Ballumbie / Ballumby Parish Church

Ballumbie Church, excavation of south chapel (SUAT Ltd)

Summary description

Abandoned after 1574. Excavation revealed it had a rectangular core with a north chapel.

Historical outline

Dedication: unknown

As an independent parish, Ballumbie has made little impact on the historical record.  Ian Cowan suggested that it originated as a chapel of the parish of Lundie and remained closely associated with it down to the Reformation,(1) although it is unclear why Ballumbie, separated as it is from Lundie by the parishes of Earl’s Strathdighty, Tealing, Auchterhouse and Strathmartine, should have been a pendicle of the upland parish of Lundie. 

It first appears as a parish in November 1470 when its parson, John Spankie, petitioned the pope for dispensation to hold multiple benefices.(2)  According to an eighteenth-century inventory of documents in the papers of the Murrays of Ochtertyre, the church of Ballumbie had been annexed on 30 April 1460 by the Bishop of St Andrews to the collegiate church of Fowlis Easter and was certainly a prebend of that church by 1538.(3

The full revenues of the church appear to have been annexed for the support of the prebendary, whom Cowan suggests was also serving the cure down to the Reformation.(4)  At that date, in reference to the parsonage and vicarage of Lundie, it was noted that the ‘chapell of Ballumby is annexit to the paroche kirk of Lundy’ but was in the hands of ‘James Fothringtoun’, parson and vicar thairof, and valued at £16.(5)  A separate entry in the Books of Assumption, however, lists Ballumbie as a separate parsonage, held by James Fotheringham, and valued at 40 merks.(6)  The loss of most records of the collegiate church of Fowlis Easter makes the unravelling of this apparently complex relationship impossible.


1. I B Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society, 1967), 13.

2. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, v, 1447-1471, ed J Kirk, R J Tanner and A I Dunlop (Glasgow, 1997), no.1472.

3. I B Cowan and D E Easson, Medieval Religious Houses: Scotland, 2nd edition (London, 1976), 221.

4. Cowan, Parishes of Medieval Scotland, 13.

5. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 376-377.

6. Kirk (ed), Books of Assumption, 400.

Summary of relevant documentation


Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: In origin a chapel of Lundie.  Church designated a parish in 1470. At Reformation it appears both as a parsonage and chapel. Revenues of church erected as prebend of Foulis East Collegiate church before 1538, the incumbent probably also serving the cure.(1)

1470 John Spankie described as parson (illegitimate son of a priest), dispensed to hold further benefices.(2)


Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church described as a chapel annexed and incorporated to parish church of Lundie. Parson and vicar of Lundie is James Fotheringham, also described as parson of Ballumby, value 40 marks.(3)

Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of parsonage and vicarage £8 17s 9 1/3d.(4)

[No reference to Ballumbie in the statistical account of the parish of Murroes]


1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 13.

2. CSSR, v, no 1472.

3. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 376 & 400.

4. Donaldson, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, 11.


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.

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

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

Architectural description

The church at Ballumbie was initially a chapel of Lundie, though it was designated as a parish in 1470. At a date before 1538 it was erected as a prebend of Fowlis Easter Collegiate Church, and the holder of that prebend probably served the parochial cure.(1)

The chapel presumably originally served the township associated with the castle of Ballumbie, a short distance to its south-east,(2) which was the seat of a branch of the Lovell family until 1571.(3) The family became extinct in 1607.(4) The area of the parish was absorbed into that of Murroes at a date not long after 1574.(5) The church was subsequently abandoned, though it seems that there must have been upstanding remains into the nineteenth century, because it is said that the owner of the estate in the later nineteenth century relocated some inscribed stones to the castle.(6)

The rem)ains of the church were unexpectedly encountered in 2005, in the course of earth disturbances associated with a new housing development, when they were investigated archaeologically by SUAT Ltd.(7) The site was found to have had a longer association with Christian worship than had been anticipated, since underlying the church there was a long-cist cemetery within which the finds included at least three fragments of cross-incised stones.

The medieval church was found to have been a rectangular structure of 14 metres from east to west and 4 from south to north, within the western parts of which were many layers of burials. Projecting off its south flank there had been a rectangular aisle with dimensions of four by four metres. Recessed within the south gable wall of this aisle had been a mural tomb, a provision which might suggest the aisle had been a pre-Reformation chapel, perhaps for the Lovell family. This may have continued in use as the laird’s aisle during the church’s brief post-Reformation life. Fragments of glazed tiles found during excavations suggested that the aisle roof had been tiled.


1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 13.

2. David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland, Edinburgh, vol. 5, 1889, pp. 158-9.

3. Alex J. Warden, Angus or Forfarshire, vol. 5, 1885, p. 6.

4. George F. Black, The Surnames of Scotland, New York, 1946, p. 441.

5. Warden, 1885, p. 1.

6. Warden, 1885, p. 8; MacGibbon and Ross, 1889, p. 159.

7. D. Hall and R. Cachart, Discovery and Excavation, Scotland, new ser. vol. 5, p. 21; personal communication from Derek Hall. 



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

  • 1. Ballumbie Church, excavation of south chapel (SUAT Ltd)

  • 2. Ballumbie Church, excavations, from south east (SUAT Ltd)

  • 3. Ballumbie, plan of excavated church (SUAT Ltd)