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Sanday, Peterkirk

Broch (Iron Age)(Possible), Chapel (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Sanday, Peterkirk

Classification Broch (Iron Age)(Possible), Chapel (Period Unassigned)

Canmore ID 3626

Site Number HY74SW 7

NGR HY 7136 4363

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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Administrative Areas

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

Archaeology Notes

HY74SW 7 7136 4363.

(HY 7136 4363) Peterkirk (NAT)

St Peter's Chapel (NR) (Site of) (NAT)

OS 6"map, Orkney, 2nd ed.,(1900).

No remains of the chapel are visible.

Close to the shore, however, is a small circular cavity of carefully built dry-stone masonry which has not been fully investigated but which may be a well. It has a diameter of 5' at the surface but contracts downwards. The chapel evidently stood on a prehistoric site as kitchen-midden deposits are exposed along the beach at points where the bank has been broken by heavy seas.

RCAHMS 1946, visited 1928.

At the site of St Peter's Chapel, known locally at Peterkirk, is a curving stony bank of uncertain purpose, c3.5m wide, which is truncated at both ends by coastal erosion and crossed by a modern field wall. Mr A Skea Esq, of Garbo, Sanday recalls his grandfather telling him of the rectangular foundations of the chapel within the area enclosed by the bank on the SE of the field wall, but there is now no trace of it. On the NW side of the wall is a well typical of those seen in brochs. It is a rectangular rock cut basin c1.5m by 1.1m by 0.8m deep at the base of an almost vertical dry-stone passage 3.0m deep down which access is by rough steps. Formerly choked with stones, it was cleared out by Mr Skea about two years ago and is now in good condition and the entry covered with slabs.

Midden material of shells and animal bones is visible in rabbit scrapes to the SW of the well in the eroded shoreline.

Surveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS(AA) 12 July 1970.


Field Visit (1999)

This alleged site of a chapel and broch is an elongated mound, which has been vertically truncated by coastal erosion. The long axis of the mound runs parallel with the coast; it extends for over 70m and is up to 50m wide. At its highest point, the mound stands to 3.75m above the level of the storm beach. Inland, it extends into a pasture field and is very overgrown. A drystone wall runs along its length. At the highest point of the mound, a curving earthwork may be part of a enclosure; it appears too wide to be part of a broch wall. The erosion face has slumped and is overgrown, but there are intermittent exposures in which archaeological deposits can be seen. These occur mostly towards the base of the section and appear to continue below the level of the present beach. Exposed deposits include layers of very organic soils, some with inclusions of animal bone and shell, and possible fragmentary structures. Previous records mention a stone-lined well of the type often found in association with brochs; this is no longer in evidence. Ref.: RCAHMS (1946), #460; RCAHMS (1980), #181.

Moore & Wilson 1999.

Coastal Zone Assessment Survey, 1999

Publication Account (2002)



Possible broch in Lady parish on Sanday. The chapel is reputed to have been built on a prehistoric site and midden material has been exposed along the beach nearby. There is also a dry stone well close by, with a stair leading into it, which was cleared out in the late 1960s [1].

Finds: in the Cursiter collection in the Hunterian Museum are several finds from 'Peter Kirk' which should be from this broch (all B.1914.). They include a bone die (with spots of simple dots instead of dot-and-circle motifs -- 807/2), a possible unfinished and plain large bone die (807/1) and a bone double-sided composite comb (806),

Sources: 1. OS card HY 74 SW 7: 2. RCAHMS 1946, 2, 171, no. 460: 3. Lamb 1980, no. 181.

E W MacKie 2002


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