Is Lanark’s most historic building in danger?

St Kentigern's Church, Lanark
St Kentigern's Church, Lanark

Dire predictions have been made that, after standing for over a thousand years, Lanark’s Old St Kentigern’s Chapel could be near total collapse.

For years now the building at the heart of Lanark Cemetery, instead of being the major tourist attraction many feel it should be, has been covered by ugly scaffolding and shoring while awaiting repairs.

When the ancient building was last badly damaged in a major storm over sixty years ago, the old Lanark Town Council moved swiftly to repair and restore it.

In 2016 the question of who is going to rescue St Kentigern’s seems a far harder one to answer.

Despite its place in not only Royal Burgh but Scottish history - William Wallace was reputedly married there - nothing seems to have been done for years to restore the building to a state where it can be promoted as a tourist attraction.

One distinguished Lanarkian, retired solicitor and Lanimer Commitee secretary T. Henry Shanks, said that he’d been “shocked” by the state of the chapel during a recent visit to the cemetery and others have complained to the Gazette about the general state of the surrounding graveyeard.

The sentiments of Mr Shanks were echoed by the Lanark and District Archaeological Society whose spokesman said: “We are genuinely worried that the building will collapse completely if it has to go through another winter without proper repairs.

“The loss of one of Scotland’s most historic buildings would not be just a shame; it would be a national disgrace, It is of international importance.”

The Lanark Community Development Trust has been tasked with coming up with a rescue plan for the 1000-year-plus old structure and identifying funding sources to carry this out.

On the general state of the cemetery, a South Lanarkshire Council spokesman said: “The Council’s Bereavement Services Manager has recently visited Lanark Cemetery and has confirmed that there is a small amount of fallen headstones.

“This is particularly the case in regard to the old section of the cemetery, next to St Kentigern’s Church.

“Headstone memorials are the responsibility of the lair owner, not the Council, although we do carry out an assessment of headstones in terms of their stability. Should a memorial be found unstable. we will try and contact the owner.”