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Fern / Fearn Parish Church

Fern Church, exterior, from south

Summary description

The existing parish church is dated 1883, and replaces a church of 1806. It is said that the medieval predecessor of those churches was elsewhere within the churchyard

Historical outline

Dedication: unknown

A free parsonage in Bagimond’s Roll,(1) both parsonage and vicarage seem to have been annexed before c.1400 to a prebend of Fearn in the cathedral of Dunkeld. Reference in Myln’s Vitae Dunkeldensis Ecclesiae Episcoporum to a perambulation of the kirklands of Fearn by Bishop Robert de Cardeny and Donald McNaughton, dean of Dunkeld, may indicate the approximate date at which the annexation was set in place.(2) In October 1402, the church was in dispute between John Knight and Alexander Bunkle following the death of the last rector, John Gray, with the former claiming provision by papal letters and the latter collation by ordinary authority. (3) In August 1405, a mandate for confirmation of possession was issued in favour of John Knight, giving the value of the church as 30 merks to a non-resident, the first clear evidence that the revenues had been annexed to a prebend.(4) It is likely that sir John Fleming, named as rector of the parish church of Fearn in a charter witness list in August 1438, was prebendary of Fearn.(5) Sir Thomas Ley, named as vicar of Fearn in April 1476, was presumably a vicar pensionar.(6) At the Reformation, both parsonage and vicarage were in the hands of Patrick Mure, parson of Fearn, valued at £116 12s.(7) The cure at that date was served by a vicar pensionar or curate, for whom a stipend of £20 was deducted from the fruits of the parish church.(8)


1. SHS Misc, vi, 48, 72.

2. Myln, Vitae, 18.

3. CPL Benedict XIII, 96.

4. CPL Benedict XIII, 143-4.

5. RMS, ii, no 768.

6. RMS, ii, no 1253.

7. Kirk (ed.), Book of Assumptions, 371-2, 398-9, 641.

8. Kirk (ed.), Book of Assumptions, 641.

Architectural analysis

The present church, at NO 4844 6163, is dated to 1883 by an inscription in a trefoil on the tower-porch, and it evidently replaces – and perhaps partly incorporates – a previous church of 1806. Local historians say that the predecessor of the early nineteenth-century church was more towards the middle of the churchyard, however. In view of the irregular nature of the hillside site of the small churchyard there are few possible alternative locations for a church. Nevertheless, a few metres down the sloping ground to the south of the church, at NO 4843 6161, is a level platform that would have been sufficient to accommodate a small rectangular church building.


Calendar of Papal letters to Scotland of Benedict XIII of Avignon, 1976, ed. F. McGurk, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh, 96, 143-4.

Cowan, I.B., 1967, The parishes of medieval Scotland, (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh, 65.

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 48, 72.

Jervise, A., 1882, The history and traditions of the land of the Lindsays in Angus and the Mearns, Edinburgh, 220-6.

Kirk, J., 1995, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, (British Academy) Oxford, 371-2, 398-9, 641.

New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1845, Edinburgh and London, xi (Forfar), 319-20.

Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scottorum, 1882, ii (1424-1513), Edinburgh, ii (1424-1513), nos 768, 1253.

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

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

Warden, A.J., 1880-5, Angus or Forfarshire, the land and people, historical and descriptive, Dundee, iii, 265-6.



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  • 1. Fern Church, exterior, from south

  • 2. Fern Church, exterior, from south east