Benvie Parish Church

Benvie Church, west gable, from west

Summary description

Abandoned for worship in the mid-eighteenth century and only part of the west gable stands to any height; a basin may have been a font.

Historical outline

Dedication: unknown

A Pictish Class III cross-slab from the church site indicates that this was a location of Christian significance from at least the ninth century.(1)  The earliest surviving historical record of the church, however, dates from only 1243, when Bishop David de Bernham of St Andrews was recorded as having dedicated it on 9 September.(2) Throughout the Middle Ages it was a free parsonage, identified as such in Bagimond’s Roll,(3) and from 1293 onwards was in the patronage of the family of Scrymgeour, hereditary constables of Dundee, who had acquired possession from the Maules of Panmure.(4)  At the Reformation the rector was David Lindsay, who held both parsonage and vicarage, his benefice being valued at £60.(5)

Notes

1. H Coutts, Ancient Monuments of Tayside (Dundee, 1970), 52, no.4.

2. A O Anderson (ed), Early Sources of Scottish History, ii (London, 1922), 524 [Pontifical Offices of St Andrews].

3. A I Dunlop (ed), ‘Bagimond’s Roll: Statement of the Tenths of the Kingdom of Scotland’, Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vi (1939), 39.

4. Registrum de Panmure, ed J Stuart (Edinburgh, 1874), 152-165; Inventory of Documents Relating to the Scrymgeour Estates 1611 (Scottish Record Society, 1912), nos 1, 16, 17, 21, 35, 36, 46, 50.

5. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 334.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Parsonage listed in Bagimond’s Roll. Patronage held from 1293 by the Scrymgeours of Dundee.(1)

1366 (6 Mar) Ingeram de Ardelos (scholar of canon law) described as rector of Benvie, resigns after provision to Lethnot.(2)

1406 Provision of John Screning to Benvie (value 20 marks).(3)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices:David Lindsay described as rector of the Parish church, value £60.(4)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of parsonage and vicarage, £20.(5)

1678 (27 July) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Fordoun. The minister (Peter Rait) was asked concerning the provision of the church and answered that there was provision for the minister of 400 marks. Asked concerning the fabric, he answered that it needed reparation, the brethren order him to appeal to the heritors.(6) [possibly Bervie/Inverbervie, not completely clear]

[By the time of the Statistical accounts and 1667 Kirk session, parish was conjoined to Liff]

1758 (1 Nov) Meeting at Liff to consider what enlargement were required at the church and manse of Liff to make it sufficient for containing the whole of the united parishes. It was noted that since the union of the churches there would be no more sermons at the church of Benvie.(7)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Thomas Constable, 1792): ‘The present church fabric, except the aisle, was erected in 1774… and rests nearly on the foundations of the former building’.(8) [church was at Liff after 1758]

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev George Addison, 1842): ‘The parish church is new, having been finished in 1831’.(9) [No reference to earlier buildings]

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches: (George Hay): 1831 William Burn, architect; refurnished, 1696 Burgerhuys bell.(10)

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 16.

2. CPP, 518.

3. CPL, Ben, 391.

4. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 334.

5. Donaldson, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, 15.

6. NRS Presbytery of Fordoun, Records of Visitations, 1677-1688, CH2/157/13, fols. 21-24.

7. NRS Presbytery of Dundee, Minutes, 1758-1767, CH2/103/13, fols. 9-10.

8. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1792), xiii, 121.

9. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1842), xi, 586.

10. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, pp. 232 & 246.

Bibliography

National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Fordoun, Records of Visitations, 1677-1688, CH2/157/13.

Calendar of entries in the Papal registers relating to Great Britain and Ireland; Papal Petitions, 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. (CPL, Ben)

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.

Hay, G., 1957, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, 1560-1843, Oxford.

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.

Architectural description

Benvie’s long association with Christian worship is evidently attested by the survival of a fine cross slab.(1) To the main face it has an interlace-decorated cross flanked by panels with winged angels and intertwined beasts, and on the rear are two horsemen. It was removed to the museum in Dundee in 1991.

By the time of the compilation of Bagimond’s Roll in 1276 Benvie was a parsonage, and from at least 1293 was in the patronage of the Scrymgeours of Dundee.(2) Bishop David de Bernham carried out one of his dedications here on 9 September 1243.(3)

In the mid-eighteenth century the parish was united with that of Liff. At a meeting held at Liff on 1 November 1758 to determine what enlargement was needed to the church there to accommodate both parishes, it was stated that there were to be no more sermons at Benvie.(4)

The church was subsequently largely demolished, but is said to have had dimensions of about 16.5 by 7.3 metres.(5) The only surviving fragment is the lower part of the west gable, which is currently so completely swathed in foliage that it is difficult to discern if it has retained any surviving features. A mutilated basin that is thought to have been a font(6) lies against its western face.

Possible indicators of work on the church in the 1630s are two inscribed stones that have been built into the boundary wall at the entrance to the churchyard. One bears the date 1637, and the other the date 1634 with the arms and initials of James Scrymgeour, viscount Dudhope, and his wife Isabella Kerr.(7) However, there can be no certainty that these originated at the church.

Notes

1. J. Romilly Allen and Joseph Anderson, The Early Christian Monuments of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1903, pp. 247-49.

2. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society). 1967, pp. 16-17.

3. Alan Orr Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History, Edinburgh, 1922. vol. 2, p. 524.

4. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Dundee, Minutes, 1758-67, CH2/103/13, fols 9-10.

5. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Canmore online resource.

6. J. Russell Walker, ‘Scottish Baptismal Fonts’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. 21, 1886-7, pp. 371-72.

7. John Gifford, The Buildings of Scotland, Dundee and Angus, New Haven and London, 2012, p. 352.

Map

Images

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  • 1. Benvie Church, west gable, from west

  • 2. Benvie Church, west gable, from east

  • 3. Benvie Church, arms in churchyard wall; arms of James viscount Dudhope and his wife, 1634

  • 4. Benvie Church, grave slab, 1

  • 5. Benvie Church, grave slab, 2

  • 6. Benvie Church, grave slabs

  • 7. Benvie Church, possible font basin

  • 8. Benvie cross slab (Dundee Museum) (Allen and Anderson)