Keeill number eight.
With kind permission of Mr Cleator.
This rarely visited keeill sitting on the land of West Nappin, Jurby, is thought to be dedicated to St. Patrick. Kermode in the archaeological survey calls it St. Patrick’s Chapel. Around 1900, a Father Gillow of Ramsey wrote:
‘At the Nappin, Jurby, we find in the middle of a large field, the remains of what was once a Catholic Church. The northeast gable has a three-light window, embedded in the orthodox red sandstone. In the southeast wall, in the corner, are the two niches for the wine and water cruets, and underneath, the Sacrarium. I was informed that some 200 years ago, the building was cut through the middle in order to make a school. This church was dedicated to St. Patrick, and the east and southeast gables, which are still standing, afford ample evidence of its former uses as a Catholic place of worship. In the south west corner of this field there is a charming green spot, under which is a heap of stones filling up what was once known as St. Patrick’s well, the water from which still flows down to the sea’ (Cain, 2004)
J. J. Kneen (Manx Placenames, 1925) described the chapel at West Nappin as having a dedication to St. Cecilia ‘St. Keyl’s Chapel’
‘This chapel was dedicated to the Roman Saint Cecilia whose dedication date was November 22nd, but in Mann she was venerated on November 9th (O.S.). This day was called in Manx Laa’l Kickle, ‘Cecilia’s feast-day,’ and a fair was held annually in the parish of Jurby, which in early times must have been held in close proximity to the Chapel of St. Cecilia. The fair is mentioned by Feltham in 1797, and it did not disappear until after 1834.
It may be noted that Cecilia was pronounced Kikilia in Latin and Irish, and as is usually the case in Manx, the final unstressed vowel dropped away.
The ruins of St. Cecilia’s Chapel, now under the care of the Ancient Monuments Trustees, may be seen on the estate of W. Nappin, a little south of the parish church.
The usage of this chapel as a school house in the 18th century has probably been instrumental in saving it from destruction.’ (Kneen, 1925)
The dedication to St. Cecilia is generally thought to be unsubstantiated, however, because of this, the building is also known as Keeill Kickle (a derivation of Cecilia), Keeill Kickle or St. Patrick’s Chapel.
The chapel is under the care of the Manx Museum and National Trust although it is on private land.
The Clarke family farmed at the Nappin for centuries and when there was a desperate need for a school in the area in the mid 18th century, Thomas Clarke used his own money to restore and extend the old chapel which was then used as a school for a time. This served to protect the earlier parts of the keeill but has also given it a unique character of its own. The annual fair to celebrate ‘St. Cecilia’s feast day’ was held close to the chapel on November 9th until the early 19th century.
An extract from the Isle of Man Times (www.imuseum.im) of 1959 gives a good introduction in a description of a visit to the keeill by the Antiquarian Society:
‘This tiny keeill, Church of St. Cecilia, has a remarkable history. Originally a Bronze Age tumulus, it became a Christian ‘cell’ probably falling into decay in the Middle Ages until in 1749 Thomas Clarke, of The Nappin, restored and enlarge it to make a day school for the children of the neighbourhood, Now it stands, a bleak little ruin, probably unique.
Where else would one find in so tiny a building traces of an early Christian Piscina, a window of the Middle Ages and an eighteenth century schoolroom fireplace?’
Where else indeed.
The visit to this fascinating little chapel one early evening in March has definitely been a high point. When you think of how simple most of the remaining keeills are, finding the carved windows and a Celtic cross standing inside the building itself really was wonderful. Keeil Kickle was surveyed as part of the Third Report of the Manx Archaeological Survey, in the survey they call it ‘St. Patrick’s Chapel’ but I’ll call it ‘Kickle’ as that seems to be the accepted name now. This interesting survey shows the level of architectural detail that has survived over the years.
The survey team found the keeill to measure 20ft. by 11ft. and consists of two distinct parts from different time periods. The building is built using shore boulders although the jambs and carved stones are all sandstone, the east end uses cement and rough cast and dates from around the 14th or 15th century, the rest dates from around the 17th or 18th century at the time it was converted in to a school. The keeill was roofed at this time and slates were found inside the interior, there are some projecting stones in the south wall which may have been part of a raised dais for the altar although no part of the altar itself could be found. The upper part of a decorative window in the east wall was still intact although the sill stones were gone, Kermode suggested the window was from the 14th century and had grooves for lead and glass, a small fragment of iridescent glass was found below the window.
The inside lintel of the window was found to be a broken Scandinavian cross slab which P. M. C. Kermode removed and cast in 1891 with permission from the owner at the time, Mr Clarke. Kermode thought they slab may have been intentionally placed in the 14th century building as the moulding on the side would have been ornamental. A recess for a piscina (a stone basin near the altar in Catholic and pre-Reformation churches for draining water used in the Mass) was found in the south wall although the bowl was lost, it is thought this space was used as a cupboard during its use as a school. There was knowledge of a small ‘stone cup’ which had been kept in the piscina and was possibly the original bowl but this was sadly lost. Around this recess was a decorative stone arch:
Inside this hollow had been placed by Mr Clarke an early cross slab which he had found in the ruins, this is visible in the photograph above from 2016. A number of graves were found, some passing under the walls and showing that the current building is not on the lines of the original, many of these graves were covered in many white pebbles.
A fireplace had been built in for when the building was in use as a school. The survey team found the enclosure to measure 38 yards from north to south by 25 yards, the chapel sits in the centre, Kermode suggests that a square hollow in the ground at the west end of the building may have been occupied by part of the 14th century building, a few foundation stones were found nearby along with cement mixed rubble similar to that used in the east gable. A lintel grave was found in the enclosure, also covered with pebbles.
It is thought that the site must have been a Bronze Age burial site as a much earlier grave was come across and many years earlier, a cinerary urn (holding human ashes) had been found.
Fig. 12. St. Patrick’s Chapel, West Nappin, Jurby.
What an incredible place, I wouldn’t have known it even existed before we started this journey, it really is a building with a rich history and its survival is both surprising and wonderful. Here’s to it surviving for many more years.
I hope Nicola’s lovely photos tell their own story.
On to the Mount Rule Keeill.
Want to know more about keeills? https://manxkeeills.wordpress.com/2016/04/10/keeills-and-cake-an-introduction/