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Balquhidder Parish Church
Dedication: unknown/St Angus(1)
Diocese of Dunblane
County of Perthshire
NN 5359 2091
There are two church buildings in the churchyard at Balquhidder. One is a fragmentary shell of largely seventeenth- and eighteenth-century date in its present form; the other, which remains in use, was built to replace it in 1853-5.
Little record survives of the early development of the parish of Balquhidder. It occurs first in a papal bull of 1237 which assigned one quarter of the fruits of certain parishes in the diocese of Dunblane to the bishop in perpetuity to augment his slender income.(2) This quarter of the fruits still pertained to the episcopal mensa at the Reformation.(3) The church itself appears as a free parsonage in Bagimond’s Roll in 1275.(4) Otherwise, it is not until after 1432 that it begins to appear more regularly in record sources, by which date its parsonage teinds had been assigned as the prebend of a canon in Dunblane cathedral.(5) Its cure was a vicarage perpetual. This appropriation and vicarage settlement remained in force at the Reformation.(6)
There has evidently been a long tradition of Christian worship at Balqhuidder on the evidence of a number of heavily eroded cross-incised slabs within the churchyard.
The partial shell of the earlier of two buildings in the churchyard is of a rectangular rubble-built structure measuring 22.25 metres from east to west and 7.9 metres from north to south. The earliest certainly identifiable feature within the fabric of this building is the lintel of the doorway towards the west end of the south wall, which is incised with the date 1631 and the initials of David Murray, Lord Scone. The pair of ogee-arched windows towards the middle of that wall are assumed to have achieved their present form in the course of modifications in 1774, during which it appears that the walls were heightened.
It is said by local historians that the site of the original church was a little further to the east, where it also enclosed the area around Rob Roy MacGregor’s grave; but there is currently insufficient physical evidence either to support or dismiss this view. What is perhaps more likely, however, is that the medieval church was on the same site as the surviving shell, and that its plan conditioned that of the latter. This possibility finds support in both the oriented alignment of the building and its dimensions. It must also be regarded as a possibility that parts of the masonry of the medieval church were incorporated in the west, south and north walls of the exisiting structure. The east wall, however, appears to be entirely post-medieval, and probably dates from as late as the alterations of 1774. There is perhaps the possibility that the church was slightly truncated at the eastern end at the time that wall was built, which could account for the tradition of foundations having existed to the east of the church.
There are a number of grave slabs within the churchyard that appear to be of medieval date, including one decorated with a pair of sheep shears as an indication of the trade of the individual commemorated. The most intriguing slab is one that was brought into the nineteenth-century church in 1917, and that is said to depict the highly apocryphal patron of Balquhidder, St Angus. That identification is based on the fact that the slab portrays a very simplistically carved figure holding what appears to be a chalice. The carving is so crude that it is difficult to estimate a date for it with any confidence, but it is the view of the writers of this report that it is more likely to be of late medieval date, and that it may be the grave slab of one of the vicars who served the church.
The church was replaced by the new building a short way to its north that was erected in 1853-5.
1. Cockburn, Medieval Bishops of Dunblane, 9.
2. Theiner, Vetera Monumenta, no xci.
3. Kirk (ed.), Book of Assumptions, 295, 348.
4. SHS Misc, vi, 53.
5. CPL, viii, 453.
6. Donaldson (ed.), Thirds of Benefices, 5; Kirk (ed.), Book of Assumptions, 328, 330, 392.
Allen, J.R. and Anderson, J., 1903, The Early Christian Monuments of Scotland, Edinburgh, pt 3, 342.
Calendar of entries in the Papal registers relating to Great Britain and Ireland; Papal letters, 1893-, ed. W.H. Bliss, London,viii, 453.
Cockburn, J.H., 1959, The Mediaeval Bishops of Dunblane and their Church, Edinburgh, 9.
Cowan, I.B., 1967, The parishes of medieval Scotland, (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh, 14.
Donaldson, G., 1949, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, (Scottish History Society), Edinburgh, 5.
Dunlop, A.I., 1939, ‘Bagimond’s Roll, statement of the tenths of the kingdom of Scotland’ Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vi, 1-77, at 53.
Gifford, J. and Walker, F.A., 2002, The Buildings of Scotland, Stirling and Central Scotland, New Haven and London, 201-2.
Gow, J.M., 1887, ‘Notes in Balquhidder: Saint Angus, curing wells, cup-marked stones…’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. 21, 83.
Hay, G., 1957, The architecture of Scottish post-Reformation churches, Oxford, 268.
Kirk, J., 1995, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, (British Academy) Oxford, 295, 328, 330, 348, 392.
Mackinlay, J.M., 1914, Ancient church dedications in Scotland, non-scriptural dedications, Edinburgh, 502.
Main, L., 1999, ‘Balquhidder Parish Church, watching brief’, Discovery and Excavation Scotland, 85-6.
New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1845, Edinburgh and London, x, 347-8.
Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Canmore database
Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-9, ed. J. Sinclair, Edinburgh, vi (1793), 94-95.
Stuart, J., 1867, Sculptured stones of Scotland, (Spalding Club), Aberdeen, ii, 32, pls lxvii-lxviii.
Vetera Monumenta Hibernorum et Scotorum Illustrantia, 1864, ed. A. Theiner, Rome, no xci.