Dairsie Parish Church

Dairise Church, exterior, from the south

Summary description

A rectangular structure of 1621 with a bellcote at the south-west corner, built as a model for churches at a time of episcopal church government. Modified in 1794 and 1835-37. Not in ecclesiastical use since 1969.

Historical outline

Dedication: Our Lady

Dairsie first appears between 1160 and 1162 during the episcopate of the shortlived Bishop Arnold of St Andrews, who granted and confirmed the church to canons of St Andrews cathedral-priory.(1)  In 1163, Prior Walter received a bull of confirmation from Pope Alexander III of all of his priory’s possessions, amongst which the church was listed.(2)  Although the patronage was held by the priory from that date, around 1240, Bishop David de Bernham secured the provision to the ‘church of St Mary of Dairsie’ of John son of John of the Cellar, his clerk, for life, but compensating the canons with an annual pension of 2s from the fruits of the parish, which had apparently been paid customarily by the rectors.(3)  On 2 August 1243, Bishop David dedicated the church.(4)  The church remained a free parsonage in the patronage of the canons of St Andrews in the later thirteenth century, appearing as such (as the church of Deruisin) in the rolls of the papal tax-collector in Scotland in the mid-1270s, valued at 4 merks.(5)

St Andrew’s control of the church was extended in 1300 when Bishop William Lamberton confirmed it to them in proprios usus, to take effect on the death or resignation of the incumbent, who was named simply as John.(6)  They gained corporal possession in 1304.(7)  In his chronicle Scotichronicon, however, Walter Bower states that Lamberton granted the church to the priory at the time of the dedication of the cathedral at St Andrews nearly two decades after the date of his charter in the priory register,(8) but this later ‘grant’ may simply have been a confirmation of his earlier award.

From the time of this annexation, the cure was served by a vicar perpetual, incumbents being recorded infrequently through the later fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.(9)  At the Reformation, the parsonage was still held by the cathedral-priory, valued at £186, while the vicarage, in the hands of Mr Robert Winram, was valued at £10.(10)

Notes

1. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree in Scotia (Bannatyne Club, 1841), 128 [hereafter St Andrews Liber].

2. St Andrews Liber, 55.

3. St Andrews Liber, 306.

4. A O Anderson (ed), Early Sources of Scottish History, ii (Edinburgh, 1922), 524 [Pontifical Offices of St Andrews].

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

6. St Andrews Liber, 120.

7. St Andrews Liber, xxxvi.

8. Walter Bower, Scotichronicon, ed D E R Watt and others, vi (Aberdeen, 1991), 413-5.

9. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland; Papal Petitions, ed W H Bliss (London, 1893), 558, 560; St Andrews Liber, 411-412; Copiale Prioratus Sanctiandree. The Letter-Book of James Haldenstone, Prior of St Andrews (1418-1443), ed J H Baxter (Oxford, 1930), 436.

10. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 14, 17, 79.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Patronage granted to Priory of St Andrews by bishop Ernald of St Andrews 1160x62, annexed in proprious usus by 1300. Cure served by a perpetual vicar, parsonage with the priory.(1)

Place Names of Fife vol. 4 notes that the medieval church stood on a high piece of ground overlooking the bridge and the river. Its site is now occupied by the church built in 1621 by John Spottiswoode.(2)

1160 x 1162 Arnold, bishop of St Andrews, gave (dare) to the cathedral priory the church of Dairsie and in addition he conceded a ploughgate of land in the dame vill. The charter is attested by the thane of Dairsie.(3)

1160 x 1162 Arnold, bishop of St Andrews, confirmed (general confirmation) the church of Dairsie with lands, tithes, oblations and one ploughgate of land as his own gift.(4)

1165 x 1169 William I confirmed (general confirmation) the church of Dairsie to the priory with lands, tithes, oblations, and one ploughgate of land as a gift of Arnold, bishop of St Andrews.(5)

1165 x 1166 Richard, bishop of St Andrews, confirmed (general confirmation) the church of Dairsie with lands, tithes, oblations and with one ploughgate of land in the same vill as a gift of Bishop Arnold.(6)

1178 x 1184 Hugh, bishop of St Andrews, confirms (general confirmation) the church of Dairsie with lands, tithes, and oblations and with one ploughgate in the same vill as a gift of Bishop Arnold.(7)

1198 x 1199 Roger, bishop of St Andrews, confirms (general confirmation) the church of Dairsie with lands, tithes, and oblations and also one ploughgate of land in the same vill as a gift of Bishop Arnold.(8)

1189 x 1198 Roger, bishop-elect of St Andrews, gave (dare) to the priory the land of Duffcupar (in Cupar, Fife) in exchange for the land of Dairsie, which was held by Elias from the canons. The bishop-elect gives the lands of Duffcupar to canons with full easements and common pasture (equal to that which was held in Dairsie). In addition, the charter stipulated that the canons will hold the lands entirely free from cáin and conveth and also from the common secular burdens of army and aides. The bishop-elect also provides warrandice. The release from cáin and conveth would appear to place the lands on par to the glebe land they held in Dairsie.(9)

1228 Alexander II confirmed (general confirmation) the church with lands, tithes, and oblations.(10)

Papal confirmations

1163 Pope Alexander III confirmed the church of Dairsie with lands, tithes, and oblations and a ploughgate in the vill as a gift of Bishop Arnold.

1183 Pope Lucius III confirmed the church of Dairsie with lands, tithes, oblations and one ploughgate of land in the same vill as a gift of Bishop Arnold. The church of Dairsie was confirmed by Gregory VIII in 1187, Clement III in 1188, Innocent III in 1206, and Honorius III in 1216.(11)

Controversy

1180 Pope Alexander III confirmed the actions of Alexis, the papal legate, in a letter addressed to Prior Walter and the convent of St Andrews. It notes that the church of Dairsie, which had been illegally conferred by Hugh to Master Jocelin after the annulment of his election, was restored by Alexis.(12)

1180 Alexis, the papal legate sent to consider the controversial elections at St Andrews, excommunicated Jocelin, archdeacon of Dunkeld. This was done on the grounds that the church of Dairsie had been taken from the cathedral priory by Hugh and given to Jocelin in order to secure his support with the king. The papal legate ordered that the church be restored to the prior and canons of St Andrews. Therefore, between 1178 and 1180 the church of Dairsie had been taken from the cathedral priory and bestowed upon Joceli.(13)

1178 x 1188 Hugh, bishop of St Andrews, gave (dare) to the cathedral priory half a mark in the mill above the land of the church of Dairsie which Duncan II, earl of Fife, owes to the bishop annually. The charter is attested by William, parson of Dairsie.(14)

1240 x 1245 David de Bernham, instituted John, son of John, the bishop’s cellarer, as parson of the church of Dairsie with lands, tithes, and obventions upon the presentation of cathedral priory. John as parson of Dairsie owed an annual pension of 2 shillings to the cathedral priory, which has been customarily paid to the house by the minister of the church.(15)

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.(16)

1301 William Lamberton, bishop of St Andrews, grants the ‘church of Dairsie with its land of Duffcupar and with all rights pertaining to it in which the said canons held the right of patronage (ius patronatus).’At the end of the tenure of John, the rector, the priory will hold the church in proprios usus.(17)

1318 (5 Sept) According to Bower, William Lamberton, bishop of St Andrews, marked the consecration of the newly built St Andrews cathedral with a gift of the churches of Abercrombie and Dairsie to the priory of SA.(18)

1381 John de Dairsie described a perpetual vicar.(19)

1437 Robert Short, a notary is vicar of Dairsie.(20)

1491 Gilbert Halden, vicar of Dairse was matriculated at Louvain in canon law, (Baxter suggests he was in the suite of William Scheves, archbishop of SA).(21)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage with priory of St Andrews, value £186. Vicarage held by Robert Wynrame, value £10.(22)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of vicarage £2 4s 5 1/3d.(23)

Long running issues regarding the Rood Screen and burial in the new church built by Spottiswoode in 1621, considered by the Fife Synod to be superstitious practices.

1641 (5 Oct) Report made by Patrick Scougall (minister of Dairsie) that there were ‘sundrie croses in there kirk of Dairsie which be some was not thought to be superstitious’. Fife Synod order a visitation of the church to examine these and to enquire regarding burials in the church on first Tuesday of November.(24)

1641 (2 Nov) Commission finds in the church ‘crosiar staffs’, in some part alone and in other as an addition to the last pretended bishops’ arms’. Also found ‘superstitious’ a glorious partition wall, with a degree ascending thereto, dividing the body of the kirk from the choir. (considered this to be too similar to Catholic designs). They also observed a superstition anent burials in the kirk, especially in the east end of the kirk. Commission orders heritors to appear before the Presbytery of Cupar and desist from burial in the kirk.(25)

1642 (5 Apr) Ministers appointed to visit the church of Dairsie regarding the superstitions monuments and kirk burial, found that the platform above the great west door held cross staffs and that the partition wall divided the body of the church from the choir.(26)

1642 (4 Oct) Minister Patrick Scougall reports to the Synod of Fife that their order that the heritors must take down the partition timber wall has yet to be carried out.(27)

1643 (4 Oct) Report by the group commissioned to visit the church of Dairsie and demolish the wall, that they were unable to take the wall down as it is attached to the Laird of Dairsie’s seat. Agreement made with the laird that the walls and seat will be removed by the following Whitsun.(28)

1644 (1 Oct) Synod mentions that it is regret that the partition wall at Dairsie has still not been removed (the earl of Crawford agrees to see to it). (Scougall sent to minister to the Balcarres regiment. [punishment?](29)

1645 (20 May) Synod orders Alexander Inglis of Kingask, deputy baillie of the regality of St Andrews to fulfil the order of the assembly for the ‘full removing of what is superstitious in the kirk of Dairsie, and particularly anent the levelling of the choir. (Alexander promises to get on with it).(30)

1646 (7 Apr) Nothing has happened, so the assembly orders Mrs James Wedderburn and Walter Grieg to ‘press Alexander Inglis’ to remove out of the kirk of Dairsie the monuments of superstition.(31)

1647 (1 Oct) The monuments are still to be removed from the church, a further commission appointed to confer with George Moreson, a heritor.(32)

1648 (17 Oct) Session appoints a further commission for visiting the church for removing of the said monuments of superstition.(33) 23 Oct 1648, the commission after meeting with the heritors unanimously conclude that ‘George Moreson shall build a stone wall without the choir in the place of the seat (his seat) and build a loft on top of the wall sufficiently furnished with seats for accommodating his family and tenants. The other heritors are given other seats in the east and west ends of the church with the pulpit to be placed in the south side. George Moreson is to mend and keep intact all the windows in the east of the wall to be built by him. The rest of the heritors, proportionally, are to repair the rest of the windows. (one of the heritors, John …., appeals the decision and takes it to the General Assembly).(34)

1649 (5 Aug) It was noted in the kirk session that the general assembly had demanded that the partition wall in the church is to be demolished.(35) [no steps taken though]

1649 (23 Sep) £6 5s paid to George Millar for glass for one of the kirk windows.(36)

1650 (1 Apr) Further prevarication in the case. The Laird of Dairsie submits a supplication not to be further on the matter (of the monuments and partition wall) as dictated by the general assembly. The session goes on to mention the great difficulty of settling the matter of the church of Dairsie.(37)

1652 (26 May) The synod is informed that the fabric of the kirk of Dairsie is in such ill condition as proves very hindersome to the worship of God (presbytery of Cupar asks to see to it).(38)

1653 (15 Oct) Kirk session calls a meeting of the heritors anent repairing of the windows and fabric of the kirk (the minister to write to Fingask but gets no reply).(39)

1655 (28 Oct) The heritors finally agree [after 2 years!] for the helping of the windows, ‘the long slits are to be repaired with glass and lime and the round above to be built up with clay for a time’.(40)

1673 (7 Sept) £3 6s 8d given out of the poor box for lime for the kirk windows.(41) On 7 Dec £23 13s 4d given to various persons and to glass wright for mending of the window glass in the church.(42)

1696 (14 Oct) Robert Wardie, wright, John Innes, mason, Jim Smith, Blacksmith report, on 24 Nov, that 646 Scots are required for the repairs of the manse and church of Dairsie (no details).(43)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Robert MacCulloch, 1791): ‘The church was built by Archbishop Spottiswood in 1622. The church is a remarkably neat and well proportioned building, having a lead roof, and a spire in the south west corner’.(44)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Angus MacGillivray, 1843): ‘The church built by Archbishop Spottiswood in about 1615’.(45) [note different date to above]

[Also detailed are some problems over the design of the church](46

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches: (George Hay): 1621, renovated 1837, refurnished 1905. Archbishop Spottiswoode  model kirk, 39. Part of Fife tower tradition, most capped by corbelled parapets, known locally as bortizers. A spirelet of corbelled belfry tower of the strange 1621 kirk of Dairsie, displays a regional character.(47)

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 43.

2. Taylor & Markus, The Place-Names of Fife. Volume Four, pp. 322-323.

3. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, p. 128. Dairsie was central vill of the thanage of Dairsie held by the bishops of St Andrews, Grant, 'Thanes and Thanages, from the Eleventh to the Fourteenth Centuries', 42 & 80.

4. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, pp. 130-2.

5. RRS, ii, no. 28.

6. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, pp. 141-44. [1] Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, pp. 144-47.

7. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, pp. 144-47.

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

9. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, p. 45; PNF, IV, pp. 322-3, 329.

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

11. Scotia Pontificia, nos. 50, 119, 148 & 149, Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, pp. 71-6, 76-81.

12. Scotia Pontificia, no. 91.

13. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, p. 83.

14. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, pp. 44-5 & 353. Just as in the case of Leuchars with Saer de Quincy, it appears that the bishop offered cash payment from a mill in Dairsie instead of full rights in the church of Dairsie. The fact that it is attested by the parson of Dairsie seems to be a clue. Simon de Quincy, parson of Leuchars, attests that charter.

15. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, p. 306.

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

17. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, p.120.

18. Chron. Bower, vi, 413-15.

19. CPP, 558 & 560.

20. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, pp.411-12

21. Copiale Prioratus Sanctiandree, p.436.

22. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 14, 17 & 79.

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

24. Selections from the minutes of the Synod of Fife, pp. 127-8.

25. Selections from the minutes of the Synod of Fife, p. 129.

26. NRS Records of the Synod of Fife, 1639-1657, CH2/154/2, fol. 59.

27. Selections  from the minutes of the Synod of Fife, p. 133, NRS Records of the Synod of Fife, 1639-1657, CH2/154/2, fol. 72.

28. NRS Records of the Synod of Fife, 1639-1657, CH2/154/2, fol. 94.

29. NRS Records of the Synod of Fife, 1639-1657, CH2/154/2, fol. 113.

30. Selections from the minutes of the Synod of Fife, p. 141.

31. Selections from the minutes of the Synod of Fife, p. 146.

32. NRS Records of the Synod of Fife, 1639-1657, CH2/154/2, fol. 168.

33. NRS Records of the Synod of Fife, 1639-1657, CH2/154/2, fol. 187.

34. NRS Presbytery of Cupar, Minutes, 1646-1660, CH2/82/1, fols. 95-96.

35. NRS Dairsie Kirk Session, 1648-1704, CH2/427/1, fol. 13.

36. NRS Dairsie Kirk Session, 1648-1704, CH2/427/1, fol. 15.

37. NRS Records of the Synod of Fife, 1639-1657, CH2/154/2, fols. 210 & 211.

38. NRS Records of the Synod of Fife, 1639-1657, CH2/154/2, fol. 241.

39. NRS Dairsie Kirk Session, 1648-1704, CH2/427/1, fol. 54.

40. NRS Dairsie Kirk Session, 1648-1704, CH2/427/1, fol. 69.

41. NRS Dairsie Kirk Session, 1648-1704, CH2/427/1, fol. 119.

42. NRS Dairsie Kirk Session, 1648-1704, CH2/427/1, fol. 120.

43. NRS Presbytery of Cupar, Minutes, 1693-1702, CH2/82/2, fols. 238-242.

44. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1791), iii, 243.

45. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1843), ix, 772.

46. Ibid, 773.

47. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, pp. 39, 43 171 & 214.

Bibliography

National Records of Scotland, Dairsie Kirk Session, 1648-1704, CH2/427/1.

National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Cupar, Minutes, 1646-1660, CH2/82/1.

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

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

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

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

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

Donaldson, G., 1949, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, (Scottish History Society), Edinburgh.

Ecclesiastical Records. Selections  from the minutes of the Synod of Fife, 1611-87, 1837, ed. C. Baxter (Abbotsford Club), Edinburgh.

Grant, A 1993, 'Thanes and Thanages, from the Eleventh to the Fourteenth Centuries', in A. Grant and K. J. Stringer, Medieval Scotland, Crown, Lordship and Community: Essays presented to G.W.S. Barrow, Edinburgh,  39-81.

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.

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

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

Architectural description

There has been a church at Dairsie since at least the early 1160s, when Bishop Arnold granted the patronage to St Andrews Cathedral Priory, and provision for the living to be served by a vicar was made from the early fourteenth century, after it had been appropriated to the priory.(1) There was one of Bishop David de Bernham’s many dedications of the churches in his diocese here on 2 August 1243.(2)

It is likely that the parish church has always been on the present spot where it was probably closer to the land-holder’s residence than to the main population centres within the parish. However, nothing identifiable is known to survive of the medieval church. The present building appears to date entirely from 1621, the date inscribed above the entrance;(3) but it is possible that it was built on the foundations of its medieval predecessor, since the dimensions of its rectangular plan, of about 23.5 by 9.5 metres, and thus with proportions of 2.5 to 1, would be acceptable in a medieval rural church.

Initially, the land-holder was the bishop but the manor was subsequently granted to the bishop’s Baillie, an office that came to be held by successive members of the Lermonth family, and it was they who started to build the castle adjacent to the churchyard. In 1616 the manor of Dairsie became once again the property of St Andrews’ senior churchman, when it was purchased by Archbishop John Spottiswoode of St Andrews, apparently with the intention that it should form the core of a patrimony for his heirs.(4)

Spottiswoode was, of course, a keen advocate of Episcopal government of the Church and favoured a degree of ritual conducted with a due sense of decorum. The church that he rebuilt at Dairsie can be understood as the architectural expression of his views on the way that worship should be conducted, although much of that expression would have been focused in the provision and arrangement of its now-lost liturgical furnishings.

The church was designed with a number of features that were clearly inspired by medieval prototypes, as seen most obviously in the articulation of the walls by buttresses that frame large Gothic three-light plate-traceried windows, and in the provision of a now-lost crenellated parapet along the wall-heads. By the time that Dairsie was built, Gothic archi­tecture was no longer a living tradition, and it is uncertain if Spottiswoode was looking to particular buildings for inspiration. The window tracery, with its triplets of foiled figures cut through slabs of stone could have had as one source the mid-thirteenth-century plate-traceried windows of the choir aisles of Glasgow Cathedral, where Spottiswoode had earlier been archbishop. There could also be elements taken from Dunblane, where the two-light windows of the latest phase of the nave, of perhaps around the 1260s, similarly have foiled figures cut through plates of stone.

Other aspects of the design made little reference to medieval architecture. The octagonal bell turret corbelled out at the south-west corner of the church is clearly of the seventeenth century in the balustrade that runs around the base of the spirelet, a feature reflected on a larger scale in the belfry and spire added to the nearby church of Cupar in 1620. The least medieval feature is the entrance in the west front, which is framed by thinly detailed classical pilasters and capped by an armorial panel in a way that had been foreshadowed in such as the Portcullis Gate at Edinburgh Castle of 1577. Within the armorial panel is an inscription based on the Vulgate Psalm 25 ‘Iehovah dilexi decorem domus tuae’, which, with its emphasis on ‘decorum’ is an appropriate expression of Spottiswoode’s own aspirations for the beauty of worship.

Internally the only fixture to survive the ‘cleansing’ that followed Spottiswoode’s departure, and a radical restoration and reordering carried out in 1835-7, is a paneled door at the foot of the stair turret. But it is known from what was stated at the times that repeated orders were given for the ‘superstitious’ features to be removed between 1641 and 1650(5) that there was originally an axial arrangement of furnishings. By 1652 the church was said to be in such poor repair that it hindered worship.(6)

Culminating the axis was a raised choir area separated from the body of the church by what was described as ‘a glorious partition wall’ surmounted by the quartered arms of England and Scotland. There were also said to be prayer desks, and it must be assumed that there was an altar or com­munion table. It is possible that the desecrated altar mensa could survive as the step in front of the entrance, which is a highly finished slab of an expensive fossil-bearing polishable limestone – an unusual material for a doorstep.

Dairsie was not the first post-Reformation church in Scotland to be built or modified in a broadly medieval architectural idiom. In the early 1580s Sir John Maxwell, fourth Lord Herries, started rebuilding the ‘queir’ of the Dumfriesshire parish church of Terregles with a polygonal apse, a plan type that is clearly medieval in both its form and in the sense of orientation that it gives to the church. This medieval appearance is further emphasised in the simple Y-tracery of its windows. The apse at Terregles probably functioned both as a family burial place and as a distinct chancel in the medieval manner, and it seems possible that the choice of medieval forms was made as an expression of personal religious affiliations by a family that was to revert to Catholicism.

Other churches with some of the architectural trappings of medievalism include Greyfriars Church in Edinburgh, started in about 1602, but where the main building campaign probably took place between 1612 and 1620. It was built as an oriented aisled hall, originally with a tower at its western end. Externally the most Gothic features are the grouped lancet windows and the buttresses; internally, the aisle on each side has a pointed-arched arcade carried on octagonal piers.

Account must also be taken of developments in England, since it was said that Spottiswoode had intended to build his church ‘after the decent English form’. At Peterhouse in Cambridge, for example, the college chapel was rebuilt from 1628 to 1632 when the master was Dr Matthew Wren, a fervent supporter of Charles I and of William Laud, who was to be translated to Canterbury in 1633. The chapel has a striking array of Gothic traceried windows. In a similar spirit, in 1632 in Leeds the church of St John was started in an architectural idiom that, like Greyfriars Church in Edinburgh, might almost be thought to be of the fifteenth century. It is possible that the timber screen between the nave and choir at Leeds, which is surmounted by the royal arms, may have been similar to the ‘glorious partition wall’ and royal arms at Dairsie.

In Scotland the wish to give an ecclesiastical building a Gothic character is seen particularly clearly at George Heriot’s Hospital in Edinburgh, started in 1627 to the designs of William Wallace, the royal master mason, and continued after his death in 1631 by William Aytoun, his former assistant. The building is a massive Italian-inspired palatial quadrangular structure with tower-like pavilions at the angles, and much of the detailing is strongly classical, with pediments to many doorways and windows. But in the chapel medieval architectural forms were chosen for the window tracery.

Dairsie is thus by no means isolated in its employment of revived medieval forms, though it does appear to be one of the earlier examples. It is therefore particularly unfortunate that the original furnishings have been destroyed, though externally the church remains much as it was built, apart from the replacement of the flat roof and crenellated parapet by a hipped roof in 1794. Major repairs and modifications were carried out by John Kennedy and John MacCulloch in 1835-7,(7) and there was a re-ordering in 1905.(8) Following the union of the Church of Scotland and United Free Church of Scotland in 1929, attempts were made to maintain both the old parish church and the Free church in the village, but by 1969 it had been decided that only the more conveniently located Free church could be retained in use. Since then the parish church has been used as a store by the St Andrews University library and the St Andrews Preservation Trust, but it is currently empty and without any use.

Notes

1. Ian Cowan, The Parishes of medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 43.

2. Alan Orr Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History, Edinburgh, 1922, p. 524.

3. Published accounts of the church include: J. Russell Walker, Pre-Reformation Churches in Fife and the Lothians, Edinburgh, 1888; David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1893, vol. 5, pp 153-56;  The Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the Counties of Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, Edinburgh, 1933, p. 176; John Gifford, the Buildings of Scotland, Fife, London, 1988, p. 169.

4. The ownership of the estate is discussed in Marinell Ash, ‘Dairsie and Archbishop Spottiswoode’ Records of the Scottish Church History Society, vol. 19, 1976, pp 125-32.

5. George R. Kinloch, ed., Selections from the Minutes of the Synod of Fife (Abbotsford Club), 1837, pp. 129, 133, 141, 146; National Records of Scotland, Records of the Synod of Fife, 1639-57, CH2/154/2, fols 58v, 93v, 113r, 167v, 187r, 209v, 211v.

6. National Records of Scotland, Records of the Synod of Fife, 1639-57, CH2/154/2, fol. 241r.

7. Buildings of Scotland, Fife, London, p. 169.

8. George Hay, the Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, Oxford, 1957, p. 256.

Map

Images

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

  • 1. Dairise Church, exterior, from the south

  • 2. Dairsie Church, exterior, west front

  • 3. Dairsie Church, exterior, east wall

  • 4. Dairsie Church, exterior, west door

  • 5. Dairsie Church, exterior, arms over entrance

  • 6. Dairsie Church, interior looking west

  • 7. Dairsie Church, interior, looking east

  • 8. Dairsie Church, east elevation (Walker)

  • 9. Dairsie Church, south elevation

  • 10. Dairsie Church, west elevation (Walker)

  • 11. Dairsie Church, plan