Currie / Kinleith Parish Church

Currie Church, exterior, from south

Summary description

A mausoleum east of the church may be the adapted chancel of the medieval building, and foundations of a lateral projection may have been of a north chapel or a sacristy. The present church is of 1784-5, with modifications of 1835 and 1848.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Kentigern

Originally known as Kinleith, under which name it was recorded in the mid-1270s in the accounts of the papal tax-collector, assessed at 5 merks for taxation,(1) the church was a free parsonage down to the 1290s.  It had, however, been annexed to the archdeaconry of Lothian by 1296.(2)  Both parsonage and vicarage revenues appear to have been attached to that office until 1484 and there is no record of how the cure was served other than by the archdeacon in person, which is unfeasible given the duties of that office throughout one of the largest and most populous territories in the diocese.

It was in 1484 that the then archdeacon, Archibald Whitelaw petitioned at Rome for the erection of a perpetual vicarage pensionary to serve the church, allocation to be made of a pension of 24 marks from fruits worth at total of 100 marks.  The presentation right would belong to him and to future archdeacons of Lothian.(3)  The result was the establishment of a vicarage portionery, which remained in the presentation of the archdeacon.(4)  The parsonage and some vicarage fruits were retained at the Reformation by the archdeacon, valued at £240, while the vicarage (labelled as portionary) was valued at £20 and based on the ‘small teinds’, from a small fee was allocated for a curate.(5)

On 1 June 1493 and confirmed by the king under the Great Seal three days later,  Archibald Whitelaw, founded and endowed a chaplainry in honour of the BVM and St Kentigern confessor his patron, at one altar in the church, assigning an annual rent of 12 merks from properties in Edinburgh for its supprt.(6)  Whitelaw augmented his gifts in 1501 with some further, small endowments.(7)  Further endowments were made by Margaret Knollis, widow of Nicholas Crawford of Oxgangs, on 20 August 1540 – confirmed in 1556 by James Beaton, archbishop of Glasgow, of mortification in honour of ‘God Omnipotent and His Son and Holy Spirit and of the most blessed Mary always a virgin and of the holy Kentigern and all the saints of God’.  Her gift was to sustain a chaplain to celebrate at the high altar of St Kentigern situated within the parish church of Currie.(8)  At the Reformation, the chaplainry at the altar of St Kentigern was valued at 6 merks.(9)  An additional altar to St Katherine, with an associated chaplainry, was recorded in 1524.(10)

Notes

1. A I Dunlop (ed), ‘Bagimond’s Roll: the Statement of the Tenths of the Kingdom of Scotland’, Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vi (1939), 33, 55, 56.

2. Foedera, Conventiones, Litterae at Cuiuscunque Generis Acta Publica, ed T Rymer (London, 1816), vol ii, 724.

3. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, xiii, 1471-1484, ed J A Twemlow (Dublin, 1955), 844, 857.

4. St Andrews Formulare 1514-1546, eds G Donaldson and C Macrae, i (Stair Society, 1942), 38.

5. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 106, 110, 117.

6. Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum, ii, 1424-1513, ed J B Paul (Edinburgh, 1882), no 2154.

7. Protocol Book of John Foular, 9 March 1500 to 18 September 1503, ed W Macleod (Scottish Record Society, 1940), no. 117.

8. NRS GD32/9/5.

9. Kirk (ed), Books of Assumption, 139.

10. Protocol Book of John Foular, 1514-28, ed M Wood (Scottish Record Society, 1944), 595.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Annexed to the archdeaconry of Lothian in 1296. Both parsonage and vicarage included in this until 1484 when proposal to create a vicar perpetual. Appears to have become a vicar portionary instead with deacon retaining residual tithes.(1)

Mackinlay (Ancient Church Dedications in Scotland) notes that the church was dedicated to St Mungo [he may be confused with the altar dedication?].(2)

1443 William Croyser deprived as an adherent of council of Basle; John de Lauder collated.(3)

1484 Archibald Whitelaw petitions for the erection of a perpetual vicarage to serve the church of Currie; pension 24 marks from fruits worth 100 marks; presentation right to belong to archdeacon of Lothian.(4)

1512 Church mentioned as in the gift and presentation of the archdeaconry of Lothian.(5)

Altars and chaplaincies

St Katherine

1524 William Stormont chaplain at altar of St Katherine in Currie.(6)

St Kentigern

1493 Foundation of the chaplaincy by Archibald Whitelaw, royal secretary and archdeacon of St Andrews.(7)

1501 Small extra endowments to chaplaincy founded by Archibald Whitelaw.(8)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage pertains to archdeaconry of Lothian, value £240. Vicarage (described as portionary) held by Mark Jamesone as vicar pensioner, value £20 from the small teinds, fee from this paid to a curate.(9)

Altars and Chaplainries

Altar of St Kentigern held by Thomas Knowles, value 6 marks.(10)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of parsonage £80.(11)

1560 (15 Dec) The curate of Currie (unnamed) is cited by the General Assembly for ‘abusing the sacraments’.(12)

1564 (25 Dec) Continuing problems as the church of Currie is one of 5 cited for staking the doors of the church and not opening them to preachers of the word.(13)

1592 (5 Oct) Synod of Lothian and Tweedale visitation of the presbytery of Edinburgh finds that the doctrine is taught in every church on the Sabbath, except in Currie which is ordered to be remedied.(14)

1594 (19 Nov) Complaint made to the Presbytery of Edinburgh by Matthew Lychton (the minister) being absent himself from the parish through sickness, his house was cast down and the kirk doors were broken up and burial made within the church. William Nichol charged with the breaking of the doors.(15) (on going discord between the Laird of Curriehill and the parishioners on the one side and the minster Matthew on the other).(16)

1598 (1 Aug) Visitation of the church finds the minister (Matthew Ford) to be competent; the kirk yard dykes being down an ordinance was passed for it to be sorted by the next visitation. The church is described as being not water tight, Edinburgh council to contribute to the repair.(17)

1599 (14 Aug) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Edinburgh finds the minister to be competent, the body of the kirk was found to be well upholding and repairs are still required.(18)

1603 (10 Aug) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Edinburgh find things in good condition except a complaint by the parishioners of their hard handling by the town of Edinburgh in taking of their teinds and vicarage fees.(19)

1627 (2 May) Report on the parish by the minister (Matthew Lichtone) describes the church as under the patronage of the provost and baillies of Edinburgh having formerly pertained to the archdeacon of Lothian.(20)

#1785 [No references to the new church in the kirk session and presbytery records]

Statistical Account of Scotland (Dr William Nisbet (physician), 1791): ‘The present kirk is a neat, modern edifice, built a few years ago’.(21)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Robert Jamieson, 1845): ‘The present church was built about 60 years ago on the site of the former’.(22)

[no reference in either account to earlier church buildings]

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches: (George Hay):1785; renovated 1896 and 1929, 1771 Milne Bell; fragment of medieval kirk. One of the type that had a tower at the middle against the south wall.(23)

Notes

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

2. Mackinlay, Non-Scriptural Dedications, p. 180.

3. CSSR, iv, no. 932.

4. CPL, xiii, 844 & 857.

5. St Andrews Formulare, i, 38.

6. Prot Bk of John Foular, 1514-28, iii, no. 595.

7. RMS, ii, no. 2154.

8. Prot Bk of John Foular, 9 March 1500 to 18 September 1503, no. 117.

9. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 106, 110 & 117.

10. Ibid, 139.

11. Donaldson, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, 27.

12. Acts and Proceedings of the General Assemblies of the Kirk of Scotland, i, 6.

13. Acts and Proceedings of the General Assemblies of the Kirk of Scotland, i, 53.

14. Synod Records of Lothian and Tweeddale, p.49.

15. NRS Presbytery of Edinburgh, Minutes, 1586-1593, CH2/121/1, fol. 91.

16. NRS Presbytery of Edinburgh, Minutes, 1593-1601, CH2/121/2, fols. 97-99.

17. NRS Presbytery of Edinburgh, Minutes, 1593-1601, CH2/121/2, fols. 242-243.

18. NRS Presbytery of Edinburgh, Minutes, 1593-1601, CH2/121/2, fols. 297-298.

19. NRS Presbytery of Edinburgh, Minutes, 1601-1607, CH2/121/3, fol. 62.

20. Reports on the State of Certain Parishes in Scotland, pp. 59-60.

21. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1791), v, 317.

22. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1845), i, 554.

23. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, pp.84, 118, 175, 198 & 264.

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, Presbytery of Edinburgh, Minutes, 1601-1607, CH2/121/3.

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.

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.

Mackinlay, J.M, 1914, Ancient Church Dedications in Scotland. Non-Scriptural Dedications, Edinburgh.

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

Protocol Book of John Foular, 1503-1513, 1940, ed. W. McLeod (Scottish record Society), Edinburgh.

Protocol Book of John Foular, 1514-28, 1944, ed. M. Wood (Scottish record Society), Edinburgh.

St Andrews Formulare, 1514-46, 1942-44, eds. G. Donaldson and C. Macrae (Stair Society), Edinburgh.

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

Synod Records of Lothian and Tweeddale, 1589-1596, 1640-1649, 1977, ed. J. Kirk (Stair Society), Edinburgh.

Architectural description

The church of Kinleith had been annexed to the archdeaconry of Lothian by 1296. In 1484 there was a proposal to erect a vicarage pensionary though in the event it was a vicarage portionary that was erected.(1)

At some stage after the Reformation, what appears to have been the chancel of the medieval church was adapted as a free-standing burial vault, measuring 9.6 by 6.96 metres. The date of this adaptation is unknown, but within it is a prominent memorial to Robert Clayhills, who died in 1670. The only identifiable medieval features in its fabric are a window and a door in the south wall: the former has a round arch cut into a lintel, while the latter has a polygonal head cut into a lintel, suggesting a date of construction no earlier than the second quarter of the fifteenth century. They both have chamfered reveals.

It is possible that the burial vault was covered by two levels of vaulting, presumably as part of its adaptation for mortuary purposes, since in 1778 orders were given to remove ‘the upper arch of the Quire’ and to cover the lower arch with stone flags.(2)

Foundations that project to the west of the present church suggest that, if they were part of the medieval building, overall the pre-Reformation church could have been about 38.5 metres long. However, since this would have been an inordinately great length, it may be that those foundations were part of some secondary extension.

Excavations in 2011 exposed a foundation on a north-south alignment to the north of the area between the chancel/burial vault and the present church;(3) this may have been one of the walls referred to in 1906 as having been previously discussed in print by Mr R.B. Langwill.(4) Its location suggests that it was the east wall of a projection on the north side of the nave, which perhaps belonged either to a north aisle of either longitudinal or laterally projecting form or to a sacristy. 

A number of fragmentary medieval cross-incised grave slabs and coped monuments, some of which were found in 1898, have been used to revet the higher ground of the churchyard to the east and south of the chancel/burial vault. A silver ring that was found in the vicinity of the church, and that is inscribed ‘Jesu Fili Dei Miserere me’, is in the National Museum of Scotland.

The church to the west of the chancel/burial vault was rebuilt in 1784-5 by James Thompson of Leith,(5) ‘on the site of the former’,(6) Its main front, which faces north, is of five bays, the central three bays being advanced and capped by a pediment with urn finials at the base. The pointed-arched windows have Y-tracery containing intersecting glazing bars, and there are transoms at the level of the arch springing. Rising behind the pediment is a belfry that has a square lower storey with urn finials at the angles, and an octagonal upper storey pierced by arched openings and capped by a stone spire. The south front is much simpler, now having two large arched windows with raised keystones.

The interior of the church was remodelled by David Bryce in 1835, and the windows were enlarged by David Cousin in 1848.(7) In about 1950 the burial vault was connected to the church by a linking section and adapted as a session house.

Notes

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

2. Alan Reid, ‘Notes on the Churchyards of Currie, Kirknewton and the Calders’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. 40, 1905-6, pp. 217-18.

3. AOC Archaeology Group, Currie Kirk extension: Monitored Topsoil Strip Data Structure Report, 27 October 2011; thanks to Martin Cook for making this report available.

4. Reid, 1905-6, p. 219.

5. Howard Colvin, Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 4th ed., New Haven and London, 2008, p. 1037; National Records of Scotland, CH2/83/7, 24-25.

6. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 1, p. 554.

7. Colin McWilliam, The Buildings of Scotland, Lothian, Harmondsworth, 1978, p. 149.

Map

Images

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  • 1. Currie Church, exterior, from south

  • 2. Currie church, from north

  • 3. Currie Church, possible chancel, exterior, door and window

  • 4. Currie Church, possible chancel, exterior, from south

  • 5. Currie Church, possible chancel, interior

  • 6. Currie churchyard, coped monument fragment, 1

  • 7. Currie churchyard, coped monument fragment, 2

  • 8. Currie churchyard, coped monument fragment, 3

  • 9. Currie churchyard, cross slab fragment, 1

  • 10. Currie churchyard, cross slab fragment, 2

  • 11. Currie churchyard, cross slab fragment, 3

  • 12. Currie churchyard, cross slab fragment, 4

  • 13. Currie churchyard, cross slab fragments, 5

  • 14. Currie churchyard, cross slab fragment, 6

  • 15. Currie churchyard, cross slab fragment, 7

  • 16. Currie churchyard, cross slab fragment, 8

  • 17. Currie churchyard, cross slab fragment, 9