Arbirlot Parish Church

Arbirlot Church, exterior, from south

Summary description

Rebuilt in 1889, to a T-plan; later augmented to a cruciform plan.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Ninian(1)

A confirmation of c.1213 by King William refers to the gift of the church to the Tironensian monks of Arbroath by Bishop Roger de Beaumont of St Andrews in 1198x1200, the bishop’s confirmation of his gift surviving amongst a general confirmation of churches held by the abbey in his diocese.(2)  The church was listed amongst Arbroath’s possessions in a bull of Pope Innocent III issued in 1200.(3

Bishop William Malveisin confirmed the church to Arbroath in proprios usus by 1204, with subsequent reconfirmations by himself and by the prior and chapter of St Andrews.(4)  A vicarage settlement was agreed at this time, with the parsonage being annexed to the abbey and the cure becoming a vicarage perpetual.(5)  The settlement was renegotiated in1249, when Bishop David de Bernham reassigned the parsonage to the abbey and confirmed the cure as a perpetual vicarage, but assigned an additional 2 merks annually from the vicarage to the abbey.(6

In 1323 an agreement was reached between the chapter of Arbroath and William, perpetual vicar of Arbirlot, concerning the 2 merks pension due to them under the 1249 settlement, which was by then twenty years in arrears. William excused his non-payment on the basis of the damage to his parish caused by the wars England and a deal was reached over the outstanding sums.(7

Income, however, appears to have remained an issue of contention and in 1352 the vicar of Arbirlot was one of nine whose churches had been appropriated to Arbroath who brought a suit before the bishop of St Andrews in which they asserted that they had insufficient portions assigned to them.  The bishop, William Landallis, thereupon drew up an ordinance, which the Pope was asked to confirm.(8)  The settlement of 1249 was reaffirmed and it remained thus annexed at the Reformation, when the vicarage was recorded as pertaining to sir James Lekprevik and valued at £14.(9)

Notes

1. J M Mackinley, Ancient Church Dedications in Scotland. Non-Scriptural Dedications (Edinburgh, 1914), 30.

2. Liber S Thome de Aberbrothoc, i (Bannatyne Club, 1848), nos 1 and 147 [hereafter Arbroath Liber]; Regesta Regum Scottorum, ii, The Acts of William I, ed G W S Barrow (Edinburgh, 1971), no.513.

3. Arbroath Liber, i, no.221.

4. Arbroath Liber, i, nos 148, 159, 165, 166.

5. Arbroath Liber, i, no.167.

6. Arbroath Liber, i, nos 172 and 236.

7. Arbroath Liber, i, no.351.

8. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland; Papal Petitions, ed W H Bliss (London, 1893), 235.

9. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 397.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Church confirmed to abbey of Arbroath by William I (1211x1214). Continued as an annexed parsonage while cure was a perpetual vicar.(1)

According to Mackinley the church was dedicated to St Ninian.(2)

1198 Church included in a confirmation by Roger, bishop of St Andrews, of the churches held by Arbroath in the diocese of St Andrews.(3)

1200 Church included in papal bull by Innocent III confirming possessions of Arbroath.(4)

1202x04 Possession of church by Arbroath confirmed  by William, bishop of St Andrews,  in two charters, the first specifically related to the church, the second including all the churches held by Arbroath in the diocese of St Andrews.(5)

1204x11 Church included in confirmation by Henry, prior of St Andrews of all the churches held by Arbroath in the diocese of St Andrews.(6)

1213 Church in included in confirmation by William I of the possessions of Arbroath, with chapels, lands, teinds, oblations, common pasture and all other rights and pertinent.(7)

1214x18 Church included in confirmation by Alexander II of all the lands and churches belonging to Arbroath.(8)

c.1233 Church included in a confirmation by David de Bernham, bishop of St Andrews, all the churches held by Arbroath in the diocese of St Andrews.

1249 Vicarage settlement by the bishop, parsonage with abbey, perpetual vicarage set up. In addition vicars owe 2 marks pa from the vicarage to the abbey.(9)

1323 Agreement between the chapter of Arbroath and William, perpetual vicar of Arbirlot anent the 2 marks pension which is 20 years in arrears. William blames the damage to his parish due to the wars. Deal made over payment between vicar and chapter.(10)

1352 Suit brought before the bishop of St Andrews between abbey of Arbroath and the vicars of Inverlunan, St Vigean, Barry, Arbirlot, Monifieth, Muirhouse, Newtyle, Glamis and Kirriemuir. ‘The vicars asserted that they had insufficient portions, whereupon the bishop made an ordinance, which the Pope is asked to confirm’.(11)

1431 William Wochart holds both Arbirlot and Kembake, Gilbert de Galbraith provided to church on promotion of William (£20 sterling value).

1432 David de Canan provided after litigation over church with Gilbert.(12)

1460 Robert of Brechin mentioned as perpetual vicar.(13)

1465 Dispute between chapter and Robert Brown, perpetual vicar, over the garbal teinds of Orchardcroft and Taylecroft. Settlement with Robert agreeing to pay 12d towards fabric of the abbey.(14)

1482 Adam Gordon (only 20 years old) collated to Arbirlot, his predecessor Gils Boys having died in Rome.(15)

1483 Charles Fotheringham (son of Thomas Fotheringham of Powie) presented to the vicarage on the resignation of John Barry.(16)

1487 George Lundy presented to church on resignation of Michael Ker.(17)

1523 Certain garble teinds set to perpetual vicar James Lekprewit for 5 years for his service and a sum of money (unspecified).(18)

1525 Thomas Merchell presented to vicarage on resignation of James Lekprewit..(19)

1526 Garbal teinds set to William Auchterlony for victuals.(20)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of vicarage £4 13s 4d.(21)

Post-medieval

1621 (16 Apr) Petition by Robert Fletcher of Pantlathie to be allowed to build an aisle at the church of Arbirlot and for a seat for him and his family within the said church. The ministers of Forfar (James Elliot) and Kirriemuir (Alexander Kinninmont), ordered to visit the church and check the estate (whether the building of an aisle is feasible etc, to report back to next synod).(22)

1667 (9 May) The archbishop of St Andrews, as patron, presents George McGill, student of Theology at the University of St Andrews, to the church.(23)

1662 (1 April) Church, along with rector and vicar teinds, recorded as in the control of Patrick, earl of Panmure, inherited from his father, George (d.1661).(24)

1716 (16 Aug) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Arbroath notes that the manse is ruinous and kirk yard dykes are down to the ground. The presbytery was also informed that a kirk bell was necessary. A bell of 120lbs weight required for this parish [no costs mentioned].(25)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Richard Watson, 1791): ‘The kirk was repaired in the year 1785 and the manse in the year 1790’.(26)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Thomas Guthrie, 1835): ‘The situation of the parish church, which is a very handsome building, is convenient for the greater part of the parish. The church was rebuilt about 3 years ago’.(27) (c.1832)

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches: (George Hay, 1806): 1832; additions 1886.(28)

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 7.

2. Mackinley, Non-Scriptural Dedications, p. 30.

3. Liber Aberbrothoc, i, no.147.

4. Liber Aberbrothoc, i, no. 221.

5. Liber Aberbrothoc, i, nos. 148 & 159.

6. Liber Aberbrothoc, i, no. 166

7. RRS, ii,  no. 513, Liber Aberbrothoc, i,  no.1

8. Liber Aberbrothoc, i, no. 100.

9. Liber Aberbrothoc, i, nos  172 & 236.

10. Liber Aberbrothoc, i, no. 351.

11. CPP, 235.

12. CSSR, iii, 189 & 245.

13. CPL, 221.

14. Liber Aberbrothoc, ii, no. 161.

15. CPL, xiii, 815.

16. Liber Aberbrothoc, ii, no. 221.

17. Liber Aberbrothoc, ii, no. 312.

18. Liber Aberbrothoc, ii, no. 575.

19. Liber Aberbrothoc, ii, no. 603.

20. Liber Aberbrothoc, ii. 616.

21. Donaldson, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, 10.

22. NRS Records of the Synod of Fife, 1610-1636, CH2/154/1, fol. 260.

23. NRS Presbytery of Arbroath, Minutes, 1659-1689, CH2/15/1, fol. 92.

24. Registrum de Panmure, p. 337.

25. NRS Presbytery of Arbroath, Minutes, 1712-1721, CH2/15/3, fols. 109-111, NRS Papers of the Maule Family, Earls of Dalhousie.  Ecclesiastical Papers. GD45/13/14.

26. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1791), iii, 474.

27. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1835), xi, 334.

28. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, p. 244.

Bibliography

NRS Papers of the Maule Family, Earls of Dalhousie. Ecclesiastical Papers. GD45/13/14.

NRS Presbytery of Arbroath, Minutes, 1659-1689, CH2/15/1.

NRS Presbytery of Arbroath, Minutes, 1712-1721, CH2/15/3.

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

Calendar of entries in the Papal registers relating to Great Britain and Ireland; Papal letters, 1893-, ed. W.H. Bliss, London.

Calendar of entries in the Papal registers relating to Great Britain and Ireland; Papal Petitions, 1893-, ed. W.H. Bliss, London.

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

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

Donaldson, G., 1949, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, (Scottish History 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.

Liber S Thome de Aberbrothoc, 1848-56, ed. C. Innes and P. Chalmers, (Bannatyne Club) Edinburgh, i.

Mackinley, J.M, 1914, Ancient Church Dedications in Scotland. Non-Scriptural Dedications, Edinburgh.

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

Registrum de Panmure, 1874, ed. J. Stuart, Edinburgh.

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

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

Architectural description

Evidence for early Christian worship in the locality may be indicated by the survival of an incised stone that was located in foundations of the church when it was rebuilt in the 1830s The roughly worked boulder, which has incisions in the form of crosses and double rectangles that may have represented open books,(1) as moved to the manse garden.

The medieval church was confirmed to Arbroath Abbey by William I in 1211x14, following a grant by Bishop Roger, and the cure was subsequently a vicarage perpetual.(2)

An aisle was probably added to the church following a petition of 16 April 1621 by Robert Fletcher of Paulathie,(3) and repairs to the building are said to have been carried out in 1785.(4) However, the church was rebuilt in about 1832; according to the New Statistical Account, in which the parish entry was written in 1835, this took place ‘about three years ago’, with an aisle built at the cost of the Kirk Session.(5)

As first rebuilt the new church was set out to a T-plan, but in 1889 it was augmented to a cruciform plan by the addition of a second aisle.(6) This was presumably the south aisle, whose masonry can be seen to be of a different character from the main body of the church.

Although it is likely that the present building occupies the sites of its pre-Reformation predecessor, there is no evidence of any medieval work surviving within the upstanding fabric. Indeed, the dimensions of the main body, of 18.3 by 9 metres, result in proportions of 2:1 that would be particularly attractive to a reformed congregation. 

Notes

1. J. Romilly Allen and Joseph Anderson, The Early Christian Monuments of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1903, pt 3, pp. 205-06.

2. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 7.

3. National Records of Scotland, Records of the Synod of Fife, 1610-36, CH2/154/1, fol. 260.

4. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-9, vol. 3, p. 474.

5. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 9, p. 334.

6. John Gifford, The Buildings of Scotland, Dundee and Angus, New Haven and London, 2012, pp. 295-96.

Map

Images

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  • 1. Arbirlot Church, exterior, from south

  • 2. Arbirlot Church, exterior, from east

  • 3. Arbirlot Church, exterior, memorial built into south wall

  • 4. Arbirlot Church, junction of south side of main body and south aisle

  • 5. Arbirlot Church, memorial stones set against exterior, 1

  • 6. Arbirlot Church, memorial stones set against exterior, 2

  • 7. Arbirlot, symbol stone (Allen and Anderson)