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Tongland Abbey

Abbey (Medieval), Church (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Tongland Abbey

Classification Abbey (Medieval), Church (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) Old Tongland Parish Church

Canmore ID 64048

Site Number NX65SE 12

NGR NX 69768 53925

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2020.

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Administrative Areas

  • Council Dumfries And Galloway
  • Parish Tongland
  • Former Region Dumfries And Galloway
  • Former District Stewartry
  • Former County Kirkcudbrightshire

Archaeology Notes

NX65SE 12 6979 5391 to 6977 5392.

(NX 6979 5391) Tongland Abbey (NR)

Site of, 12th century Church (NR) (In Ruins)

OS 6" map (1852)

Church (NR) On site of Tongland Abbey (NR) 12th Century (NAT)

OS 25" map (1907).

A small fragment of Tongland Abbey which stands in the modern churchyard west of the church has been altered and adapted as a post Reformation church and now measures 48ft by 17ft 7ins inside with wall 2 to 4 feet thick standing, at the west gable,to about 19 feet high; elsewhere the walls are no more than 8 feet high. The north wall is perced by a doorway suggesting an early 17th century date. The modern church is said to occupy part of the site of the abbey.

D MacGibbon and T Ross 1896; RCAHMS 1914, visited 1911.

The Premonstratensian Abbey of Tongland was founded in 1218, probably by Alan of Galloway . In October 1529 the abbey is described as ruinous, with few monks remaining and, in the following January, it was united with the bishopric of Galloway.

D E Easson 1957

The remains of the church described above are at NX 6977 5392. Only part of the north wall and the west gable remain. The north wall is now c.9.0m long and c.3.0m high. The west gable stands to its full height of c.6.0m and is surmounted by a stone belfry. The doorway in the north wall formed part of Tongland Abbey, having been moved c.10.0m from its original position to be incorporated in the later church.

Visited by OS (WDJ) 1 February 1965

Architecture Notes

NX65SE 12 69768 53925

See also:

NX65SE 349 69794 53914 Tongland Parish Church


Geophysical Survey (1 May 2015 - 31 May 2015)

NX 69762 53894 (Canmore ID: 64048) A geophysical survey was undertaken, 1–31 May 2015, as part of the Magna Carta 800 Project, which aimed to detect remains of the Premonstratensian abbey and its associated monastic buildings. The area best suited for investigation was the lawn of the former manse lying to the immediate S of the N wall of the old parish church and SW of the later parish church. Resistivity and magnetometry survey of an 800m2 area recorded several anomalies, the largest of which may represent accumulations of stonework interconnected at greater depth by short stretches of wall. Lying c30m S of the old parish church wall, this complex, which corresponds to slight surface undulations, covers a c35 x 15m area and is orientated roughly NW/SE. Its S side has a well defined linear boundary.

Archive and report: Dumfries and Galloway Council HER

Funder: Tongland and Ringford Community Council

Richard Jones

(Source: DES, Volume 16)

Archaeological Evaluation (19 April 2016 - 6 July 2016)

NX 69762 53894 (Canmore: 64048) A programme of trial trenching was undertaken, 19 April – 6 July 2016, following a geophysical survey in 2015 by Richard Jones over the lawn of the former Tongland Manse (DES 2015, 60). The evaluation aimed to locate any structural evidence for the

Premonstratensian Abbey of Tongland, founded in 1218.

Three trial trenches were excavated on the N and E periphery of the survey area. A fourth was excavated in the SE corner of the lawn to investigate a particularly clear, linear positive anomaly. Trench 1 in the N revealed a 0.6m wide wall foundation, aligned cN/S and parallel to the extant W gable of the former parish church, built in 1633. An early 19th-century drawing of the church suggests that this served as a retaining wall for an access path to a doorway in the gable.

Trenches 3 and 4, to the E of the lawn, indicated that this part of the Manse garden has been considerably raised by deposition of material in the late 19th to early 20th century. This created a terrace over the natural slope down to the River Dee to the E. Consequently, any archaeological evidence for the abbey and its precinct in this part of the site may now lie at some depth.

Trench 5 was placed over the positive anomaly in the lawn, which proved to be a section of an abandoned 18th-century road running N through the site from the Old Tongland Bridge. The line of the road is depicted on a plan

of 1794 surveyed by John Gillone. The road foundation lay over a distinct occupation level characterised by small and amorphous areas of burnt earth and charcoal and a relatively high density of animal bone. The only artefact found in this context was a disc-shaped stone gaming counter, of c28mm diameter, similar to examples found at Whithorn Priory in early medieval contexts. The occupation level may therefore possibly relate to an outlying area of the Abbey precinct.

Archive: NRHE (intended). Report: Dumfries and Galloway HER and NRHE

Funder: Dumfries and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society

David Devereux

(Source: DES, Volume 17)

Archaeological Evaluation (18 April 2017 - 31 October 2017)

NX 69764 53916 (Canmore ID: 64048) A further programme of trial trenching was undertaken, 18 April – 31 October 2017, in Mansewood, Tongland, with the objective of establishing more precisely the location of the principal structures forming the Premonstratensian Abbey of Tongland, founded in 1218, (see DES 2015, 60; DES 2016, 53–54 for previous work).

Three main trenches were opened at the N end of the garden, immediately to the S and SW of the ruin of Tongland Old Parish Church. These revealed that the ground level here had been raised by 0.5-0.6m by the spreading of natural subsoil over the area, thereby burying the previous ground surface. This activity may be related to civil engineering works for the construction of the nearby Tongland Hydro- Electric Power Station in the 1930s. Subsequent excavation of the buried top soil revealed a post-medieval demolition layer overlying stone wall foundations. A 6m length of a substantial, c1.30m wide foundation aligned cNE/SW was exposed in Trench 6, and could be seen continuing beyond the N and S limits of the trench. There was no evidence for a parallel foundation in Trench 7 immediately W of Trench 6. However, the corner of an c0.8m wide wall foundation was found here, with a drainage channel through it. This may

indicate a rectangular structure butted against the broader wall. On the assumption that part of the standing N wall of the Old Parish Church is an original section of the S wall of the abbey’s nave, or possibly its S aisle, then the broad NE/ SW wall foundation might be identified as that of the W or outer wall of the W range of the abbey cloister. If so, then the cloister yard would lie to the SE of the area investigated this year, but further trial trenching will be required to test this hypothesis.

One notable find was a Nuremberg jeton or ship penny, of possible mid-16th-century date, which was found in Trench 7 on a possible outer yard surface to the W of the presumed W cloister range.

Archive: NRHE (intended). Report: DGC HER and NRHE

Funder: Hunter Archaeological and Historical Trust

David Devereux

(Source: DES, Volume 18)


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