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Lanark, High Street, St Nicholas Church

Chapel (13th Century), Church (Period Unassigned), War Memorial (20th Century)

Site Name Lanark, High Street, St Nicholas Church

Classification Chapel (13th Century), Church (Period Unassigned), War Memorial (20th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Lanark Parish Church; War Memorial Plaque

Canmore ID 46586

Site Number NS84SE 24

NGR NS 88114 43660

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

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

Archaeology Notes

NS84SE 24 8814 43660

(NS 8812 4366) Church on site of St Nicholas' Church (NR)

OS 1:500 map (1860)

Within the Burgh of Lanark there was a chapel dedicated to St Nicholas which existed in the 13th century. The whole establishment of this chapel was overthrown by the Reformation, and there is now no trace of its site.

G Chalmers 1890

The pre-Reformation Chapel of St Nicholas stood on the site of the present parish church (Rev R Russel-Brown, Old Parish Manse, Lanark).

No trace of the pre-Reformation chapel exists the present church is an 18th century structure and is still in use.

Visited by OS (JFC) 24 March 1955

The Lanark and District Archaeological Society were invited by the local minister, the Reverend John Thomson to look inside the church as renovations were in progress. These renovations meant that the floor had to be taken up as it was rotten in some areas.

Underneath the Victorian flooring was an accumulation chiefly of 18th and 19th-century rubbish. During the late 19th century part of the floor had been lifted to insert a heating system. As a consequence part of the area investigated was cut by a Victorian heating pipe. Close to this was found some plain 18th-century window glass and plaster work.

Further artefacts of the late 18th century were found including nails, clay pipe fragments and a piece of a wine bottle. These belong to the period when the present church was built.

Earlier objects included shroud pins and some 13th-century pottery. The pottery belongs to the period when the original church was built as a chapel. The shroud pins are earlier than the 17th century as the practise of church burial had ceased by then.

Fragments of human bones were found including bones belonging to a baby and several adults but no complete skeleton was found. However the structural finds were more interesting and these took the form of two lozenge-shaped pillar bases. These were thought to belong to the work of Thomas Twaddle in 1571 who erected some new pillars in the church.

Subsequent archaeological work (infra) was then carried out by GUARD since it was decided that Strathclyde Region should be consulted for help and advice.

Sponsor: Lanark and District Archaeological Society.

E Archer 1994a.

Minor excavations inside St Nicholas Church were prompted by the need to lay new foundation walls to support floor joists (see entry above), as part of a renovation programme. The destruction and clearance of the previous walls were monitored archaeologically and the trenches for the new walls were hand excavated.

Only those areas disturbed by the wall foundations were examined in detail, although all the upstanding remains visible beneath the opened floor at the time of the investigation were recorded. Traces of wall lines were exposed, including a substantial wall foundation which must be related to the earlier Medieval chapel building. An alignment of pillar bases, diagonal to the present church, may relate to post-Reformation use of the chapel. Six burials of a Medieval date were also uncovered and the bones were removed for re-interment at a future date. Finds included both Medieval and Post-Medieval pottery sherds, building detritus and seven fragments of architectural masonry.

Sponsor: Church of Scotland.

J Terry 1994b.

NS 881 436 Groundbreaking works unearthed a capped sandstone-built well next to St Nicholas Church, Bloomgate in May 2004. The well was drained and recorded prior to being infilled with hardcore. The well measured 1.7m in diameter and had a recorded depth of 5.2m; it consisted of 11 courses of sandstone blocking overlying a rubble-built lower course. Below this, at a depth of 4m, lay a large sandstone shelf covering approximately two-thirds of the well surface. This probably acted as a reservoir. The remains of a pump fastening were visible on the northern side of the structure. The well can be dated by documentary sources to 1662.

Archive to be deposited in the NMRS.

Sponsor: TRANSCO.

R Engl 2004

Architecture Notes


Site since 13th century but present church built 1774. Over the door is a sculpture by Robert Forrest (born 1790) of William Wallace.

Architect: William Leiper


National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh. Vol 1, No 57 of water colour sketches by Thomas Brown Advocate. Ref: "adv. Mss 34.8.1-3" See under "Water Colour Sketches Series of by Thomas Brown. Advocate."

Mitchell Library, Glasgow. Wm Graham Vol. 1 p.47. Photograph of Wallace statue.


Publication Account (1981)

The chapel of St. Nicholas possibly dates to the thirteenth century (Irving and Murray, 1864, ii, 263). Mary, Queen of Scots apparently gifted the structure to the town and council meetings were at times convened in it. Repairs were carried out on the chapel in the seventeenth century and additions made in the early eighteenth century included the erection of lofts (Renwick, 1893, xxv). The present parish church was built partially on the site of St. Nicholas Chapel, under an agreement with the heritors.

The present parish church stands in the centre of town. It was erected in 1774 and resulted in the removal of the market cross which supposedly spoiled the view of the church. An early nineteenth- century observer denounced the structure as 'in all respects insufficient and inelegant and not one thing tasteful, save its handsome pulpit' (Davidson, 1828, 38). These sentiments were echoed some years later by one who wrote that the church had 'no pretensions to architectural display' (Cowan, 1867, 36). The church is however, noted for its statue of the Scots hero William Wallace who, according to tradition, slew the English governor in Lanark in 1296.

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

Project (February 2014 - July 2014)

A data upgrade project to record war memorials.


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