Ancient Monuments

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St Magnus' church,burial ground and hospital

A Scheduled Monument in Wick and East Caithness, Highland

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Latitude: 58.474 / 58°28'26"N

Longitude: -3.4439 / 3°26'38"W

OS Eastings: 315881

OS Northings: 954875

OS Grid: ND158548

Mapcode National: GBR K6VB.C48

Mapcode Global: WH6D9.289M

Entry Name: St Magnus' church,burial ground and hospital

Scheduled Date: 9 October 1992

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM5413

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Ecclesiastical: burial ground, cemetery, graveyard; Secular: hospital, hospice

Location: Halkirk

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Wick and East Caithness

Traditional County: Caithness


The monument consists of the remains of St Magnus' church, hospital and graveyard, situated on the farm of Spittal Mains.

The hospital is first recorded in a Royal charter of 1476. There was a church attached to it mentioned as, "the rectory of the church of (Spittal) called the hospital of St Magnus in Caithness." The chapel of the hospital served as the parish church of Spittal until the sixteenth century. The surviving upstanding remains belong to the chapel, the hospital having been demolished in the nineteenth century.

The chapel sits within a raised stony bank, containing a

burial ground used by the Clan Gunn. Burials partly overlie the footings of the hospital buildings, the S wall of which can be seen in the stony bank to the S of the chapel. The chapel itself is rectangular, of drystone construction, 19.9m E-W by 5.7m within walls 1.2m thick. Its W gable and side walls are reduced to a height of 1.7 to 1.9m.

The E gable stands to a height of 2.7m. The entrance is in

the S wall near the E end. A grave stone dated 1819 lies in the nave of the church. The complex is surrounded by the remains of a turf- covered stone enclosure wall.

The area to be scheduled is irregular, measuring a maximum of 100m E-W by 70m N-S, being within a recent boundary fence surrounding the chapel, hospital and burial ground. This area is marked in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance because it contains upstanding medieval ecclesiastical remains which can be documented, by a Charter of James III to William Sinclair, son of William Earl of Caithness, from 1476. The monument's importance is enhanced because it is the site of a hospital which was an important stage on two pilgrimage routes; the route N to St Magnus' in Orkney and that S to St Gilbert's at Dornoch.

There may be evidence to establish the range of international contacts brought about through the important medieval pilgrimage trade. The monument is a valuable resource as it provides evidence, and has the potential to provide further evidence, through excavation and analysis, which may increase our understanding of secular and religious architecture, monastic settlement, parish evolution, medical history, burial practices, and material culture during the medieval and early modern period.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as ND 15 SE 1.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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