Listed Building

The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site only. All other information in the record is not statutory.


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Local Authority
Orkney Islands
Planning Authority
Orkney Islands
Papa Westray
HY 48813 52705
348813, 1052705


12th century; alterations circa 1710, repaired 1843, restored 1993. Single storey, rectangular-plan church with crowstepped gables. Harled rubble. To west gable end, door set into rubble forestair with timber door to gallery above. 2 windows to south elevation. Window to left and blocked arrow slit to centre of north elevation. 4-pane timber sash and case windows. Pitched, stone slate roof.

INTERIOR: largely reconstructed in 1993 following 18th century arrangement with sections of original timbers re-used where possible. Timber pulpit with sounding board to south. Timber box pews to east. Timber wainscoting gallery to west. Plaque dedicated to Laura Grimond, 1918-1994. New flagstones laid over remains of earlier flagstones. Repaired and renewed timber ceiling joists.

KIRKYARD AND BOUNDARY WALLS: rectangular-plan burial ground with 19th century and later burial monuments. Low wall surrounding Traill family burial enclosure adjoining church to east. Tall rubble boundary walls; upright coping stones; gate piers to north east; replacement iron gate.

The below ground remains of the church and part of the surrounding burial ground including a 12th century hog-backed tombstone, are scheduled. See Scheduled Monument No 1484 for details.

Statement of Special Interest

Place of worship in use as such.

St Boniface Kirk on Papa Westray is a 12th century church, remodelled in the early 18th century church with a significant proportion of 12th century fabric surviving. The church and its grounds is one of the oldest Christian sites in the north of Scotland, and part of the development of an early centre of Christian worship on the island, potentially from as early as the 7th century. The outline of a former chancel archway is visible on the east gable and a blocked window with an arched head of medieval origin can be seen on the interior north wall.

A spatially separate chancel to the east of the nave is a characteristic of medieval church architecture, a liturgical requirement. By the eighteenth century these elongated proportions were not considered best suited to services in which preaching was predominant. Many medieval churches were truncated in order to make them easier to use. From the mid 17th century to the late 19th century, Papa Westray belonged to the Traill family. Around 1710, the west end of St Boniface was extended slightly to allow a gallery addition, and a stone forestair was added, probably using stone from the down-taken chancel at the east end. A family burial enclosure was built on the chancel foundations. The exterior of the church has remained largely unchanged since that time.

'St Boniface' refers to an 8th century saint who was traditionally a member of the Northumbrian mission to Pictland. 7th or 8th century incised cross-slab stones found in the St Boniface kirkyard (now housed in the National Museum and in Tankerness House Museum, Kirkwall) and a 12th century hog-backed stone to the east of the church (see Scheduled Ancient Monument No 1484) indicate that St Boniface and the surrounding area was an important early ecclesiastical centre on Orkney from at least the 8th century onwards. They also support the argument for the presence of an earlier chapel on the site of the 12th century church. The site is also closely associated with the extensive prehistoric and Iron Age coastal site known as Munkerhoose which is immediately adjacent to the east (Map Ref: HY 48770 52717 - see Scheduled Ancient Monument No 1466).

St Boniface Kirk ceased to be the parish church in 1929 when the congregation moved to the larger St Anne's Kirk. The church continued to be maintained by William Traill until his death in 1944, before being restored in 1993. The interior scheme closely follows the early 18th century plan with surviving timbers re-used where possible, adding to the building's authenticity and its ability to reflect its historic importance. New roofing couples were put in place, slates were re-used for the roof where possible, the existing harl was left and a new flagstone floor was laid over the remains of the earlier flags. There is a plaque dedicated to Laura Grimond, 1918-1994, who helped restore St Boniface.

Formerly listed and scheduled. Listed Building Record updated and change of category from B to A, 2014. Descheduled November 2014.



W Blaeu. (1654) Orcadum Et Schetlandiae. Ordnance Survey (1882) 25 inch to the mile, 1st Edition, London: Ordnance Survey. Proceedings Of The Orkney Antiquarian Society, Vol IV (1924-1925) pp33-34. RCAHMS (1946), Inventory Of Orkney, Vol II pp179-180. RCAHMS (1983) The Archaeological Sites And Monuments Of Scotland, No 19 - Papa Westray And Westray, pp8, 10, 18. J Gifford (1992) Buildings of Scotland - Highlands And Islands, p348. C Lowe (1998) St Boniface Church, Orkney, p4. J Rendall (2002) St Boniface and the Mission to the Northern Isles: A View from Papa Westray - in Crawford, B E (2002), The Papar In The North Atlantic: Environment And History, St Andrews, p231-37.

About Listed Buildings

Listing is the way that a building or structure of special architectural or historic interest is recognised by law through the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

We list buildings of special architectural or historic interest using the criteria published in the Historic Environment Scotland Policy Statement.

The statutory listing address is the legal part of the listing. The information in the listed building record gives an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building(s). It is not a definitive historical account or a complete description of the building(s). The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

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