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  • Archaeology Shetland

Site in Focus - Cullingsburgh, Bressay

The ruins of Saint Mary's Church, the only know cruciform church in Shetland, can be found in the abandoned crofting village of Cullingsburgh on Bressay. Still in use as late as the beginning of the 18th century it is also the home of a replica of the Bressay Stone, the original found near this site by a workman in the mid-19th century. An outstanding example of Pictish art with Ogham script running down both sides of the cross-slab, the original is now housed at the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Also within the kirkyard is a memorial stone to Claes Jansen Bruyn, commander of the Dutch East India Company ship Amboina, who died here on August 27th 1636. After leaving port late the vessel ran into headwinds and disease forcing it off course where it eventually turned up in Bressay sound with 29 of its crew already dead.

Equally interesting, if you note the hump in the rear wall of the site you will be compelled to also note that corner of the site is built on top of the Broch of Cullingsburgh, much of the stone robbed from and used elsewhere. There is also a boundary wall running beneath and predating all the structures on site.

Finally, we must mention the Manse of Cullingsburgh which was the residence of the last minister, removed perhaps as late as 1737. It is also the home of the last resident of the crofting village, Lowrie Manson, who died in 1897.

Links for further reading:

The Manse of Cullingsburgh as it looks today.

Interior of but-end, Cullingsbroch; Laurence Manson and daughter Katie Manson.

Photograph courtesy of the Shetland Museum Photo Library, no. RO1184 by J Valentine 1887.

The Photo Library of the Shetland Museum houses some 60,000 photographs dating from the 1880s until today.

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