Ancient Monuments

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St Boniface's Church, church and hog-backed stone, Papa Westray

A Scheduled Monument in North Isles, Orkney Islands

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Latitude: 59.3575 / 59°21'27"N

Longitude: -2.902 / 2°54'7"W

OS Eastings: 348817

OS Northings: 1052705

OS Grid: HY488527

Mapcode National: GBR M460.1BK

Mapcode Global: XH8K9.J225

Entry Name: St Boniface's Church, church and hog-backed stone, Papa Westray

Scheduled Date: 6 October 1959

Last Amended: 20 November 2014

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM1484

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Papa Westray

County: Orkney Islands

Electoral Ward: North Isles

Traditional County: Orkney


The monument comprises the below-ground remains of St Boniface's Church, part of the surrounding burial ground, and a hog-backed tombstone. The upstanding church originally dates from the 12th century, but was remodelled in the 17th century and restored in 1993; it remains in occasional use and is a listed building. The area beneath and around the upstanding church is likely to contain buried archaeological remains relating to the various building phases and there is high potential for the presence of structures and other evidence relating to an earlier chapel or ecclesiastical site. There are also likely to be burials and gravemarkers spanning a considerable time-depth in the area around the church. The hog-backed stone is situated immediately to the E of the church. It is carved from red sandstone and measures approximately 1.5m long by 0.4m wide and is aligned E-W. Three rows of characteristic 'shingle' pattern are carved into the sloping sides of the stone. The monument is situated on the W coast of Papa Westray, overlooking Papa Sound, at around 5m above sea level. The monument was originally scheduled in 1959, but the documentation did not meet modern standards: the present amendment rectifies this.

The scheduled area is rectangular on plan, extending to 5m beyond the exterior walls of the church, except on the E side where it extends to approximately 10m beyond the church, to include the hog-backed stone. The scheduling includes the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes all parts of the present church building, extending down to the base of the floor slabs, and all fittings and fixtures within the church. The scheduling also excludes all burial lairs where rights of burial still exist and the above-ground elements of all burial monuments of 19th-century or later date.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance because of its potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular the development of Christianity, and the establishment and evolution of parishes in Orkney. There is very high potential for the survival of important archaeological deposits and structural foundations beneath and around the existing church, relating to the late Norse church and probably an earlier ecclesiastical site or chapel. There is also potential for the survival of burials and gravemarkers or carved stones spanning a considerable period of time. Overall the site has the potential to add to our understanding of the development of places of worship, church architecture and burial practice, as well as Norse influence in Orkney. The significance of the site is enhanced by its close proximity and strong associations with Munkerhoose, the impressive prehistoric and later settlement remains surrounding the burial ground to the N and W. The loss of this monument would impede our ability to understand the origins and development of Christianity and places of worship during the Pictish and Norse periods in Orkney.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the site as HY45SE 17 and HY45SE 17.1.

The adjacent and related settlement of Munkerhoose is scheduled separately as SM 1466.


Fisher, I 2002, 'Crosses in the ocean: some papar sites and their sculpture', in Crawford, B E The Papar in the North Atlantic: environment and history, St Andrews, 49.

Gibson, J 2008, Rising tides: the loss of coastal heritage in Orkney, Orkney College, 70-2.

Kirkness, W 1921, 'Notes on the discovery of a coped monument and incised cross-slab at the graveyard, St Boniface Church, Papa Westray, Orkney', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 55, 131-4.

Lang, J T 1974, 'Hogback monuments in Scotland', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 105, 230.

Lowe, C 1998, St Boniface Church, Orkney, Coastal Erosion and Archaeological Assessment.

Moore, H and Wilson, G 1998, 'Orkney Coastal Survey 1998, Westray, Papa Westray, Mainland', Discovery Excav Scot, 69.

RCAHMS 1946, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Twelfth report with an inventory of the ancient monuments of Orkney and Shetland, 3v Edinburgh, 179-80, no 518-20.

RCAHMS 1984, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. The archaeological sites and monuments of Papa Westray and Westray, Orkney Islands Area, The archaeological sites and monuments of Scotland series no 19 Edinburgh, 18-19, no 29.

Radford, C A R 1962, 'Art and architecture; Celtic and Norse' in Wainwright, F T 1962, The Northern Isles, Edinburgh and London, 169.

Rendall, J 2002, 'St Boniface and the mission to the Northern Isles: a view from Papa Westray' in Crawford, B E 2002, The Papar in the North Atlantic: environment and history, St Andrews, 31-37.

Ritchie, A 1996, Orkney, 'Exploring Scotland's Heritage' series, Edinburgh, 38, 98, 107-8.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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