Edrom Parish Church

Edrom Church, exterior, from south west

Summary description

An early twelfth-century door is re-used as the entrance to a burial enclosure. The medieval church was evidently rectangular; an aisle was added against its south flank in about 1499 by Archbishop Blackadder of Glasgow. The church was augmented in 1732 and in 1885-86.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Mary

The church of Edrom with its chapel of Nisbet was granted to the monks of Durham by Cospatric brother of Dolfin, before 1138 and confirmed to Durham’s cell of Coldingham by King David I on 16 August 1139.(1)  The grant was re-confirmed in 1141 at Durham by David’s son, Earl Henry, who issued a charter in favour of the church of St Mary and St Cuthbert of Coldingham of Edrom and Nisbet as Cospatric had held the land on the day of his death.(2)  A further confirmation followed from King William c.1165(3) but between 1167 and 1170 a dispute arose between the monks of Durham and the abbey of Crowland in Cambridgeshire over possession of the toun and church of Edrom.(4)  The dispute was settled in King William’s court at Perth, with the issue being resolved in favour of Durham, who received a confirmation of possession in perpetuity, but with Crowland accepting an annual pension from the fruits.

While it was ultimately a Durham property, as the confirmations by David I and Earl Henry demonstrate its fruits were assigned for the support of the priory of Coldingham before 1141 and probably from the time of Cospatric’s grant.  In the late thirteenth century, however, there appears to have been a division of the revenues between Coldingham and its mother-house.(5)  From the later fourteenth century as the Great Schism in the Church and increasing hostility Anglo-Scottish hostility made cross-broder relationships of this kind impossible, Edrom passed with control of the priory at Coldingham into the hands of the abbey of Dunfermline.  Before 1274, however, a vicarage settlement had evidently been set in place as a vicarage of ‘Ederham’ was recorded in the rolls of the papal tax-collector in Scotland at an annual tax assessment of three merks.(6)  In 1459, however, the vicarage was annexed to the provostship of the collegiate church of Dunglass at the petition of Alexander Hume of Dunglass, his kinsman, John Hume, who held the vicarage resigning it to make the annexation effective.(7)  The cure was thereafter served by a vicar pensioner.(8)  At the Reformation there was therefore no record of a perpetual vicarage of Edrom, the parsonage alone being recorded, set for £123 6s 8d.(9)

The dedication of the church appears on record on 1 December 1393, when the Avignonese pope, Clement VII, issued an indulgence of one year and forty days for all of the faithful who visited the church which, it was claimed, was noted for the miracles performed there and which in the past had attracted countless pilgrims.  The indulgence was effective for those who visited the parish church of St Mary of Edrom on the principal feasts of the year, the feast of St Michael the Archangel [29 Sept], and the dedication of the church, with fifty days indulgence during their octaves and the six days after Pentecost, and who contributed towards its upkeep.(10)

As appropriator, the Durham monks through their cell at Coldingham discharged their responsibility to maintain the chancel of the parish church and to suitably furnish their vicar there with materials to conduct service decently.  The surviving sections of the account rolls of Coldingham Priory contain a number of entries relating to expenditure on the eastern limb of the church and on vestments for the priest and the decoration of the altar.  In the 1330s, two new albs, a stole and a maniple were purchased for the priest at a cost of 9s 8d and soon afterwards a substantial programme of reroofing was undertaken on the chancel.(11)  The roof operations reveal that the chancel was thatched, 80 ‘thraves’ of straw being purchased for the task.  The roof was lined with lath and wicker, and also 400 ‘Estland’ or eastern Baltic oak boards were purchased in Berwick, collectively totalling 50s 8d.  Labour charges for two men working for five days on the roof added a further 2s 8d.  With carriage and portage charges, plus an additional load of lime bought in Berwick for work on the chancel but not yet shipped to Edrom, the monks spent 76s 8d on the church.(12)  Further work was undertaken in the period 1365-8, when 21s 11d was spent buying timeber and carrying it to Edrom for the chancel, and a further 13s 4d were paid to one William of Wardlaw ‘for expenses maded around the chancel’.(13)  The run of references to repair work ends in accounting year 1371-2, when reference was made to the construction of the choir but the expenditure is not itemised and is wrapped up within a total that was made up largely of payments and pensions due to the monks of Durham.(14)  It is perhaps significant that the records of expenditure end just before the beginning of the Great Schism and the start of Scottish efforts to detach the priory of Coldingham from English control.

Although the reference to thatch for the roofing of the choir in the 1330s might present a picture of rustic simplicity at Edrom, there is evidence for a flow of considerable levels of patronage towards the church in the later Middle Ages.  The source of this patronage was Archbishop Robert Blackadder of Glasgow, who had been born locally and whose family were prominent local landowners.  On 12 January 1499/1500, confirmed at mortmain by the king under the Great Seal on 20 January 1506/7, Blackadder created a perpetual chaplainry at the altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary the Mother of God at Edrom in the aisle which was described as ‘built by himself de novo in the parish church’.  Given the quality of Blackadder’s work commissioned at his own cathedral it is likely the any expense was spared on the new aisle at Edrom.  In support of the chaplain, he provided a very substantial portfolio of income from annualrents from properties in and around Haddington amounting to 16 merks per annum and delivering a further 40s annually to be distributed by him to the poor.(15)  Blackadder’s endowment, however, may have been an isolated act of patronage, for in the 1550s Edrom was one of twenty-two parish churches in the Merse reported to Archbishop Hamilton as being in a poor state of repair through the combined neglect of the parishioners and the appropriators.  Hamilton instructed the Dean of Christianity to investigate but it is unlikely that any action was far advanced before the shockwaves of the Reformation swept through the district.(16)


1. G W S Barrow (ed), The Charters of King David I (Woodbridge, 1999), no.68.

2. Charters of David I, no.102.

3. Regesta Regum Scottorum, ii, The Acts of William I, ed G W S Barrow (Edinburgh, 1971), no.66 [hereafter RRS, ii].

4.RRS, ii, no.105.

5. J Raine, The History and Antiquities of North Durham (London, 1852), appendix, nos xx, ciii, cxi, ccccxlix, xxxxlviii.

6. 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, 55.

7. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, xi 1455-1464, ed J A Twemlow (London, 1921), 397.

8. For the vicarage and its annexation to the provostry of Dunglass, see Rentale Sancte Andree (Scottish History Society, 1913), 55.

9. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 199-200, 204.

10. Calendar of Papal Letters to Scotland of Clement VII of Avignon 1375-1394, ed A I Dunlop and I B Cowan (Scottish History Society, 1976), 196-7.

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

12. Coldingham Correspondence, Appendix, xii.

13. Coldingham Correspondence, Appendix, liv.

14. Coldingham Correspondence, Appendix, lxii.

15. Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum, ii, 1424-1513, ed J B Paul (Edinburgh, 1882), no.3029.

16. NRS Miscellaneous Ecclesiastical Records, CH8/16.

Summary of relevant documentation


Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Granted to Durham by Gospatrick (1128x38), the revenues of the church with its chapel of Nisbet were devoted to the cell of Coldingham by 1141. The vicarage was annexed in 1459 to the college of Dunglass, with a vicar pensioner serving the cure thereafter.(1)

1394-1419 John de Hawk holds the perpetual vicarage, in 1399 petition on his behalf by David Stewart, Duke of Rothesay.(2)

1419 John resigns, replaced by Robert Young, archpriest of Dunbar and confessor of George, earl of March (£19). The church had been occupied unlawfully by a certain John Brown for the last two years.(3)

1430 Henry Brown is perpetual vicar (former student), dispensed to hold further benefices as the church is ‘in the borders with England and afflicted with continuous wars’.(4)

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.(5)

1444 Nicholas de Otburn resigns the church; John Lowey collated (value now £10).(6)

1459 Union of the perpetual vicarage to the collegiate church of Dunglass at the petition of Alexander Hume. Vicar is John Hume, who resigns the church.(7)

1476 Confirmation the endowment of the college of Dunglass by Alexander Hume with the churches of Hutton and Edrom and tithes of Wester Upsettlington and Trefontains.(8)

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.(9)

References to liturgical provision/architecture/building indulgences etc

1393 Indulgence of 1 year and 40 days granted to visitors to the parish church of Edrom, noted for miracles and which has in the past attracted pilgrims on principal Marian feasts of the year, the feast of St Michael and the anniversary of the dedication of the church.(10)

Altars and chaplaincies

Our Lady

1500 Chaplaincy in the Lady Aisle founded by Archibald Blackadder, archbishop of Glasgow (BVM altar?).(11)

1552 Reference to land pertaining to the Lady Altar lies in the burgh of Haddington.(12)

1574 Patrick Acheson referred to as the chaplain of the Lady Aisle in the church of Edderem.(13)


Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage with Coldingham, set for £123 6s 8d.(14)

1727 (14 Mar) Visitation of Edrom  by the presbytery includes a report by William Bald, William Clark, masons, George Wallace and John Ford, wrights, Robert Aitchison and James Miller, thatchers, who note that to repair the kirk, will cost £667 (most of it spent on new ‘flaggs’; a further £436 spent on the manse and office houses).(15)

[no references in the kirk session or presbytery records anent the new church in 1732]

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev William Redpath, 1791): ‘The church was built in 1732’.(16)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Alex Cuthbertson, 1834): ‘Part of the ancient vault is still standing. On the southwest corner of the Blackadder aisle,…there is a stone with the inscription ‘Founded by Robert Blackadder, Archbishop of Glasgow in the year 1499’.(17)

[New church was built on the site of the old one]

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches: (George Hay): 1732, incorporating 15th century aisle; much altered in 1886, early 19th century hearse house and roofless stables.(18)


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

2. CPL, Ben, 19, 60, 383 & 385.

3. CPL, Ben, 385.

4. CSSR, iii, 128.

5. CSSR, iv, no.1111.

6. CPL, ix, 450, CSSR, iv, no. 1114.

7. CPL, xi, 397.

8. CPL, xiii, 644.

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

10. CPL, Clem, 196-97.

11. RMS, ii, no. 3029.

12. NRS Extracts relating to the Parish church of Haddington B30/20/6.

13. NRS Haddington Burgh Court and Council Records, GD1/413/1, ii, p. 37.

14. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 1990-200 & 204.

15. NRS Presbytery of Chirnside, Minutes, 1721-1732, CH2/516/3, fols. 158-162.

16. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1791), i, 119.

17. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1834), ii, 275.

18. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, pp. 170, 238 & 251.


NRS Extracts relating to the Parish church of Haddington B30/20/6.

NRS Haddington Burgh Court and Council Records, GD1/413/1.

NRS Miscellaneous Ecclesiastical Records, CH8/16.

NRS Presbytery of Chirnside, Minutes, 1721-1732, CH2/516/3.

Calendar of entries in the Papal registers relating to Great Britain and Ireland; Papal letters, 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 Papal letters to Scotland of Clement VII of Avignon, 1976, ed. C. Burns, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh.

Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1428-32, 1970, ed. A.I. Dunlop; and I.B. Cowan, (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.

Donaldson, G., 1960, The Scottish Reformation, Cambridge.

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

Edrom’s history as a place associated with Christian activity appears to extend back to at least the early eleventh century on the evidence of a fragmentary hogback stone that was found within the churchyard in about 1907.(1) Unfortunately, that stone has since been lost.

The church was granted to Durham Cathedral Priory by Earl Gospatrick at a date between 1128 and 1138. By 1141 its revenues, along with those of its chapel of Nisbet were applied to Durham’s daughter house at Coldingham, though in the late thirteenth century they were divided between Durham and Coldingham. There was a vicarage settlement in 1274, but in 1459 the vicarage was diverted to fund the provostship of Dunglass Collegiate Church, after which the cure was served by a vicar pensioner.(2)

The medieval church presumably provided the basis for the rectangular main body of the present building, which measures 21.3 by 7.45 metres. The earliest surviving feature, a doorway of around the second quarter of the twelfth century, has been removed from the church and rebuilt as the entrance to the Logan burial aisle, to the west of the church. This is a rectangular enclosure rising from a well detailed base course that might include medieval masonry, and it is covered by a pointed barrel vault; the earliest memorial within it dates from 1790.

The entrance to the Logan Aisle, which is in its east wall, is almost certainly the re-set main doorway of the church. Although now sadly weathered it has been one of the finest pieces of Romanesque architectural sculpture to survive in Scotland. It has three orders of arches. The innermost order has nested chevron of both concave and convex profile, and the middle order point-to-point chevron, while the outer has back-to-back embattled mouldings. There are two orders of engaged shafts, and there was probably initially a pilaster on each side. Three of the capitals have foliage trails with masks at the angles, the others are cushions or scallops. The outer abaci have been renewed.

The chancel was re-roofed in the 1330s, when timber and straw was bought at a cost of 76s.8d, and new vestments were purchased at the same time.(3) Further work on the chancel was called for between 1365 and 1372.(4)

In about 1499 Archbishop Robert Blackadder of Glasgow, who was of local origin, built an aisle on the south side of the nave, which presumably gave the late medieval church a T-shaped plan. Blackadder’s work is identifiable in the chamfered plinth of the south wall of the aisle and in its broad diagonal buttresses, while his arms and an archiepiscopal cross are below the tabernacle at the head of its south-west buttress. There are references to this aisle housing a chaplaincy of the Virgin,(5) and in his will of 1508 Blackadder left £10 to the repair of the chapel of Our Lady of Edrom.(6)

The church probably suffered in the warfare and disorder that afflicted the border region in the early sixteenth century. By 9 April 1556 Archbishop John Hamilton could refer to it as one of 22 churches in the Merse that was in a ruinous state.(7)

According to an inscription inserted in the tabernacle on its north-east buttress, the Blackadder Aisle was repaired by Sir John Home of Blackadder in 1696, presumably at least partly in order to create a burial vault below a laird’s loft, which is the present arrangement. His work is identifiable in the use of masonry composed of diagonally broached blocks. Within the aisle there are effigies of Patrick Home of Broomhouse and his wife Eleanor Wardrop, said to be of 1553.(8) The rather crudely carved three-quarter-relief effigy of Patrick depicts him armoured but bare headed, while Eleanor is shown in a loose fitting dress. The tomb chest is carved with arms assumed to be of Home and Wardrop and the initials P.H. Rather confusingly, the chest also bears the date 1668, while the date 1553 on the slab below the effigies appears to be a secondary incision.

On 14 March 1727 a visitation by presbytery was presented with a report by the masons William Bald and William Clark, the wrights George Wallace and John Ford and the thatchers Robert Aitchison and James Miller, who estimated necessary repairs to cost £667.(9) This may have been the prelude to a major campaign of rebuilding in 1732,(10) at which time it is possible that a north aisle, which perhaps ran parallel with much of the middle part of the church, was added. Beneath that aisle is the burial vault of the Kelloe family.

By 1834 the church could be described in the following terms:

It is a long building, a gallery at each end and a gallery in front of the pulpit, and another gallery immediately behind the pulpit. The gallery in front is over the burying vault of the Kelloe family, the gallery behind the pulpit is over the Blackadder burying vault.(11)

However, much of what is now seen is the result of a major campaign of works in 1885-6 by the architects Hardy and White, with George Duns as clerk of works.(12) According to an inscription on the north-east buttress of the extended north aisle it was in the latter year that the church was ‘restored and enlarged’.

In its post-1886 state the church is of a complicatedly cruciform shape which, externally, gives little clue to the internal spaces; apart from the two-stage bird cage bellcote on the west gable, it is of rather secular appearance. North of the main body is a widely projecting lateral aisle, the unusual salients in the re-entrant angles between aisle and main body possibly representing the remodelled remains of the smaller longitudinal aisle of 1737. Facing that north aisle across the church, but to the west of centre since it evidently flanked the medieval nave, is the Blackadder Aisle. The external massing is further complicated by projections to house porches and vestries.

The work of 1886 is identifiable from its stugged snecked rubble masonry. The earlier masonry was generally left unchanged apart from where windows arranged on a more regular pattern - and often extending up into raised gables - have been inserted.

Internally the church is now largely of 1886. Scissor-braced roofs cover the principal spaces, with lattice beams on cast iron columns defining the areas in the re-entrant angles to each side of the north aisle. The pulpit and communion table are displaced to the east of centre because of the location of the laird’s loft arch above the Blackadder Aisle, which is now closed off by a glazed screen. There is a gallery in the outer part of the north aisle, within which is the organ.


1. J.S. Richardson, ‘Notice of the Discovery of Half of a Hog-Backed Monument in Edrom Kirkyard, Berwickshire’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. 41, 1906-7, p. 434; J.T. Lang, ‘Hogback Monuments in Scotland’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. 105, 1972-4, pp. 205-35 at p. 224.

2. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 60

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

4. Correspondence of Coldingham, pp. liv and lxii.

5. Register of the Great Seal of Scotland, ed. J.M. Thomson, et al., Edinburgh, 1882-1914, vol. 2, no. 3029.

6. John Durkan, ‘Archbishop Robert Blackadder’s Will’, Innes Review, vol. 23, 1972, pp. 138-48 at p. 139.

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

8. G.A.C. Binnie, Churches and Churchyards of Berwickshire, Ladykirk, 1995, pp. 205-6.

9. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Chirnside, Minites, 1721-32, CH2/516/3, fols 158-62.

10. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-99, vol. 1, p. 119.  

11. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 2, pp. 274-75.

12. This description is based on that in Kitty Cruft, John Dunbar and Richard Fawcett, The Buildings of Scotland, Borders, New Haven and London, 2006, pp. 255-57.



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

  • 1. Edrom Church, exterior, from south west

  • 2. Edrom Church, exterior, from east

  • 3. Edrom Church, exterior, from south east

  • 4. Edrom Church, Blackadder Aisle, exterior, from east

  • 5. Edrom Church, Blackadder Aisle, exterior, from south

  • 6. Edrom Church, exterior, Blackadder Aisle and east limb from south

  • 7. Edrom Church, Blackadder Aisle, exterior, arms on south-west buttress

  • 8. Edrom Church, Blackadder Aisle, exterior, tabernacle on south-east buttress

  • 9. Edrom Church, Blackadder Aisle, interior, burial chamber, effigies, 1

  • 10. Edrom Church, Blackadder Aisle, interior, burial chamber, effigies, 2

  • 11. Edrom Church, Blackadder Aisle, interior, burial chamber

  • 12. Edrom Church, Blackadder Aisle, interior, upper chamber

  • 13. Edrom Church, interior, looking east

  • 14. Edrom Church, interior, looking north east

  • 15. Edrom Church, interior, looking north west

  • 16. Edrom Church, interior, looking south west

  • 17. Edrom Church, interior, looking south

  • 18. Edrom churchyard, cross slabs

  • 19. Edrom churchyard, gravestone, 1

  • 20. Edrom churchyard, gravestone, 2

  • 21. Edrom churchyard, Logan Aisle, entrance arch, arch

  • 22. Edrom churchyard, Logan Aisle, entrance arch, left capitals

  • 23. Edrom churchyard, Logan Aisle, entrance arch, right capitals

  • 24. Edrom churchyard, Logan Aisle, entrance arch, arch

  • 25. Edrom churchyard, Logan Aisle