Tullibody Parish Church

Tullibody Old Church, exterior, from south

Summary description

The shell of the roofless rectangular church, which is essentially medieval, albeit with post-Reformation modifications, stands complete to the wall head.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Kentigern/Mungo(1)

In c.1170, Simon son of Macbeth, who was apparently the lay lord of Tullibody, granted the church of Tullibody to the canons of Cambuskenneth.(2) The grant was to be effective from the time of the death of the then holder of the benefice, Hugh of Roxburgh, clerk of the king’s chancellor. Corporal possession was confirmed before 1171 by Laurence, bishop of Dunblane following a composition concerning episcopal rights whereby the canons were to pay the bishops 4 shillings annually.(3) In c.1230, when Bishop Osbert confirmed the appropriation, he granted permission for the canons to serve the cure with chaplains, clerks, or one of their own number.(4) In January 1240, a composition was settled with Bishop Clement of Dunblane, who had claimed one quarter of the teinds of the church by virtue of a papal bull awarding him the right to take this revenue from all the churches of his benefice.(5) As part of a general settlement over the churches in the diocese held by Cambuskenneth, the canons were to pay 4 merks annually to support a vicar in the cathedral, rising later to 8 merks. Their right to serve the church with a chaplain was also confirmed. The settlement was confirmed by the dean and chapter of Dunblane.(6) The cure was thereafter served by a vicar pensionary or chaplain. In Bagimond’s Roll the church is listed erroneously as a free parsonage, noted as paying nothing on account of poverty in the first year of the taxation and half a merk in the second.(7) By the later Middle Ages, however, it is clear that the church was being served only by chaplains. In 1535, the illegitimate daughter of one of these chaplains, sir James Creichton, received a precept for letters of legitimation under the privy seal.(8) The annexation of the church to Cambuskenneth continued at the Reformation, although collector of Thirds of Benefices mistakenly attributed responsibility for payment of the minister’s stipend in 1561/2 to the abbey of Culross.(9)

In January 1559/60, the church was badly damaged during the military operations which marked the end of the Queen-Mother and Regent Marie de Guise’s efforts to defeat the Protestant Lords of the Congregation. Her mainly French army in Fife, advised of the arrival of an English force at Leith, began to withdraw towards Stirling with the Army of the Congregation moving ahead of them. The Congregation soldiers stripped the country ahead of them of supplies which caused great hardship in the French army. At Tullibody, the Army of the Congregation broke the bridge over the River Deveron to deny passage towards Stirling to their enemies. The French, however, took down all the timberwork of the kirk of Tullibody to repair the bridge and cross over, and arrived safely in Stirling on 28 January.(10)


1. Cockburn, Medieval Bishops of Dunblane, 9.

2. Cambuskenneth Registrum, no 216.

3. Cambuskenneth Registrum, nos 218, 219.

4. Cambuskenneth Registrum, no 124.

5. Theiner, Vetera Monumenta, no XCI; Cambuskenneth Registrum, no 125.

6. Cambuskenneth Registrum, no 126.

7. SHS Misc, vi, 54, 71.

8. RSS, ii, no 1614.

9. Kirk (ed.), Book of Assumptions, 538, 543, 545, 546; Donaldson (ed.), Thirds of Benefices, 95.

10. Diurnal of Occurrents, 55.

Architectural analysis

The shell of the church is an essentially medieval structure that stands complete to the wall head, despite an unusually complex history of alternating use and abandonment. Having been de-roofed by a troop of French soldiers in 1559/60 in order to provide timbers for a bridge, it probably remained without a roof through a union with Alloa parish that took place in about 1600. It was eventually re-roofed when it was adapted for use as a burial aisle for the Abercromby of Tullibody family, the most prominent monument to that family being an imposing monument to George Abercromby, who died in 1699, which is set against the internal east wall. The church was again re-roofed in 1824 and was subsequently fitted up as a preaching station in 1834, with further repairs in 1873. It is now flanked to the south by a building erected for a Free Church congregation in 1844, which is itself no longer in use for worship, and to the north by the parish church that was built to replace the old church in 1904; the latter was designed by Peter Macgregor Chalmers. The old church was finally unroofed in 1916, and after a period of neglect the fabric has recently been carefully consolidated.

The church is aligned from east-north-east to west-south-west, and is a rectangle of 19.22 metres from east to west by 6.8 metres from north to south. It has a small porch covering the nave doorway towards the west end of the south wall, which probably dates from the early nineteenth century. The church walls are constructed of large squared blocks of grey stone with wide jointing, and this might suggest a date for the shell as early as the late twelfth or thirteenth centuries. There is a narrow chamfered base course below the west wall and the western end of the north wall, though elsewhere the raised ground levels make it impossible to see if the base course continued around the whole structure. At the base of the gables in both the east and west walls are chamfered intakes. The crow steps of those gables, together with the birdcage bellcote above the west gable appear likely to be of the early nineteenth century, as are the two pointed-arched windows in the west wall, which have raised margins and broadly splayed reveals.

It has been suggested that the rectangular structure now seen was originally the nave of a two-compartment structure, the chancel of which has been lost. However, although the location of monuments against both the internal and external faces of the east wall makes it difficult to see if there has been a chancel arch in that wall, there is no evidence of any refacing of the outside of the wall where the side walls of the chancel would have had to be removed. The present writers are therefore inclined to doubt that there could ever have been a structurally distinct chancel to the east of the existing structure. It may be noted in passing that, behind the red granite monument to Eliza Stewart, against the exterior of the east wall, there is the ghosting of earlier monuments together with traces of harling.

With one exception, all of the medieval openings through the walls of the church were concentrated on the south side. From west to east the sequence is a window, a doorway into the nave, two more windows, a doorway into the chancel, and a two-light window. The possibility of there having been another opening on this side will be discussed below. On the north side there is evidence for what appears to have been a blocked window 14.5 metres from the west end, the surviving jamb and lintel of which were elevated well above ground level, perhaps to allow the window to be set above any liturgical furnishings on that side. The narrow quirked roll reveal moulding suggests this window was of the same date as most of the windows and one of the two doorways on the south side of the church, which are also framed by quirked roll mouldings. The date that those windows and doorway were inserted is indicated by an inscription above the chancel doorway, which states ‘ANNO 1539’. A pastoral staff depicted before the date perhaps suggests that the work had been carried out at the behest of Cambuskenneth Abbey, to which the church belonged.

The nave doorway, towards the west end of the south wall may be a little earlier than the other openings, since it is of a different form, having a broad filleted roll flanked by hollows; however, it is unlikely to be earlier than about 1500. Internally, to the east of this doorway there are traces of an arched recess in the wall, which was presumably for a holy water stoup. The easternmost window could also be of a different date from the others, having a pair of hollow chamfers to the reveals. This last window is of two lights, and its greater size was presumably designed to cast light on the principal altar against the east wall, which may perhaps be taken as a further indicator that there was no structurally distinct chancel.

A pointer to the possibility that the liturgical arrangements at Tullibody might have been more complex than is often assumed for churches of this relatively modest scale may be seen externally in what appears to be an elevated window sill between the two central windows of the south flank. It is unfortunate that the existence of wall monuments both internally and externally at this point makes it impossible to see if there were any features associated with this sill at a lower level, while the wallhead above the sill appears to have been rebuilt. In assessing the significance of this feature, it should be noted that the provision of separate doorways into the nave for the laity and into the chancel for the clergy confirms the existence of a clear internal separation between the two parts, which was presumably in the form of a timber chancel screen. That is, of course, something that would almost certainly have existed at all parish churches, even where there was not provision for separate access to the two parts. However, at a number of churches with slightly greater architectural pretensions it has been found that windows were provided at two levels in the area immediately to the west of the chancel screen. In such an arrangement the lower level window would have lit the area below a rood loft, where there might be altars, and the upper level to lit the rood and perhaps also a rood altar. This appears to have been a not uncommon arrangements in collegiate foundations, as at Fowlis Easter a Innerpeffray, and also at mendicant churches, as at Aberdeen and Elgin. But it has not been found so often at small rural churches, and this gives Tullibody an added interest.

Within the graveyard, which is now sadly vandalised, is a medieval stone coffin, together with a large number of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century monuments which demonstrate that the graveyard remained in use for burials even at periods when the church was not in use for worship.


Cockburn, J.H., 1959, The Mediaeval Bishops of Dunblane and their Church, Edinburgh, 9.

Cowan, I.B., 1967, The parishes of medieval Scotland, (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh, 201.

Diurnal of remarkable occurrents that have passed within the country of Scotland, 1833, ed. T. Thomson, (Bannatyne Club), Edinburgh, 55.

Donaldson, G. 1949, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, (Scottish History Society), Edinburgh, 95.

Drummond, A.I.R., 1987, Old Clackmannanshire, Alloa, 23.

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 54, 71.

Gifford, J. and Walker, F.A., 2002, The Buildings of Scotland, Stirling and Central Scotland, New Haven and London, 783-5.

Kirk, J., 1995, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, (British Academy) Oxford, 538, 543, 545, 546.

New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1845, Edinburgh and London, viii (Clackmannan), 55-7.

Registrum monasterii S. Marie de Cambuskenneth, 1872, ed. W. Fraser, (Grampian Club), Edinburgh, nos 124, 125, 126, 216, 218, 219.

Registrum Secreti Sigilli Regum Scotorum, 1908-82, ed. J.M. Thomson et al., Edinburgh, ii, no 1614.

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

Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, 1933, Inventory of Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, Edinburgh, 308.

Vetera Monumenta Hibernorum et Scotorum Illustrantia, 1864, ed. A. Theiner, Rome, no xci.



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

  • 1. Tullibody Old Church, exterior, from south

  • 2. Tullibody, New Parish Church

  • 3. Tullibody, Free Church

  • 4. Tullibody Old Churchyard, stone coffin

  • 5. Tullibody Old Churchyard, monument 2

  • 6. Tullibody Old Churchyard, monument 1

  • 7. Tullibody Old Church, interior, east wall, Abercormby monument

  • 8. Tullibody Old Church, north wall, Haig monument

  • 9. Tullibody Church, plan

  • 10. Tullibody Old Church, interior, south wall, blocked stoup to east of door

  • 11. Tullibody Old Church, interior, from south west

  • 12. Tullibody Old Church, interior from west

  • 13. Tullibody Old Church, exterior, south wall, traces of blocked window

  • 14. Tullibody Old Church, exterior, north wall, traces of blocked window

  • 15. Tullibody Old Church, exterior, chancel, door, lintel

  • 16. Tullibody Old Church, exterior, chancel, south wall, door

  • 17. Tullibody Old Church, exterior, nave, door

  • 18. Tullibody Old Church, exterior, west wall

  • 19. Tullibody Old Church, exterior, east wall

  • 20. Tullibody Old Church, exterior, from north