Overton Graveyard - July 1989

The Restoration Of Overton Graveyard

The Final Resting Place of Admiral Lord Keith

Overton Project - October 1988

The present cemetery at Kincardine, in the ancient parish of Tulliallan has two predecessors. The old kirkyard, surrounding the remains of the 17th century church is kept up and maintained by the District Parks and Cemeteries Department. The old graveyard surrounding the site of the early pre-reformation church at Overton has been totally neglected and virtually forgotten for many years and the Parks and Cemeteries Department do not recognise its existence.

In 1927 A. D. Lacaille in an article for the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries described Overton Cemetery as 'a disused and utterly neglected ground'. In 1964 John Fowler Mitchell in his genealogical survey of the gravestones confirms that the site was still in the same deplorable state and infers that the situation had deteriorated as he was unable to locate some of the stones referred to in the earlier article. In all the total number of stones recorded from both surveys at the Overton Cemetery was twenty plus five within the 19th century Keith Mausoleum, built on the site of the pre-reformation church. From J. F. Mitchell's description the mausoleum had been vandalised and the tomb of Viscount Lord Keith had been opened with the vault cover broken and displaced.

This state of affairs continued until 1986 when the Kincardine Local History Group took up the project. Several of the mature trees had fallen causing damage to some of the stones and several other trees were in a dangerous state. The whole ground was badly choked with brambles and snowberries making access during the summer months virtually impossible. Inside the mausoleum was an appalling mess of rubble, debris and damaged stones.

Work began by cutting down and clearing the undergrowth and treating the roots with a selective weedkiller. The fallen trees were sawn into smaller sections and manually removed. The dead and dangerous trees were felled and cut into sections for easy removal. The entire surface of the ground was probed to a depth of 2 feet to locate any stones which had been covered over and lost. Several of the rediscovered stones were found to be of mediaeval design. All upright stones were re-established as near as possible in their original position. Stones broken by falling trees were carefully re-assembled and set flush in the ground to give a degree of protection.

The mausoleum was cleared out, Admiral Lord Keith's tomb cover was refitted and resealed. The damaged vault covers on the tombs of Lord Keith's daughters Baroness Keith and Lady Osborne were repaired and the inscriptions recut as necessary. The ground has been raked, cleared of roots and seeded and is now showing a pleasing appearance as the young grass is coming though. Young laburnum trees have been planted to replace the trees which had been lost. A detailed survey of all the stones has been carried out and recorded showing a final total of 55 stones. The cemetery, which is of a rounded rectangular shape is surrounded by a stone built retaining wall capped with roughly dressed coping slabs. In several places the wall has been badly damaged by tree roots and falling trees.

The mausoleum, built in 1830 was of a pleasant stone construction with crow-stepped gables although the slate roof was in a very poor condition with gaping holes and rotting timber supports. Considering the inaccessibility of the site and the high cost of replacement it was considered that the best option might be to remove the roof altogether and to insert a metal grill in the open doorway for visual access.

However the legal implications involved in this step presented some difficulties and before these would be resolved the situation was drastically changed. In the summer of 1992 vandals started a fire in the mausoleum which totally destroyed the roof and severely damaged the stonework. Tragically the burning timbers fell upon the tombs of Lord Keith and his daughters destroying the surface of the stones and their inscriptions. All information in the mausoleum had been fully recorded and made available on the web site but sadly no repair is possible on the stones which continue to crumble away.

The bulk of the work on the project has been carried out by a small group of volunteers from the History Group but it has stimulated quite a wide spread interest locally and a more general appreciation of the historical potential of the area.

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