Kilbride Wins Scheduled Monument Status

Historic Environment Scotland has awarded Kilbride churchyard, including the church, graves, and MacDougall Memorial Aisle, Scheduled Monument Status as of 14 June 2019.

Citing its national importance, HES states:

“The national importance of the monument is demonstrated in the following way(s) (See Annex 1 para 17 of principles and practice for designation):

a.  The monument is of national importance because it makes a significant contribution to our understanding or appreciation of the past as a medieval and post-Reformation ecclesiastical site. In particular it adds to our understanding of ecclesiastical foundations, architecture and religious practices.

b.  The monument retains structural, architectural and other physical attributes which make a significant contribution to our understanding or appreciation of the past. In particular there is potential for the preservation of buried features and deposits, including architectural remains and burials, and a significant group of late medieval grave slabs survive within the churchyard.

d.  The monument is a particularly good example of a multi-period ecclesiastical site. Kilbride appears to have been a particularly significant church in medieval Argyll and was used and developed over a long period of time. It is therefore an important representative of this monument type.

e.  The monument has research potential which could significantly contribute to our understanding of the past. It can help us understand much about ecclesiastical architecture and the role of the church in medieval and post-Reformation society. It has the potential to make a significant contribution to our knowledge of changing belief and religious practice and the development of places of worship over an extended time period. It can add to our understanding of the origins and development of places of worship in Scotland and the role of the church in wider medieval and post-Reformation life.

g.  The monument has significant associations with historical and traditional events. It is traditionally associated with the 6th century St Bride/Brigit. Kilbride is mentioned in a 13th century grant by Alexander II, which is confirmed by Robert I and James IV.

Assessment of Cultural Significance

This statement of national importance has been informed by the following assessment of cultural significance.

Intrinsic characteristics (how the remains of a site or place contribute to our knowledge of the past)

The churchyard is roughly oval on plan and is laid out over two levels: a lower eastern section and a raised western section. The lower section contains the remains of the church and the MacDougall burial aisle. The church survives as a substantial rectangular structure which is aligned east/west. It is believed that the present structure was built in 1706, though records indicate there was a church on the site from at least the 13th century. The east/west alignment of the church suggests that the existing building occupies the site of the earlier medieval church. Carved stonework dating to the 13th century and the 15th or early 16th century is incorporated into the surviving building. The church was remodelled in the 18th century and in the mid-19th century a session-house was added to the north elevation.

The MacDougall burial aisle was built in 1786 and survives as a substantial structure enclosing a number of grave slabs of 18th century and later date. The burial ground contains a large collection grave slabs. The majority date from the late 17th century but a number are of late medieval date, of which at least nine have been identified as West Highland funerary monuments dating from the 14th to the 16th centuries. The medieval grave slabs are largely found in the raised western section of the churchyard. The grave slabs have the potential to expand our understanding of commemoration, memorialization and belief in late medieval and post-Reformation Scotland. They can help further the study of craftsmanship, design influences and artistic significance of late medieval and post-Reformation stone carving.

Kilbride is first mentioned in 1249 when Alexander II granted it as a mensal church to the see of Argyll. There was, therefore, a church at Kilbride from at least the mid-13th century, and probably earlier. Carved masonry from an earlier building incorporated into the existing church indicates the medieval church had at least two phases of construction, dating to the 13th century and the late 15th or early 16th century. The earliest dated grave slabs are 14th century in date.

After the Reformation the parish of Kilbride was united with Kilmore but retained its own church at Kilbride. In 1671 it was reported that the medieval church at Kilbride was ‘altogether demolished’. A new meeting house was built in 1706, probably on the site of the earlier church, incorporating fabric from that building.  Alterations were carried out in 1744 and the MacDougall burial aisle constructed in 1786. Shortly after 1794 the churchyard was enclosed. In 1842-3 restoration work was carried out on the church and a session house built at the centre of the north wall. In 1876 the church was partly demolished and a new church was built at Cleigh.

There is good potential for the survival of archaeological deposits spanning several centuries within, beneath and around the remains of the church and within the churchyard. These include structural remains, human burials, artefacts and environmental remains such as charcoal or pollen. The buried archaeological deposits have the potential to add to our understanding of ecclesiastical structure, land-use and environment during the medieval and post-reformation periods. They can clarify the location and layout of the 13th century church and any predecessors, their nature, date and development sequence. There are likely to be burials spanning a considerable time-depth within the church and churchyard, with potential to enhance our knowledge of status and burial practice at medieval and post-Reformation ecclesiastical sites.

The monument was used and developed over a long period of time. It offers high potential to study changes in belief and religious practice over an extended time period. Scientific study of the form and construction of the church and churchyard has the potential to clarify the date of the remains and the development sequence at this site. It can provide information about the design, construction and development of a medieval and post-Reformation ecclesiastical site.

Contextual characteristics (how a site or place relates to its surroundings and/or to our existing knowledge of the past)

In the medieval period, Kilbride was the centre of a parish which encompassed the island of Kerrera and the area between Loch Feochan and Loch Etive. It was part of a network of parish churches covering Scotland and served as a central place of worship, prayer, baptism and burial for the local community. It is of particular significance because of its long history as an ecclesiastical site. Comparison of the local ecclesiastical architectural features in this area with those on other Scottish churches has the potential to enhance our understanding of regional variation in ecclesiastical architectural in the medieval and post-Reformation periods.

West Highland gravestones are found in the West Highlands and date from the 14th century until after the Reformation. They are part of an art form that is distinctive to the Gaelic Scottish west coast and highlands. They form the largest group of surviving late medieval gravestones in Scotland and many parish church graveyards in Argyll that have medieval origins have examples of such sculpture. Those at Kilbride are significant because of their number and concentration. It is likely those in the west section of the churchyard are on or close to their original location. The West Highland gravestones at Kilbride therefore have the potential to expand our understanding of the extent and nature of Gaelic culture, social and ecclesiastical links within the west coast and the highlands and more widely.

The church and churchyard are positioned on a prominent knoll within the Lerags Glen. The monument would have been a prominent feature and focal point in the landscape.

Associative characteristics (how a site or place relates to people, events, and/or historic and social movements)

The church at Kilbride is traditionally associated with the 6th century St Bride/Brigit, as indicated by the name of Kil-bride meaning the “church of Bride”. The church at Kilbride is first mentioned in 1249 when Alexander II granted it as a mensal church to the see of Argyll. This may have been an unsuccessful attempt to move the seat of the Bishopric from Lismore to Kilbride, indicating the significance of Kilbride at this time. This grant was confirmed by Robert I in 1324/5 and James IV in 1507.”

For more information, visit http://portal.historicenvironment.scot/designation/SM3761