Wemyss Chapel Gardens

National Grid Reference (NGR): NT 31900 94660, map


Address

West Wemyss Coastal Path to Dysart
West Wemyss
Fife
Scotland

Also known as:

  • St. Mary's Chapel Gardens
  • Wemyss Family Burial Enclosure

Introduction

The Wemyss Family burial enclosure is at the southern end of the landscaped ground, bordered by the sea wall and towers, with steep slopes on the western side and on the north  a four storey rectangular plan ruined house with round tower and landscaped garden.  A low flat coped enclosure wall incorporates the earlier ruined house into the southeast corner. Beside the house, to the west, there is a higher section of the enclosure wall, with blocked round arched doorway and gable detail.   This section of the enclosure appears to be constructed from older masonry which may have been reused from the chapel, of which there are no upstanding remains.   In the gablehead there is a triangular date stone with �EDW 1676� which possibly refers to David, the Second Earl of Wemyss, who lived in the now ruined house from 1627 to 1639 and created the landscaped garden and converted the chapel which had been abandoned by this date.   The main entrance to the burial enclosure is by the eastern side. There is a rubble wall with large ashlar gatepiers in the centre which flank decorative wrought iron gates of 1897 by Sir Robert  Lorimer.  This wall is topped by a balustrade on the northern side but on the southern side this has collapsed.   In the wall on either side of the entrance gate there are decorative sculpted panels on the northern one of which panel figures are visible but interpretation of both panels is difficult as the stone is weathered.   A flight of steps behind the entrance gate leads up to the burial ground which is slightly raised from the surrounding ground and slopes upwards towards the west. Beside the wall of the ruined house there is a reused headstone which marks the communal grave of the Wemyss Family remains which were transferred from St. Mary�s By The Sea (site no. 4627) in 1977, after that church closed for worship in 1976. There are later individual graves of the Wemyss Family marked with flat marble crosses in the burial enclosure 

The sea wall was possibly constructed in 1536 when Sir Patrick Jackson, the chaplain, invested money in St Mary's Chapel and manse.   At this time the chapel is referred to as having its own dovecot and saltpan.  The construction of the sea wall would have sheltered the chapel from the sea. However, the church went out of use after the Reformation and the building was converted when David, Lord Elcho (who later became the Second Earl of Wemyss) lived in the large house with his wife, the Honourable Anna Balfour, from 1627 to 1639. It is unclear when the chapel was demolished. Although there are no upstanding remains of the chapel, the section of the burial enclosure with the arched doorway is constructed from older masonry which may have been reused from the chapel.

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People / Organisations:

NameRoleDatesNotes
Wemyss Estate TrusteesOwner

Events:

  • Chapel: Build/construction (1300)
  • Wall: Build/construction (1536)
  • House: Build/construction (1536 uncertified)
  • Chapel: Abandonment (1560)
    The church was no longer used after the Reformation.
  • Burial ground: Build/construction (1897)
    Construction of entrance way and gates.
  • House: Repair (2007)
    Repairs were being carried out in May 2007.

Archive References:

NameReferenceNotes
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 16671
Dictionary of Scottish Architects - Online databaseReference: M030493
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 53985
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 54005
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 53980
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 253152
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 53985Chapel Garden, Burial Enclosure.
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 53980Chapel Garden, Ruin.
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 54005Chapel Garden, House.
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 253152Chapel Garden, Sea Wall and Tower.
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 545005Chapel Garden, House.
Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 4629

Bibliographic References:

NameAuthorDateNotes
West Wemyss Village WalkaboutSave Wemyss Ancient Caves Society2002p. 21