Creich Parish Church

Creich Church, exterior (before recent collapse)

Summary description

The decaying shell of a medieval rectangular structure, to which a sixteenth-century lateral south aisle was added. A new church was built on a different site in 1830-33. An incised ledger slab has been relocated from the old to the new church.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Serf

With its dedication to St Serf,(1) early references to the church of Creich are scanty, the first surviving dating from the mid-1270s when it was recorded in the accounts of the papal tax-collector in Scotland as a free parsonage.(2)  In 1298, it occurs in the gift of King Edward I of England, who bestowed it on Robert de Meyners through his exercise of the rights of the earl of Fife during his wardship of the underage heir to the earldom.(3)

It appears to have remained an independent parsonage until 1414, when Pope Benedict XIII granted an indult in response to a petition by Robert, duke of Albany, to whom the patronage of the church probably belonged on account of his acquisition of the earldom of Fife, in favour of Lindores Abbey.(4)  By this indult, the parsonage of Creich, valued at £12, was to be annexed to the abbey from the time of the death or resignation of the incumbent rector, Laurence of Lindores, whereupon a vicarage perpetual would be instituted. 

The annexation was said to be made on account of the ruination of the abbeys buildings and the diminution of its income caused by ‘the nearness of the wild Scots’, a statement that allude to loss of income sustained through the ravaging of the abbey’s property in central Aberdeenshire during the campaign of Donald, lord of the Isles, which climaxed at the battle of Harlaw in the Garioch.

The tenaciousness and longevity of Lauence of Lindores meant that the abbey did not secure corporal possession until after 1437.  On 10 December 1438 Lindores petitioned the pope for a confirmation, narrating that patronage had been given to them by the late William Lindsay, lord of Rossie in Fife, David Lindsay, earl of Crawford, and the late King James I.  Theystated, too, that Henry, bishop of St Andrews, wishing to provide further income for the monastery, had united Creich (74 florins of gold coin) to the monastery. 

The abbey had taken possession of the church on Laurence’s death but to give them greater security they now petitioned the pope for a confirmation of their possession.(5)  This, however, was just the first step in a short but fairly convoluted process of clarification and restatement of how the abbey had acquired its interest in Creich. 

Just over two months later, on 18 February 1439, the monastery’s position was restated in a second petition.  This explained that their previous petition had shown that the late King James I, the late David Lindsay, earl of Crawford, and William Lindsay, lord of Rossie, patrons of the church of Creich, had granted patronage to the said monastery.  The pope, it went on, had confirmed this position with the provision that an annual portion would be reserved for the vicar, from which to pay episcopal dues and other burdens.  The letters, hower, claimed the monastery, were invalid as they expressed the fruits of the church at 74 florins and the monastery at 1200 florins, and it was also the case that only the earl had possessed any right of patronage. 

It was subsequently, after Laurence of Lindores had possessed the church for more than twenty years, that King James had also granted it to the abbey.  Bishop Wardlaw had annexed it to the monastery, reserving a portion for a vicar, but his wish had been that the monks would bear the burden of episcopal and archidiaconal rights.  To further complicate matters, they concluded, in the interim between their previous supplication and the current petition, a suit had arisen concerning the church between the abbey and one John Balfour, who was said to have had papal provision to it.  The case was then pending in Curia.(6)  Resolution of the case took just one month, Balfour resigning his claim in return for a reserved pension from the fruits of the church (20 merks), and Lindores secured a restatement of its title to the union of Creich with the abbey and a full papal confirmation of its rights.(7

From 1439 until the Reformation the parsonage was annexed to the abbey, while the cure was served by a vicar perpetual, whose revenues were reckoned at £36.(8)

A very substantial new chapel was added to the parish church in 1538.  On 20 December that year, confirmed under the Great Seal on 24 December, Master James Strachan, canon of Aberdeen and Moray, executor of the will of his late father Master Gilber Strachan, protonotary of the Apostolic See and also a canon of Aberdeen and Moray, made provision under the terms of his father’s will for two chaplains celebrating in a chapel founded by Gilbert on the south side of the church at Creich. 

For the salvation of the soul of James V, Marie his wife, the late James duke of Ross, and Alexander archbishop of St Andrews, the late Master David Seton canon of Aberdeen, and Gilbert, had granted in pure alms to Master David Seton and sir Thomas Morton chaplains and their successors at the altar of the Holy Trinity, BVM and St Andrew the Apostle, in that chapel, various annual rents amounting to 10 merks from lands in the Mearns for their sustenance.(9)

Notes

1. S Taylor and G Markus, The Place-Names of Fife, iv, North Fife between Eden and Tay (Donington, 2010), 246-247.  For reference to ‘the parish church of St Servanus of Creich’ in 1549-50, see NRS St Andrews, Register of Testaments, 1 Aug 1549-12 Dec 1551, CC20/4/1, fols. 178-9, 192, 193, 340.

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

3. Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland, ii, 1272-1307, ed J Bain (London, 1884), no.1017.

4. Calendar of Papal Letters to Scotland of Pope Benedict XIII of Avignon 1394-1419, ed F McGurk (Scottish History Society, 1976), 293.

5. Caledar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, iv, 1433-1447, ed A I Dunlop and D MacLauchlan (Glasgow, 1983), no.501 [hereafter CSSR, iv].

, iv, no.513,

, iv, nos 532, 535.

8. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 33-4, 78.

9. Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum, iii, 1513-1546, eds J B Paul and J M Thomson (Edinburgh, 1883), no.1877.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Annexed to Lindores in 1414; patronage previously granted to the abbey by William de Lyndesay, Lord of Rossy and David Lindsay, earl of Crawford together with James I. Not effective until 1437; a perpetual vicarage was erected thereafter.(1)

Place Names of Fife vol. 4 notes that the church was dedicated to St Serf (often confused with a parish of the same name in Sutherland).(2)

1298 (10 Sept) Robert de Maners presented to the vacant church of Creegh by Edward I, belonging to the king by reason of the ward of the earl of Fife.(3)

1362 Alexander de Caron (MA) holds the church.(4)

1414 Indult at the petition of Robert, Duke of Albany for Lindores to annex in proprious usus the church of Creich, situated near the monastery, 18 marks value, to become effective on death or cession of current vicar Lawrence de Lindores with provision for a perpetual vicar thereafter. Grant made because the monastic buildings have collapsed and resources of the abbey are diminished by robbers and thieves commonly called the ‘wild Scots’.(5) (Place Names of Fife suggests reference to the Harlaw campaign, Lindores lands in Gowrie)

1437 Supplication for church by John de Balfour following death of Lawrence.(6) In 1438 Lindores reacts by obtaining confirmation that William Lyndesay, lord of Rossy, David Lindsay, earl of Crawford and James I had donated their rights of patronage to the abbey, the grant becoming effective after Lawrence de Lindores death. In 1439 there was further litigation by Balfour, who finally resigns rights in return for a pension (20 marks pa).(7)

1492 John Lindsay described as perpetual vicar of Criech.(8)

1549-50 7 people (1 woman, 6 men) from the parish registered their testaments at the St Andrews Commissary court. 4 did not specify a burial location.(9) Marabella Kilgour, Henry Corbe and Laurance Dublar specified burial in their parish church of St Servanus. The vicar, who witnessed Corbe’s testament, was John Seterson.(10)

Altars and Chaplainries

Our Lady/ Holy Trinity

1538 (10 Dec) The King has confirmed in mortmain a charter made by Master James Strathauchin, canon of Aberdeen and Moray, executor of the will of his uncle, the late Master Gilbert Strathauchin, apostolic pronotary and canon of the aforesaid churches, by which, from the instruction of the said Gilbert [...] he granted in pure alms to Master William Seaton and Sir Thomas Morton, chaplains, and their successors at the altar of the Holy Trinity, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Blessed Andrew the Apostle in the chapel founded by the said Gilbert on the south side of Creich parish church, St Andrews diocese, in to serve perpetually, a yearly income of 10 marks from the lands of Mekil-Brres, vic. Kincardin.(11)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage pertains to Lindores, set for victuals. Vicarage held by John Seton, valued at £36.(12)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of vicarage £12.(13)

1586 (16 May) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of St Andrews ‘anent the repair thereof’ [no further record of the details].(14)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Michael Greenlaw): No reference to the church or its fabric.

New Statistical Account of Scotland: No account was rendered.

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches: (George Hay): 1832, William Stirling, architect; walls of medieval kirk extant stable.(15)

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 39.

2. Taylor & Markus, The Place-Names of Fife. Volume Four, pp. 246-247.

3. CDS, ii, no. 1017.

4. CPP, 389.

5. CPL, Ben, 293, CPP, 601.

6. CSSR, iv, nos. 429 & 455.

7. CSSR, iv, nos. 501, 529, & 532, CPL, ix, 26.

8. CPL, xvi, no. 933.

9. NRS St Andrews, Register of Testaments, 1 Aug 1549-12 Dec 1551, CC20/4/1, fols. 178-9, 192, 193 & 340.

10. NRS St Andrews, Register of Testaments, 1 Aug 1549-12 Dec 1551, CC20/4/1, fols. 1, 305 & 340.

11. RMS, iii, 1877.

12. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 33 & 78.

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

14. NRS Presbytery of St Andrews, Minutes, 1585-1605, CH2/1132/17, fols. 15-16.

15. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, pp.139, 239 & 256.

Bibliography

National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of St Andrews, Minutes, 1585-1605, CH2/1132/17.

National Records of Scotland, St Andrews, Register of Testaments, 1 Aug 1549-12 Dec 1551, CC20/4/1.

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 Benedict XIII of Avignon, 1976, ed. F. McGurk, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh.

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

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.

Taylor, S and Markus G., 2010, The Place-Names of Fife. Volume Four. North Fife between Eden and Tay, Donington.

Architectural description

A church at Creich, which is first recorded in mid-thirteenth-century taxation lists,(1) became a possession of the Tironensian abbey of Lindores from the early fifteenth century. The patronage had been granted to that abbey by two members of the Lindsey family - the lord of Rossy and the earl of Crawford - acting together with James I; in 1414 it was formally annexed to the house. The cure was a perpetual vicarage by 1437.(2)

The main body of the medieval church is a rectangular structure built of grey rubble with ashlar dressings, and with a length from east to west of 20.2 metres and a width from north to south of 6.2 metres. Until recently the shell was relatively complete. A pair of narrow windows with widely splayed rear arches in the north wall of the chancel, which have been largely lost in recent masonry collapses, could point to a date of construction around the early thirteenth century, All remaining openings appear to be secondary insertions.(3)

On the south side of the chancel area there has been a two-light window, which was presumably intended to cast additional light on the altar. The main entrance is through a door towards the west end of the south wall, on its outer side is a round arch, while on its inner side is a corbelled lintel. At the apex of the east gable is a gabletted socket stone. Most of the other openings appear to be of post-Reformation date, with elevated openings in the gable walls that are likely to have been associated with lofts. The date 1621 is incised on the west gable.  

Recessed into the north wall of the church are two round-arched tomb recesses. The eastern of the two is probably the earlier, and is to the north of the site of the altar, where it may also have served as an Easter Sepulchre. It is framed by a continuous raised margin, and its keystone is recorded as having had a shield emblazoned with a chevron between three crosses patée, which pertains to the family of Barclay of Pearston.(4) The later of the two is near the centre of the north wall; it is framed by a stilted arch with continuous mouldings, within the hollows of which are two bands of square flower. It now contains a memorial recording a death in 1865.

Until it was removed to the later church in 1928,(5) the eastern of the two recesses housed a badly laminated incised ledger slab, though it may only have been placed there after the abandonment of the church. The slab commemorates David Barclay and his wife Helen Douglas, who died in 1400 and 1421 respectively. The figures are set below highly enriched canopies, and details of the faces and hands of the two figures were evidently incised on inset plates of metal or stone that have been lost. The inscription down the left side of the slab is eroded, but is recorded as having read: ‘hic jacet david berclay de luter d[omi]n[u]s de prisgyl qui obit die me[n]sis...anno d[omi]ni mmocccc  hic jacet Helena de douglas uxor predicty quit obiit xxix die me[n]sis janoarii an[n]o d[omi]ni  mccccxxi’.(6)

The only major medieval addition to the church has been a laterally projecting rectangular aisle on the south side of the church, with external dimensions of 6.4 metres from east to west and 7.15 metres from north to south. This was presumably the chapel founded on the south side of the church by James Strathauchin, a canon of the cathedrals of Aberdeen and Elgin in 1538, which contained an altar dedicated to the Trinity, the Virgin and St Andrew.(7) Only the lower courses of its walls survive, but they are constructed of ashlar rising from a chamfered base course that steps down in response to the contours of the site. It was entered from the church through a wide arch with semi-octagonal responds and moulded capitals; that arch has been blocked.

The church was replaced by a new building about one kilometre to the south, at the settlement of Brunton, which was built in 1830-33 to the designs of the elder William Stirling.(8) The condition of the medieval church must now be a matter of real concern, a significant area of masonry in the north wall of the chancel area has fallen in recent years, and further areas are clearly at risk of imminent collapse. In addition, there is now rampant growth of ivy and other vegetation over and within the walls, the weight and invasive roots of which represent a major threat.

Notes

1. Simon Taylor, The Place-Names of Fife, volume 4, Donington, 2010, p. 246.

2. Ian B. Cowan, the Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 39. 

3. Measured drawings of the church can be found in J Russell Walker, Pre-Reformation Churches in Fife and the Lothians, Edinburgh, 1888.

4. Walker, 1888.

5. National Records of Scotland, MW/1/903.

6. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Inventory of Fife,Kinross and Clackmannan , 1933, p. 67.

7. Register of the Great Seal of Scotland, ed. James Balfour Paul and John Maitland Thomson, 1882-1914, vol. 3.no. 1877.

8. Howard Colvin, Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 4th ed., New Haven and London, 2008, p. 987.

Map

Images

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

  • 1. Creich Church, exterior (before recent collapse)

  • 2. Creich Church, exterior, from south east

  • 3. Creich Church, exterior, from south west

  • 4. Creich Church, exterior, finial on east gable

  • 5. Creich Church, interior (before recent collapse)

  • 6. Creich Church, interior, collapsed masonry 1

  • 7. Creich Church, interior, collapsed masonry, 2

  • 8. Creich Church, interior, looking east

  • 9. Creich Church, interior, looking west

  • 10. Creich Church, interior, tomb recess 2

  • 11. Creich Church, interior, tomb recess, 1

  • 12. Creich New Church, 1

  • 13. Creich New Church, 2

  • 14. Creich Church, incised slab in new church

  • 15. Creich Church, incised grave slab (Walker)

  • 16. Creich Church, tomb recesses (Walker)

  • 17. Creich Church, plan (MacGibbon and Ross)

  • 18. Creich Church, plan (Walker)