Dunfermline Abbey Churchyards Project, 2019-

Gravestones excavated in the north churchyard belonging to Dagleish of Tunnygask family

In 2019 Fife Council initiated a Dunfermline Abbey Churchyards project. This has the aim of combining management and conservation of the Abbey’s several contigious burial grounds (to the north, east and south of the Abbey nave and newer Abbey Church), and both above and below the visible surface, with their rich and multi-generational history and heritage.

The advisory committee for this project includes partnership representation from the Abbey Church, Fife Cultural Trust, Carnegie Dunfermline Trust, Dunfermline’s Carnegie Library and Gallery, Historic Environment Scotland, Dunfermline Community Heritage Projects and the University of Stirling.

Stirling Honorary Research Fellow, Dr Susan Buckham, undertook a scoping research survey for the project, outlining the chronology, surviving sources, challenges and opportunities relating to the Abbey churchyards. This fascinating introduction can be downloaded here:

Dunfermline Abbey Burial Grounds Desk-top Survey (2020, 29pp).

Dr Buckham directs and runs Kirkyard Consulting and has established expertise in churchyard management, conservation and research. Her past projects include exploration of many local community churchyards, including Edinburgh Warriston, Govan and York, as well as professional conservation and interpretation guides. She is also Secretary of the National Committee on Carved Stones in Scotland (a Stirling collaborative project headed by Dr Sally Foster):

The Edinburgh Graveyards Project (Scoping report for the World heritage Site, 2013). Scottish Heritage Hub bibliography listing for ‘Graveyards’ (2015) Conservation Strategy for Historic Graveyards in the Clyde and Avon Valley Landscape (2017)

The Abbey Churchyards project has now progressed to a second stage, offering training to churchyard research volunteers and engaging the local community in gathering stories and resources relating to the graveyards, their occupants and custodians. See the project’s social media feed for Dunfermline’s Secret Library and the Friends of Dunfermline Abbey Churchyards.

This initiative is thus beginning to build on the strong tradition of community research in and around Dunfermline’s historic graveyards. Some of the most important work in this regard has been undertaken by the various strands of the Dunfermline Community Heritage Projects group, including a history of the graveyards and a graveyard database. Their work has also been supported by the Dunfermline Youth Archaeologists Club which has undertaken several seasons of shallow excavations and recording in the Abbey’s old northern graveyard with the help of volunteers, schools and community groups. The DCHP and DYAC are represented on the new Churchyard’s project committee by historian Sue Mowat and Mark Seaborne.

Dunfermline Abbey Graveyard Dig: Report to Historic Environment Scotland (2015, 33pp)

Marker stone of James Dagleish of Tunnygask

Theme by the University of Stirling