Ecclesgreig Old Church and Burial Ground, St Cyrus

National Grid Reference (NGR): NO 74500 63900, map


Address

Kirkside, St Cyrus
Kincardineshire
DD10 0AX

Also known as:

  • Ecclesgreig
  • The Nether Kirkyard

Introduction

This old burial ground and church site lies at the foot of tall cliffs overlooking an extensive area of sand dunes and grassland, which is now a nature reserve. There is a long history of worship at this site, which may date back to the 9th century and the Picts.

The common name of the site, Ecclesgreig, is said to mean 'Church of Grig'. Grig was a 9th century ruler of the Picts and is widely credited with establishing a church here. He is also known as Ciric, which is where St Cyrus is derived.

Documentary evidence of a church here only dates from the 1170s and hints at a monastic foundation here too. William The Lion granted the "Church and the Abbey land of Eglesgirg along with the Chapel of St Rule" to the Bishop of St Andrews. The church was later rebuilt and dedicated in 1242. The church fell out of use after 1632, when a new parish church was built in St Cyrus village.

The 19th century historian Andrew Jervise claims that St Cyrus is buried in the burial ground and that the church ruins were covered by sand and exposed again by erosion in c1790.


Description

The site comprises a sub-rectangular walled burial ground (the eastern wall rebuilt in the 19th century). There are a number of burial enclosures and burial aisles, along with many gravestones of mostly 18th - 19th century date. There is now no trace of the church, although it is possible parts of the burial aisles were built using stone from the ruined church. The largest burial aisle is that of the Grahams of Morphie, a roofless rectangular building near the centre of the burial ground. In one corner of the burial ground is a small rubble-built watch house, still complete with stone slab roof, window and chimney. It dates to the early 19th century when precautions had to be taken against the theft of fresh bodies for medical research.


People / Organisations:

NameRoleDatesNotes
Grig or CiricRuler of Picts, possible founder of a church here9th century
William The LionGranted the church here to the Bishop of St Andrews11th century
Grahams of MorphieFamily who built the largest burial aisle on the site19th century

Events:

  • Church granted to the Bishop of St Andrews (1170s)
  • Church dedicated (1242)
  • Church closed after new church built (1632)
  • Church founded (9th century)
  • Ruins unearthed from sand by erosion (c1790)

Archive References:

NameReferenceNotes
Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 1481
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: NO76SW 2Online digital aerial photographs available, taken by RCAHMS
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: Canmore Id: 36352

Bibliographic References:

NameAuthorDateNotes
The Medieval Religious Houses of Scotland: with an appendix on the houses in the Isle of ManI Cowan and D Easson1976p48
The Statistical Account of ScotlandJ Sinclair (ed)1791-9Vol. 11, p105-6
The New Statistical Account of Scotland1845Vol. 11, p292
The Object Name Book of the Ordnance SurveyOrdnance SurveyBook 18, p52
The history and traditions of the land of the Lindsays in Angus and Mearns, with notices of Alyth and MeigleA Jervise1853p321
Memorials of Angus and the MearnsA Jervise1861p27
Epitaphs and inscriptions from burial grounds and old buildings in the north-east of Scotland with historical, biographical, genealogical and antiquarian notesA Jervise1875-9Vol. 1, p36
RCAHMS: The archaeological sites and monuments of South Kincardine, Kincardine and Deeside District, Grampian RegionRCAHMS1982p29
The Mearns of OldJ C Watt1914p131