Herdmanston Chapel

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Herdmanston Chapel

Pencaitland, East Lothian, Scotland Add to Map
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The remains of an ancient chapel on the grounds of Herdmanston House have been used as the burial ground for the St. Clair family for centuries. Only two memorials survive (dating to the late 16th Century), but family has been buried there up until the 1970s or later.

The following extract comes from "Sketches of East Lothian" by D. Croal (1875):

An interesting relic of the past is to be found near the modern mansion of Herdmanston, the county seat of the family of St Clair, though now for the most part unoccupied by the still surviving scions of that ancient house.

Within a gunshot westward of the mansion, and so closely overhung with ivy that its existence is never suspected by the passing visitor, there are still extant the remains of the family chapel, but which, for generations past have formed their burial vault. They form a portion — and the only fragment now remaining — of a chapel erected in the thirteenth century by John de Saint Clair. The fragment has been roofed in, and protected from vulgar intrusion by a thick door of solid oak. The walls, as we have said, are completely overgrown with ivy and other parasitical roots which have even invaded the roof and the exterior of this last resting place of the dead with such a mass of vegetation that it is impossible to detect any traces of architectural ornament.

The portion now remaining of this ancient chapel is not more than 30 ft. in length by 14 ft. in breadth, and in this spot the mortal remains of the St Clairs have been interred for many hundreds of years.

There is an old font still standing in the place that seems to have been in use at some remote period; but perhaps the most interesting objects inside are two flat stones, still in complete state of preservation, which denote the last resting place of Sir William St Clair and his spouse, who were buried here in the latter part of the sixteenth century. The inscriptions, which run round the outer edge of the stones, are as sharply cut and as easily decipherable as if they had been carved only yesterday. The inscription over the remains of the knight is as follows:— "Heir lyis ye richt honorabil schir William Synclar, umqle of Hirdmiston, Knyt, quha decessit ye 2 of june, anno 1594." His spouse, as we learn from the other stone, was "Ye richt honorabil Dame Sibella Cokburne" — one of the Cockburns of Ormiston.

There is nothing else within the vault which possesses any antiquarian interest; but in its immediate neighborhood is still standing an arched gateway, supposed to have been the entrance of the old castle at Herdmanston, all traces of which, with the exception of the arch in question, have long since disappeared.

These afford a curious link between the past and the present. It is certainly remarkable to find that an estate in East Lothian and this by no means one of the largest, should have remained in the possession of the same family for more than 600 years, and that in 1863 the bones of Charles Lord St Clair, the lineal descendant of the Henry de St Clair who obtained the property in 1190, should have been interred in a spot where for hundreds of years the dust of his forefathers have rested in undisturbed repose.

  • Added: 21 Feb 2017
  • Find A Grave Cemetery: #2635547