Crossraguel, pp.271-273.

[Gazetteer of Scotland Contents]

   CROSSRAGUEL, or CROSSREGAL,1 a celebrated Cluniac abbey, now in ruins, in the parish of Kirkoswald in Ayrshire, 2 miles south-west of Maybole. It is situated on a broad ridge of ground which rises considerably above sea-level, but on a part of the ridge which sinks somewhat under the level of the immediate environs, and amidst marshy ground. The walls have greatly crumbled down, and it has long been unroofed, but it still presents an imposing front to the passer-by on the highway towards the east, and is one of the most entire ecclesiastical edifices of the period. This abbey was founded by Duncan, Earl of Carrick, about the year 1240. The last abbot was the celebrated Quentin Kennedy, who died in 1564. Grose has given three views of the ruins, and a minute description of them as they existed in 1796, – supplied by a gentleman resident in the neighbourhood, – of which the following is an extract. “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 164 feet long, and 22 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, 9 feet high, and at the bottom 5 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 30 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 13 feet by 11, lighted by two windows, 3 feet high, and 2½ feet broad, the one looking to the south, the other to the north. The second flight brings you to another room of exactly 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 staircase 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 dovecot of a very singular construction is still extant; the shaft of it is circular, and surrounds a well of excellent water; above 5 feet from the ground it begins to swell, and continues for 6 or 7 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 5 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, 16 feet perpendicular, and where widest 8 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 52 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, 18 feet broad, and 72 feet long; lighted only by three narrow slips to the west. – Turning from this door, you walk 72 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-west corner of the court, and two near the north-east. These doors are nearly of the same dimensions, 9 feet high, 5 feet broad at the bottom, and semicircular at the top. The door at the north-west 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, 88 feet long, and 25 feet broad within the walls, lighted by five windows, with pointed arches, 10 feet high, and 3 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, 8 feet broad, and 4 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, 9 feet high, and 5 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 76 feet long; the east end of it is semi-circular, or rather triagonal, adorned with three large windows, with pointed arches, 11 feet high and 7 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 six 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 7 feet broad, and 4 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 4 feet high and 2 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, 7 feet high and 6 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, 20 feet long and 15 broad, said to be the place where the consistorial court 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 20 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 of 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, 8 feet high and 5 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 24 feet long, 10 feet high, and 9 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 Abbot’s new house.” 

1  Written also Crosragnel, Crossregal, Crosragmol, Crossregall, Crossreguil, and Crossragwell. 

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