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Keith Marischal Church / Keith Kirk
- HER number: MEL436
- HER number: MEL434
- Site Name: Keith Marischal Church / Keith Kirk
- Grid Reference: 344869 664556
- Civil Parish:
- Summary: Remains of church, 13th century and later, and graveyard
- Description: NT46SW 3 4486 6456.
(NT 4486 6456) Keith Church (NR) (remains of)
OS 6" map (1971)
(1) The remains of this church measure overall 63 1/2' by 22' and consist of a nave and chancel. The E gable and adjoining part of the S wall are of 13th century construction but elsewhere there is evidence of later rebuilding. RCAHMS 1924
Keith church is generally as described.
Visited by OS (JTT) 14 September 1965 and (BS) 29 July 1975.
This site was surveyed as part of the Listed Buildings Recording Programme (LBRP) for 1999-2000.
Although the site was recorded by RCAHMS in 1913 for the Inventory of Monuments in East Lothian (no. 82), the owner (Lady June Douglas-Hamilton of Keith Marishcal House) contacted RCAHMS about serious deterioration of the fabric caused partly by the site having been undermined by a highly active colony of badgers. This entry is supplementary to the Inventory account.
In comparison with the plan of the structure made in 1913, recent investigation underlined the extent of structural collapse during the 20th century. Extensive lengths of the north and south walls have fallen down. Some 6m of the north wall, to the east side of the middle, are now reduced to rubble. The south wall is badly bowed and cracked. The east gable appears to be losing its bond with the north and south walls. There is also a very substantial crack in the east gable which represents considerable recent deterioration in this area from the evidence of photographs are used as a basis of comparison.
Detailed survey suggests that the only primary portion of the building, which may be ascribed to the 13th century on the basis of its stylistic features, is the east gable and some 4-5m of the north and south walls (see hatching of plan completed 2000). The east gable is pierced by two lancets with a vesica surmounting them, a composition which is clearly early Gothic in character but is unusual in relatively diminutive parish church. The features of the east gable appear somewhat oversized for the size of the building, and the possibility exists that the original building may have been intended to have been altogether more substantial than it now appears, perhaps having been conceived as cruciform on plan or with a wider and longer nave. The vesica is not unique in Scotland in the 13th century. Another example used in an east gable is to be found at Pluscarden Priory, Morayshire and an example used in a west gable is at Dunblane Cathedral, Perthshire.
Of particular interest is the easternmost window in the south wall, an insertion which may be acsribed to the 14th century or early 15th century on the basis of its cusped head and plain external chamfer. On either side of its head are incised roundels, that to the east consisting of undulating rays and that to the west forming a chip-carved hexagon. The interpretation of these motifs is not clear, but what can be said with some certainty is that this window was intended to light the altar.
During the course of survey very virulent plant growth which had encased the building for many years, was partially removed. This revealed the whereabouts of a late medieval grave-slab which is referred to in the Inventory account but had long been thought to have been lost.
Lady June Douglas-Hamilton has collated an extensive amount of historical material on the history of the church, a copy of which is due to be deposited in the NMRS.
NMC October 2000
(2) (4) In May 2003, the site was visited by East Lothian Council Archaeology Service. The damage by badgers is continuing, with human bones being dug up by the animals. The bones on the surface were collected and are now at East Lothian Council Museum Service.
(3) Little is visible of the churchyard surrounding Keith Church, which is very overgrown, but Angus Graham, 1960, described a medieval grave-cover leaning against the NW corner of the church, and a 17th century wall monument.
(5) The site was visited by East Lothian Council Archaeology Service on 20/05/2014. The badger sett in the graveyard is still in use and badger activity had disturbed human bones which were lying on the surface. These were collected and are now at East Lothian Council Museum Service. The church itself is very overgrown and in poor condition.
- For more information contact: East Lothian Council HER
- Related Monuments:
- Related Places:
- Associated Periods:
- (1) Bibliographic reference: RCAHMS. 1924. The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions of Scotland. Eighth report with inventory of monuments and constructions in the county of East Lothian. 50-1, No.82.
- (2) Unpublished document: Owen, O and Simpson, B. 2003. Letters re Keith Marischal Church.
- (3) Article in serial: Graham, A. 1960-61. 'Graveyard Monuments in East Lothian', PSAS 1960-61, p. 211-271. 241-2.
- (4) Unpublished document: Simpson, B. 2003. Keith Marischal, Humbie: Keith Chapel and Burial Ground.