Athelstaneford Parish Church

Athelstaneford Church, exterior

Summary description

A T-plan structure of 1780 and 1868.

Historical outline

Dedication: unknown

Apart from the record of its dedication by Bishop David de Bernham of St Andrews on 7 April 1244,(1) no documentary record of the church of Athelstaneford survives from before the mid-fourteenth century.  A confirmation of the grant of the church with all its teinds was issued to the possessors, the Cistercian nuns of Haddington, in 1359, the confirmation stating that Bishop Richard of St Andrews (1163-78) had been the original donor.(2)  Ian Cowan, however, suggested that the donor might rather have been Countess Ada, who founded the nunnery.(3

In 1298, the church had been described as a ‘chapel’,(4) which Cowan proposed might reflect the service of the cure there by chaplains who were removeable at the will of the nuns.  Such a position was set out in a supplication to the pope made on 21 April 1461 by John Haliburton, who described how ‘the prioress and nuns cause the […] church to be served by a priest, removable annually at will against canonical institutes, to the no little hurt of the souls of the parishioners’.(5

To remove the peril to the souls of the parishioners, John claimed that half of the fruits would be adequate to sustain a vicar curate and provide a suitable manse for him, and he supplicated the pope to appoint ‘some good man locally’ to inspect the situation and thereupon institute John as vicar perpetual on half the fruits.  Some form of vicarage settlement appears to have resulted, for in 1555 one William Hepburn, vicar of Athelstaneford, is recorded in a land transaction.(6)  The settlement, however, may have been for a vicarage pensionary rather than perpetual, for at the Reformation both parsonage and vicarage was presented as annexed to the nunnery of Haddington and set by them for £50.(7)

Notes

1. A O Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History, ii (London, 1922), 525 [Pontifical Offices of St Andrews].

2. Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum, ii, 1424-1513, ed J Balfour Paul (Edinburgh, 1883), no.610, itself a reconfirmation of King James II, issued on 31 August 1458.

3. I B Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society, 1967), 9.

4. The Correspondence, Inventories, Account Rolls and Law Proceedings of the Priory of Coldingham, ed J Raine (Surtees Society, 1841), cxii.

5. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, v, 1447-1471, eds J Kirk, R Tanner and A I Dunlop (Glasgow, 1997), no.843.

6. NRS Perth, Protocol Book of Thomas Stevin, 1548-1565, B30/1/5, fol. 109.

7. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 162-3, 177.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Confirmed to nuns of Haddington in 1359; original grant probably by Ada on foundation of nunnery (see Register of the Great Seal of Scotland, ii, 610) Described as a chapel in 1298; vicarage erected in 15th century.(1)

1461 and 1463 Complaint by parishioners (200 of whom pay tithes) that the priories and nuns of Haddington cause the church to be served by a priest, removable annually at will against canonical institutions and to no little hurt of the souls of the parishioners. Supplication for John Haliburton (illegitimate son of a baron) to be instituted as perpetual vicar with half the fruits of the parish (£8 from £16) as his portion and a suitable manse.(2)

1555 William Hepburn, vicar of the church, appears as a cautioner for a land sale.(3)

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 nuns of Haddington, set for £50.(4)

1591 (7 Apr) Synod of Lothian and Tweedale orders the presbytery of Haddington to call to account persons keeping ‘supersitious days, playing on timbrellis and wechtis on the Saboth day, using commounlie playis at pasche and yool’ in the parishes of Aberlady, Tranent, Athelstaneford and Samilstoun (?).(5)

1594 (3 Apr) Supplication by the parishioners to the Synod that they appoint a minister for their church, rents being in the hands of James Carmichael (minister under investigation in same synod).(6)

1602 (14 Jan) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Haddington (the church being planted in 1601 for the first time since the Reformation) finds the minister (James Gibson) to be competent, but his stipend needs to be augmented. The kirk session ordained to deal with it.(7)

1652 (27 Oct) The minister of Athelstaneford noted that it had been necessary to use some of the money collected for the prisoners to repair their kirk (the presbytery tell them to get the whole sum from the heritors).(8)

1673 (19 June) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Haddington finds that there is no school master, that the church stands in need of reparation and that there are no utensils for celebrating the sacraments.(9)

1676 (25 May) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Haddington, notes that £22 scots have been taken out of the poor box for repairing the church, but the church is still faulty in the roof.(10) Report of a subsequent meeting of the heritors 22 June 1676; workmen Patrick Lathie, slater and William Hunter, wright, report that £20 scots expenses are required for mending the church. [Considerably more is spent by the same workmen on the repair of the manse].(11)

1702 (15 Apr) The heritors of the church (during a visitation) confirm their willingness to repair the church and manse. Total costs 545 marks.(12)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev George Goldie, 1792): ‘The church, manse and schoolmaster’s house, have all been new built within these last 12 years’.(13) (c.1780)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev William Ritchie, 1835): ‘The old church of Athelstaneford was built about the middle of the 12th century by Ada (de Warrenne)... The church she built here, part of which is still standing, continued the parish church until the year 1780’.(14)

Notes

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

2. CPL, xii, 114-116, CSSR, v, no. 843.

3. NRS Perth, Prot Bk of Thomas Stevin, 1548-1565, B30/1/5, fol. 109.

4. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 162-3 & 177.

5. Synod Records of Lothian and Tweeddale, p. 27.

6. Synod Records of Lothian and Tweeddale, p. 73.

7. NRS Presbytery of Haddington, Minutes, 1596-1608, CH2/185/2, fols. 164-165.

8. NRS Presbytery of Haddington, Minutes, 1648-1661, CH2/185/6, fol. 158.

9. NRS Presbytery of Haddington, Minutes, 1662-1686, CH2/185/7, fol. 143.

10. NRS Presbytery of Haddington, Minutes, 1662-1686, CH2/185/7, fol. 214.

11. NRS Presbytery of Haddington, Minutes, 1662-1686, CH2/185/7, fols. 219-220.

12. NRS Presbytery of Haddington, Minutes, 1698-1716, CH2/185/10, fols. 92-93.

13. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1792), x, 174.

14. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1835), ii, 51.

Bibliography

NRS Perth, Prot Bk of Thomas Stevin, 1548-1565, B30/1/5.

NRS Presbytery of Haddington, Minutes, 1596-1608, CH2/185/2.

NRS Presbytery of Haddington, Minutes, 1648-1661, CH2/185/6.

NRS Presbytery of Haddington, Minutes, 1662-1686, CH2/185/7.

NRS Presbytery of Haddington, Minutes, 1698-1716, CH2/185/10.

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

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

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.

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

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

Synod Records of Lothian and Tweeddale, 1589-1596, 1640-1649, 1977, ed. J. Kirk (Stair Society), Edinburgh.

Architectural description

The church at Athelstaneford may have originated as a dependent chapel, and was described as such in 1298; it was, nevertheless, dedicated as a parish church by Bishop David de Bernham on 7 April 1244.(1) It was confirmed to the Cistercian nuns of Haddington in 1359, and it may be suspected that it had been granted to that house on its foundation at a date before 1159 by Countess Ada of Northumberland and Huntingdon. There was a vicarage settlement in the fifteenth century.(2)

Repairs to the building carried out at various times are recorded in the course of the seventeenth century. On 27 October 1652, for example, it was said that money collected for prisoners had been diverted to such repairs,(3) while on 22 June 1676 repairs were costed at £20 Scots by the slater Patrick Lathie and the wright William Hunter.(4)

The church was rebuilt in 1780; according to the entry in the Statistical Account, written in 1792, the rebuilding had taken place within the last twelve years,(5) while the author of the entry in the New Statistical Account specifically stated that it had been built in 1780.(6) The latter account said that part of the old church was still standing at that time, possibly having been adapted as a burial enclosure for the Kinloch family, who lived in Gilmerton House.(7)

A view of the church in 1811, which is said to be by an artist named as N. Cormack and in Gilmerton House, shows a rectangular enclosure to the south east of the church that may have been the Kinloch enclosure;(8) however, nothing of it now remains. That view also shows the church of 1780 as a rectangular structure with four pointed windows along the south flank and a square bellcote at the apex of the west gable.

The present church dates largely from 1868,(9) though it is likely that it incorporates the church of 1780 in heavily remodelled form. It is a T-shaped structure faced with buff-coloured ashlar with polished cream-coloured dressings. The nave and the porch in the re-entrant angle between nave and transepts are in a Romanesque idiom, while the transepts and short apsidal chancel are in the Gothic style. There is a diagonally-set bellcote on the west gable.

Notes

1. Alan Orr Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History, Edinburgh, 1922, vol. 2, p. 525.

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

3. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Haddington, Minutes, 1648-61, CH2/185/6, fol. 158.

4. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Haddington, Minutes, 1662-86, CH2/185/7, fols 219-20.

5. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-9, vol. 10, p. 174.

6. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 2, p. 51.

7. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Object Name Books of the Ordnance Survey, book no.31, p. 24.

8. Reproduced in Moyra King, Athelstaneford, a Village History, 2nd ed., Athelstaneford, 2012, p. 14.

9. Colin McWilliam, The Buildings of Scotland Lothian, Harmondsworth, 1978, pp. 82-83.

Map

Images

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  • 1. Athelstaneford Church, exterior

  • 2. Athelstaneford Church, interior

  • 3. Athelstaneford Church, exterior, date stone above entrance

  • 4. Athelstaneford churchyard, monuments

  • 5. Athelstaneford Church (N. Cormack, 1811)