Collace Parish Church

Collace Church, Nairne Mausoleum and church

Summary description

A mausoleum is said to occupy the site of the medieval church, though it is questionable if an apparently late twelfth-century entrance is in fact medieval. A new church was built to the west of the presumed site of the medieval church in 1812-13.

Historical outline

Dedication: unknown/St Euchan?

The church of Collace is first mentioned in a surviving source in 1242 when it was dedicated, possibly to St Euchan,(1) on 4 June by David de Bernham, bishop of St Andrews.(2)  It was a free parsonage in the mid-1270s when it was recorded in Bagimond’s Roll as the church of ‘Culas’, assessed for taxation at 3 merks 8s, with a separate vicarage assessed at 20s in the first year.  In the second year of taxation it was assessed for two terms at a total of 34s 8d.(3)  The church continued as a free parsonage down to the Reformation when, held by Mr John Douglas, it was valued at £106 13s 4d.(4)


1. J M Mackinlay, JAncient Church Dedications in Scotland. Non-Scriptural Dedications (Edinburgh, 14), 89.

2. A O Anderson (ed), Early Sources of Scottish History, ii (Edinburgh, 1922), 33.

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, 63.

4. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 322.

Summary of relevant documentation


Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: It was listed as a parsonage in Bagimond's Roll, and remained unappropriated at the Reformation; patronage with the archbishop of St Andrews.(1)

According to Mackinley the church was dedicated to St Euchan.(2)

1378 Simon de Creych (student of canon law at university of Paris) described as rector of Collace. In 1386 replaced by John Bell, Simon having failed to get ordained as a priest.(3)

1390 Patrick Davidis, another student (at university of Avignon), was collated (value £20).(4)

1411 Petition for the parsonage by Robert, Duke of Albany on behalf of Richard Cady.(5)

1421 (2 Aug) William Spalding, former student and member of staff at the University of Paris, who had left in 1419 with the English occupation, returned to Scotland and was awarded the rectorship of Collace.(6)

1429 William de Spalding (MA and son of a priest) was in possession of the church (value £20). On his death in 1429 at the curia, James de Camera was collated, followed by litigation between James and Nicholas of Muirhouse.(7) Nicholas won, but died at sea on return home. James was eventually collated, he was passed fit to hold the church by the bishop of St Andrews as he suffered from a blemish on his right eye which the bishop checked to ensure did ‘not cause impediment in celebration [of mass] or scandal amongst the people’ Further dispensation was sought in 1432 for this spot ‘which does not cause great deformity’.(8)

1466 William Lyon is described as parson (of royal race). In 1467 John Lyon [sic?] resigned the church and Henry Barrie was collated (value £13).(9)

1513 John Barrie resigns the church to Henry Barrie and is provided with half the fruits of the church (£6) as a pension for his old age.

1517 Henry Barrie dies and Alexander Fotheringham is collated, with provision made for John’s pension.(10)


Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church was an independent parsonage held by John Douglas, value £106 13s 4d.(11)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of parsonage and vicarage £35 11s 1 1/3d.(12)

1619 (16 June) George Haliburton compears before the Presbytery of Perth as a representative of the parishioners of Collace, requesting that James Lyon be accepted as their  minister (long running issue, not accepted by the presbytery and archbishop, Alexander Forrester eventually collated 2 Feb 1620 when the bedel, James Donaldson, gave him the key to the church).(13)

1631 (9 Nov) Parishioners, led by James Haliburton of Buttergask, complain to the Presbytery of Perth that they had got no preaching from their last minister and therefore desire a new one.(14)

Statistical Account of Scotland (anon, 1793): ‘The church, of old and indifferent fabric, stands on a rising ground, about 1 mile west of Dunsinnan hill’.(15)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev John Rogers, 1837): ‘The new church, which was finished in 1813, is a handsome gothic building’.(16) [no reference to old church building]

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches: (George Hay): 1813; interior recast 1908.(17)


1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 33.

2. Mackinley, Non-Scriptural Dedications, p. 89.

3. CPL, Clem, 7 & 121.

4. CPL, Clem, 151. CPP, 584.

5. CPP, 597.

6. Copiale Prioratus Sanctiandree, p.424.

7. CSSR, iii, 3, 62, 105, CSSR, iv, no.151.

8. CSSR, iii, 121, CPL, viii, 445.

9. CSSR, v, 1086 & 1224.

10. CPL, xx, 233 & 240.

11. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 322.

12. Donaldson, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, 14.

13. NRS Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1618-1647, CH2/299/1, fols. 20, 31 & 36.

14. NRS Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1618-1647, CH2/299/1, fol. 281.

15. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1793), xx, 240.

16. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1837), x, 212.

17. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, pp. 115 & 268.


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

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 1428-32, 1970, ed. A.I. Dunlop; and I.B. Cowan, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh.

Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1433-47, 1983, ed. A.I. Dunlop and D MacLauchlan, Glasgow.

Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1447-71, 1997, ed. J. Kirk, R.J. Tanner and A.I. Dunlop, Edinburgh.

Copiale Prioratus Sanctiandree. The Letter-Book of James Haldenstone, Prior of St Andrews (1418-1443), 1930, ed. J. H. Baxter, Oxford.

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

Little is known of the medieval parochial history of Collace, other than that one of Bishop David de Bernham’s dedications was carried out here on 4 June 1242.(1) The cure appears to have remained an independent parsonage throughout the middle ages, with the patronage exercised by the bishops of St Andrews.(2)

By the later nineteenth century the church was described as ‘an old indifferent fabric’,(3) and it was replaced by a new building within the same churchyard, a short distance to its west in 1812-13.(4) According to the New Statistical Account, the walls of the old church were converted into a mausoleum for William Nairne, Lord Dunsinann, who had died in 1812. Particular mention was made of the ‘large arched gateway of uncommon beauty, and of the rare and ancient order of Saxon architecture’ that served as the entrance to the mausoleum.(5)

Despite that, there must be some question over the extent to which medieval work was retained in the mausoleum. The building is a rubble-built structure with ashlar crenellation at the wall head, above a bold string course, and there are what appear to be a small number of re-used stones in its south-west wall. However, a resistivity survey conducted in 2007 failed to find any evidence for the rest of the medieval church, though it was concluded on the basis of regional variations that the mausoleum ‘retains the orientation of the demolished building’.(6)  

There must also be a question as to how far the entrance arch in the south-east wall is in fact medieval work. It is of three orders, the two outer orders carried on waterleaf capitals supported by en délit shafts, the whole being framed by a hood moulding with saw-tooth decoration. On first sight it appears to be authentic work of the last years of the twelfth century, though there is a certain heaviness resulting from the relatively large scale of the component elements in relation to the overall scale of the arch.

But on closer inspection there are a number of features which cast some doubt on its authenticity. In the first place, the arch of the innermost order is carried on meagre corbels that are almost certainly of early nineteenth century date. Of rather greater significance is the way in which the blocks of stone of which the capitals form a part have droved tooling within margins, in a way that points strongly to an early thirteenth-century date.

Nevertheless, the detailing of the capitals and the arch mouldings demonstrates a degree of understanding of the medieval architectural vocabulary that would not be expected so early in the nineteenth century. This perhaps suggests either that an authentic feature was being re-tooled for its new location, or that such an authentic feature was being copied. Taking account of the technical difficulties of re-tooling a complex feature of this kind, on balance the latter may be more likely.

It has been questioned if so fine a feature as this arch of three orders is likely to have originated at Collace.(7) There is a considerable body of evidence that even quite small rural parish churches might have finely detailed entrance doorways and chancel arches up to the end of the twelfth century, so it should not be ruled out that the arch, or the model from which it was copied, was part of the medieval church. Nevertheless, it is equally possible that the entrance to the mausoleum of a significant land-holding family could have been brought from elsewhere.


1. Alan Orr Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History, Edinburgh, 1922, vol. 2, p. 522.

2. Ian. B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 33.

3. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-9, vol. 20, p. 240.

4. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 10, p. 212.

5. New Statistical Account, vol. 10, p. 212.

6. P. Morris, Blairgowrie Geoscience, Discovery and Excavation, Scotland, new ser., vol. 8 (Archaeology Scotland), 2008, p. 151.

7. John Gifford, The Buildings of Scotland, Perth and Kinross, New Haven and London, 2007, p. 273.



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

  • 1. Collace Church, Nairne Mausoleum and church

  • 2. Collace Church, Nairne Mausoleum, 1

  • 3. Collace Church, Nairne Mausoleum, 2

  • 4. Collace Church, Nairne Mausoleum, possible re-used masonry

  • 5. Collace Church, Nairne Mausoleum, entrance arch

  • 6. Collace Church, Nairne Mausoleum, entrance arch capitals

  • 7. Collace Church, cross-head

  • 8. Collace Churchyard, gravestone 1

  • 9. Collace Churchyard, gravestone 2

  • 10. Collace Churchyard, gravestone 3

  • 11. Collace Church, exterior