Lecropt Parish Church

Lecropt Old Churchyard, site of church, seen from west

Summary description

The site of the medieval church is a graveyard in the south-east corner of the policies of Keir House, the location of the church being marked by a cross and a sundial. There are no structural remains.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Moroc of Scotland

The dedication of the parish church indicates that Lecropt, like many of the other churches of Menteith and Strathearn, had origins far older than the date of their first surviving recording would otherwise indicate. Lecropt is first mentioned in a surviving document of 1260, when it was granted by Bishop Richard de Leicester of Dunkeld to the canons of Cambuskenneth as compensation for their having surrendered the half of the fruits of the church of Kinclaven which they had held since around 1190 (q.v.).(1) It is implicit from this settlement that Bishop Richard and the chapter of Dunkeld had some existing right in and possession of the church of Lecropt which enabled the bishop to surrogate it for Kinclaven and annexe both parsonage and vicarage fruits to the abbey in proprios usus. It is unknown how or when the bishops of Dunkeld had acquired an interest in this church.

The 1260 grant wholly annexed the church to the abbey and empowered the canons to serve the cure with a qualified chaplain and it appears to have been served by a vicarage pensionary thereafter. The annexation remained in place at the Reformation, when the church appeared as a property in the Cambuskenneth rental.(2) The vicarage was held at that date by sir John Kemp, whose annual income from his charge amounted to less than £5.(3) The meagreness of the vicar’s portion was still an issue in 1627, when it was observed that it was ‘scarslie fywe li (£5)’.(4)

Despite the grant in proprios usus in 1260, the bishops of Dunkeld appear to have maintained some form of personal propertied interest in the parish. In the early fourteenth century, according to Alexander Myln writing in the early 1500s, Bishop William Sinclair secured at his own expense the redemption from Simon Haldane of the lands of Greenocks in the parish, a church property that seems to have been mortgaged or feued to a local secular lord.(5) Redemption of kirklands for the benefit of the church of Dunkeld was one thing, but in 1394 Bishop Robert de Cardeny appears to have attempted to overturn or manipulate the vicarage settlement that had been agreed by his predecessor in the thirteenth century. In February 1394/5, the abbot of Cambuskenneth made an appeal to Rome against recent actions by the bishop.(6) He alleged that Cardeny had visited the churches of Lecropt and Alva with a large train, the cost of lodging and feeding of which had been imposed on the abbey through procurations taken by the bishop. It was further claimed that Cardeny had given letters patent to two laymen – John of Cunninghame and John of Yair – ordering that they be given the whole fruits of the churches. The chaplains of the said churches were also allegedly forbidden to celebrate divine service at their charges in future and ordered to reside near their churches in manses or lodgings. In respect of this stipulation, the abbot stated that the church of Lecropt had never had a manse previously attached to it and there was no place on which to erect one. All of this, claimed the abbot, was undue oppression of himself and his abbey, chaplains, and receivers of fruits, by the bishop.

The dedication of the church is first noted on 19 April 1497. On that date King James IV made an offering of 14s at the church of ‘St Mawarrock’, a not insignificant gift.(7) There is no previous mention of royal offerings at Lecropt and it is possible that James IV’s interest in the saint was a recent development arising from the promotion of a distinctly Scottish calendar by Bishop Elphinstone of Aberdeen. In the late-fifteenth-century martyrology following the use of the church of Aberdeen, 9 November is noted as the feast of St Morocus at ‘Lekraw’ near Stirling.(8)

Notes

1. Cambuskenneth Registrum, no 184.

2. Kirk (ed.), Book of Assumptions, 538, 543, 545.

3. Donaldson (ed.), Thirds of Benefices, 15.

4. Report on Certain Parishes, 185.

5. Myln, Vitae, 13-14.

6. Cambuskenneth Registrum, no 17.

7. TA, i, 329.

8. Aberdeen Registrum, i, app. lxxxvii [Martyrology following the use of the church of Aberdeen].

Architectural description

The present parish church of Lecropt is a building of 1824-6 that was constructed to the designs of the elder William Stirling. It is located about 500 metres south-east-south of its predecessor, from which it is now separated by the M9 motorway.

It was said in the parish entry in the Statistical Account, published in 1796, that the church which then existed was ‘an old Gothic building’. It was recorded as having a length of 72 feet (21.95 metres), with the nave 14 feet (4.27 metres) wide, and the choir 11 feet (3.35 metres) wide, indicating that it was a two-compartment plan. These were presumably internal measurements and, assuming a wall thickness of perhaps 75 centimetres, they indicate overall dimensions of about 23.4 by 5.77 metres. It was also said that the font had survived and that the steps to the altar remained visible.

Nothing survives of the medieval church, though in the second volume of his Monuments and monumental inscriptions of Scotland of 1872, Charles Rogers stated that ‘the site of the old parish church is denoted by a tall Gothic Cross and an elegantly sculptured sundial’. Both of those (or their successors) are still to be seen at the east and west ends respectively of a slight platform within the walled graveyard at the south-east corner of the Keir House policies; it would be impossible to attempt any precise assessment of the form and dimensions of the medieval church on their basis, however.

The old churchyard, which has continued in use as the burial place of the Stirlings of Keir since its abandonment in 1826, contains a number of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century memorials, including a ledger slab that appears to be of anthropomorphic form. Within the undergrowth to the south-east of the church platform is a timber pier that seems likely to be of early nineteenth century date, and one wonders if it may have supported a loft in the old church, though it is perhaps more likely that it was removed from the new church at some stage.

Bibliography

Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, 1877-1916, ed. T. Dickson and J.B. Paul, Edinburgh, i (1473-98), 329.

Cowan, I.B., 1967, The parishes of medieval Scotland, (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh, 129.

Donaldson, G. 1949, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, (Scottish History Society), Edinburgh, 15.

Gifford, J. and Walker, F.A., 2002, The Buildings of Scotland, Stirling and Central Scotland, New Haven and London, 590-1.

Kirk, J., 1995, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, (British Academy) Oxford, 538, 543, 545

Registrum episcopatus Aberdonensis, 1845, ed. C. Innes, (Maitland and Spalding Clubs), Edinburgh and Aberdeen), i, app. lxxxvii.

Registrum monasterii S. Marie de Cambuskenneth, 1872, ed. W. Fraser, (Grampian Club), Edinburgh, nos 17, 184.

Reports on the state of certain parishes in Scotland, 1835, ed. A. Macdonald, (Maitland Club), Edinburgh, 185.

Rogers, C., 1872, Monuments and monumental inscriptions of Scotland, (Grampian Club), London, ii, 172.

Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-9, ed. J. Sinclair, Edinburgh, xvii (1796), 56.

Vitae Dunkeldensis Ecclesiae Episcoporum…Ad Annum Mdxv, 1823, ed. T. Thomson, (Bannatyne Club), Edinburgh, 13-14.

Map

Images

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

  • 1. Lecropt Old Churchyard, site of church, seen from west

  • 2. Lecropt New Church, interior

  • 3. Lecropt New Church, exterior

  • 4. Lecropt Old Churchyard, discarded post

  • 5. Lecropt Old Churchyard, monument 4

  • 6. Lecropt Old Churchyard, monument 3

  • 7. Lecropt Old Churchyard, monument 2

  • 8. Lecropt Old Churchyard, monument 1

  • 9. Lecropt Old Churchyard

  • 10. Lecropt Old Churchyard, site of church, seen from south