Arngask Parish Church

Arngask churchyard, possible site of earlier church

Summary description

An abandoned roofless building of 1806; the medieval church was probably on the highest point of the graveyard, to its south. A decaying medieval effigy survives.

Historical outline

Dedication: Holy Trinity, Our Lady and St Columba.

Early records of the church of Arngask are entirely lost, much having probably been amongst the parchment records of Cambuskenneth Abbey which were affected badly by damp and decay in the early 1500s.  When the church is first the subject-matter of a surviving document, on 17 September 1281, it was already in the processof being granted and confirmed by Bishop William Fraser of St Andrews in proprios usus to the canons of Cambuskenneth.(1

The bishop’s charter narrated that land in Arngask ‘near the priest’s house’ and the patronage of the parish church had been granted to the canons by Gilbert, lord of Fourgy, but out of compassion for the poverty of their abbey he had also granted them the whole fruits of the church, to follow on the death or resignation of the current rector.  On 13 October the following year, Ralph, rector of Arngask, resigned all of his rights in the church, to which he had been canonically instituted by the late Duncan, lord of Fourgy.(2

Following upon the bishop’s grant and Ralph’s resignation, Baldred, official of the bishop of St Andrews, issued a mandate to the Dean of Christianity of Fife and Fothrif, to go to the church in the company of two or three neighbouring chaplains, and to give corporal possession of it to the abbot of Cambuskenneth.(3)  It remained so annexed at the Reformation, when the parsonage and vicarage were together valued at £44.(4)

On 1 October 1527, Margaret Barclay, lady of Arngask, Sir Andrew Murray her husband and Sir David Murray, their son, gave an annual rent of 14 merks for the support of the chaplains singing masses in the church, which was described as dedicated to the Trinity, Our Lady and St Columba, patron of the church.  Their masses were to be performed in Gregorian chant or in collegiate form.(5)

Notes                                   

1. Registrum Monasterii S Marie de Cambuskenneth (Grampian Club, 1872), no.1 [hereafter Cambuskenneth Registrum]

2. Cambuskenneth Registrum, no.2.

3. Cambuskenneth Registrum, no.3.

4. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 538, 543, 545, 546.

5. Cambuskenneth Registrum, no.22.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Whole fruits confirmed to Cambuskenneth by William Fraser, bishop of St Andrews in 1281, following a grant made by Gilbert, Lord of Fourgy.(1)

[No pre-reformation references]

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church Parsonage and vicarage with Cambuskenneth, value £44.(2)

1624 (17 Apr) Letter to be sent from the Presbytery of Perth to Sir Andrew Murray of Balbaird, asking him to compear with them to discuss how his church of Arngask might be provided with a minister.(3) 19 Oct 1625 -  reference to Arngask being annexed to the church of Strathmiglo; attempt made to disjoin the church.(4)

1624 (7 Apr) Reference to the Earl of Mar as the patron of Arngask; he owes the church 100 marks.(5)

#1635 First Protestant minister, George Moncrieff (1635-1665) was installed.(6)

1642 (17 Aug) Following an act of the General Assembly anent the patronage of churches, the Presbytery of Perth records the patrons of churches within its bounds; Perth belongs to the town, Kinnoul belongs to the earl of Kinnoul, Scone belongs to the king, Cambusmichael also belongs to the king, Kilspindie also belongs to the king being a former kirk of abbey of Scone, Errol belongs to the earl of Kinnoul, Kinfauns belongs to the king being a former kirk of the abbey of Scone, Rhynd belongs to the king being a former church of the priory of Pittenweem, Arngask belongs to the king being a former church of Cambuskenneth, Dunbarney belongs to the town of Edinburgh, Forteviot belongs to the (old) college of St Andrews, Methven belongs to the Duke of Lennox and Luncarty belongs to the king.(7)

1676 (26 Sept) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Perth; William Barclay (minister) accused of not going through the parish frequently for catechism. In turn he complains that very few of the parish turn up for communion. He notes that many of the congregation had ‘withdrawn from the public worship of God’. [the presbytery take steps to deal with the myriad of problems in the parish].(8)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev William Lang, 1791): ‘Part of the church, at least, must have been built before the Reformation, as there is a place in the wall for the font; and the statue of the foundress (said to be Mrs Barclay), has the beads used by Catholics hanging around the hands… The church has got few repairs these last hundred years’.(9)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Alexander Burt, 1841 rev 1842): ‘patronage of the parish church was given in 1281 to the abbey of Cambuskenneth’.(10)

‘The church, which is situated on gently elevated ground, was built in 1806’.(11)

[no reference to the old building]

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 9.

2. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 538, 543, 545 and 546.

3. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1618-1647, CH2/299/1, fol. 100.

4. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1618-1647, CH2/299/1, fol. 135.

5. National Records of Scotland, Records of the Synod of Fife, 1610-1636, CH2/154/1, fol. 281r.

6. Mackie, Annals of Arngask, pp. 107-117.

7. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1618-1647, CH2/299/1, fol. 423.

8. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1662-1681, CH2/299/4, fols. 294-297.

9. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1791), i, 47.

10. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1841, rev 1842), x, 884.

11. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1841, rev 1842), x, 892. 

Bibliography

National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1618-1647, CH2/299/1.

National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1662-1681, CH2/299/4.

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

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

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

Mackie, J., 1958, Annals of Arngask. The Story of a Parish in the South-East Croner of Perthshire, Glenfarg.

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

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

Architectural description

Following a grant of the patronage of Arngask to the Augustinian abbey of Camuskenneth by Gilbert, lord of Fourgy, the church was fully appropriated to the abbey in 1281 by Bishop William Fraser.(1)

The medieval church appears to have remained in use until the early nineteenth century. It was said by the minister that it must have been at least partly of pre-Reformation date because ‘there is a place in the wall for the font’, presumably in reference to a piscina or stoup. The minister added that ‘the church has got few repairs for these last 100 years’.(2)

The description in the Statistical Account of Scotland also recorded that there was a female effigy ‘said to have been a Mrs Barclay’. The assumption was that this represented Margaret Barclay, the heiress of the Barclays of Balvaird and Arngask, who brought that estate into the Murray family through her marriage to Sir William Murray of Tullibardine, the ancestor of the earls of Mansfield.

When the old church of Arngask was replaced the statue was removed to Balvaird Castle on the orders of the earl of Mansfield,(3) and it was still there in the last years of the nineteenth century.(4) At some stage, however, it was returned to Arngask churchyard, and is now propped against the watch-house. It is fragmentary and badly weathered – and is continuing to weather – and there is now no possibility of identifying who is depicted.

A new church was built in 1806 by Adam Horsbrough, and since it is beyond the northern edge of the churchyard, at the foot of a short but steep slope, it can be assumed that is not on the site of its predecessor.(5) It is a simple building with a pair of round-headed windows flanking a central door to the south face, and a pair of rectangular windows to the north face; there was a birdcage bellcote over the west gable. It is possible that some stone from the old church was recycled, and the south jamb of the east doors rear-arch has stones that appear to have had a quirked roll moulding.

Accommodation was increased through the addition of galleries by Joseph Low in 1821, with a forestair against the east gable. There is also a session house against the southern part of the east front.

In 1907 the bellcote was replaced by one to the designs of George Washington Browne, and the old birdcage bellcote was relocated to the centre of the churchyard at the eastern end of a slightly raised platform. It may suspected that platform was the site of the medieval church.

The church of 1806 has now itself been abandoned and unroofed, and is decaying rapidly. The present parish church, in the village of Glenfarg, across the motorway from Arngask, was built in 1906-7 by Sidney Mitchell and Wilson, and originally served a United Free congregation.(6)

Notes

1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 9.

2. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-99 vol. 1, p. 417.

3. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 10, p. 889.

4. David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland, Edinburgh, vol. 1, 1887, p. 343.

5. New Statistical Account, vol. 10, p. 892; John Gifford, Buildings of Scotland, Perth and Kinross, New Haven and London, 2007, pp. 401-2.

6. Gifford, Perth and Kinross, p. 402.

Map

Images

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

  • 1. Arngask churchyard, possible site of earlier church

  • 2. Arngask Church and Session House, from east

  • 3. Arngask Church, bellcote

  • 4. Arngask Church, relocated bellcote

  • 5. Arngask Church, exterior, north face

  • 6. Arngask Church, exterior, south face, 1

  • 7. Arngask Church, exterior, south face, 2

  • 8. Arngask church, interior, looking east

  • 9. Arngask Church, possible re-used stones in east door

  • 10. Arngask churchyard, effigy

  • 11. Arngask churchyard, gravestone, 1

  • 12. Arngask churchyard, gravestone, 2