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Kirkconnel old church and graveyard, 520m WNW of Springkell

A Scheduled Monument in Annandale East and Eskdale, Dumfries and Galloway

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Latitude: 55.0669 / 55°4'0"N

Longitude: -3.1755 / 3°10'31"W

OS Eastings: 325024

OS Northings: 575343

OS Grid: NY250753

Mapcode National: GBR 698V.9G

Mapcode Global: WH6XW.6X31

Entry Name: Kirkconnel old church and graveyard, 520m WNW of Springkell

Scheduled Date: 13 March 2008

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM11988

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Crosses and carved stones: sculptured stone (not ascribed to a more specific type); Ecclesiastical:

Location: Kirkpatrick-Fleming

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale East and Eskdale

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument comprises the remains of Kirkconnel old parish church and graveyard, first recorded in the late 12th century. It survives as a ruined building with associated memorials and gravemarkers and is located immediately E of the Kirtle Water, close to the supposed site of the medieval village of Kirkconnel. This scheduling incorporates an existing scheduled monument, which is in the care of Scottish Ministers.

The visible masonry within the graveyard consists of the remains of a mausoleum that was constructed as a burial aisle for the Maxwells of Springkell in 1725. It is probably remodelled from the nave of the former parish church. Measuring about 7m E-W by about 6m transversely, its mortared walls are rubble built with ashlar dressings and rusticated quoins. They measure about 0.7m thick and stand to an average height of about 3.5m. The W gable is complete and surmounted by an enclosed cross. An outside stair abuts the S wall, and traces of a barrel vault are visible within the building. A small enclosure containing memorials dating from the 18th century and a Great War memorial abuts the E side of the upstanding remains of the church. It is defined by a low wall surmounted by iron railings.

The mausoleum stands at the W end of a pronounced rectangular platform, suggesting that it stands on the W end of a larger, earlier building, the E foundations of which survive below the ground surface to the E of the mausoleum. Possible architectural traces of this earlier building are visible at the base of the W gable wall of the mausoleum. The bottom two visible courses of masonry of this wall inside the mausoleum are markedly different in character from the masonry above them. They are of a regularly-sized grey stone, whereas the masonry above is of random red sandstone rubble construction. It is possible that these bottom two courses are of earlier construction than the masonry above and may relate to a medieval church building on the site.

The burial ground is sub-circular in shape and is enclosed by a low iron-railed fence. A low, broad bank measuring up to about 0.3m high and up to about 2m wide runs within the fence for most of its circuit. This bank is probably the remains of an earlier boundary. The interior of the burial ground is uneven and contains headstones of 16th-century to 19th-century date, many of which are leaning, fallen or broken. There are also a number of table tombs, some of which have fallen, flush with the ground and others are partially buried. Two medieval gravestones, lying some 13m to the SE of the mausoleum (and in the care of the Scottish Ministers) are associated by tradition with the graves of Adam Fleming (allegedly the ill-starred lover of 'Fair Helen of Kirkconnel', from the ballad collected by Walter Scott for his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border), and the grave of Fair Helen herself. Both stones have chamfered margins. One, a slab measuring overall 1.42 by 0.47m by 0.17m thick, bears the outline of a sword with depressed quillons carved in false relief. This slab was reported in the late 18th century to have borne the inscription 'Hic jacet A[ ]m Flemeng', in Lombardic letters, but any inscription is now difficult to see.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include the remains described and an area around within which evidence relating to their construction and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. Specifically excluded from the scheduling are any active burial lairs and the above-ground elements of the surrounding iron-railed fence, to allow for their use and maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

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

The monument is a good example of a documented medieval church and graveyard, where the church was remodelled before the Reformation, abandoned in the 17th century and then adapted in the 18th century for use as a private family burial plot. Possible medieval fabric from the nave of the medieval church is upstanding in the W wall of the building. The monument is likely to retain buried features and deposits relating to the remainder of the medieval building, and so has the potential to tell us about the plan of the building and the use of internal space, as well as burial practice in the surrounding graveyard. The monument provides the opportunity to obtain a better understanding of the development of ecclesiastical architecture and religious life on a single site over a long period of time.

Contextual characteristics

First recorded in 1191, this church site lies close to the site of the deserted medieval village of Kirkconnel and would have served as a central place for worship, prayer, baptism and burial. Part of the see of Glasgow, it was part of the wider organisation of religion in medieval and post-medieval Scotland. Although not listed in the valuation rolls, the church apparently served as an independent parsonage lying within the patronage of the Carlyles of Torthorwald from at least 1529 to the Reformation. The parish of Kirkconnel was then united with Kirkpatrick Fleming and the church is presumed to have fallen out of use by after the early 17th century. Comparison of the local ecclesiastical architectural features in this area with those on other Scottish churches may enhance our understanding of regional variation in ecclesiastical architecture from the medieval period to the 19th century.

Associative characteristics

The monument is the product of medieval and post-medieval ecclesiastical, ritual and funerary practices. Developments in religious practice have affected the history of the site, particularly following the Reformation and the merging of Kirkconnel Parish with Kirkpatrick Fleming. Two of the gravestones in the burial ground have a strong association with the ballad of Fair Helen of Kirkconnel, which Walter Scott collected for his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has the inherent potential to make a significant addition to the understanding of the past, in particular the development of the medieval and post-medieval Church. It has the potential to add to our understanding of medieval and post-medieval ecclesiastical architecture, church organisation and religious practices in SW Scotland. The loss of this example would impede any future ability to understand these issues and the history of the medieval church in Scotland in general, and eastern Dumfries and Galloway in particular.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



The monument is recorded by RCAHMS as NY27NE1.00 (Kirkconnel, Old Parish Church) and NY27NE1.01 (Kirkconnel, Old Parish Church, Fair Helen's Tombstone) and in the Dumfries and Galloway Sites and Monuments Record as MDG12204 (Kirkconnel, Old Parish Church / Maxwell Mausoleum; Springkell House Policies; Kirkconnel Churchyard) and MDG12205 (Kirkconnel, Old Parish Church, Fair Helen's Tombstone).



Clough T H M and Laing L R 1969, ?Excavations at Kirkconnel, Waterbeck, Dumfriesshire, 1968?, TRANS DUMFRIESSHIRE GALLOWAY NATUR HIST ANTIQ SOC 3rd Series 46, 128-39.

Laing L 1968, ?Kirkconnel?, CURRENT ARCHAEOL 1(11), 302-4.

Laing L R and Talbot E J 1975, ?Excavations at Kirkconnel, Waterbeck, Dumfriesshire, 1970?, TRANS DUMFRIESSHIRE GALLOWAY NATUR HIST ANTIQ SOC 3rd Series 52, 88-94.

Landells T 1845, ?PARISH OF KIRKPATRICK-FLEMING, PRESBYTERY OF ANNAN, SYNOD OF DUMFRIES? in The New Statistical Account of Scotland, 13, 274-5.



Historic Environment Scotland Properties
Kirkconnel Stones
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Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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