Auchterarder Parish Church

Auchterarder Old Church, exterior, from south east

Summary description

The medieval church was a rectangular structure. Its heavily ivy-enveloped remains, which are in a derelict churchyard to the north of Auchterarder, were adapted for use as burial enclosures when a new church was built within Auchterarder.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Kessog

The church of St Makessog of Auchterarder was named in 1200 amongst the churches granted to the monastery of Inchaffray by Gillebrigde, earl of Strathearn, on the occasion of its refoundation as an Augustinian priory.(1) Probably at that time, Bishop Jonathan of Dunblane (1195 x 1198-1210) confirmed the canons’ rights to the teinds of the earl’s cain and rents which were due to the chuch, but it was only in c.1211 that his successor, Bishop Abraham (1210 x 1214-1223x), confirmed that right in proprios usus.(2) In February 1239, the dean and chapter of Dunblane confirmed the appropriations of the ten parish churches in the diocese then in the hands of the canons of Inchaffray and formalised the vicarage settlements in respect of all ten. In the case of Auchterarder, however, it was noted that the garbal teinds from the lands of Feddal at the western end of the parish were also reserved, as they had been assigned for the foundation of a new prebend in Dunblane cathedral.(3) It is unknown if this allocation of the Feddal teinds to support a prebend was ever instituted.(4) The vicarage perpetual established in 1239 was still independent in 1274, when it was taxed by Master Boiamund di Vitia, but had been annexed before the Reformation to the common funds of the canons of Dunblane.(5) This annexation may have occurred at a very late date, for in 1476 the patronage and gift of the parish church of Auchterarder, presumably meaning only the vicarage, was one of the subjects of an action brought by David Boswell of Glassmount and David Boswell of Balmuto against William Livingston of Drumry.(6) How either family secured that interest is not recorded. It appears that before the formalisation of the vicarage settlement in 1239 the cure may have been served by a chaplain. In c.1220 a certain Brice, chaplain of Auchterarder, witnessed a charter of Bishop Abraham of Dunblane in favour of the canons of Cambuskenneth Abbey.(7)

The church appears to have been one of the larger and more important in the diocese of Dunblane, possibly on account of what appears to have been a prominent local cult of St Kessog. Its extent is perhaps indicated in 1474, when amongst various properties in the upper Machany valley in the neighbouring parish of Muthill which formed the subject of a complex legal exchange between members of the Drummond family one was identified as a chapel with which was associated the bell of saint.(8) The prominence of the church could also be reflected in its use in 1235 as the venue for a meeting of a diocesan synod, although this is perhaps more likely to relate to the nature of the business discussed at that assembly, amongst which were several matters relating to property in the area held by the monks of Lindores Abbey.(9)

The thirteenth century establishment of a burgh on the royal lands within Auchterarder long post-dated the crystallisation of the local parish structure and the fixing of St Mackessog’s as the parish church. As a consequence, Auchterarder was one of a handful of Scottish burghs where the parish church was located at some distance from the town; in this case lying one kilometre to its north. Unlike the similar case of Cupar in Fife, where the outlying parish church was replaced by a new church within the burgh in the late medieval period, at Auchterarder that development did not occur until after the Reformation.


1. Inchaffray Charters, no  IX.

2. Inchaffray Charters, nos X, XXXI.

3. Inchaffray Charters, no  LXVII.

4. Cowan, Parishes, 10.

5. SHS Misc, vi, 54; Inchaffray Charters, appendix, no  XI; Kirk (ed.), Book of Assumptions, 344; Donaldson (ed.), Thirds of Benefices, 16.

6. RPS, eds Brown et al, 1476/7/87.

7. Cambuskenneth Registrum, no 123.

8. NAS GD160/1/17; GD160/17/3.

9. Lind. Cart., no  LII.

Architectural description

The remains of the medieval parish church are at West Kirkton, one kilometre to the north of the town of Auchterarder. It was a rectangular structure of about 24.5 metres from east to west and 7.42 metres from north to south, but it is now so completely swathed in vegetation that it is very difficult to see any architectural features that it might have had. However, it can still be observed that the east wall, which was windowless, had a narrow chamfered base course that was evidently confined to that wall, together with a chamfered intake at the base of the gable. Within the chancel area there is a rectangular aumbry recess towards the east end of the south wall, and another aumbry in a corresponding position in the north wall; the latter is rebated for a door frame and may have served as a Sacrament House. In the west wall there is a pair of putlog-like square holes that pass through the wall, in a very similar manner to holes found in the west walls at Aberuthven and Inchmartin Churches.

The medieval church was abandoned after being replaced by a more conveniently sited building within Auchterarder, the tower of which appears to be of seventeenth-century date, and the main body of which was rebuilt in 1784. Only the tower of that replacement church still stands. Following abandonment, the old church was adapted for use as burial enclosures. The kerb of one such enclosure remains towards the west end of the nave, while the chancel area was completely enclosed by a cross wall, the central doorway of which has a heraldic tablet with the date 1832.


Charters, Bulls and other Documents relating to the Abbey of Inchaffray, 1908, (Scottish History Society), Edinburgh, nos IX, X, XI, XXX1, LXVII.

Chartulary of the abbey of Lindores, 1903, ed. J. Dowden, (Scottish History Society), Edinburgh, no LII.

Cowan, I.B., 1967, The parishes of medieval Scotland, (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh, 10.

Donaldson, G., 1949, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, (Scottish History Society), Edinburgh, 16.

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.

Gifford, J., 2007, The Buildings of Scotland, Perth and Kinross, New Haven and London, 168.

Kirk, J., 1995, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, (British Academy) Oxford, 344.

Lindsay, I.G. 1950, ‘The kirks of the diocese of Dunblane’, Society of Friends of Dunblane Cathedral, vi, 11.

MacGibbon, D. and Ross, T., 1896-7, The ecclesiastical architecture of Scotland, Edinburgh, iii, (1897), 488-9.

Mackinlay, J.M., 1914, Ancient church dedications in Scotland, non-scriptural dedications, Edinburgh, 137.

New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1845, Edinburgh and London, x, 290.

Registrum monasterii S. Marie de Cambuskenneth, 1872, ed. W. Fraser, (Grampian Club), Edinburgh, no 123.

Records of the Parliaments of Scotland, ed. K. Brown et al.( digital editions of the acts of the pre-1707 Scottish Parliament, based at the University of St Andrews), 1476/7/87.

Reid, A.G., 1899, Annals of Auchterarder, Crieff, 25-6.

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

Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-9, ed. J. Sinclair, Edinburgh, iv (1792), 44.



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

  • 1. Auchterarder Old Church, exterior, from south east

  • 2. Auchterarder, later church before demolition

  • 3. Auchterarder, later church tower

  • 4. Auchterarder Old Church, interior, from west, before recent ivy growth

  • 5. Auchterarder Old Church, exterior, from south west, before recent ivy growth

  • 6. Auchterarder Old Church, plan (MacGibbon and Ross)

  • 7. Auchterarder Old Church, interior, west wall, putlog hole

  • 8. Auchterarder Old Church, interior, south wall aumbry

  • 9. Auchterarder Old Church, interior, chancel north wall aumbry

  • 10. Auchterarder Old Church, exterior, north east angle east wall