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Blackfriars Burial Ground - Inverness, Scotland

by Lorraine Evans - 11:55 on 21 July 2021

 

 

                         Blackfriars Burial Ground

 

Tucked away on a small side thoroughfare, known as Friar’s Street, you will find the remnants of one of Inverness’ most overlooked burial grounds, namely Blackfriars. It is sited within the grounds of an old medieval Dominican friary, this particular religious order was more commonly referred to as BlackFriars due to the dark colouring of their robes. Founded by King Alexander II in 1233, the friary is believed to have been dedicated to St. Bartholomew, one of the twelve apostles, and destroyed/secularised sometime after the Reformation of 1560.  A charter of 1559 records how the BlackFriar's moveable property was placed in magisterial custody for safekeeping, but after the Reformation said property conveniently disappeared.

 

Plaque on Entrance Wall to Burial Ground

 

Blackfriars Burial Ground Looking From the East

 

Little remains of the monastery today, only one solitary octagonal column of ashlar masonry has survived, the remainder of the building was destroyed by Oliver Cromwell circa. 1653, when the stones were carried away to build a citadel at the north end of the town. Measuring 0.7 metres in diameter, with the remains of a springing arch 2.4 metres above ground level, it is estimated that the total height of the column was originally around 3.5 metres. 

 

The Last Remnanat from the Medieval Friary

 

Amongst a variety of nineteenth century stones there are several exceptional gravemarkers within the confines of the burial enclosure wall. The first is another remnant from the medieval period; an almost life-size effigy of a knight in armour, albeit somewhat eroded, sited in the south boundary wall. This is rumoured to be Alexander Stewart, Earl of Mar (c. 1375 – 1435). Stewart is best known as the victor at the Battle of Harlaw in 1411, where he saved Aberdeen from an attack by Donald, Lord of the Isles. Stewart later served as Sheriff of Inverness and died here in 1435. Other memorials include a very worn seventeenth century gravestone, sited at the base of the ashlar pillar, plus a few delightful Memento Mori markers (see below)

 

Effigy of Knight Possibly Representing Alexander Stewart, Earl of Mar

 

Seventeenth Century Gravemarker Sited at the Base of Medieval Ashlar Pillar

 

Gravemarkers of William Baillie (died 1752),  Donald Baillie (died 1770) and Donald's wife Margaret. Could they originally have been slabs laid in the ground?

 

Memento Mori Graveslab Depicting Death With Scythe

 

To the north of the burial ground there is a small enclosure of table tombs dedicated to the Chisholm family, including that of William Chisholm, once Provost of Inverness and younger brother of The Chisholm of Chisholm. Born on the 14th February 1717, the second son of Roderick Chishom, 21st The Chisholm, William was a doctor by trade. The remaining memorials are dedicated to Colin Munro Esq. and his family.

 

Burial Enclosure of William Chisholm Esq and Colin Munro Esq

 

Burial Plaque of Chisholm and Munro

 

According to local stories the site of Blackfriars has a history of ghostly shenanigans with two spectres making their presence known on multiple occasions. One is the ghost of a medieval friar, who has been seen wandering throughout the burial ground by workers in the adjacent telecommunications building. The second is supposedly that of a lady, dressed in black robes, who haunts the aforementioned building at regular intervals. 

 

The site of the Friary was Scheduled by Historic Scotland in 1996, with amendments made in 2006 to include the effigy of the knight. For those who are interested, a full report is lodged with Highland Sites and Monuments Record (SMR) and the National Monuments Record of Scotland (NMRS). 


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