Dalmeny Parish Church

Dalmeny Church, exterior, from south east

Summary description

One of the most complete examples of a four-compartment twelfth-century church in Britain, with much fine detailing, including apse and chancel arches and the south door. A north lateral aisle was added in 1671, and the west tower was demolished at some stage. Restored in 1816 and 1927-37; in the latter operation a new tower was built.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Cuthbert?

Granted to the canons of Jedburgh by Waltheof, son of Cospatric, between c.1180 and c.1200, the church was confirmed to the abbey by Roger de Mowbray, lord of Dalmeny, in the 1230s.(1)  Through the loss of the bulk of the muniments of the abbey, records of its confirmation in the hands of the convent by bishops of St Andrews have been entirely lost and there is no contemporary evidence survives for when it was confirmed to Jedburgh in proprios usus.  Material incorporated into the later kirk session records, however, suggest that David de Bernham, bishop of St Andrews, confirmed the canons’ possession of the church in 1248.(2)  According to the same source, a vicarage settlement was agreed in 1271 and a clerk was presented to Bishop Gamelin, who confirmed him in possession of the perpetual vicarage of Dalmeny.(3

In the rolls of the papal tax-collector in the mid-1270s, the status of the church is made less clear by the odd manner in which it is recorded in the accounts.  There are separate entries in the 1275-1276 tax year for both the ‘church’ of Dalmeny, which is usually understood to refer to unappropriated parsonages, and to the vicarage, at 42s and 6s 8d respectively, and for the second term for the ‘church’ at 49s 2d and the vicarageagain at 6s 8d.(4)  This must be an accounting device which reflects the fact that this was the sole church in St Andrews diocese appropriated to Jedburgh whose revenues were uplifted by the canons (its churches north of the Forth were assigned for the support of the priory-cell at Restenneth), and so able to be distinguished from the abbey’s other income, as the separate figures for the vicarage indicates that a settlement must have been instituted by that date.

A number of perpetual vicars are recorded through the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.(5)  Across this period the parsonage revenues were being uplifted by Jedburgh.  In 1455, however, record survives of the early feuing of the right to uplift the teind sheaves of the parish to a layman, Philip Pyle, who received a lease for life in return for a one-off payment of 500 merks.(6)  Interestingly, one of the men seeking provision to the vicarage in 1470 was Thomas Pyle, suggesting that the Pyle family had maintained and developed its interest in the parish.  The parsonage revenues continued to be feued at the Reformation, when they were set for £160 annually to Thomas Hamilton of Priestsfield.(7)  Held by WilliamMcDowell, the vicarage was valued at £20 annually.(8)  It is only at this time that the existence of two chaplainries at altars in the church is recorded in a surviving source.  The chaplainry at the altar of St Cuthbert, held by Patrick Mowbray (who also had the chaplainry of St Thomas in neighbouring Cramond kirk), was valued at 23 merks annually,(9), which indicates a substantial past endowment, but by whom is unknown.  The second is the altar of Our Lady, the altarage of which pertained to James Wychtmuir and was valued at £5 18s 4d.(10)


1. I B Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society, 1967), 44.

2. NRS, Records of Dalmeny Kirk Session, CH2/86/19, no. 1.

3. NRS, Records of Dalmeny Kirk Session, CH2/86/19, no. 2.

4. 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), 55, 56, 57.

5. See, for example, CPP, 548-49; Copiale Prioratus Sanctiandree, ed J H Baxter (Oxford, 1930), 406; Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, xii, 1458-1471, ed J A Twemlow (London, 1933), 736-37, 433-34.

6. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, v, 1447-1471, eds J Kirk, R J Tanner and A I Dunlop (Glasgow, 1997), no.557.

7. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 216.

8. Kirk (ed), Books of Assumption, 152.

9. Kirk (ed), Books of Assumption, 149-150.

10. Kirk (ed), Books of Assumption, 154-5.

Summary of relevant documentation


Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Granted to Jedburgh by Waldeve son of Gospatrick (1180x1200). Remained annexed in parsonage while a perpetual vicar served the cure.(1)

1248 David de Bernham, bishop of St Andrews, confirmed the chirograph.(2)

1271 Vicarage established, clerk presented to Gamelin, bishop of St Andrews, for confirmation.(3)

1378 John de Bothwell (domestic chaplain of William, earl of Douglas and graduate of university of Montpellier) has perpetual vicarage of Dalmeny.(4)

1421 John Feldew resigns church of Dalmeny to hold the vicarage of Inverkeilor; had been vicar since 1418.(5)

1455 Abbot and Convent of Jedburgh granted in ferme or leased all and sundry the teind scheaves of the parish church of Dalmeny to Philip Pyle, layman, for life at a cost of 500 marks (charter is in his name, some dispute over the grant).(6)

1470 Settlement following suit between Thomas Pyle and William Mowat over the vicarage following death of James Mowbray. Both men resign claim and Robert Cottis (MA) becomes vicar. Robert still vicar in 1475.(7)

#1497 (25 Oct) Steven Douglas presented to vicarage on resignation.(8)


Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage held by Jedburgh, set for £160; ‘patronage pertains to Thomas Hamilton of Drumbarnie’. Vicarage held by William McDowell, value £20.(9)

Altars and Chaplainries

Chaplainry of St Cuthbert’s altar, held (along with altar of St Thomas in Cramond) by Patrick Mowbray, value 23 marks. Chaplaincy of Our Lady’s altar held by James Wightman, £5 18s 4d.(10)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of vicarage £6 13s 4d.(11)

1565 (27 Dec) Complaint made against Patrick Criech, minister of Ratho, for marrying Robert Paterson and Janel Littell in Dalmeny church, neither declaring the bands nor gets the satisfaction of the kirk of Edinburgh according to the decreet of the last Assembly. (Patrick admits guilt and is suspended temporarily).(12)

#1618 (21 Jan) The kirk of Auldcathie was united to Dalmeny by order of a parliamentary commission.(13)

1623 (19 Feb) Visitation of Dalmeny by the Presbytery of Linlithgow makes no mention of the church but that the manse needs repairing.(14)

1670 (1 May) £12 paid out by the kirk session for mending of the kirk yard dykes and gate thereof. Noted that when the heritors pay for subsequent repair of kirk and manse.(15)

1671 (30 Oct) An act of the kirk session notes that ‘considering that the kirk of Dalmeny is both decorated and rendered more capacious for hearing (of the word) by the lord of Register his building of an ile upon the northsyde of the kirk toward his own seat’.(16)

1686 (7 July) Brief reference to a visitation by the Presbytery of Linlithgow; the minister asked about the state of the church stated that it was in good condition. An extended version of this visit mentions that the manse is ruinous and the kirk yard dykes have need of repair, a new pulpit is also required.(17)

1736 (2 Mar) Visitation of the church by the presbytery of Linlithgow notes several defects in the church, manse and church yard dykes. Tradesmen estimate that repairs on the roof will cost £233, a further £202 for new church yard dykes, £160 for wright and mason work on the church.(18)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Thomas Robertson, 1791): ‘The parish church, from the style of architecture, which is Saxon, or a mixed species between Greek and Gothic, seems to be 7 or 8 hundred years old. It is 84 feet long, by 25 broad’.(19) [no reference to any changes to the medieval fabric]

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev James Scott, 1843): [Long description of the surviving medieval church, refitted and repaired in 1816].(20)


1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 44.

2. NRS, Records of Dalmeny Kirk Session, CH2/86/19, no. 1.

3. NRS, Records of Dalmeny Kirk Session, CH2/86/19, no. 2.

4. CPP, 548-49.

5. Copiale Prioratus Sanctiandree, p.406.

6. CSSR, v, no.557.

7. CPL, xii, 736-37, 433-34.

8. NRS Papers of James Beveridge, M.A., Linlithgow, `Religious houses in Burgh [of Linlithgow] and parish', GD215/1856.

9. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 152, 216 & 219.

10. Ibid, 149-50 & 154-55.

11. Donaldson, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, 26.

12. Acts and Proceedings of the General Assemblies of the Kirk of Scotland, i, 72.

13. NRS Papers of James Beveridge, M.A., Linlithgow, `Religious houses in Burgh [of Linlithgow] and parish', GD215/1856.

14. NRS Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1618-1632, CH2/242/2, fol. 90.

15. NRS Dalmeny Kirk Session, 1669-1677, CH2/86/1, fol. 20.

16. NRS Dalmeny Kirk Session, 1669-1677, CH2/86/1, fol. 27.

17. NRS Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1676-1688, CH2/242/6, fol. 152-153 & 158.

18. NRS Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1731-1742, CH2/242/13, fols. 1440-145.

19. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1791), i, 235.

20. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1843), ii, 102.


National Records of Scotland,  Dalmeny Kirk Session, 1669-1677, CH2/86/1.

National Records of Scotland Papers of James Beveridge, M.A., Linlithgow, `Religious houses in Burgh [of Linlithgow] and parish', GD215/1856.

National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1618-1632, CH2/242/2.

National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1676-1688, CH2/242/6.

National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1731-1742, CH2/242/13.

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.

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

Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1447-71, 1997, ed. J. Kirk, R.J. Tanner and A.I. Dunlop, Edinburgh.

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.

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.

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

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

Architectural description

Dalmeny was granted to the Augustinian abbey of Jedburgh by Waltheof, son of Gospatric, lord of Dalmeny, at a date between 1180 and 1200.(1) On stylistic grounds it is most likely that the church had been built some decades prior to that grant, probably around the second quarter of the twelfth century. Since it is one of the most ambitious churches to have been built in Scotland at that time, its patron must presumably have been an individual of very high status. Ownership of the lands of Dalmeny at that time is not entirely clear, but it is attractive to speculate that the builder could have been one of the two Gospatric earls of Dunbar, who died successively in about 1138 and 1166; the greater likelihood being that it was the second of those, who is known to have been a great patron of the Church.(2

It is the most complete of the Scottish Romanesque churches, having retained its apse, chancel and nave, all of which are constructed of grey ashlar;(3) the only major loss has been the west tower, which was demolished without record at an unknown date.(4) So far as can now be determined no significant structural changes were carried out before the Reformation, and most of the post-Reformation additions were on the less visible north side, which means that the church still presents essentially the same appearance as its original builders intended.

The first known addition to the plan, in 1671, was a rectangular aisle for the Primrose family, who acquired the Dalmeny estate in 1662, and who were in due course to be elevated to the viscountcy and earldom of Rosebery. Further works are indicated by the date 1766, which is incised on the south kneeler of the nave’s west gable, and this was presumably when a single roof was constructed over both the nave and chancel. It is to this operation that the destruction of the nave’s wall-head corbel table can almost certainly be attributed, while the wall head of the chancel had to be built up.(5

In 1816 the interior of the church was refitted,(6) and it was probably as a part of these works that the Rosebery Aisle was given a more Romanesque appearance through the construction of octagonal turrets at its northern angles and the provision of a doorway and windows that take their lead from those in the church. The plan published by MacGibbon and Ross also shows a now-lost offshoot to the east of the aisle, which was entered by a door on the north side of the chancel; the chases for a double pitched roof that would have covered this offshoot remain in evidence against the exterior of the chancel. This was perhaps the ‘private room’ for the Dundas family referred to in the New Statistical Account, where it was said to have been built more recently than 1816. At some stage a neo-Romanesque bellcote was built on the west gable, after the tower had been demolished; this may have been a part of the 1816 operations or alternatively it may date to 1832, when a new bell was purchased.

The internal appearance of the church following the refitting of 1816 and later works is well illustrated by MacGibbon and Ross. The main structural implications were that the leading shafts of the chancel and apse arches were cut back in order to open up the internal space, though we should at least be grateful that they were not altogether removed, as frequently happened elsewhere, and as had earlier been suggested at Dalmeny itself.

The focus of worship within the reordered church was the pulpit against the south nave wall, directly opposite the pews and loft in the Rosebery Aisle. Within the chancel, in front of the door into the presumed private room of the Dundas family was a large enclosed pew. There was a deep gallery in the western part of the nave that was once reached from a stair on the north side of the nave. Plaster ceilings in imitation of vaults were constructed over the nave. That over the east end, in front of the Rosebery Aisle, was treated as a ribbed quadripartite vault of flattened profile, that was clearly intended to follow the forms of the chancel vault; that over the western part of the nave was of barrel form. The walls of lower part of the church were lined with timber boarding, and the upper walls plastered; the whole church was filled with box pews.

Most of these nineteenth-century internal interventions were reversed in a campaign of restoration under the direction of Alfred Greig that was carried out between 1927 and 1937, as part of which a new western tower was built. The design of this tower was rather more stocky than was entirely appropriate for a church of this calibre; but it was perhaps to be preferred to a design for an extremely tall tower, modelled on that of the church of St Regulus in St Andrews, which was proposed by Peter Macgregor Chalmers before his death in 1922.   

Having briefly touched upon some of the post-Reformation interventions that have conditioned the appearance of the church, we must now consider how far what remains is of medieval date. The walls rest on a narrow chamfered base course; running around at a higher level is a string course that is wholly or partly decorated with foliage trails, on which the windows rest. This string course steps down from the nave to the chancel and from the chancel to the apse, reflecting the relative heights of those parts. A wall-head corbel table extends around the apse and chancel, and at the top of the salient in the south wall within which the main entrance is set. The corbel table around the rest of the nave has been destroyed, however, presumably when the roofs were remodelled in 1766. Nearly all of the corbels appear to have been of human or animal heads.

In the nave there are three windows in the south wall, but only one in the north, though there may have been others where the wall was removed to create an opening to the Rosebery Aisle. The chancel now has one window in each of its side walls, and the apse has three. All of the windows have chevron-decorated outer orders carried on en délit nook shafts with corinthianesque capitals, and with hood moulds decorated in a variety of ways. Many of the windows have been subjected to greater or lesser degrees of restoration, with that to the west of the main entrance apparently being a complete recreation. With the exception of the windows in the flanks of the apse, early views show that most of the widows have had their daylight opening increased at some stage by paring back the plain inner order, but those inner orders have been restored to what is assumed to have been their original form in the restoration of 1927-37.

The main external architectural embellishment is concentrated on the doorway towards the west end of the south nave wall. That doorway is set within a salient which once rose to near the nave wall head, and which is given enhanced emphasis through having a superstructure with decorative intersecting blind arcading carried on paired shafts. Related superstructures with decorative arcading are also found in differing forms at both Kelso and Dunfermline Abbeys, though at the latter the arcading is simple rather than intersecting. There has evidently been a porch with a double-pitched roof over the door at some stage, the chases for which are still to be seen. It might be added that a door has also been cut through the south wall of the chancel at some unknown date and, although it has been blocked, the traces of a porch roof are also to be seen there.

As with the windows, the inner order of the south door was removed to increase the opening, but it was reinstated in the 1927-37 restoration. The two outer orders have survived, and are carried on carried on restored en délit nook shafts with capitals either of basically corinthianesque form, or with loosely organised interlace. In the arch, the middle order is carved with representations of birds and animals, but also with a depiction of the Agnus Dei. The outer order has relief carvings of head masks, foliage and quadrupeds, some of which may represent signs of the zodiac. It has been shown that this carving is related to the west doorway at Dunfermline Abbey and to a now lost doorway at Edinburgh St Giles.(7)

Internally, unlike at Leuchars, where the windows were provided with shafted rear arches, at Dalmeny the rear-arches are simply splayed. The main foci of attention are the apse and chancel arches and the ribbed vaulting over the apse and chancel. The two arches each have responds of the most common form, with a leading half shaft on the face of a pilaster that is flanked by three-quarter nook shafts, and the caps are scalloped. The similarities between the two arches extend to the fact that they both have chevron decoration to the orders, within a chip-carved hood mould. However, the chancel arch is the more elaborate of the two, having three orders of chevron as opposed to just two to the apse arch.

Both chancel and apse are covered by ribbed vaults supported by head corbels. It is striking that the chancel vault is the more richly decorated of the two, having chevron decoration to the flanks of the ribs, whereas the apse ribs are simply moulded. It may be noted, incidentally, that in the case of the apse vault, despite the elongated plan of that space, a single vault covers the whole of it, unlike at Leuchars, where there is a short section of barrel vault over the straight-sided westward extension to the curve of the apse.

The possible location of the principal altar is a matter of considerable interest at Dalmeny. The relatively great depth of the apse might suggest that the altar had been located within that part. However, the way in which the chancel arch is more richly treated than the apse arch, and the fact that the chancel is covered by what is in effect a ciborium of quadripartite vaulting, could indicate that a location in the chancel, with the apse as a backdrop, is more likely.

It has been plausibly suggested that the presence at Dalmeny of some of the same masons’ marks as are found at Dunfermline Abbey could indicate that a number of the same masons were involved. Certainly the presence of Dunfermline masons, some of whom had worked previously at Durham, would be the best way of explaining both the form and quality of much of the work.

The only identifiably later medieval feature in the church is a recess beneath a moulded semi-circular arch in the south wall of the chancel. Much of the feature must be relatively recent, since this was the point at which a door was once cut through the wall. Nevertheless, there appears to have been some basis for its restored form, though its function is uncertain. It has the appearance of a tomb recess, though the favoured position for tombs in chancels was in the north wall, where they could serve the additional function of an Easter Sepulchre; its location on the south side of the chancel may indicate that it was intended to serve as sedilia.

Within the churchyard is a stone sarcophagus that is evidently of Romanesque date, with carving on three of its faces, which perhaps suggests that it was designed to be set against a wall. On the decorated long faces are thirteen figures within an arcade, which it has been suggested might represent Christ and his apostles. On each end is what appears to have been a carving of a mythical beast.


1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland, Scottish Record Society, 1967, p. 44.

2. Elsa Hamilton, Mighty Subjects, the Dunbar Earls in Scotland, Edinburgh, 2010, pp. 65-78.

3. Good descriptions of the church will be found in: David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland, Edinburgh, vol. 1, 1896, pp. 298-309; Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Inventory of Midlothian and West Lothian, Edinburgh, 1929, pp. 201-03; Ian G. Lindsay, St Cuthbert’s Parish Kirk, Dalmeny, Falkirk, 1949; Christopher Wilson in Colin McWilliam, The Buildings of Scotland, Lothian, Harmondsworth, 1978, pp. 168–70.

4. It is illustrated without its tower in Robert William Billings, The Baronial and Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1845-52, vol. 1.

5. This roof is shown by both Billings and MacGibbon and Ross.

6. The date given in New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 2, p. 102.

7. Neil Cameron, ‘The Romanesque Sculpture of Dunfermline Abbey: Durham versus the Vicinal’, in Medieval Art and Architecture in the Diocese of St Andrews, ed. John Higgitt , British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions, 1994, pp. 118-23.



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

  • 1. Dalmeny Church, exterior, from south east

  • 2. Dalmeny Church, exterior (Billings)

  • 3. Dalmeny Church, exterior, choir and apse from north

  • 4. Dalmeny Church, exterior, tower, nave and Rosebery Aisle from north west

  • 5. Dalmeny Church, exterior, choir north corbel; table

  • 6. Dalmeny Church, exterior, choir window

  • 7. Dalmeny Church, exterior, dated skewputt at nave south-west corner

  • 8. Dalmeny Church, exterior, door arch

  • 9. Dalmeny Church, exterior, entrance

  • 10. Dalmeny Church, exterior, Rosebery Aisle, arms on west face

  • 11. Dalmeny Church, exterior, south door east caps

  • 12. Dalmeny Church, exterior, south door, west caps

  • 13. Dalmeny Church, interior (Billings)

  • 14. Dalmeny Church, interior, apse arch

  • 15. Dalmeny Church, interior, apse arch north caps

  • 16. Dalmeny Church, interior, apse arch south caps

  • 17. Dalmeny Church, interior, apse arch, north respond

  • 18. Dalmeny Church, interior, apse arch, south respond

  • 19. Dalmeny Church, interior, apse vault

  • 20. Dalmeny Church, interior, chancel arch

  • 21. Dalmeny Church, interior, chancel arch, north respond

  • 22. Dalmeny Church, interior, chancel arch, south respond

  • 23. Dalmeny Church, interior, chancel vault

  • 24. Dalmeny Church, interior, from west 1

  • 25. Dalmeny Church, interior, from west 2

  • 26. Dalmeny Church, interior, from west 3

  • 27. Dalmeny Church, interior, recess in north chancel wall

  • 28. Dalmeny Church, sarcophagus