St Lawrence's Church in Southtown on Burray

Published by: wideford on 22nd Mar 2011 | View all blogs by wideford
Where the A961 leaves Buray Village heading east, where it turns to the last of the Churchill Barriers instead carry across to the road marked for the cemetery and Ness. Upon reaching Leith the cemetery road goes down directly by Leith's east side. The kirk was built in 1621, about the same time as the nearby Bow of Burray was rebuilt. In some ways it resembles Breckness P(a)lace in Stromness, if not quite so grand. I had been expecting to find foundations at most but it is mostly upstanding, if unroofed. But what most surprised me is that despite a lack of megalithic stonework this is most definitely a broch site. The church sits where the tower was, though I'm unsure whether it is centred or to the edge. It sits above the rest of the kirkyard as there is a two foot deep rectangular cut through the mound. The old wall at the east end looks deeper and a little different in character. The outer broch would appear to finish at this side as looking over the cemetery extension it just goes down to the low cliff - the broch surrounds the kirkyard on the north and west over to the path to the shore. When you think the stones must have been removed before ever (the present) kirk was built the landowners have kept it rather well preserved. It has elements reminding me of three other chapel brochs; the old Holm parish church and Warebeth in Stromness and Overbrough in Harray.
When the Bu Sands scheme was agreed in 1995 the OIC’s planning director said it was likely that St Lawrence church stood on an extensive site belonging to a Norse ‘magnate’. This goes well with my opinion that this ecclesiastical site began as a private chapel attached to a Viking hall [like ? the alleged St Peter’s Kirk near St Peter’s Pool in Toab] and explains why the kirk is at the edge of the broch or broch tower site.



  • steve
    by steve 3 years ago
    wideford my hat is off to you, again. while i am, as yet, unfamiliar with the details of those other sites you compare this one to, i am excited to see that you have investigated and found a very old foundation, under the foundation/and or part of the foundation for the church. fantastic pictures. great outline and explaination of the details. brilliant detective work too, wideford! my compliments.
  • Lucky1
    by Lucky1 3 years ago
    Great stuff Wideford!!!!!
  • wideford
    by wideford 3 years ago
    If you want brilliant panoramic views Overbrough is wonderful. SSE of the Loch of Bosquoy in Harray is the legend for war memorial. This is in the kirkyard, which covers the whole of the mound apart from the extreme west edge. Another high point for panoramas is Peerie Hill in Stromness parish above Cauldhame. Verra steep, think Wideford Hill but isolated.
  • wideford
    by wideford 3 years ago
    Chanced to meet my friend Dave Lynn today. This broch expert (an actual working archaeologist) has been to Southtown and does not find enough circularity in what can be seen for this to be a likely broch and so no longer puts it on the level of probable. On the other hand he, unlike me, did see quite a lot of large stones and blocks and is certain there is something rather big below the mound's surface
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