The historic kirkyards of the Clyde and Avon Valley
Historic graveyards provide us with an incredible and unique insight into the past. The stones can often tell us much more than simply what is written, and they provide us with clues about the wealth, position and occupation of the person.
They may contain historic buildings, or examples of carvings and text from times and places without many other records, and they can show how areas, styles and customs have changed over the centuries. There are a multitude of reasons why a graveyard could be significant.
These hidden heritage gems are dotted throughout the Clyde and Avon Valley, often in unexpected places. Eight historic graveyards were identified in the the Conservation Strategy for Historic Graveyards in the Clyde and Avon Valley, undertaken by Kirkyard Consulting and Strathclyde Buildings Preservation Trust, available to read below.
Varying from little known burial grounds tucked away, to better known and traversed graveyards, they are; St Michael’s Churchyard, Cambusnethan; St Patrick’s Churchyard, Hamilton of Dalzell Mausoleum and Pet Cemetary, Dalzell Estate; St Ninian’s Churchyard, Stonehouse; Stonehouse Cemetery; Glassford Churchyard and Cemetery; Dalserf Churchyard; Mauldslie Estate Private Burial Ground; and New Lanark Burial Ground.
Like many historic graveyards, some of the sites in the Clyde and Avon Valleys have fallen victim to time, with many suffering neglect, fallen (or pushed) down stones, weathering and the encroachment of nature. Luckily, sites like Dalzell have benefitted from restorative work, aimed at preserving some of the most treasured or damaged stones from further wear, and in some cases restoring them to their former stature.
Find out more about each site below.
St Michael’s Churchyard, Cambusnethan
The site contains over 129 gravestones altogether, and including a Covenanter memorial. It is dominated by the imposing Category B Listed Belhaven and Stenton mausoleum and three further B Listed mausolea, which are roofless ruins.
St Patrick’s Churchyard, Hamilton of Dalzell Mausoleum and Pet Cemetary, Dalzell Estate
St Patrick’s Churchyard is bounded by a rectangular wall enclosure and contains 193 memorials dating from the 18th and 19th centuries. The churchyard was built where St Patrick's Kirk once stood, demolished in 1798 to make way for the Hamilton Mausoleum which stands in its own separate enclosure today.
The gravestone of the Reverend James Classon is said to mark the spot where the old altar once stood. The earliest known stone at the site is from 1608, but, as with many burial sites, there are links to much older times, and a stone slab which is now part of a wall outside nearby Dalzell House is associated with a stone coffin which was found in the kirk during its demolition.
The pet cemetery is located immediately outside the burial ground.
St Ninian’s Churchyard, Stonehouse
Standing within a walled enclosure, the churchyard contains a ruined gable, with bellcote, of the former church, and 425 memorials ranging from the late 17th century, including two Covenanter memorials.
The site has one of the best collections of 18th century gravestone carvings in the region, along with Glassford Churchyard and Cemetery. Carvings include emblems of mortality, immortality and trade symbols.
The cemetery is rectangular in form and bounded by a decorative perimeter wall while the interior is laid out around a simple geometric central feature focussing on the war memorial accessed from the main pathway, with the rest of the site laid out in grid formation. It is landscaped with continuous borders, evergreen trees and flowerbeds near the main entrance. Many of the graves are still regularly visited.
Glassford Churchyard and Cemetery
The churchyard has one of the best collections of 18th century gravestone carvings in the region, along with St Ninian’s Churchyard, Stonehouse, and includes a rare ‘Tree of Life’ symbol carving. The late 19th century cemetery surrounding the churchyard and many graves are still regularly visited.
A large monument commemorating the Covenanter William Gordon of Earlstoun stands against the west wall of the church.
Among the memorials are a number of gravestones relating to the area’s Covenanting history, while a 10th / 11th century hogback stone provides evidence of an early foundation for the site.
Mauldslie Estate Private Burial Ground
A lych gate marks the entrance to the 19th century burial ground which includes two burial enclosures and three carved pedestals stones.
New Lanark Burial Ground
The site is nestled up on the steep hill overlooking the village in an unenclosed wooded setting, and there are no built features except the 120 headstones and a single ledger stone. It is the final resting place of many residents of the village from the time of the working mills, including some of the highland occupants of Caithness row.
The headstones are predominantly small, irregular in form, and date from the late 18th century until 1900. They are unusual in the absence of carvings, and in some cases, inscriptions (only 23 of the 120 recorded stones are inscribed).
The report, showing the historical significance of these sites, the fascinating features within them, and their conservation needs is available to read below. As a result of this report, work has now taken place to restore and reconnect people to the graveyards.