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Southend, St Columba's Church And Priest's Well

Burial Ground (Period Unassigned), Church (Period Unassigned), Well (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Southend, St Columba's Church And Priest's Well

Classification Burial Ground (Period Unassigned), Church (Period Unassigned), Well (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) St Columba's Footprints And St Columba's Well;kilcomkill Parish Church; Kilcomkill Burial Ground; St Columba's Chapel; Keil Cemetery

Canmore ID 38285

Site Number NR60NE 1

NGR NR 67346 07718

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Southend
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll


Field Visit (23 October 1977)

As described by the RCAHMS. The head of the wheel-cross discovered on the foreshore was loaned to Campbeltown Museum in October 1977. The names "St Columba's Church, St Columba's Footprints and St Columba's Well" are in common local use.

Surveyed at 1:10 000.

Visited by OS (NKB), 23 October 1977.

Desk Based Assessment (1977)

NR60NE 1 67346 07718

NR60NE 1.01 Cross head, footprints.

(NR 6735 0770) St Columba's Chapel (NR) (Ruins of)

(NR 6733 0771) Priest's Well (NAT)

OS 6" map (1924).

For (associated) cross-finial held at Kiel House (NR 676 078), see NR60NE 16.

St Columba's Church. This building is the former parish church of Kilcolmkill, a parish which was united with that of Kilblane in 1617. Although the site has traditional associations with St Columba, there is no reliable evidence relating to its early history and the church comes on record only at the beginning of the 14th century, when it was granted to the priory of Whithorn. The building is said to have been abandoned for worship at some time during the third quarter of the 17th century. The structure is now roofless and the wall surfaces are much overgrown with ivy; the lower portion of the S wall is hidden externally beneath the accumulated soil of the surrounding burial-ground.

The church has an overall length of 22.5m, and measures 5.6m transversely at the W end and 5.8m at the E end, the walls having an average thickness of 0.8m. The oldest portion of the building is the E end, which may be ascribed to the 13th century. The church appears to have been extended to its present length either in late medieval or in post-Reformation times.

The 13th century church probably measured about 8.8m in length, its overall dimensions the corresponding approximately with those of the dependent chapels noted elsewhere in the peninsula. The W wall was removed when the building was extended in length, but the other three walls remain intact. The E gable, however, appears to have been almost entirely rebuilt at a comparatively recent period, and the N and S walls have likewise been patched up to a considerable extent. Mouldings provide strong presumptive evidence of the former existence on this site of a church or chapel of late 12th- or early 13th century date, whose masonry was subsequently re-used in part for the construction of the existing later 13th-century building.

The western extension of the church incorporates many squared blocks similar to those seen in the eastern portion of the building, and it seems probable that these have been quarried from the dismantled W gable-wall of the later 13th-century church.

Six late medieval recumbent tombstones are visible within the church or in the surrounding graveyard. Two other carved stones of similar date have been recorded but could not be found on the date of visit.

WELL. About 18m NW of the NW corner of the church a well lies on the N side of the old roadway that skirts the northern boundary of the churchyard. The well is described by Captain White as a "spring of pure ice-cold water bubbling out of the rock" (T P White 1873), but at the date of visit it was no more than a shallow and somewhat stagnant pool. On the rock face that overhangs the well there is a rudely incised Latin cross of indeterminate date measuring 0.20m by 0.15m over all.

CROSS, CROSS (SITE), UNIDENTIFIED BUILDING AND "FOOTPRINTS" In October 1968 rather more than half the head of a wheel- cross, with the interspaces completely pierced was found on a rocky reef (NR 674 076) which is accessible only at very low tide, about 140m from the main road and almost opposite the churchyard (Miss M A Taylor). Made of the local Old Red Sandstone conglomerate, it measures from 0.13m to 0.15m in thickness, while the external diameter of the wheel has been about 0.46m. The stone is heavily eroded from long immersion in the sea, and the only decoration now visible is a worn representation of the Crucified Saviour carved in relief on the front. No precise parallels for this type of cross-head exist in Scotland, but it is obviously a late descendant of the Irish high cross. A 12th- or 13th-century date seems likely. The cross may once have stood in the socket described below, and been broken and cast into the sea at the Reformation, or it may have occupied a site nearer the beach and been destroyed by the encroachment of the sea.

Upon the summit of the rocky knoll that stands immediately to the W of the churchyard a rectangular socket has been cut into what appears to be the roughly dressed surface of a natural rock-face. The socket measures 0.33m in length by 0.16m in width by 0.13m in depth, and no doubt held a free-standing cross of medieval or earlier date. Upon the NE corner of the base there is carved an incised Latin cross measuring 0.07m by 0.04m over all.

Immediately to the SE of the cross-base there are the turf-grown foundations of a rectangular building measuring about 9.5m from E to W by about 4.9m transversely over walls some 0.6m in thickness. Neither the character nor date of this structure is deducible from an examination ofthe surface remains.

Immediately outside the NW angle of this building the impressions of two human feet and a date can be seen cut into the level surface of a small natural rock-outcrop. The northernmost footprint aligned N and S measures 0.28 m in length by 0.11m in greatest breadth and is incised to a depth of 0.04m, while the second, which lies at right angles to it, is 0.29m long, 0.11m broad at the ball of the foot and 0.08m broad at the heel, and 0.03m deep. Each imprint represents the rough impression of a shod right foot, and between them the figures 564 have been cruedly incised in Arabic numerals. Although they are known traditionally as "St Columba's Footsteps", it is recorded (T H Thomson 1935) that the northern footprint was carved by a local stonemason in 1856, and the Arabic numerals are not likely to be earlier than the 16th century. The date of the southern footprint is uncertain, but it may be as early as the end of the 1st Millennium BC.

RCAHMS 1971, visited 1964.

Information from OS.

Archaeological Evaluation (July 2005)

NR 6745 0775 (Keil Cemetery); NR 6637 3468 (Patcheon Cemetery) Due to the proximity of Scheduled Ancient Monuments and prior to the proposed extensions of the cemeteries at Keil (NR60NE 1) and Patcheon (NR63SE 23), archaeological evaluations were undertaken in July 2005. The evaluation at Keil encountered probable shell midden deposits at the SE corner of the site. These were a maximum of 0.8m deep. No artefacts were recovered. As a result, the cemetery extension was curtailed to avoid this area of archaeological interest.

The evaluation at Patcheon encountered no significant archaeological deposits or artefacts.

Archive to be deposited in NMRS.

Sponsor: Argyll and Bute Council.

R Engl 2005.


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