Many of the churchyards in Dumfries and Galloway are medieval in origin and a number contain remnants of former churches.
It is difficult to know if there is any link between ancient sacred sites and the historic churches and churchyards which we find today, but there is some evidence that prehistoric ritual sites were used as focal points for later Christian establishments. From the 5th century, when St Ninian is said to have introduced Christianity to the region, there was a long period of Christian worship centred on monasteries, such as those at Whithorn and Hoddom. Preaching crosses, like that at Ruthwell, appear from around 750AD onwards, and in the 10th century the Whithorn School of carvers had established a cross in every parish in Western Galloway. By the 11th century the structure of the church was formally organised into territorial dioceses and parishes – with Galloway responsible to the archbishop at York, and Dumfriesshire responsible to Glasgow - but it was not until the Reformation in Scotland that the church and churchyard, as we recognise them, began to appear. Memorials in a churchyard reveal much about the social history of a parish with numerous types of monument including fascinating inscriptions as well as carved emblems representing mortality, immortality, trades and status.
The built heritage, historic interest and significance of the churchyards and the structures they contain mean many have been designated as Listed Buildings or nationally important Scheduled Ancient Monuments.
The Sulwath Connections Landscape Partnership is a £3.9 million project funded by HLF and SNH and led by Dumfries and Galloway Council. The project worked in partnership with Historic Scotland and Solway Heritage, to take forward a project on the Conservation of Historic Churchyards. This involved a programme of repair, consolidation and interpretation of historic churchyards in the region.
A survey of Council churchyards undertaken in the late 1990s identified the most architecturally and archaeologically interesting examples at Wigtown, Minnigaff, Dalton and Sark where local people were keen to see repair works carried out. The conservation of historic churchyards project has consolidated the ruins of these historic graveyards by repairing masonry on the existing church structures and boundary walls. In addition to the work to the ruined churches a series of training days were held to promote the use of traditional lime mortars to local building contractors and stone masons.
Panels have been erected at four churchyards Wigtown, Minnigaff, Dalton and Hoddom.
Click on the above links to view examples and find out more.
Former Wigtown Parish Church consolidated as part of Sulwath Connections. Former Minnigaff Parish Church consolidated as part of Sulwath Connections. Former Dalton Parish Church consolidated as part of Sulwath Connections. Former Hoddom Parish churchyard interpretation installed as part of Sulwath Connections.
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Click on the map above to explore Historic Churchyards in Dumfries and Galloway.