Crieff Parish Church

Crieff Old Parish Church, exterior, from south

Summary description

The medieval church was superseded by a replacement in 1786; following use as a hall, that replacement is itself now in a semi-derelict state. The surviving memorials within the churchyard have been set in a row along its west side.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Michael

The church of Crieff appears to be an ancient establishment and one of the most important in Strathearn. There are, however, few early references to the church or its clergy. A parson of Crieff, Brice, is recorded in the time of Bishop Abraham of Dunblane (c.1214-1223),(1) but there is no further contemporary evidence for the status of the church until 1274-5 when it is listed in Bagimond’s Roll. In the first year of the taxation, Crieff appears as one of the wealthiest prebends of Dunkeld, assessed at 47s 9d.(2) In the second year, a vicarage is enrolled, assessed at 5s, as well as the prebend at 47s, against which is the endorsement that this assessment included the vicar’s portion.(3) In the early sixteenth century, Alexander Myln reported that the church had been erected into a prebend in the time of Bishop Geoffrey (1236-49), but that he had also assigned 10 merks from its fruits to the common funds of the canons of the cathedral.(4) This pension of 10 merks was apparently a source of dispute during the episcopate of Bishop Robert de Cardeny (1398-1437) when the then incumbent, Walter Stewart, failed to pay the money due to the common fund.(5) At the Reformation, the pension was still drawn from the fruits of the prebendary of Crieff, who paid £6 13s 4d into the common funds of the canons.(6)

By that time, however, the annexation of the parish revenues had been redefined radically. In 1501, the prebend of Crieff was annexed to the Chapel Royal at Stirling by King James IV, with two prebends – Crieff primo and Crieff secundo – being supported on its revenues. The Dunkeld prebend was assigned certain specified fruits from which he was still obliged to pay the annual 10 merks to the common fund and continued in a much-reduced financial condition, while the vicar pensionary was to receive his stipend from the prebendaries of the Chapel Royal.(7) The annexation of the revenues and formal erection of the new prebends was in place by July 1508 when sir William Silver, chaplain, received letters from the king directed to the dean of the Chapel Royal instructing his collation to the prebend of Crieff secundo, which was noted as being founded upon half the rectory and vicarage fruits of the parish church.(8)

Additional endowed chaplainries were recorded within the parish church in the early sixteenth century. The first recorded was the chaplainry of the altar of St Michael, where sir James Murray was presented in June 1507 in succession to sir John Rogy.(9) Murray had demitted his position before April 1508, when sir William Murray was presented in his place, the chaplainry then being named as the chapel of St Michael of Pittentian after the property to the south east of the town from which it was funded.(10) The chaplainry had changed hands again by August 1509, when sir Alexander Mure was presented to it.(11) A second chaplainry was established at the altar of St Serf on the south side of the church of Crieff by 1538, when royal confirmation of the mortification of property to support it was received.(12) The chaplainry of Crieff was valued at £60 at the Reformation but the chaplain of St Michael’s altar, sir John Bannatyne, who had been presented in 1553, was noted as receiving 22 merks ‘allanerlie’.(13)


1. Arbroath Liber, i, no 213.

2. SHS Misc, vi, 49.

3. SHS Misc, vi, 72, 74.

4. Myln, Vitae, 10.

5. Myln, Vitae, 18. Myln is in error with his identification of Stewart as ‘archdeacon of St Andrews’. There are a number of alternative candidates for the role holding benefices in various dioceses, but not St Andrews.

6. Kirk (ed.), Book of Assumptions, 300.

7. Rogers, Chapel Royal, 14-15, 42-48, 89-93.

8. RSS, i, no 1705.

9. RSS, i, no 1493.

10. RSS, i, no 1659.

11. RSS, i, no 1929. There were further changes of hands in Jan 1515/6 and 1519 (RSS, i, nos 2689, 3038).

12. RSS, iii, no 2803.

13. Kirk (ed.), Book of Assumptions, 328, 337; RSS, iv, no 463. Bannantyne was a monk of Newbattle and only received permission to uplift the fruits of the chaplainry from his abbot and a fresh presentation to the same in the name of Queen Mary in April 1556: RSS, iv, no 3196.

Architectural description

Crieff has a fine cross slab datable to the late tenth or early eleventh century, which used to be located on the High Street, but which was removed to the tolbooth in 1998. However, since it is now believed that it originated at Strowan and was only moved to Crieff in the eighteenth century, it must presumably be regarded as evidence of early Christian activity within the wider area rather than within Crieff itself.

The building presently in use as the parish church dates from 1880-2, and is in the north-eastern quarter of Crieff. The site of the medieval parish church is almost certainly a graveyard on the south side of High Street. According to the author of the entry in the Statistical Account of 1793, the church then in use was ‘an antique Gothic building with an internal length of 95 feet’ (28.6 metres). It appears to have been a two-compartment structure, since the choir was said to have been internally 14 feet (4.27 metres) wide and the other part – presumably the nave – 18 feet (5.49 metres) wide. Assuming a wall thickness of perhaps 75 centimetres, that would indicate extreme overall dimensions of 30.46 by 6.99 metres.

The church which now stands in the graveyard was built in 1786, though it may not have been entirely completed until 1827; it is said that when its predecessor was demolished about forty gold coins of the time of Robert I were found built into its wall. It stands towards the northern end of the churchyard, though it seems likely that its location was more central within the churchyard before encroachments to the north and east. The oriented alignment of the present building suggests that it could be on the site of its predecessor, but there are no visible traces of medieval fabric. After it was superseded, the present building was adpated as a church hall, though it is now in a semi-derelict condition. The few surviving memorials within the churchyard have been marshalled in a row along its western side.


Allen, J.R. and Anderson, J., 1903, The Early Christian Monuments of Scotland, Edinburgh, pt 3, 313-5.

Cowan, I.B., 1967, The parishes of medieval Scotland, (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh, 39.

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 49, 72, 74.

Gifford, J., 2007, The Buildings of Scotland, Perth and Kinross, New Haven and London, 292.

Hall, M., Forsyth, K., Henderson, I., Scott, I, Trench-Jellicoe, R., Watson, A., 2000. 'Of makings and meanings: towards a culural biography of the Crieff Burgh Cross, Strathearn, Perthshire, Tayside and Fife Archaeological Journal, vi, 154-188. 

Kirk, J., 1995, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, (British Academy) Oxford, 300, 328, 337.

Liber S Thome de Aberbrothoc, 1848-56, Edinburgh (Bannatyne Club), i, no 213.

Metcalf, D.M., ‘The evidence of Scottish coin hoards for monetary history’, in D.M. Metcalf, Coinage in medieval Scotland (1100-1600), (British Archaeological Reports, 45), Oxford.

New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1845, Edinburgh and London, x, 518-9.

Porteous, A., 1912, History of Crieff, Edinburgh and London, 124.

Registrum Secreti Sigilli Regum Scotorum, 1908-82, ed. J.M. Thomson et al., Edinburgh, i, nos 1705, 1493, 1659, 1929, 2689, 3038.

Registrum Secreti Sigilli Regum Scotorum, 1908-82, ed. J.M. Thomson et al., Edinburgh, iii, no 2803.

Registrum Secreti Sigilli Regum Scotorum, 1908-82, ed. J.M. Thomson et al., Edinburgh, iv, no 3196.

Rogers, C., 1882, History of the Chapel Royal of Scotland, (Grampian Club), Edinburgh, 14-15, 42-48, 89-93.

Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-9, ed. J. Sinclair, Edinburgh, ix, 598.

Vitae Dunkeldensis Ecclesiae Episcoporum...Ad Annum Mdxv, 1823, ed. T. Thomson, (Bannatyne Club), Edinburgh, 10, 18.



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  • 1. Crieff Old Parish Church, exterior, from south

  • 2. Crieff Old Parish Churchyard, memorial

  • 3. Crieff Old Parish Churchyard, monuments