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Castle Semple, Collegiate Church

Collegiate Church (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Castle Semple, Collegiate Church

Classification Collegiate Church (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) Castle Semple Policies

Canmore ID 42301

Site Number NS36SE 10

NGR NS 37555 60112

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Renfrewshire
  • Parish Lochwinnoch
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Renfrew
  • Former County Renfrewshire

Archaeology Notes

NS36SE 10 37555 60112

(NS 3755 6010) Collegiate Church (NR)

(rems of) (NAT)

OS 6" map (1969)

For Castle Semple (house) and associated buildings, see NS36SE 9.00.

Castle Semple Collegiate Church (S Piggott and W D Simpson 1970) is a rectangular structure with an apsidal E end and a square tower projecting from the W gable. Now roofless, the rubble walls stand entire to the wallhead, 15ft 6ins high. The building measures 71ft 6ins by 24ft 3ins. The collegiate church was founded in 1504 by John, Lord Semple, who was killed at Flodden in 1513. The apse was added to contain a monument to his memory. The interior is divided into three private burial places by two modern walls. MacGibbon and Ross note a carved stone, apparently a cross-socket, which may have been used as a font, standing within the church.

D MacGibbon and T Ross 1897; H Scott 1950; I B Cowan and D E Easson 1976.

The ruins of this church survive to eaves level, though roofless and with the interior gutted. Most of the window openings and doorways remain, but further doors and windows have been added and probably mark an intermediate use as farm buildings before the interior was used as a burial ground.

Visited by OS (WW) 28 July 1955.


Publication Account (1985)

This unusual collegiate church was founded in 1504 by John, Lord Sempill, in his grounds at Castle Semple, and it was endowed with a provost, six chaplains, two boys and a sacristan. The original building comprised an oblong church with a rectangular tower at the west end, but this simple plan was embellished following Lord Sempill's death on the field of Flodden in 1513 by the addition of a three-sided apse at the east end, which was designed to house his funerary monument. The two portions of the building differ considerably in style with the plain, rather austere treatment of the fabric in the west half contrasting with the more flamboyant decoration of the late Gothic tracery in the windows of the apse.

The interior of the building has been partially restored with the removal of two relatively recent partition walls and the replacement of some of the dressings around the windows. This allows the visitor an unrestricted view of the principal feature of the interior, the exuberant late Gothic burial monument ofLord Sempill, which lies at the east end of the north wall. His effigy, if it was ever added, is now missing, but this hardly detracts from the fine monument. To the left of the monument, the grave-slab of Gabriel Sempel, who died in 1587, has been placed against the wall. Around the doorway on the north wall and on the step leading to the dais at the east end, numerous mason's marks are still visible.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: The Clyde Estuary and Central Region’, (1985).

Geophysical Survey (13 September 2009 - 14 September 2009)

NS 37555 60112 A geophysical survey, consisting of a fluxgate gradiometer survey of 0.72ha and resistivity survey of 0.15ha, was undertaken 13–14 September 2009 near to the late medieval Collegiate Church. A possible late medieval domestic building and modern holdings were recorded, despite intrusive readings from igneous geology.

Archive: Copies of the DSR are held at PKHT and are to be deposited with the RCAHMS, LAA and OASIS:Scotland

Funder: Renfrewshire Local History Forum

Oliver O’Grady – Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust


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