St Michael and All Angels Parish Church, Arthuret
Though the current Gothic style church dates from 1609, the parish had a church dating from 1150, served by Jedburgh Abbey’s monks and it is thought that there was a church on the site as early as the 6th century. Back in the 16th century this area on the border of Scotland between the Solway Firth and Langholm was known as the debatable lands and populated by the Border Reiver families.
Church services would be disrupted by the sometimes armed and feuding Reiver families. ‘It was during this period of weakness, almost of total moral collapse, that the Archbishop of Glasgow* took it upon him to excommunicate the Border thieves. Had the same vigorous measure been adopted at an earlier period, the result might have been more favourable. As it was, the launching of this ecclesiastical thunderbolt really created more amusement than consternation. It was regarded simply as the growl of a toothless lion. In no circumstances were the Border reivers easily intimidated. Their calling had made them more or less indifferent to the claims of Church and State……..**The curse was ordered to be read from every pulpit in the diocese and be circulated throughout the length and breadth of the Borders.’ (Robert Borland, minister of Yarrow. Border Raids and Reivers. Dalbeattie: Thomas Fraser 1898). It had little effect.
In the early 17th century when King James I united the Scottish and English thrones he set about pacifying the borders and the 1609 church was built by funds raised throughout the country to bring the teachings of Christ to the faithless families of the area. Unfortunately construction was delayed as one of the custodians absconded with with a large amount of the money and tower was not completed until 1690.
Hutcheon Graham of Arthuret was a notorious Reiver of the Graham reiving family and he is thouht to have invented blackmail (blackmeale). He would collect payment in the porch of Arthuret church each week after Sunday Evensong. Payment which was originally in grain insured against your livestock being stolen and property burned.
According to local legend Arthuret Parish Church is the final resting place of King Arthur.
St Michael’s Holy Well
Within the grounds of Arthuret Parish Church is St Michael’s Holy Well, probably dating from the early 17th century it is an ancient place of baptism and used as such up until the 1970s.
In his ‘Dangerous Ghosts’ (1954), Elliott O’Donnell (retelling a story from ‘Glimpses in the Twilight’ (1885) by Frederick George Lee) gives the following account of a ghost at Arthuret. ‘A youth named Robert Baty expressed a wish more than once that he should be buried within the Church of Arthuret, in the North of England, in which for several generations members of his mother’s family, the Grahams of Grahamshill, had been interred. He was accidentally drowned on August 12, 1680, when little more than twenty- three years of’ age. Unexpected circumstances prevented his nearest kinsfolk obeying his injunctions relative to the burial place of his body. It was interred without and not within Arthuret Church.
On the night after his funeral his ghost appeared to his youngest sister, Mary, and upbraided her for not having regarded his wishes. She was not at all frightened, and calmly told the apparition that the place of burial had not been chosen by her but by other people. The ghost threatened to molest the people who had disregarded his wishes until they had his body removed and put in the church. Mary assured him that she would do all she could in the matter.
The following morning some agricultural labourers, who were passing through the churchyard on their way to work, found Baty’s grave disturbed; all the earth which covered the coffin had been thrown out, and the coffin was exposed to their view. They informed the rector. He had the grave filled in and employed people to keep watch in the churchyard. The watching, however, was of no avail. On two succeeding nights the earth was thrown out of the grave, and the coffin again exposed to view.
Mary, who was much alarmed at these occurrences, implored her kinsfolk to do everything in their power with regard to the fulfilment of her brother’s wishes. “A faculty was obtained from York, where the Archbishop’s Court was held, authorizing the removal of Baty’s body to the family vault within the church.” Soon after this was done the ghost of Robert Baty appeared again to Mary, and informed her that it was now at rest, and that there would be no more alarming occurrences.
Archibald Armstrong (Died March 1672), Court Jester to King James I and King Charles I died on his estate in Arthuret and was buried here on 1st April 1672 (April Fools Day). The grave is unmarked.
Arthuret is thought to be the location of the Battle of Arfderydd (573AD) fought between the forces of Gwenddoleu ap Ceidio and the Christian King Riderch Hael of Strathclyde.
*Archbishop Gavin Dunbar of Glasgow
**The Monition of Cursing