Dun Parish Church

Dun Church (mausoleum), exterior, from south east

Summary description

The medieval church was probably of two compartments. The chancel and sacristy were adapted as a mausoleum after a new church was built on a different site in 1833-34.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Andrew the Apostle

By the time of the first surviving record of the church of Dun, in the rolls of the papal tax-collector in Scotland compiled 1274-5, it had already been appropriated to another institution, being recorded only as a vicarage and assessed for tax at 6s 8d.(1)  It was only in 1418 that the identity of the appropriator was recorded in a surviving source, when the nuns of the Cistercian priory of Elcho near Perth received papal confirmation of all of their possessions.(2)  It continued so appropriated at the Reformation, the parsonage held by the prioress of Elcho being set to the Laird of Dun for £71 6s and 8d annually, while the vicarage, held by Mr Robert Auchmutie, was valued at £20.(3)

The Erskines of Dun were significant patrons of their local parish church.  In 1490, John Erskine of Dun, Mariota Graham his wife, and their son, John, granted and confirmed an annual rent of 20s from various named properties to sustain a chaplain celebrating at the altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the parish church of St Andrew the Apostle of Dun.  Royal confirmation of the grant was made under the Great Seal on 21 May 1491.(4)

Notes

1. A I Dunlop (ed), ‘Bagimond’s Roll: Statement of the Tenths of the Kingdom of Scotland’, Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vi (1939), 40.

2. Calendar of Papal Letters to Scotland of Pope Benedict XIII of Avignon 1394-1419, ed F McGurk (Scottish History Society, 1976), 374.

3. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 381, 393, 396.

4. Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum, ii, 1424-1513, ed J B Paul (Edinburgh, 1882), no.2044.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: It was listed as a vicarage in Bagimond's Roll. The parsonage was annexed to the Cistercian nunnery at Elcho; no reference before 1418.(1)

1418 Confirmation of the possession of the church of Dun by the monastery of Elcho.(2)

1434 Patrick Rede and Walter Kaa (MA and son of a priest) both petition for Dun (value £8); not clear who is successful.(3)

1490 (10 Mar) The King (James IV) has confirmed in mortmain a charter of John Erskine, lord of Dun, Mariota Graham, his wife, and John Erskine, their younger son and feudatory of Dun, by which they granted to one chaplain at the altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the parish church of Blessed Andrew the Apostle, Dun, to celebrate mass, the annual revenue of 20 shillings from two crofts and tofts of lands lying in Kincardine in the Mearns, namely, Chapel-croft, lying on the eastern side of the chapel of St Catherine.(4)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church vicarage held by Robert Auchmowty, value £40, only £20 without pasche fines etc. Parsonage pertains to nuns of Elcho, value 107 marks (£71 6s 8d).(5)

1656 (2 Oct) Visitation of the church by the presbytery of Brechin finds the minister (James Lichton) to be competent. The presbytery asked the minister and elders how the fabric of the church is maintained; they answer that it is maintained by penalties and collections, the presbytery, being displeased, order that the fabric of the church shall be maintained by the heritors and not to take the charity for the poor for public use.(6)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev James Lauder, 1791):

 ‘The kirk is within Mr Erskine’s enclosures. It appears anciently to have been a chapel belonging to the family of Dun. The church is in good repair. It has two lofts, one to the east and one to the west. The east end of the church is termed the choir, and has a font in the wall, intended, of old for baptism’.(7)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev John Eadie, 1833):

 ‘The church is located within the Marquis of Ailsa’s enclosures, is very convenient for the greater part of the population. The roof and ceiling is so much decayed, that it is proposed at present (1833) to have the church renewed (footnote next to this states ‘a new church has been built since the above was written).(8)

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches: (George Hay): 1834; 1615 pulpit, 1815 Barclay Bell.(9)

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 50.

2. Calendar of Papal letters to Scotland of Benedict XIII of Avignon, 374.

3. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1433-47, nos.167 and 168.

4. Register of the Great Seal of Scotland, ii, no. 2044.

5. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 381, 393 and 396.

6. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Brechin, Minutes, 1639-1661, CH2/40/1, fols. 365-366.

7. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1791), iii, 359-60.

8. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1833), xi, 126.

9. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, pp. 185 and 245.

Bibliography

National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Brechin, Minutes, 1639-1661, CH2/40/1.

Calendar of Papal letters to Scotland of Benedict XIII of Avignon, 1976, ed. F. McGurk, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh.

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

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

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

By the time of the compilation of Bagimond’s Roll in 1276, Dun was listed as a vicarage, indicating that the parsonage had already been annexed. It was certainly annexed to the Cistercian nunnery of Elcho by no later than 1418.(1)

The church remained in use for worship after the Reformation, though by the eighteenth century extensive works were evidently required. Between 1715 and 1719 the choir was being ‘rebuilt’ and the walls heightened,(2) while in 1731 there were references to a mid wall that was being removed. There are also references to the heightening of an aisle.(3)

The reference to a mid wall might suggest that a chancel arch between nave and chancel had been removed. The heightening of the walls could perhaps have been to accommodate galleries, and certainly in 1791 it was said that there were galleries at the east and west ends.(4) The reference to an aisle could be to a projection on the north side of the chancel, for which there is some evidence, and which may have originated as a sacristy, though there could also have been some other lateral projection.

Despite all those changes, from the description in the Statistical Account it appears that some medieval fabric survived into the later eighteenth century, since it was said that ‘the east end of the church is stiled the choir, and has a fount in the wall, intended, of old, for baptism’.(5) That ‘fount’ was presumably in fact a piscina that served the altar at the east end of the chancel.

By the second quarter of the nineteenth century it was said in the New Statistical Account that ‘the roof and ceiling is so much decayed that it is proposed at present to have the church renewed’. But in a footnote to that entry, which is dated 1833, it was recorded that ‘a new church has been built since the above was written’.(6)

The medieval church had come to be embraced within the policies of the House of Dun, which had been rebuilt on an impressive scale by William Adam for David, 13th laird of Dun from 1730.(7) This may have been one incentive for its eventual relocation a century later. The new church, which was built in 1833-4 to the designs of Robert Dalgarno, was sited to the north-west, outside the park boundaries. Some of the furnishings were relocated there from the old church, including a pulpit of 1615,(8) which suggests there had been some reordering of the church in the earlier seventeenth century.

Part of the old church was subsequently adapted to serve as a mausoleum for the Erskine family. This is said to have been done for Margaret, daughter of John 15th laird of Dun, who married the future 1st marquess of Ailsa in 1793.(9) They died in 1848 and 1846 respectively, and their coffins, surmounted by coronets, are prominently placed in the principal burial chamber of the mausoleum.

The retained part of the building measures 6.15 metres from north to south and 9.4 metres from east to west, and it is perhaps most likely that it was the chancel that was adapted for this purpose. Indeed, the chancel may have been serving for some time as both a burial place for the Erskines of Dun and the location of their pew or loft, since they were the principal heritors of the parish, with consequent rights over the chancel.

The likelihood that it was the chancel that was retained for that use gains support from the evidence that the lower part of the east wall of the mausoleum is still essentially medieval, and that it therefore formed the eastern end of the pre-Reformation building. That evidence is a chamfered base course of medieval character. The base course has been cut by a later door, perhaps dating from the works of 1715-19, above which is a window; it may be suspected that the door gave access to the Erskine’s area of the chancel, with the window perhaps lighting a loft.

It is also likely that the north and south walls incorporate some medieval fabric, though the south wall now has blank nineteenth-century window arches that must have entailed extensive rebuilding, and there is also evidence that the central part of the north wall has been rebuilt. Both of those walls are now capped by a crenellated parapet projected out on corbels, while the east and west gable walls are finished with crow steps, and there are pinnacles at the four angles.

The west front appears to be entirely of the nineteenth century, and was presumably built after the parts of the church to the west had been demolished. It is framed by diagonal buttresses and has a pair of pointed-arches, one of which frames the entrance door. Confirmation that the medieval church extended to the west has been provided by geophysical survey that located anomalies of the same width as the present building.(10)

The adaptation of the chancel for use as a burial evidently involved the construction of an inner skin of masonry to support the inserted barrel vault. In the process any evidence for the ‘fount in the wall’ mentioned in the Statistical Account was lost, while the door previously cut through the east wall was also blocked. An armorial tablet was inserted high in the internal east wall, with what appears to be an eagle-head crest on a helm.

There is a smaller vaulted burial chamber to the north of the main chamber, with its floor at a lower level; the only immediately visible external evidence for this is the mounded earth above its vault. However, closer inspection reveals a change of masonry type in the north wall of the mausoleum at this point, indicating that something has been removed and the wall face then made good. It may be suspected that the smaller burial chamber occupies the site of a medieval sacristy, and it may also be wondered if this was the aisle referred to in 1731.   

Notes

1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 50.

2. National Records of Scotland, GD123/426/11, 13, 14, 26 and 32.

3. National Records of Scotland, GD123/423.

4. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-99, vol. 3, pp. 359-60.

5. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-99, vol. 3, pp. 359-60.

6. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 11, p. 126.

7. Howard Colvin, Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, New Haven and London, 2008, p. 57.

8. John Gifford, The Buildings of Scotland, Dundee and Angus, New Haven and London, 2012, pp. 438-9.

9. Violet Jacob, The Lairds of Dun, London, 1931.

10. Rose Geophysical Consultants (on behalf of the National Trust for Scotland), Geophysical Survey Report, House of Dun, 2013; Northlight Heritage, House of Dun Mausoleum, Glasgow, 2014. Thanks to Daniel Rhodes for providing access to those reports.

Map

Images

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  • 1. Dun Church (mausoleum), exterior, from south east

  • 2. Dun Church (mausoleum), exterior, from south west

  • 3. Dun Church (mausoleum), exterior, from north west

  • 4. Dun Church (mausoleum), exterior, north flank

  • 5. Dun Church (mausoleum), exterior, seen from south east

  • 6. Dun Church (mausoleum), exterior, south flank

  • 7. Dun Church (mausoleum), exterior, east wall, base course

  • 8. Dun Church (mausoleum), exterior, east wall, base course to north of door

  • 9. Dun Church (mausoleum), exterior, east wall, base course to south of door

  • 10. Dun Church (mausoleum), interior, area within chancel

  • 11. Dun Church (mausoleum), interior, area within possible sacristy

  • 12. Dun Church (mausoleum), interior, heraldic crest in east wall

  • 13. Dun churchyard, gravestone, 1

  • 14. Dun churchyard, gravestone, 2

  • 15. Dun, later church, 1

  • 16. Dun, later church, 2

  • 17. Dun, later church, memorial over entrance