(Auldhame Parish Church)

Auldhame Church, excavations (AOC Archaeology Group)

Summary description

There are no upstanding remains of the church, which may have been abandoned before the Reformation; its plan has been partly excavated, revealing a long history of ecclesiastical use.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Baldred (?)

The first surviving reference to the church of Aldhame or Auldhame is a note in the Pontifical Offices of St Andrews, which record that on 23 April 1243 it was dedicated by Bishop David De Bernham.(1)  Listed as a parsonage in the tax roll for the diocese of St Andrews in the 1270s and assessed at 4s,(2) the church remained independent at the Reformation, when Patrick Alexander, parson, held both the parsonage and vicarage valued at 24 merks annually.(3

There are few records of the church in the Middle Ages, with only one early incumbent, John Harkers, being noted in 1325.(4)  In 1491, when Robert Lauder, the laird of the Bass, was petitioning for the setting up of a separate parish for his island property, it was mentioned that the inhabitants of the Bass had otherwise to travel two miles by sea to the mainland church of Auldhame.(5)


1. A O Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History, ii (London, 1922), 523.

2. A I Dunlop, ‘Bagimond’s Roll: Statement of the Tenths of the Kingdom of Scotland’, Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vi (Scottish History Society, 1939), 33.

3. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 179.  It was noted that both parsonage and vicarage were set in assedation to Jean Stewart, lady Reidhall, for an annual rent of £6 13s 4d (ibid, 118).

4. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland; Papal Letters, ii, ed. W.H. Bliss (London, 1895), 245.

5. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland; Papal Letters, xv, ed M J Haren (Dublin, 1978), no.719. 

Summary of relevant documentation


Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: It was listed as a parsonage in Bagimond's Roll, and remained unappropriated at the Reformation.(1)

1325 John Harkers was rector of Aldhame, value 10 marks.(2)

1491 Petition to create a new parish of Bass. Some of the current residents go to church of Auldhame on mainland.(3)


Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage held by Patrick Alexander, set for 24 marks.Vicarage set for £6 13s 4d .(4)

1618 Unverified reference in secondary work: A minute in the Tyninghame records that states ‘Aldhame was not plantit after the Reform of religion’ [no protestant church there].  However a church and churchyard still existed in 1619 (11 Apr) when the Laird of Skugall’s son, called John, was buried in Aldhame.

1637 (12 Oct) The Laird of Skugall’s mother Margaret was buried in Aldhame. (John Auchmutie, also laird of Gosford).(5)

[The parishes of Tyninghame and Whitekirk were united in 1761, long before this Auldhame had been annexed to Whitekirk]

Statistical Account of Scotland (James Williamson): [No reference to church buildings]

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev James Wallace): [No remains of Auldhame parish church mentioned]


1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 5.

2. CPL, ii, 245.

3. CPL, xv, no. 719.

4. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 118 & 179.

5. Old Kirk Chronicle, being a History of Auldhame, Tyninghame, and Whitekirk, pp. 4-5.


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

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.

Old Kirk Chronicle, being a History of Auldhame, Tyninghame, and Whitekirk in East Lothian, from Session Records, 1615-1850, 1893, ed. P. Hately Wadell, Edinburgh.

Architectural description

Auldhame was a parsonage in the taxation roll of Baiamund de Vicci in 1276, and remained unappropriated throughout the middle ages.(1) This was perhaps because it was of so little value that it was unattractive to those who might have considered annexing it.

The church had evidently passed out of parochial use by the Reformation, and possibly some time before then. According to Kirk Session records of 1618, ‘Aldhame was not plantit after the Reform of religion’, the area presumably having already been absorbed into the parish of Tyninghame. Nevertheless, the site continued in at least limited use for interments, with references to burials of members of the laird’s family in 1619 and 1637.(2)

All upstanding remains of the church have been lost, though there had been some archaeological investigation of what was evidently a site of considerable interest, first in the nineteenth century, and then in 1949 by J.R.C. Hamilton of the Office of Works. However, in 2005 the recovery of Anglo-Saxon artefacts from ploughsoil led to larger scale archaeological investigation than had hitherto been undertaken.(3)

So far as the church structures are concerned, the broad conclusions drawn from the investigations of 2005 are that there were four main phases of construction:

1. There was a monastic settlement on the site between the mid-seventh and mid-ninth century. Worship was first accommodated in a small timber oratory on top of a low mound.

2. At some time between the mid-eighth and mid-ninth century the first oratory was replaced by a timber chapel raised on stone footings. After the abandonment of the site by the monastic community, there appears to have been brief use of the site for Viking burials.

3. At an uncertain date between about 1200 and 1400 an oriented mortared stone church was constructed with overall dimensions of 15.5 by 7.2 metres. This church had evidently been abandoned for worship by around 1400.

4. In the early sixteenth century a burial aisle was built over the site of the earlier chancel.


1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 5.

2. P. Hately Waddell, Old Kirk Chronicle, being a History of Auldhame, Tyninghame and Whitekirk...from Session Records, 1615-1850, Edinburgh, 1893, pp. 4-5.

3. The summary of the building sequence is based on that given in the draft excavation report prepared by AOC Archaeology Group: Living and Dying at Auldhame, East Lothian: the Excavation of an Anglian Monastic settlement and Medieval Parish Church.



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  • 1. Auldhame Church, excavations (AOC Archaeology Group)