Dollar Parish Church

Dollar Old Church, exterior, from south

Summary description

The precise location of the medieval parish church is uncertain, though it may have been on the site of the abandoned church of 1774-5.

Historical outline

Dedication: unknown

It is probable that the church of Dollar had been appropriated to the abbey of Inchcolm by at least the episcopate of Richard of Inverkeithing, bishop of Dunkeld, who confirmed the annexations of others of Inchcolm’s churches. This position would appear to be confirmed by the non-appearance of the church in Bagimond’s Roll. Inchcolm’s possession of the church, however, is not noted in any record source until Abbot Walter Bower of Inchcolm gave an extended account in the 1440s in his Scotichronicon of events at Dollar church in 1336.(1) Bower described how one of his predecessors had completely rebuilt what was described as ‘his commensal church’ at Dollar, causing the choir to be constructed with a frame of wonderfully carved oak beams. In July 1336, a force of English pirates raiding into the territories bordering the inner Firth of Forth had seen this wonderful structure and decided to carry off the timberwork to England. For their crime, St Columba – Inchcolm’s patron - was reported to have caused their vessel to sink with the loss of all hands in the firth close to the abbey.

The church was named along with Inchcolm’s other properties in February 1429/30 when Pope Martin V took the abbey and its possessions under his protection.(2) Although it has been suggested that the vicarage remained independent but was served from time to time by canons of the abbey, it appears that it was only a vicarage pensionary and the cure was occasionally served by a chaplain-curate only.(3) Along with the church of Auchtertool (q.v.) the church of Dollar was the subject of a long and contentious struggle with John Steel, son of King James V’s familiar, George Steel. John had been awarded a pension from the abbey’s revenues at the king’s request in 1530, when the boy was only 6 years old and, despite attempts by the abbot to stop the pension after 1542 which included repeated pronouncements of excommunication against Steel, the abbot failed in every effort and Steel was still in possession after the Reformation.(4) In the 1560s, the teindsheaves of the parsonage were set in assedation to Archibald, earl of Argyll, who held the secular lordship of Dollar.(5)

Notes

1. Bower, Scotichronicon, vii, 119, 121.

2. Inchcolm Charters, no 49.

3. Cowan, Parishes, 47; NAS GD30/1956; Kirk (ed.), Book of Assumptions, 88, 339.

4. James V Letters, 227-228; NAS GD30/1956; Kirk (ed.), Book of Assumptions, 62, 63.

5. RSS, v, no 2620.

Architectural description

Nothing of the medieval parish church can be identified with certainty, though it is assumed that it stood within the present parish churchyard. The church that is now in use is a structure of 1840-2 that was designed by William Tite, but to its north is the structurally complete but roofless shell of a church built to the designs of James Kirk in 1774-5, which bears a tablet at the centre of its south front incised with the date 1775. However, on the evidence of surviving headstones it is clear that the churchyard had been in use for burials for some time before then.

Taking account of the fact that the church of 1775 is reasonably accurately oriented, it may be considered as a possibility that it stands on the foundations of part of the medieval church. Its dimensions of 14.6 metres from east to west and 8.04 from south to north might be consistent with its occupying the site of the nave, though none of the visible masonry could be identified as medieval in character.

Bibliography

Charters of the abbey of Inchcolm, 1938, ed. D.E. Easson and A Mascdonald, (Sottish History Society), Edinburgh, no 49.

Cowan, I.B., 1967, The parishes of medieval Scotland, (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh, 46-7.

Gifford, J. and Walker, F.A., 2002, The Buildings of Scotland, Stirling and Central Scotland, New Haven and London, 312-3.

Hannay, R.K. and D. Hay, (eds), 1954, The letters of James V, Edinburgh, 227-8.

Hay, G., 1957, The architecture of Scottish post-Reformation churches, Oxford, 121, 253.

Kirk, J., 1995, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, (British Academy) Oxford, 62, 63, 88, 339.

New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1845, Edinburgh and London, viii (Clackmannan), 109-10.

Registrum Secreti Sigilli Regum Scotorum, 1908-82, ed. J.M. Thomson et al., Edinburgh, v, no 2620.

Scotichronicon by Walter Bower, 1987, ed. D.E.R. Watt et al., vii, Aberdeen, 119, 121.

Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-9, ed. J. Sinclair, Edinburgh, xv (1795), 166.

Map

Images

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

  • 1. Dollar Old Church, exterior, from south

  • 2. Dollar Churchyard, monument

  • 3. Dollar Church, date stone

  • 4. Dollar Old Church, interior, from south east