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Westray, Tuquoy, Cross Kirk

Burial Ground (Period Unassigned), Church (Period Unassigned), Rune Inscribed Stone (Norse)

Site Name Westray, Tuquoy, Cross Kirk

Classification Burial Ground (Period Unassigned), Church (Period Unassigned), Rune Inscribed Stone (Norse)

Alternative Name(s) Westside Church, Holy Cross Chapel; Crosskirk

Canmore ID 2810

Site Number HY44SE 1

NGR HY 4550 4315

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Westray
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney

Archaeology Notes

HY44SE 1 4550 4315.

The ruins of the this building, one of the most refined of Orkney's medieval churches, comprise an original chancel and short nave which was subsequently lengthened. The chancel, internally 2.78m long by about 2.1m wide, was barrel-vaulted, and is notable for the inclined jambs of the chancel-arch. The nave averaging 4.1m w ide, is assigned an original length of 5.56m by RCAHMS, and is thus presented by differential paving in the guardianship layout. After extension the internal length was 14.17m; the extension is usually assigned to the 13th century but the moulding of the existing S doorway appears to be of 16th- or 17th-century date. Where as the later work has been reduced to its foundation courses, the original building stands some 2.5m high.

This church is to be associated with the adjacent late Norse settlement (HY44SE 5); the original work can tentatively be ascribed to Hafliki Thorkelsson, about the middle of the 12th century or slightly earlier.

D MacGibbon and T Ross 1897; J B Craven 1901; RCAHMS 1946; H Marwick 1952; A Ritchie and J N G Ritchie 1978; R G Lamb 1981; RCAHMS 1983, visited (R G Lamb) June 1983.

Rune-inscribed stone found during recent archaeological excavations.

Information from RCAHMS (I Fisher), 30 November 2000


Antiquarian Observation (1846 - 1870)

Plans and drawings by Sir Henry Dryden in folio titled 'Churches in Orkney and Shetland', dated 1846, 1851-2, 1855, 1863, 1866 and 1870 in the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Collection.

Publication Account (1996)

Originally this church consisted of a small rectangular nave with a barrel-vaulted chancel at the east end, but subsequently the nave was extended westwards, more than doubling its capacity. About 70m to the west, coastal erosion has revealed and excavation has confirmed the existence of an extensive late Norse settlement, and the church may well have served this estate.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Orkney’, (1996).

Field Visit (1998)

This 12th C chapel lies close to a Norse site of high status (HY44SE 5) and has been tentatively ascribed to Hafliki Thorkelsson. It originally had a barrel-vaulted chancel, measuring 2.87m long by 2.1m, but is now roofless. The original rounded arch doorway and one lancet window survive. The nave was originally 4.1m wide by 5.56m long but was later lengthened to 14.17m by removing the west wall. A rounded arch, supported on slightly inclined jambs, separates the nave from the chancel. These changes are usually ascribed to the 13th C, although the moulding which surrounds the later doorway are considered to be of 16th-17th C date and may be contemporary with the use of the chapel as a parish church. It is surrounded by a small graveyard. The site, which is in guardianship, is protected by a sea wall and has been consolidated for public access.

Moore and Wilson, 1998

Coastal Zone Assessment Survey

Photographic Survey

Photographs of Westside Church, Westray, taken by Historic Scotland


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