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Nereabolls, chapel and burial ground 270m south west of Tigh-na-Cross, Islay

A Scheduled Monument in Kintyre and the Islands, Argyll and Bute

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.7078 / 55°42'28"N

Longitude: -6.4193 / 6°25'9"W

OS Eastings: 122493

OS Northings: 654897

OS Grid: NR224548

Mapcode National: GBR BFJM.JH3

Mapcode Global: WGYH4.CSFN

Entry Name: Nereabolls, chapel and burial ground 270m SW of Tigh-na-Cross, Islay

Scheduled Date: 2 December 1963

Last Amended: 31 May 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2368

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Kilchoman

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Kintyre and the Islands

Traditional County: Argyllshire

Description

The monument comprises the remains of a chapel, burial ground and seven West Highland graveslabs likely to date from the 14th to 15th centuries. The chapel is visible as the turf-covered foundations of stone walls standing up to 0.8m high. It is of elongated rectangular plan, measuring 15m E-W by 8.5m transversely within grass-covered walls spread to 2.5m wide. Immediately S of the chapel is a burial ground measuring 20m E-W by 15m transversely. Within the burial ground, are seven West Highland graveslabs mounted on a low stone-walled enclosure with glass covering and an adjacent stone interpretation panel. These abut the S wall footings of the chapel. The turf-covered remains of a smaller oblong-shaped building and a low enclosing bank lie in the SW corner of the burial ground. The monument lies close to the E bank of the burn known as Abhainn Ardnish, at an altitude of 10-20m above sea level. The site is located on gradually sloping farmland that faces SE towards the rocky coast 300m away, with views to the E and SE over Loch Indaal and beyond. The monument was first scheduled in 1963, but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan and includes the remains described above 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. The scheduling excludes modern fencing and gates, and the above-ground elements of the interpretation plinth and the walled enclosure with glass cover containing the graveslabs, but includes the graveslabs themselves.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The turf-covered walls of the rectangular chapel survive in good condition. The walls are constructed of local random rubble masonry, and there is some evidence of traces of lime mortar in places where intact areas of the internal masonry are visible. The floor of the interior of the chapel is raised, which may be due in part to field clearance or later burials. The accumulation of stones cleared from the field is also evident in several piles of stone within the burial ground and in the banks that surround the site. Potential future excavation of the site would give a better understanding of the origins, use and development sequence of the various structures on this site. Excavations at similar sites elsewhere in Scotland and Ireland have revealed varied but rich archaeological remains. It is likely that deposits survive here that could contribute towards our understanding of early church construction and architecture, and provide evidence for how the site was used and its duration of use. There is high potential for the presence of graves, both within and outside the footprint of the chapel. Skeletal remains could reveal evidence for health, diet, illness, cause of death and possibly occupational activities. The site preserves outstanding evidence of the quality of late medieval carved stones. The seven graveslabs are not in their original positions, but presented and protected within a specially constructed stone enclosure at the site. They display ornate motifs and designs typical of the Iona school and are likely to date to the 14th-15th centuries. These carved stones make a significant contribution to our understanding of early Christian art and sculpture and help to refine our understanding of the dating sequence and use of this site.

Contextual characteristics

This site at Nereabolls is a fine example of a small chapel with burial ground, including seven preserved West Highland graveslabs. It has particular value as part of a group of similar small rural chapels in Islay, of which at least 15 examples are known. In the immediate vicinity, 70m to the NE, are two other burial grounds, now contained within the modern cemetery, which also preserve medieval carved stones and may be associated with this chapel. A separate medieval chapel site known as Cladh Cill Iain is located on higher ground 500m to the NE. Together, these sites provide distinctive evidence for Irish influence in Scotland during a crucial period in Scottish history and can help us to understand early politics, as well as the origins and spread of Christianity throughout Islay and the western seaboard of Scotland.

Associative characteristics

A chapel and burial ground is depicted on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map and the chapel is labelled 'In Ruins'. The chapel lay within the medieval parish of Kilchoman. It is locally believed to have been dedicated to St Columba during the Middle Ages, when the five merklands of Nereabolls belonged to the Augustinian Abbey of Derry. About 1498, the Islay lands of the Monastery of Derry were annexed to the Bishopric of the Isles. Shortly after this, Nereabolls was given, with some other lands, in feu charter by the bishop to the Maclean of Duart. A cross also of 14th-15th century date was removed from the site and is now in the Museum of Islay Life, Port Charlotte. Lombardic inscriptions on this cross suggest that it was erected by the Mackays, who were appointed hereditary officers of the Rinns of Islay by the Lords of the Isles.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance as a medieval ecclesiastical site that can enhance our understanding of the construction and use of early church buildings in Argyll. Important archaeological remains relating to the origins, use and development of the site around the 14th century are expected to survive, including burials and possibly more carved stones. Its significance is enhanced by opportunities for comparison with similar sites in Islay, including two nearby burial grounds and a chapel site at Cladh Cill Iain. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our ability to understand and appreciate the origins, nature and spread of early Christianity in Islay and more widely across the west of Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

References:

RCAHMS 1984a, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Argyll: an inventory of the monuments volume 5: Islay, Jura, Colonsay and Oronsay, Edinburgh, p. 228-230, no. 384.

Lamont W D 1968, Ancient and medieval sculptured stones of Islay, Glasgow, p. 31-5, 41, 44, 47, 53, 56.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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