Auldcathy Parish Church

Auldcathy Church, exterior, from north west

Summary description

The fragmentary shell of a small rectangular structure abandoned after 1618.

Historical outline

Dedication: unknown

The parish of Auldcathy emerged in the later Middle Ages, being detached by an unknown process from the adjoining parish of Linlithgow.  It had originated as a private chapel that had been permitted to retain certain quasi-parochial rights in the early twelfth century when its mother-church at Linlithgow had been annexed to the priory at St Andrews.(1)  It had attained parochial status by March 1415 when John of Balbirnie, rector of Auldcathy, and John de Ponfret, rector of Methil, exchanged their benefices.(2

A subsequent rector, Peter Inglis, occurs on 12 November 1421.(3)  In that same year, the church was confirmed as a possession of the priory, but it seems that they held no more than the patronage.  Their successful assertion of their claim appears to have marked the beginning of what proved to be a protracted conflict over rights in Auldcathy between the canons and the family of Lauder of the Bass.(4)  Following the death of Inglis on his way to Rome in 1428, the dispute erupted when Sir Robert Lauder provided Andrew de Riccarton to the church and the priory provided Nicholas Gifford, resulting in petition and counter-petition over the right of patronage.(5

The situation became even more complex following Lauder’s death in 1436, when his family claim passed to three grand-daughters and their husbands, and over the next fifty years the Crown and the lords Hamilton asserted rights in the church in competition with the priory.(6)  A confirmation of the priory’s possessions dated 12 August 1471 listed Auldcathy simply as a chapel of Linlithgow.(7)

In 1475 George Brown (later bishop of Dunkeld) was presented on death of John Brown, rector, by Robert Lauder, but William Scheves, archdeacon of St Andrews refuses to institute him. The following year, one John Williamson was presented by James, lord Hamilton, who in 1474 had had the advowson of the church of Auldcathy confirmed to him,(8) but Scheves again refused institution and collated Matthew Pringle instead.(9)  Brown, however, was described as rector of Auldcathy in 1478 and retained the church until 1484 when he resigned on his provision to the bishopric of Dunkeld, whereupon Robert Lauder successfully presented Thomas Holing.(10

In 1497 the patronage of church and lands of Auldcathie was granted to Robert Lauder and Isabella Hay, heirs of Robert Lauder of Bass, with whom it remained thereafter.(11)

Notes

1. Liber Cartarum Sancti Andree in Scotia (Bannatyne Club, 1841), xxvii, 321-322 [hereafter St Andrews Liber].

2. Calendar of Papal Letters to Scotland of Pope Benedict XIII of Avignon 1394-1419, ed F McGurk (Scottish History Society, 1976), 312.

3. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, i, 1418-1422, eds E R Lindsay and A I Cameron (Scottish History Society, 1934) 267.

4. St Andrews Liber, 413-414.

5. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, ii, 1423-1428, ed A I Dunlop (Scottish History Society, 1956), 51, 203; Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, iii, 1428-1433, eds  A I Dunlop and I B Cowan, (Scottish History Society, 1970), 173.

6. I B Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society, 1967), 11.

7. Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum, ii, 1424-1513, ed J Balfour Paul (Edinburgh, 1883), no.1039 [hereafter RMS, ii].

8. RMS, ii, no.1178.

9. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers for Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, xiii, 41, 492 [hereafter CPL, xiii].

10. CPL, xiii, 649, 843.

11. Calendar of Writs Preserved at Yester House1166-1503, eds C C H Harvey and J Macleod (Scottish Record Society, 1930), no.240.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Originally a private chapel with Linlithgow as the mother church. It had parochial status by 15th century, and was confirmed to the priory of St Andrews in 1421, however, by 1431 the patronage was in dispute between the priory and Robert Lauder of Bass. Lauder was successful by 1482/3. At the Reformation, it was an independent parsonage in lay patronage.(1)

1415 John de Balbryny exchanges church with John de Ponfret for church of Methil.(2)

1421-28 Patrick Inglis is rector of church (illegitimate son of a knight). Dies on his way to Rome in 1428. A dispute follows between Andrew de Riccarton (provided by Lauder) and Nicholas Gifford (provided by priory of St Andrews), with question over who has right to patronage.(3) [no resolution]

1475 George Brown (MA, later bishop of Dunkeld) presented (on death of John Brown, rector) by Robert Lauder of the Bass; archdeacon William Scheves of St Andrews refuses to institute him.

1476 John Williamson presented by James Lord of Hamilton, but refused by Scheves who collates Matthew Pringle instead.(4)

1478 Brown is described as rector of Auldcathy until 1484, when he resigns on move to Dunkeld. Robert Lauder successfully presents Thomas Holing.(5)

1497 Patronage of church and lands of Auldcathie granted to Robert Lauder and Isabella Hay, heirs of Robert Lauder of Bass.(6)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: No references to the church.

[United to Dalmeny in 1618]

#1618 (21 Jan) The kirk of Auldcathie was united to Dalmeny by order of a parliamentary commission.(7)

[There are references to the joining of the parish to Dalmeny in the statistical accounts of the latter parish but not to any surviving church buildings.](8)

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 11.

2. CPL, Ben, 312.

3. CSSR, i, 267, CSSR, ii, 51 & 203, CSSR, iii, 173.

4. CPL, xiii, 41 & 492.

5. CPL, xiii, 649 & 843.

6. Yester Writs, no. 240.

7. NRS Papers of James Beveridge, M.A., Linlithgow, `Religious houses in Burgh [of Linlithgow] and parish', GD215/1856.

8. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1843), ii, 104.

Bibliography

National Records of Scotland, Papers of James Beveridge, M.A., Linlithgow, `Religious houses in Burgh [of Linlithgow] and parish', GD215/1856.

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 Benedict XIII of Avignon, 1976, ed. F. McGurk, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh.

Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1418-22, 1934, ed. E.R. Lindsay and A.I. Cameron, (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 writs preserved at Yester House, 1166-1625, 1930, eds. C. Harvey and J. McLeod (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh.

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

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

Architectural description

The church at Auldcathy originated as a chapel dependent on Linlithgow, but came to be regarded as parochial in the fifteenth century. In 1421 and 1471 the patronage was exercised by St Andrews Cathedral Priory, though that patronage was disputed by Sir Robert Lauder of the the Bass, and by 1483/4 it was deemed to be an independent parsonage in the patronage of the Lauder famil.(1) By order of a parliamentary commission of 1618 the parish was united with that of Dalmen.(2) and the church was subsequently abandoned for worship.

The shell of the church, which is constructed of grey rubble, is a rectangle of about 10.5 by 6.2 metres, and is located within an arable field. The two gables, which are without windows, stand to much of their original height. The quoins of the east gable are more carefully dressed than those of the west gable, and it can be seen that the east gable had straight coping with a rebate for the rafter.

The two side walls are less well preserved than the gables, but there are the lower courses of a door with chamfered jambs towards the west end of the south wall, the east jamb of which has collapsed. A gap in the north wall suggests there was a corresponding door on that side. There is part of the jamb of a window at the east end of the south wall, which presumably lit the altar. All of the surviving details point to a late medieval date of construction.

Towards the south end of the east wall is a simple rectangular aumbry recess. There is a triplet of square pockets at a higher level of that wall whose function is unclear, though it may be speculated that they were associated with an altar retable.

Although the shell of the church is now neglected and overgrown, there appears to have been some consolidation in the past. A stone from the chamfered jamb of a door or window has been built into the north wall at its junction with the east gable.

Notes

1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 11.

2. National Records of Scotland, Papers of James Beveridge, Religious Houses in the Burgh [of Linlithgow] and Parish, GD 215/1856.

Map

Images

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  • 1. Auldcathy Church, exterior, from north west

  • 2. Auldcathy Church, exterior, from north east

  • 3. Auldcathy Church, east gable

  • 4. Auldcathy Church, exterior, from south west

  • 5. Auldcathy Church, exterior, south door

  • 6. Auldcathy Church, exterior, recycled stone at east end north wall

  • 7. Auldcathy Church, interior, from west