Crawfordjohn Parish Church
When the South Lanarkshire Council's Schools Modernisation Team applied to rebuild the Primary School at Crawfordjohn, the Council's Planning Service followed WoSAS advice and attached a condition requiring archaeological work to the consent. We had advised them that the new building works might disturb remains associated with the early village or the early church.
Crawfordjohn has its origins in the medieval period. The parish church is mentioned in the thirteenth century, and the site of a possible early earth and timber castle sits within the modern village. The village's Heritage Museum occupies the former church building which dates from 1817, but it seems to incorporate parts of an older building. The village and its church and burial ground lay at the centre of a large pre-Reformation parish serving a widespread rural population. We don't know how big the churchyard was originally, but even the oldest parts of its current stone wall are unlikely to have been built more than 250 years ago.
The first accurate map of the village dates from about 1860, and on it the first village school is shown in its present location next to the churchyard. The present modernisation of the school involved the demolition of the early buildings and their later extensions, and the construction of the new building in the same place. We know that buildings from more than 150 years ago often do not have deep foundations, so archaeological remains can still be found when they are taken down.
Interior of the former school, with grave cuts visible
This is what happened here. As soon as the site clearance started, the archaeologists noticed different coloured patches of soil lying in rows across the site. These were interpreted as possible grave-cuts, and when they were examined carefully, some bones were found to survive. Construction work has been halted in this area to allow all the human remains to be removed archaeologically for examination and eventual re-burial. This work is being carried out by Archaeological Heritage Services Ltd, under the direction of David Swan.
It is early days in the analysis, but already some medieval pottery fragments and a shroud-pin have been found, suggesting that some of the burials may date from the medieval period. A long, curving feature which appears to be an in-filled ditch has also been found, and none of the burials lies beyond it, so we think it might be the boundary ditch of the early graveyard. A lot of medieval graveyards are round or oval, whereas later post-Reformation ones tend to be more regular and rectangular.
It now seems certain that the first school buildings were erected on land which had once been part of the graveyard, but which the people at the time felt could be built on as there would be no disturbance to burials because the buildings were to be built without deep foundations.