23 April 2024

St Brandon’s Churchyard repairs begin

Work has begun on the historic St Brandon’s Churchyard at Inverboyndie.

Securing the long-term stability of the churchyard is this year’s priority for Aberdeenshire Council’s Historic Asset Management Project (HAMP). 

The council has a statutory duty under health and safety and heritage legislation to keep historic structures in its ownership safe and in good condition.


A picture of headstones at St Brandon's Church at Inverboyndie looking out to the North Sea

Since 2013, HAMP has been carrying out vital works at many of the region’s 500-plus non-operational historic assets in council ownership including church ruins, historic churchyards, commemorative towers and fountains, war memorials, Pictish carved stones, stone circles, and castle ruins.

Assets were first surveyed between 2014 and 2015 and again in 2020 with a repair prioritisation plan drawn up to focus the limited financial resources on critical repairs and maintenance.

St. Brandon’s is a complex and challenging project – the kirkyard is a category B-listed site and the remains of the church are a scheduled monument. 

Inverboyndie has an interesting early connection to Arbroath Abbey, probably given by King William around the time of the foundation of Arbroath Abbey and there are records of the site describing use by monks as far back as 1200. 

There's a separate grant of the church to Arbroath Abbey by the King, made in 1213, as part of a joint gift of Inverboyndie and Banff. It's likely that the parish of Inverboyndie was a royal property associated with Banff in the first instance and it was served by the same minister as Banff from the middle of the 13th Century. It remained in the possession of the abbey down to the Reformation.

It is thought that the current ruin stands on the footprint of the medieval church and incorporates portions of its masonry. It is unlikely that the medieval building was developed much beyond its 12th-century form but there's a strong possibility that the ground level inside the church has been raised, either deliberately or through post-abandonment burials. 

Originally there would have been an upper level which would have been accessed from the exterior of the church and would have taken the form of a raised 'balcony' possibly with a withdrawing room behind, where the owner of the aisle and his family would have faced directly across the building to the minister in the pulpit mid-way down the long wall opposite.

In 2015 part of the ruins that form a burial vault was fenced off as it was deemed unsafe and in 2019 a section of the boundary wall collapsed.

The stone boundary wall, now causing concern, would have been a much later addition to this historic site. The boundary wall had previously been raised in height and a concrete buttress had been built to support the wall so this problem had been developing over a number of years.

Consultants were appointed to investigate the cause of the damage and to propose a long-term solution to the problem. Their conclusion was that the ground itself was unstable and so a simple fix was not possible and so the work to source external funding began. 

Historic Environment Scotland and Whitehill & District Community Council were supportive from the beginning and awarded the project funding. This helped secure additional external funding from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and the Pilgrim Trust. 

While work is ongoing over the coming months there will be opportunities for the local communities to engage with the process and learn more about the history of the site and the people working to save and repair it for future generations. 

The contractor will take groups on-site to see the work being undertaken explaining the materials and working methods used on scheduled monuments along with a talk about the prominence of this site in Scotland’s history. 

CR Contracting North has been appointed and works will start this month and are expected to take around four months to complete.

While we appreciate this area is popular with walkers and visitors, we would ask that you avoid the works area until the repairs are complete and our contractors are off-site.

Cllr Alan Turner, chair of the council’s Infrastructure Services Committee, said: Protecting and maintaining our historical structures - be that graveyards, castles, monuments or war memorials – is absolutely vital. It’s tremendous to see the team working so hard to undertake these critical repairs and improvements at St Brandon’s Churchyard which has such a rich, fascinating history and I look forward to completion of these works which will safeguard its future.”

Dr Susan O’Connor, head of grants at Historic Environment Scotland, added: “St Brandon's is an important local landmark with a rich history. We're pleased to provide grant funding to support Aberdeenshire Council in their project to repair the boundary wall. This crucial work will help improve the resilience of the kirkyard in the face of climate change. This project is also a fantastic opportunity for the community to discover more about the history of St Brandon's and the work involved in protecting it for future generations.”