Dunipace Parish Church

Dunipace churchyard, site of medieval church

Summary description

No traces of the medieval church survive in the graveyard that is presumed to have been its location. A new church was built on a different site in 1832-34, which is no longer in ecclesiastical use and has been adapted as a house.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Alexander?

Possibly dedicated to St Alexander,(1) in its origin, the church of Dunipace was a dependent chapel of the church of Kirkton or St Ninians.  It was as such that it passed into the possession of the canons of Cambuskenneth when Bishop Robert of St Andrews granted the parish church of St Ninians to the abbey.(2)  Controversy arose in 1163, however, when Pope Alexander III confirmed possession of the chapel of the castle of Dunipace to the monks of Dunfermline, which resulted in litigation that was resolved finally in favour of Cambuskenneth.(3)  In 1251, Bishop David de Bernham of St Andrews confirmed that he accepted that both the chapels of Dunipace and Larbert were dependencies of St Ninians and thus not liable independently to pay him his episcopal dues.(4)  This position was confirmed in April 1267 by Bishop Gamelin, who stated that he had instructed the dean of Linlithgow to inspect the status of Dunipace and that the dean had established that Dunipace was not a matrix ecclesia but simply a dependent chapel of St Ninians and thus free of the burdens that would have attached to it as a parish church.(5)

There is no evidence for when Dunipace acquired independent parochial status, but it had evidently done so by 1426/7, when a series of legal instruments were agreed ‘in the cemetery of the parish church of Dunipace’.(6)  Possession of the church, however, remained with the canons, who in 1470 were leasing the church – i.e. the right to collect its teind income – to one Thomas Sympson.(7)  The church appears to have been annexed in full to the abbey, the cure presumably being served by a chaplain or curate.  At the Reformation, both parsonage and vicarage was recorded as annexed to Cambuskenneth.(8)

Notes

1. Registrum Monasterii S Marie de Cambuskenneth (Grampain Club, 1872), no.80; J M Mackinlay, Ancient Church Dedications in Scotland. Non-Scriptural Dedications (Edinburgh, 1914), 501-502.  Mackinlay noted the presence of a hill, wood and well dedicated to that saint within the parish.

2. Cambuskenneth Registrum, no.25.

3. Registrum Monasterii de Dunfermelyn (Bannatyne Club, 1842), nos 215, 237, 239; Cambuskenneth Registrum, no.118.

4. Cambuskenneth Registrum, no.117.

5. Cambuskenneth Registrum, no.85.

6. Cambuskenneth Registrum, nos 87-89.

7. Abstract of the Protocol Book of the Burgh of Stirling, 1469-84 (Edinburgh, 1896), 3.

8. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 543, 545, 546, 547.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Chapel of St Ninian’s parish, granted with mother church to Cambuskenneth in 1140x58. Pope Alexander III confirmed to Dunfermline in 1163 leading to litigation between the two abbeys. Achieved parochial status by 1426-27; parsonage and vicarage teinds remained with Cambuskenneth; charge served by a curate.(1)

Mackinlay suggests that the church may have been dedicated to St Alexander, after whom a hill, wood and well were dedicated in the parish.(2)

1195 Papal bull of Celestine III confirms gift by Robert, bishop of St Andrews of the church of St Ninian’s with its chapels of Dunipace and Larbert.(3)

1207 Reference to chapel of Dunipace and its tithes in dispute between Cambuskenneth and Dunfermline.(4)

1251 Bishop David de Bernham of St Andrews confirms that chapels of Dunipace and Larbert are under St Ninian’s and thus did not owe episcopal payments as separate churches.(5)

1267 Bishop Gamelin of St Andrews instigates an inquiry which found that Dunipace was not a matrix ecclesia but merely a chapel which did not owe episcopal dues.(6)

1470 Church leased (presumably the teinds etc) to Thomas Symson by the canons of Cambuskenneth.(7)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage and vicarage with Cambuskenneth, set for £80.(8)

1591 (20 Apr) Messenger sent to Dunipace from the Presbytery of Stirling asking them to organise a stent for the reparation of their church. The commission finds that as many of the parishioners have contributed to the taxation for building the church of Larbert and are unwilling to contribute to a new taxation for Dunipace.(9)

1595 (1 Jan) Report to the Presbytery of Stirling that the church of Larbert is ready for divine service (the repairs having been finished) and a stipend organised for the minister. (112 marks pa). Further visitation on 11 June makes reference to the ministers stipend and the desire to have Dunipace united to Larbert.(10)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev George Harvie, 1792): ‘Each parish (Dunipace and Larbert) has its own church. These churches were originally two chapels belonging to Cambuskenneth’.(11) [No reference to fabric of churches]

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Robert Watson (school master), 1841): ‘The old church was a very plain building, with galleries in front and end. The date of its erection is unknown. From several appearances of arches in its walls it probably had originally several aisles attached to it… New church built in 1834’.(12)

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 52.

2. Mackinlay, Non-Scriptural Dedications, pp. 501-502.

3. Cambuskenneth Registrum, no. 25.

4. CPL, i, 28.

5. Cambuskenneth Registrum, no.117.

6. Cambuskenneth Registrum, no. 85.

7. Abstract of the Prot Bk of Stirling, 1469-84, 3.

8. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices,  543, 545, 546 & 547.

9. NRS Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1589-96, CH2/722/2, fol. 103.

10. NRS Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1589-96, CH2/722/2, fol. 437.

11. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1792), iii, 333.

12. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1841), viii, 389.

Bibliography

NRS Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1589-96, CH2/722/2.

Abstract of the Protocol Book of the Burgh of Stirling, 1469-84, 1896, Edinburgh.

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

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.

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.

Registrum monasterii S. Marie de Cambuskenneth, 1872, ed. W. Fraser, (Grampian Club), Edinburgh.

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

Architectural description

The church at Dunipace first appears on record as a chapel of Stirling Kirkton (St Ninian’s) Church, and it passed to the Augustinian abbey of Cambuskenneth along with that church as a result of a grant by Bishop Robert, at a date between 1140 and 1158. In 1163 there was an abortive attempt to grant it to Dunfermline Benedictine abbey. The church had achieved parochial status before 1426/7, though both the parsonage and vicarage remained with Cambuskenneth, and the cure is likely to have been served by a curate.(1)

After the Reformation, on 11 June 1595 it appears there was a wish to unite the parish with that of Larbert,(2) and this was evidently put into effect in so far as they were served by a single minister. According to the entry in the Statistical Account ‘at the Reformation they were erected into different charges, and since that time have been under one minister’ though it was said that each ‘has its own church’.(3) This was clarified in the entry in the New Statistical Account which said that ‘the parish of Larbert is united quoad sacra to the parish of Dunipace’.(4)

The latter entry described the building as it then existed in the following terms:

The old church was a very plain building with galleries in front and end. The date of its erection is unknown. From several appearances of arches in its walls it probably had originally several aisles attached to it.

That church, which was presumably still essentially the adapted medieval building, was in a burial ground at NS 83728 81780,(5) to the east of a large modern cemetery. It is also to the north of the mound known as Hill of Dunipace that has been thought to be a medieval motte, though it is perhaps more likely that it is the relic of a natural raised beach. No traces of the church remain, though it is said that there was what appeared to have been a socket stone for a cross within the burial ground.(6)

The church that replaced it was built at NS 82031 83265 in 1832-4 to the designs of William Stirling;(7) it is itself no longer in use, having been adapted as a house. The present place of worship was built as a Free Church to the designs of William Simpson in 1988-90.(8)

Notes

1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 52.

2. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1589-96, CH2/722/2, fol. 437.

3. Statistical Account of Scotland 1791-99, vol. 3, p. 333.

4. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 8, p. 340.

5. G.B. Bailey, G B, ‘Dunipace old churchyard (Dunipace parish), graveyard’, Discovery and Excavation in Scotland, 1996, p. 41.

6. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Canmore online resource.

7. Howard Colvin, Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 4th ed., 2008, p. 987.

8. John Gifford and Frank Arneil Walker, The Buildings of Scotland, Stirling and Central Scotland, New Haven and London, 2002, pp. 450-51.

Map

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  • 1. Dunipace churchyard, site of medieval church

  • 2. Dunipace churchyard, site of medieval church, and motte

  • 3. Dunipace, later church