery had obvious implications for a clearer understanding of the archaeological context of the stone. The removal of one face of the stone in the 17th century for its recycling as a gravemarker had created the stone scatter, but the discovery of part of the stone in situ prompted a review of the programme of investigation. Further work was later carried out by GUARD (see below). At this stage, some 737 fragments were recorded in database form, including both plain and decorated fragments.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

D Murray and G Ewart 2001.

Watching Brief (13 March 2006)

NH 872 768 Cabling for lighting the new Hilton of Cadboll stone carved by Barry Grove required some excavations within the Guardianship area of the Hilton of Cadboll Chapel site. This was subject to a watching brief carried out on 13 March 2006 as a requirement of Scheduled Monument Consent. No archaeological evidence was found, however, and the affected area is believed to have been within the extent of the trench excavated by GUARD in 2001.

Report lodged with Highland SMR and Library Service, and NMRS; archive will be deposited with RCAHMS.

Sponsor: Historic Hilton Trust.

J Wood 2006

Excavation (22 January 2007 - 2 February 2007)

NH 873 768 An excavation was carried out at Hilton of Cadboll Chapel to allow the installation of rabbit-proof fencing. A 0.4m deep, 0.5m wide trench was dug along the outside the E and W sides of the perimeter fence. Flooding along the N and S sides prevented excavation. Several possible graves were seen, with disarticulated human remains. Potentially early features were partially revealed, sealed beneath what appeared to be

landscaping. On the W side this landscaping contained notably frequent pottery sherds of no later than medieval date.

Archive to be deposited with RCAHMS.

Funder: Historic Scotland.

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