WESTSIDE CHURCH (TUQUOY)

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1 Property in Care (PIC) ID: PIC324 Designations: Scheduled Monument (SM90312) Taken into State care: 1933 (Guardianship) Last reviewed: 2004 HISTORIC ENVIRONMENT SCOTLAND STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE WESTSIDE CHURCH (TUQUOY) We continually revise our Statements of Significance, so they may vary in length, format and level of detail. While every effort is made to keep them up to date, they should not be considered a definitive or final assessment of our properties. Historic Environment Scotland Scottish Charity No. SC Principal Office: Longmore House, Salisbury Place, Edinburgh EH9 1SH

2 Historic Environment Scotland Scottish Charity No. SC Principal Office: Longmore House, Salisbury Place, Edinburgh EH9 1SH

3 WESTSIDE CHURCH TUQUOY BRIEF DESCRIPTION The monument of Westside Church (Croos-kirk), at Tuquoy, comprises the roofless remains of a church of 12 th -century, Norse date. The earliest part of the church consisted of a rectangular nave from which a rectangular chancel with barrel vault was entered through a plain rounded arch on the E. The nave was extended westwards at a later date. Little of the building remains: the chancel and south elevation of the nave are the only areas almost at original wallhead level, the remaining walls being only a few courses above ground level and that the barrel vault of the chancel, while still spanning the chancel, only remains partially intact. The church is situated on the south-west coast of Westray, one of the Orcadian northern isles. It is within an actively managed graveyard, not the responsibility of Historic Scotland. CHARACTER OF THE MONUMENT Historical Overview The Orkneyinga saga has been interpreted to suggest that Thorkel Flettir and his family were prominent landholders in south-west Westray in the 12 th century, probably based at Tuquoy. The construction of the original church is therefore tentatively ascribed to Haflidi Thorkelsson, about the middle of the 12 th century, or slightly earlier. Dedication of churches to the Holy Cross was popular in Orkney and is generally attributed to visits made by two 12 th -century Orkney Earls to the Holy Land. The church was elevated to parish status, perhaps in the 12 th -13 th century. Rentals of the early 16 th century demonstrate that this was a wealthy part of Westray. 16 th -17 th Century extension of nave probably belongs to this period. Church falls out of use sometime between 1777 and 1823, but possibly temporarily abandoned earlier Preservation works by Office of Works, although it is later realised that the deed of guardianship had not, in fact, been finalised Guardianship. Archaeological Overview The area of archaeological interest is much larger than the area in State care. Nothing is known of the sub-surface archaeology of the church, or the burial ground that can be presumed to surround it. There may, for example, have been an earlier timber church. Traces of an earlier sub-rectangular 1/3

4 enclosure, represented by a turf bank, are apparent to the N and E, and perhaps W, of the church. The medieval church probably served the local estate which apparently had its centre at the adjacent late Norse and earlier, high status settlement that has been revealed through archaeological excavation (1982-3; 1988). Finds included a substantial rectilinear hall, possible smithy and high status artefacts. Separated from the church site by a relict stream channel, some 70m to the west, this site continues to suffer from coastal erosion. The association of estate centre/main farm and church is a recognised phenomenon in areas of Norse Britain and elsewhere (see, for instance, Cubbie Row s/st Mary s, Wyre and Bu of Orphir/St Nicholas, Orphir). While the historical name of the estate centre to which the church relates is not known, place-name research suggests this might have included the Old Norse element boer; this is one of the oldest farm-names in Norway where it was applied to large and important farm-settlements. Artistic/Architectural Overview The ruins relate to one of the most refined (Romanesque) church buildings in Norse Orkney. It is conventionally dated, on art-historical grounds, to the 12 th century, although such dating is not straightforward. The form of the church is distinctively Orcadian, with good parallels at St Mary s, Wyre and Linton, Shapinsay. Social Overview Not formally assessed. Spiritual Overview The ruined church is sited within a graveyard that is still maintained by the local community. Aesthetic Overview The surviving features of the church, although fragmentary, are sufficient to advertise the stylish, beautiful simplicity of its form. Present approaches to this church make it appear remote, but this is misleading since when constructed Orkney was a leading maritime Earldom. What are the major gaps in understanding of the property? Nothing is known about the archaeology of the church site itself, whether the guardianship area or the full extent of the early burial ground. There is also the possibility of pre-norse activity in this area. To determine whether the excavations at the adjacent centre of Tuquoy, funded by Historic Scotland, have been published. 2/3

5 ASSESSMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE Key points This church is likely to relate to the wealthy estate of Thorkel Flettir and his heirs, a man who was an important ally of Rognvald in his struggle to acquire the Orkney Earldom in the 1130s. This is a well-built Romanesque church of distinctive Orcadian form that reflects the wider Scandinavian and Continental contacts of the inhabitants of the Orkney Earldom. The church and its associated archaeology, including that of the wealthy settlement to its immediate W, have the potential to shed light on the shadowy transformation from late Norse to medieval Orkney. While we know little about the archaeology of the church site, the excavations of the adjacent settlement enables a richer and fuller picture to be constructed of the people who might have built and used it, as well as the environment they lived in. Associated Properties St Mary s Chapel, Wyre, St Magnus, Egilsay; Eynhallow, Orphir church and Brough of Birsay, mainland Orkney; St Mary's Crosskirk, Caithness. Norse settlements at Cobbie Row s, Bu of Orphir, Orkney; Castle of Old Wick, Caithness. Non-HES monuments at Westness, Rousay (accessible to public); Linton Church, Shapinsay, etc. Orkney Islands Council (OIC) has a network of so-called Saga Sites, including a Visitor Centre by Orphir. Old scheme includes OIC having panels at or near some of our sites, although not here. They have plans to better develop and promote this network and are involved in a European-funded project, Destination Viking Sagalands. This is led by a government agency in Iceland and focuses on how sagas (and storytelling) can contribute to rural regeneration in the participating areas (South Greenland, various parts of Iceland, Faroes, Orkneys and the Lofoten and Troms areas of Northern Norway, in addition to a project in Northern Sweden). Relationship to HES sites yet to be discussed. In broad terms, links to other HES Norse sites, e.g. Jarlshof, later use of Mousa. Chronologically unrelated monuments also on Westray: Noltland Castle, Links of Noltland, Pierowall Church. Keywords Norse, medieval, church, Thorkel Flettir, lordly estate, Romanesque, Westray, Orkney, Norway. 3/3

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