'Antiquities of Scotland' Index

Crossraguel Abbey

CROSRAGUEL, Croceregal, or Crosragmol abbey stands in Carrick, one of the subdivisions of the Shire of Ayr, and in the parish of Kirk-oswald, two miles from Maybole.

THIS was a Cluniac abbey founded by Duncan, son of Gilbert, Earl of Carrick, in the year 1244, as we are informed by the Chartulary of Paisley. There is a charter of King Robert Bruce to this place, which he therein calls Croceragmer de terra de Dungrelach, given at Berwick the eighteenth year of his reign, and also confirmation of all the churches and lands granted to it by Duncan Neil [Nigellus] Robert, his father, and Edward Bruce, his brother, Earls of Carrick, dated at Cambus-kenneth, the 20th of June, and the twenty-first year of his reign.

THE last abbot of this place was Quintin Kennedy, brother to the Earl of Cassils. The famous George Buchannan had afterwards a considerable sum of money paid him yearly from this abbey, which gave him occasion to denominate himself Pensionarius de Crosragmol. Both the temporalities and spiritualities of this abbey, were by King James VI. annexed to the Bishoprick of Dumblane.

ACCORDING to Keith's Appendix to the History of the affairs of Church and State of Scotland, the revenues of this house were, money 466 l. 13 s. 4 d. Bear 18 c. 7 b. 3 fi. 3 p. Meal 37 c. Oats 4 c. 15 b. 3 fi. 2 p.

{See bottom of Kilwinning Abbet for details of Scots measurements. c=chalder, b=boll, fi=ferlot (or firlot), p=peck}

FOR the following description of this venerable ruin I am indebted to a gentleman resident near the spot, whose name I am not at liberty to mention:

" THE abbey of Corsegal, or Corroguel, stands about half way between the Manse of Kirkoswald and the town of Maybole, near two miles from each; the publick road from Ayr to Port Patrick runs along the North side of the precincts; these contain about eight acres of ground, and were enclosed, at least to the West, the North, and the East, with a stone wall of considerable strength. In this wall there where two gates, one to the North, which seems to have been the principal, another to the South West. These gates were almost entire about thirty years ago, but are now, as well as the wall, levelled with the ground; vestiges, however, both of the gates and the wall, are still visible, excepting to the South of the abbey; on that side there are no remains of any building whatsoever. A wall was perhaps unnecessary there, as the precincts are bounded by a marsh. The figure of the precincts is too irregular to be comprehended from a bare description: by cutting off a small corner or two they may be reduced to a rhomboid, which is the figure they most resemble.

IN the center slands the abbey; the situation seems not extremely happy; it is very low; the surface of the ground near it very irregular, swelling on all hands into hills. The view from it is of consequence exceedingly confined towards the East, however, there is a small interruption in the hills, which opens a prospect somewhat extensive and pleasant.

IN point of excellent water no place can be better supplied, a small stream rising out of a marsh adjoining to the West of the precincts, runs immediately along the South of the abbey; this stream, it is thought, was conveyed under the very buildings. The walls of these are for the most part entire, and have a very venerable and magnificent appearance. A masterly pen might make them retain something of this even in description, but I am quite unacquainted with buildings of this kind, and know not even their names. The following sketch of the noble remains of this abbey must therefore be extremely imperfect and inelegant; I shall notwithstanding endeavour to make it as intelligible and accurate as I can.

ENTERING the precincts from the North, where the principal gate stood, you have in front what I shall call the Cathedral of the Abbey, which stands due East and West; the walls are almost entire, about one hundred and sixty-four feet long, and twenty-two feet high; the architecture in the same Gothic taste which is common in structures of the same period; the stones in general not very large. There is but one door in all this North side and front of the cathedral, which is near the West end of it, considerably ornamented, of a conic shape, nine feet high, and at the bottom five feet broad. The ground along the whole of the building, for about twenty paces from the wall, is enclosed with a bad stone dyke, and set apart for a burying place : but is now seldom used.

LEAVING the above-mentioned door you turn to the West end of the cathedral, and go about thirty paces South West, which brings you to what is called the Abbot's New House. It is an oblong tower about thirty feet high; below it there is a large arch, through which you pass before you get to the door of the house, which is immediately on the South East side of the arch; this door leads you up a winding narrow stair, built to the tower, and consisting of three flights of steps; the first flight brings you to a room thirteen feet by eleven, lighted by two windows, three feet high, and two feet and a half broad, the one looking to the South, the other to the North; the second flight brings you to another room exactly of the same dimensions and lighted in the same manner: the third brings you to the top of the tower, which is surrounded by a parapet wall. On the top of the stair-case is a small building, higher than the tower, which is said to have been a bell-house. From the West side of this tower, and at right angles with it, there has been a row of buildings, which are now a heap of ruins; at the South end a Dovecoat of a very singular construction is still extant; the shaft of it is circular, and surrounds a well of excellent water; above five feet from the ground it begins to swell, and continues for six or seven feet, then contracts as it rises, till it comes to a point at the top; in shape therefore it resembles a pear, hanging from the tree, or rather an egg standing on the thickest end; you enter it by a small door on the North, about five feet from the ground; the floor is of stone, and serves also as a covering to the well beneath ; the sides within are full of square holes for pigeons; it is lighted from the top by a small circular opening, and is still perfectly entire, sixteen feet perpendicular, and where widest eight feet in diameter.

RETURNING to the door of the-Abbot's House, you go about ten paces due East, along the inside of an high wall, which Joins to the other buildings of the abbey; here has been a gate, now in ruins; entering by the place where the gate stood, you find yourself on the South West corner of a court, fifty-two feet square; round this court there has been a covered way; vestiges of the arches by which the covering was supported are still visible : in the midst of the court was a well, which is now filled up with rubbish; walking along the West side of the court you find nothing but a strong wall, till you come to the North West corner, where is a small arched door, the sides of which are much broken down; this door leads into a kind of gallery, eighteen feet broad, and seventy-two feet long; lighted only by three narrow slips to the West.

TURNING from this door you walk seventy-two feet along the South wall of the cathedral, which forms the North side of the court; in this you find three doors, one almost at the North Weft corner of the court, and two near the North East. These doors are nearly of the same dimensions, nine feet high, five feet broad at the bottom, and semicircular at the top. The door at the North Weft corner of the court is almost opposite the door in the front or North wall of the cathedral, which we have already mentioned, and leads into the choir. This forms the West part of the cathedral, is of an oblong figure, eighty-eight feet long, and twenty-five broad within the walls, lighted by five windows, with pointed arches, ten feet high, and three feet broad at the bottom; there is but one small window to the South, at the head of the wall, which has received the light over the covering of the court; on the North wall and near the North East corner of the choir, is a niche in the wall, semicircular at the top, eight feet broad, and four feet high, where it is probable the image of the patron Saint formerly stood.

THE partition which divides the choir from the church, or East part of the cathedral, is pretty entire, and has been furnished with a pair of bells ; precisely in the middle of the partition is a door, with a pointed arch, nine feet high, and five feet broad at the bottom, which leads into the church; this still retains something of its ancient magnificence, is of the same breadth with the choir, but only seventy-six feet long; the East end of it is semicircular, or rather triagonal, adorned with three large windows, with pointed arches, eleven feet high and seven feet broad at the bottom; there are six other windows to the North, and one to the South, of the same shape and height, but only fix feet broad.

Immediately below the South window, and near the South East corner of the church, stands the altar, which has been greatly ornamented, but is now defaced ; no vestiges of any inscription remain here, or in any part of the abbey. The altar is seven feet broad, and four feet high, square, but fretted at the top a little to the left from it; below the most Southerly of the largest windows, there is a niche in the wall four feet high and two broad, concave at the top, but almost without ornament; in the bottom are two hollows made in the stone, like the bottom of a plate; this is supposed to have been a private altar, perhaps that of the family of Cassilis.

A LITTLE to the right of the principal altar is a small door leading to a ruinous stair which we shall have occasion to mention immediately. Still farther to the right of the altar, on the same wall, is a larger door, seven feet high and fix broad, with a pointed arch, which leads into a high arched room, with a pillar in the middle, and a stone bench round the sides, twenty feet long and fifteen broad, said to be the place where the Consistorial Court {A Consistorial court dealt with 'local' wills and deeds - that is those which referred to property/land within the boundary of that diocese only} was held; it is lighted only by one window from the East; on the left hand, as you enter the room from the church, there is a door which opens on the ruinous stair already mentioned. This stair has led into a room immediately above the consistory, precisely of the same length and breadth, but now level with the floor. From this room you descend a few steps into the Abbot's Hall, which is twenty feet square, lighted by two small windows to the East, and one to the West looking in the court.

RETURNING from the Abbot's Hall into the church, by the same door, we find the door in the South West corner of the church, the dimensions of which have been already given; going out at this door we find ourselves in the North East corner of the court; walking five paces from this we come to a door, semicircular at the top, eight feet high and five broad which, opens into a room arched in the roof, immediately below the Abbot's Hall, of the same breadth and length, and lighted from the East by two small windows; proceeding from this room to the South East corner of the court, you find a ruinous arch, about twenty-four feet long, ten feet high, and nine broad, with a stone bench on both sides; this seems to have led to a number of cells, which are now a heap of ruins. Turning, from this arch you walk along the South side of the court, where there is nothing observable but several small doors, leading into ruinous cells; what number of these there may altogether have been, it is now impossible to determine, as the greatest part of them are buried under the rubbish of their own walls.

THE Abbot's Old House, as it is called, is the only building of the abbey we have not hitherto mentioned : this stands immediately to the South East of the ruinous cells-above described. It has been an oblong tower; but the East side, in which the stair has been built, is now fallen down/which prevents its dimensions from being accurately taken ; they seem, however; to have been nearly the same with the dimensions of the Abbots New House.

THE precincts, containing, as above, about eight acres of ground, is-at present possessed by Sir Adam Fergueson, as it was by his father, upon a tack or lease from the Chapel Royal, for nineteen years, at a small-rent, and grassum at entry. Sir Adam subjects these precincts to his tenant, who rents a farm close to the abbey; this farm is part of the barony of Baltersan, of which the Mansion House, a fine old building, is still remaining, though in ruins, about a quarter of a mile from the Abbey: Sir Adam is the proprietor. The.steading of farm houses is at present near the middle of the precincts.

THIS view, which shows the South side of the ruin, with the remarkable Dovecoat herein described was drawn A. D. 1789. At a distance in the back ground appears the Old House of Baltersan,

THIS view gives the East side of the Abbey, with the East end of the church and building here called the Consistorial Court.



THIS view shows the North side of the Abbey, and the Abbot's New House, as seen from the high road leading to Maybole. THEY were all drawn A. D. 1789.



Where is Crossraguel Abbey?



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