Edzell Parish Church

Edzell Church, south chapel, from south west

Summary description

The only fragment of the medieval church is a chapel built against its south flank in the mid-sixteenth century. A new church was built at a more convenient location in 1818. 

Historical outline

Dedication: unknown

Early records of the church of Edzell are entirely lacking but the presence of a Class II Pictish cross-slab at the old church site and the discovery of a portion of a free-standing cross in the churchyard (now housed in the museum display at Edzell Castle) point to an eighth- or ninth-century date for Christian activity here.(1)  The church, however, is not listed in the rolls of the papal tax-collector in Scotland in the 1270s although neighbouring parish churches in St Andrews diocese, such as Fettercairn, and Brechin diocese, such as Glenesk, are.  The church, however, was a free parsonage when it first appears in a surviving record in 1344 and remained such into the 1480s.(2)  In 1483 Edzell was recorded as having been annexed to the archiepiscopal mensa of St Andrews.(3)  This union was either ineffective or a temporary/personal arrangement, for by May 1515 the parsonage was in the hands of Master Charles Fotheringham.(4)  The patronage of the church from this time at least, however, rested with the archbishops.(5)  At the Reformation it was still a free parsonage in the hands of Mr John Foulis, valued at £120.(6)

Notes

1. H Coutts, Ancient Monuments of Tayside (Dundee, 1970), 58.

2. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, iii, 1342-1362, ed W C Bliss and C Johnson (London, 1897), 84, 341, 484.

3. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, xiii, 1471-1484, ed J Twemlow (London, 1955), 141-2.

4. St Andrews University Library, Burgh Charters and Miscellaneous Writs, B65/23/204c.

5. For disposition of churches in the patronage of various pre-Reformation prelates, including the Archbishops of St Andrews, see The Records of the Parliaments of Scotland to 1707, K M Brown et al eds (St Andrews, 2007-2014), 1593/4/38. Date accessed: 2 October 2014.

6. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 379.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: An independent parsonage in 14th century, the church was united to the archiepiscopal mensa of St Andrews in 1483. The grant appears to have been ineffective, as the church is still independent at the Reformation, with only the patronage belonging to the archbishops.(1)

1344 William Greenlaw (MA) holds Edzell, to resign following provision to canonry of Aberdeen. In 1349, he becomes dean of Glasgow and is again asked to resign Edzell. In 1353 he is dispensed to hold all three benefices including Edzell at the request of Queen Joan.(2)

1383 William Henrici (subdean of Dunblane) collated to Edzell (vacant because Cuthbert Fernarial failed to get ordained as a priest).(3)

1428 William Wishart (canon of Orkney) provided in place of a certain Hugh, (called alleged rector of the parish church) who was still celebrating mass despite being suspended by the ordinary and publicly denounced in his own church for refusing to pay a sum of money he owed to Henry Guthrie (clerk of St Andrews diocese).(4)

1451 Rector Walter Leighton dead: church collated to John Kennedy (rector of Maybole), value £24 sterling.

1457 Kennedy dead; Alexander Michaelson (perpetual vicar of Kingoldrum) supplicates to become parson of Edzell.(5)

1483 Edzell united to the archiepiscopal mensa of St Andrews.(6)

1515 (25 May) Mr Charles Fotheringham, rector of Edzell, witnesses a charter in St Andrews.(7)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church independent parsonage held by John Foulis, value £120 (feu fermed to Earl of Crawford).(8)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of parsonage and vicarage £40.(9)

1610 (12 Sept) Visitation of the church finds the minister (Richard Merchistone) to be competent and the kirk is found in the east end thereof to be ruined but there are materials in readiness to repair the same, they are ordained to accomplice the work with diligence and the kirk dykes are to be repaired.(10)

1641 (2 Sept) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Brechin.(11)

1643 (4 Jan) David Fullerton presented to the church by the patron, the Laird of Edzell [no name, a Lindsay?].(12)

1652 (23 Sept) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Brechin, finds the parishioners accusing minister of being somewhat remiss in preaching on the sabboth, ‘especially in the wet season’. The fabric of the kirk is described as ‘well repaired’.(13)

1658 (5 Aug) The presbytery of Brechin finds that the people of Newdosk cannot conveniently go to Edzell for catcheism and baptism due to the dangerous waters. The laird of Edzell is asked to reopen to build a bridge or prepare a boat for transporting the people at such times.(14)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Andrew Hutton, 1791): ‘The church is a very old strong building, incommodious in itself and inconveniently situated for the whole parish. The date of the building is no known. The manse was built 71 years before (1620)’.(15)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Robert Inglis, 1836/1842): ‘The church built 18 years ago, in 1818, is a roomy well finished building’. [no reference to earlier church](16)

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland (Edinburgh, 1967), 60.

2. CPL, iii, 84, 341 & 484.

3. CPL, Clem, 92

4. CSSR, ii, 209-10. CPL, viii, 14.

5. CSSR, v, nos. 445 & 644, CPL, xi, 333.

6. CPL, xiii, 141-2.

7. StAUL, Burgh Charters and Miscellaneous Writs, B65/23/204c.

8. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 379.

9. Donaldson, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, 9.

10. NRS Records of the Synod of Fife, 1610-1636, CH2/154/1, fol. 5v.

11. NRS Presbytery of Brechin, Minutes, 1639-1661 ,CH2/40/1, fol. 27.

12. NRS Presbytery of Brechin, Minutes, 1639-1661 ,CH2/40/1, fol. 61.

13. NRS Presbytery of Brechin, Minutes, 1639-1661 ,CH2/40/1, fols. 269-270.

14. NRS Presbytery of Brechin, Minutes, 1639-1661, CH2/40/1, fol. 410.

15. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1791), x, 112.

16. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1836, revised 1842), xi, 624.

Bibliography

StAUL, Burgh Charters and Miscellaneous Writs, B65/23/204c.

NRS Presbytery of Brechin, Minutes, 1639-1661, CH2/40/1.

NRS Records of the Synod of Fife, 1610-1636, CH2/154/1.

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 Clement VII of Avignon, 1976, ed. C. Burns, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh.

Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1423-28, 1956, ed. A.I. Dunlop, (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.

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

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

Architectural description

Edzell has evidently had a long association with Christian worship: a cross slab was found in the churchyard wall in 1870,(1) which is now in the museum in Forfar, and in 1952 an arm of a cross head was found in the churchyard, and is now displayed in the nearby castle.(2)

Despite later medieval attempts to annex the parsonage of Edzell to the mensa of the bishops of St Andrews, it remained unappropriated throughout the middle ages.(3) The church was located a short distance to the south of the first castle of Edzell, which survives as an earthwork, and which was a seat successively of the Stirling and Lindsay families. Church and castle together were clearly intended to be seen as the twin administrative foci of the area at the mouth of Glenesk, though by the fifteenth century the Lindsays had provided themselves with a more magnificent residence on an area of flat ground to the north of the first castle.(4)

By 1610 it was recorded that the eastern parts of the church were ruined, though repairs were planned,(5) and in 1652 it could be said that the building was ‘well repaired’.(6) By the late eighteenth century it could be said that, ‘the church is a very old, strong building’, but it was deemed to be ‘incommodious in itself, and inconveniently situated for the whole parish’.(7) In 1818 it was therefore decided that it should be relocated to a more central location within the parish, where a new church was built to the designs of David Neave.(8)

The only part of the old church that was not demolished is a chapel that projected from its flank. It was known from a vignette on an estate map of 1786 that, as might be expected, the main body of the church had been rectangular, and that the aisle projected from near the mid-point of its south wall.(9) A careful programme of research and geophysical survey carried out in 1997 confirmed this, and indicated that there may also have been a sacristy on the north side of the choir.(10)

The chapel is traditionally said to have been added to the church by the ninth earl of Crawford (1542–58), for whom the castle at Edzell was one of his principal residences. This would be consistent with what is known of the rather complicated dynastic circumstances of that earl, who had inherited the earldom following the dispossession of the heir of the eighth earl, but who had then arranged for the title to pass back to the senior branch of the family when his own marriage proved childless. Following re-marriage and the birth of a son in 1551, he made arrangements to set up a separate patrimony at Edzell for that son, and the building of a family chapel at the parish church was perhaps undertaken as an extension of those arrangements, at the same time as additions to the castle that have been attributed to him were made.(11)

The aisle is built of pink rubble, and has coped pitches to the south gable that terminate at the apex  in what may be a socket stone. The main source of light was through a large rectangular window with chamfered reveals in the south gable wall, the lower part of which is now blocked. There has also been a smaller rectangular window in the west wall, next to a doorway with chamfered reveals. The aisle opened off the main body of the church through a wide opening with semi-octagonal responds, simply flared caps, and a round-headed double chamfered arch.

Within the aisle, the position of the altar against the blank east wall is marked by the survival of an ogee-headed piscina recess framed by a quirked roll moulding. A segmental-arched tomb recess is located beneath the principal window in the south wall, which is framed by mouldings in the form of a filleted roll flanked by a segmental hollow. Although this had become a relatively common moulding by the mid-sixteenth century, it is essentially the same as the mouldings of the first-floor window reveals along the entrance range of the castle, a part that is thought to have been built by the ninth earl in 1553; this provides some support for the possibility that it was he who built the aisle.

At an unknown date, a burial vault has been constructed below the aisle. It is approached from the north down a steep flight of steps.

Notes

1. F.C. Eeeles, ‘Undescribed Sculptured Stones and Crosses at Old Luce, Farnell, Edzell, Lochlee and Kirkmichael’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. 44, 1909-19, pp. 354-72.

2. R.B.K. Stevenson, ‘The Inchyra Stone and Some Other Unpublished early Christian Monuments’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. 92, 1958-9, pp. 33-55.

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

4. W. Douglas Simpson, ‘Edzell Castle’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. 65, 1930-31, pp. 115-73.

5. National Records of Scotland, Synod of Fife, 1610-36, CH2/154/1, fol. 5v.

6. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Brechin, Minutes, 1639-61, CH/40/1, fols 269-70.

7. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-99, vol. 10, p. 110.

8. Howard Colvin, Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, New Haven and London, 2008, p. 739.

9. National Records of Scotland, RHP 1665/20).

10. D.R. Perry, Lindsay Burial Aisle, Edzell Cemetery, (unpublished report, SUAT Ltd), Perth, 1999.

11. The arms of the ninth earl and the date 1553 are said to have been placed over the entrance to the castle (Alexander, 25th Earl of Crawford, The lives of the Lindsays, Wigan, 1840, vol. 1, p. 346).

Map

Images

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

  • 1. Edzell Church, south chapel, from south west

  • 2. Edzell Church, south chapel, from south east

  • 3. Edzell Church, south chapel, entrance arch

  • 4. Edzell Church, south chapel, interior, east wall

  • 5. Edzell Church, south chapel, interior, south wall

  • 6. Edzell Church, Lindsay Aisle interior

  • 7. Edzell, later church