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St Andrews, Kirk Hill, St Mary's Church

Burial Ground (Medieval), Church (12th Century), Collegiate Church (Medieval), Gun Emplacement(S) (19th Century), Watch Tower

Site Name St Andrews, Kirk Hill, St Mary's Church

Classification Burial Ground (Medieval), Church (12th Century), Collegiate Church (Medieval), Gun Emplacement(S) (19th Century), Watch Tower

Alternative Name(s) Church Of The Blessed Mary Of The Rock; Kirkheugh, St Mary Of The Rock; Kirkhill

Canmore ID 34358

Site Number NO51NW 7

NGR NO 51564 16665

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/34358

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

  • Council Fife
  • Parish St Andrews And St Leonards
  • Former Region Fife
  • Former District North East Fife
  • Former County Fife

Archaeology Notes

NO51NW 7 51564 16665

See also NO51NW 14, NO51NW 23, NO51NW 38.

(NO 51561666) St Mary's Church (NR) (Remains of)

OS 25" map (1914)

A charter by James Learmonth who was provost of the church of Kirkheugh in 1565, was signed at the chapel, suggesting that the building had survived the Reformation.

A H Millar 1895.

According to a 17th century legend it originally stood on a rock beyond the end of the pier. The rock, now reduced by quarrying, is covered by every tide, but is still known as the Lady Craig. Whether originally situated on the Lady Craig or the Kirk Hill, the Celtic monastery was in existence before the middle of the 8th Century. A fort was built on or near the site of the church in 1645 (For fort see NO51NW 14).

D H Fleming 1914.

The remains of the Church of the Blessed Mary of the Rock, consisting of little more than foundations, stands on the cliff overlooking the harbour but outside the abbey walls from which it was separated by the Kirk Heugh, a hollow now levelled up.

The remains are those of a cruciform church. The nave is believed to be the older part, but its walls are represented merely by their core, from which, however, fragments of carved stones were recovered. The foundation stones were bedded in clay. At the north-west angle are the foundations of a heavy buttress of Romanesque type, and, on the north wall, of a single intermediate pilaster of slight projection. These data suggest a 12th century date for the nave. The other parts show 13th century masonry of ashlar. When the church was cleared in 1860, a Celtic cross shaft and a tombstone of c.14th century were found in the choir.

This church probably occupies or is near to the site of the house of the Culdees at St Andrews: in the list of 'provostries' attached to the Scotichronicon it is said to have been founded by Constantine II who died in 877. Before 1290, however, it had become a provostry or collegiate church of St Mary and a royal chapel (Laing Charters No.15). It is specified in presentations of the first half of the 16th century as 'the collegiate church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Rock or 'of the Kirk-Heuch'. In June 1559, the Earl of Argyll 'caused to pull doune the college kirke of Heuche' (Bannatyne Club).

D H Fleming [undated]; RCAHMS 1933.

A charter by James Learmonth who was provost of the church of Kirkheugh in 1565, was signed at the chapel, suggesting that the building had survived the Reformation.

A H Millar 1895.

The plan of this Church is almost complete except for some parts of the N and S transepts and the nave. The walls are 1.5m thick and attain a maximum height of 1.0m. An Ancient Monument plaque states that the Church dates from the 12th century, was probably on the site of a 9th century Culdee Church; and in the 13th century was a collegiate Church and Royal Chapel. Before the east gable is the foundation of the altar.

Visited by OS (JLD) 17 October 1956.

As described above.

Visited by OS (WDJ) 29 May 1965.

(Location cited as NO 515 166). St Mary of the Rock, Kirkhill, St Andrews and St Leonards Parish: cemetery and gun emplacements. Excavation in advance of cliff consolidation has revealed two gun platforms, 3.5m wide by 5m long, known to have been constructed in 1860. These platforms were cut into a medieval cemetery (NO51NW 38) from which over 150 discrete skeletons have so far been uncovered. These appear to relate to the Collegiate Church of St Mary, of which the N wall of the N transpt has also been uncovered.

Sponsor: SDD (AM).

J Wordsworth 1980.

NO 5156 1664 A watching brief and small-scale excavation was carried out along the line of a footpath on the cliff edge of St Andrews. The area to the N of St Mary's Church, Kirkheugh, revealed extensions to the visible stonework of the church and the remains of an extensive medieval cemetery.

Sponsor: Anderson Jeffrey Associates.

AOC (Scotland) Ltd 1996.

Coastguard watchtower/lighthouse

20mtrs above sea level set up on high behind shorehead next to St Mary's Church. Polygonal building 3mtrs high with stairs to door at rear and windows to front and side.

Site recorded by Maritime Fife during the Coastal Assessment Survey for Historic Scotland, Fife Ness to Newburgh 1996

Activities

Field Visit (24 June 1926)

Church of the Blessed Mary of the Rock.

The ruin of this church, consisting of little more than foundations, stands on the cliff overlooking the harbour but outside the abbey wall, from which it was separated by the Kirk Heugh, a hollow now levelled up. The remains are those of a cruciform church. The nave is believed to be the older part, but its walls are represented merely by their core, from which, however, fragments of carved stones were recovered. The foundation stones were bedded in clay (1) (cf. No. 454, p. 228). At the north-west angle are the foundations of a heavy buttress of Romanesque type and, on the north wall, of a single intermediate pilaster of slight projection. These data suggest for the nave a 12th-century date. At the junction with the north transept are indications of what was apparently an external stair.

The other parts show 13th-century masonry of ashlar, into which are built several sections of semi-shafts. At base there is externally a splayed ground-course, which also appears internally on the north side of the crossing. Towards the eastern end of the north wall of the choir is the entrance to a revestry, of which there is no other trace. The east gable has contained a double window. The footings for the altar and for the sedilia remain. The orientation of the later part diverges somewhat from that of the nave.

When the church was cleared in 1860, it was found that the floor of the eastern division or choir had been paved with coloured tiles. In the same place were found also a Celtic cross shaft and a tombstone of c. 14th century. The latter which has been left in situ, is much wasted but seems to bear a cross with graduated base and enriched head; on the sinister side are shears and on the dexter a short sword. To the north of the church lies a cope-shaped stone with a small transverse stone at the foot or eastern end.

DOORWAY. - In the wall which encloses the signal-station south of the ruin is a 15th-century doorway with a three-sided head like those in St. Salvator's Church (No. 461).

HISTORICAL NOTE. - This church probably occupies, or is near to, the site of the house of the Culdees at St. Andrews: in the list of "provosties" attached to the Scottchronicon it is said to have been founded by Constantine II, who died in 877. Before 1290, however, it had become a "provostry" or collegiate church of St. Mary and a royal chapel (2). It is specified in presentations of the first half of the 16th century as "the collegiate church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Rock" or "of the Kirkheuch." Five prebendaries in addition to the provost are on record (3). Bishop Leslie states that in June 1559 the Earl of Argyll and the Prior of St. Andrews, afterwards Earl of Moray, "caused ... pull doune" among other buildings “the college kirke of Heuche” (4).

RCAHMS 1933, visited 24 June 1926.

(1) Handbook of St. Andrews; D. Hay Fleming, LL.D., p. 84. (2) Laing Charters, No. 15. (3) Reg. Sec. Sig., ii, passim. (4) History of Scotland (Bannatyne Club), p. 273.

Field Visit (9 June 1926)

St. Regulus' or St. Rule's Church.

This was the first church of the Augustinian Priory, and the immediate predecessor of the Cathedral, which stands only 38 yards away. It is quite the most interesting of the earlier churches in Scotland, and the date of its erection has been the subject of considerable discussion. In certain details it so markedly resembles the early 12th-century church of Wharram-le-Street (1) in Yorkshire as to force the conclusion that some of the workmen employed had been engaged on both structures. The evidence from comparison is strengthened by an historic connection between the buildings. Wharram-le-Street belonged to Nostell Priory near Pontefract in Yorkshire, and from Nostell Alexander I brought six canons to found the Augustinian priory at Scone (2), the first of its kind in Scotland. Robert, one of this body, became the first prior of Scone, and within a few years was elected bishop of St. Andrews (3), being consecrated either in 1126 or before 17th July 1127. The 13th-century "Legend of St. Andrew" (4) relates that Bishop Robert after his consecration "set himself zealously to accomplish what he had much at heart-the enlargement of his church and its dedication to divine worship." The same source states that for a while the work proceeded slowly through lack of funds, but that by the time of the appointment of the first prior in 1144 (5) the greater part of the church had been completed and the cloister was at a stage fit for occupation. Bishop Robert died in 1159 and is stated in the Scotichronicon to have been buried in the "old church of St. Andrews."

St. Rule's consists of a sanctuary and choir with a lofty western tower [SC 1106688]. It is apparent that a nave was not at first contemplated, but that provision for one was made while work was in progress, probably before the tower had risen to its full height. So much may be inferred from the fact that the details of the western archway indicate that it was an insertion mad enot long after the construction of the eastern arch, and possibly before the completion of that leading to the sanctuary. The seal of the chapter, of which seven reproductions, ranging from the 12th to the 17th century, are preserved in the Cathedral Museum, includes a representation of St. Rule's Church which is shown, curiously enough, as without an apsidal sanctuary but with a nave, the tower appearing in the centre of the whole, while a smaller tower stands at the south-west angle of the nave. The die-cutting is well done, and the church is clearly recognisable as a Romanesque building, but it is probable that the cutter worked from imperfect information. That a nave was eventually attached to the building is made clear by a roof-raggle on the tower. Its pitch, however, corresponds to that of the lowest of the three roofs which, as will be noted presently, successively covered the choir.

The masonry is of a local close-grained grey sandstone (6) and is excellent. The closely jointed walls, 3 feet thick at base, are built of ashlar, out- and in-band, without visible packing. The three lower courses are of great stones, about 33 inches by 21 inches in dimensions. As they rise, however, the courses decrease progressively to about 14 inches in height on the upper part of the tower. There is an almost entire absence of the carved decoration which is found on the other Norman churches in Scotland, and the characteristic sill-string does not occur, though it appears on the seals. A slightly chamfered foundation-course returns round the building, and at wall-head level of the choir there is a double-chamfered dripping eaves-course, borne on hollow corbels, shaped and of slight projection-a characteristic Norman treatment. This eaves-course returns as a string round the tower and has been cut into by the western arch.

[see RCAHMS 1933, 228-230, for a detailed description of the tower and choir]

INCISED CROSS. On the north wall of the tower a cross, 9 inches high, having equal limbs and with a depression in each angle, is roughly incised at 8 feet from the ground.

RCAHMS 1933, visited 9 June 1926.

(1) Cf. Archaeologia, lxxiii (1922-3), pp. 66-72. (2) Scotichronicon, i, p. 316. (3) Ibid., VI, xxiv. (4) Chronicle of the Picts and Scots, p. 191. (5) Liber Cart. Prior. S. Andree, pp. 122-3. (6) Proc. Soc. Ant. Scot., xlvii (1912-13), pp. 426-8. (7) Scotich., lib. VI, cap. Iii.

Publication Account (1981)

The church of the Blessed Virgin Mary is an ancient church site dating back to the age of the Culdees. The remains are on the cliff overlooking the harbour and are those of cruciform buildings (Cant, 1945, 23). The surviving nave is of twelfth-century date while the remainder is thirteenth. These foundations were discovered in 1860, and show the church to have been nearly 100 feet (30.4m) long (Groome, 1903, iii). As late as 1344, it was still designated 'St. Mary's of the Culdees although it had been raised to the status of a chapel royal in the late thirteenth century (Cowan, 1976, 225).

Information from ‘Historic St Andrews: The Archaeological Implications of Development’ (1981).

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