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Burial Ground (Early Medieval), Carved Stone (Pictish), Chapel (10th Century), Lairds House (16th Century), Souterrain(S) (Prehistoric)

Site Name Newark

Classification Burial Ground (Early Medieval), Carved Stone (Pictish), Chapel (10th Century), Lairds House (16th Century), Souterrain(S) (Prehistoric)

Alternative Name(s) Nue Work Of Deernes; New Work Of Deerness

Canmore ID 3033

Site Number HY50SE 3

NGR HY 5746 0413

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

C14 Radiocarbon Dating


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

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish St Andrews And Deerness
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney

Early Medieval Carved Stones Project

Newark, Deerness, Orkney, Pictish cross-slab fragments

Measurements: H 0.85m, W 0.55m, D 0.09m

Stone type: sandstone

Place of discovery: HY 5746 0413

Present location: Orkney Museum, Kirkwall

Evidence for discovery: found face down in the shoreline in 2016, in spoil left after excavations in the 1970s. This was the site of a medieval chapel, together with a cemetery of burials radiocarbon-dated to the eighth to fourteenth centuries.

Present condition: very damaged and weathered.


This was once part of a Pictish cross-slab carved in relief and incision on both broad faces, within a roll-moulded frame. The surviving fragments include a large portion of the central area of the slab, with a short intact section of the right-hand face B. The cross is outlined by roll moulding, as is a central roundel, and the arms have squared terminals, with circular, almost closed, armpits. The top of the shaft survives, narrower than the lower arm of the cross-head. The entire cross appears to have been filled with interlace. There are traces of carving in the spaces either side of the upper arm, and tucked in tightly below the right-hand arm is an S-beast with wide-open jaws, facing the cross.

Face C is very severely damaged apart from one area where the head of a large serpent-like creature may be seen, with a rod or tail between its open jaws.

Date: eighth or ninth century.

References: DES 2016, 135-6.

Desk-based infrmation compiled by A Ritchie 2019

Archaeology Notes

HY50SE 3 5746 0413

Blaeu shows a church or chapel here, labelled the 'Nue Work of Deernes'.

J Blaeu Atlas 1653.

'Chapel, Newark: Local information is to the effect that a chapel and burial ground formerly existed close to the beach at the farm of Newark. Some confirmation of the tradition was observed in the banks along the shore, where human bones are constantly being exposed. As yet, however, no traces of a building have emerged.'

RCAHMS 1946, visited 1930.

At HY 5746 0413 there are traces of two sections of a dry stone wall protruding from the cliff face, which according to Mr Delday of Newark, Deerness are the remains of a chapel, now almost completely lost due to coastal erosion.

Human bones were strewn along the cliff face in the vicinity of the chapel remains, suggesting an associated graveyard.

Surveyed at 1:2500.

Visited by OS (NKB), 25 August 1964.

(HY 5746 0413) Chapel (NR) (site of)

OS 1:10,000 map (1971).

Norse burials associated with a small church of probable 10th century date on the evidence of coins below the flooring. Two 'mycaform structures' - i.e. ? souterrains - underlie the burials and were excavated by Brothwell who recovered the plan and defined the construction but could come to no conclusion regarding date, use etc. He suggests possible ritual significance.

D Brothwell 1977; RCAHMS 1988.

The farm steading at Newark stands atop a broadly rounded mound covering approximately 1 ha and some 2m high above general ground level. Erosion at the seaward side of this and extending 100m eastward has exposed complex settlement remains and the graveyard associated with a medieval chapel. Deposits are some 1.3m thick above a layer of glacial clay. The chapel was excavated by Dr D Brothwell between 1969 and 1972 in order to obtain a sequence of Norse skeletons, and it is reported that a good series of these was obtained; coin evidence is said to have provided a tenth-century date for the chapel. The remains of two earth-houses were discovered lower down, and one of these, a curved chamber, which was aligned E-W and measured some 10m in length, has been published. On the site of the chapel a laird's house of the sixteenth or seventeenth century was built; some dressed stones in the buildings at Newark steading must have come from this. The chapel and surrounding buildings were left open after excavation, exacerbating the erosion problem.

Burials continue to be exposed from time to time in the coastal section; two of these both aligned approximately E-W and underlying medieval structures, were recorded in 1985.

RCAHMS 1946; D Brothwell 1977; K A Steedman 1980; RCAHMS 1987, visited July 1985.

HY 5747 0413 A 116m length of the eroded section below the putative chapel and medieval settlement at Newark (NMRS HY50SE 3) was recorded. The surface remains visible on the site of the 1969-72 excavations were also surveyed.

A total of eight burials were exposed in the sea bank: the excavation and removal of all visible human remains led to the discovery of three further burials; the majority were aligned NW-SE. All appear to have been shroud burials. No trace of coffin fittings was evident. A single grave appears to have been constructed with stone sides and cover, although only the head end was visible in section. All except one burial were supine, one being prone. Where present, the hands were found to have been crossed over the pelvic area.

The principal structures still visible at the site have been previously interpreted as a medieval chapel and the remains of the 'New Work', a late 16th-century manor house. The surveyed extent of the 'New Work' appears to agree well with the map evidence of a previously unreported 1846 estate plan. The excavated fragment presumably formed part of the S range of that structure. Although no firm conclusions can be proposed without reference to the results of the 1969-72 excavations, this present survey suggests that the putative chapel, adjacent to the NW, if earlier than the 'New Work', may represent the remains of an earlier range of buildings on the same site.

A full report has been lodged with the NMRS.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland.

C Lowe 2000.


Fabric Recording (2015)

HY 57460 04130 (Canmore ID: 3033) A programme of work was undertaken in 2015 at Newark Chapel as a PhD case study. Upstanding buildings investigation at the site of the putative chapel indicates a range of context-specific constructional materials and techniques are present, including contrasting shell/maerl-lime (produced from the burning of coralline algae rhodoliths), limestone-lime and clay mortared masonry phases. Most significantly, the earliest upstanding building at the site is associated with a particular biogeniclime mortar which can be recognised both in situ and in the surrounding demolition layer noted by Raey (ORCA)

in the cliff section. This mortar clearly contrasts with the masonry materials apparent in later phases at the site. These onsite interpretations were supported by petrographic analysis of a small ex situ sample of mortar, taken from the beach below the site, which appeared to match those from the early building and demolition layer. In thin section this mortar was interpreted as a peat-fired shell/maerl-lime mortar. Although there are some issues with the existing plan-form/conformation of the upstanding remains of this early building, this type of mortar (and its association with clay here) is consistent with a Late Norse/medieval date. It

is hoped a future more comprehensive recording, sampling and analysis programme, from this rapidly eroding site, will inform these interim conclusions further.

Archive: National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) intended

Funder: University of Edinburgh

Mark Thacker – University of Edinburgh

(Source: DES, Volume 16)

Excavation (13 October 2016 - 14 October 2016)

HY 57466 04135 (HY50SE 3) A carved stone was identified in January 2016 in the eroding coastal section at Newark Bay, at the site of a known medieval chapel and cemetery, by archaeologist Dr Hugo Anderson-Whymark. Further initial investigations revealed the carved stone to be a Pictish cross slab (Class II symbol stone). Work to recover the slab and

record its depositional context with regard to the surrounding deposits and structural remains in the area was undertaken 13–14 October 2016. The slab was found to be within the backfill of earlier 20th-century excavations, but it is highly probable that it originated from the immediate vicinity of the known medieval chapel. The Newark Pictish cross slab is

only the second ‘reasonably intact’ example discovered in Orkney to date, and has carvings on both sides of the stone. The discovery of this artefact finds parallels with the Pictish cross slab found in 2011 from Appiehouse in Sanday.

The carved surfaces of the cross have suffered damage in antiquity, and full description of the carving awaits the conservation of this artefact, but initial observations are as follows: the carvings on the front face of the stone comprise a cross carved in relief, outlined by moulding and infilled

with interlace. The cross has fairly wide arms, with small, rounded armpits between them, a central roundel appears present, though damaged. The cross is set on a narrower shaft, but the lower portion of the cross has been truncated. Where present, the outer edge of the stone is surrounded

by a moulding, and in the lower left portion of the stone a zoomorphic creature is present, which is probably an ‘S beast’. The carvings on the opposing face are incised, and the clearest is the head of a beast or serpent grasping a shaft or possibly a tail in its open mouth. An incised moulding appears to have bounded the outer edge of the stone. Other

carvings are present on this face, but the exact form of these is not clear at the time of writing.

Archive: Historic Environment Scotland and Orkney Museum (intended)

Funder: Historic Environment Scotland

Dave Reay – ORCA, Archaeology Institute UHI

(Source: DES, Volume 17)


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