Ellemford / Ellem Parish Church

Ellem Church site, 1

Summary description

Slight fragments of Ellem church survive. The chapel at Longformacus which superseded Ellem in 1712, and which was of rectangular plan, was remodelled in 1730, around 1830 and in 1892-94. It is no longer in ecclesiastical use.

Historical outline

Dedication: unknown

The earliest surviving reference to the parish church of Ellem is a note of its dedication on 11 March 1244 by Bishop David de Bernham of St Andrews.(1)  Its status at that date is unknown but by the time of its next recording in 1274-5 in the rolls of the papal tax-collector in Scotland it had been annexed to the Hospital of Duns.(2)  It is recorded once paired with the hospital and twice simply as ‘ecclesia’ of Ellem on its own.  Subsequent references are few.  In 1394 it was recorded that a certain Thomas Young held the hospital of Duns and the parish church of Ellem which was annexed to it.(3)  Although it was suggested by Ian Cowan that the church appears to have regained free parsonage status after that date since the Hospital of Duns seemed to have ceased to exist,(4) but it occurs again in 1498 as still annexed to the apparently functioning hospital.(5)

It is possible that the Hospital ceased to exist shortly after that date but, whatever the circumstances that permitted its detachment from the patrimony of the poors’ hospital at Duns, in 1501 Pope Alexander VI annexed the church to the Chapel Royal at Stirling.(6) The union, however, appears to have been ineffective and in 1504 King James IV petitioned the pope for the annexation to be made.(7)  Annexation at that date seems also to have been ineffective or at least not immediate, for it was only in 1510/11 that the union was achieved, when the church was united to the prebend of Glenholm in the Chapel Royal, which was assigned as the prebend of the archdean.(8)  Even then, however, it seems that the institution of the union remained ineffective and in 1527 the 1501, 1504 and 1510/11 unions were dissolved at the behest of King James V, who instead united it to the collegiate church of Restalrig.(9)  The whole fruits of the church were annexed, being assigned in common to the prebendaries of the collegiate church, while the cure was served by a vicar pensioner.  In the early 1550s Ellem was one of twenty-two churches in the Merse that were reported to Archbishop John Hamilton of St Andrews as being in serious disrepair, blame being assigned equally to the appropriators and the parishioners.  Hamilton instructed the Dean of Christianity of the Merse to investigate and set in train any necessary measures to remedy the situation.(10)  How far any repair work had progressed before the Reformation in 1560 is unknown.  At the Reformation the church was recorded as a common property of the prebendaries of Restalrig, set in assedation to Andrew Redpath for £76 13s 4d.(11)

Notes

1. A O Anderson (ed), Early Sources of Scottish History, ii (Edinburgh, 1922), 525 [Pontifical Offices of St Andrews].

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), 33, 59.

3. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Petitions to the Pope, ed W H Bliss (London, 1896), 617.

4. I B Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society, 1967), 61.

5. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, xvii, part 2, 1492-1503, ed A P Fuller (Dublin, 1994), no.130.  Edward Cockburn, Master of the Hospital of Mary Magdalene of Duns is named in a charter of 12 October 1492, HMC, Report on Manuscripts in Various Collections, v, The Manuscripts of Col Mordaunt-Hay of Duns Castle etc (London, 1909), no.182.

6. Registrum Secreti Sigilli Regum Scotorum, i, ed M Livingtsone (Edinburgh, 1908), no.2207 [hereafter RSS]; History of the Chapel Royal of Scotland (Grampian Club, 1882), 14.

7. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, xviii, 1503-1513 (Dublin, 1989), no.363.

8. RSS, i, no.2207.

9. Charters of the Hospital of Soltre, of Trinity College, Edinburgh, and other Collegiate Churches in Midlothian (Bannatyne Club, 1861), no.5.

10. NRS Miscellaneous Ecclesiastical Records, CH8/16.

11. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 195.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: The church had been annexed to hospital of Duns by 1274. It disappears from record until it is annexed to the Chapel Royal at Stirling in 1501. This appears not to have been effective and in 1527 James V annexes the church to Restalrig.(1)

1394 Thomas Young holds the hospital of Duns and the parish church of Ellem which is annexed to it.(2)

1498 Parish church of Ellem referred to as annexed to the Poor hospital of Duns.(3)

1504 Petition by James IV to annex church to his Chapel Royal at Stirling.(4)

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.(5)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church described as ‘commoun to the college of Restalrig’, set for £76 13s 4d.(6)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of vicarage (common to the college of Restalrig), £76 13s 4d.(7)

[The parishes of Longformacus and Ellim (Ellem) were united in 1712 with a new parish church built shortly after that time (1730)]

1667 (22 Nov) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Duns (requested by the minister Zacharie Wilkie), finds the kirk to be ruinous, the church yard to be unfenced, no school and the manse to be unsufficient. The laird of Langton and the Laird of Blackerstand (the main heritors) to be spoken to for the repair of these faults (the bishop of St Andrews is the patron).(8)

1680 (24 Aug) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Duns, mostly about the manse, but mentions that the fabric of the church being examined it was found that the most part of the north wall behoved to be down and put up anew, as also the east gabell, and there was much of the roof decayed and so should be taken down and removed. John Gilbrie, mason and John Crawford, wright commissioned to do the work at a total cost of 305 6s 8d.(9)

1684 (6 May) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Duns during which no sermon could be preached ‘due to the inconvenience of the place, the kirk being ruinous’. Three workmen, Alex Gilkie and James Clerk, masons and William Currie, wright suggest that a complete repair of the kirk, kirk yard dykes and manse is necessary, total cost of £366 Scots.(10)

1711 (25 Oct) The presbytery receives a letter from Robert Sinclair of Longformacus informing them that he intends to start a process in the Lords of Session that the parishes of Ellem and Longformacus be united. The church of Longformacus to serve both parishes.(11)

1711 (4 Dec) The committee sent to Ellem (having reported that there are only 100 examinable persons in the parish) note that the passage from Ellem to Longformacus may be safely travelled except in a storm (across the river). In 1 Jan it was noted in the session that the annexation has been approved.(12)

#1730 The National Records of Scotland report notes that the new church was built in 1730 on the foundations of the old one. [no references in presbytery or kirk session]

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Selby Ord): [No reference to any church buildings]

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Henry Riddell, 1834): ‘the church was built upwards a century ago’.(13)

[It is not clear from the account exactly where the new parish church was located within the united parish. There is no reference in either account to church buildings belonging to either of the parishes before they were united.]

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 61.

2. CPP, 617.

3. CPL, xvii, no. 130.

4. CPL, viii, no. 363.

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

6. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 195.

7. Donaldson, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, 25.

8. NRS Presbytery of Duns, Minutes, 1659-1688, CH2/113/1, fols. 59-60.

9. NRS Presbytery of Duns, Minutes, 1659-1688, CH2/113/1, fols. 191-192.

10. NRS Presbytery of Duns, Minutes, 1659-1688, CH2/113/1, fols. 260-261.

11. NRS Presbytery of Duns, Minutes, 1707-1716, CH2/113/4, fols. 137-138.

12. NRS Presbytery of Duns, Minutes, 1707-1716, CH2/113/4, fols. 138-139 & 141.

13. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1834), ii, 97.

Bibliography

NRS Miscellaneous Ecclesiastical Records, CH8/16.

NRS Presbytery of Duns, Minutes, 1659-1688, CH2/113/1

NRS Presbytery of Duns, Minutes, 1707-1716, CH2/113/4.

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

Calendar of entries in the Papal registers relating to Great Britain and Ireland; Papal Petitions, 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.

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

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

There was a parish church at Ellem by 11 March 1244, when Bishop David de Bernham carried out one of his many dedications.(1) By 1274 the church had been appropriated to the hospital at Duns, but after that hospital disappeared from the records it appears to have become an independent parsonage. In 1501 there was an abortive attempt to annex it to the Chapel Royal in Stirling Castle, but it was eventually annexed to Restalrig Collegiate Church in 1527.(2)

The building evidently suffered in the course of the border warfare with England, since on 9 April 1556 it was said to be one of 22 churches in the Merse that were in a ruinous state.(3) By the later seventeenth century it was in need of major repair, since a visitation by presbytery on 22 November 1667 found the church to be in a poor state.(4) However, it is likely that little was then done, because on 24 August 1680 the mason John Gilbrie and the wright John Crawford were commissioned to carry out works on the north wall, east gable and roof at a cost of £305.6s.8d.(5)

On 25 October 1711 Robert Sinclair of Longformacus said he was about to start a process with the Lords of Session to unite Ellem with Longformacus, with the parish church being located at the latter.(6) This was put into effect by a decree of annexation on 18 February 1712,(7) and the church at Ellem was subsequently abandoned.

No more than fragmentary remains have survived, but these have been taken to indicate that it had dimensions of about 18 by 6 metres.

The church at Longformacus, which superseded Ellem as the parish church, had previously been a chapel of Mordington. It was evidently annexed, along with that church, to the college at Dalkeith in 1477.(8)

Although the plan of the main body of the church may perpetuate its medieval form, it was extensively rebuilt in 1730, and there were further repairs in about 1830.(9) Much of what is now seen, however, dates from a major restoration carried out by George Fortune of Duns in 1892-4, at the behest of Andrew Smith of Whitchester.

Around the rectangular core were added a semi-circular east apse for a sanctuary, a narrow rectangular west extension, and along the north flank a laird’s aisle flanked by lean-to vestry and porches, evidently on the site of an earlier aisle. The walls throughout are of whinstone and buff sandstone rubble, but the later parts are given an architectural quality that the original lacked through the use of ashlar dressings, and of buttresses to the west extension. There is a birdcage bellcote to the west gable of the main body, and cross finials to the east gable and the gable of the west extension.

The south flank of the main body has three nineteenth-century Y-traceried windows and a pointed single-light window to the original chancel area. The apse has round-arched windows, while the west extension has a Y-traceried window to each flank and a three-light intersecting-traceried west window. There is delicate foliage decoration to the two-light windows along the north flank, on each side of the central gable of the laird’s aisle.

Internally the church has boarded pointed barrel ceilings, though which project false hammer beams and collars, the braces of the former being carried on corbels with stiff leaf foliage decoration. The junctions of the main body of the church with the apse, laird’s aisle and west extension are marked by arches with heavy semi-cylindrical responds.

Towards the east end of the south wall is a panel with the arms of Sinclair and the initials IS.

Within the north-east porch is a simple cross-inscribed grave slab, probably of thirteenth-century date.

Notes

1. Alan Orr Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History, Edinburgh, 1922, vol. 2, p. 61.

2. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 61.

3. National Records of Scotland, Miscellaneous ecclesiastical records, CH8/16.

4. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Duns, Minutes, 1659-88, CH2/113/1, fols 59-60.

5. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Duns, Minutes, 1659-88, CH2/113/1, fols 191-192.

6. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Duns, Minutes, 1707-16, CH2/113/4, fols 137-138.

7. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 2, p. 93.

8. Cowan, 1967, p. 139.

9. The description of Longformacus is based on that in Kitty Cruft, John Dunbar and Richard Fawcett, The Buildings of Scotland, Borders, New Haven and London, 2006, pp. 505-06.

Map

Images

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  • 1. Ellem Church site, 1

  • 2. Ellem Church site, 2

  • 3. Longformacus Church, exterior, from north west

  • 4. Longformacus Church, exterior, from south east

  • 5. Longformacus Church, exterior, from south west