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Blantyre Priory

A Scheduled Monument in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.8097 / 55°48'34"N

Longitude: -4.0984 / 4°5'54"W

OS Eastings: 268590

OS Northings: 659375

OS Grid: NS685593

Mapcode National: GBR 3Y.75G8

Mapcode Global: WH4QP.07NJ

Entry Name: Blantyre Priory

Scheduled Date: 5 November 1962

Last Amended: 11 October 2016

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2251

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Ecclesiastical: priory

Location: Blantyre

County: South Lanarkshire

Electoral Ward: Blantyre

Traditional County: Lanarkshire

Description

The monument is the remains of Blantyre Priory, a small monastery founded in the early 13th century. The priory is visible as a group of ruinous masonry structures and earthworks. Remains of the priory's main buildings lie at the eastern side of the site, on the edge of a cliff above the west bank of the River Clyde. The visible building remains cover an area measuring about 30m north-south by 12m transversely. The building at the north end has been identified as the prior's house. To the south lies a small courtyard and remains of at least three other stone buildings. A larger courtyard or 'garth' is located on higher ground to the west of the buildings. Parts of a boundary wall of roughly hewn sandstone blocks are visible enclosing the site to the north, west and south. A ditch with outer bank lies beyond the west boundary wall, extending for approximately 27m. The monument overlooks the River Clyde and stands about 20m above sea-level.

The scheduled area is irregular on plan to include the remains described above and an area around in which evidence for the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.  The scheduling specifically excludes the above-ground elements of all modern post and wire fences.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic Characteristics

The priory buildings are sited along a cliff on the west bank of the River Clyde. MacGibbon and Ross (1896-7) identified the building at the north end of the cluster as the prior's house. It comprises ground floor rooms separated by a stair well that gave access to a first floor. In 2014, the walls stood about 1.5m high being best preserved on the north side. A small courtyard lies south of this building at the west end and to the east is the east wall of a second building with windows overlooking the Clyde. To the south of the courtyard, a fragment of the west wall of a third building has been recorded as containing a stone basin or 'stoup'; this led to the suggestion that it was the chapel, though MacGibbon and Ross (1896-7) suggest that the church is more likely to have stood to the south of the visible buildings. Remains of a fourth building with evidence for a vault lie at the southeast end of the cluster. The boundary wall stood about 4m high in 2014 on the north side; on the west and south sides it was no more than 0.5m high. Beyond the west wall, the ditch and bank are substantial features; in 2014 the bank was some 1.5m high measuring from the base of the ditch. Although the upstanding remains are in ruinous condition, the monument appears to be in relatively stable condition, with high potential for buried archaeological remains to survive in good condition.

Study of both the upstanding structures and the buried remains has high potential to provide important information about the layout, development sequence and abandonment of the priory. There is particular potential for evidence about the position of the priory church, the relationship between the priory and the external ditch and bank, and any structural changes associated with the priory's later function as a private residence. More widely, the site has the potential to inform study of medieval monastic religious practice, society and economy.

Historical records suggest a development sequence, with the priory being founded in the first half of the 13th century and remaining in use until the Reformation in the later 16th century. The priory was secularised in 1599 and passed to the Stewarts who used the buildings as a private residence.  Lady Blantyre and her daughters left the priory in 1606 leaving Lord Blantyre behind. It is not clear when the priory was finally abandoned. For most of its occupation, the monument served spiritual, social and economic functions. Later, when it became secularised, it served a domestic function.

Contextual Characteristics

Priories often conform to a relatively standardised layout. This example is of particular interest as the arrangement has been partially dictated by the distinctive topography of the site. The priory has made good use of the steep cliffs to the east and the north to add to the physical and symbolical demarcation of the priory from the outside world, while making the buildings imposing. However, the uneven ground has confined the priory buildings to a relatively small area of flat land along the cliff edge, with the garth being positioned on higher ground between the buildings and the boundary wall to the west.

Bothwell Castle (scheduled monument reference SM90038, Canmore ID 44889) is located on the opposite bank of the River Clyde and faced the priory, but was not held by the families who endowed the priory. Blantyre Priory was probably founded by Patrick, Earl of Dunbar and his wife and was occupied by monks of the Augustinian order. Both Blantyre Priory and Restenneth Priory in Angus (SM 90246, Canmore 33745) were cells of Jedburgh Abbey (SM 13126, Canmore ID 57020).

Associative Characteristics

Historical sources suggest the abbey was founded by Patrick, Earl of Dunbar and his wife in the first half of the 13th century and maintained as a cell of Jedburgh Abbey. The priory was secularised in 1599 and passed to the Stewarts who used the buildings as a private residence.  Lady Blantyre and her daughters left the priory in 1606 leaving Lord Blantyre behind. It is not clear when the priory was finally abandoned.

The monument reflects medieval cultural preferences for the display of wealth and status through the patronage of monastic foundations. The form of the monument and its architectural details reflect medieval monastic spiritual devotion through worship, work and study.

National importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant contribution to our understanding of medieval monasteries, religious practice and the funding of monasteries by high status families. There is potential for relatively complex archaeology to survive which, along with analysis of the upstanding structures, can provide important information about the layout, development sequence and abandonment of the priory. In particular, there is potential to understand the position of the priory church, the relationship between the priory and the external bank and ditch and probable structural changes associated with the priory's later function as a private residence. The site is particularly important because this priory had a non-standard layout, showing how its builders responded to the opportunities and constraints of a cliff-top site. The loss of the monument would greatly diminish our ability to understand the character, chronology, adaptation and abandonment of one of Scotland's smaller monasteries.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

Historic Environment Scotland: http://www.rcahms.gov.uk/canmore.html CANMORE ID 44890 (accessed on 20.6.2016)

West of Scotland Archaeology Service HER Reference: WoSASPIN 9242 (accessed on 20.6.2016)

Coventry, M 2001, The castles of Scotland, Musselburgh, 92

Cowan and Easson, I B and D E 1976, Medieval religious houses in Scotland: with an appendix on the houses in the Isle of Man, London, 74

MacGibbon and Ross, D and T 1896-7, The ecclesiastical architecture of Scotland from the earliest Christian times to the seventeenth century , 3v Edinburgh, 3, 470-2

Canmore

https://canmore.org.uk/site/44890/


HER/SMR Reference

WoSASPIN 9242
http://www.wosas.net/wosas_site.php WoSASPIN 9242

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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