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Chapel of Christ Church, Ensay

The church building is about 25 feet (8 metres] long, with rough stone walls which are about 3 feet [90 cm] thick. The windows are lancet slits about 6 inches [15 cm] broad on the outside, but opening to about two feet [70 cm] on the inside. There are four of these lancet windows. Two thick oaken beams pierce the west wall and project for some two feet outside the walls. A bell may at some time have hung from this wall. It was probable that this old building had not been used as a church since the 17th century. In later years, it was used as a cattle byre, and its rustic and bucolic use probably saved it from further decay.¹

1.  Scherr, A. (2003) Ensay: A Brief History, unpublished

2.  www.argyll.anglican.org/churches/harris/christ-church-ensay-2

3.  Scherr, A. (2003) Ensay: A Brief History, unpublished

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Carbon dating of bones found just outside the Chapel  in the 1970s confirm that the building is late medieval, with some stones probably dating from the 11th century (see Archaeology).  Whatever its ancient history, it was not until the early 1900s that Archibald Stewart's descendant, Jessie Scott,  set about a major restoration of Christ Church Ensay.

By 1909 it was repaired, the roof re-slated, the ceiling panelled in Californian redwood, a heavy oak door added and the floor cemented, and a new altar, altar rail, reredos and lectern made in mahogany. The first entry in the register is for 14 October 1910 and there were fairly regular services from then until 1914. There were no recorded services during the First World War, but the church re-opened and periodic services continued until 1935. When Jessie Scott died in 1931 her will made over the chapel and its contents to the Bishop of Argyll & The Isles, together with a small sum to endow the upkeep. The Harris congregation is now responsible for its maintenance. Among the conditions of the will was a clause stating that at least two services a year, including Holy Communion, were to be held there.²

When John David bought Ensay House in 1954, he made further restorative work on the Chapel, which had not seen much use since Jessie Scott's death. David added an impressive oak door made by Robert Thompson, the celebrated wood-carver of North Yorkshire. Thompson's trademark was a carved mouse, and this can been seen on the door.

On 9th June  1973 - appropriately St Columba's Day - Bishop Wimbush, Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, assisted by Canon Bovey, led a pilgrimage of 45 people over the Sound of Harris to re-dedicate the old Christ Church on Ensay. We were met on the shore by John David and his friends who were staying in Ensay House. After a picnic lunch, we all gathered in the small church. Bishop Wimbush presided over a very moving service. He spoke of Ensay past, Ensay present, and of the future of Ensay. Each subsequent June, and as near to St Columba's Day as we can, we have made this annual Pilgrimage back to the Church, sometimes with as many as 60 worshippers in the congregation.³

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