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Leuchars, St Bonach's Chapel

Chapel (Period Unassigned), Long Cist Cemetery (Early Medieval)

Site Name Leuchars, St Bonach's Chapel

Classification Chapel (Period Unassigned), Long Cist Cemetery (Early Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Old School, Leuchars

Canmore ID 33198

Site Number NO42SE 2

NGR NO 4546 2138

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Fife
  • Parish Leuchars
  • Former Region Fife
  • Former District North East Fife
  • Former County Fife

Archaeology Notes

NO42SE 2 4546 2138

Leuchars: To the west of the present church once stood a chapel called St Bernard's. Round where it stood are to be seen many graves of four and some of six stones.

OSA 1795

(NO 4555 2139) Leuchars: "Where the parish church now stands there was once a chapel called St Bennet's, of which Sir Thomas Wemyss was chaplain at the Reformation. No vestige of it remains, but many human bones are found near the spot, inclosed in stone coffins".

NSA 1845 (D Watson)

(NO 4546 2138) A group of full-length stone cists was discovered in and around the boys playground of the public school at Leuchars in August 1908. The school is situated in the east end of the village, on the ridge of rising ground on which the Norman church stands. On either side of the school grounds are two pathways, of varaying widths, both leading to the St Andrews road. From the south main wall of the school the playgrounds, separate for boys and girls, extend 66' in a southerly direction, and are enclosed with a semi-circular wall.

Thirty-four cists were uncovered within an area measuring 39' x 17'9", and another was later excavated a few inches outside the school grounds. Others still remain intact in the pathway to St Andrews Road. They were all oriented about due east and west, and were placed very close together.

The cists would seem to belong to Class I of Hutcheson's Classification (1903): "Parallel or roughly parallel-sided, composed of several undressed slabs set on edge in the ground, long enough to contain the body in an extended position, and having similar stones for covers, but not always paved at the bottom". The average size was 6' long by 2' 10" broad. Human remains were found in the cists, two of which each contained two skeletons, one above the other, separated by a layer of soil. No relics were found.

In former times the hill on which the School stands was known as Temple Hill. Previous to the advent of Robert de Quincy to the district the ecclesiastical establishment here was a chapel, which had apparently been endowed if not founded by his father-in-law. In a Papal bull of 1187 reference is made to the church of Leuchars, and it is therefore probable that de Quincy had begun the erection of a more extensive building in addition to the chapel (A H Millar 1895). The dedication of this chapel, however, appears neither to have been St Bernard's nor St Bennet's. The Rev. Dr Campbell (1867) refers to the chapel in the village of Leuchars as "the chapel of St Bonoch". A crown charter of 1539 refers to a yearly market on St. Bonoc's Day, and a further reference to the Chapel of St Bonach occurs in the confirmation of a charter by James VI.

W Reid 1909.

A cist, containing a well-preserved skeleton, was opened near the site of St Bonoc's chapel where others of the same type, and probably early Christian date, were found about 40 years ago. Another similar cist awaits examination.

N M Johnson 1948.

In May 1948 the St Andrews University Archaeological Society excavated a cist on the west side of Leuchars school playground. It contained a skeleton 4'9" in length. On the site where the school stands today there were, up to the sixteenth century, the ruins of the Culdee chapel of St Bonac, which appears to have been in use from the ninth to the twelfth centuries, when it was replaced by the present church. As this type of burial was used from the fifth century, and the east-west orientation indicates Christian burial rites, it seems very probable that the cists are contemporary with the chapel.

J E Hooper 1950.

NO 4544 2137. The headmaster indicated the site of the cist that was excavated in 1948. He also pointed out the site, at NO 4546 2137, of a cist which had been investigated by St Andrews Univ Archaeol Soc in the latter half of 1957, when extensions were made to the school. The precise sites of the 1908 finds are not known, but the boys' half of the playground was always on the west (Mr Aitken, headmaster, Leuchars School). Nothing remains of the chapel, but the school probably stands on the site.

Visited by OS (RDL), 5 June 1964.


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