Dunbog Parish Church

Dunbog Churchyard, burial enclosures, 1

Summary description

The medieval church was probably in a slight hollow now occupied by burial aisles. Relocated to a new site in 1803.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Bridget?

Possibly dedicated to St Bridget,(1) the church of Dunbog first appears on record around 1173as a dependent chapel of the church of Abernethy in the grant of that church to the monks of Arbroath by Laurence son of Orm of Abernethy.(2)  This grant was confirmed by King William to Arbroath before 1198, at which time it was still simply a dependent chapel of the mother-church of Abernethy.(3)  In 1198, however, Bishop Roger de Beaumont of St Andrews named it as a church in his confirmation of nine parish churches to Arbroath in proprios usus.(4)  Bishop William Malveisin confirmed the parish church to the abbey twice between 1202 and 1204,(5) and then shortly afterwards set in place arrangements for the monks to install perpetual vicars to serve the cure of souls in all of the parish churches in his diocese which had been granted to Arbroath in proprios usus.(6)  The vicarage settlement was confirmed in 1249 by Bishop David de Bernham in a general ratification of the settlements made by Arbroath at all of the parish churches in its possession in his diocese, at Dunbog the entire altarage revenues being allocated to him and the monks agreeing to pay an additional 20s to the vicar to cover the costs of episcopal visitation.(7)  In the rolls of the papal tax-collector in Scotland in the mid-1270s, the vicarage of ‘Dunbloc’ or ‘Dunbulg’ was assessed for taxation at one merk annually.(8)

Additional charges were made on the fruits of the parish church in the early fourteenth century.  In 1309, Bishop William Lamberton confirmed that he had been given an annual payment for life of 26 merks from Dunbog, that he had no other right in the church, and that on quittance the monks’ full rights in the church would be restored.(9)  While the monks were making payments to the bishop from the parsonage revenues, the vicars’ income appears to have remained founded on the relatively slight altarage payments.  In 1352, therefore, the vicar of Dunbog joined with his colleagues at nine other parish churches appropriated to Arbroath in petitioning the pope for an increase in their allowances.(10)  Echoes of the payments made to Bishop Lamberton in the early fourteenth century might perhaps be heard in the complaint by Malcolm, abbot of Arbroath in 1468 that Patrick Graham, bishop of St Andrews, had extorted various sources of income from the abbey, including the fruits of the church of Dunbog as a pension for life.(11)  At the Reformation, the parsonage remained appropriated to the abbey, while the vicarage was valued at £13 6s 8d.(12)


1. S Taylor and G Markus. The Place-names of Fife, iv, North Fife Between Eden and Tay (Donington, 2010), 338.

2. Liber S Thome de Aberbrothoc, i (Bannatyne Club, 1848), no.35 [hereafter Arbroath Liber].

3. Arbroath Liber, i, no.34.

4. Arbroath Liber, i, no.147.

5. Arbroath Liber, i, nos.157, 165.

6. Arbroath Liber, i, no.167.

7. Arbroath Liber, i, no.236.

8. A I Dunlop (ed), ‘Bagimond’s Roll: Statement of the Tenths of the Kingdom of Scotland’, Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vi (1939), 37, 61.

9. Arbroath Liber, i, no.267.

10. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Petitions to the Pope, ed W H Bliss (London, 1896), 235.

11. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, v, 1447-1471, eds J Kirk, R J Tanner and A I Dunlop (Glasgow, 1997), no.1263.

12. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 68.

Summary of relevant documentation


Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Lawrence, son of Orm of Abernethy, granted church as a chapel of Abernethy to Arbroath c.1173. Parochial status shortly after 1249 when vicarage settlement left abbey parsonage and made provision of a perpetual vicar.(1) 1189x95 William I confirms grant by Laurence son of Orm of the chapel of Dunbog to Arbroath.(2)

Place Names of Fife vol. 4 suggests that the altar was probably dedicated to St Bridget. A note in the Cupar Presbytery Minutes of 1814 refers to St Bridget’s Lands. Although this reference to St Brigit is relatively late, there is no reason to doubt that it goes back to the medieval period.(3)

1198 Church included in a confirmation by Roger, bishop of St Andrews of the churches held by Arbroath in the diocese of St Andrews.(4)

1200 Church included in papal bull by Innocent III confirming possessions of Arbroath.(5)

1202x04 Possession of church by Arbroath confirmed  by William, bishop of St Andrews in two charters, the first specifically related to the church, the second including all the churches held by Arbroath in the diocese of St Andrews.(6)

1204x11 Church included in confirmation by Henry, prior of St Andrews of all the churches held by Arbroath in the diocese of St Andrews.(7)

c.1233 Dunbog as a church rather than chapel included in a confirmation by David de Bernham, bishop of St Andrews, all the churches held by Arbroath in the diocese of St Andrews.

1249 Vicarage settlement by the bishop, parsonage with abbey, perpetual vicarage set up.(8)

1352 Suit brought before the bishop of St Andrews between abbey of Arbroath and the vicars of Inverlunan, St Vigean, Barry, Dunbog, Arbirlot, Monifieth, Muirhouse, Newtyle, Glamis and Kirriemuir. ‘The vicars asserted that they had insufficient portions, whereupon the bishop made an ordinance, which the Pope is asked to confirm’.(9)

1394 Laurence Legat described as perpetual chaplain of the chapel of Dunbog, Brechin diocese, which belongs to Arbroath; Calendar of entries in the Papal registers has a William de Lychton holding the chaplaincy.(10)

1483 Dispute between abbey and James Bonar of Rossy over the teinds of Dunbog and Abernethy. Rossy claims that his father had possession [feu?] of the teinds, abbots argue that it was not hereditary.(11)

1486 Garbal teinds set for 13 years to Robert and John Henry for £33 6s 8d. Also mentions recent death of vicar David Abercrombie.(12)

1500 John Andrew presented to perpetual vicarage by James Stewart, archbishop of St Andrews, following death of William Allerdes.(13)

1520 Teind sheaves of Dunbog set for 5 years to John Betoun, cousin of James Betoun commendator of the abbey, paying annually £100.(14)


Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage with Arbroath, set for only £1. [error?] Vicarage valued at £13 6s 8d.(15)

1656 (1 Apr) Great part of the parishioners opposed the appointment of Patrick Peacock as minister (divided into the King’s party and another unspecified party); the committee back the appointment of the minister.(16)

1662 (1 Apr) Church along with rector and vicar teinds recorded as in the control of Patrick, earl of Panmure, inherited from his father, George (d.1661).(17)

1669 (9 Aug) £3 paid for lime for the church, £7 to William Simpson, mason, for building the porch of the church.(18)

1675 (5 Nov) £3 given to David Mitchell for pointing the faulty parts of the church.(19)

1676 (20 Feb) Mitchel was paid 20s for pending a hole in the roof of the church.(20)

1677 (29 July) The minister regrets that they had been forced to make great disbursements out of the poor box for upholding the fabric of the church and he had frequently spoken to the heritors, but they lived at a distance from the church and do not much concern themselves with the affair.(21) [the context of this is a visitation on 16 July which, although not discussed in detail, presumably criticised the use of poor money for upholding the church fabric].

1678 (2 June) Reference to problems getting the heritors to pay their proportion of the stent for repairing the church.(22)

1679 (13 July) The minister notes that he has spoken to a slater anent the repair of the church (on 5 Aug a payment of £22 was made to a slater and for timber).(23)

1681 (14 Jan) Further £5 3s dispersed for necessary repairs to the church (to be refunded by the heritors).(24)

1681 (15 Apr) Collection noted for repair of the church; the heritors contributed £13 12s 8d, the same day a wright was paid £2 2s, the kirk and choir being measured and found to be ‘6 rudes and a ¼ with two windows.(25)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Greenlaw (minister of Criech), 1792): ‘The church and manse are in pretty good order’.(26)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Adam Cairns, 1836): ‘The church is situated in the centre of the parish….It was built in 1803’.(27) [No reference to the earlier buildings]

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches: (George Hay):1802; renovated and tower added 1886.(28)


1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 51.

2. RRS, ii, no. 339, Liber Aberbrothoc, i, no. 34.

3. Taylor & Markus, The Place-Names of Fife. Volume Four, p. 338.

4. Liber Aberbrothoc, i, no.147.

5. Liber Aberbrothoc, i, no. 221.

6. Liber Aberbrothoc, i, nos. 157 & 165.

7. Liber Aberbrothoc, i, no. 166

8. Liber Aberbrothoc, i, nos  172 & 236.

9. CPP, 235.

10. CPL, Ben, 76, CPP, 583 & 589.

11. Liber Aberbrothoc, ii, no. 233.

12. Liber Aberbrothoc, ii, no.300.

13. Liber Aberbrothoc, ii, no. 406.

14. Liber Aberbrothoc, ii, no. 554.

15. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 68 & 359.

16. NRS Records of the Synod of Fife, 1639-1657, CH2/154/2, fols. 317-318.

17. Registrum de Panmure, p. 337.

18. NRS Dunbog Kirk Session, 1666-1730, CH2/102/1, fols. 22-23.

19. NRS Dunbog Kirk Session, 1666-1730, CH2/102/1, fol. 68.

20. NRS Dunbog Kirk Session, 1666-1730, CH2/102/1, fol. 69.

21. NRS Dunbog Kirk Session, 1666-1730, CH2/102/1, fol. 77.

22. NRS Dunbog Kirk Session, 1666-1730, CH2/102/1, fol. 85.

23. NRS Dunbog Kirk Session, 1666-1730, CH2/102/1, fol. 92.

24. NRS Dunbog Kirk Session, 1666-1730, CH2/102/1, fol. 100.

25. NRS Dunbog Kirk Session, 1666-1730, CH2/102/1, fol. 103.

26. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1792),  iv, 234.

27. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1836), ix, 216.

28. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, p. 257.


NRS Dunbog Kirk Session, 1666-1730, CH2/102/1.

NRS 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.

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

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.

Liber S Thome de Aberbrothoc, 1848-56, ed. C. Innes and P. Chalmers, (Bannatyne Club) Edinburgh, i.

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

Registrum de Panmure, 1874, ed. J. Stuart, Edinburgh.

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

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

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

Architectural description

Dunbog was initially a chapel within the parish of Abernethy, and, as such, was granted to the Tironensian abbey of Arbroath by Lawrence, son of Orm de Abernethy around the time of its foundation in the 1170s. Nevertheless, it became parochial soon after then, and provision was made for the cure to be served by a vicar perpetual in the early thirteenth century.(1)

The relationship of the parish church at Dunbog with a dependent cell of the Cistercian abbey of Balmerino, which was said to be in Dunbog parish, is uncertain. That cell first comes on record when a prior is named in 1475, though it is unclear how far it was ever a viable community, since in correspondence with the papacy in 1529/30 it was stated that there were no more than two monks there.(2) It may be that the parish church was also used by the monks of the Cistercian cell, though it is perhaps more likely that it had its own chapel.(3)

According to an account for repairs in 1681, the church measureed six and a quarter roods, though it is not clear what this meant. On the basis of a rood measuring anything from 18 to 24 feet,(4) this would presumably mean that the church was between 33.7 and 56.69 metres in length, but this seems excessive for a country church, even if it might also have accommodated a small monastic community.

The works of 1681 were amongst a series of repairs and modifications undertaken in the post-Reformation period, and in 1669 £7 was paid to the mason William Simpson for building a porch.(5) By the 1790s, in his description of the parish for the Statistical Account the minister could say that the church was ‘in pretty good order’.(6)

Despite that, it was replaced by a new church in 1803,(7) on a site to its east-south-east, which was designed by James Ballingall. That church was enlarged eastwards in 1851, and a tower was added at its east end to the designs of John Young in 1887-8.(8) The later church has itself now passed out of use for worship, and has been adapted as a house. The parish has been united with that of Abdie.

The medieval church was almost certainly within the small graveyard at NO 2851 1803, and the most likely site for it is an approximately oriented elongated hollow area at the centre of the graveyard, within which there are two burial enclosures enclosed by low walls. Bearing in mind the regular complaint of ministers that the ground level of the churchyard was above the floor level of their church, it may be seen as a strong possibility that the hollow area in the Dunbog graveyard represents the interior of the church that remained in use until 1803.


1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 51.

2. Ian B. Cowan and David E. Easson, Medieval Religious Houses, Scotland, London and New York, 1976, pp. 80-81.

3. Simon Taylor, The Place Names of Fife, vol. 4, Donington, 2010, p. 338.

4. National Records of Scotland, Dunbog Kirk Session, 1666-1730, CH2/102/1, fol. 103.

5. National Records of Scotland, Dunbog Kirk Session, 1666-1730, CH2/102/1, fols 22-23.

6. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-99, vol. 4, p. 234.

7. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 9, p. 216.

8. John Gifford, the Buildings of Scotland, Fife, London, 1988, p. 174.



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

  • 1. Dunbog Churchyard, burial enclosures, 1

  • 2. Dunbog Churchyard, burial enclosures, 2

  • 3. Dunbog Churchyard, gravestone

  • 4. Dunbog Churchyard, looking east

  • 5. Dunbog Church, 1

  • 6. Dunbog Church, 2