Cargill Parish Church

Cargill Churchyard, Wright of Lawson burial enclosure, from west

Summary description

A part of the medieval church is thought to have been preserved in the burial enclosure of the Wright of Lawton family.

Historical outline

Dedication: unknown

Reference to the church of Cargill survives first in a confirmation of 1195x1199 by King William of a grant of land in Cargill made by Richard de Montfiquet to William son of Alexander.(1) One portion of that land, a toft and croft, was described as lying between the castle and the church. It is likely that Ian Cowan’s suggestion that Cargill had been a mensal church of the bishops of Dunkeld from an early date is correct, for the reference in c.1199 to Bernard and Richard, chaplains of Cargill, points to the cure being served by vicars pensionars or chaplains by the end of the twelfth century.(2) Furthermore, c.1220 Bishop Hugh de Sigilla (1214-1229/30) confirmed charters of his predecessors, bishops Richard de Prebenda (1203-1210) and John de Leicester (1211-1214) concerning teinds from Keithick whch pertained to ‘our church’ of Cargill which had been granted to the monks of Coupar Angus by King William.(3) Between c.1251 and 1272, the dean and chapter of Dunkeld confirmed Coupar Angus’s possession of the lands of Caddam and Keithick in the parish, but noted that if the monks leased out Caddam and its associated salmon-fishery on the Tay that they would pay a stone of wax to the church of Cargill for the teinds of the indwellers and they were to ensure that those indwellers received all spiritualities in the church and paid annually their mort-dues and other oblations.(4)

In 1425, John de Rattray, priest, petitioned the papacy for provision to the vicarage perpetual of Cargill, valued at £10.(5) He does not appear to have been successful in gaining possession, for in 1431 the vicarage was in the hands of one Joachim de Cochrane, who had held the charge since the death of the last incumbent, Gilbert Gray.(6) Cochrane appears to have been a somewhat controversial character, for his supplication for a fresh provision noted that when under ‘several sentences of excommunication by authority of ordinary judges’, out of ignorance of canon law he had continued to celebrate mass and the other offices, and to administer sacraments to the parishioners and others. Cochrane made a fresh supplication for provision in 1436.(7)

In April 1446, the vicarage perpetual of Cargill, valued at £10, was held by William Mudy, procurator of the bishop of St Andrews in the Roman Court.(8) Mudy described himself also as ‘procurator and promoter of the suits’ of the bishop of St Andrews in actions which he pursued in Scotland against the supporters of the Council of Basel. On the strength of this prominence on the pope’s behalf, he supplicated while present in Rome for provision to the precentorship of Caithness and also to hold the vicarage for life with one incompatible benefice, or without it two such benefices, with power of exchange as often as he pleased.(9)

There are few references to the church buildings. As an annexe to the episcopal mensa, the bishop was responsible for maintenance of the choir at Cargill. Little work seems, however, to have needed to be undertaken in the period for which financial accounts survive from the bishopric. The one instance is in the period 31 December 1509 to 13 December 1510, when unspecified repairs were carried out to windows at Cargill, Caputh and Dowally, costs totalling 12s.(10)

At the Reformation, the church was listed in the rental of the bishopric of Dunkeld as pertaining to the episcopal mensa.(11) At the same date, the vicarage, valued at £40, was noted as held by William Drummond, who served as reader there in 1561.(12) It was also noted that 20 merks was deducted annually from his vicarage fruits for the maintenance of a curate.(13)


1. RRS, ii, no 377.

2. Inchaffray Charters, no VII.

3. Coupar Angus Charters, nos VII, XXVIII.

4. Coupar Angus Charters, no LVI.

5. CSSR, ii, 87-8.

6. CSSR, iii, 164-5.

7. CSSR, iv, no 234.

8. CSSR, iv, no 1298.

9. CSSR, iv, no 1299.

10. Rentale Dunkeldense, 109.

11. Kirk (ed.), Book of Assumptions, 302, 346.

12. Donaldson, Thirds of Benefices, 92.

13. Kirk (ed.), Book of Assumptions, 326.

Architectural analysis

In 1794 the author of the section in the Statistical Account stated that part of the church appeared to be very old, but that in 1754 it had undergone thorough repair. In 1831, however, it was replaced by a new church built to the designs of W.M. Mackenzie; that church, on rising ground some distance to the south of the old one, has now itself been adapted for domestic occupation.

A part of the medieval church is assumed to survive in the Wright of Lawton burial enclosure, towards the west end of the churchyard. Unfortunately, there is insufficient evidence to be able to determine with any certainty what part – if any - of the medieval church may be represented in that. However, the rights of heritors in the chancel of the churches for which they were responsible suggest that it was most often the chancel that was retained for their burials if the rest of the church was to be demolished. In this case, although the main phase of adaptation presumably followed the construction of the new church in 1831, the memorial within the aisle to George Wright, who died in 1692, could indicate that this part of the church had already either been adapted as a laird’s aisle or had been cut off from the rest of the building by then.

The aisle is built of large blocks of squared grey rubble, and has dimensions of 7.4 metres from north to south and 5.4 metres from east to west; the former dimension is certainly in line with what would be expected as the width of a rural medieval church. The only remaining architectural features are a blocked window in the south wall, which was of rectangular form in its final state, and a small recess of uncertain function at an elevated height to its west. The opening into the aisle, through its east wall, is presumably entirely of post-1831 construction. If the aisle had been part of the chancel of the medieval church, the nave would, of course, have been to its west. Some support for the building having once extended further west may be found in the sparse spread of earlier memorials within the area of the churchyard west of the aisle. Further support is perhaps to be found in the relatively poorer quality of the masonry at the centre of the west wall, which is showing a marked tendency to sag, and it is a possibility that there had been an opening here that was infilled.


Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1423-28, 1956, ed. A.I. Dunlop, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh, 87-8. 

Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1428-32, 1970, ed. A.I. Dunlop; and I.B. Cowan, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh, 164-5.

Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1433-47, 1983, ed. A.I. Dunlop and D MacLauchlan, Glasgow, nos. 234, 1298, 1299.

Charters of the abbey of Coupar Angus, 1947, ed. D.E. Easson, (Scottish History Society), Edinburgh, i, nos VII, XXVIII, LVI.

Charters, Bulls and other Documents relating to the Abbey of Inchaffray, 1908, (Scottish History Society), Edinburgh, no VII.

Cowan, I.B., 1967, The parishes of medieval Scotland, (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh, 27.

Donaldson, G. 1949, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, (Scottish History Society), Edinburgh, 92.

Gifford, J., 2007, The Buildings of Scotland, Perth and Kinross, New Haven and London, 257-8.

Hay, G., 1957, The architecture of Scottish post-Reformation churches, Oxford, 268.

Kirk, J., 1995, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, (British Academy) Oxford, 302, 326, 346.

New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1845, Edinburgh and London, x, 1171.

Regesta Regum Scottorum, Acts of William I (1165-1214), 1971, Edinburgh, 371-2.

Rentale Dunkeldense, 1915, ed. R.K. Hannay, (Scottish History Society), Edinburgh, 109.

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

Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, 1994, South-East Perth, an archaeological landscape, Edinburgh, 130, 132, 162.

Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-9, ed. J. Sinclair, Edinburgh, xiii (1794), 544.



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

  • 1. Cargill Churchyard, Wright of Lawson burial enclosure, from west

  • 2. Cargill New Church

  • 3. Cargill Churchyard, monument 4

  • 4. Cargill Churchyard, monument 3

  • 5. Cargill Churchyard, monument 2

  • 6. Cargill Churchyard, monument 1

  • 7. Cargill Churchyard, Wright of Lawson burial enclosure, interior, north wall

  • 8. Cargill Churchyard, Wright of Lawson burial enclosure from south east