Historic Churchyards

  • Crossmichael Parish Church
  • Dalton Parish Church
  • Dunscore Parish Church
  • Eskdalemuir Parish Church

Historic Churches and Churchyards

Development of churches and churchyards

Although Scotland could boast fine abbeys and burgh churches in the middle ages, the rural parishes were usually served by small, simple rectangular buildings with a heather thatched roof. Most historic churches seen today are the result of at least 300 years of alterations and repairs or rebuilding. In Dumfries and Galloway the former medieval parish church often remains as a ruin within the churchyard in the settlement or in a remote location at the centre of a large rural parish.

Before the reformation the prestigious and the wealthy were buried inside churches and were commemorated on mural monuments, tombs and slabs, others in the parish were buried outside the church in unmarked graves. After the reformation it became illegal for burials inside a church and although it proved to be hard to stop. Lairds and noblemen were allowed to build themselves a separate burial aisle joining the church and memorials began to be erected in the grounds surrounding the church. As ordinary people became more prosperous they erected memorials to mark the graves of the dead. While the churches were very plain the Church did not object to churchyard monuments having carved emblems that promoted the new ideology or represented the occupation and status of the people commemorated.

The early monuments were flat grave slabs but as time passed numerous other types of monument were erected in churchyards, with the headstone being the most common. Today the oldest churchyards may include examples of flat stones, table stones, chest tombs, broken columns, obelisks, freestanding crosses and sculptures.

Inscriptions can tell us much about how people saw themselves and their place in the world.

Further photographs of churches and churchyards in Galloway can be found here

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Trades and Heraldry

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