Cupar Parish Church

Cupar Church, exterior, tower from south west, 1

Summary description

The church was originally on the outskirts of the burgh, but nothing remains above ground on that earlier site. Rebuilt as a large-scale fully aisled building on a central site in 1415. The western bays of the north aisle and north-west tower (heightened in 1620) of that church survive; the rest was removed when a new church was built on the site of the chancel in 1785. Within the later church is a knight’s effigy.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Christopher/Our Lady

The church of Cupar had been granted to the canons of St Andrews cathedral-priory by Earl Duncan II of Fife between about 1164 and 1172, and confirmed to them by his son, Earl Malcolm before 1204.(1)  Between 1173 and 1178, King William had ratified Earl Duncan’s grant and by 1178, Bishop Richard of St Andrews (1165-1178) had also confirmed the gift,(2) which presumably was of the patronage alone.  Papal confirmation was also secured in 1183 from Pope Lucius III in a general confirmation of all of the lands, churches and rights held by the canons at that date.(3)  In January 1240/1, Bishop David de Bernham confirmed possession to the canons in proprios usus, with reservation of the vicarage revenues to sustain vicar perpetual.(4)  That annexation was effected before the 1270s, at which time the church of Cupar was recorded as a vicarage in the rolls of the papal tax-collector in Scotland, assessed at 22s 8d,(5)

Until the early fifteenth century, the church in question lay outside the burgh on the rising ground to the north of the town.  According to the chronicler Walter Bower, in 1415 the townsmen took it upon themselves to found a new church in a more convenient location within Cupar proper.(6)  This action had not been authorised by the prior and chapter of St Andrews, who as rector and patron had the collective right and responsibility for the upkeep of the chancel of the church.  The result was protracted litigation as the priory and the burgh attempted to reach a settlement to regularise the new arrangements.

The circumstances of the dispute were set out in what must be regarded as a partial account by the burgh made in a supplication to the pope in June 1429.(7) This narrated how ‘recently’ the parishioners of Cupar, for certain reasonable causes and for the dignity of the burgh, had gained the agreement of the perpetual vicar of the church and of the bishop for the relocation of the parish church from outside to within the burgh.  They had, accordingly, built the new church, secured its consecration by the bishop, and it was functioning as the parish church at that time.  The burgesses and other parishioners, however, now supplicated for a ratification of their actions, admitting that they had not secured the consent of the priory, which held the right of presentation.  That the canons were not content to let matters rest with a fait accompli, in 1431they drew up an instrument of protestation to ensure that they would suffer no prejudice to their rights on account of the new church which the burgesses of Cupar had founded ‘of their own and presumptuous temerity’ without the consent of the priory.(8)  A procuratory letter of Prior James Haldenstone, moreover, makes it clear that the burgesses had not completely paid for and completed the work on the new church, the priory contributing to the ‘total building’, which work was not yet finished and to which they were contributing from a wish to right and not out of compulsion.(9)

The dedication of the church in the burgh to Our Lady appears to be confirmed by a charter of  Master David Spens, canon of Moray, issued in May 1505, which secured Great Seal ratification in March 1506 by which a perpetual chaplainry was founded and endowed at ‘the principal altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the parish church’.(10)  A charter of 28 March 1552 by David Ramsay of Brackmont to Alexander Ramsay his brother, records a payment to be made to that chaplain of ‘Our Lady’s altar principal’ in the parish kirk of Cupar.(11)  An indication of the possible dedication of the old parish church comes from a charter of 24 April 1533 which refers to Walter Acarsoun, chaplain of the chaplaincy of St Christopher’s altar in the old kirkyard of the burgh of Cupar.(12)  In March 1553, John Leckie is recorded as chaplain in the ‘Auld Kirk’ of St Christopher at Cupar.(13)

There were several additional altars and chaplainries in the parish church, beyond that endowed by Spens at the high altar in 1505.  The first one referred to, in October 1505, is an altar of St John the Baptist, to which property in the burgh was attached.(14)   It was recorded as having been founded and endowed by Thomas Williamson and Clement Morris with rents from proeprties in the burgh.(15)  chaplainry at the altar of St Andrew the Apostle, endowed by John Fouty, burgess of Cupar, with rents from various properties in the burgh in a charter of 12 June 1510 and subsequently confirmed under the Great Seal by the king.(16)  This altar is only recorded on one further occasion before the Reformation, when its chaplain, John Lang, pursued a burgess in 1551 for non-payment of rents due to his chaplainry.(17

Most of the references to altars and chaplainries, however, date from the last two decades before the Reformation.  In 1540 Thomas Jamieson, chaplain, pursued rents owed him as chaplain of the altar of the BVM and of St James,(18) which suggests a subsidiary dedication at the principal altar of the parish church.  Jamieson had been recorded the previous year as chaplain of only St James’s altar and reoccurs as such in 1550.(19)  In 1540 also there is is the first surviving reference to an altar of St Michael, which occurs on the three more occasions down to 1553.(20)  The Holy Blood altar, which appears to have been the altar supported by the burgh’s guild, is recorded in 1550 and 1552, on the latter occasion the deacon bailie being identified as responsible for overseeing its upkeep.(21)  There are two final references to altars.  On 12 May 1552, payment was made to the chaplain of the altar of St Thomas, while on 26 April 1553, the chaplain of St Nicholas’ altar placed the book from his altar in the Lady Chapel of the church.(22)

At the Reformation, the parsonage remained annexed to the priory of St Andrews, set at feu for £108, while the vicarage perpetual was supported on the ‘small teinds’ and valued at £30.(23)  The chaplainry of Our Lady in St Catherine’s kirk in Cupar, recorded at the time of the Reformation at a value of £11 6s 8d, does not appear to have been one of the chaplainries in the parish church.(24)  There is reference instead in 1521 to ‘the kirk and place of St Katherine of Cupar’, held by the Franciscans of St Andrews, which appears to have been a separate endowed chapel located elsewhere in the burgh.(25)

Notes

1. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree in Scotia (Bannatyne Club, 1841), xxxix-xl, 241-2 [hereafter St Andrews Liber].

2. Regesta Regum Scottorum, ii, The Acts of William I, ed G W S Barrow (Edinburgh, 1971), no.168; St Andrews Liber, 137.

3. St Andrews Liber, 59.

4. St Andrews Liber, 166.

5. A I Dunlop (ed), ‘Bagimond’s Rolls: the Statement of the Tenths of the Kingdom of Scotland’, Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vi (1939), 36.

6. Walter Bower, Scotichronicon, ed D E R Watt and others, viii (Aberdeen, 1987), 85.

7. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, iii, 1428-1432, ed I B Cowan (Scottish History Society, 1970), 27.

8. St Andrews Liber, p.xli.

9. Copiale Prioratus Sanctiandree, ed J H Baxter (Oxford, 1930), no 65.

10. Registrum Magni Sigillia Regum Scotorum, ii, 1424-1513, ed J B Paul (Edinburgh, 1882), no.2948 [hereafter RMS, ii].

11. NRS GD82/72

12. NAS GD63/20.  The endowment involved in this charter was confirmed on 24 April 1533, NRS Papers of Phineas Bell Brander, solicitor, Edinburgh, GD63/20.

13. St Andrews University Library, Cupar, Court & Council Records, 1549-1554, B13/10/1, fol. 119r.

14. St Andrews University Library, St Andrews Burgh Charters and Miscellaneous Writs, B65/23/356c.

15. St Andrews University Library, Transcript Register of charters of former Blackfriars lands, Cupar and St Andrews, transferred to the burgh, B65/23/356c.

16. RMS, ii, no 3491.

17. St Andrews University Library, Cupar, Court & Council Records, 1549-1554, B13/10/1, fol. 53.

18. NRS Protocol Book of James Androson, 1535-48, NP1/5A, fol.29r.

19. Prot Bk Androson, 1535-48, NP1/5A, fol.9r; St Andrews University Library, Cupar, Court & Council Records, 1549-1554, B13/10/1, fol. 26.

20. Prot Bk Androson, NP1/5A, fol. 16v.  St Andrews University Library, Records of St Salvator's College, UYSS110/Y/3; Cupar, Court & Council Records, 1549-1554, B13/10/1, fol. 14, fol. 110v.

21. St Andrews University Library, Cupar, Court & Council Records, 1549-1554, B13/10/1, fol. 15, fol.97v.

22. St Andrews University Library, Cupar, Court & Council Records, 1549-1554, B13/10/1, fol. 81, fol. 119v.

23. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 14, 17, 87.

24. Kirk (ed), Books of Assumption, 81.

25. St Andrews University Library, St Andrews Burgh Charters and Miscellaneous Writs, B65/23/217c.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Granted to priory of St Andrews by Duncan, earl of Fife in 1165. Parsonage teinds thereafter with canons, with the cure served by a perpetual vicar.(1)

According to Mackinley (Ancient Church Dedications in Scotland), the church was dedicated to Saints Mary and Christopher.(2)

1164 x 1172 Duncan II, earl of Fife, gave (dare) the church of Cupar with lands (cum terris), tithes, and oblations.(3)

1165 x 1172 Richard, bishop of St Andrews, gave (dare) the church of Cupar to the cathedral priory. The bishop retained his episcopal rights and also the cáin held by the bishop of St Andrews from the land of the church of Cupar.(4)

c. 1180 x 1204 Malcolm, son of Duncan, earl of Fife, confirmed the churches of Cupar, Markinch, Scoonie and the chapel of Kettle as grants made by his father, Duncan II.(5

1173 x 1178 William I confirmed the church of Cupar with lands, tithes, and oblations and the tithes of the mill of Cupar as a grant made by Duncan II, earl of Fife.(6)

Papal confirmations

1174 x 1178 The priory received a papal confirmation from Alexander III of certain lands and churches including the church of Cupar with tithes. The church of Cupar was confirmed by Gregory VIII in 1187, Clement III in 1188, Innocent III in 1206, and Honorius III in 1216.(7)

1189 x 1195 William I confirmed the church of Cupar to the priory as a gift of Duncan II, earl of Fife.(8)

1198 x 1199 Roger, bishop of St Andrews, confirms (general confirmation) the church of Cupar and the tithes of the mill of that vill as a gift of Duncan II, earl of Fife.(9)

1228 Alexander II confirmed (general confirmation) the church with tithes and lands as a grant made by Duncan II, earl of Fife.(10)

1240 David de Bernham granted the churches of Markinch, Cupar ‘in Fife’, and St Cyrus ‘with all lands, tithes, and obventions’ to the cathedral priory in proprios usus.(11)

1246 Pope Innocent IV confirmed (general confirmation) that the cathedral priory held the advowson of the churches of Dairsie, Cupar, Markinch, Scoonie, Portmoak, St Cyrus, Lathrisk and Kennoway.(12)

The church of Cupar is converted to the uses of the cathedral priory in 1240. Thus, the bull of Innocent IV suggesting that the house only held the advowson (ius patronatus) of the church is not in accordance with the evidence. There is no definitive clue concerning the nature of the priory’s rights in the church of Cupar prior to 1240, but there is no reason to believe as for example in the case of Rossie that their rights were limited to the advowson.(13)

1394-1416 Thomas de Kilconquhar is the perpetual vicar of Cupar.(14)

#1415 Cupar. The History of a small Scottish Town (P Martin): ‘New church built in 1415, reason given for the dignity of the burgh and for convenience of the parishioners. Dedicated to St Christopher, lady chapel and altars dedicated to Saints Andrew, Columba and James. Bell dedicated to St Michael’.(15) [not sure if Martin has the dedication right, reference below seems to suggest that St Christopher’s was the old church? Is it St Katherine’s church?]

1415 Bower states that ‘in the following year (1415) the new church of Cupar was founded.(16)

1416-25 Suit over church following death of Thomas between Richard Cady, John de Castelcaris, Thomas de Mertoun and John Legati. By 1425 John Legati described as rector and seems to have won litigation.(17)

1437 On death of John de Cornton, David de Narne (illegitimate) is collated (value £28).(18)

1442 Attempt by William Wardlaw to have Robert de Kymont deprived of the perpetual vicarage. Robert ‘after an exchange of words of insult with the late Neym, a layman, related them to his father in law [suggests married clergy?], William de Froscar, who overcome with rage attacked the said layman and hit him so hard with his iron tipped staff, that are commonly carried in those parts, that he soon died’.(19)

1477 David Seton is described as perpetual vicar.(20)

1503 Patrick Wishart resigns the church in favour of Ninian Dalgeish, Patrick to get pension of half the fruits for life.(21)

1521 (12 Feb) The prior of the friars preachers of St Andrews, Friar John Grayson, produced a royal charter granting the annual rent, fruits and emoluments of the kirk and place of St Katharine of Cupar to the place of the said friars, preachers of St Andrews; and Robert Dalgleish, Andrew Rait, William Lawson and John Smith tenants of Rathillet were warned to pay to them £5 yearly for the annual rent due to them from the said 'toun' long occupied by them with 50s due from Whitsunday last and that within fifteen days under pain of excommunication.(22) [different church/chapel?]

1548-51 16 people (6 women, 10 men) from the parish registered their testaments at the St Andrews Commissary court. 3 did not specify a burial location. 6 specified burial in the parish church of Cupar paying fees from 30s-£3.(23)  6 specified burial in the cemetery of the parish church of Cupar.(24) One Andrew Mudjee asked to be buried in the ‘old church’ of Cupar and paid 20s.(25)

1550 (27 Jan) Reference to the consent of sir William Inglis, vicar of Cupar, in local case.(26)

1551 (1 June) Reference to trouble in the kirk yard the previous Sunday between Andrew Lang and Thomas Reikie in front of the whole town (Lang is the deacon of the fleshers) (meeting in court ordered to sort out the problems).(27)

1552 (16 May) The choristers of the parish church are ordered by the council to make compt of all the arable lands they have set in tack.(28)

1552 (22 Dec) Council makes ordinances for providing keys and locks for the kist of the Rude Loft of the parish church.(29)

1553 (28 June) Kirkmaster Robert Reid presents his 6 monthly compt to the council including £4 9s spent on the ‘Kirk Wark’.(30)

1553 (26 Apr) William Inglis, vicar of Cupar gifts to the town for the dressing of the kirk one hood of a cape with one ‘arpchins’ of class of gold edging. He also gifts the book of St Nicholas altar to put in the Lady Chapel.(31)

Altars and chaplaincies in Cupar

Our Lady [earliest reference 1540; no location or founder]

1540 (9 Aug) Thomas James pursues rents owed him as chaplain of the altar of the BVM and of St James in parish church of Cupar.(32)

1552 (28 Mar) Charter by David Ramsay of Brakmounth to Alexander Ramsay, his brother, of his tenement in the burgh of Cupar, on the south side of the Bonygait, between the tenements of John Murray on the east, William Cristeson's heirs on the west, and Thomas Williamson on the south, paying annually 20s. Scots to the chaplain of Our Lady altar principal in the parish kirk of the town.(33)

Holy Blood [earliest reference 1550, no founder or location, seems to be the Guild altar]

1550 (17 May) Council meet for the maintaining of good service within the parish church, John Bell noted as chaplain of the service of the Holy Blood. His stipend to be augmented to money from the the Trinity Bred and the common purse for providing the service at the altar and various masses.(34)

1552 (26 Oct) Ordinance for the Guild of Cupar mentions that they are required to upkeep the Holy Blood altar. Deacon of the Guild is also the baillie of the altar.(35)

St Andrew [earliest reference 1550, no founder or location]

1551 (17 July) John Lang pursues Andrew Gilshaw for certain annuals pertaining to the altar of St Andrew of which he (Lang) is chaplain.(36)

St Christopher [not in burgh church?]

1533 (24 Apr) Charter of Confirmation by Hugh Spens, professor of divinity and provost of the collegiate church of St Salvator, St Andrews, and John Weddell, licentiate in canon and civil law, parson of Flisk and official-principal of St Andrews, judges-delegate appointed by Silvester Darrio of Lucca, papal chaplain and auditor of causes in the sacred apostolic Palace, papal nuncio to James V, confirming charter, dated 17 Feb 1533, by Walter Acarsoun, chaplain of the chaplaincy of St Christopher's altar in the old kirkyard of the burgh of Cupar, with consent of the King, to John Spens of Mairstoun, of 4 acres of land called Marifauld pertaining to said chaplaincy, in sheriffdom of Fife.(37)

1553 (27 Mar) John Leckie, chaplain of the ‘Auld kirk’ of St Christopher, sets in tack certain lands pertaining to thhe chaplaincy (including a place called St Christopher’s lands).(38)

St James [earliest reference 1538, no founder or location]

1538 (20 Jan) Thomas Jamieson, chaplain of the altar of St James in the parish church of Cupar, pursues annual rents owing to the chaplaincy.(39)

1540 (9 Aug) Thomas Jameson pursues rents owed him as chaplain of the altar of Our Lady and of St James in the parish church of Cupar.(40)

1550 (6 Oct) Reference to Thomas Jameson, chaplain of the altar of St James, who appears in court pursuing rents owing to his altar.(41)

1578 (27 Dec) Testimonial that Robert Pryd, burgess of Cupar, resigned a tenement called Sanct James land, lying on the south side of the parish Kirk of Cupar and an annual rent of £10 furth of 3 acres in the Ferrefeild of the said burgh, pertaining to James Lawsone, into the hands of James Patersone, one of the bailies of Cupar, in favour of David Williamsone, his son-in-law, and Margaret Jamesone, his future spouse, to whom the bailie gave sasine.(42)

St John the Baptist [earliest reference 1505, no founder or location]

1505 (6 Oct) Reference to the tenement of the altar of St John the Baptist, lying and bounded as set fourth in the Rental, and the annual burden of 6s. 8d. extant in the Burgh Court Books of Cupar.(43)

The Rental of the annual rents of the Blackfriars (Friars Preachers) of St Andrews (undated)

From the tenement of the altar of St John the Baptist, founded in the parish church of Cupar by Thomas Williamson and Clement Morris, on the east side of the Crossgate - between the tenement of Alan Jamieson on the south, the Crossgate on the west and the river Eden on the east - 6s. 8d.(44) (St Andrews University Library Transcript Register of charters of former Blackfriars lands, Cupar and St Andrews, transferred to the burgh)    

St Michael [earliest reference 1540, possessed by John Birth, baillie, no location]

1540 (27 July) John Birth, baillie of Cupar and possessor of the altar of St Michael situated in the choir of the parish church of Cupar, institutes John Kirklaw as chaplain following the resignation of a Sir Robert [no 2nd name].(45)

1541 (22 June) Charter of Donation adding to the bursaries established in St Salvator's College by John Mair and William Manderstone mentions the lands of John Chalmers pertaining to the altar of St Michael in Cupar.(46)

1550 (22 Apr) Stephen Long, the chaplain of the altar of St Michael receives a gift to the altarage.(47)

1553 (26 Jan) Annual rents belonging to James Miller, chaplain of St Michael’s altar, fued by the late Thomas Fairfull, pursued in the Cupar Court.(48)

St Thomas Canterbury or Apostle? [earliest reference 1552, no location or founder]

1552 (10 May) David Linkie to pay to Walter Baxter, chaplain of St Thomas’ altar 12s owed from lands recently inherited by him.(49)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage with the priory of St Andrews, ‘set for victuals’, value £108. Vicarage held by William Inglis, from the ‘small teinds’, value £30.(50)

Altars and Chaplainries

Chaplainry of Our Lady in St Catherine’s church, value £11 6s 8d.(51)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of vicarage £10.(52)

1571 (15 Jan) The Minister is nominated to be one of the 21 members of the chapter of the Archbishop of St Andrews.(53)

1653 (1 Apr) Parishioners are split over the appointment of Patrick Scougall as minister and are meeting in adjacent kirks.

1654 (6 Apr) The problems over the ministry continue, and a commission is set up to sort out the problem.(54)

1699 (24 Jan) Members of the Presbytery of Cupar are sent to the church anent the ‘reparation of the roof’ of the kirk, 75 9s 4d required.(55)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev George Campbell, 1793): Extensive section on pre-1415, 1415-1789 and current church.(56)

… (continued from above) ‘on the same site, a church on a more convenient plan. This plan they have accordingly carried into execution’.(57)

Also, more regarding the spire.(58)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev John Birrell, 1843):‘In the east end of the outside of the present church there is a niche shewing where St James’ altar once stood. Within the church in the western wall, lies a full length statue of Sir John Arnot of Fernie, who fell in the last crusade (?)’.(59)

[No reference to much maligned quire from 1415 church]

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches: (George Hay): 1785, early 19th cent porch, late furniture, medieval recumbent effigy, part medieval kirk and tower with 1620 belfry stage and spire. Part of Fife tower tradition, most capped by corbelled parapets, known locally as bortizers. Lower medieval stage surmounted in 1620 by a ringing chamber, a balustrade parapet (all at the expense of William Scott, the parish minister).(60)

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 42.

2. Mackinley, Non-Scriptural Dedications, p. 453.

3. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, pp. 241-242.

4. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, p. 137.

5. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, p. 244.

6. RRS, ii, no. 168.

7. Scotia pontificia, nos. 82, 148 & 149, Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, pp. 71-6 & 76-81.

8. RRS, ii, no. 333.

9. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, pp. 149-52.

10. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, pp. 232-6.

11. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, p. 166.

12. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, pp. 92-5.

13. After discussion with Garrett Ratcliff this was his conclusion on Cupar.

14. CPP, 591, CPL, Ben, 158

15. Martin, Cupar, p. 16.

16. Chron. Bower, viii, 85.

17. CPP, 606-607, CSSR, i, 1, 15 & 56, CSSR, ii, 111.

18. CSSR, iv, no. 348.

19.CPL, ix, 289.

20. CPL, xiii, 855.

21. CPL, xviii, no. 1.

22. StAUL St Andrews Burgh Charters and Miscellaneous Writs, B65/23/217c.

23. NRS St Andrews, Register of Testaments, 1 Aug 1549-12 Dec 1551, CC20/4/1, fols.100-101 (£3 fee), 168-9, 194, 237, 263-4 & 320.

24. NRS St Andrews, Register of Testaments, 1 Aug 1549-12 Dec 1551, CC20/4/1, fols.73-74, 77-78, 187-88, 191-92, 298 & 312.

25. NRS St Andrews, Register of Testaments, 1 Aug 1549-12 Dec 1551, CC20/4/1, fol. 181-2. 6

26. NRS Title deeds to lands in Stirlingshire, the Lennox, Cromarty, Fife and Forfar, GD1/88/9.

27. StAUL Cupar, Court & Council Records, 1549-1554, B13/10/1, fol. 47.

28. StAUL Cupar, Court & Council Records, 1549-1554, B13/10/1, fol. 82v.

29. StAUL Cupar, Court & Council Records, 1549-1554, B13/10/1, fol. 105v.

30. StAUL Cupar, Court & Council Records, 1549-1554, B13/10/1, fol. 113r.

31. StAUL Cupar, Court & Council Records, 1549-1554, B13/10/1, fol. 119v.

32. NRS Prot Bk of James Androson, 1535-48, NP1/5A, fol.29r.

33. NRS Makgill, Viscounts Oxfuird Papers, GD82/72.

34. StAUL Cupar, Court & Council Records, 1549-1554, B13/10/1, fol. 15.

35. StAUL Cupar, Court & Council Records, 1549-1554, B13/10/1, fol. 97v.

36. StAUL Cupar, Court & Council Records, 1549-1554, B13/10/1, fol. 53.

37. NRS Papers of Phineas Bell Brander, solicitor, Edinburgh, GD63/20.

38. StAUL Cupar, Court & Council Records, 1549-1554, B13/10/1, fol. 119r.

39. NRS Prot Bk of James Androson, 1535-48, NP1/5A, fol. 9r.

40. NRS Prot Bk of James Androson, 1535-48, NP1/5A, fol.29r.

41. StAUL Cupar, Court & Council Records, 1549-1554, B13/10/1, fol. 26.

42. NRS Records of Cupar Burgh, B13/22/31.

43. StAUL St Andrews Burgh Charters and Miscellaneous Writs, B65/23/356c.

44. StAUL Transcript Register of charters of former Blackfriars lands, Cupar and St Andrews, transferred to the burgh, B65/23/356c.

45. NRS Prot Bk of James Androson, 1535-48, NP1/5A, fol. 16v.

46. StAUL Records of St Salvator's College, UYSS110/Y/3.

47. StAUL Cupar, Court & Council Records, 1549-1554, B13/10/1, fol. 14.

48. StAUL Cupar, Court & Council Records, 1549-1554, B13/10/1, fol. 110v.

49. StAUL Cupar, Court & Council Records, 1549-1554, B13/10/1, fol. 81.

50. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 14, 17 & 87.

51. Ibid, 81.

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

53. Acts and Proceedings of the General Assemblies of the Kirk of Scotland, i, 222-23.

54. NRS Records of the Synod of Fife, 1639-1657, CH2/154/2, fols. 252 & 270.

55. NRS Presbytery of Cupar, Minutes, 1693-1702, CH2/82/2, fols. 329-330.

56. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1793), xvii, 140.

57. Ibid, 141.

58. Ibid, 141.

59. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1843), ix, 6.

60. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, pp. 80 & 170.

Bibliography

National Records of Scotland, Makgill, Viscounts Oxfuird Papers, GD82/72.

National Records of Scotland, Papers of Phineas Bell Brander, solicitor, Edinburgh, GD63/20.

National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Cupar, Minutes, 1693-1702, CH2/82/2.

National Records of Scotland, Protocol Book of James Androson, 1535-48, NP1/5A.

National Records of Scotland, Records of Cupar Burgh, B13/22/31.

National Records of Scotland, Records of the Synod of Fife, 1639-1657, CH2/154/2.

National Records of Scotland, St Andrews, Register of Testaments, 1 Aug 1549-12 Dec 1551, CC20/4/1, fol. 181-2. 6.

National Records of Scotland, Title deeds to lands in Stirlingshire, the Lennox, Cromarty, Fife and Forfar, GD1/88/9.

St Andrews University Library, St Andrews Burgh Charters and Miscellaneous Writs, B65/23/356c.

St Andrews University Library, Cupar, Court and Council Records, 1549-1554, B13/10/1.

St Andrews University Library, Records of St Salvator's College, UYSS110/Y/3.

St Andrews University Library, Transcript Register of charters of former Blackfriars lands, Cupar and St Andrews, transferred to the burgh, B65/23/356c.

Acts and Proceedings of the General Assemblies of the Kirk of Scotland, 1839-45, ed. T. Thomson (Bannatyne Club), Edinburgh.

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

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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.

Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree in Scotia, 1841, ed. T. Thomson (Bannatyne Club), Edinburgh.

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

Martin, P., 2006, Cupar. The History of a small Scottish Town, Edinburgh.

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

Regesta Regum Scottorum, Acts of William I (1165-1214), 1971, Edinburgh.

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

Scotichronicon by Walter Bower in Latin and English, 1987-99, D. E. R. Watt, Aberdeen.

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

Architectural description

The parish of Cupar, was granted to the cathedral priory of St Andrews by Duncan, earl of Fife, at a date between 1154 and 1178, and by the mid-thirteenth century the cure was a perpetual vicarage.(1) The burgh was of considerable significance as the location of a sheriffdom from the early thirteenth century, and it enjoyed the status of a royal burgh from at least the early fourteenth century.(2)

The parish church was initially located rather inconveniently about a kilometre to the north-west of the heart of the burgh, in a location that later came to be known as ‘the old kirk-yard’.(3) Perhaps partly as a consequence of a fire in the burgh in 1410, it was decided that a new church should be built at its centre, and Scotichronicon says that it was founded in 1415.(4) It appears that, despite the bishop’s approval of this move, there was some resistance from the priory, because on 14 June 1429 the parishioners sought papal ratification of the move, with the proviso that this should be given even if the consent of the prior and convent were not forthcoming.(5)

The old church appears initially to have been dedicated to St Mary, but may have continued in use as a chapel with the dedication of St Christopher after the new church had been built,(6) though that was also the dedication of the new church. The date of its final abandonment is unknown, though it is unlikely to have survived the Reformation by any length of time, and its foundations were eventually removed in 1759,(7) leaving no more than a slightly elevated platform by the earlier nineteenth century.(8)

The site was investigated archaeologically in 1999, as a result of which it was tentatively suggested that the church had been a rectangular structure with an eastern apse.(9) A fragment of what appears to be a crocket capital of presumably later twelfth century date is said to survive within the local museum, though it has not been possible to locate it.(10)

The church of 1415 continued in use following the Reformation, and in 1620 the tower over the north-west corner of the nave was heightened by the addition of a fourth storey and a spire, at the cost of the minister, William Scott.(11) That date together with the arms of the burgh are inscribed in a gablet above the balustrade on the east side of the tower.

By 1785 the church was found to be so decayed that it was decided it had to be replaced;(12) as a result, the greater part of the building was demolished, and a large rectangular replacement built over its eastern parts to the designs of Hay Bell.(13) The only parts of the medieval building to be retained were the north-west tower and three-and-a-half bays of the north nave aisle.

The basic form of the missing parts of fifteenth-century church is recorded in a vignette on a plan of the town of 1642 by James Gordon, though the scale of that vignette is so small that its details have to be treated with some caution.(14) It appears to shows that the church was of basilican form, though the surviving fragment suggests that the wall that rose above the arcades was less lofty than depicted by Gordon. A pair of aisles ran the full length of the church, and there was no external distinction between chancel and nave other than what may have been a small transeptal chapel to the east of the mid-point of the south aisle. On the south side there was evidently a porch in the west bay.

Of the surviving portions of the medieval church,(15) the most prominent feature is the ashlar-built tower. Like the similarly located tower at the church of the Holy Trinity in St Andrews, it rose over the western bay of the north arcade, and it would not have been greatly in evidence from within the church. It was set out to an oblong rather than square plan, in order to accommodate a stair within the north-west corner. As first built, it rose through just three storeys, the two lower storeys having barrel vaults pierced by access hatches over them.

The lowest storey is lit by a slit window with a lozenge-shaped head within a segmental-arched rear arch in the west wall, and there is a mural passage above that rear arch which opens towards the nave through an ogee-headed arch. There are square windows to the intermediate stage, and a round-arched opening towards the gutter at the junction of the tower and central vessel of the nave. At the original belfry stage there is a single pointed window to each face, and within that stage there are corbels to support the bell frame. The stub of the west front that adjoins the tower has the north jamb of what must have been a large - and presumably traceried - window.

The belfry stage of 1620 has a pair of pointed-arched windows to each face. A corbel table carries the balustraded parapet, and there are dies at the corners of that parapet which carry pinnacles. There are now clock faces at the mid-point on each face. The spire is of splay-foot type, and is articulated by three levels of string courses, with a simple balustrade above the middle one, and lucarnes above the others.

The three-and-a-half bays of the north aisle that have survived are walled in to enclose a session house. The rather west respond and arcade piers, which are of relatively squat proportions, have moulded bases and capitals. They are of cylindrical form, except for that below the south-east corner of the tower, which is most unusual in being of hexagonal section, suggesting a preference for geometrical forms that is also reflected in the lozenge-head to the west window of the lowest storey of the tower. The arches have two orders of chamfers. On the second pier from the west is an eroded coat of arms, with what appears to be a pair of lion supporters.

The church of 1785 has that date inscribed on a tablet in the east wall. The south front has two levels of pairs of round-arched windows towards each end, and a pair of larger round-arched windows at the middle, reflecting the internal locations of galleries and pulpit. The north front has a porch added by Morris Finlay in 1811,(16) while the main feature of the east and west elevations is a rather undersized Venetian window. A relieving arch is built into the west wall, presumably because it was built over the foundations of the medieval church, the cornice is in the form of a miniature corbel table, and there are ball finials to the gables.

Set into the internal west wall of the eighteenth-century church is a relocated tomb recess containing the effigy of a knight. The effigy is fully armed, with a sword at its side; the head rests on a tasselled pillow, and the feet on a lion with what appears to be an inverted ram’s head between its paws. The segmental-arched recess has square-flower decoration in its hollows. Above the recess is a shield with arms said to be those of Fernie,(17) suggesting that the figure represented was a member of that family. However, both the recess and the effigy are heavily over-painted, and there has to be some question over the authenticity and inter-relationships of everything that is to be seen.

Notes

1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 42.

2. George Smith Pride, The burghs of Scotland, a critical list, London, Glasgow and New York, 1965, p. 21.

3. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-99, vol. 17, p. 140.

4. Walter Bower’s Scotichronicon, ed. D.E.R. Watt et al., Aberdeen or Edinburgh, vol. 8, 1987, pp. 84–85.

5. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, 1428–32 (Scottish History Society), ed. I.B. Cowan and A.I. Dunlop, 1956, p. 27.

6. Simon Taylor, The Place-Names of Fife, vol. 4, Donington, 2010, p. 264

7. Statistical Account, p. 140.

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

9. D.W. Hall and M. King, ‘Field survey and assessment at the former site of St Christopher’s Parish Church, Cupar’, Tayside and Fife Archaeological Journal, vol. 5, 1999, pp. 72–86.

10. Illustrated in J.R. Walker, Pre-Reformation Churches in Fifeshire, Edinburgh, 1885.

11. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Inventory of Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, Edinburgh, 1933, p. 87.

12. Statistical Account, p. 140.

13. John Gifford, The Buildings of Scotland, Fife, London, 1988, pp. 160–62.

14. ‘Cowper of Fyff descrybed be I.G. Cupra Fifae’.

15. A fine set of measured drawings of the church are in Walker, 1885.

16. Gifford, 1988, p. 161.

17. A fess wreathed between three lions’ heads erased.

Map

Images

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

  • 1. Cupar Church, exterior, tower from south west, 1

  • 2. Cupar Church, exterior, tower from south west, 2

  • 3. Cupar Church, exterior, tower from north west

  • 4. Cupar Church, exterior, date stone on east wall

  • 5. Cupar Church, exterior, east wall

  • 6. Cupar Church, north nave arcade

  • 7. Cupar Church, exterior, from south west

  • 8. Cupar Church, north nave arcade, west respond

  • 9. Cupar Church, north nave arcade pier, 1

  • 10. Cupar Church, north nave arcade pier, 2

  • 11. Cupar Church, south tower arch

  • 12. Cupar Church, effigy

  • 13. Cupar, presumed site of earlier church

  • 14. Cupar Church (Gordon of Rothiemay)

  • 15. Cupar Church, plan of north west tower and north nave aisle west nave bays (Walker)

  • 16. Cupar Church, tower and nave, north elevation (Walker)

  • 17. Cupar Church, tower, sections (Walker)

  • 18. Cupar Church, tower, south elevation, and nave, north arcade (Walker)

  • 19. Cupar Church, tower, west and east elevations (Walker)