Cleish Parish Church

Cleish Church, exterior, from south east

Summary description

Rebuilt in 1775 and again after a fire in 1832, with a tower added in 1897. Assumed to be on the site of its medieval predecessor.

Historical outline

Dedication: Our Lady

With its dedication to Our Lady (1), Malcolm, earl of Fife, quitclaimed all rights that he had in the chapel of Cleish to the monks of Dunfermline Abbey at some point in the first quarter of the thirteenth century.(2)  At some point in the next fifty years the chapel had both gained full parochial status and been appropriated to Dunfermline, and a vicarage settlement instituted, for in Bagimond’s Roll the church is recorded as a vicarage assessed at 8s 8d for taxation.(3)  The lowness of that assessment suggests that it was a vicarage pensionary rather than perpetual, yet in 1450 and again in the early 1500s it was recorded as a vicarage perpetual.(4

At the Reformation the parsonage was held by William Lumsden, sacristan of Dunfermline, to whose office it seems to have been attached.  It was described at that time as being set to the laird of Cleish for an annual rent of £53 6s 8d.(5)  No figure was given for the vicarage.

Notes

1. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, v, 1447-1471, eds J Kirk, R J Tanner and A I Dunlop (Glasgow, 1997), no.136 [hereafter CSSR, v, 1447-1471], where the church is called ‘the parish church of St Mary of Cleish’.

2. Registrum de Dunfermelyn (Bannatyne Club, 1842), no.145 [hereafter Dunfermline Registrum].

3. A I Dunlop (ed), ‘Bagimond’s Roll: the Statement of the Tenths of the Kingdom of Scotland’, Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vi (1939), 38.

4.CSSR, v, 1447-1471; Dunfermline Registrum, no.518.

5. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 72.  

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Malcolm, earl of Fife quitclaimed right to church to Dunfermline in 1204x28, thereafter parochial status with perpetual vicar, parsonage revenues pertained to the sacristy.(1)

1450 David Boyce, perpetual vicar of the church of St Mary of Cleish, accused of incurring simony in his assecution of that vicarage, Philip Lindsay supplicates for David’s deprivation and his collation.(2) Boyce accused of using his brother, a monk of Dunfermline, as an intermediary and making a bargain with the previous incumbent Robert Clydissdale, that he would give Robert the fruits for life and certain quantity of money (up front).(3)

Post-medieval

Books of Assumption of Thirds of Benefices and Accounts of the Collectors of Thirds of Benefices: The Parish church parsonage revenues with Dunfermline, pertain to the sacrist, value £53 6s 8d.(4)

G. Donaldson, Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices: Third of parsonage £17 15s 6 2/3d.(5)

1648 (19 Apr) reference to burial in the church of the Laird of Dougall. Further report on 30 May that various people have been buried in the church despite the act of the General Assembly.(6)

1655 (22 Aug) visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Dunfermline (no ref to the church fabric).(7)

1676 (21 Aug) 40s given to David Trinbell, glass wright, for glass for the church.(8)

1702 (13 May) visitation of Cleish notes that the fabric of the church is defective and is under consideration for reparation. It was answered by the heritors that they had made some progress already in order to the repairing thereof.(9)

1731 (21 Apr) visitation of the church requested by Mr Gib, minister, who notes that the fabric of the church is in ruinous conditions. The subsequent visitation receives a report from Andrew Lim, wright, William Drummond, wright, John Bonne and John Smith, masons. The tradesmen note that the walls nearest the door need to be taken down to the ground and some part of the same wall below the door will also be taken down. The pavestones of both the gabells will be taken down and put up again, two steps in the back of the kirk where the rents are to be taken down as far as needful, the whole church walls to be harled and pinned…. The whole slates to be taken off the kirk and the roof salted anew, cost of c.£200 for the heritors.(10)

1731 (21 May) meeting of the heritors agreed with the masons and wrights for the repair of the church.(11) It was noted on 22 Aug that the reparation of the kirk is ‘not near completed’ and therefore the communion could not be held.(12) A meeting on 24 Sept 1731 the session measured the church, it was found to be 107 foot 6 inches (long?), west gabell to the north side was 17 foot, from the south gabell to the south side was 17 foot.(13)

Statstical Account of Scotland (Rev Mr Daling) 1791: The church was built in 1775, and is one of the best in the country’.(14)

New Statistical Account of Scotland, (Rev W.W Duncan) 1839: ‘The former church, which was built in 1775, was unfortunately burnt on 11th March 1832… it was rebuilt immediately’.(15)

Neither account refers to earlier ecclesiastical buildings.

The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches (George Hay): 1832, additions 1897.(16)

Notes

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

2. CSSR, v, no. 316.

3. CPL, x, 443.

4. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 72.

5. Donaldson, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, 13.

6. NRS Presbytery of Dunfermline, 1647-72, CH2/105/1/1, fols. 36 & 44.

7. NRS Cleish Kirk Session, 1651-1701, CH2/67/1, fol. 56.

8. NRS Cleish Kirk Session, 1651-1701, CH2/67/1, fol. 96.

9. NRS Presbytery of Dunfermline, Minutes, 1696-1704, CH2/105/3, fols. 153-155.

10. NRS Presbytery of Dunfermline, Minutes, 1729-1745, CH2/105/6, fols. 65-68, Hall, Kirk of Cleish, p. 73.

11. NRS Cleish Kirk Session, 1731-41, CH2/67/4, fol. 1.

12. NRS Cleish Kirk Session, 1731-41, CH2/67/4, fol. 3.

13. NRS Cleish Kirk Session, 1731-41, CH2/67/4, fol. 6.

14. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1791), iii, 555.

15. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1839), ix, 50.

16. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, pp. 130, 239 & 256.

Bibliography

National Records of Scotland, Cleish Kirk Session, 1651-1701, CH2/67/1.

National Records of Scotland, Cleish Kirk Session, 1731-41, CH2/67/4.

National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Dunfermline, 1647-72, CH2/105/1/1.

National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Dunfermline, Minutes, 1696-1704, CH2/105/3.

National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Dunfermline, Minutes, 1729-1745, CH2/105/6.

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

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.

Hall, P. T, 1938, The Kirk of Cleish, 1208-1928, 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

At a date between 1204 and 1229 Malcolm, earl of Fife transferred any claims he might have in Cleish church to the abbey of Dunfermline; it subsequently achieved parochial status. The parsonage pertained to the abbey’s sacristan by the Reformation, with the cure served by a perpetual vicarage that had been erected by 1275.(1)

In May 1702 the fabric was said to be defective and in need of repair.(2) By April 1731 the situation had evidently worsened, and a report by the wrights Andrew Lim and William Drummond, and the masons John Bonne and John Smith, suggested that some of the walls required to be rebuilt and the roof re-slated, all at a cost of £200. The work was agreed to in May, at which time measurements were provided which appear to indicate that the church was 107 feet 6 inches (5.3 metres) long.(3)

These works, however, do not appear to have met the long-term structural needs of the church, and in 1775 it was rebuilt.(4) That rebuilt church was burnt down on 11 March 1832, but ‘it was rebuilt immediately’,(5) by D. McIntosh.(6) The new church was an oriented rectangle of grey ashlar, that is three bays long and two bays wide, with two-light transomed windows, those to north and south faces having simplified rectilinear tracery at their heads. An octagonal bellcote was placed at the apex of the west gable.

In 1897 the church was augmented by a crenellated tower towards the west end of the south face, built of the same grey ashlar as the rest of the building. At the same time a square sanctuary was added at the east end, with an apsidal vestry on its south side, and a general internal re-ordering took place. These additions were commemorated on a inscribed tablet on the south face of the tower, stating that they were carried out in the sixtieth year of the reign of Queen Victoria. The architects were Hardy and Wight.(7)

It is assumed that the present building is on the site of its predecessors, though no evidence has yet been located that would indicate whether or not earlier fabric has been retained. An archaeological watching brief in 2006, in advance of constructing an access ramp encountered nothing of relevance in this respect,(8) and neither did a watching brief in 2013, in advance of constructing a new vestry.(9)

A cross-inscribed stone is preserved within the churchyard, which has the appearance of a consecration cross. By the gate to the churchyard is a circular basin that may have been a medieval font.

Notes

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

2. National Records of Scotland, presbytery of Dunfermline, Minutes, 1696-1704, CH2/105/3, fols 153-55.

3. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Dunfermline, Minutes, 1729-41, CH2/105/6, fols 65-68; Cleish Kirk Session, 1731-41, CH2/67/4, fols 1, 3 and 6.

4. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-99, vol. 9, p. 555.

5. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 9, p. 50.

6. John Gifford, The Buildings of Scotland, Perth and Kinross, New Haven and London, 2007, pp. 267-8.

7. Gifford, 2007, pp. 267-8.

8. David Bowler, Discovery and Excavation, Scotland, 2006, p. 130.

9. Personal communication from Derek Hall. 

Map

Images

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

  • 1. Cleish Church, exterior, from south east

  • 2. Cleish Church, exterior, from south

  • 3. Cleish Church, exterior, from north east

  • 4. Cleish Church, exterior, inscription on tower

  • 5. Cleish Church, excavation at north-west corner, August 2013 (Derek Hall)

  • 6. Cleish Church, font bowl in churchyard

  • 7. Cleish Church, cross-incised stone in churchyard

  • 8. Cleish churchyard, gravestone