Ecclesmachan Parish Church

Ecclesmachan Church, exterior, from south east

Summary description

Largely rebuilt in 1710, probably partly on the medieval footings, and incorporating a possibly medieval door. Modified in 1822 and 1908.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Machan

The church of Ecclesmachan has left few traces in the historical record, principally because it remained an independent parsonage through the pre-Reformation period.  What appears to be the first surviving reference to the church is a note of its dedication on 13 September 1242 by David de Bernham, bishop of St Andrews.(1)  It occurs as the church of ‘Clistmathyn’ or ‘Egistmawyn’ in the rolls of the papl tax-collector in Scotland in the mid-1270s.(2)  It was assessed for a full year of taxation at one merk.  At the Reformation the parsonage was held by John Mowbray and was valued at £102 6s money, plus various dues in produce.(3)

Notes

1. A O Anderson (ed), Early Sources of Scottish History, ii (Edinburgh, 1922), 525.

2. A I Dunlop (ed), ‘Bagimond’s Roll: Statement of the Tenths of the Kingdom of Scotland’, Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vi (1939), 55, 56.

3. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 151.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: The parsonage, then known as Inchmachan, is listed in Bagimond’s Roll. It remained unappropriated at the Reformation; the patronage with the archbishops of St Andrews.(1)

Mackinlay notes that (as the name suggests) the church was dedicated to St Machan.(2)

1395 John Forester (MA and envoy of Robert III to curia) is collated to church on the death of John de Angus (value £20); also holds Strathbrock.(3)

1404 Richard de Cornel (3rd year student at Avignon) is rector, due to be promoted. He later moves to Dundee; William de Ochailawny replaces him.(4)

1422 Richard is still rector and resigns church in favour of John de Heton (25 marks value).(5)

1440 William Elphinstone [MA, later bishop of Aberdeen?] rector of church but obstructed by Patrick Sandilands and Alan de Borthwick who detain the church and molest William. By 1443 he appears to have gained control and is dispensed to hold church alongside Conveth.(6)

1457 William described as ‘a son of iniquity who has not feared to erase and falsify certain apostolic letters, deleting words in document relating to rectory of Kirkmicheal in Nithsdale, has been excommunicated but continues to say mass etc. Robert Hamilton supplicates for his deprivation and for his provision to parsonage of Ecclesmachan.(7)

1520 Elizabeth Robeson, widow of Robert Duncan, binds herself to pay to Master Adam Ottirburn, tacksman of the parish church… the sum of 6s 8d for a lair to her husband in the choir of the said church.(8)

1540 George Scowgal is rector of the church.(9)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage  held by John Mowbray, valued at £102 6s and also various produce.(10)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of parsonage and vicarage £34 2s.(11)

1620 (22 Aug) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Linlithgow finds the minister (David Gudlett) to be competent. The local heritors, namely the Laird of Black Craig were not present. The decision is taken to transport the pulpit from the west side of the kirk to the south side; the brethren also finds burial to be on going in the church (ordains that this is to be ended).(12) A further visitation of 30 Aug 1626 finds that burial is still going on in the parish and ordains a 10 mark fine for further burial.(13)

1630 (26 Aug) A visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Linlithgow orders the kirkyard dykes to be repaired.(14)

1661 (4 Mar) Mr John Letham and Andrew Kinnear are ordered by the Presbytery of Fordoun to speak to the heritors about the ruinous fabric of their church.(15)

1661 (Mar) The presbytery of Fordoun have been informed that there was nothing yet done anent the reparation of the edifice of the kirks of Ecclesmachan and Livingstone notwithstanding that previous visitations of the churches, finding them in ruinous condition, had recommended their reparation. The ministers Robert Keith (Livingstone) and John Letham (Ecclesmachan) ordered to see to the redress of the problems with the fabric.(16)

1664 (8 June) Visitation of Ecclesmachan appointed to organise seats and because the fabric of the kirk is almost ruinous.(17) 6 July. Full report of the visitation notes the ruinous fabric of the kirk, John Simpson, mason asked for his opinion and finds that the west gabill and the wester half of the north wall to be ruinous, and that divine service can hardly be performed in the said church without hazard to the people as is obvious to the eye of any onlooker. The presbytery order the minister to organise a stent of the heritors.(18)

1666 (30 Sept) The session notes the necessity of having the kirk yard dykes repaired (noted that the heritors were unwilling to help).(19)

1667 (15 Mar) The minister produced in session two obligations submitted by the heritors… the one for downtaking and rebuilding of the west gabill and the kirk yard dykes.(20)

1684 (7 Oct) Visitation of the church of Ecclesmachan, Thomas Reid, wright and plasterer, John Beg, mason asked to assess the cost of repairs to the church and manse. The masons note that the repair and pinning and harling of the gabill is required, also finds it necessary that the north west side would shall have two buttresses or quits for the supporting of the edifice. The church also needs pointing and new glass is needed, the north door is ruinous and needs to be replaced. Total cost of the church repairs are £93 5s 8d out of £266 13s in total (rest on the manse).(21)

1685 (23 Aug) The session appoints a collector to get the money from the heritors and notes that the work is underway (pointing of the kirk and building of two buttresses).(22)

#1710 [Nothing in the kirk session or presbytery records anent the new church]

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev William Peterkin): No reference to fabric of the church

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev John Smith, 1843): ‘The parish church is situated in the south eastern corner of the smallest section of the parish… It was in a great measure rebuilt in the beginning of the last century, and having undergone a thorough repair in 1822, it is at present in excellent order’.(23)

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches: (George Hay): 1710, incorporating medieval fragments; repaired 1822, enlarged 1906.(24)

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 58.

2. Mackinlay, Non-Scriptural Dedications, p. 198.

3. CPL, Ben, 54-55.

4. CPP, 626-27, CPL, Ben, 114.

5. CSSR, i, 301-02.

6. CSSR, v, no.973.

7. CSSR, v, no.665.

8. Prot Bk of John Foular, 1514-28, iii, no. 154.

9. Prot Bk  of Thomas Johnsoun, 1528-1578,  nos. 225 & 306.

10. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 151.

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

12. NRS Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1618-1632, CH2/242/2, fols. 37-38.

13. NRS Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1618-1632, CH2/242/2, fol. 147.

14. NRS Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1618-1632, CH2/242/2, fols. 309-310.

15. NRS Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1653-1676, CH2/242/5, fol. 231.

16. NRS Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1653-1676, CH2/242/5, fol. 237.

17. NRS Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1653-1676, CH2/242/5, fol. 335.

18. NRS Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1653-1676, CH2/242/5, fols. 336-339.

19. NRS Ecclesmachan Kirk Session, 1662-1688, CH2/623/1, fol. 12.

20. NRS Ecclesmachan Kirk Session, 1662-1688, CH2/623/1, fol. 14.

21. NRS Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1676-1688, CH2/242/6, fols. 99-102, NRS Ecclesmachan Kirk Session, 1662-1688, CH2/623/1, fols. 53-58.

22. NRS Ecclesmachan Kirk Session, 1662-1688, CH2/623/1, fols. 63-64.

23. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1843), ii, 114.

24. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, p. 276.

Bibliography

NRS Ecclesmachan Kirk Session, 1662-1688, CH2/623/1.

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

NRS Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1653-1676, CH2/242/5.

NRS Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1676-1688, CH2/242/6.

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.

Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1418-22, 1934, ed. E.R. Lindsay and A.I. Cameron, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh.

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

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.

Mackinlay, J.M, 1914, Ancient Church Dedications in Scotland. Non-Scriptural Dedications, Edinburgh.

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

Protocol Book of John Foular, 1514-28, 1944, ed. M. Wood (Scottish record Society), Edinburgh.

Protocol Book of Dominus Thomas Johnsoun, 1528-1578,  1920, eds. J. Beveridge & J. Russell (Scottish Record Society) Edinburgh.

Architectural description

There was a church at Ecclesmachan by no later than 13 September 1244, when Bishop David de Bernham carried out one of his dedications.(1) It continued as an unappropriated parsonage in the patronage of the bishops and archbishops of St Andrews up to the Reformation.(2)  

There were evidently changes to the ordering of the interior so as to meet reformed needs on 22 August 1620, when the decision was taken to move the pulpit from the west to the south side.(3) The state of the building was subsequently a matter of considerable concern, and on 4 March 1661 it was said to be in a ruinous state,(4) while on 8 June 1664 the mason John Simpson said that the west gable and west half of the north wall were in such poor condition that they represented a hazard to the people.(5)

It appears that little had been done by 7 October 1684, when the wright and plasterer Thomas Reid and the mason John Beg estimated the cost of works on the west gable and the construction of two buttresses on the north-west side at £93.5s.8d. Work was said to be in progress on 23 August 1685.(6)

According to the New Statistical Account the church was largely rebuilt ‘in the beginning of the last century’,(7) and it was as part of that operation that a north aisle was added, containing a laird’s loft above a burial vault. That campaign is commemorated in the date 1710 incised on the lintel of the block-rusticated door into the north aisle as it was later extended, which has presumably been relocated to its present position as part of that extension.

The New Statistical Account says that the church underwent a thorough repair in 1822. As part of that it seems that the north aisle was more fully opened into the body of the church

Further major works were undertaken in 1908 to the designs of John Honeyman.(8) As part of this the north aisle was elongated to east and west, opening into the church through a newly formed colonnade, with a porch at the centre of the aisle’s north face. At the same time the main body of the church was extended westwards in order to create a spatially distinct chancel, with an organ chamber and vestry on its north side. On the south side the original extent of the building was marked by the addition of a buttress with a sundial near its head.

As a result of all these changes, and particularly of those carried out in 1908, it is now difficult to identify what is medieval, particularly since diagnostically significant details appear to have been both renewed and replicated. It seems, however, that the rectangular footprint of the medieval building is preserved in the rectangular core, as far west as the buttress at the junction with the added west chancel; that core has a width of 6.95 metres.

The medieval masonry is probably best preserved at the base of the east wall, where there is a narrow chamfered base course and two courses of cubical masonry that could be of twelfth-century date. A base course of the same profile underlying much of the south wall could be of a similar date, though the picture has been confused through the provision of a similar base course around the chancel and extended north aisle of 1908.

The most problematic feature is the door in the south wall towards the west end of what would have been the nave. The sawtooth chevron hood mould of this door and the continuous roll moulding around the jambs and arch appear on first sight to be of the twelfth-century. However, close examination of the detailing of the latter leaves little doubt that it is of late – and possibly even post-medieval date – and it now cannot be known if it is a re-cutting of an earlier feature or if it is entirely late in date.

There is even more of a problem with a corresponding door towards the east end of the south wall, which also has a sawtooth chevron hood mould, though the reveals of the door itself are simply chamfered. But in this case the door appears to be an entirely modern creation that has taken a lead from the door further west.

Notes

1. Alan Orr Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History, Edinburgh, 1922, vol. 2, p. 525.

2. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 58.

3. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1618-32, CH2/242/2, fols 37-38.

4. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1653-76, CH2/242/5, fol. 231

5. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1653-76, CH2/242/5, fols 336-39.

6. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1676-88, CH2/242/6, fols 99-102; National Records of Scotland, Ecclesmachan Kirk Session, 1662-88, CH2/623/1, fols 53-58 and 63-64.

7. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 2, p. 114.

8. Colin McWilliam, The Buildings of Scotland, Lothian, Harmondsworth, 1978, pp. 201-02.

Map

Images

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  • 1. Ecclesmachan Church, exterior, from south east

  • 2. Ecclesmachan Church, exterior, from east

  • 3. Ecclesmachan Church, exterior, from west

  • 4. Ecclesmachan Church, exterior, east gable wall, masonry in lower part

  • 5. Ecclesmachan Church, exterior, north flank, inscribed door lintel

  • 6. Ecclesmachan Church, exterior, north flank

  • 7. Ecclesmachan Church, exterior, south wall, base course

  • 8. Ecclesmachan Church, exterior, south-west door

  • 9. Ecclesmachan Church, exterior, south-west door jamb

  • 10. Ecclesmachan churchyard