Madderty Parish Church

Madderty Church and churchyard, from south east

Summary description

The church is a T-plan structure dating largely from a reconstruction of 1668 in its present form. There is a strong possibility that the main body occupies the footprint of its medieval predecessor.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Ethernan

Like many of the churches in Strathearn, the dedication of Madderty to a Celtic saint points to an early origin. Patronage of the church in the twelfth century appears to have lain with the earls of Strathearn, for in c.1200 Madderty was granted by Earl Gillebrigte to the canons of his new Augustinian priory on the old monastic site at Inchaffray, less than a kilometre to the north east.(1) The grant was confirmed by King William in c.1201 and by Pope Inncoent III in 1203.(2) Appropriation of the church to Inchaffray followed in c.1211 by grant of Bishop John II of Dunkeld, but when Bishop Hugh confirmed that grant between 1215 and 1221 he stipulated that the cure was to be served by secular priests rather than by one of the canons.(3) In 1238, Bishop Geoffrey relaxed this requirement and permitted them to serve the church with either secular chaplains or one of their own number, an arrangement confirmed in January 1238/9 by the dean and chapter of Dunkeld but with the obligation on the canons to pay 1lb of incense annually to the church of Dunkeld.(4) It seems that the abbey followed the option of serving the cure with a chaplain down to the Reformation.


1. Inchaffray Charters, nos IV, IX, XIV.

2. Inchaffray Charters, nos XVIII, XXI; RRS, ii, no 432.

3. Inchaffray Charters, nos XXXII, XXXVI.

4. Inchaffray Charters, nos LXV, LXVI.

Architectural description

In its present form the church is a T-plan structure, the main body of which has dimensions of 19.15 metres from east to west and 6.98 metres from north to south. The east-west axis is slightly out of true, with the east end deflected a little towards the north. An inscribed tablet in the east gable gives the date of construction of the church to its present form as 1668, while a second tablet on the south wall gives the initials of the minister of the time, the Rev’d James Graham.

There were evidently further structural works later in the seventeenth century, since the author of the section in the Statistical Account, published in 1797, stated that the church had been built in 1689 and was no longer in good repair, despite the fact that accounts suggest it had been re-roofed in 1765. It is uncertain when an offshoot on the north side of the church was built. In its existing form it contains the porch and vestry, and dates from a restoration and re-ordering of 1897 by G.T. Ewing. However, there is evidently a burial vault below it, which is entered externally from its east side, and there must be a possibility that the offshoot originated as a laird’s aisle, with the laird’s pew at the main level and his vault below.

Photographs taken before the restoration of 1897 show that, apart from the bellcote on the west gable, which dates from 1801, the church had a strikingly domestic appearance, with the south front lit by sash windows. Towards each of the two ends of the south face was a small window, above which was a skylight in the roof, presumably to light the areas below and above galleries respectively. At the middle of the face was a pair of tripartite sash windows. In the restoration of 1897 these were replaced by single cusped lancets and triplets of lancets, with a single lancet in the east wall and an oculus in the west gable. The internal reordering resulted in the focus of worship being a communion table at the east end, rather than a pulpit against the south wall.

The external masonry is concealed beneath a modern coat of render, but the tooling of the internal masonry below the layers of paint leaves little doubt that the walls are largely of 1897. However, the dimensions and approximate orientation of the main body of the church suggest that it stands on the foundations of a medieval predecessor. This possibility is supported by the way in which along the eastern part of the south wall, and for a short stretch at the east end of the north wall, there is exposed masonry at the foot of the wall that appears to belong to an earlier structure with slightly thicker walls. While this could not be advanced as conclusive evidence for the post-Reformation church having been raised on the foundations and footings of a medieval predecessor, the evidence would certainly be consistent with that having been the case.

At the entrance to the churchyard, on the east side of the enclosure, the gate piers are capped by the two halves of what appears to be a bisected octagonal font basin. There is a local tradition that this originated at Inchaffray Abbey, though it cannot be discounted that it had been Madderty’s own font.


Charters, Bulls and other Documents relating to the Abbey of Inchaffray, 1908, (Scottish History Society), Edinburgh, nos IV, IX, XIV, XVIII, XXI, XXXII, XXXVI, LXV, LXVI.

Cowan, I.B., 1967, The parishes of medieval Scotland, (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh, 142.

Gifford, J., 2007, The Buildings of Scotland, Perth and Kinross, New Haven and London, 513.

Maclagan, B., 1933, Madderty, A short history of an ancient parish, Perth.

Regesta Regum Scottorum, Acts of William I (1165-1214), 1971, Edinburgh, no 432.

Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Canmore database.

Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-9, ed. J. Sinclair, Edinburgh, xix (1797), 567.



Click on any thumbnail to open the image gallery and slideshow.

  • 1. Madderty Church and churchyard, from south east

  • 2. Madderty Churchyard, monument 4

  • 3. Madderty Churchyard, monument 3

  • 4. Madderty Churchyard, monument 2

  • 5. Madderty Churchyard monument, 1

  • 6. Madderty Churchyard, font on gate pier 3

  • 7. Madderty Churchyard, font on gate pier 2

  • 8. Madderty Churchyard, font on gate pier 1

  • 9. Madderty Church, exterior, south wall, inscribed stone

  • 10. Madderty Church, exterior, east wall, date stone

  • 11. Madderty Church, exterior, south wall, possible early footings

  • 12. Madderty Church, exterior, from south east