Abdie / Lindores Parish Church

Abdie Church, exterior, from south east

Summary description

The roofless shell of a partly thirteenth-century church, with a laterally projecting north aisle of 1661.

Historical outline

Dedication: Our Lady/St Andrew?

When Abdie - or the church of Lindores, as it was then known - first appears in the surviving historical record at the time of its grant to the monks of Lindores Abbey, it is as an already fully-established parish church formerly held by one master Thomas.  The church was in the gift of David, earl of Huntingdon, who c.1198 granted it to his recently-founded Tironensian abbey at nearby Lindores.(1

Shortly afterwards and before 1202, Bishop Roger de Beaumont of St Andrews confirmed the abbey’s possession of the church in proprios usus, permitting them to exercise the rights of the rector and to enjoy all things pertaining by right to the parish church ‘at the seat of the abbey’.(2)  The church continued to be annexed to the abbey at the time of the Reformation.(3)  In a late thirteenth-century taxation roll for the diocese of St Andrews, the church of Lindores or ‘Ebedy’ was valued at 23 merks.(4)  Although the cure was being served by a chaplain in 1253,(5) it was at the Reformation a vicarage portionary, served by one John Symmer, and valued at 53s 4d.(6)

The dedication of the church is unrecorded in any of the surviving records relating to the church or to Lindores Abbey.  Antiquarian efforts in the past have attempted to associate it with a St Ma(c)gridin, who has a cult presence in the region represent by the church of Ecclesmagridle in lower Strathearn.

Based on mandate recorded in the abbey cartulary in 1248 that all the parishioners of Denmuir were to come to the mother church of Abdie three times a year, on Christmas Day, Easter Sunday and on St Andrew’s Day,(7) Simon Taylor and Gilbert Markus have suggested that this provides a strong indication that the church was dedicated to St Andrew (who was also the co-dedicatee of Lindores Abbey alongside the Blessed Virgin Mary).(8)  In 1555, however, a legal contract was recorded as being agreed at the high altar of he church of Our Lady of ‘Ebdie’.(9)

A series of registered testaments of a group of better-off members of the parish community provides a glimpse of the efforts made by individuals below the level of the landed genry to provide for their post mortem spiritual welfare by securing burial close to or in the church itself.  Between 1549 and 1551 six people (two women and four men) from the parish of Abdie registered their testaments at the Commissary court of St Andrews.

In four of the testaments, those of Janet Anderson (9 Aug 1549, 10s fee), William Smyth (4 Oct 1549, £4 fee), Elizabeth Denmyll (17 Aug 1550, 12s fee) and David Clement (23 Dec 1550), burial was specified in the parish church, with all four being witnessed by the curate Thomas Kingcrage.(10) In his testament, John Smyth (20 Jan 1551) specified burial in the choir of the parish church,(11) while David Berclay (17 May 1550) asked to be buried in the ‘church of St Katherine’ (possibly referring to the chapel at Denmuir) in the parish rather than the parish church.(12)

Notes

1. Chartulary of the Abbey of Lindores, 1195-1495, ed. J. Dowden (Scottish History Society, 1903), nos II and III [hereafter Lindores Cartulary].

2. Lindores Cartulary, no.CVII.

3. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 32-3 [hereafter Kirk (ed), Books of Assumption].

4. Registrum de Dunfermelyn (Bannatyne Club, 1842), no.313.

5. Lindores Cartulary, no.LXIV.

6. Kirk (ed), Books of Assumption, 68, 378.

7. Lindores Cartulary, no.LXIII.

8. S Taylor and G Markus (eds), The Place-Names of Fife, iv, North Fife between Eden and Tay (Donington, 2010), 61-62.

9. Protocol Book of Sir Alexander Gaw, 1540-58, eds. J Anderson and W Angus (Scottish Record Society, 1910), no.146.

10. NRS St Andrews, Register of Testaments, 1 Aug 1549-12 Dec 1551, CC20/4/1, fols. 16017, 20-21, 286 & 316.

11. NRS St Andrews, Register of Testaments, 1 Aug 1549-12 Dec 1551, CC20/4/1, fol. 354.

12. NRS St Andrews, Register of Testaments, 1 Aug 1549-12 Dec 1551, CC20/4/1, fols 252-53.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Granted to Lindores by David, earl of Huntingdon c.1198 in proprious usus.(1)

Served by a chaplain in 1253, a monk held the vicar portionary at the Reformation.(2)

Place names of Fife (iv) notes that the dedication of the church is unrecorded despite various attempts to associate it with a St Ma(c)gridin. However, it was noted in 1248 that all the parishioners of Denmuir were to come to the mother church of Abdie three times a year, on Christmas Day, Easter Sunday and on St Andrew’s Day. Taylor/Markus suggest this is a strong indication the church was dedicated to St Andrew (he was also the co-dedicatee of Lindores (with Our Lady).(3)

c.1270s Taxation roll in Dunfermline Register, church of Lindores, known as Ebedy, valued at 23 marks.(4)

1456-65 John Laing described as perpetual vicar. (£12). Accused in 1459 by John Winton of being ‘an open and notorious fornicator, has publicly kept a concubine, a certain spiritual daughter of his…by whom he has begot offspring still alive.’ Winton also accuses John of ‘being ignorant of letters and unfit to hold divine office’.(5)

1465 Laing dies in 1465, having survived the accusations mentioned above, replaced by Henry Boyce, who after being promoted to canonry of Dunkeld, was succeeded by Alexander Meldrum (MA) in 1466.(6)

1549-51 6 people (2 women, 4 men) from the parish registered their testaments at the St Andrews Commissary court. Janet Anderson (9 Aug 1549, 10s fee), William Smyth (4 Oct 1549, £4 fee), Elizabeth Denmyll (17 Aug 1550, 12s fee) and David Clement (23 Dec 1550), specified burial in the parish church of Abdie [usually spelt Ebdie], and were witnessed by the curate Thomas Kingcrage.(7) John Smyth (20 Jan 1551) specified burial in the choir of the parish church.(8) David Berclay (17 May 1550) asked to be buried in the church of St Katherine in the parish [a chapel?] rather than the parish church.(9)

1555 Deal done at the High Altar of the church of Our Lady of Ebdy.(10)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church vicarage and parsonage with Lindores, no cash value, teinds in produce.

John Simmer is the vicar portioner, gets all the lesser teinds (‘stirk, gus and grissis’) and a glebe valued at 4 marks.(11)

1624 (1 Oct) Supplication for the separation of the two churches of Abdie and Newburgh.(12)

Statistical Account of Scotland (anon, 1792): ‘The church is an old and narrow building, low in the walls and poorly lighted’.(13)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Laurence Millar, 1836): ‘The old church, which is now in ruins, may be traced to the fifteenth century. There still remains in the porch the basin for the holy water, and, til lately, the steps that led to the altar’.(14)

‘The [new] church was built in 1827’.(15)

The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches (George Hay): Abdie 1827, William Burn, architect; interior recast 1923; walls of medieval kirk and 1661 aisle extent. Small kirk adapted for Protestant use, pulpit against south wall, baptism basin bracketed to side of pulpit, aisle adapted to accommodate heritor’s loft, resulted in a ‘T’ plan church.(16)

Notes

1. Chartulary of the Abbey of Lindores, nos. 63 & 67.

2. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 1.

3. Taylor & Markus, The Place-Names of Fife. Volume Four. pp. 61-62.

4. Registrum de Dunfermelyn, no. 313.

5. CSSR, v, nos. 625 & 751.

6. CSSR, v, nos. 1038 & 1075.

7. NRS St Andrews, Register of Testaments, 1 Aug 1549-12 Dec 1551, CC20/4/1, fols. 16017, 20-21, 286 & 316.

8. NRS St Andrews, Register of Testaments, 1 Aug 1549-12 Dec 1551, CC20/4/1, fol. 354.

9. NRS St Andrews, Register of Testaments, 1 Aug 1549-12 Dec 1551, CC20/4/1, fols 252-53.

10. Prot Bk of Sir Alexander Gaw, 1540-58, no. 146.

11. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 32, 34, 36 & 378.

12. NRS Records of the Synod of Fife, 1610-1636, CH2/154/1, fols. 269r-271v.

13. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1792), xiv, 122.

14. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1836), ix, 51.

15. Ibid, 54.

16. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, p.20.

Bibliography

NRS St Andrews, Register of Testaments, 1 Aug 1549-12 Dec 1551, CC20/4/1.

NRS Records of the Synod of Fife, 1610-1636, CH2/154/1.

Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1447-71, 1997, ed. J. Kirk, R.J. Tanner and A.I. Dunlop, Edinburgh.

Chartulary of the Abbey of Lindores, 1195-1495, 1903, ed. J. Dowden (Scottish History Society), Edinburgh.

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

Hay, G., 1957, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, 1560-1843, Oxford.

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

New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, Edinburgh and London.

Protocol Book of Sir Alexander Gaw, 1540-58, 1910, eds. J. Anderson & W. Angus (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh.

Registrum de Dunfermelyn, 1842, ed. C. Innes (Bannatyne Club), Edinburgh.

Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-9, ed. J. Sinclair, Edinburgh.

Taylor, S & Markus G., 2010, The Place-Names of Fife. Volume Four. North Fife between Eden and Tay, Donington.

Architectural description

A Pictish symbol stone in the mort house of Abdie Church was originally located on Kaim Hill. It was later moved to a garden wall in Lindores, before being brought to Abdie in 1970.(1)

The parish of Abdie, which was also known as Lindores, was granted to the nearby Tironensian abbey of Lindores in about 1198 by the abbey’s founder, David, earl of Huntingdon.(2) A dedication was carried out on 5 September 1242 by Bishop David de Bernham.(3)

The church remained in use until 1827, when it was replaced by a new building about half a kilometre to the north-west that was designed by William Burn, who was apparently adapting a design by James Milne.(4)  Before its replacement the medieval church had come to be deemed ‘an old narrow building, low in the walls and poorly lighted’.(5)

Despite abandonment in 1827, it remains relatively complete to the wall head, partly due to repairs carried out in the mid-nineteenth century, which are commemorated in a tablet on the exterior of the east gable inscribed ‘REPAIRED 1856 D.W.’. The highly elaborated kneelers, cross finial and coping of the east gable are evidently of this date, as may be the cornice that now caps the side walls of much of the rest of the building.

The medieval core of the building is a structurally undifferentiated rectangle of 28.25 metres from east to west by 7.45 metres from north to south; as such, it is an example of the growing number of churches of unaugmented rectangular plan that were being built across Scotland from the later twelfth century onwards. It is constructed of pink rubble with ashlar dressings.

It appears to be the result of two main phases of construction, with the chancel and eastern part of the nave being earlier than the western parts of the nave. The details of the earlier phase point to a date of construction in the first half of the thirteenth century, and it may have been completed not long before the dedication of 1242.

There is some evidence for the liturgical arrangements within the chancel. At the southern end of the east wall is a small rectangular aumbry. A particularly intriguing feature is a pair of corbels, set symmetrically in the south and north walls, a little to the west of the site of the altar; their function is uncertain, though it may be wondered if they could have been intended to support a Lenten veil. The division between chancel and nave may be marked by a carefully formed socket in the south wall, which could have been the seating for the timber framing of the screen; any corresponding socket in the north wall was lost when the Balfour Aisle was built.

Despite its simple plan, considerable attention was paid to the architectural detailing of the church.(6)There has been a double-chamfered string course both internally and externally below the level of the window sills, though it has been removed along much of the east and south walls internally, and also in several areas externally. Its absence in the western parts of the nave area, together with changes in masonry, is one of the features which suggest that part has been completely rebuilt.

The buttresses around the chancel area are evidently primary features; they are constructed of ashlar and rise from a widely projecting chamfered base course topped by a double-chamfered string and have two levels of weathered-back offsets above mid-height. The angle buttresses to the west gable of the nave are steeply weathered back at the top and have no intermediate offsets. Three more crudely constructed buttresses on the south, and one on the north, appear to be late - and possibly post-Reformation - additions.

The only door that is a primary feature is a priest’s entrance in the south wall of the chancel area. It is an equilateral-arched opening with a chamfered reveal, around which there is a hood mould, and internally there is a rear-arch of segmental form.

The only windows dating from the first phase of works are also in the chancel area. In the north wall there are two small lancets within segmental rear arches, while in the south wall there is now only a single small lancet to the west of the priest’s door. A large rectangular window to the east of that door is presumably a late medieval replacement of another lancet that was inserted in order to cast more light on the altar. The east wall is pierced by three larger lancets, the central one having been enlarged secondarily; the two side windows have round-headed rear arches, while the enlarged central window has a three-centred rear arch with a chamfered arris.

The other doors and windows throughout the church, which are all of rectangular form, appear to be of a range of dates, with the possibility that some are late medieval albeit most are likely to be of post-Reformation date. Two entrances in the nave area, towards the west end of the south and north walls, may be late medieval. The south door is covered by a later porch with a broadly chamfered three-centred arch, and with benches along its side walls, while the north door has been adapted as a window.

A door to the east of the mid-point of the south wall may have been provided to give access for the minister to the pulpit. An elevated door approached by a forestair at the west end of the south wall clearly led to a loft, and it has been suggested this could have been the loft known to have been provided for Rankeilour McGill in 1697.(7)

The greatest single addition to the church was a large rectangular lateral aisle, a little to the east of the mid-point of the north wall, which was provided in 1661 for the Balfour family, who lived at nearby Denmylne Castle. It has a crow-stepped north gable; it opens into the church through its full width, with the opening bridged by a round arch with chamfered arrises. The external entrance is through a door in the west wall that is surmounted by an eroded armorial tablet. There have been windows in all three external walls.   

Two medieval monuments are preserved within a mort-house to the west of the churchyard. One is a high-relief effigy of a male figure with hands clasped in prayer; it is not clear from the rather formulaic treatment of the hooded costume if the figure is a cleric wearing an alb or cassock, or if it is a layperson in secular dress. The effigy was found on the estate of Inchrye,(8) and there is no certainty that it originated at Abdie. The other monument is an incised slab with a foliate-headed cross on three steps, the shaft of the cross being flanked by a pair of plain shields. The cross head is formed by an elegant arrangement of eight fleurs-de-lis on the cardinal and diagonal axes.

Notes

1. J, Romilly Allen and Joseph Anderson, the Early Christian Monuments of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1903, pt. 3, pp. 343-344; Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Pictish Stones, a Handlist, Edinburgh, 1994, p. 7.

2. Chartulary of the Abbey of Lindores, ed. John Dowden (Scottish History Society), 1903, nos ii, cvii; Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland  (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 1.

3. A.O. Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History, Edinburgh, 1922, vol. 2, p. 522.

4. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 9, p. 51; Howard Colvin, Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 4th ed., New Haven and London, 2008, p. 188; National Records of Scotland, HR 649/1, pp. 79-84.

5. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-99, vol. 14, p. 122.

6. Accounts of the church include: David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1896–7, vol. 2, pp. 217–25; Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Inventory of Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, Edinburgh, 1933, pp. 1–3; John Gifford, The Buildings of Scotland, Fife, London, 1988, pp. 57–58.

7. John Gifford, The Buildings of Scotland, Fife, London, 1988, p. 57.

8. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Inventory of Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, Edinburgh, 1933, pp. 2-3.

Map

Images

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  • 1. Abdie Church, exterior, from south east

  • 2. Abdie Church, exterior, from south west

  • 3. Abdie Church, exterior, east wall from south east

  • 4. Abdie Church, exterior, inscription on east wall

  • 5. Abdie Church, exterior, nave, north wall

  • 6. Abdie Church, exterior, north aisle, north wall

  • 7. Abdie Church, exterior, north aisle, west door

  • 8. Abdie Church, exterior, north wall, west part

  • 9. Abdie Church, exterior, south flank, east part

  • 10. Abdie Church, exterior, south flank, middle part

  • 11. Abdie Church, exterior, south flank, west part

  • 12. Abdie Church, exterior, south nave door

  • 13. Abdie Church, exterior, chancel, north wall

  • 14. Abdie Church, exterior, south chancel door

  • 15. Abdie Church, interior, chancel from west

  • 16. Abdie Church, interior, chancel, south-east corner

  • 17. Abdie Church, interior, evidence for screen

  • 18. Abdie Church, effigy in shelter

  • 19. Abdie Church, cross-incised slab in shelter

  • 20. Abdie Church, Pictish stone in shelter

  • 21. Abdie Church, interior, from west

  • 22. Abdie, later church, 1

  • 23. Abdie, later church, 2

  • 24. Abdie Church, chancel, partial north elevation (Walker)

  • 25. Abdie Church, chancel, partial south elevation (Walker)

  • 26. Abdie Church, chancel, plan (MacGibbon and Ross)

  • 27. Abdie Church, east elevation (Walker)