Ancient Monuments

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Kirkbrae House, burial vault 65m ENE of

A Scheduled Monument in Inverclyde South West, Inverclyde

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Latitude: 55.9098 / 55°54'35"N

Longitude: -4.8634 / 4°51'48"W

OS Eastings: 221120

OS Northings: 672224

OS Grid: NS211722

Mapcode National: GBR 30.0RFR

Mapcode Global: WH2MG.8QBC

Entry Name: Kirkbrae House, burial vault 65m ENE of

Scheduled Date: 31 March 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12814

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Ecclesiastical: burial avile/vault

Location: Inverkip

County: Inverclyde

Electoral Ward: Inverclyde South West

Traditional County: Renfrewshire


The monument comprises the upstanding remains of an 18th-century burial vault, which incorporates and overlies the remains of the medieval parish church of Inverkip. The monument is located within the eastern half of an associated burial ground. The burial vault was built by the Shaw Stewart family, prominent local landowners. The burial ground remained in use after the demolition of the church and the last burials date to around 1970. The monument lies on a NNW-facing slope, around 30m above sea level and around 175m south-east of the south shore of the River Clyde.

The vault is an unroofed single-cell rectangular structure that measures around 9m N-S by around 5m transversely. The walls stand to a height of about 4m. The doorway is located at the north end of the west side of the structure. The vault is located on the east end of a large level area, approximately 20m E-W by about 18m transversely. This level area is likely to represent the building platform of the medieval church.

The area to be scheduled is irregular in plan, bounded on the east, north-east and south-east by the stone dyke enclosing the burial ground, to include the remains described and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. Specifically excluded are the above-ground elements of the stone dyke, gravestones and tombs, 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 burial vault is an upstanding, unroofed structure. The walls are constructed of roughly squared rubble with sandstone ashlar margins and facing. The west wall has an ashlar facing, giving it a uniform appearance, and the other three walls show evidence of varying construction techniques, perhaps indicating different phases. It is probable that some, if not all, of the rubble came from the demolished medieval church and the vault potentially incorporates other material from the chancel. The interior of the north wall has a blocked aperture, probably a window. There are marks indicating a pitched roof line visible on the interior south wall, and evidence that the walls were built up above this roofline at a later date. The vault is aligned north-south, possibly as a result of being located at the point of partition within the chancel Powerful local figures are often buried in the prestigious location in front of the altar within a church. The position and alignment of the vault at the east side of the burial ground may indicate that it directly overlies and is a continuation of such a burial location.

The vault is located at the east end of a noticeably level area, interpreted as the building platform of the demolished medieval church. The extant upstanding grave markers all post-date the demolition of the church in the late 1700s. The graves to the west of the vault are on a slightly different alignment to the rest of the burial ground, and are noticeably fewer in number, again suggesting the former presence of the church ruins. The church fell into disuse in the 1700s and probably escaped the repeated post-Reformation rebuilding that has taken place on the sites of many medieval churches in the region. Apart from the later burials, it is likely that the below-ground elements of the church are relatively undisturbed. A number of earlier gravestones, many illegible, have been relocated against the boundary wall of the burial ground and at the north exterior end of the burial vault.

There is a high potential for well-preserved foundations and other archaeological remains of the church to lie beneath the vault and the level area on which it stands. These have the capacity to add to our understanding of the 12th-century church, its plan and internal arrangements, and the development and elaboration of its architecture and use through time. There may also be evidence related to the demise, ruin and demolition of the church.

In addition, the upstanding grave markers and graves have the potential to inform us of the development of burial architecture and traditions over time. The grave markers have the capacity to contribute to knowledge of local genealogy. The graveyard served the population from Kilmacolm to Largs for 400 years. It is likely that human interments spanning some 800 years, from the establishment of the medieval church onwards, remain in the burial ground. The potentially well-preserved remains of this population have the capacity to inform our understanding of human pathology over a significant length of time.

Contextual characteristics

The vault and burial ground are located on a NNW-facing slope on the south side of the Clyde Estuary. There are good views over the lower ground to the north and north west. The monument is located around 845m SSE of Ardgowan House, the home of the Shaw Stewarts, for whom the vault was built, and the estate is visible from the monument. On the interior east wall are eight plaques commemorating members of the Shaw Stewart family. The earliest of these is dated 1796 and commemorates Sir John Stewart.

Inverkip was a large rural and coastal parish which encompassed Gourock, Greenock, Kilmacolm and Largs. The church was founded around 1169 and was given shortly afterwards to Paisley Abbey, a Cluniac foundation introduced into the area by David I in 1163. It is not clear if the church was actually founded by the monks, but it was held by the Abbey until the Reformation. The Reformation of the Church in the 16th century led to many monastic estates being given to major Scottish landowners, and it may be at this time that the church and associated lands were amalgamated into the Ardgowan Estate. Its replacement was built at the turn of the 19th century on a new site around 145m to the WSW. The monastic associations of the early church are not unusual in southern Scotland and it possible that the first church was similar to an English minster before the Norman Conquest. The emergence of the parish system in the late 11th to early 12th centuries saw church foundation and endowment being viewed as a duty by those in positions of power and influence. The Church received royal support where it was seen as an instrument of royal policy, with religious establishments and their occupants seen as helping to advance central royal authority. Inverkip is located in the south of Scotland where the parish system took root most firmly.

The monument has the potential to further our knowledge of early church foundations in SW Scotland, of which comparatively few examples are known to have survived without substantial later remodelling. There is also an inherent capacity for the monument to add to our understanding of the establishment and organisation of the parish system and the relationships this system had with the incoming Norman feudal system of centralised royal control. The medieval period in west Scotland has been identified as a period requiring further research. This monument has an inherent potential to contribute to and augment the existing body of knowledge.

Associative characteristics

The importance of the monument is greatly enhanced by its associated documentary sources and the historical events and persons they describe. In the year 1170 the Sheriff of Lanark and the primary agent for royal power in the area, Baldwin de Biggar, gave a grant of land between the Daff and the Kip to the Cluniac monks of Paisley Abbey. By 1188 a church had been built on the site. It is not clear if this replaced an earlier structure, but some sources claim a church was founded in 1169 before the land was given to Paisley Abbey. In the 15th century, the land at Inverkip appears to have been held by or was in the gift of the king. The Ardgowan estate came into the hands of the Stewart (later Shaw Stewart) family in 1403 when the estate was given to Sir John Stewart by Richard III, his natural father. The church may have become part of this estate at the Reformation.

The decline of the church appears to date from the time of the Reformation and is related to the construction in 1592 of the church in Greenock, approved by royal charter. Inverkip was sometimes called 'Auld Kirk' as a result of the new construction and is referred to as such on Roy's military survey of 1747-55. John Schaw erected the new church at his own expense in order that his tenants could worship in a reformed way. The new church was opened in 1591 and in 1592 Greenock was formally separated from Inverkip. The association of the Shaw Stewarts with the church and the construction of their burial vault within the burial ground is interesting. The estate has its own chapel, that of St Michael and All Angels, which was built in the 1850s. The burial vault may have functioned as an interim place of interment and worship between the demolition of the existing church and construction of the private chapel.

Against the north end of the east wall of the vault is located the grave and double memorial headstone of James 'Paraffin' Young (1811-83) and his wife Mary. James Young was a Scottish chemist best known for his method of distilling paraffin from coal. The establishment of the works at Bathgate, West Lothian, in 1851 have been described as the first truly commercial oil works in the world. Other companies worked under license from Young's firm, and paraffin manufacture spread over the south of Scotland and progressed to the shale oil industry. This industry became a major source of income and employment for Scotland, which as a country led the world in mineral oil extraction. James is described as the founding father of the modern petro-chemical industry.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular to the study of medieval ecclesiastical architecture, religious practices, and the development of funerary monuments in Inverclyde. The footings of the church are an important survival of a medieval structure not disturbed by post-Reformation remodelling and the footprint may reveal important information about the layout and development of the medieval building. The monument also has the capacity to illustrate and enhance our knowledge of the practical effects of the Reformation and sectarian tensions within this area and on a national scale. The monument has an inherent potential to inform our understanding of burial practice and funerary architecture through time, as well as human pathology and local genealogy. Analysis of the distribution of this and contemporary ecclesiastical sites may reveal valuable information on the layout and patterns of pre-Reformation religious sites within the landscape. The loss of the monument would impede our understanding of medieval church architecture at regional and national levels, and would affect our ability to understand the history and development of burial fashions in the medieval and later periods across northern Britain.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as NS27SW 9. The West of Scotland Archaeology Service records this site as 5974. Copies of these reports are appended.


Groome, F H 1885, Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical. Edinburgh.

Innes, C N (ed), Origines Parachiales Scotiae: the antiquities ecclesiastical and territorial of the parishes of Scotland, Vol I. Edinburgh

Moisley H A et al, 1962b The third statistical account of Scotland: the county of Renfrewshire and the county of Bute.

Ordnance Survey Object Name Book

Snoddy T G 1937 Round About Greenock.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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