Errol Parish Church

Errol Churchyard

Summary description

There are no structural remains of the medieval church, which was rebuilt in 1765. A new church was built on a different site in 1831-33.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Nicholas

Errol is first recorded as a parish church shortly before 1198 when a settlement was reached between the parson and the monks of Coupar Angus in respect of teind payments from their land at Edderpolles in the parish.  This property, which came to be known as Carsegrange, had been largely reclaimed from the marshes of the Carse of Gowrie through the efforts of the monks and their tenants, and the abbey was seeking to gain exemption from all teind payment through the privilege of the Cistercian order in respect of what was known as novalia, lands newly-won from ‘waste’.  At Errol a compromise was reached whereby Coupar Angus agreed to pay two silver merks annually as settlement for all teinds.(1)  The picture which can be recovered from this and other records relting to land in the Carse of Gowrie is one of a landscape in rapid transformation as new settlers were being introduced and the potentially fertile wetlands were being drained for agriculture.  In the case of Errol, much of this work was being directed by the Hay family, who had been granted the land in the third quarter of the twelfth century and who, we learn in the 1330s, were responsible for the establishment of the church to serve the people of their lordship (see below).

The next record of the church is in 1243 when it was noted that it had been dedicated on 9 August by Bishop David de Bernham of St Andrews.(2)  Five years later on 23 April 1248 a new settlement of teind was agreed between the church of Errol and the monks of Coupar, confirmed by John, prior of St Andrews.  This new settlement increased the monks’ payments to three and a half merks of silver and 2lbs of incense annually.(3)  The substantial uplift in payment between 1198 and 1248 reflects not only the reduction of the Cistercian privilege of novalia after the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 but also the increase in the real value of the land and the produce which it was yielding.  It was a free parsonage in 1274-5 when the taxation of the rector of the church of Errol was recorded in the rolls of the papal tax-collector in Scotland, assessed at 12 merks 8s 4d.(4)  That figure indicates that it was one of the wealthiest free parsonages in the diocese of St Andrews by that date, presumably reflecting the continued expansion of the agricultural potential of the parish as the surrounding carseland was broken into cultivation or exploited more rigorously for pasture.

Between 1331 and 1333 Gilbert Hay, lord of Errol, granted the patronage of the church of errol, described as founded by his ancestors, along with its dependent chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Inchmartine, to the monks of Coupar Angus.(5)  In 1351, at the request of Queen Joan, wife of King David II, and of King Jean II of France, Pope Clement VI annexed the parish church to the uses of the abbey.(6)  Although Ian Cowan suggested that neither grant was effective, a mandate in favour of the perpetual chaplain of the parish church of St Nicholas of Errol seems to indicate that the annexation of both parsonage and vicarage had been fully effective – if perhaps only temporarily - and the cure was being served by a stipendiary curate.(7)  Later that same year, however, Simon of Kettins was described as rector, holding the church of Errol.(8)  Simon’s surname indicates that he was from the territory within which Coupar Angus enjoyed particular influence – Kettins being 1.5km south-east of Coupar Angus – and could indicate the abbey’s success as patron in appointing him.

Subsequent rectors are recorded into the early fifteenth century with William de Camera being collated as rector in 1408.  At that time the church was described as being in lay patronage, which suggests a reversion into the hands of the Hays.(9) On 14 June 1430 a supplication to the pope reported that Henry, bishop of St Andrews, with the consent of King James I (described as ‘true patron of parish church of Errol near the burgh of Perth’), had united Errol to the Carthusian monastery founded by the king in Perth (in 1429).  The union was to become effective when the church was void by the resignation or death of Richard of Creich,the incumbent  rector, and the monks would assign an annual pension of 50 merks for a perpetual vicar.(10)  A second supplication made a week later repeats the case but does not name the king as the ‘true patron’ who had consented to the union.(11)  Richard of Creich, described as councillor of the king, was still in possession in 1432, when he was granted dispensation to hold Errol along with a second benefice.(12)  The Carthusians had evidently to wait some years before gaining possession of the church.  A formal renunciation of all rights in the church made by William, abbot of Coupar Angus, in favour of the Carthusians of Perth, may mark the point at which the priory gained corporal possession.(13)  The vicarage settlement had certainly been instituted by 1439 when Thomas Dongue supplicated for provision in expectation of the promotion of the unnamed incumbent vicar to another benefice.(14)

The Hays evidently believed that their rights in Errol had been usurped and contested the grant of the church to the Carthusians.  In 1450 in a settlement which clearly recognised that James I had acted in a less than lawful manner William Hay of Errol was compensated for the loss of his roights of patronage over Errol with a grant in its place of the patronage of the church of Turriff in the diocese of Aberdeen.(15)  The Carthusians’ possession of the church was thereafter uncontested, the parsonage remaining annexed to their priory at the Reformation while the cure remained a perpetual vicarage although, surprisingly, the chaplain then serving the cure was paid by the abbey of Coupar Angus.(16)

Notes

1. Charters of the Abbey of Coupar Angus, ed D E Easson (Scottish History Society, 1947), i, no.III [hereafter Coupar Angus Charters].  The settlement was reached in the presence of Roger de Beaumont, who was still styled as ‘elect of St Andrews’, placing the agreement before his consecration in 1198.

2. A O Anderson (ed), Early Sources of Scottish History, ii (Edinburgh, 1922), 524 [Pontifical Offices of St Andrews].

3. Coupar Angus Charters, i, no.LIV.

4. A I Dunlop (ed), ‘Bagimond’s Roll: Statement of the Tenths of the Kingdom of Scotland’, Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vi (1939), 35.

5. Coupar Angus Charters, i, no.CXIII.

6. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, iii, 1342-1362, ed W H Bliss (Dublin, 1897), 397.

7. I B Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society, 1967), 62; Calendar of Papal letters to Scotland of Clement VII of Avignon 1375-1394, ed C Burns (Scottish History Society, 1976), 47 [hereafter CPL, Clement VII].

8. CPL, Clement VII, 52.

9. Calendar of Papal Letters to Scotland of Benedict XIII of Avignon, 1394-1419, ed F McGurk (Scottish History Society, 1976), 187.

10. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, iii, 1428-1432, eds A I Dunlop and I B Cowan (Scottish History Society, 1970), 108 [hereafter CSSR, iii].

11.CSSR, iii, 113.

12.CSSR, iii, 246.

13. Coupar Angus Charters, ii, no.CXXXI.

14. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, iv, 1433-1447, eds A I Dunlop and D MacLauchlan (Glasgow, 1983), no.570.

15. Illustrations of the Topography and Antiquities of the Shires of Aberdeen and Banff, ii (Spalding Club, 1847), 342-343.

16. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 284-85, 287, 304, 356, 370.  

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Granted to Coupar Angus by Gilbert De Haya c.1331x1333. This was not effective and the church was granted to the Charterhouse at Perth in 1434/5 by James I. The Hay family tried and failed to recover the patronage in latter part of fifteenth century.(1)

c.1198 Agreement between Coupar Angus and church of Errol, Coupar, to pay 2 marks of silver for all teinds belonging to the land of Ederpill.(2)

c.1331x33 Patronage of the church gifted to the abbey by Gilbert de Hay, a church founded by his predecessor to aid divine worship and hospitality at the abbey. Grant includes chapel of Inchmartin.(3)

1351 Confirmation, at the request of Queen Joan and John, King of France, of the appropriation to the Abbey of Coupar of the church of Errol and chapel of Inchmartin given to them by the late Gilbert de Hay.(4)

1359 Walter de Wardlaw, rector of Errol, promoted to archdeaconry of St Andrews.(5)

1376 (25 Jan) Letter by William, bishop of St Andrews, to Master Robert Bell, Vicar of Errol, commanding him to induct Master William de Dalgernok in the Parish Church of Seres, vacant by the death of Master Gilbert Armstrong, rector thereof.(6)

1380 Robert Kann called perpetual chaplain of the parish church of St Nicholas, Errol, value 8 marks.(7)

1381 Simon de Ketenis, holds the church along with deanery of Aberdeen.

1394 Andrew Trebury supplicated for the parish church but appears to have failed as in 1395 John Graham is described as rector.(8)

1408 William de Camera (MA), 5th student, is rector of the church described as in ‘lay patronage’. He exchanged it with William Lang in 1412 and by 1417 Richard de Creych has Errol and the church of Kinkell in Aberdeen.(9)

1430 Confirmation that ‘recently’ Henry Wardlaw, bishop of St Andrews, with the express consent of James I, patron of the church of Errol, united said church to Charterhouse of Perth (value £120). Monks to provide a perpetual vicar value 50 marks.(10) In 1432 Richard Creich dispensed to hold Errol alongside other benefice, who is described as counsellor of James I (church not yet under Carthusian control).(11)

1434x35 William, abbot of Coupar Angus resigns all their rights in the church to the Charterhouse of Perth.(12)

1439 In supplication in expectation of promotion of incumbent vicar (no name mentioned) by Thomas Dongue (MA and illegitimate), value £12 sterling.(13)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: Kirkland of Errol pertains to the Charterhouse of Perth (value £7 7s 7d). However, the chaplain who serves the vicarage of Errol is paid for by Coupar Angus: wages are 1/3 of £10 6s 8d, and a fee of £7 6s 8d ‘of yearly duty’ paid by the abbey to the Kirk of Errol.(14)

1626 (15 Mar) Transportation of the minister Alex Oman, to the church of Erroll, mentions that the earl of Erroll is the patron of the parsonage and vicarage.(15)

1642 (17 Aug) Following an act of the General Assembly anent the patronage of churches the Presbytery of Perth records the patrons of churches within its bounds; Perth belongs to the town, Kinnoul belongs to the earl of Kinnoul, Scone belongs to the king, Cambusmichael also belongs to the king, Kilspindie also belongs to the king being a former kirk of abbey of Scone, Errol belongs to the earl of Kinnoul, Kinfauns belongs to the king being a former kirk of the abbey of Scone, Rhynd belongs to the king being a former church of the priory of Pittenweem, Arngask belongs to the king being a former church of Cambuskenneth, Dunbarney belongs to the town of Edinburgh, Forteviot belongs to the (old) college of St Andrews, Methven belongs to the Duke of Lennox and Luncarty belongs to the king.(16)

1666 (16 Sept) That day the elders and heritors of the parish of Errol being convened considering the ruinous condition of the church and steeple appointed a stent to be drawn (according to rents etc) in total 400 marks.(17) In 30 Nov of the same year a decision was made to repair the minister’s manse, initially just emergency repairs, in time a full repair.(18)

1668 (6 Sept) 18s 8d given this day to the bell tower. On 22 Nov it was noted that ‘the bell of the church being a rupture in it is to be sent to Holland, there was given to William Brewhouse for transporting it to Dundee 16s.(19)

1677 (15 Aug) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Perth, asked concerning the fabric of the church; the minister replied that it is very well upheld by the heritors and that it has all the utensils necessary for the holy communion.(20)

1681 (15 Mar) A payment of £13 19s 4d was paid out by the kirk session to pay for the ‘porch door’ (probably for mending but not specified).(21)

1681 (9 Aug) £7 paid to a glass wright for a glass window as for the east gabell of the church. On 29 Oct £1 17s 54d was paid for carrying the slates by water for the church.(22) [possibly connected to the repair of the church the following year?]

1682 Decisions of the commissioners appointed to take charge of repairing the church at Erroll.(23)

1683 (8 Apr) £9 16s given to the bedell for lyme and the carrying of it.(24) [connected to it above?]

1692 (13 Mar) It was unanimously agreed upon by the session that money should be borrowed from the box for repairing of the roof of the church.(25)

1693 (5 Jan) Visitation of the church at which the heritors and session compear anent the repair of the church, manse and kirk yard dykes and bridges within the parish. John Maclaran and William Dogg, wrights, George Thompson, Thomas Thompson, William Bruce, skilled workmen, note that the kirkyard dykes are wholly down (at a cost of £163), to repair the glass windows of the kirk, roof, kirk doors and bell house £116 7s. (the manse £133 9s 8d to repair).(26)

1697 (9 Nov) Visitation of the churches of Erroll and Kilspindie. Report that repairs of the kirk, kikrk yard dykes and manse were needful at a cost of £814 14s 10d.(27)

#1765 No reference to the new church built in 1765 in either the presbytery or kirk session records

Statistical Account of Scotland (William Herdman (assistant to the Minister), 1791): ‘The church was built in 1765’.(28) [no reference to earlier buildings]

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev James Grierson, 1837): ‘About three and a half miles from the village of Errol, there are at Westown, the ruins of a small gothic church, of plain but excellent workmanship, which in one of the ancient charters of the estate is called the  church of the Blessed Virgin of Inchmartin…. It is not above fifty years however, since the building was dismantled…. The parish church was erected in 1831’.(29) (the previous one (1765) had proved structurally unsound).

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches: (George Hay): 1831, James Gillespie Graham, architect; refurnished.(30)

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 62.

2. Charters of the Abbey of Coupar Angus, i, no. 3.

3. Charters of the Abbey of Coupar Angus, i, no. 113.

4. CPL, iii, 397.

5. CPP, 339.

6. NRS Transcripts and photocopies of Miscellaneous Charters and Papers, RH1/2/138.

7. CPL, Clem, 47.

8. CPP, 555, CPL, Ben, 14, CPP, 592.

9. CPL, Ben, 187, CPP, 598 & 607.

10. CSSR, iii, 108 & 113.

11. CSSR, iii, 246.

12. Charters of the Abbey of Coupar Angus, ii, no.131.

13. CSSR, iv, no.570.

14. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 284-85, 287, 304, 356 & 370.

15. NRS Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1618-1647, CH2/299/1, fol. 142.

16. NRS Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1618-1647, CH2/299/1, fol. 423.

17. NRS Errol Kirk Session, minutes and accounts, 1666-1704, CH2/887/4, fol. 1.

18. NRS Errol Kirk Session, minutes and accounts, 1666-1704, CH2/887/4, fol. 2.

19. NRS Errol Kirk Session, minutes and accounts, 1666-1704, CH2/887/4, fols. 21-22.

20. NRS Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1662-1681, CH2/299/4, fols. 322-325, NRS Errol Kirk Session, minutes and accounts, 1666-1704, CH2/887/4, fol. 95.

21. NRS Errol Kirk Session, minutes and accounts, 1666-1704, CH2/887/4, fol. 135.

22. NRS Errol Kirk Session, minutes and accounts, 1666-1704, CH2/887/4, fols. 137 & 139.

23. PKDA Perth, Documents relating to ecclesiastical affairs, B59/28/45.

24. NRS Errol Kirk Session, minutes and accounts, 1666-1704, CH2/887/4, fol. 142.

25. NRS Errol Kirk Session, minutes and accounts, 1666-1704, CH2/887/4, fol. 201.

26. NRS Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1690-1700, CH2/299/5, fols. 63-64.

27. NRS Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1690-1700, CH2/299/5, fols. 187-188.

28. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1791), iv, 489.

29. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1837), x, 385-86.

30. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, pp. 115 & 269.

Bibliography

NRS Errol Kirk Session, minutes and accounts, 1666-1704, CH2/887/4.

NRS Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1618-1647, CH2/299/1.

NRS Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1662-1681, CH2/299/4.

NRS Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1690-1700, CH2/299/5.

NRS Transcripts and photocopies of Miscellaneous Charters and Papers, RH1/2/138.

PKDA Perth, Documents relating to ecclesiastical affairs, B59/28/45.

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.

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.

Charters of the Abbey of Coupar Angus, 1947, ed. D. E. Easson (Scottish History Society), Edinburgh.

Cowan, I.B., 1967, The parishes of medieval Scotland, (Scottish Record 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

The church at Errol was dedicated by Bishop David de Bernham, a dedication that probably has no bearing on its structural history.(1) An attempt was made to grant it to the Cistercain abbey of Coupar Angus by Gilbert de Haya in about 1331-3. However, although this was confirmed by Pope Clement VI twenty years later, it was evidently ineffective, and in 1425 it was granted to the new Charterhouse in Perth by King James I. The cure was subsequently a vicarage perpetual.(2)

The medieval church was in the old churchyard at NO 25226 22814. The condition of that church and its steeple was a cause for concern by 1666,(3) and a range of repairs are recorded in the 1680s and ‘90s. A new church was built on the site of the old one in 1765.(4)

There are still a number of fine eighteenth-century memorials in the churchyard, though nothing remains of the either the medieval church or of the building of 1765 that replaced it. It may be speculated that the most likely location for those churches was at the highest point of the churchyard, where there is now a burial enclosure for the Allen of Errol Park family. That family was listed as amongst the chief land-holders of the parish, and may therefore have exercised rights over the part of the medieval church that had been the chancel.(5)

However, following a panic about the safety of the gallery in June 1830, it was found that the walls and roof of the church of 1765 were unsafe.(6) It was therefore decided to build an ambitious new church on a different site in 1831-33, a short distance to the north of the old churchyard (at NO 25269 22959) to the designs of James Gillespie Graham.(7) As described by its proud incumbent in 1837 it ‘is a very chaste and perfect specimen of the plain Saxon [ i.e. Romanesque] architecture....It is in the form of a cross, intersecting a square, and has a handsome square tower with pinnacles at the angles....The whole expense of the building was considerably upwards of £5000.’(8)

Notes

1. Alan Orr Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History, Edinburgh, 1922, vol. 2, p. 524.

2. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 62.

3. National records of Scotland, Errol Kirk Session, Minutes and Accounts, 1666-1704, CH2/887/4, fol. 1.

4. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-99, vol. 4, p. 489.

5. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 10, p. 383

6. New Statistical Account, vol. 10, pp. 386-87.

7. Howard Colvin, Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 4th ed., New Haven and London, 2008, p. 441.

8. New Statistical Account, vol. 10, pp. 386-87. 

Map

Images

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

  • 1. Errol Churchyard

  • 2. Errol Churchyard, coped tombs

  • 3. Errol Churchyard, Allan of Errol Park enclosure

  • 4. Errol Churchyard, gravestone, 1

  • 5. Errol Churchyard, gravestone, 2

  • 6. Errol Church, exterior, 1

  • 7. Errol Church, exterior, 2

  • 8. Errol Church, exterior, 3

  • 9. Errol Church, tower