Ancient Monuments

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Ellem Church, church and burial ground

A Scheduled Monument in Mid Berwickshire, Scottish Borders

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Latitude: 55.8342 / 55°50'3"N

Longitude: -2.435 / 2°26'5"W

OS Eastings: 372851

OS Northings: 660197

OS Grid: NT728601

Mapcode National: GBR C0FZ.MF

Mapcode Global: WH8WT.KMP8

Entry Name: Ellem Church, church and burial ground

Scheduled Date: 18 January 2010

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12471

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Ecclesiastical: burial ground, cemetery, graveyard

Location: Cranshaws

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: Mid Berwickshire

Traditional County: Berwickshire


The monument comprises the former parish church of Ellem and an associated burial ground surrounding the structure. It survives as the largely turf-covered footprint and lower courses of a ruined building surrounded by uneven ground that contains a number of burials and burial markers. The church was dedicated by the Bishop of St Andrews on 11 March 1243 by which time it had been annexed to the Hospital at Duns. The church occupies the crest of a small hill that overlooks the Whiteadder Water at a height of around 175m above sea level.

The church measures around 17m ENE-WSW by around 5m transversely. Although most of the walls now survive as only turf-covered footings, an upstanding fragment of the S wall survives and this measures approximately 3m in length, 1m thick and stands to around six courses high. Little evidence survives for the surrounding burial ground mentioned in records in 1667. There are two gravestones surviving to the south of the S wall fragment, along with part of a third.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include the remains described and an area around within which associated remains may be expected to be found, as shown in red on the accompanying map. Specifically excluded are the above-ground elements of the post-and-wire fence to the north and the wooden fence to the east, 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

Rural church sites of the later medieval period rarely survive in any upstanding form and Ellem Church is a reasonable well-preserved example of its type. Ellem Church is also of unusually large size, given the size of the parish it formerly served. Although little of the building fabric survives, we know that that a church existed here from the 13th century and the present visible remains relate to a church that went out of use in 1713 and was ruinous by 1660. Many similar churches were reused as burial enclosures after they fell out of use, but this does not appear to have happened at Ellem, suggesting the surviving fabric remains unmodified (unlike other examples). There is excellent potential for the preservation of buried deposits around the church that could reveal earlier places of worship on this site as well as illustrating the construction and subsequent development of the present building. The burial ground is likely to contain interments associated with one or more of the phases of use of the church.

Contextual characteristics

This church was part of a network of parish churches covering Scotland and served as a central place for worship, prayer, baptism and burial for the local community. Ellem parish lay within the jurisdiction of the See of St Andrews and was part of the wider organisation of religion in later medieval Scotland. Comparison of the local ecclesiastical architecture in this area with those of other Scottish churches may enhance our understanding of regional variation in ecclesiastical architectural in the later medieval period. The location of the church, on a small hill crest overlooking the valley of the Whiteadder Water with good views to the west along the river, gives it a relatively dominant position in the landscape.

Associative characteristics

Ellem Church was dedicated in 1243 by David de Bernham, the Bishop of St Andrews, on the same day he dedicated nearby Longformacus Church. The church was annexed to the Hospital of Duns prior to 1274 and remained so until 1394. The church regained its independent status between 1394 and 1501 when it was annexed to Stirling Chapel Royal by Pope Alexander VI. On 15 September 1496, James IV, on his way to England in support of Perkin Warbeck, held a council of war with his army's commanders at Ellem Church, while the army camped outside on the level ground to the west of the Church. King James V proceeded to unite the church with Restalrig Collegiate Church in 1527. In 1611 the parish of Birkenside was founded, which included the kirklands of Ellem. In 1660 the church was ruinous and by 1667 the churchyard was unfenced. In the 1680s, work was planned for the church repairs and money assigned, but the work may not have taken place given the impending closure of the church. The parish was united with Longformacus on 13 February 1712 and Ellem Church closed with the passing of its last minister on 21 October 1713.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular later medieval church organisation and religious practices in SE Scotland. This potential is enhanced by the relative rarity of upstanding and unaltered later medieval churches in rural locations, and the unusually large size of this example enhances its value. Ellem Church possesses significant historical importance and is well-supported by documentary sources. In particular, the site has a strong link with the Stuart monarchy, with James IV holding a council of war here on one of his many expeditions to England. The loss of this monument would impede our understanding of later medieval parish churches in SE Scotland and our ability to understand the later medieval and Reformation periods in Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the site as NT76SW 4: Ellem Church.


Binnie G A C 1995, The Churches and Graveyards of Berwickshire, Berwick-upon-Tweed: Binnie.

Cowan I B 1967, 'The parishes of medieval Scotland', Scot Rec Soc 93, 126-7.

RCAHMS 1915, Sixth Report and Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the County of Berwickshire, Edinburgh: HMSO, 152, No. 267.

New Statistical Accounts 1845, The New Statistical Account of Scotland by the Ministers of the Respective Parishes under the Superintendence of a Committee of the Society for the Benefit of the Sons and Daughters of the Clergy: (Berwickshire), Edinburgh, 97, Vol 2.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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