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Auldhame Cemetery And Chapel / Seacliff
- HER number: MEL1943
- HER number: MEL1743
- Site Name: Auldhame Cemetery And Chapel / Seacliff
- Grid Reference: 360191 684753
- Civil Parish:
- Summary: Early medieval chapel and cemetery revealed by excavation
- Description: NT68SW 17 6024 8466.
(NT 6024 8466) Grave Yard (NAT) (site of)
OS 6" map (1969)
(1) There was formerly a graveyard at this spot. It has been disused for many years and the site is now planted with wood.
Name Book 1853
(2) A church still existed at Auldhame in 1637. Burials are recorded there on April 11, 1619 and October 12, 1637.
P H Waddell 1893
(3) Aldham (Auldhame) was formerly a separate parish, noted by Simeon of Durham in 854 as belonging to the bishopric of Lindisfarne. It was annexed to Whitekirk parish in the 17th century. The original church, if it were founded by St Baldred (cf NT68SW 1) may date from the 5th century (St Baldred: obit 607). The ruins of the ancient church, on the sea-cliff were apparent in 1770 but were soon after removed.
G Chalmers 1810
(4) The graveyard was excavated in 1950, prior to the erection of an Admiralty Radar Station on the site; human remains and evidence of Christian burials were found. The excavation was carried out under the supervision of John Hamilton, Asst Inspector of Ancient Monuments, MoW, Edinburgh.
Information from J S Richardson, 7a Tantallon Terrace, N Berwick, 29 June 1952.
(5) There is nothing to be seen of the graveyard, N of Auldhame (NT68SW 1); from the position of the symbol on OS plan part of the graveyard must have collapsed down the cliff face. This symbol does not agree with Richardson as the Radar Station (now demolished) mentioned by Dr Richardson was situated at NT 6021 8476. However, Mr J Dale Snr, of Auldhame, states that many human bones were found when constructing a roadway in to the radar station and that this roadway ran along the W side of the field wall to the W of Auldhame.
It is therefore probable that burials took place over a fairly extensive area between the ruins of Auldhume and the edge of the cliffs N of the ruins.
Visited by OS (WDJ) 13 November 1962
(6)(9) An archaeological excavation and survey were undertaken by AOC Archaeology Group between February and July 2005 after the discovery of human remains following ploughing. Following collection of these remains, test pitting and surface stripping of the affected area, the remains of an estimated 200 graves were identified. Due to the possibility of further damage to the graves it was decided that remains at risk from further damage should be rescued. During this process it became apparent that there were more graves than originally noted, resulting in 260 individual skeletons being recovered with at least a further 66 identified skeletons deemed safe and left in situ. Very little dating evidence was recovered from the graves, but possible dates may be attributed to the 9th or 10th centuries and later.
Excavation also revealed the remains of a stone building likely to be a small church or chapel showing three phases of construction. No physical dating evidence was found but comparisons with other such structures may suggest a date as early as the 9th century.
A large ditch running NW-SE across the southern edge of the site was partly excavated, but again no dating evidence was recovered. Limited examination showed that this ditch had been altered during its lifetime. It is possible that the ditch had its origins within later prehistory when it may have formed part of a promontory fort, and was altered when the site changed to ecclesiastical use.
A number of smaller features, such as pits and ditches, were located around the peripheries of the site and were seen to extend beyond the site boundaries. A limited amount of pottery was recovered from these features.
Archive to be deposited in NMRS.
E Hindmarch 2005
(7) In January 2008, AOC Archaeology Group were commissioned by Historic Scotland to undertake rescue archaeological works at the site of Auldhame medieval cemetery and chapel after further damage to the site in December 2007 during deep ploughing. Human bones were recovered from the surface of the damaged area and it was noted that the protective Terram Geotextile matting which had been laid on the surface of the archaeological site at the end of the 2005 excavation had also been brought to the surface. In addition, areas of what was once buried archaeological deposits were also present on the surface including a large amount of stone derived from the buried chapel structure.
(11) Post-excavation analysis has provided more information about the site and its dating. The earliest chapel was probably a timber structure associated with graves dug between c. AD 650 and 780. The chapel was replaced with a structure with clay-bonded stone foundations, probably built between AD 750 and 850. There is also evidence for domestic structures dating from AD 650 to 950. This has been taken as possible evidence for a monastic settlement focused on the chapel. Amongst the excavated burials dating from about 850 to 1100 is a rare Viking grave, with grave goods including a belt set, spurs, and a spear head. This is the most southerly Viking grave yet found in Scotland.
The site continued to be used as a burial ground until 1700, during which time the chapel was remodelled. Additions to the chapel building suggest that it was remodelled to form a parish church around 1200 to 1400.
- For more information contact: East Lothian Council HER
- Related Monuments:
- Related Places:
- Associated Periods:
- Digital archive: Crone, A. & Hindmarch E. 2015. Living and dying at Auldhame, East Lothian: The excavation of an Anglian monastic settlement and medieval parish church.
- Digital archive: Crone, A. & Hindmarch E. 2017. Auldhame.
- (1) Bibliographic reference: Name Book (County). Original Name Books of the Ordnance Survey. Book No.26, 22, 51.
- (10) Map: Roy, W.. 1747. Military Survey of Scotland.
- (11) Monograph: AOC Archaeology Group. 2013. Living and Dying at Auldhame, East Lothian; the excavation of an Anglian monastic settlement and medieval parish church.
- (2) Bibliographic reference: Waddell, P H. 1893. An old kirk chronicle being a history of Auldhame, Tyninghame and Whitekirk in East Lothian from session records 1615-1850. 4.
- (3) Bibliographic reference: Chalmers, G. 1887-94. Caledonia: or a historical and topographical account of North Britain. Vol.2, 546-7.
- (5) Unpublished document: Ordnance Survey. Ordnance Survey Site Visit.
- (6) Unpublished document: Hindmarch, E. 2005. Auldhame, East Lothian: Human Remains Call Off.
- (7) Unpublished document: Hindmarch, E. 2008. Auldhame, East Lothian 2008: Human Remains Call Off.
- (8) Digital archive: Hindmarch, E. 2008. Auldhame, East Lothian 2008: Human Remains Call Off.
- (9) Article in serial: Hindmarch, E and Melikian, M. 2008. 'Baldred's Auldhame: An early medieval chapel and cemetery', Church Archaeology 10 (2006), 97-100.