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Kirkton Of Culsalmond, Old Parish Church

Bellcote (17th Century), Church (18th Century), Stone Circle (Neolithic) - (Bronze Age)

Site Name Kirkton Of Culsalmond, Old Parish Church

Classification Bellcote (17th Century), Church (18th Century), Stone Circle (Neolithic) - (Bronze Age)

Alternative Name(s) Culsalmond, Old Parish Church; Hill Of Tillymorgan

Canmore ID 18243

Site Number NJ63SE 1

NGR NJ 65007 32941

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Aberdeenshire
  • Parish Culsalmond
  • Former Region Grampian
  • Former District Gordon
  • Former County Aberdeenshire

Recording Your Heritage Online

Old Parish Church, 1791. Agricultural Improvement kirk, now roofless. Typically rectangular with four round-headed

windows, re-using a pretty 17th-century bellcote similar to that at Insch. Good stones in kirkyard, which is said to have been built on the site of a stone circle. Scene of one of those conflicts that led to the Disruption. Mort House, a square, harled single-storey, early 19th-century structure over a subterranean basement. Pyramidal roof and large window from which to survey the kirkyard.

Taken from "Aberdeenshire: Donside and Strathbogie - An Illustrated Architectural Guide", by Ian Shepherd, 2006. Published by the Rutland Press

Archaeology Notes

NJ63SE 1.00 65007 32941

NJ63SE 1.01 NJ 65051 32954 Burial-Ground

See also NJ63SW 23.

(NJ 6503 3293) Stone Circle (NR) (site of)

OS 6" map, (1959)

A circle of 12 stones was flattened prior to the building of a church in the centre of the graveyard. One of the stones was dug up in 1821 and placed above ground near its find-spot (NSA 1845).

The first reference to a church at Culsalmond, dedicated to St Serf (Simpson 1943) was in 1178 AD when the lands were bestowed on Lindores Abbey (Laing 1876). In 1821, the foundations of a building, to which the last church was attached, were dug out revealing two skeletons, laid side by side. This was superceded by a church, dedicated to St Andrew, built in 1789 and incorporating a 1619 bird-cage belfry (Eeles and Clouston 1960).

A perforated stone was found in the churchyard (J G Callander 1903).

NSA 1845; W D Simpson 1843; A Laing 1876; J G Callander 1903; F C Eeles and R W M Clouston 1960.

(Church) 1791; 17th-cent. belfry, two-storey mort-house in kirkyard.

G Hay 1957.

No trace of the stone circle, or of the stone set up in 1821. The church built 1789 remains, unroofed. The belfry in its W gable is dated 1680, not 1619. A large scale plan (information from plan of the lands of Williamston, 1770 [G Brown]) dated 1770, shows the predecessor to this church, at NJ 6500 3292, some 12.0m to the S, measuring c. 20.0m E-W by 6.0m N-S, but there is no ground trace of it.

Visited by OS (NKB) 17 March 1969.

Brown, G (1770) Plan of the Lands of Williamston noted.

NMRS, MS/712/63.

(Classified as Stone Circle; Church; Burial-Ground; Morthouse). Nothing is visible of a stone circle that is said to have stood close to the foot of the S flank of Hill of Tillymorgan, a site now occupied by the former parish church and burial-ground of Culsalmond. The church, a barn-like structure of late 18th-century date, is now a roofless shell, and the removal of much of the harling has revealed the large rubble blocks and pinning of its walls. The walls are pierced by six round-headed windows, four of them in the S wall and one in each gable, where there are also doorways. The W gable is surmounted by an elaborate birdcage bellcote, the E gable by a ball finial bearing the date 1791. An external stair against the N wall led to lofts in the interior, though the only trace of them now visible are the joist-holes in the walls. The walls incorporate numerous fragments of re-used stone, including red-sandstone roll-mouldings, which are visible at various points in the interior and also in the exterior of the W gable. Those in the interior are as follows:

N wall: W end of wall, about 0.5m below the wall-head; three fragments W of loft door, to either side of a socket 2.5m above ground-level; and E of loft door, in a niche 2.5m above ground-level.

E gable: N jamb of window.

S wall: adjacent to E splay of first window from the W; E splay of second window.

W gable: S jamb of window; N jamb of window is a lintel or sill of small chamfered window about 0.5m wide.

The exterior of the W gable contains two re-used stones, one a chamfered block of sandstone below the S jamb of window, the other a jamb from a small window in the head of gable.

A derelict mort-house, comprising a semi-subterranean vault below a ground-floor watching chamber, stands in the NE corner of the burial-ground.

Visited by RCAHMS (IF, JRS), 21 February 1996.

NJ 6502 3293 A standing building survey and excavation was undertaken at the Culsalmond Mort House, between the 8th-9th March 2007, prior to a renovation project.

H K Murray, 2007.


Project (April 2006 - October 2006)

The proposed underground cable runs from N of Kirkton Farm, Colpy, AB52 6XD to Blackhall Road (adjacent to Westburn Gardens), Inverurie, AB51 5SN. The National Grid Reference of the NW end is NJ64961 33749 and the SE end is NJ75620 21721. The proposed cable is in Culsalmond Parish (NW end) and Inverurie (SE end). The height is 245-250m OD (NW end) and 95-100m (SE end). 1.2 The work was commissioned by Gordon McConachie, CKD Galbraith LLP for SSE. All the archaeological work will be carried out in the context of Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) Planning Advice Note (PAN 2/2011) and Scottish Historic Environment Scotland’s Policy Statement (HESPS), which state that archaeological remains should be regarded as part of the environment to be protected and managed.

Following a Desk-Based Assessment, a walkover of the entire length of the cable trench, carried out 30 April - 5 May 2016, revealed no new sites on the route but a number of Scheduled Monuments and archaeological and historical sites have been identified on the route and a watching brief was required in six areas. Six trenches were monitored between 14 June and 26 September 2016. At least two and possibly four prehistoric ring ditches with associated pottery were identified in two trenches and these were retained in situ and a clear path identified in each case for the cable trench. The base of a possible rock-cut ditch was uncovered at Durno and this was recorded, sampled and backfilled. At this area of the Roman camp the cropmark is not visible as the underlying geology is bedrock.

One ring ditch was found at the N end of the pipeline associated with prehistoric pottery and one definite and two potential ring ditches at Glenniston. In the road within Logie Durno Roman Camp, the base of a possible ditch was identified in an area where the cropmark is not visible as the underlying geology is bedrock. The watching briefs are now complete and the cabling being laid. A Post-Excavation Research Design (PERD) will now be prepared for the post-excavation works required.

Publication Account (2011)

The site of what has been claimed as a possible recumbent stone circle lies near the centre of the churchyard surrounding the roofless shell of the old parish church of Culsalmond (Burl 1970, 79; 1976a, 351, Abn 38; 2000, 420, Abn 37; Ruggles 1984, 59; 1999, 186, no. 38). It is described by Rev Ferdinand Ellis in the New Statistical Account as a ‘circle of twelve upright large granite stones … which were overturned when the first Christian temple was erected.’ (xii, Aberdeenshire, 732). Ellis, who was minister of the parish 1801–41, gives the impression that the circle had stood in living memory, but this is the site of a medieval parish church and the commentary that follows the description should probably be taken to indicate that the stones were already prostrate long before his day – if indeed any of them were still visible when he first arrived. Nevertheless, he believed that all twelve stones lay buried in the churchyard, though one was apparently disinterred in 1821 and could still be seen at the time he was writing. Subsequently Coles heard from John Callander that the sexton had encountered large stones beneath the turf (Coles 1902, 577). There is, however, no mention of a recumbent setting and little to recommend Barnatt’s assertion that the number of stones in the ring suggests that it was a recumbent stone circle (1989, 460, no. 6:122).


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