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Inchcolm Abbey, Including Ancillary Buildings

A Category A Listed Building in Inverkeithing and Dalgety Bay, Fife

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Latitude: 56.0299 / 56°1'47"N

Longitude: -3.3018 / 3°18'6"W

OS Eastings: 318973

OS Northings: 682656

OS Grid: NT189826

Mapcode National: GBR 24.S261

Mapcode Global: WH6S5.7PZR

Plus Code: 9C8R2MHX+X7

Entry Name: Inchcolm Abbey, Including Ancillary Buildings

Listing Date: 2 May 1973

Category: A

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 334685

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB3573

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Aberdour (Fife)

County: Fife

Electoral Ward: Inverkeithing and Dalgety Bay

Parish: Aberdour (Fife)

Traditional County: Fife

Tagged with: Abbey

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Remains of 12th-16th century Augustinian monastery complex comprising: rebuilt 2-storey 15th century store and accommodation wing incorporating earlier fabric of original 12th century nave, early 13th century 4-stage bell tower built on site of original 12th century chancel; small 15th century 2-storey, slab-roofed wing to N. Fragmentary remains of 13th century extended choir to E linking to fragmentary remains of cruciform-plan early 15th century (2nd) abbey church comprising central choir with N and S transepts and presbytery to E. Early 13th century roofed octagonal chapter house with 14th century upper floor set to S of extended choir of original church adjoining E range of early 15th century quadrangular cloister. Lean-to N range at S wall of original church; 2-storey, slab-roofed gabled ranges to E, W and S, latter with projecting stair tower. E range of cloister extended S into ruinous 15th century 2-storey and attic L-plan wing containing dormitory extension, latrine, and Abbot's residence. Fragmentary remains of 2-storey accommodation block sited immediately to N of bell tower.

STORE AND ACCOMMODATION WING (FORMER NAVE OF 1st CHURCH): battered base course and eaves course to W and N elevations, random rubble at ground, ashlar to upper floor. Plain W gable; right side obscured by intersecting end of W cloister range; slightly advanced at intersection with small openings at ground and 1st floor. 3-bay N wall with small window and door in left and right bays respectively; regular fenestration at 1st floor; centre and left openings rubble-infilled. Thickened S wall splayed at ground with reduced wallhead above set between W cloister range and tower with door inserted at right; S wall returned into tower at E end. INTERIOR: 15th century barrel vault inserted within original nave walls, exposed fragmentary remains of 12th century W door opening.

TOWER: cubical ashlar walls with string courses between stages; central waterspout to each face of parapet, projecting over regularly-spaced corbels. Round-headed vault-arch at ground in E face of tower with remains of 16th century turnpike stair adjoining at left. Ashlar infill to large pointed arch at principal floor containing pointed-arched arcade (pulpitum) comprising 3 arches supported on shafts at centre with foliate capitals; outer arches rubble infilled; raggle of former choir roof and infilled doorway at 3rd stage of tower above. W face of tower containing stone rood screen comprising pair of (rubble-infilled) pointed arches enclosed within ashlar infilled large pointed arch; remains of foliated shaft at centre, round-arched door inserted at right, raggle of former main roof at 3rd stage above. N face; short 2-storey wing projecting, arrow-slit window offset to centre right at ground, window centred in gablehead above; partially-infilled hoodmoulded twin lancet window at 3rd stage of tower. S face; irregularly infilled 13th century processional door at outer right at 1st stage (leading into former lean-to cloister), moulded bases and bell capitals with nook shafts to jambs, plain moulded at inner jamb. Arrow-slit openings lighting turnpike stair to left at upper stages, central rectangular window inserted at 1st stage, narrow window inserted within earlier (infilled) opening at 3rd stage; large pointed-arched hoodmoulded openings to 4th stage (some infilled), remains of paired lancets with quatrefoil set between surviving in N face. INTERIOR; vaulted chamber at ground, chamber to 1st stage, vaults missing at 2nd to 4th stages, stone nesting boxes of former dovecot surviving at 3rd stage.

CHOIR: reduced to foundations apart from S wall forming N wall of E cloister range; chamfered arrises to door in rubble vault infill at ground; round-headed door and (taller) window to left and right respectively at floor above; rubble infill to window.

ABBEY CHURCH: mainly reduced to foundations apart from fragment of S wall containing tomb recess with painted detail to back; bases of simply moulded jambs of former doorway leading to partially surviving tunnel vault of transept containing alters and piscinas in E and S walls; large altar slab centred in ruinous presbytery at E end.

CLOISTER: W external elevation; lean-to addition to W gable of nave advanced at outer left; blank gable end of S range to outer right with round-arched hoodmould in gablehead; 3-bay central range, door and slit window at ground and 1st floors respectively in bay to outer left, slit window at 1st floor only in centre bay, small window and segmental-arched doorway at ground and 1st floors respectively in bay to outer right. S external elevation; 6-bay elevation, blank at outer left, square-plan stair tower projecting in penultimate bay to left with narrow windows at 3 levels and parapet projecting over corbels; single pointed-arched window at 1st floor only in centre bays; penultimate bay to right advanced with large round-arched recess at ground with round-arched hoodmoulded window centred above; window at 1st floor only in bay to outer right. E external elevation (Abbot's residence extending to left); mostly obscured by adjoining chapter house; 2 bays exposed at left divided by buttress at ground floor, single window at 1st floor in bay to left, round-arched door and window at ground and 1st floors respectively in bay to right. E internal elevation; 5-bay near-symmetrical elevation with small round-arched openings at ground level except for large round-arched doorway in bay to outer left; narrow windows to centre 3 bays at 1st floor, larger windows in outer bays. S internal elevation; 5 bays, small round-arched openings in each bay at ground level. W internal elevation; 5-bay elevation comprising slightly-advanced stair tower in 2 bays at left with 2 small pointed-arch stair windows at intermediate levels; small round-arched and narrow openings in centre bay at ground and 1st floors respectively, matching small round-arched opening at ground floor in penultimate bay to right, large round-arched doorway in bay to outer right with wallhead stack slightly projecting and breaking eaves, offset to left of arch-head. N internal elevation; fragmentary remains of single-storey lean-to cloister. INTERIOR: barrel-vaulted ceilings to ground floor cloister walks; stone window seats in openings to E and W ranges; cresset basin at SE corner and remains of lavatory to S. Barrel-vaulted ceilings to 1st floor; refectory and kitchen to S range; dais for high table at E end with aumbry to N and pulpit to S. Kitchen to W end with arched fireplace spanning full width. Guest Hall to W range; small fireplace inserted in E wall, remains of medieval tiles to floor. Dormitory to E range with door in E wall accessing octagonal warming house with pointed tunnel-vaulted ceiling and segmental-arched fireplace to N wall; remains of painted script to walls.

CHAPTER HOUSE: 2-storey octagonal-plan structure adjoining cloister at W side, stepped base course articulated around buttresses at corners, latter stepped with gabletted caps, continuous string course at 1st floor, gables breaking eaves cornice at N and S faces, latter with pointed-arched windows at ground and 1st floors, pointed-arched and window at ground in SE face with small hoodmoulded window offset to left at 1st floor. INTERIOR: stone ribs to vaulted ceiling springing from wall-shafts and rising to central pierced boss. Round-arched doorway accessing cloister walk to W; heavily-moulded surround incorporating nook-shafts with capitals; stone benches to N and S flanking doorway to W and triple blind-arcaded sedilla to E.

ABBOT?S RESIDENCE: ruinous L-plan 2-storey and attic range extending on falling ground from S end of E cloister and dormitory range. W elevation; 2-storey link at left with round-arch passageway to ground and two narrow windows at 1st floor, taller, irregularly-fenestrated section with central wallhead stack at right; intersecting remains of latrine wall to outer right. S elevation; 5 bays, surviving at basement only; ruinous wall of latrine block advanced in bay to outer left, bays to right divided by buttresses, square window openings centred in each bay. E elevation (S range); pointed-arched doorway offset to left of centre at basement; large window and lancet centring gable at principal and 1st floors respectively, door in lean-to at right. N elevation; lean-to advanced at outer left, doorway centred in blank wall to right, arrow slit beside remains of polygonal stair tower in re-entrant angle to outer right. E elevation (N range); round-arched passage way to right, partially crenellated wallhead. INTERIOR: barrel vaulted cellars, passage and kitchen to basement, oven to NE corner of kitchen. Ruinous upper floor with rubble cross-walls surviving.

Stone slab pitched roofs to cloister ranges. Pyramidal polygonal slate roof with ship weathervane at apex to chapter house.

ANCILLARY BUILDINGS: random rubble garden wall adjoining complex to W; beehive-shaped rubble hermit's cell at NW corner of garden, small window to E gable, round-arched door to left in S elevation, pointed tunnel-vaulted interior. Late 19th century covered well and steward?s cottage to SW of garden wall. Ruinous accommodation block and long retaining wall to far N of former nave and abbey church.

Statement of Interest

NOTES: SCHEDULED ANCIENT MONUMENT and PROPERTY IN CARE. Inchcolm Abbey is one of the most intact monastic complexes in Scotland spanning the 12th to 15th century. Late medieval records state that the abbey was founded by Alexander 1st in 1123. It is documented that Alexander 1st whilst crossing the Forth was blown off course by a violent storm, seeking refuge the ship dropped anchor at Inchcolm. A resident hermit on the island is said to have given him and his retinue shelter and food till the storm abated. In gratitude of this care the king vowed to found a priory on the island, however Alexander died in 1124 preventing the foundation from being finalised. The priory was established on the island by about the 1160s by David 1st, consisting of a very small church and chancel. By around 1200 the first church proved inadequate and a bell tower and enlarged choir and presbytery were built. In 1235 the priory's status was increased to that of an abbey, the church was therefore enlarged to meet the new demands placed upon it; the choir was doubled in length, a N transept added and the chapter house was constructed. During the 14th century the abbey was vulnerable to attacks by English forces. In 1385 the abbey was raided by 140 English soldiers who plundered the ornaments and furnishings. By the end of the 14th century the attacks had ceased and the abbey experienced a period of calm and prosperity. During this time both the church and domestic buildings were almost completely rebuilt; the church was replaced by a new church to the E, the nave of the old church was converted into domestic accommodation, the N transept was demolished and replaced by a smaller accommodation block and the cloister range was built. The religious life of the canons was terminated by the Reformation in 1560, however several were allowed to continue living on the island till the end of the 1570s. The church was partially dismantled in 1581 and the salvaged materials sold to the Town Council of Edinburgh for the rebuilding of the tollbooth. The cloister buildings however remained relatively untouched as they were converted into a residence where James Stewart the commendator of the Abbey lived. In 1611 the former abbey's lands were erected into a secular lordship with the son of James Stewart, Henry, taking the title of Lord of St Colme. At his death the title passed to the Earl of Moray. The Earl of Moray during the late 18th century tried to make the island more picturesque by planting a large number of trees around the island, the saplings however did not survive the rough and unsheltered conditions. The island served as a quarantine station for plague stricken ships in the 16th and 17th centuries. In the 1790s a Russian hospital was accommodated to serve the Russian fleet lying in the Forth. The strategic nature of the island within the Forth has seen fortifications built on the island during the Napoleonic War, World Wars 1 and 2. Remains of the 20th century fortifications lie to the E and W of the island, they include concrete gun aprons, observation posts and a tunnel through the hill and are scheduled monuments. The Abbey came into state care in 1924.

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