Historian Mary Craig unveils plans to restore Stow's historic graveyard and auld kirk...

STOW has been a sacred site for around 1,500 years.

And it is hoped to restore some of its proud history with work on the village's ancient kirk and graveyard.

Stow was mentioned in the writings of the Welsh monk, Nennius in 826.

According to Nennius, King Arthur received a vision before the great battle of Gunnion, in which Mary promised victory to a Christian champion. Arthur is said to have fought with an image of the Virgin and Child on his shield.

He won and, in gratitude, he built a chapel in Stow for Mary.

By the 10th century Stow was part of the diocese of Lindisfarne, until the Viking sack of 945.

In 1018, when the Scots conquered Lothian, the original chapel of St Mary of Wedale in Stow passed into the diocese of St Andrews.

The original holy chapel of Stow lay about half a mile to the south of the current village beside the holy virgin’s well, which still exists. By the mid 13th century the chapel was still in existence but a church proper had been constructed in the centre of the village, its current site today. On 3rd November 1242, Bishop David de Berhham of St Andrews consecrated the church of St Mary.

The church was rebuilt over the centuries most notably in the late 15th century and then again in the 17th century. The present church ruins date from the 17th century. The church was in use until 1876 when the new parish church was built.

The church and graveyard sit in the centre of the village. They act as a focal point in the village and are the most visible piece of built heritage in the village. They are well loved structures within the village and their historical importance is a matter of local pride. The auld kirk has recently been painstakingly restored by a local volunteer, who has shown all of us the real beauty of the building. The gravestones surrounding the auld kirk show various examples of funerary sculpture and mark the graves of many old border families including the Pringles of Torwoodlee, the Darlings of Middletoun and the Taits of Pirn.

The sacred site of Stow has attracted visitors down through the years including: King David I who visited in 1142, King William the Lion who visited in 1184, William Wallace who visited in 1297, the Earl of Carrick, an heir to the Scottish crown who held a marriage feast in Stow in 1329 (the king paid the bill) Queen Margaret Tudor, wife of James IV, visited Stow prior to the battle of Flodden in 1513 and King James V who visited in 1526 and 1642.

Well with all that history going on in Stow, as you can imagine, there is great deal of community support to restore and protect as much of that history as possible.

A group in the village, led by the Community Council and supported by the Gala Water History and Heritage Association, are looking to restore the graveyard to its former glory, repairing and re-erecting the gravestones where possible.

Historic Environment Scotland and Scottish Borders Council are advising on correct procedures and lottery bids are being prepared. Part of the preparation requires us to tell everyone what we are planning, especially anyone who has relatives buried in the graveyard.

If anyone requires any more information please contact the Community Archivist at