Cambusmichael Parish Church

Cambusmichel Church, exterior, from south

Summary description

The greater part of the shell of a rectangular medieval church survives, following abandonment in the later seventeenth century.

Historical outline

Dedication: unknown/St Michael(?)

The lands of the toun of Cambusmichael had been granted to the canons of Scone by King David I (1124-53) but no mention is made of the presence of a church there at that time.(1)  A church had been built, presumably by the canons, by the time that Bishop Richard of St Andrews (1163-1178) confirmed Scone’s possessions and gave Cambusmichael and other churches to the abbey in proprios usus.(2)

Bishop Richard’s grant gave Scone the right to serve all of its appropriated churches with chaplains who were removeable at will, effectively annexing the whole of the parsonage and vicarage revenues.  The abbey continued to receive confirmations of its appropriated churches, most notably in 1395 when Pope Benedict XIII confirmed a fresh award that had been made to Scone by Bishop Henry Wardlaw, which had been made in recognition of the great financial burdens imposed on the abbey due to the demands of hospitality on a monastery located in the heart of the kingdom.(3)

An altar of St Salvator is recorded in the parish church in 1528.(4)  Served by Bartholomew Martin, chaplain, and founded by George Inglis, in 1574 patronage of the chaplainry was disposed by Alexander Inglis of the Byres to Robert Wilson, burgess of Edinburgh.(5)  The chaplainry was not recorded in the Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices, in which the church was simply described as a property of Scone Abbey and payment of £23 6s 8d to the minister there was made out of the abbey revenues.(6)


1. Regesta Regum Scotorum, i, The Acts of Malcolm IV, ed G W S Barrow (Edinburgh, 1960), no.243.

2. Liber Ecclesie de Scon (Bannatyne and Maitland Clubs, 1843), no.48.

3. Calendar of Papal Letters to Scotland of Pope Benedict XIII of Avignon 1394-1419, ed F McGurk (Scottish History Society, 1976), 48.

4. Protocol Book of John Foular, 1528-34, ed J Durkan (Scottish Record Society, 1985), no 63.

5. NRAS3326/Bundle 3

6. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 333.

Summary of relevant documentation


Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: The church was confirmed with all its pertinents to Scone Abbey in 1165x78 by Bishop Richard of St Andrews, the church having passed to that house and having been built by the canons.(1)

1124x53 David I gives vill of Cambusmichael to the abbey; no references to church. [the church was probably erected thereafter by the canons on the land].(2)

1172x78 Richard, bishop of St Andrews confirms all the churches given to Scone Alexander I, Malcolm IV and William I and confirmed by his predecessors Roger and Aernald. in propros usus with the right to install or remove the chaplain, exempt from all episcopal exactions and customs.(3)

1178x84 Church included in a confirmation by Hugh, bishop of St Andrews, of all the churches possessed by Scone in the diocese of St Andrews in the same terms as Richard his predecessor.(4)

1203x09 Church included in confirmation by William, bishop of St Andrews, of all the churches belonging to Scone in the diocese of St Andrews.(5)

1226 Church included in a papal bull of Honorius III confirming the possessions of the abbey the church of Scone (three chapels mentioned connected to church of Scone).(6)

1283 Church included in a further confirmation of the possessions of Scone by William Fraser, bishop of St Andrews.(7)

1395 Church included in confirmation by Walter Trail, bishop of St Andrews, of possessions of Scone in diocese of St Andrews.(8)

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).(9)

Altars and chaplaincies

St Salvator

1528 Bartholomew Martin described as chaplain of the service founded by George Inglis at the altar of St Salvator, situated in the church of Cambusmichael.(10)


Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church belongs to Scone; minister there is paid £23 6s 8d.(11)

1642 (17 Aug) Following an act of the General Assembly anent the patronage of churches the Presbytery of Perth records the patrons of churches within its bounds; Perth belongs to the town, Kinnoul belongs to the earl of Kinnoul, Scone belongs to the king, Cambusmichael also belongs to the king, Kilspindie also belongs to the king being a former kirk of abbey of Scone, Errol belongs to the earl of Kinnoul, Kinfauns belongs to the king being a former kirk of the abbey of Scone, Rhynd belongs to the king being a former church of the priory of Pittenweem, Arngask belongs to the king being a former church of Cambuskenneth, Dunbarney belongs to the town of Edinburgh, Forteviot belongs to the (old) college of St Andrews, Methven belongs to the Duke of Lennox and Luncarty belongs to the king.(12)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev David Bannerman, 1791): [United to St Martins in 1690s, parish church at St Martins] ‘the ruins of the church of Cambusmichael still remain’.(13)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev William Ritchie): [No further reference to church ruins]


1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 25.

2. RRS, i, no. 243.

3. Scone Liber, no. 48.

4. Scone Liber, no. 50.

5. Scone Liber, no. 54.

6. Scone Liber, no. 103.

7. Scone Liber, no. 117.

8. Scone Liber, no. 193.

9. CPL, Ben, 48.

10. Prot Bk of John Foular, 1528-34, no. 63.

11. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 333.

12. NRS Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1618-1647, CH2/299/1, fol. 423.

13. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1791), xiii, 500.


National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1618-1647, CH2/299/1.

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.

Liber ecclesie de Scon, 1843, (Bannatyne Club) Edinburgh.

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

Protocol Book of John Foular, 1528-34, 1985, ed. J. Durkan (Scottish record Society), Edinburgh.

Regesta Regum Scottorum, Acts of Malcolm IV (1153-65), 1960, Edinburgh.

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

Architectural description

Cambusmichael was probably granted to the abbey of Scone by David I, and was certainly confirmed to that abbey by Bishop Richard at a date between 1165 and 1178. On its further confirmation by Bishop Hugh (1178-88) both the parsonage and vicarage were annexed, and the cure was subsequently probably served by either one of the canons or a chaplain.(1)

The parish was united with that of St Martins in the later seventeenth century; according to the entry in the Statistical Account, which was written in 1791, the union took place ‘above 100 years ago’.(2) The church was evidently then abandoned, and by the time of the Statistical Account it was said that it was already a ruin.

Nevertheless, much of the shell of the church has survived; it is a rectangle of 15.4 by 6.26 metres built of pink rubble with ashlar dressings. The coped gables stand almost complete to their original height, as does the greater part of the north wall; the south wall has suffered the greatest losses, probably largely due to the collapse of windows. There is a square post-Reformation bellcote over the west gable, and late nineteenth-century views show that the east gable terminated in a finely detailed cross finial,(3) though the latter has now been lost.

Most of the details point to a late medieval date of construction, as seen particularly in the chamfered intakes at the base of the gable walls, together with the absence of any window in the east wall. There is the common slightly awkward transition between the chamfered intake of the gable walls and the outward chamfer of the cornices along the north and south walls. A late date is also indicated by the entrance doorway towards the west end of the south wall, which is a round-arched door with broadly chamfered reveals; its rear arch is spanned by a re-used grave slab.

The earliest surviving feature is a narrow window with a round arch cut through a lintel, a little to the east of the mid-point of the south wall; it could be of twelfth- or thirteenth-century date, though its lintelled rear-arch might suggest that it has been re-used. In this position it is attractive to suspect that it could have lit the area in front of a screen that separated the chancel and nave areas. There have been larger windows to either side of this central window, and there is another small window in the west gable.   

Within and to the east of the door is a roughly formed recess that was presumably for a holy water stoup. A second recess near the east end of the north wall may have been used as a Sacrament House.


1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 25. 

2. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-9, vol. 8, pp. 500 and 505.

3. David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland, Edinburgh, vol. 3, 1897, pp. 489-91.



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

  • 1. Cambusmichel Church, exterior, from south

  • 2. Cambusmichel Church, exterior, from north

  • 3. Cambusmichel Church, exterior, from south east

  • 4. Cambusmichel Church, exterior, from west

  • 5. Cambusmichel Church, exterior, south nave door

  • 6. Cambusmichel Church, exterior, south wall, window

  • 7. Cambusmichel Church, exterior, west gable, north skewputt

  • 8. Cambusmichel Church, exterior, west gable, south skewputt

  • 9. Cambusmichel Church, exterior, west gable

  • 10. Cambusmichel Church, interior, looking east

  • 11. Cambusmichel Church, interior, north wall, aumbry

  • 12. Cambusmichael Church, exterior, from south west (MacGibbon and Ross)

  • 13. Cambusmichael Church, exterior, east gable cross finial (MacGibbon and Ross)

  • 14. Cambusmichael Church, plan (MacGibbon and Ross)