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Bonkyl and Preston parish church, church 10m south of

A Scheduled Monument in Mid Berwickshire, Scottish Borders

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.8292 / 55°49'45"N

Longitude: -2.3071 / 2°18'25"W

OS Eastings: 380860

OS Northings: 659590

OS Grid: NT808595

Mapcode National: GBR D1B1.97

Mapcode Global: WH8WW.JRL4

Entry Name: Bonkyl and Preston parish church, church 10m S of

Scheduled Date: 10 December 1935

Last Amended: 27 September 2008

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM381

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Ecclesiastical: church

Location: Bunkle and Preston

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: Mid Berwickshire

Traditional County: Berwickshire

Description

The monument comprises the remains of the later medieval parish church of Bunkle. The monument survives as a well-preserved semi-circular apse and a rectilinear mound representing the site of the main church building and is situated immediately to the south of the present parish church at approximately 137m above sea level. The apse was originally scheduled in 1936, but an inadequate area was included to protect all of the archaeological remains; the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The apse, a small vaulted chamber situated behind the altar at the E end of the church, stands to its original height and has a slabbed stone roof. A plain and open semi-circular arch connected the apse to the choir (E end) of the church. The apse is approximately 3.2m by 2.1m within walls around 0.7m thick. In the post-Reformation period, the apse became a burial aisle owned by the Homes of Billie, the last recorded burial being in 1751. A weathered stone plaque, inscribed either 'Billie Aisle' or 'Billie 1820', hangs above the arched doorway and a semi-circular iron railing encloses the front of the apse. The small vaulted chamber within the apse was originally lit by small round-headed windows set high on the north-east and south-east. The windows are narrow on the outside but splayed widely inwards. Adjacent to the SE window is the remains of what may be a piscine (stone container for holy water). The rectilinear mound measures approximately 17m by 10m. The S wall of the present church overlies the N edge of the rectilinear mound.

The area to be scheduled is rectangular on plan, to include the remains described above and an area around within which evidence relating to their construction and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes the above-ground elements of all burial monuments, all active burial lairs, the iron railings around the apse and the upper 30cm of all paths, to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

The apse at Bunkle is a good example of 11th-century ecclesiastical architecture and represents an important survival as later medieval churches were often demolished in the post-Reformation period to build larger and more modern places of worship. Several churches in Berwickshire are known to contain 11th-century architecture but Bunkle is considered to be one of the earliest as its architecture is of a simpler style. The apse also illustrates post-Reformation burial practices, particularly the reuse of disused ecclesiastical structures as high-status places of burial and commemoration by prominent members of the local community. It is likely that the apse survived demolition in 1820 as it was being used as a burial vault. Comparison of the apse at Bunkle to other later medieval churches, both within Berwickshire and across Scotland, may illustrate both the spread and development of Norman ecclesiastical architecture.

The rectilinear mound, the outline of the later medieval church building, is not referred to by authors of earlier accounts of the site. As there appear to be relatively few burials within the area of the rectilinear mound, there is good potential for the survival of buried archaeological deposits. Such remains could inform us of the plan and layout of the main body of the church. Additionally, the area immediately surrounding the mound offers potential for evidence relating to the construction and subsequent development of the church.

Contextual characteristics

The monument formed part of a network of parish churches that covered later medieval Scotland and served as a central place for worship, prayer, baptism and burial for the local community. Part of the medieval Bishopric of Dunkeld, Bunkle church belonged to the wider organisation of religion in later medieval Scotland. Comparison of the local ecclesiastical architectural features in the area with those on other Scottish churches may enhance our understanding of regional variety in church buildings in the later medieval period. The monument lies near the remains of Bunkle castle (SM 2407), probably the administrative centre of a later medieval lordship and the focus of the village of Bunkle. As a result, Bunkle church was probably sited to be close to the seat of local power as well as the principal settlement in the parish.

Associative characteristics

The place name of Bunkle is variously given as Bonkyl, Buncle, Boncil and Bonckle in documentary sources and still used today.

Bunkle church is first documented in 1275 and is recorded as being a mensal church of the See of Dunkeld, meaning that its revenues were used to supply the needs of the bishop's table. It is likely that the church served this function from an earlier date, possibly from the beginning of the 12th century. Documentary sources also reveal that Bunkle was a perpetual vicarage, an arrangement where the priest was appointed for life. However, incumbents could resign their position, as was the case at Bunkle in 1378 when the priest petitioned the bishop so that he could resign his charge in favour of another parish.

Following the Reformation, the medieval parishes of Bunkle and Preston were united in 1621 and the churches in Preston and Bunkle remained in use for worship. Bunkle was evidently falling into disrepair by 1660 as the minister reported that he could not hold communion services owing to the building's poor condition. By 1669 church authorities ordered that all services were to be held at Preston and in 1670 orders were given for the removal of the roof at Bunkle to be removed and placed on the church at Preston. Contemporary records note that many of the parishioners near Bunkle attended open air services, often referred to as conventicles, rather than travel to Preston. In 1688 worship at Bunkle church was reinstated, in tandem with Preston. Substantial repairs are recorded in 1718 and Bunkle became the sole place of worship for the parish on the basis that the church enjoyed a central location. In 1820, the building was largely demolished and its masonry reused to build the present parish church.

Bunkle church appears on 17th-century maps of Berwickshire by Robert Gordon (1636-52) and Joan Blaeu (1654), while the former village of Bunkle is depicted in some detail on William Roy's 1747-55 Military Survey of Scotland and appears on Sharp, Greenwood and Fowler's 1826 map of Berwickshire. By the publication of the 1st edition of the Ordance Survey 6-inch map in 1855-57, the village no longer existed and only the manse, present church and the ruins of the apse are depicted.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to the understanding of the past, in particular later medieval ecclesiastical architecture, church organisation and religious practices in the Scottish Borders. As a whole, the site occupies an important place in Berwickshire's collection of later medieval monuments. The apse is an important survival as the simplicity of its architecture suggests that it may be one of the earliest 11th-century churches in Berwickshire. The apse also illustrates post-Reformation burial customs, in particular the reuse of earlier church architecture for high-status burial and commemoration by prominent individuals and their families. The rectilinear mound, site of the main body of the later medieval church, is a feature not previously recognised in earlier accounts of the site and may reveal important information about the layout and development of the building. The loss of the monument would impede our understanding of 11th-century church architecture at regional and national levels as well as our ability to understand the later medieval and Reformation periods in Scotland as a whole.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS record the monument as NT85NW 1. The site is recorded as 10311 by Scottish Borders Council SMR.

References:

Binne G A C 1995, CHURCHES AND CHURCHYARDS IN BERWICKSHIRE, G A C Binnie: Ladykirk

McGibbon D and Ross T, THE ECCLESIASTICAL ARCHITECTURE OF SCOTLAND FROM THE EARLIEST CHRISTIAN TIMES TO THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY, David Douglas: Edinburgh, Vol 1 314-16

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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