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Lesmahagow, Church Square, Lesmahagow Parish Church

Church (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Lesmahagow, Church Square, Lesmahagow Parish Church

Classification Church (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) Langdykeside; Old Lesmahagow Church; Lesmahagow Priory

Canmore ID 46471

Site Number NS83NW 1

NGR NS 81408 39873

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

C14 Radiocarbon Dating


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2019.

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Administrative Areas

  • Council South Lanarkshire
  • Parish Lesmahagow
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Clydesdale
  • Former County Lanarkshire

Archaeology Notes

NS83NW 1.00 81407 39873

NS83NW 1.01 8140 3987 Crosses

NS83NW 1.02 81423 39910 Churchyard

(NS 8140 3987) Ch (NAT) on site of (NAT) Priory (NR)

OS 6" map, (1967).

Lesmahagow Parish (Old) Church: Built 1810 incorporating 1803 tower; additions and alterations 1894 and 1937. Model of previous kirk preserved.

It occupies the site of the church of the Tironensian Priory (a dependency of Kelso Abbey) founded in 1144 by David I and John, Bishop of Glasgow. The history of the priory is obscure; it was burned in 1335 by troops under John of Eltham, brother of Edward III. It was repaired, and the priory was finally secularised in 1607.

Though Irving and Murray (G Irving and A Murray 1864) refer to the discovery of remains of the conventual buildings, nothing was visible above ground at the start of the excavations carried out in 1978 prior to the redevelopment of Church Square.

These showed that the priory was based on a cloister 21.5m wide, lying to the S of the nave of the church. Excavation to a depth of about 1.5m revealed the foundations of the walls delimiting the W, S and E cloister walks, each walk some 2.0m wide. A series of oriented burials was found beneath the S cloister walk. Though it has not been possible to date these, they may be considered as possibly belonging to the period of lay administration of the priory or later.

The W range of buildings, 21.4 by 8.3m, was constructed of rag stone; traces of an ashlar built lavatorium fed by lead water pipes appeared to have been built into the E wall of this building. Secondary work had extended the building to include a possible kitchen area.

The S range comprised one building only, possibly the refectory, some 20 by 8.3m over walls 1.1m wide. The walls of this building were dressed facing-stones with a rubble core. The S side included two primary bonded buttresses. Secondary alteration had included the insertion of a barrel-vaulted cellar, with the addition of two further buttresses, unbonded on the S side. The E end of the building also seemed to have been altered.

Of the E range some 26m were recovered, but only a maximum of 2.6m in width could be excavated owing to the presence of existing buildings. This appears to have been The Dormitory Range.

Beneath the W range lay six very decomposed burials, one under the foundatiosn of the W range walls. A carbon-14 date was obtained for one of these burials, but the error (+/- 260 years) was too high for the result of be any help in dating.

With the survival of the buildings restricted to cellarage or foundations, it has not been possible to date the phases of building by architectural style, except at the SW corner of the E range and the primary buttresses of the S range which suggest a date in the late 12th century.

Much late medieval pottery has been recovered, but largely in post-monastic contexts. However, a sequence of some 30 coins from the reign of King John to William and Mary confirmed the documented occupation, both regular and secular, of the priory.

The site is to be preserved as an amenity, and in 1979 the foundations were being consoliated.

G Hay 1957; A Gordon and J Wordsworth 1979; I B Cowan and D E Easson 1976; I B Cowan 1967; A Gordon and J Wordsworth 1979; RCAHMS AP catalogue 1980; Scots Mag February 1979.

Architecture Notes

NS83NW 1.00 81407 39873

NS83NW 1.01 8140 3987 Crosses

NS83NW 1.02 81423 39910 Churchyard


Architect: Alex. N. Paterson, alterations and additions 1906.

The old Church of the Priory, it is said, was burnt by the people together with those who had taken refuge in it, at the Reformation. Chambers, however, in his Gazeteer of 1832, relates that the Church seems to have survived the Reformation and to have become the Parish Church for Protestant worship. It was pulled down, however, as is asserted by Chambers, in 1803, and replaced by the 'present' large edifice.

The National Library of Scotland, in Edinburgh, however, among the 'Uncatalogued MSS of General Hutton', contains, in number 66, Vol.1, a pencil Sketch of what purports to be the Tower of the 'Priory'.


Architectural Review, August 1906 (plan and photographs).


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