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St Helen's Church, church & hog-backed monuments

A Scheduled Monument in East Berwickshire, Scottish Borders

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Latitude: 55.9287 / 55°55'43"N

Longitude: -2.3156 / 2°18'56"W

OS Eastings: 380376

OS Northings: 670666

OS Grid: NT803706

Mapcode National: GBR NFM1.KVW

Mapcode Global: WH8WH.D7KV

Entry Name: St Helen's Church, church & hog-backed monuments

Scheduled Date: 17 March 1936

Last Amended: 26 January 2000

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM382

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Crosses and carved stones: tombstone; Ecclesiastical: church

Location: Cockburnspath

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: East Berwickshire

Traditional County: Berwickshire


The monument consists of the remains of St Helen's Church, its kirkyard and associated funerary monuments. The monument was first scheduled in 1936. On this occasion, an inadequate area was included to protect all of the archaeological remains: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The remains of the church consist of a nave measuring 10.6m by 5.3m and a chancel measuring 4.7m by 3.4m. The E and S walls of the chancel only survive at ground level, but the N wall still stands 3-4m high. Parts of the N and S walls of the nave stand 1-2m in height. At the W end of the N and S walls, rough openings may indicate the position of two entrance doorways. The S wall also contains the remains of two arched recesses, which were perhaps tomb recesses. The W gable is almost complete to its wall head. The whole church was roofed with a barrel vault, of which only a few indications now remain.

The church largely dates to the 12th century with some alterations dating to the 15th century. The east gable, demolished in the mid-19th century, contained a narrow round-headed window with a deep and wide internal splay, with a single chevron detail around the arch and jambs. A round-headed chancel arch of two plain orders also existed. The west gable, the most complete wall of the structure, has angle buttresses, suggesting that this element of the structure was rebuilt in the 15th century. The wall has no openings but the interior of the gable has numerous putlog holes for supporting the scaffolding used during its construction. The barrel-vault over the nave may relate to this later building phase. The wall also contains a number of 12th century masonry fragments with chevron decoration.

The kirkyard contains a number of funerary monuments, most of which have been piled up at the S side of the church. Of particular importance are two fragments of a hogbacked stone and an intact hogbacked stone. The intact hogbacked stone has one side divided into three panels each containing a beast, while the other side is extremely worn, with only three rows of tegulae. The second fragmentary hogback is similarly decorated; on one side, there are carvings of beasts, while the other has rows of semicircular tegulae. Both are generally believed to date from the 11th century

The area to be scheduled includes the church, the kirkyard and its associated funerary remains. The area is five-sided and measures 65m from its easternmost to its westernmost points, and 65m from its northernmost to southernmost points, as marked in red on the attached map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance as an example of a 12th century parish church which continued in use until the late 17th century: as such it has great potential to contribute towards an understanding of medieval art, architecture, religious practices and material culture. Its importance is enhanced by the 11th century funerary monuments within the kirkyard which suggests that the 12th century church may have replaced an earlier structure.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



The monument is recorded in the RCHAMS as NT 87 SW 1.01


Lang, J T (1975) 'Hogback monuments in Scotland', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 105, 1972'4, 231.

Muir, T S (1862) 'Notice of the ancient church of St. Helen at Aldcambus, and of fragments apparently of a monastic building at Luffness', Proc. Soc. Antiq. Scot., 3, 1857'60.

RCAHMS (1915) The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions of Scotland. Sixth report and inventory of monuments and constructions in the county of Berwick, Edinburgh, 24'5, No. 46.

RCAHMS (1980) The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions of Scotland. The archaeological sites and monuments of Berwickshire District, Borders Region, The archaeological sites and monuments of Scotland series no 10, Edinburgh, 50, No. 442.

Reid, A (1914) 'The churches and churchyard memorials of St Helens on The Lea and Cockburnspath', Proc. Soc. Antiq. Scot., 48, 1913-14, 210'22.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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