History in Structure

William Smellie burial vault at St Kentigern's Church, Lanark

A Category B Listed Building in Lanark, South Lanarkshire

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Latitude: 55.6699 / 55°40'11"N

Longitude: -3.7696 / 3°46'10"W

OS Eastings: 288795

OS Northings: 643246

OS Grid: NS887432

Mapcode National: GBR 223W.P9

Mapcode Global: WH5SK.2R66

Plus Code: 9C7RM69J+X5

Entry Name: William Smellie burial vault at St Kentigern's Church, Lanark

Listing Name: Churchyard and burial aisles at St Kentigern’s Church, excluding scheduled monument SM1144, Lanark

Listing Date: 7 May 1980

Last Amended: 7 August 2017

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 406863

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB37028

Building Class: Cultural

ID on this website: 200406863

Location: Lanark

County: South Lanarkshire

Town: Lanark

Electoral Ward: Clydesdale North

Traditional County: Lanarkshire


The churchyard at St Kentigern's Church contains two burial aisles, a memorial vault and some fine early memorials. The largest burial aisle is dedicated to the Lockharts of Lee and is of early 17th century date. The Lockharts of Cleghorn aisle lies to the southwest and was built in 1693. Attached to the northeast corner of the Cleghorn aisle is a much smaller memorial vault, designed by William Purdie in 1931 for the Obstetric Societies of Edinburgh and Glasgow. It houses the 18th century grave-slab of Dr William Smellie, pioneer of scientific midwifery. Surrounding the burial aisles is an 18th century graveyard which has a boundary wall and entrance on the north side.

In accordance with Section 1 (4A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 the following are excluded from the listing: scheduled monument SM1144.

The Lockharts of Lee burial aisle is rubble-built with a trussed open wood roof and grey slates. There is a single door in the west gable and two windows in the north and south elevations, all of which have chamfered surrounds. A memorial in high relief is set at the east end. The east and west sides of the Lockharts of Cleghorn aisle are rubble-built, while the south wall is faced with ashlar. It is built against St Kentigern's Church and roofed with grey slates. The aisle was formerly topped by an entablature, its frieze decorated with floral motifs. The crowstep-gabled memorial vault is built of ashlar and roofed with slates.

There are more than 900 gravestones in the churchyard dating from the 17th to the early 20th centuries. The earliest gravestones are located in the south section of the churchyard and are laid out in regular rows. Many of the stones with an early date have fine symbolic carving and are of a good quality.

Statement of Interest

Age and Rarity

Records indicate there was a church at St Kentigern's from at least the 12th century and the churchyard is likely to have been established at the same date. The churchyard contains some fine memorials dating from the 17th to the early 20th centuries. The earliest recorded stone was erected in memory of Janet Brownlie who died in 1646. It is simply carved with name and date. One memorial stone, dated 1682, is dedicated to the Covenanter William Hervi. Its west face is decorated with the bold relief of skull-and-crossbones. Other stones have fine symbolic carving and are of a good quality. Many display trades symbols, related to employment within the parish.

The Lockharts of Lee and Lockharts of Cleghorn aisles were built in the 17th century, while the Smellie memorial vault was constructed in 1931. It houses the grave slab of William Smellie who died in 1763. He was a significant figure in obstetrics and midwifery in the 1700s, credited with the development of scientific midwifery.

Graveyards are not rare and can be found in every significant settlement in Scotland. When considering such a prolific building type the earlier the date and the quality of memorials adds interest to the graveyard in listing terms as well as its contribution to the setting of churches. The churchyard at St Kentigern's has a number of fine memorials of an early date. These memorials all add significant interest to the scheduled St Kentigern's Church. The churchyard also has three distinctive burial aisles, two dedicated to local families and the third to a prominent figure from the local area, associated with the development of modern medicine.

Architectural or Historic Interest


The interior space of the Lockharts of Lee burial aisle is simple with stone floor and trussed open wood roof. A memorial in high relief is set at the east end.

The interiors of the Lockharts of Cleghorn burial aisle and Smellie memorial vault were not seen and have not been taken into account in this assessment.

Plan form

The churchyard is pentagonal on plan and depicted in this form from the 1864 edition of the Ordnance Survey map. The memorials are laid out regular rows with the earliest in the south section of the churchyard.

The burial aisles and memorial vault are rectangular in plan, which is typical for this building type and date. Their plan forms have not been altered.

Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

The design and craftsmanship of some of the headstones in the churchyard are of high quality, such as the early examples which have decorative symbolic memento mori carvings and date from the late 17th century onwards.

The memorial vault to William Smellie was designed by William Purdie, a local builder and surveyor. Purdie was born in Hamilton about 1864 and trained as a builder. By 1901 he was assistant burgh surveyor of Hamilton and by 1909 was Burgh Surveyor, a post he retained until at least the 1930s. He was the architect of the public baths and wash-houses in Hamilton in 1909 and housing constructed in Hamilton in 1930.


Churchyards and graveyards are often of historic interest because of the information they can show on the historical development and social history of an area. This is the case of the churchyard at St Kentigern's Church which has examples of early memorials as well as memorials displaying trades symbols relating to the employment within the parish.

The churchyard makes a significant contribution to the setting of the scheduled church and B-listed burial aisles. It surrounds the church and is enclosed by a boundary wall.

Regional variations

There are no known regional variations

Close Historical Associations

As noted above there is an historical association with William Smellie, a significant figure in the development of modern obstetrics and midwifery.

Statement of Special Interest

St Kentigern's churchyard is a regionally important example of a churchyard of at least 12th century date. The churchyard and burial aisles make a significant contribution to the setting of the scheduled church and the churchyard has a wealth of fine memorials, dating from the 17th to the 20th century. The burial aisles are dedicated to local families and the burial vault to a local figure who was important in the development of modern obstetrics.

External Links

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