Corstorphine Parish Church

Corstorphine Collegiate Church, exterior, from north east, 1

Summary description

A complex building incorporating an early fifteenth-century chapel and a chancel associated with a collegiate foundation of 1429. Greatly modified in 1646, 1828 and 1903-05. Several liturgical fittings and tombs with effigies survive.

Historical outline

Dedication: Our Lady

Between 1128 and 1147, Norman, sheriff of Berwick, who held the lands of Corstorphine of King David I, granted the chapel of Corstorphine with to oxgangs and six acres of land to the abbey of Holyrood, which he confirmed in a brieve to his men before 1150.(1)  It was as one of two chapels dependent upon the mother-church of St Cuthbert-below-the-Castle at Edinburgh (Liberton being the other) that King David confirmed it to the abbey, while Bishop Robert of St Andrews’ confirmation referred to it as a ‘church’.(2)  Bishop Richard’s confirmation (1163-78) likewise uses the term ‘church’,(3) but these two occurrences probably reflect the loose usage of the time and there is no evidence that Corstorphine was an independent parish in the twelfth or thirteenth centuries.

The first surviving reference to parochial status held by Corstorphine occurs in letters of reversion dated 3 February 1412, where a loan was redeemable at the parish church of St Mary of Corstorphine.(4)  Fourteen years later in February 1426, King James I granted £24 annually for the support of three chaplains celebrating in the chapel of St John the Baptist adjoining the parish church of Corstorphine, the chapelhaving previously been founded and endowed by Sir John Forester of Corstorphine.(5

This chapel of St John the Baptist, would evolve into the collegiate church of Corstorphine, which effectively subsumed the parish church into its physical structure but the two ecclesiastical institutions remained otherwise wholly distinct.(6)  Despite the references to Corstorphine as a parish church down to this period, a papal supplication of 9 May 1446 recites the circumstances of one John Keis’s role in the deprivation of Patrick, abbot of Holyrood, and his own eventual provision to the abbacy.  It goes on to supplicate that the pope would provide John for life to the chapel with cure of St Mary of Corstorphine within the parish of St Cuthbert, dependent from Holyrood and of which the chaplain was removable at the will of the abbot (value £8).(7

At the Reformation, Corstorphine was, however, accorded the status of a parish church held by the abbey of Holyrood, to which both parsonage and vicarage fruits were annexed, set at feu for  £40.(8)

St John the Baptist’s chapel, first recorded in 1426, received confirmation of a further endowment by charter of 20 May 1429 from Margaret Forester widow of Sir Adam Forester of Corstorphine, and of John Forester, with royal confirmation under the Great Seal obtained six days later.  Margaret and John’s charter provided rents of £21 13s 4d from properties in Edinburgh and Leith for the maintenance of two additional chaplains and two clerks celebrating in the chapel of St John the Baptist.(9

A supplication to the pope of 26 June 1436 narrated the circumstances of the erection of this chapel into a collegiate church by Sir John Forester of Corstorphine.(10)  Described as ‘in the cemetery of the parish church of Corstorphine’, which might mean either a physically-detatched building or one which projected from the structure of the existing church, John’s foundation housed five priests, one of whom was to be prior, and two boys, and was endowed with 120 ducats of annual rents.  The prior or provost and the other priests were to be presented by John and his successors, the provost being instituted by the bishop of St Andrews, the other priests by the provost. 

John’s supplication went on to petition for the union of the rectory of Ratho (valued at £40) to the college, which would permit a further four or five priests to be instituted in the college.  To aid also with completion of the building operations on the new collegiate church building, on 16 May 1437 an indulgence was granted to all who contributed financially towards the project and especially on named feast days, including the Nativity and the Beheading of John the Baptist, its patron.(11)

Forester’s predictions as to how many priests could be sustained on the united fruits of his collegiate church and the rectory of Ratho were too optimistic for in June 1444 he supplicated for confirmation of a reduction in number from ten priests and two boys to nine priests and two boys.(12)  The resulting constitution of the collegiate church was ratified by Pope Eugenius IV and again confirmed as a result of a supplication to Rome dated 22 March 1468.(13)  This narrated how John Forester had instituted the college for five priests (one to be called provost) and two boys, supported on annual rents of 120 ducats.  He had subsequently secured annexation of the parsonage of Ratho to the college so that another four or five priests could be instituted in the college, with mandate to the Abbot of Holyrood to make the institution. 

Afterwards, however, it was found that the fruits of Ratho (£40) and the 120-ducat original endowment of the collegiate church were inadequate to sustain ten priests and two boys, and the number of five additional chaplains should be reduced to four and two boys, to each of who a fit portion should be assigned from the fruits of Ratho.  On this basis, Eugenius IV gave mandate to James Kennedy, bishop of St Andrews to act and, finding the circumstances to be as described in the petition, he reduced the number and assigned portions from Ratho amongst them.(14

After the 1444 constitution and its 1468 confirmation, no further prebends or chaplainries were established within the collegiate church, whose complement remained at eight prebendaries in addition to the provost.  The eight prebends were: Half Dalmahoy, Half Hatton, Half Bonnyton and Half Platt (being the original four); Half Gogar, Alderstone, Rathobyres and Half Norton (sustained on the fruits of Ratho).(15)

Despite the uncertainty over funding for the new chaplainries or prebends in the collegiate church, the original establishment of five prebends was operative through the 1440s and 1450s.  In May 1450, Patrick Lesuris, parson of the parish church of Newton, was holder of one of the prebends.  Since that benefice required his personal residence at Corstorphine under the terms of its founding endowment, he supplicated for dispensation to hold it (value £7) for life along with Newton (£8), despite their incompatibility, and from his residency obligation.(16

Payment made to three chaplains founded in the chapel of St John the Baptist contiguous with the parish church of Corstorphine by King James I, receiving annually 20 merks from the burgh fermes of Edinburgh.(17)  References to the ‘old’ chaplainries pre-date the March 1468 confirmation of the constitution.  On 22 February 1468, the priest David Swinton petitioned that the pope would provide him to a perpetual chaplainry in the collegiate church that was endowed with half the fruits of Hatton and Dalmahoy, and which lay in the patronage of Alexander Forester of Corstorphine, vacant by the death of William Forman (£8 ster).(18

Additional chaplainries were established at subsidiary altars within the parish church in the 1470s.  The first was established by a charter of 20 September 1473 and confirmed by King James III under the Great Seal on 22 October 1477.  This recorded the gift of William Chambers, vicar of Kirkurd, of income from land in Corstorphine, Edinburgh and the neighbouring districts made for the salvation of the souls of King James II, King James III, and Sir Alexander Forester of Corstorphine and for the safe state of Sir Archibald Forester of Corstorphine, to God, the BVM and St Anne her mother, to support a perpetual chaplain at the altar of St Anne founded in the parish church.(19

The second, dated 16 December 1475 and confirmed under the Great Seal on 18 Sept 1510 recorded the resignation of property in Edinburgh by sir David Marshall, a chaplain of the collegiate church, into the hand of John Farnely, baillie of Edinburgh, and the investment with the same land of sir Patrick Marshall, nephew of the said David, and his successors on the part of the altar of the altar of Holy Trinity in the parish church.(20)

Notes

1. The Charters of King David I, ed G W S Barrow (Woodbridge, 1999), no.147; Liber Cartarum Sancte Crucis (Bannatyne Club, 1840), no.8 [hereafter Holyrood Liber].

2. Holyrood Liber, nos 1, 2.

3. Holyrood Liber, no.13.

4. NRS Papers of the Montgomerie Family, Earls of Eglinton, GD3/1/11/18/6.

5. Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum, ii, 1424-1513, ed J B Paul (Edinburgh, 1882), no.35 [hereafter RMS, ii].

6. I B Cowan and D E Easson, Medieval Religious Houses: Scotland, 2nd edition (London, 1976), 216-217; I B Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society, 1967), 35-36.

7. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, iv, 1433-1447, eds A I Dunlop and D MacLauchlan (Glasgow, 1983), no.1301.

8. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 91.

9. RMS, ii, no.121.

10. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, iv, 1433-1447, eds A I Dunlop and D MacLauchlan (Glasgow, 1983), no.305 [hereafter CSSR, iv].

, iv, no.372.

, iv, no.1028.

13. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, v, 1447-1471, eds J Kirk, R J Tanner and A I Dunlop (Glasgow, 1997), no.1261 [hereafter CSSR, v].

14. Charters of the Hospital of Soltre, of Trinity College Edinburgh, and other Collegiate Churches of Midlothian (Bannatyne Club, 1861), 298-304.

15. Cowan and Easson, Medieval Religious Houses: Scotland, 217.

v, no.344.

17. The Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, vi, 1455-1460, ed G Burnett (Edinburgh, 1883), 25.

v, no.1250.

19. RMS, ii, no 1320.

20. RMS, ii, no 3504.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Originally a chapel of St Cuthbert’s under the castle, it passed with the  mother church to Holyrood in 1128. It was considered to have become parochial in the reign of Alexander II and was still regarded as a chapel of St Cuthbert’s in 1446, served by a canon from Holyrood.(1)

1128x47 Chapel of Corstorphine given to the abbey by Norman, sheriff of Berwick with two oxgangs and 6 acres of land.

1142x50 Same man issues a brieve notifying his men of Corstorphine that he had conferred the chapel to the abbe.(2)

1140x53 Church confirmed to abbey by Roger, bishop of St Andrews.(3)

1164 Chapel confirmed with 2 oxgangs and 6 acres by Alexander III.(4)

1165x66 Church (not chapel) included in confirmation by Richard, bishop of St Andrews of all the churches given to the abbey by David I, Malcolm IV and bishops Aernald and Robert of St Andrews.(5)

[Corstorphine not specifically mentioned in any of the vicarage settlements, confirmations etc of the 13th century, presumably considered a chapel/church pertaining to St Cuthberts]

1412 (3 Feb) Letters of reversion granted by John Forrester of Corstorphine, knight, whereby he declared that the annual rent redeemable by Sir John of Seton or his heirs on payment to him his heirs and assignees on one day, between the rising of the sun and setting thereof in the parish church of Saint Mary of Corstorphine, 200 nobles in good gold of sufficient weight and of the coin of the King of England.(6)

1436 John Forester founds his Collegiate church in the cemetery of the parish church of Corstorphine.(7)

1446 John Ker (canon of Holyrood) given the chapel with cure of St Mary of Corstorphine, within the parish of St Cuthbert (value £8), dependent on the abbey (of Holyrood) and severed by a chaplain.(8) Same year complaint by John that a certain John Wedderspoon, perpetual vicar of Tranent caused him, when carrying certain papal letters in order that they might be executed, to be assaulted by certain laymen and imprisoned. Later when under sentence of excommunication Wedderspoon had continued to celebrate mass etc (again mentions that his (Kers) chapel is wont to be governed by canons of Holyrood).(9)

1456 Church (not chapel) included in confirmation of the possessions of abbey by Pope Calixtus III.(10)

Altars and chaplainries in the church of St Mary

Holy Trinity

1475 Reference to John Marshall, chaplain of Trinity altar.(12)

1501 Patrick Marshal, chaplain of the altar, is situated in the parish church of Corstorphine; Archibald Forester is the patron.(13)

1510 (18 Sept) John Marshall, chaplain in the collegiate church of Corstorphine resigns to Patrick Marshall nepoti [grandson/nephew?] of the said John and his successors at the altar of altar of the Holy Trinity in the parish church of Corstorphine, annual rents valued at £5.(14)

St Anne

1477 (22 Oct) James III confirms a charter by William Chalmers, vicar of Kirkurde, (original 20 Sept 1473) who for the souls of James II, the royal family, Alexander Forrester and Archibald Forrester of Corstorphine, founds a chaplainry at the altar of St Anne [already in existence] with 11 marks, 13s 4d worth of annual rents.(15)

1642 (3 Sept) Charter by George, Lord Forrestor of Corstorphine to James Baillie, burgess of Edinburgh refers to a tenement of land lying on the south side of Corstorphine, between the lands belonging to deceased John Walls now James Johnston on the east, the lands of said Lord Forrester on the south, the lands of deceased Ninian Smith, now belonging to the altar of St Anna in the parish church of Corstorphine on the west.(16)

John the Baptist

1426 (25 Feb) James I concedes £24 of annual rents to fund 3 chaplains celebrating divine service in the chapel of John the Baptist contigua [continuous? Next too?] the parish church of Corstorphine, founded by Adam Forrester of Corstorphine.(17)

1429 (26 May) James I confirms a charter of Margaret Forrestor (widow of the late Adam) and John their son to sustain two chaplains in the chapel of John the Baptist contigua the parish church of Corstorphine, with an annual rent of £21 13s 4d from various tenements.(18)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage and vicarage with Holyrood, set for £40.(19)

1588 (12 Mar) Supplication by James Forrester of Corstorphine and the heritors of the parish for recognition that his church of Corstorphine, which he founded [i.e the collegiate church], to be confirmed as the official parish church and that the parishioners go there rather than anywhere else. A long running process, Forrester required to prove to the Presbytery that his church is the parish church (Presbytery eventually agree).(20)

1598 (15 Aug) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Edinburgh finds the minister (Alex Forrester) to be competent but the church windows are down and the choir of the church is ruinous and ¾ of the kirk yard dykes are down. The abbot of Holyrood and Lord of Corstorphine to consult over the repairs.(21)

1646 (3 May) Minister and elders order James Watson and George Letham to make a compt of the expenses of stone, lime, timber for scaffolding and masons and workers wages for the ‘taking down of the old parish church’. Further references to wages and expenses of the workers.(22)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev James Oliver 1791): ‘The present church [founded in 1429] was founded near the parish church of this place’.(23)

‘The church is an ancient and respectable building. It is of gothic architecture, and built in the shape of a Jerusalem cross… [founded by the Forrester family in 1429].. The coat of arms of the family of Forrester is everywhere dispersed over the building. Within the church in niches are several monumental remains of the family [statues of men and women briefly described]…The roof is supported by strong arches,.. The whole building seems to have suffered little by the wastes of time’.(24)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Thomas Thomson 1839): ‘In popish times the fabric of the parish church was maintained [as separate from the college of 1429]… In the beginning of the next century however, [early 1600s] the collegiate church was occupied by the parish minister…. In 1646 the order was given by the Kirk Session for taking down the old parish kirk’.(25) [see parish register vol 1]

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 35-36.

2. Charters of David I, no. 147.

3. Holyrood Liber, no. 2.

4. Scotia Pontifica, no. 53.

5. Holyrood Liber, no. 13.

6. National Records of Scotland, Papers of the Montgomerie Family, Earls of Eglinton, GD3/1/11/18/6.

7. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1433-47, no. 305, 372, Calendar of entries in the Papal registers relating to Great Britain and Ireland; Papal letters, viii, 595. 1444 parish churches of  Clerkington and Ratho annexed to college of Corstorphine on its foundation with fruits, rents, crops and pertinents in proprious usus, Midlothian Charters, no 300.

8. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1433-47, no.1301.

9. Calendar of entries in the Papal registers relating to Great Britain and Ireland; Papal letters, xi, 566-67.

10. Holyrood Liber, App i, no 1.

11. Register of the Great Seal of Scotland, ii, 3504.

12. Protocol Book of John Foular, 9 March 1500 to 18 September 1503, no. 148, Protocol Book of John Foular, 1503-1513, no. 318.

13. Register of the Great Seal of Scotland, ii, no.3504.

14. Register of the Great Seal of Scotland, ii, no. 1320.

15. National Records of Scotland, Gordon of Cairness, GD67/176.

16. Register of the Great Seal of Scotland, ii, no.35.

17. Register of the Great Seal of Scotland, ii, no. 121.

18. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices,  91.

19. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Edinburgh, Minutes, 1586-1593, CH2/121/1, fols. 72r-72v.

20. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Edinburgh, Minutes, 1593-1601, CH2/121/2, fol. 245r.

21. National Records of Scotland, Corstorphine Kirk Session Records, 1646-1685, CH2/124/1, fol.8.

22. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1791), xvi, 448.

23. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1791), xvi, p448-49.

24. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1839), i, 233.

25. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1839), i, 231-33.

Bibliography

National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Edinburgh, Minutes, 1586-1593, CH2/121/1.

National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Edinburgh, Minutes, 1593-1601, CH2/121/2.

National Records of Scotland, Corstorphine Kirk Session Records, 1646-1685, CH2/124/1.

National Records of Scotland, Gordon of Cairness, GD67/176.

National Records of Scotland, Papers of the Montgomerie Family, Earls of Eglinton, GD3/1/11/18/6.

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 1433-47, 1983, ed. A.I. Dunlop and D MacLauchlan, Glasgow.

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.

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

Kirk, J., 1995, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, (British Academy) Oxford.

Liber Cartarum Sancte Crucis, 1840, ed. C. Innes, (Bannatyne Club), Edinburgh.

New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, Edinburgh and London.

Protocol Book of John Foular, 9 March 1500 to 18 September 1503, 1930, ed. W. McLeod (Scottish record Society), 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, Edinburgh.

Architectural description

The church at Corstorphine originated as a chapel dependant on St Cuthbert’s Church in Edinburgh, and was conveyed with that church to Holyrood Abbey by David I at a date between 1128 and 1136. It had come to be regarded as in some sense parochial by the time of Alexander II (1214-49) despite still being a chapel of St Cuthbert’s annexed to Holyrood.(1)

A college began to take shape following the foundation of a chaplainry by Sir Adam Forrester before his death in 1405, which was described as being adjacent (‘contigua’) to the parish church.(2) Further chaplainries were endowed in 1425/6 and 1429.(3) It was evidently in the latter year that the college was deemed to have come into being and that the church was rebuilt to house it, since there is an inscription now located in the chancel that states ‘Istud . collegiū . incepit . āno . dñi . Moccccoxxix’.

However, although the inscription is in the chancel, it has evidently been re-set, and it may not necessarily refer to the construction of the chancel. Beyond that it is not certain that the college was formally founded until further endowments were set in place by Sir John Forrester in 1436, at which time the college was described as being in the cemetery of the parish church.(4)

Neither the institutional nor the architectural relationship between the parish church and the collegiate church are entirely clear, particularly since the architectural relationship has been greatly confused by a range of post-Reformation structural modifications. Nevertheless, the references to Sir Adam’s chapel as being adjacent to the church, and of the collegiate church as being in the churchyard of the parish church suggest that the two adjoined each other but were structurally distinct. One possible interpretation of the evidence is that the collegiate church was set in parallel, and to the south, of the parish church.

Following the Reformation the Forrester family were insistent that the collegiate church should be regarded as the church of the parish, and in 1588 representations were made to presbytery on that basis which were eventually accepted.(5)  The church was soon afterwards in a state of some decay, and in 1598 the windows were said to be broken and the choir ruinous.(6) By that stage the choir may already have been cut off from the rest of the building as a separate burial place for the Forrester family, a function it had evidently served from the beginning, as well as being the choir of the collegiate body.

In 1646 it was decided to remove the parts of the building that were no longer deemed to be required, and, since the collegiate church was probably more architecturally substantial and highly finished than the part that had been the parish church, it was decided to take down the latter.(7) The building appears to have remained in that consequently truncated state for a considerable period, a condition that appears to be represented in a plan by A. Morton of 1813 amongst the papers of General George Henry Hutton.(8)

That plan shows the choir, with the sacristy on its north side as walled off, and it is labelled ‘the burying place of Lord Forrester of Corstorphine’. The nave, which is labelled ‘present place of worship’ is shown as aisle-less, but with lateral projections off each side of its west end, the southern one being of greater projection than the northern one. What appears to be three bays of ribbed vaulting is indicated over the southern projection and the west bay of the nave, and ‘the steeple’ is shown off the west end of the nave.  

The information provided by the 1813 plan is supplemented by descriptions in the Statistical Accounts. The first account states that the church was then ‘in the form of a Jerusalem Cross....The roof is supported by strong arches, and is formed by large stone flags’.(9) The later account, which was written after further major changes to the building had taken place, but evidently with a clear memory of what had gone before, added a number of significant pieces of information. ‘The north arm of this cross had been added during the last century by the proprietor of Saughtonhall; the rest of the building was ancient, and had the original roof of compact stone....According to tradition the southern aisle is the most ancient part of the building, and was probably a part of the chapel of St John the Baptist ’.(10)

The information provided by Morton’s plan of 1813 is itself supplemented in a view of the church by James Skene of Rubislaw, said to date from 1817.(11) The most obvious difference between the Morton plan and the Skene view is that the latter illustrates the Saughtonhall Aisle as projecting considerably further to the north than on the Morton plan.

The Skene view is from the north east, and shows the choir and sacristy in the foreground, the east window of the former being blocked with a small door beneath it. Behind them is part of the nave, without any flanking element, and to the west of that is a cross range, running laterally on a north-south axis and extending as far as the north wall of the nave; at its northern end is what is presumably the Saughtonhall Aisle. The tower and spire rise to the west of the cross range.

The Skene view shows stone flagged roofs over all parts except the Saughtonhall Aisle and the tower, strongly suggesting that all those parts were covered by pointed barrel vaulting. The highest of the roofs is that over the choir, while the roofs of the nave and west cross range step progressively downwards. It is of particular interest to note that the cross range appears to be a continuation of the south-west chapel, which must therefore initially have been an almost independent structure of considerably greater length than is now the case, extending as far as what might initially have been the south wall of the parochial church.      

The church was to be greatly modified soon after Skene’s view, at the hands of William Burn, in 1828,(12) and the New Statistical Account describes part of what was done. ‘The Saughtonhall Aisle was taken down, and another erected in a style which corresponds better with the southern aisle, and, at the same time, the roof of about two-thirds of the building was removed, and a slated double roof erected in its place, of the same height as the roof of the southern aisle, which was considerably lower than the original roof of the principal building. This altered portion and the southern aisle constitute the present church, while the eastern end and north-eastern projection form the chancel and burying ground of the Forresters....In the room to the north of the chancel, formerly the burying vault of the Forresters, and now occupied by a stove for heating the church, there are several stones with inscription on them.’(13)

The state of the church following these changes is illustrated on a number of plans and drawings, including a plan by John Sime of 1837,914) a series of measured drawings of 1878 in the Edinburgh Architectural Sketch Book,(15) and the drawings published by MacGibbon and Ross in 1897.(16) Together these show that the nave had been doubled in width by adding an aisle of the same width as the nave to its north, while a pendant to the south-west chapel had been added at the north-west corner.

As part of this phase of works, the western part of the north nave wall had been removed, and the remaining eastern part pierced by two arches, while three new two-light windows had been formed within the existing window openings along the south nave wall. The portion evidently used for worship was the T-shaped area in the western part of the nave and the cross aisle formed to its west, with the pulpit located at the centre of the west wall. This area was covered by ribbed timber ceilings that evidently continued the pattern of the ribbed vaulting in the south-west chapel. The chancel was still at this time partitioned off as a burial chamber for the Forrester family, with a new doorway flanked by buttresses being provided at the centre of the east wall; this replaced the much smaller doorway in the same position shown by Skene.

The next intervention – and the most recent to have a significant impact on the building - was the work of George Henderson in 1903-05. The most important structural changes were that he re-opened the chancel towards the nave and replaced William Burn’s timber ceilings with stone barrel vaults.

Having considered what is known of the sequence of building operations, the medieval elements of the building will be described as they are now seen, (17) though in interpreting the architectural evidence, allowance must be made for the uncertainty associated with the major changes carried out in 1646, 1828 and 1903.

The first impression provided by what is now seen is that the medieval collegiate choir, nave, south-west chapel and tower are architecturally homogeneous. This stems from the fact that they are all faced with fine ashlar, and that the same base course runs beneath all parts. Despite that, there is evidence to suggest that the medieval building had only assumed its final form in a series of stages, and that the apparent homogeneity is the result of a general refacing at the time of the latest works.

On the basis of the documentation, the first significant addition to the parish church had been the chapel founded by Sir Adam Forrester before his death in 1405. This is likely to survive in a much-modified and truncated form as the offshoot from the south flank of the church. The arms on the south gable of Forrester and what is thought to be Forrester impaling Wigmure,(18) suggest it was remodelled in the time of the second Sir John Forrester, who succeeded his father in about 1440, and those same arms are to be seen on his tomb in the choir..

The south face of the chapel is lit by a handsome three-light window with tracery of English rectilinear type, having over the side lights diamond-shaped forms that have parallels with the angularity to be seen in the east window of Melrose Abbey, which was built after the English attack of 1385. This window would therefore fit well with a date of before 1405.

Despite the pronouncedly English character of the window tracery, however, the chapel is covered by a distinctly Scottish pointed barrel vault, on which there are traces of a suppressed arrangement of two semi-quadripartite patterns of ribs rising from a springing point at the centre of the bays. At the north end of the vault the ribs appear to have been truncated, which correlates with the evidence of the Morton plan of 1813 and the Skene view of 1817 that the chapel had originally extended considerably further to the north.

Set within the south wall of the south-west chapel, below the window, is a tomb that is thought to be that of Sir Alexander Forrester, who was active in the 1460s. It is framed by a depressed two-centred arch, and the effigy rests on a chest decorated by three square quatrefoils framing heraldic shields with the arms of Forrester and Sinclair.(19)

The choir and two-storeyed sacristy-treasury on its north side appear to have been built in a single operation. The walls of the choir were made to overlap those of the exisiting nave, in a way that is to be seen at a number of other churches where there was a wish to give a new eastern limb a greater scale than the building to which it was to be attached. This suggests that the nave predated the choir, though, as has been said, it was evidently remodelled along with the south-west chapel and tower to create an air of architectural homogeneity.

The thrusts of the unribbed pointed barrel vault that was constructed over the new choir, and of the stone-flagged roof that covers it, are countered by widely projecting buttresses, which now terminate in classical square urn-pinnacles. The two small windows in the south wall, which are each of two lights, have segmental rear arches that are kept below the springing point of the vault. They admit relatively little light, the main illumination being through the three-light east window, which is now filled with modern tracery following the removal of the early nineteenth-century doorway.

A number of liturgical fixtures survive. In the south wall there is a piscina recess below a conical canopy, with a credence shelf in its upper part. West of that are three-seat sedilia with cusped three-centred arches and crocketed ogee super-arches, and with micro-vaults above the seats within the wall thickness.

Two tombs survive on the north side of the choir, on each side of the door to the sacristy. The earlier tomb is that to the west of the door, and is for the older Sir John Forrester, who died in about 1440. The effigies of Sir John and one of his wives are set within a three-centred arch with continuous mouldings, and along the front of the chest are five cusped square panels with the arms of Forrester, Forrester impaling Sinclair and Forrester impaling Stewart of Dalswinton, in reference to his second and third wives.(20)

The later tomb, to the east of the sacristy door, is for the second Sir John Forrester, the son of the first. His effigy, together with that of his wife, is set with a depressed two-centred arch, and along the chest are three quatrefoiled panels with angels holding shields charged with the arms of Forrester and arms thought to be those of Wigmure, the same arms as on the south-west chapel and west porch

The tower is a relatively squat structure with a stair rising within its south-west corner, and paired belfry windows to each face. It is surmounted by an octagonal spire with pinnacles at its base, and the spire is enriched with two crenellated bands, on the lower one of which there are small arched lucernes to the cardinal faces.

A small vaulted porch has been built up against its west face, giving access to the tower through a cut-down window, and re-set within the west wall of the porch are arms with the same charges as those on the south-west chapel. It has been assumed to date from the seventeenth century, though it is not shown on Morton’s plan of 1813.

Notes

1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, pp. 35-6.

2. Charters of the Hospital of Soltre, of Trinity College, Edinburgh and other Collegiate Churches in Midlothian, ed. D. Laing (Bannatyne Club), 1861, pp. 292–95.

3. Ian B. Cowan and David E. Easson, Medieval Religious Houses, Scotland, London and New York, 1976, pp. 216–17.

4. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, vol. 4, 1433-47, ed. A.I. Dunlop and D. MacLauchlan, Glasgow, 1983, nos 305 and 372; Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, ed. W.H. Bliss et al., vol. 8, 595.

5. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Edinburgh, Minutes, 1586-94, CH2/121/1, fols 72r-72v.

6. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Edinburgh, Minutes, 1593-1601, CH2/121/2, fol. 245r.

7. National Records of Scotland, Corstorphine Church Session Records, 1646-85, CH2/124/1, fol. 8.

8. National Library of Scotland, Adv. MS 30.5.23, 71a.

9. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-99, vol. 14, pp. 448-49.

10. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 1, p. 232.

11. Reproduced in James Grant, Old and New Edinburgh, London, 1880.

12. National Records of Scotland, Heritors’ records, 588/1 p. 177.

13. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 1, p. 232-34

14. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, DP027695.

15. Edinburgh Architectural Sketch Book, volume 2, Edinburgh, pl. 7.

16. David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1896–7, vol. 3, pp. 250–63.

17. Accounts of the building will be found in D. Laing, ‘The Forrester Monuments in the Church of Corstorphine’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. 11, 1874–6, pp. 353-62; David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1896–7, vol. 3, pp. 250–63; Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Midlothian and West Lothian, Edinburgh, 1929, pp. 18-23; Christopher Wilson in John Gifford, Colin McWilliam and David Walker, The Buildings of Scotland, Edinburgh, Harmondsworth, 1984, pp. 522–24.

18. Bruce A. McAndrew, Scotland’s Historic Heraldry, Woodbridge, 2006, p. 405. These arms are also displayed on the tomb in the choir of the second Sir John.

19. McAndrew, 2006, p. 405.

20. McAndrew, 2006, p. 405.

Map

Images

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  • 1. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, exterior, from north east, 1

  • 2. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, exterior, from north east, 2

  • 3. Corstorphine Collegiate Church (Edinburgh Architectural Association Sketch Book II, 1878-9)

  • 4. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, exterior from north east (after James Skene of Rubislaw, 1817)

  • 5. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, exterior, chancel, east gable

  • 6. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, exterior, choir and sacristy from north east

  • 7. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, exterior, from north, 1

  • 8. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, exterior, from north, 2

  • 9. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, exterior, from north west

  • 10. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, exterior, from south east

  • 11. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, exterior, from south west, 1

  • 12. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, exterior, south west chapel, from south west, 2

  • 13. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, exterior, from west

  • 14. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, exterior, junction of nave and south-west chapel

  • 15. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, exterior, south chapel from south west

  • 16. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, exterior, south-west chapel, arms on gable, 1

  • 17. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, exterior, south-west chapel, arms on gable, 2

  • 18. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, exterior, south-west chapel, arms on gable, 3

  • 19. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, exterior, tower and porch from north

  • 20. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, exterior, tower from south west

  • 21. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, exterior, west porch, arms

  • 22. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, interior, chancel arch from east

  • 23. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, interior, choir interior from west

  • 24. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, interior, choir north wall

  • 25. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, interior, choir north-west angle from north nave aisle

  • 26. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, interior, choir piscina

  • 27. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, interior, choir south wall

  • 28. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, interior, choir, tomb at east end north wall, finial

  • 29. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, interior, choir, tomb at east end north wall, Sir John Forrester II

  • 30. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, interior, choir, tomb at west end north wall, Sir John Forrester I

  • 31. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, interior, choir, tomb at east end north wall, tomb chest

  • 32. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, interior, choir, tomb at west end north wall, effigies

  • 33. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, interior, font from Gogar Church

  • 34. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, interior, sedilia

  • 35. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, interior, south chapel aumbry

  • 36. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, interior, south chapel vault

  • 37. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, interior, south chapel, tomb, chest

  • 38. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, interior, south chapel, tomb, possibly Sir Alexander Forrester

  • 39. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, interior, tombs on north wall choir

  • 40. Corstorphine Collegiate Church, interior, traces of earlier chancel arch

  • 41. Corstorphine Collegiate Church,interior, south chapel, tomb, effigy