Arbuthnott Parish Church

Arbuthnott Church, exterior, south chapel and chancel from south east

Summary description

A two-cell medieval church, augmented by an unusually ambitious two-storeyed laterally projecting apsidal chapel of about 1505. The chapel has fine sculptural detailing and contains an armoured effigy.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Ternan

With its dedication to St Ternan,(1) early references to the church of Arbuthnot are entirely lacking, its first mention being in 1242 when it was dedicated at some date between 30 July and 5 August as part of Bishop David de Bernham’s programme of dedications around his diocese.(2)  It was a free parsonage until at least the late fourteenth century, for on 1 October 1383 one Thomas of Ednam was provided by Pope Clement VII of Avignon to the rectory, which had been left vacant by the death at the curia of Robert Chambers, last rector.(3

From the 1390s, the vicarage revenues of Arbuthnot were used to support a series of scholars, sarting in 1394 with Laurence Laverock and then Thomas Trail; in 1403 William Nairn MA, student of civil and canon law; 1411 Master Alexander Bulberry and 1419 John Scheves; the fruits being combined to augment income with those of the hospital of Mary Magdalene, Musselburgh on more than one occasion.(4) The last of these men, John Scheves, a member of the household of the Duke of Albany, also held the parsonage in 1415.(5)

From 1428 to 1430, the church was the subject of a series of dispute between rival claimants as rector. The disputes commenced in 1428 with a three-way struggle between James Scrymgeour, William de Balmyle and Thomas Archer, which was resolved in Scymgeour’s favour.(6) His possession was shortlived as he died within a year, whereupon Edward Lauder (described as the illegitimate son of a nobleman) was provided.  He, too, died within a year, whereupon Laurence Charteris, William Croyser and Simon Bowmaker entered into litigation for the rectorship. None, however, was successful for in 1430 a settlement was made in favour of David Crannach, who was provided to the parsonage, valued at £30.(7)

At some point in the next seventeen years both parsonage and vicarage were annexed to the collegiate church of St Mary on the Rock at St Andrews, being described in 1447 as a canonry and prebend of that church.(8)  On that occasion, Andrew Durisdeer, the future bishop of Glasgow, was provided to the prebend, valued at £24, and immediately exchanged it with John Methven.(9)  In 1468 it is recorded that the cure was a vicarage pensionary, the incumbent at that time being William Mowat.(10

The union continued at the Reformation, the inclusion of the revenues of the prebend of Arbruthnot with the prebend of Glenbervie, held by Robert Erskine, dean of Aberdeen, was purely personal and arose from Erskine’s pluralism.  Mr Andrew Petrie, the vicar pensionary had possession of the manse and croft and a stipend of 20 merks annually.(11)

The annexation of the church to St Mary on the Rock may have been one factor in persuading the leading local family, the Arbuthnots of that ilk, to channel their patronage of their local parish church in particular directions.  A Great Seal charter of 9 August 1505 confirmed at mortmain a charter of 30 May the same year made by Robert Arbuthnot of that ilk. 

By his charter, Robert had granted for the salvation of his own soul, and that of Mariota Scrymgeour his wife, their ancestors and successors, a substantial endowments of lands and rents to establish a perpetual chaplainry at the altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was described as ‘next to the side of the choir of the parish church of St Ternan of Arbuthnot’, as well as furnishing a manse for the chaplain.(12)  The product of this endowment is the great two-storeyed aisle which dominates the south side of the church.

Notes

1. For the dedication, see Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum, ii, 1424-1513, ed J B Paul (Edinburgh, 1882), no.1987 [hereafter RMS, ii].

2. A O Anderson (ed), Early Sources of Scottish History, ii (London, 1922), 522 [Pontifical Offices of St Andrews].

3. Calendar of Papal Letters to Scotland of Clement VII of Avignon, ed C Burns (Scottish History Society, 1976), 98-99 [hereafter CPL Clement VII].

4. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland; Papal Letters, ii, ed W H Bliss (Dublin, 1895), 35 [herafter CPL]; Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland; Papal Petitions, ed W H Bliss (London, 1893), 583, 597; Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, i, 1418-1422, eds E R Lindsay and A I Cameron (Scottish History Society, 1934), 119; CPL, vii, 102.

5. Copiale Prioratus Sanctiandree. The Letter-Book of James Haldenstone, Prior of St Andrews (1418-1443), ed J H Baxter (Oxford, 1930), 64, 399.

6. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, ii, 1423-28, ed A I Dunlop, (Scottish History Society, 1956), 178-179.

7. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, iii, 1428-32, eds A I Dunlop and I B Cowan (Scottish History Society, 1970), 2-3, 126, 131, 238-39.

8. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, v, 1447-71, eds  J  Kirk, R J Tanner and A I Dunlop (Glasgow, 1997), no.86 [hereafter CSSR, v].

9.CSSR, v, nos 86, 95, 191, 212.

10. CPL, iv, 175.

11. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 405-406; I B Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society, 1967), 8.

12. RMS, ii,  no.2867.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Parsonage and vicarage of the church a prebend of St Mary on the Rock, St Andrews by 1447; cure served by vicar pensioner.(1)

Rectors of the church mentioned in 1343 (William Pilmuir, nephew of John, bishop of Moray) and 1383 (Thomas de Edinhame; also holds prebends in Caithness and Aberdeen).(2)

Vicarage revenues of the church used to support a series of scholars: 1394 (Laurence Laverosk and then Thomas Trail, MA in Medicine), 1403 (William of Nairn MA, civil and canon law), 1411 (Master Alexander de Bulberry and 1419 (John de Scheves); fruits combined with those of the hospital of Mary Magdalene, Musselburgh on more than one occasion.(3)

1415 (15 Apr) John Scheves, counsellor of the Duke of Albany, rector of St Andrews, holds the church of Arbuthnot.(4)

Series of disputes between rival rectors of the church:

  • 1428 between James Scrymgeour, William de Balmyle and Thomas Archer (James wins).(5)
  • Edward Lauder (natural son of a nobleman) succeeds on death of James in 1429. On death of Edward, Laurence de Charteris, William Croysar and Simon Bowmaker litigate for rectorship. Settlement in favour of David Crannach in 1430, value £30.(6)

First mentioned as a prebend of St Mary’s in 1447 when Andrew Durisdeer (later bishop of Glasgow) provided, exchanges prebend with John Methven immediately (value £24 sterling).(7)

In 1486 £8 from fruits used to pay a pension for Robert de Fontibus; vicar pensionary at that point was William Mowat.(8)

1505 Arbuthnott aisle built by Robert Arbuthnott of that Ilk (d.1522) on the parish church [still exists today], referred to in a history of the Arbuthnot family.(9) [however, this aisle seems to have been built by the Strachans – see below].

Altars and chaplaincies in the church of St Ternan

Our Lady

1490 (7 Oct) James IV confirmed in mortmain a charter of John Strathaven (Strachan), lord of the free holding of Thornton, and David Strathaven, his son and heir apparent, feudal tenant (or feudatory) of the same, by which, for the maintenance of one chaplain, namely Sir Thomas Smyth and his successors, to celebrate mass at the altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the aisle of the same, built by the said David, senior and junior, on the south side of the parish church of Arbuthnott; they granted the annual revenue of 11 marks from the lands of the barony of Thornton and the mill of the same, in the shire of Kincardine.(10)

1505 (30 May) James IV confirmed in mortmain a charter of Robert Arbuthnot, of that ilk, by which, for the salvation of his soul, of Mariota Skrymgeour his wife, etc., he granted in pure alms to one chaplain, to celebrate mass perpetually at the altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary next to the side of the parish choir of St Ternan, archbishop, Arbuthnot, diocese of St Andrews, the annual revenue of 14 marks, 6 shillings, 8 pence, from the lands of Halgren, Inverbervy, Portartoun and Archartoun, and of the croft of Auchcarny, shire of Kincardine.(11)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church teinds pertain (along with Glenbervie) to Mr Robert Erskine, Dean of Aberdeen. Value £200. Mr Andrew Petrie, vicar pensionary has the manse and croft and 20 marks pa.(12)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of parsonage and vicarage £53 6s 8d.(13)

1641 (19 Sept) Agreement made between the kirk session and David Masterton, glasswright, for repairing of the kirk windows.(14)

1681 (6 July) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Fordoun found that the minister (Alexander Arbuthnot), has a stipend of £343. The minister noted that all money mortified to the church was employed on the repair of the bridge to Perth which is altogether ruinous.(15)

Statistical Account of Scotland (no named author, 1796): ‘Viscount of Arbuthnott is patron. Church is very ancient fabric of aghlor [?] work, but now is in very bad repair. The manse is also ruinous but is about to be repaired. To the church is adjoining an aisle of beautiful workmanship [author attributes it to Protestant Minister Alexander Arbuthnott 1560-70s].(16)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev James Mylne, 1838): ‘Aisle built in 1505 by Sir Robert Arbuthnot. Lower part dedicated to Virgin Mary. Ancient full length stone statue of Hugh de Arbuthnott [Mylne suggests 12th century] still extant in aisle’.(17)

‘Psalter and office used in chapel of Virgin Mary and missal used in parish church located in Library of Arbuthnott’.(18)

‘Church is situated a little way from the north bank of the Bervie. In 1505 Sir Robert Arbuthnott repaired and improved the west gable, erecting on it a round tower, to which he presented two bells. It is at present in a pretty good state of repair’.(19)

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 8.

2. CPL, iii, 130, CPL Clem, 98-99.

3. CPL, ii, 35, CPP, 583, 597, CSSR, i, 119, CPL, vii, 102.

4. Copiale Prioratus Sanctiandree, pp.64 & 399.

5.CSSR, ii, 178-79.

6.CSSR, iii, 2-3, 126, 131, 238-39.

7.CSSR, v, nos.86 & 95, 191 & 212.

8. CPL, iv, 175.

9. AUL MS 2764 ‘Arbuthnoticae familiae’, fols 77 & 80-82, in Bargett,  Scotland Reformed, pp. 51-52, Henderson, The Kirk of St Ternan, Arbuthnott, p. 297, Memorials of Angus and the Mearns, p.33.

10. RMS, ii, no, 1987.

11. RMS ii, no. 2867.

12. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 405-6.

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

14. NRS Records of Arbuthnott Kirk session, 1639-1690, CH2/16/1, fol. 4. (no other information on the fabric in the kirk session records).

15. NRS Presbytery of Fordoun, Records of Visitations, 1677-1688, CH2/157/13, fols. 33-36.

16. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1796), xvii, 391.

17. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1838), 159-160.

18. Ibid, 160.

19. Ibid, 163.

Bibliography

NRS Presbytery of Fordoun, Records of Visitations, 1677-1688, CH2/157/13.

NRS Records of Arbuthnott Kirk session, 1639-1690, CH2/16/1.

Bargett, F., Scotland Reformed. The Reformation in Angus and the Mearns, 1989, Edinburgh.

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

Calendar of Papal letters to Scotland of Clement VII of Avignon, 1976, ed. C. Burns, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh.

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

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

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

Copiale Prioratus Sanctiandree. The Letter-Book of James Haldenstone, Prior of St Andrews (1418-1443), 1930, ed. J. H. Baxter, Oxford.

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

Henderson, G. A, 1962, The Kirk of St Ternan, Arbuthnott, A Scottish Heritage, Edinburgh.

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

Memorials of Angus and the Mearns, 1885, ed. A. Jervise, Edinburgh.

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

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

Architectural description

There was a church here by 1242 at the latest, when Bishop David de Bernham carried out one of his many provisional dedications,(1) and at a date before 1447 it was appropriated to the college of St Mary on the Rock in St Andrews.(2) In 1505 a chaplainry of the Virgin was established by Sir Robert Arbuthnott and his wife Mariota Scrymgeour,(3) possibly incorporating an earlier chaplainry founded by David Strathaven in 1490.(4) Robert Arbuthnott took a keen interest in the church, and it was at his behest that the vicar of the parish, James Sibbald, had copied out three service books. These were: a book of hours written out between 1471 and 1484, a psalter of 1482 and a missal of 1491, all which are perhaps more remarkable for their survival than for the quality of their workmanship.(5)

By the late eighteenth century the building was said to be ‘in very bad repair’,(6) but repairs were carried out at a date around 1800,(7) and some years later it could be said that the church was ‘in a pretty good state of repair’.(8) In 1869-70 the nave was re-ordered to the designs of William Smith, with galleries around three sides and the pulpit against the south wall. Following a major fire in the nave in 1889, restoration by Alexander Marshall Mackenzie of Aberdeen brought the whole building back into use, an operation that is recorded in an inscription on the lintel of the door in the north wall of the chancel.(9) There was a further campaign of works in 1952-3.

The church is composed of three main elements: a small rectangular chancel of about 6.4 by 5.75 metres overall, an unusually long rectangular nave of about 20.75 by 7.3 metres, and an apsidal chapel which projects laterally from the S side of the chancel and which measures about 7.15 by 5.75 metres.(10) The part that displays the earliest diagnostically significant features is the unbuttressed chancel. It should perhaps be considered as a possibility that the great length of the nave might suggest that part had been a rectangular church containing both chancel and nave, to which an architecturally distinct chancel was subsequently added. On balance, however, this seems unlikely.

The unbuttressed chancel is built of dark pink rubble with ashlar dressings, and the earliest work is to be seen in its south and north walls which appear likely to be of the thirteenth century. There were probably originally three lancets in each of those walls, but any west lancet on the south side was lost when the chapel was added; the east lancet on each side owes its present form to the restoration of 1889-90. Below the west lancet on the north side is a lintelled doorway of uncertain date.

The east wall of the chancel is evidently the product of secondary remodelling in its present form. It rises from a chamfered base course, and there are chamfered offsets below the windows and at the base of the coped gable. It is pierced by three square-headed windows, the central one rising to a greater height than the others. There are ogee-flips cut into the lintels of the two side windows, and there are segmental rear-arches to all three windows internally. Mackenzie considered there he had found evidence for an earlier pair of windows, but did not reinstate them.(11) There may have been an intention to enlarge the chancel to the same width of the nave on the basis of tusking at the east end of the north nave wall, perhaps as part of the same programme of works that added the south chapel and rebuilt the nave’s west gable.

Internally, the chancel is entered through an arch of two continuous orders of chamfers, with slightly bowed jambs and no break at impost level; the arch rests on simple bases. There is a piscina in the south wall of the chancel, below the easternmost window, the recess of which is bridged by a pointed arch; the basin has been cut back.

Like the chancel, the nave is built of dark pink rubble with ashlar dressings. It has a doorway in both the south and the north wall, each of which has been heavily renewed. The south door, which was presumably the main entrance, has continuous mouldings of a quirked filleted roll and no hood mould. The only windows are in the south wall. That wall has three rectangular windows framed on all four sides by a broad chamfer, each having a single mullion; although they date from 1890, Mackenzie considered that he had found sufficient evidence for their form. There is a holy water stoup to the east of the south nave doorway.

The west nave wall, which has a chamfered base course, was rebuilt around the same time that the south chapel was added on the evidence of the similarity of its details with that part. It is braced by broad diagonal buttresses, each with an ogee-headed niche below the top offsets. The bottom element of the the north-west buttress offset continues across the west wall, and there are cut-back traces of a similar offset continuing out from the south-west buttress.

At the centre of the wall a buttress with broadly splayed flanks rises to carry a circular, conically-capped bellcote, and on each side of that buttress there is a small restored lancet window. The west face of the buttress, which has an ogee-headed niche at the lower level, penetrates up through the bellcote, with the projecting curves of the bellcote corbelled out from its splayed flanks. Two bells were donated by Sir Robert Arbuthnott in 1505, suggesting that work was nearing completion by then.

The most striking feature of the church is certainly the ashlar-built apsidal chapel, which projects from the south flank of the chancel. It was almost certainly the home of the chaplainry of the Virgin established in 1505. Laterally projecting apsidal chapels were rare, and must certainly be seen as the expression of a wish to create a particularly impressive architectural impact. A symmetrical pair of such chapels is to be seen at Ladykirk in Berwickshire, a foundation of James IV that was built between 1500 and 1507, and there was example at the Dominican Church in St Andrews in Fife that was built around.1516. The Arbuthnott lateral apse differs from the other Scottish examples in being of two storeys.

The chapel has a chamfered base course, and there is a string course at a higher level around the buttresses and apse, but not around the east and west walls. The buttresses, which are capped by pinnacles above the level of the wall-head cornice, have well detailed corbels and canopies for images, the corbel of the east buttress being decorated with the arma Christi. At the junction of the chapel’s west wall with the south wall of the nave is a polygonal stair turret topped by a circular conically roofed caphouse. The chapel’s crow-stepped north gable rises well above the adjacent chancel wall. A round-headed doorway with continuous mouldings gives access to the chapel through its west wall, and there are cusped single-light windows in four faces. A rectangular window in the east face is displaced to the south, presumably to accommodate an altar retable.

The chapel is entered from the chancel by a wide arch with semi-octagonal responds, moulded caps and a semi-circular arch with two orders of cavettos. It is covered by an unribbed barrel vault of circular profile. There is a holy water stoup with moulded ogee-headed headed recess below the south-west window of the apse, and an ogee-headed piscina recess in the east wall. Below the south window is a relocated knight’s effigy with armour of thirteenth-century type, which has generally been identified as Hugo de Arbuthnott,  who died in 1282; it rests on later tomb chest carved with arms of Douglas, Arbuthnott and Stewart.

The upper chamber is open to the roof timbers, and is equipped with stone benches in two of the three window embrasures, which are in the west, south and south-east faces. It is usually referred to as a priest’s room, and it is sometimes suggested – on no certain evidence – as the place where James Sibbald copied out his manuscripts. It is perhaps more likely to have been a sacristy, since there is a holy water stoup within the entrance off the stair.

Notes

1. Alan Orr Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History, Edinburgh, 1922, p. 522.

2. Register of Supplications in the Vatican Archives, 420 and 233v.; Ian B. Cowan, the Parishes of Medieval Scotland, Scottish Record Society, 1967, p. 8.

3. Register of the Great Seal of Scotland, ed. J.M. Thomson et al., vo. 2, no 2867, 9 August 1505.

4. Register of the Great Seal of Scotland, ed. J.M. Thomson et al., vo. 2, no 1987, 7 October 1490.

5. All now in Paisley Museum and Art Galleries. William MacGillivray, ‘Notices of the Arbuthnott Missal, Psalter, and Office of the Blessed Virgin’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. 26, 1891-2, pp. 89-104; Stephen Mark Holmes, ‘Catalogue of Liturgical Books and Fragments in Scotland before 1560’, Innes Review, vol. 62.2, 2011, pp. 163-4.

6. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-99, vol. 17, p, 391.

7. A.P. Forbes,in Liber Ecclesie Beati Terrenani de Arbuthnott: Missale Secundum Usum Ecclesiae Sancti Andreae in Scotia, Burntisland, 1864, p. lxxxvi, complained of great injury having been caused by ‘the insertion of large sash windows about sixty years ago’.

8. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 11, p. 163.

9. He provided a brief account of his proposed works in ‘Notes on the Parish Church of Arbuthnott’, Transactions of the Aberdeen Ecclesiological Society, vol. 4, 1890, pp. 41-44.

10. Accounts of the church are provided in David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, the Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland, vol. 3, Edinburgh, 1897, pp. 235-42; George A. Henderson, The Kirk of St Ternan, Arbuthnott, Edinburgh and London, 1962.

11. Transactions of the Aberdeen Ecclesiological Society, p. 41-42.

Map

Images

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

  • 1. Arbuthnott Church, exterior, south chapel and chancel from south east

  • 2. Arbuthnott Church, exterior, south chapel from south east

  • 3. Arbuthnott Church, exterior, nave south wall and south chapel from west

  • 4. Arbuthnott Church, exterior, south chapel buttress tabernacle, 1

  • 5. Arbuthnott Church, exterior, south chapel buttress tabernacle, 2

  • 6. Arbuthnott Church, exterior, south chapel from west

  • 7. Arbuthnott Church, exterior, from north west, 2

  • 8. Arbuthnott Church, exterior, from north west 1

  • 9. Arbuthnott Church, exterior, chancel, east wall from south east

  • 10. Arbuthnott Church, exterior, east wall

  • 11. Arbuthnott Church, exterior, junction of nave and chancel, north side

  • 12. Arbuthnott Church, exterior, nave from south west

  • 13. Arbuthnott Church, exterior, west wall

  • 14. Arbuthnott Church, chapel interior looking south

  • 15. Arbuthnott Church, interior from west

  • 16. Arbuthnott Church, interior, from north west

  • 17. Arbuthnott Church, interior, chancel arch

  • 18. Arbuthnott Church, interior, chancel arch from west

  • 19. Arbuthnott Church, interior, chancel from north west

  • 20. Arbuthnott Church, interior, chancel piscina

  • 21. Arbuthnott Church, interior, chancel, inscription over north door

  • 22. Arbuthnott Church, interior, from west

  • 23. Arbuthnott Church, interior, nave from east

  • 24. Arbuthnott Church, interior, nave stoup

  • 25. Arbuthnott Church, interior, south chapel arch

  • 26. Arbuthnott Church, interior, south chapel arch west jamb

  • 27. Arbuthnott Church, interior, south chapel effigy

  • 28. Arbuthnott Church, interior, south chapel piscina

  • 29. Arbuthnott Church, interior, south chapel stoup

  • 30. Arbuthnott Church, interior, south chapel, entrance arch, west jamb

  • 31. Arbuthnott Church, interior, south chapel

  • 32. Arbuthnott Church, plan