Clackmannan Parish Church

Clackmanannan Church, exterior, 2

Summary description

Rebuilt in 1815; excavations in 1998 suggested that masonry survives of a medieval church below the existing building.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Serf

Towards the end of his life, King David I (1124-53) granted or confirmed the church of Clackmannan with forty acres of arable land and the priest’s toft in the toun to the canons of Cambuskenneth Abbey.(1)  The grant was confirmed by King Malcolm IV between 1153 and 1159 and in 1164 by Pope Alexander III.(2)  A second papal confirmation came from Pope Celestine III in 1195 and further confirmation from Bishop Roger de Beaumont of St Andrews in 1200.(3)  In 1207, Pope Innocent III confirmed the church to the abbey in proprios usus,(4) although the usage of this term in the charter appears rather early and may represent an ‘embellishment’ at the time of the transcription of the monastery’s early charters into the surviving early sixteenth-century register.  A vicarage settlement, however, had indeed been made before the 1270s, the church appearing as a vicarage assessed at 22s for taxation in Bagimond’s Roll.(5)

The vicarage, too, was annexed to the abbey in 1306 by Pope Clement V, who cited the poverty of Cambuskenneth on account of wars and plundering.(6)  The vicarage was stated at that time to be worth 10 merks annually.  It was the intention that from the time of the annexation that the cure would be served by a suitable chaplain at the will of the abbot and convent.  It seems, however, that the papal annexation was ineffective, for on 4 June 1350 Bishop William Landallis of St Andrews re-annexed the vicarage, citing the same reasons, and ordaining that the cure would in future be served by a chaplain.(7)  Annexation, however, does not seem to have followed immediately, for in 1379 Pope Clement VII confirmed the union following the promotion of the vicar, Maurice of Strathearn, to the archdeaconry of Dunblane.(8)  The union was reconfirmed the following year, with the value of the vicarage increased from 10 merks to 15 merks.(9)

The institution of parochial chaplains to serve the cure was effective from the late fourteenth century.  In 1409, the then parish chaplain complained to the bishop of St Andrews that his parishioners were refusing to contribute towards the costs of maintaining and repairing the church of Clackmannan because those parishioners dwelling in the lordship of Alloa were frequenting the chapel there.  In response, Bishop Henry Wardlaw commanded the parishioners of the whole parish to contribute to the repair of the church at Clackmannan under threat of excommunication.(10)

Cambuskenneth’s possession of both parsonage and vicarage was challenged in the fifteenth century.  On 19 June 1420 a supplication was made to the pope by one Nicholas of Atholl, acting in the name of the parishioners, who claimed that the annexation of the parish church of Clackmannan had been made on spurious grounds during the Schism and that Cambuskenneth caused it to be served by ‘a temporal vicar, or more truly a hireling’.  Nicholas claimed that the abbey was rich enough without the resources of Clackmannan, and that the parishioners wished the cure of their souls to be entrusted to a rector of their own.  He supplicated that the pope would cancel the appropriation, and provide him, described as canon of Dunkeld, to the church, which was valued at £40 of old sterling.(11)  The attempt at disunion was unsuccessful and both parsonage and vicarage remained annexed to the abbey at the Reformation, the parsonage and vicarage being set for 100 merks, while the cure was served by a canon or by a chaplain.(12)

There are few other references to the church in the pre-Reformation period.  It was dedicated by Bishop David de Bernham of St Andrews on 24 August 1248.(13)  A secondary altar of St Ninian is referred to in the church in 1549, where a legal contract was recorded.(14)  This altar may have been located in the aisle on the south side of the church which was the burial-place of the Bruces of Clackmannan, mentioned in a 1586 visitation record as having defective roofing.(15)

So far as Cambuskenneth’s chapel at Alloa is concerned, despite significant levels of patronage displayed towards it by the Erskine lords of Alloa from the later fourteenth century onwards and their substantial investment of endowments on the church of St Kentigern at Alloa, it is clear that it remained a chapel albeit it with probably quasi-parochial status down to the Reformation.(16)  The earliest surviving record of the chapel at Alloa is a notarial instrument dated 15 May 1401 following from a decreet-arbitral dated 6 April 1401, made by David Fleming, lord of Biggar, John Livingston, lord of Callendar, and others, who had arbitrated in a dispute between Patrick, abbot of Cambuskenneth, and his convent, and Thomas Erskine, lord of Alloa.(17)  Erskine had complained that the provision of services in the chapel was inadequate and that Abbot Patrick, as perpetual vicar of Clackmannan, the mother-church of Alloa, should provide the necessary services.  The arbiters ordained in judgement that the abbot and convent should agree that the canon or priest who served the church of Clackmannan should also serve at the chapel in Alloa on Sundays and festivals, as seems to have been past custom, provided Erskine and the others who used the chapel obstained the requisite licence from the Bishop of St Andrews.

Erskine’s favouring of Alloa appears to have reflected wider divisions and tensions within the parish of Clackmannan.  On 20 May 1409, Henry Wardlaw, bishop of St Andrews, wrote to the parish chaplain of Clackmannan narrating that the parishioners of that church had, despite his repeated instructions, refused to contribute towards its repair.  The Clackmannan parishioners, he stated, had alleged as their reason for refusal that the inhabitants of the lordship of Alloa would not contribute along with them.  Wardlaw went on to announce that after taking legal opinion, he had found that the men of the lordship of Alloa were bound to contribute along with the rest of the parishioners for the repairs of the church of Clackmannan.  Accordingly, he instructed the chaplain to warn all of the parishioners but especially those who dwelt on the lands of Alloa, to begin repairs to the church within thirty days. Refusal would result in excommunication and, if they remained obdurate, after nine days the Clackmannan, and the chapels and oratories within its parish should be placed under ecclesiastical interdict.(18)

Although still a pendicle of Clackmannan, Alloa attracted endowment for the establishment of additional altars and chaplainries within the chapel there.  By March 1481/2 there was a separate altar dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the chapel, with provision being made for the future endowment of a chaplainry serving at it.(19)  A further chaplainry was established in October 1497 by Alexander, lord Erskine, at the high altar, which was dedicated to St Kentigern.  The endowment was confirmed at mortmain by the king that same month.(20)

Whatever the aspirations of the lords Erskine in the fifteenth century, Alloa never secured full parochial status in the pre-Reformation period.  Making full use of their political influence after 1560, however, the Erskines, by then elevated to the earldom of Mar, moved swiftly to secure the independent parish status of their local church, which from 1568 onwards was identified as the mausoleum of the Earls of Mar.

Notes

1. The Charters of King David I, ed G W S Barrow (Woodbridge, 1999), no.214; Registrum Monasteri S Marie de Cambuskenneth (Grampian Club, 1872), no.57 [hereafter Cambuskenneth Registrum].

2. Regesta Regum Scottorum, i, The Acts of Malcolm IV, ed G W S Barrow (Edinburgh, 1960), no.135; Scotia Pontificia papal letters to Scotland before the Pontificate of Innocent III, ed R Somerville (Oxford, 1982), 55 [hereafter Scotia Pontificia].

3. Scotia Pontificia, 61; Cambuskenneth Registrum, no.59.

4. Cambuskenneth Registrum, no.26.

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.

6. Cambuskenneth Registrum, no.62.

7. Cambuskenneth Registrum, no.56.

8. Calendar of Papal Letters to Scotland of Pope Clement VII of Avignon 1378-1394, ed A I Dunlop (Scottish History Society, 1976), 29 [hereafter CPL Clement VII].

9. CPL Clement VII, 40.

10. Cambuskenneth Registrum, no.19.

11. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, i, 1418-1422, ed E R Lindsay (Scottish History Society, 1934), 212.

12. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 538, 543, 545.

13. A O Anderson (ed), Early Sources of Scottish History, ii (Edinburgh, 1922), 526 [Pontifical Offices of St Andrews].

14. Protocol Book of Sir Alexander Gaw, 1540-58, eds  J Anderson and W Angus (Scottish Record Society, 1910) , no.34.

15. Visitation of the Diocese of Dunblane and Other Churches, 1586-1589, ed J Kirk, Scottish Record Society, new series, vol 11 (1984), 56.

16. I B Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society, 1967), 5.

17. Registrum Monasterii S. Marie de Cambuskenneth, ed. W. Fraser, (Grampian Club, 1872), no.21 [hereafter Cambuskenneth Registrum].

18. Cambuskenneth Registrum, no.19.

19. NRS Papers of the Erskine Family, Earls of Mar and Kellie, GD124/1/529.

20. Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum, ii, 1424-1513, ed J B Paul (Edinburgh, 1883), no 2377.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Granted to Cambuskenneth by David I; vicarage erected but later annexed to abbey in 1306; confirmed 1350. Attempts made to revoke union but continued to be served by a canon or chaplain.(1)

1153x59 David I granted to the abbey the church of Clackmannan with 40 acres of land and priest’s toft in the vill of Clackmannan. Confirmed by Malcolm IV 1153x59, by Pope Alexander III in 1164 and by William I in 1166x71.(2)

1195 Confirmed by Pope Celestine III with its chapels and the 40 acres and toft.(3)

1200 Confirmed to the abbey by Roger, bishop of St Andrews.(4)

1207 Confirmed to the abbey in ‘proprios usus’ by Pope Innocent III [suggestion by G Ratcliff that this early use of the phrase is irregular and suspicious].(5)

1350 Vicarage of the church annexed to Cambuskenneth by William de Landallis, bishop of St Andrews, to help repair damage resulting from warfare at the abbey.(6)

1379 Union of perpetual vicarage of Clackmannan, vacant by promotion of Maurice of Strathearn to archdeaconry of Dunkeld, to the abbey of Cambuskenneth, which already enjoys the patronage and to which rectory is already appropriated, to relieve penury of the abbey after it was struck by lightning.(7)

1381 Petition on behalf of Fergus Brune for the church, void by promotion of Maurice of Strathearn to archdeaconry of Dunkeld.(8) [unclear whether successful]

1420 Complaint by the parishioner against the abbot of Cambuskenneth, who cause it [the church] to be served by a temporal vicar, or more truly a hireling. The parishioners greatly desire that the cure of their souls should be entrusted to their own rector’. Supplication to dissolve union and provide Nicholas de Atholia to the church.(9) [unsuccessful]

Altars and chaplaincies

St Ninian

1549 deal done at the altar of St Ninian in the church.(10)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church vicarage and parsonage with Cambuskenneth, set for 100 marks.(11)

1583 (4 June) Janet Wright ordered to appear before the presbytery of Stirling to show reasonable cause for why, despite a marriage contract, she refused to marry Nicholas Fargus. (decision made that contract is void and Fargus is free to marry). Janet ordered to make public repentance in the parish church of Clackmannan, while her father Henry was ordered to pay a fine of £10 to be applied to the decoration of the church.(12)

1583 (2 July) Patrick Laing, Minister accused of taking 9s for carrying out a marriage service. Patrick found ‘fengzeit’ in his speak, negligent in his office and disobedient to the body of the kirk, and slanderous in his office for selling the sacraments (Patrick suspended).(13) In a meeting on the 6 August Patrick, having been confronted with his accuser, James Smyth, walked out without permission. They also found that he had ignored his suspension and continued to baptise etc (minister of Alva told to travel to Clackmannan and tell the parishioners about the suspension, but the parishioners refused to support it).(14)

1584 (5 May) Patrick apologises before the presbytery, ordered to do repentance in the parish church of Clackmannan and then lifts suspension.(15)

1586 (25 Oct) Visitation of the church finds the minister Alexander Wallace of good report. The fabric of the church is described as ‘watertight, except an aisle on the south side which is the burial place of the lairds of Clackmannan and the steeple head, which are ruined in the thatch.  The congregation promises to have the steeple thatched; as for the aisle, it pertains to the laird. Sundry windows in the kirk are unglassed. The congregation promise to glass the windows. The visitors ordain that no further burials will take place in the kirk, but only in the kirk yard.(16)

1588 (10 Sept) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Stirling to try the minister Alexander Wallace (who is accused of fornication with Isabelle Constance, who later became his wife). It is found that the doctrine of Wallace is not sensible and edifies not his congregation and that such negligence of his study being occupied otherwise [subtle reference to Isabelle?]. Wallace is publicly admonished but remains in his role.(17)

1632 (11 July) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Stirling, noted in the kirk session records, stent to be made for a new manse [no reference to the church fabric].(18)

#1637 (18 July) Visitation of Clackmannan ordered [no information].(19)

1679 (24 Aug) The session considering the great ruinousness of the seats in the church and orders a meeting with the heritors.(20) [the subsequent meeting on 28 Oct notes that the Earl of Mar and Laird of Clackmannan are the main heritors].(21)

[Nothing with regards to the church fabric in the kirk session between 1627-1690]

1748 (31 Oct) Presbytery meet at the church of Clackmannan after Mr Haly (minister) notes the ‘ruinous state of the fabric of the kirk, heritors told to take it into serious consideration’. The subsequent meeting includes a report by Robert Henderson, mason, that a decision was taken to include the aisles in the church for accommodating the congregation. [this leads to considerable debate amongst the heritors as to who the aisles belong to and to where the seats shall be put].(22)

1749 (15 Feb) Report that the whole area of the church, together with the area of the aisles and lofts are necessary for accommodating the congregation. £237 13s 1d is required for repairing the church and aisles.(23)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Robert Moodie, 1791): ‘The church is an old mean structure, in the form of a cross, evidently built at different period and is now in a ruinous state’.(24)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Peter Balfour, 1841): ‘The present parish church was erected about 24 years since.(25) (c.1817)

[No reference to remains of the old church]

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches: (George Hay): Clackmannan 1815, James Gillespie Graham, architect, renovated 1930. (Hall church, rectangular hall with a horseshoe gallery).(26)

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 31.

2. Charters of King David I : no. 214, RRS, ii, no. 60, RRS, i, no. 135, Scotia pontificia papal letters to Scotland before the Pontificate of Innocent III, 55, Cambuskenneth Registrum, nos.24, 52 & 57

3. Scotia pontificia papal letters to Scotland before the Pontificate of Innocent III, 1982, ed. R. Somerville, Oxford, 61, Cambuskenneth Registrum, no. 25.

4. Cambuskenneth Registrum, no. 59

5. Cambuskenneth Registrum, no. 26.

6. Cambuskenneth Registrum, no. 58.

7. CPL, Clem, 29 & 40.

8. CPP, 556 & 559.

9. CSSR, i, 212.

10. Prot Bk of Sir Alexander Gaw, 1540-58, no. 34.

11. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 538, 543 & 545.

12. Stirling Presbytery Records, pp. 125-26.

13. Stirling Presbytery Records, p.142.

14. Stirling Presbytery Records, pp. 162-64.

15. Stirling Presbytery Records, pp. 217-18.

16. Visitation of the diocese of Dunblane and other churches, pp. 55-56.

17. NRS Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1581-90, CH2/722/1, fols. 374, 382 & 396.

18. NRS Clackmannan Kirk Session, 1627-1670, CH2/1242/1, fols. 12-13.

19. NRS Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1627-1640, CH2/722/5, fol. 121.

20. NRS Clackmannan Kirk Session, 1673-90, CH2/1242/2, fol. 54.

21. NRS Clackmannan Kirk Session, 1673-90, CH2/1242/2, fol. 57.

22. NRS Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1745-1760, CH2/722/14, fols. 100-101 & 102-103.

23. NRS Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1745-1760, CH2/722/14, fols. 106-107.

24. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1791), xiv, 634.

25. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1841), viii, 126.

26. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, pp. 141, 176 & 253.

Bibliography

National Records of Scotland, Clackmannan Kirk Session, 1627-1670, CH2/1242/1.

National Records of Scotland, Clackmannan Kirk Session, 1673-90, CH2/1242/2.

National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1581-90, CH2/722/1.

National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1627-1640, CH2/722/5.

National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1745-1760, CH2/722/14.

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.

Calendar of Papal letters to Scotland of Clement VII of Avignon, 1976, ed. C. Burns, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh.

Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1418-22, 1934, ed. E.R. Lindsay and A.I. Cameron, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh.

Charters of King David I : the written acts of David I King of Scots, 1124-53 and of his son Henry Earl of Northumberland, 1139-52, 1999, ed. G.W.S. Barrow, Woodbridge.

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.

Protocol Book of Sir Alexander Gaw, 1540-58, 1910, eds. J. Anderson and W. Angus (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh.

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

Scotia pontificia papal letters to Scotland before the Pontificate of Innocent III, 1982, ed. R. Somerville, Oxford.

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

Stirling Presbytery Records, 1581-1587, 1981, ed. J. Kirk (Scottish History Society), Edinburgh.

Visitation of the diocese of Dunblane and other churches, 1586-89, 1984, ed. J. Kirk (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh.

Architectural description

The church is prominently located on a hillside above the small town of Clackmannan, a short way down from the castle. That castle was initially a possession of the crown, and may even have been the location of a royal inauguration site,(1) but was granted to Robert de Bruce by David II in 1365. The parish was granted to the Augustinian abbey of Cambuskenneth by David I at a date between 1147 and 1153, and the vicarage then erected was in turn annexed to the abbey in the mid-fourteenth century, with the cure subsequently served by a canon or chaplain.(2) A dedication was performed by Bishop David de Bernham on 24 August 1249.(3)

In its final medieval state the church was a complex structure, being ‘in the form of the cross, evidently built at different periods’,(4) and in 1586 it was said that a south aisle, which had a defective roof at the time, was the burial place of the lairds of Clackmannan.(5)

By the time of the description in the Statistical Account it was described as ‘an old mean structure...now in a very ruinous state’.(6) It was rebuilt on a grand scale in 1815 to the designs of James Gillespie Graham,(7) as a rectangle of four by three bays, with a prominent west tower and an east porch. Internally there is a horse-show arrangement of galleried directed towards the pulpit at the east end, though the present supports for the gallery date from 1882.(8)

It is assumed that the present church is on the site of its medieval predecessor, and some corroboration for this may be derived from the spread of memorials within the churchyard. There is also a local belief that ‘the foundations of the old church are still beneath the present building, the gallery pillars resting on them’.(9) Some further support for the church being on the same site as the medieval building came in 1998 when excavations around the church for lighting tracks found no evidence of walls, which was taken ‘to confirm that the pre-Reformation church...lies under the present building’.(10)

Notes

1. James E. Fraser, From Caledonia to Pictland, Scotland to 795, Edinburgh, 2009, p. 359.

2. Ian B. Cowan, the Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 31.

3. Alan Orr Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History, Edinburgh, 1922, p. 526.

4. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-99, vol. 14, p. 634.

5. Visitation of the Diocese of Dunblane and other Churches, 1586-89, ed. J. Kirk (Scottish Record Society), 1984, pp. 55-56.

6. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-99, vol. 14, p. 634.

7. Howard Colvin, A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 4th ed., New Haven and London, 2008, p. 441; National Records of Scotland, HR 633/1.

8. John Gifford and Frank Arneil Walker, The Buildings of Scotland, Stirling and Central Scotland, new Haven and London, 2003, p. 325.

9. Clackmannan Parish Church of Scotland, a Short History (guide leaflet), n.d.

10. Discovery and Excavation in Scotland 1998 (Council for Scottish Archaeology), 1999, p. 24.

Map

Images

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  • 1. Clackmanannan Church, exterior, 2

  • 2. Clackmanannan Church, exterior, 1

  • 3. Clackmanannan Church, interior, 1

  • 4. Clackmanannan Church, interior, 2

  • 5. Clackmanannan Church, churchyard, gravestones, 1

  • 6. Clackmanannan Church, churchyard, gravestones, 2