Blairgowrie / Blair(?) Parish Church

Blairgowrie Church, exterior, from south 1

Summary description

Rebuilt in 1767 and again in 1824; no longer in ecclesiastical use.

Historical outline

Dedication: unknown

The first dated reference to the church to of Blairgowrie occurs on 1 May 1201, when an agreement was reached between its rector and the monks of Coupar Angus over the payment of teinds from the lands of Ledcassie and Persie in Blairgowrie parish which the monks held, with the abbey paying 14lbs of wax yearly to the church.(1)  Between that date and 1207, when the church of ‘Blare’ was named as a possession of Cambuskenneth in a bull of Pope Innocent III confirming the possessions of the abbey, the canons of that house had acquired some interest in the church.(2

Apparently shortly after the death of King William in 1214, Bishop William Malveisin of St Andrews granted a pension of 100s out of the fruits of Blairgowrie to the canons of Cambuskenneth, for the welfare of the king’s soul, ordaining that each parson of the church should be obliged to swear to pay the pension annually to the canons.(3)  A bull of Pope Innocent III, dated 9 may 1216, confirmed the canons in possession of the pension.(4)  This pension appears to have been the full extent of the abbey’s interest in the church, which remained a free parsonage at this time.  It was recorded as a free parsonage in Bagimond’s Roll in the 1270s, valued at 2 merks.(5)  The church was dedicated on 13 September 1243 by Bishop David de Bernham of St Andrews as part of his rolling programme of church dedications throughout his diocese.(6)

On 12 February 1356, Bishop William Landallis of St Andrews, who held the rights of provision and collation to Blairgowrie, wrote to the Dean of Christinaity of Gowrie, instructing him that on the death or demission of John Lyle, current rector of the church, he was to give corporal possession of it to the abbot and convent of Scone, to whom he had united it in proprios usus.(7)  A bull of Pope Gregory XI (1370-1378) establishes that the grant of Blairgowrie to Scone had been by way of exchange for the canons’ interests in the church of Carrington in Midlothian.(8)  The same bull confirmed that the cure would thereafter be served by a perpetual vicar pensioner with a reserved portion of 10 merks annually from the fruits of the parish, while Cambuskenneth continued to receive its 100s pension. 

Bishop Walter Traill of St Andrews confirmed Scone in possession in June 1395, that same month at his request the abbey also receiving a fresh papal bull confirming the annexation of its various parish churches in proprios usus on account of the great costs of hospitality which the canons incurred, and granting them permission to appoint chaplains removeable at will to serve the cure in the appropriated churches.(9)  These arrangements continued at the Reformation, when the church of Blairgowrie was accounted for in the fruits pertaining to the abbey of Scone.

Notes

1. Charters of the Abbey of Coupar Angus, ed D E Easson (Scottish History Society, 1947), ii, Appendix I, no.3.

2. The Cartulary of Cambuskenneth (Grampian Club, 1872), no.26 [hereafter Cambuskenneth Charters].

3. Cambuskenneth Charters, no.46.  This was confirmed by Henry, prior of St Andrews, ibid, no.47.

4. Cambuskenneth Charters, no.48.

5. A I Dunlop, ‘Bagimond’s Roll: The Statement of the Tenths of the Kingdom of Scotland’, Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vi (1939), 37, 39.

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

7. Liber Ecclesie de Scon (Bannatyne Club, 1843), no.174 [hereafter Scone Liber].

8. Scone Liber, no.185.

9. Scone Liber, no.193; Calendar of Papal Letters to Scotland of Pope Benedict XIII of Avignon 1394-1419, ed F McGurk (Scottish History Society, 1976), 48.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Pension of 100 shillings from church to Cambuskenneth in 1207. In 1356/57 church annexed to Scone in lieu of Carrington, thereafter served by vicar pensioner.(1)

1215x16 100s from the church of Blairgowrie given to the abbey of Cambuskenneth by William Malveisin, bishop of St Andrews.

1207 Church mentioned as a possession of Cambuskenneth in papal bull of Innocent III.(2)

1329 Thomas de Sancto Claro rector of church (value £20).(3)

1349 Ingram de Kethenis is rector (MA, in 1350 described as secretary of Queen Joan and the nephew of John, Bishop of Moray).(4)

1395 Confirmation of grant of the church (and others) in proprios usus to Scone to help meet needs of hospitality (church mentioned as already in patronage of Scone by royal grant).(5)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage pertains to Scone, value £82, vicar pensioner paid £20. £5 still pertains to Cambuskenneth.(6)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev James Johnstone, 1792): ‘The church stands on high ground, about 200 yards north of the village of Blairgowrie. It was built in 1767’.(7) [no references to the new building in the kirk session, presbytery or synod records].

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev John Sangster, 1835):‘The parish church was erected in 1824 on the site of the old church’.(8)

[no reference in either to buildings prior to 1767]

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches: (George Hay): 1824; renovation and additions 1884.(9)

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 19

2. Cambuskenneth Registrum, nos. 46, 47 & 26. The connection between the abbey and Blairgowrie seems to have been shortlived.

3. CPL, ii, 313.

4. CPP 157 & 207.

5. CPL, Ben, 48.

6. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices,, 332, 334, 538 & 545.

7. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1792), xvii, 199.

8. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1843), 925.

9. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, pp. 148 & 268.

Bibliography

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

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

Calendar of Papal letters to Scotland of Benedict XIII of Avignon, 1976, ed. F. McGurk, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh.

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

Registrum monasterii S. Marie de Cambuskenneth, 1872, ed. W. Fraser, (Grampian Club), Edinburgh.

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

Architectural description

In 1207 a pension from the teinds of Blairgowrie was granted to Cambuskenneth Abbey. In 1356/7, however, the church was granted to Scone in lieu of the church of Carrington, with provision for the cure to be served by a vicar pensioner.(1) Bishop David de Bernham carried out one of his dedications here on 13 September 1243.(2

The church is known to have been rebuilt on two occasions. The first rebuilding took place in 1767,(3) and the second in 1824, when it was said that it was on the site of its predecessor.(4) Porches were added in 1882. Nothing is known to have survived of the medieval structure.

The main front of the church faces southwards, looking down the hill to the centre of the town. It is built of pink ashlar, and has two pointed-arched windows on each side of a slender tower ; an incised plaque on the tower states that ‘this church was built 1824’. The tower rises through four storeys, the uppermost of which is an octagon pireced by an open pointed arch to each face and capped by a concave spirelet rising from widely bracketed eaves.

The church is no longer use for worship, and has an air of dereliction about it; the churchyard is heavily overgrown. The building presently in use as the parish church was built to serve a United Free congregation to the designs of D. and J.R. McMillan in 1900-2.(5)

Notes

1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, pp. 18-19.

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

3. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-9, vol. 17, p. 199.

4. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 10, p. 925.

5. John Gifford, The Buildings of Scotland, Perth and Kinross, New Haven and London, 2007, p. 226.

Map

Images

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  • 1. Blairgowrie Church, exterior, from south 1

  • 2. Blairgowrie Church, exterior, from south, 2

  • 3. Blairgowrie Church, exterior, from south west

  • 4. Blairgowrie Church, exterior, inscription on tower