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Cladh Cill Iain, chapel & burial ground 270m north east of Nerabus Farm, Islay

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

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.7125 / 55°42'45"N

Longitude: -6.416 / 6°24'57"W

OS Eastings: 122732

OS Northings: 655402

OS Grid: NR227554

Mapcode National: GBR BFJM.5ZJ

Mapcode Global: WGYH4.DPZ2

Entry Name: Cladh Cill Iain, chapel & burial ground 270m NE of Nerabus Farm, Islay

Scheduled Date: 2 December 1963

Last Amended: 21 June 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2364

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Ecclesiastical: chapel

Location: Kilchoman

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Kintyre and the Islands

Traditional County: Argyllshire

Description

The monument comprises the remains of a medieval chapel and burial ground of probable 12th- to 16th-century date in an island setting. The remains of the chapel and sub-oval wall of the burial ground are visible as low turf-covered earth and stone banks built into the hillside. The footings of the chapel measure 4.4m E-W by 2.7m transversely, within walls approximately 1m thick. The entrance is in the W wall. A burial ground surrounds the chapel. This measures approximately 15m E-W by 11m transversely and is enclosed by a turf-covered stone dyke up to 1.5m in width. There is an additional circular enclosure on the W side of the burial ground, which measures 8.3m S-N and 11.2m transversely, and may represent an extension to the burial ground at some point. The monument is located on an escarpment at 40m above sea level, within rough grazing grassland. Below the monument, the ground slopes towards the sea, 350m to the E. The monument was last scheduled in 1963, but an inadequate area was included to protect all of the archaeological remains: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan. It includes the remains described above and an area around them in which evidence relating to the monument's construction and use may survive, as marked in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes the above-ground elements of a telegraph pole.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The remains of the chapel and burial ground are in good condition with walls surviving up to 1m high in places. The dimensions, sub-circular shape of the enclosures and the drystone wall construction resemble other medieval chapels on Islay. As no excavation has so far taken place, the precise dating and duration of use of this chapel and burial ground are uncertain and no gravestones have been identified. It is most likely that Cladh Cill Iain was built and in use sometime between the 12th and 16th centuries, but it may have earlier origins.

The ground within the chapel and burial enclosure is uneven, with no visible features, but there is high potential for archaeological remains to survive below ground. Excavations at similar sites elsewhere in Scotland and Ireland have revealed varied and often rich archaeological remains. As the site at Cladh Cill Iain has not been disturbed by previous excavation, it is likely that important medieval and possibly earlier deposits survive, which could contribute towards our understanding of early church construction, burial practices and the origins, nature and duration of use of early ecclesiastical sites. Any skeletal remains could reveal evidence for health, diet, illness, cause of death and possibly occupational activities. There is also potential for the survival of carved stones within buried deposits. These could help us to refine the dating of the site, as well as contribute towards our understanding of early Christian art and sculpture.

Contextual characteristics

Cladh Cill Iain is a fine example of a medieval or earlier, small Christian chapel and burial ground, situated close to the coast in Islay, with views to the E. Small rural chapels with surrounding burial grounds are common in Islay, with at least 15 known examples. These include the remains of a pre-Reformation chapel nearby at Nereabolls, 500m to the SSW. The site at Nereabolls lies within a burial ground containing 15th- or early 16th-century monuments. It is believed locally to have been dedicated to St Columba and probably dates from the later Middle Ages. Cladh Cill Iain may represent a predecessor chapel. Some of these early Islay chapel sites may provide evidence of a Norse or pre-Norse origin. They may also preserve evidence for a distinct 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 in Scotland. Comparison of Cladh Cill Iain with similar examples in Islay could help us to gain a better understanding of the nature of religious provision for the lay population and the evolution and development of Christianity throughout Islay and the western seaboard of Scotland.

Associative characteristics

The site is not depicted on the first edition Ordnance Survey map. The place-name 'Cill' is Gaelic, meaning 'church' or 'burial ground', while 'Cladh' means 'burial place', which supports the interpretation of this site as an early place of worship for the lay population.

National Importance

The monument of Cladh Cill Iain is of national importance as a good example of an apparently undisturbed medieval chapel, enclosed within a sub-oval burial ground, possibly with a later extension. The key elements of the monument are well preserved and there is a high potential for the survival of medieval (and possibly earlier or later) burials to survive within the church and enclosure, together with potential for the preservation of associated archaeological and environmental evidence. Taken together with other outstanding examples of small chapel sites and burial grounds in Islay, this monument has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of early chapels and the spread of Christianity in Scotland and the Irish Sea region. The loss of Cladh Cill Iain would significantly diminish our ability to understand and appreciate the origins and nature of secular worship, and the development of early Christian sites in Islay and more widely across the west of Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS record the site as NR25NW 33. The West of Scotland Archaeology Service SMR reference is WOSASPIN 1952.

References:

Megaw and Cregeen, B R S and E R 1960, 'High Neribus', Discovery and Excavation in Scotland, p 21.

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, p 27-28; and p 230, no 385. Edinburgh.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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