Originally known as Sancti Petri de Portu, many regard the Town Church as the Cathedral Church and the finest in the Channel Islands. The first mention of the church in official documents was in 1048 when it is thought to have been given to the Abbot of Marmoutier by William of Normandy. It is likely that the original building was made of wood. The current building was built over a 200 year period with the chancel completed in the 12th century and the chapel added in 1462. The church was completed in 1475. However restoration work was carried out to the spire in 1721. The bells were recast in 1736 and in 1913. The clock was installed in 1781. Up until 1886, the rows of pews went in various directions and at that time some re-alignment was undertaken.
A copy of the text of an order from Pope Sixtus IV granting neutrality to the island is displayed in the church. In 1414, the English Crown took over the church but interestingly the church paid tithes to the Bishop of Coutanches until 1548. Up until the middle 1700's, the Church was completely surrounded by street markets and houses. A stream ran past the Church and around the harbour near to Woolworths. A memorial to the famous islander Major General Sir Isaac Brock can be found inside the Church together with many other memorials.
In 2001, work started on repairing the 500 year old oak vaulted rafters in the roof, which are now rare in England and believed to be the last surviving of this type in the Channel Islands. The joints are now quite weak and are being strengthened with stainless steel plates on the ridges, but the beams themselves remain in good condition. They work the subject of public outcry when the church decided to replace the rafters in 2000, but the Ecclesiastical Court decided after taking expert advice, that the roof could be saved.References:
Dating from the 15th century, Kisimul is the only significant surviving medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides. It was the residence of the chief of the Macneils of Barra, who claimed descent from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages. Tradition tells of the Macneils settling in Barra in the 11th century, but it was only in 1427 that Gilleonan Macneil comes on record as the first lord. He probably built the castle that dominates the rocky islet, and in its shadow a crew house for his personal galley and crew. The sea coursed through Macneil veins, and a descendant, Ruari ‘the Turbulent’, was arrested for piracy of an English ship during King James VI’s reign in the later 16th century.
Heavy debts eventually forced the Macneil chiefs to sell Barra in 1838. However, a descendant, Robert Lister Macneil, the 45th Chief, repurchased the estate in 1937, and set about restoring his ancestral seat. It passed into Historic Scotland’s care in 2000.
The castle dates essentially from the 15th century. It takes the form of a three-storey tower house. This formed the residence of the clan chief. An associated curtain wall fringed the small rock on which the castle stood, and enclosed a small courtyard in which there are ancillary buildings. These comprised a feasting hall, a chapel, a tanist’s house and a watchman’s house. Most were restored in the 20th century, the tanist’s house serving as the family home of the Macneils. A well near the postern gate is fed with fresh water from an underground seam. Outside the curtain wall, beside the original landing-place, are the foundations of the crew house, where the sailors manning their chief’s galley had their quarters.