Ednam Parish Church

Ednam churchyard, possible fragment of medieval church, from south

Summary description

Possible fragments of the north wall of a two-compartment church may survive in the churchyard wall. A new church was built on a more central site in 1759, but in 1805 it was replaced by a building in the original churchyard, which was remodelled in 1902-03.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Cuthbert?

Ednam possesses probably the longest documented history of any parish church in Scotland.  It originated as a proprietory church founded by the local land-owner, Thor the Long, soon after 1100 on property given to him by King Edgar and granted by him to the monks of Durham by c.1105.(1)  Around 1117, the future King David I confirmed Durham’s possession of the church, as it had been granted to them by Thor.(2)  It seems that from soon after this and certainly by c.1150 the revenues of Ednam, along with its then-dependent chapels of Nenthorn, Newton and Stichill, had been given to Durham’s dependent priory-cell at Coldingham for its support. No record survives of a vicarage settlement, but one had been instituted by 1275 when the vicarage of ‘Edenham’ was recorded in the rolls of the papal tax-collector in Scotland.(3)  By that date all three of its once-dependent chaples had achieved independent parochial status.  It is unclear if this was a vicarage perpetual or pensionary, but the absence of reference to it in the post-Reformation financial accounts of the church probably indicates that only a small portion of the revenues were assigned for the support of the vicar.  References to vicars of Ednam occur through the fifteenth century, during which period the possession of the church had been transferred with Coldingham itself from Durham’s control into the hands of the abbey of Dunfermline.(4) No record of any vicarage was made in the Books of Assumption after the Reformation, at which time the parsonage was recorded as being a possession of Coldingham and set for £106 13s 4d.(5)

The allocation of the fruits of the parsonage of Ednam for the support of the cell at Coldingham has meant that a series of important references to repairs undertaken by the monks of Coldingham at the church have survived in the remaining sections of the account rolls of the priory.  These records show the monks fulfilling their responsibilities as ‘parson’ of Ednam to maintain the chancel of the church and equip it suitably.  Commencing in 1329 and running for several years into the1330s, they reflect work undertaken during the brief period of peace which followed the Treaty of Edinburgh in 1328.

The first reference, dating from 1329, is in respect of unspecified work on the choir of the church, costing 3s 4d.(6)  The following year, 13s 4d was discharged for re-roofing the chancel.(7)  The same account recorded payment for ‘ligatura j gradalis’ at 12d; 1 chausuble of brocade (baudekyn) at 8s 6d; one new [blank but probably alb] with parure, stole and maniple at 8s; and one cope [price lost, plus three altar cloths at 5s 8d.  Significant building-work followed close after this, with the accounts detailing a programme of extensive operations on the chancel at Ednam, apparently undertaken under the charge of Brother Nicholas Thokerington.(8)  The first items relate to preparatory work, including 6s for a load of lime bought in Berwick, with a further 2s for the four days’ labour of the man and his horse who carried the lime to Ednam. Payment of 4s was made to ‘a certain wife (mulier)’ who laboured for two days carrying sand to the church for making mortar.  The total for these items and labour came to 14s 4d.

The next group of itemised entries related to the first building-work, beginning with payment to William the Mason for three weeks, and material including planks (for scaffolding?) purchased by him, totalling 9s 6d.  His labour repairing two gables of the chancel, completed in 4 days, cost the monks 18s.  Two men assisting him, Walter Brad and John Brun - received 4s 6d and 4s respectively, whilst an unnamed ‘wife’ working for seven days, received 14s.  The total for this programme of work came to 19s 8d.

Materials for the chancel roof are itemised next.  First were delivery charges of 30s for a load of ‘Estland boards’ (usually meaning oak planks from the eastern Baltic region), which had been bought in Berwick, plus a further100 boards bought from a merchant named T Hatter at 18s.  A further 9 boards were bought from Hatter for 9s. The cost of carrying these from the harbour in Berwick to what seems to have been the monks’ supply depot at the church of the Holy Trinity there – which was another Coldingham/Durham possession, came to 3s 6d.  On top of this, carriage of the boards from Berwick to Ednam amounted to 17s 6d, giving a total of £3 18s.  Payments to the craftsmen undertaking the work follow, beginning with 12s to Elias the carpenter for 4 weeks’ work, 5s to Thomas the carpenter for 5 weeks (his total payment was entered as 15s), and 5s to Richard Cnoyt, working with them.  The total wage bill came to 32s. Nails were bought for their work: 1,400 [blank] at 18s, 300 ‘schoternal’ at 2s, and 300 ‘smalnayl’ at 12d, plus two ‘irons’ (hinges) for the chancel door at 18s.

Work extended beyond the main fabric of the building, and we have an interesting record of the purchase of pre-made glass for glazing the chancel windows.  Eight stone of glass was bought in Berwick at a cost of 28s, enough for six windows, along with 10lbs of tin at 2s 11d and two stone of lead at 20d for making the fixings for the glass.  The work was undertaken by William the glazier, who made six windows, for which he received 10s, while Henry the glazier spent two days fixing them at a wage of 12d.  The windows were prefabricated, presumably in Berwick, and then transported to Ednam by one Adam Stulp and ‘one man of Chirnside’, who between them received 16d.  For 18 bars of iron, probably to be glazing bars onto which the prefabricated glazed panels were fixed, plus wedges and tackets to secure them, a further 2s 8d was disbursed.  To enable the workmen to complete their tasks, a ladder was carried from the Hospital (in Berwick?) to Ednam, costing a further 4d.  The finishing of the building work was marked by payment to one mason for plastering or whitewashing the windows and gable of the chancel.  For one day’s work he received 4d.  With the completion of his labour on the building, the cost of the whole operation came to £10 6s 9d.

Not everything passed entirely smoothly during the operation.  A separate entry in the accounts notes the expenses for two men who went in from Ednam to Berwick with seven horses to collect the boards for the roof.  They were, however, forced to return empty-handed, for when they arrived in the burgh the man charged with keeping the boards for the priory was not found, and it was discovered that he had carried away the key.(9)

The work on the main fabric of the chancel appears to have been accompanied by provision of new equipment and ornaments for the altar.  A fragmentary section of accounts records the purchase of a new missal at 14s, and two vials for wine and water at, 8d.  Four ells of canvas to make undercovers for the high altar were bought, costing 14d. 

There are hints that there may have been deficiencies with the roofing work undertaken by Elias and Thomas the carpenters, for  six stone of lead was bought a short time after their work for repairs to the chancel.  With the labour of one plumber for three days, this added 6s 2d to the cost.  William the glazier might have been distressed to learn that one of his windows had been broken around that same time, for the accounts record payment of 2s 10s for repairs to one glass window that had been broken by thieves, 2s 10d.(10)


1. A C Lawrie (ed), Early Scottish Charters Prior to 1153 (Glasgow, 1905), no.XXIV; J Raine, The History and Antiquities of North Durham (London, 1852), appendix, nos cii, clxi, clxii.

2. G W S Barrow (ed), The Charters of King David I (Woodbridge, 1999), no.12.

3. A I Dunlop (ed), ‘Bagimond’s Roll: Statement of the Tenths of the Kingdom of Scotland’, Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vi (1939), 34.

4. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, iv, 1433-1447, eds A I Dunlop and D MacLauchlan (Glasgow, 1983), 200, 467, 1064; Calendar of Scotish Supplications to Rome, v, 1447-1471, eds J Kirk, R J Tanner and A I Dunlop (Glasgow, 1997), nos 494, 530.

5. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 200-204.

6. The Correspondence, Inventories, Account Rolls and Law Proceedings of the Priory of Coldingham, ed J Raine (Surtees Society, 1841), appendix, v [hereafter Coldingham Correspondence].

7. Coldingham Correspondence, appendix, viii.

8. Coldingham Correspondence, appendix, x.

9. Coldingham Correspondence, appendix, xi.

10. Coldingham Correspondence, appendix, xii.

Summary of relevant documentation


Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Granted to Durham by Thor Longus c.1105, the revenues of the church and its chapels of Nenthorn, Newton and Stitchel were devoted to the cell of Coldingham by c.1150. A vicarage was set up by 1275, by which time all the chapels had attained parochial status. (see Calendar of Documents relating to Scotland, i, 360) (1)

Mackinlay notes that the church was dedicated to St Cuthbert.(2)

1435 Thomas Hindmaston dead, William Brown (kinsman of Archibald, earl of Douglas) collated. Accused of holding two incompatible benefices without dispensation in the same year and William de Sancto Claro provided in his place. He appeals in 1438, with support of 5th earl of Douglas, and is readmitted to the church. He dies the same year; William Arous collated (£8 value).(3)

1439 (Mar) The vicar of Ednam was assaulted to the effusion of blood (see Historical Manuscripts Commission 14.3.38)

1444  December, Pope Eugene IV issues a confirmation of the possession of Durham in Scotland, including the churches of Ayton (chapel), Swinton, Ednam, Stitchel, Old Cambus, Lamberton, Berwick, Fishwick, Edrom and Earlston.(4)

1444-53 Alexander de Preston holds the church, replaced in 1454 by William Scott (familiar of James II). [not clear whether  Alexander died or resigned](5)

1454 Petition by James II on behalf of vicar William Scott, that ‘fruits, rents, profits of Ednam, which is on the borders of Scotland and England, are devastated by English raids that the vicar is not able to sustain himself’. Scott to be dispensed to hold multiple benefices; still vicar of church in 1470.(6)

1556 (9 April) Parish church is one of 22 from the Merse specifically mentioned in two letters (the 1555 letter does not have a specific date, McRoberts suggests August) from John Hamilton, archbishop of St Andrews (1547-1571) to the Dean of Christianity of the Merse. Hamilton states that ‘a great many of the parish churches are - their choirs as well as naves - wholly thrown down and as it were levelled to the ground; others were partly ruinous or threatening collapse in respect of their walls and roofs; they were without glazed windows and without a baptismal font and had no vestments for the high altars and no missals or manuals…. The fault and shortcomings belong to the parishioners as well as to the parsons’. The dean was instructed to investigate the fruits, garbal teinds and other rights of the said churches.(7)


Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage with Coldingham, possessed by the lords of Edmonstone, set for £106 13s 4d.(8)

1627 (19 June) Report on the parish by the minister (John Clapertone) describes his church as ‘neither spacious nor specious, for it is not able to contain half the people at any solemn time of meeting. It is not so well upholden as any barny or byre, and except it be helped speedily it is ruinous and tends to falling and our kirk yard dykes are lying with the ground and have great need of repairing’.(9)

1687 (5 Mar) William Gib, wright, paid 20s, all that remains of the money owed to him for doing ‘sundrie things in the church’.(10)

#1757 [No references to this work in surviving presbytery or kirk session records of the new church]

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev David Dickson, 1791): ‘The church is very small, built around 34 years ago (c.1757)’.(11)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Joseph Thomson, 1839): ‘Parish church…. built in 1800’..(12)

[Neither account refers to church buildings from earlier than 1750s]


1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 59-60.

2. Mackinlay, Non-Scriptural Dedications, Edinburgh, p.251.

3. CSSR, iv, nos. 200 & 467, CPL, viii, 556, CPL, ix, 24.

4. CSSR, iv, no.1111.

5. CSSR, iv, no. 1064, CSSR, v, no 494

6. CSSR, v, no. 530, CPL, xii, 730.

7. NRS Miscellaneous Ecclesiastical Records, CH8/16. Noted in Donaldson, Scottish Reformation, p. 23 and McRoberts, ‘Material destruction caused by the Scottish Reformation’, 427.

8. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 200-204.

9. Reports on the State of Certain Parishes in Scotland, p.198.

10. NRS Ednam Kirk Session, 1666-1735, CH2/841/1, fol. 15.

11. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1791), xi, 306.

12. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1839), iii, 423.


NRS Miscellaneous Ecclesiastical Records, CH8/16.

NRS Ednam Kirk Session, 1666-1735, CH2/841/1.

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

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

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., 1960, The Scottish Reformation, Cambridge.

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.

Reports on the State of Certain Parishes in Scotland, Made to his Majesty’s Commissioners for Plantation of Kirks, 1835, ed. A. MacGrigor (Maitland Club), Edinburgh.

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

Architectural description

The parish of Ednam was granted to Durham Cathedral by the presumed first builder of the church, Thor Longus, in about 1105, and this appears to be the earliest recorded case of a landowner erecting a church on lands that had recently been given to him as part of the feudal settlement of southern Scotland. By around 1150 the church had been devoted to the uses of Coldingham Priory, which was then a dependent cell of Durham, along with the chapels of Nenthorn, Newton and Stichill.(1)

Extensive rebuilding of the chancel is recorded in the fourteenth century. In 1329, 3s.4d was paid for repairs to the choir, followed by a payment of 13s.4d for its roofing in 1330. In the course of continuing works that appear to have added up to a total expenditure of around £20, William the mason is referred to, along with workmen named as Walter Brad and John Brun, the carpenters Thomas and Elias and Henry the glazier. At the same time vestments, altar hangings and a missal were bought, suggesting that a total refurbishment of the chancel was being undertaken.(2)

The medieval church may have been a short way north-east of the present church, where the south wall of the Edmonstone burial enclosure embodies a blocked window embrasure of twelfth-century type. To the west of that the churchyard boundary wall steps a short distance northwards, and it is attractive to suspect that these walls are the relics of a length of the north walls of the chancel and nave of a two-compartment church. The surviving section of the supposed chancel extends to 6.73 metres; the supposed nave, which has clearly been truncated at its western end, survives to a length of 5.3 metres.

The church suffered in the border warfare with England in the earlier sixteenth century, and especially in a raid of 1523,(3) and in a letter of 9 April 1556 Archbishop John Hamilton said it was one of 22 church in the Merse that was in a ruinous condition.(4) There was apparently a major campaign of repair and rebuilding in 1633, though the church was again said to be in a poor state in 1680, when Lord Home agreed to re-roof the choir.(5)

It was decided that a new church should be built on a more central site in the village in 1759, though it was found to be too small,(6) and in 1800 it was decided to move back to the old churchyard. The existing church was built by 1805, under the supervision of William Elliot.

It is a rectangular structure of buff-coloured rubble, with block quoins at the angles of the S front and a birdcage bellcote over the east gable. Additions were made in 1902-3 by Hardy and Wight, giving the church a chancel to the east, a south porch and a north vestry, the later additions being identifiable through the use of more regularly coursed buff rubble. The interior was re-ordered at the same time.

In its final form the nave has three Y-traceried windows along the south flank, and a three-light intersecting traceried window in the west wall (flanked by a pair of blocked window heads from the first building campaign). The chancel has a single-light window in each of the south and north walls, and a two-light geometric traceried east window. The choir is covered by a boarded pointed barrel ceiling, while the nave has scissor beams below a boarded ceiling of polygonal profile.


1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society) 1967, pp. 59-60.

2. The Correspondence, Inventories, Account Rolls and Law Proceedings of the Priory of Coldingham, ed. John Raine (Surtees Society), 1841, apps v, viii, x and p. xii.

3. Letters and papers of Henry VIII, ed. J.S. Brewer and J. Gairdner, London, 1862-1920, vol. 3 (2), no 3097.

4. National Records of Scotland, Miscellaneous Ecclesiastical Records, CH8/16.

5. G.A.C. Binnie, Churches and Churchyards of Roxburghshire, Ladykirk, 2001, p.93.

6. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-99, vol. 11, p. 306.



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

  • 1. Ednam churchyard, possible fragment of medieval church, from south

  • 2. Ednam churchyard, possible fragment of medieval church, blocked window

  • 3. Ednam churchyard, possible fragment of medieval church, from north west

  • 4. Ednam Church, monument to James Dickson

  • 5. Ednam churchyard, gravestone

  • 6. Ednam churchyard, tomb chest panel, 1

  • 7. Ednam churchyard, tomb chest panels, 2

  • 8. Ednam Church, from south