Fala Parish Church

Fala Church, exterior, from north west

Summary description

Almost entirely rebuilt in 1863.

Historical outline

Dedication: Our Lady?

Almost no reference to the church of Fala survives in medieval sources.  It is not mentioned in the rolls of the papal tax-collector in Scotland, compiled in the mid-1270s, which indicates that it either did not exist or had already been appropriated fully to another institution by that date.  The latter seems to have been the case, with the church appearing in the early 16th century as annexed to the Hospital of St Laurence of Ednam, which had been founded before 1178.(1

The earliest surviving reference to the church is in a supplication to the papacy of 29 March 1436, where an indulgence was sought to encourage the faithful to visit the church and make offerings to pay for necessary repairs.(2)  The feast days on which the indulgence was to be offered were the Assumption and Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which raises the probability that the dedication of the church was to St Mary.  The church has no independent reference in the Books of Assumption at the Reformation, its revenues remaining incorporated within those of the Hospital of Ednam. A curate appears to have dispensed parochial duties on behalf of the appropriator.

Notes

1. I B Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society, 1967), 64; I B Cowan and D E Easson, Medieval Religious Houses: Scotland, 2nd edition (London, 1976), 178.

2. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, iv, 1433-1447, eds A I Dunlop and D MacLauchlan (Glasgow, 1983), no.293.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Annexed to hospital of Ednam from an early date, the parsonage and vicarage revenues were with the hospital and a curate served the cure.(1)

1436 Indulgence to run for 20 years of 3 years for penitents who, on the principal feasts of the year and of the dedication of the church, visit and give alms for the repair of the parish church of Fala.(2) 

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The church does not feature in thirds of benefices.

[Parishes of Fala and Soutra united in 1618, shortly after Fala becomes the church of the new parish]

1621 (17 Sept) A visitation of the churches of Soutra and Fala by the Presbytery of Dalkeith makes a reference to the purchase of a bell for the church of Soutra with the assistance of the presbytery. The minister also regrets the ruin of the church of Fala.(3)

1627 (10 May) Report on the parish by the minister (John Logan) describes the parishes of Fala and Soutra as being united in 20 Feb 1618; the church of Soutra is under the patronage of the town of Edinburgh and Fala is under the patronage of the Laird of Edmonstone. The minister supplicates the Commission that his areas of surrounding parishes be added to his to augment his income because neither of the churches can be upholding (for we are presently destitute of both the kirks being ruinated). Logan also asks that one of the two churches be chosen as the parish kirk and the other abandoned.(4)

1640 (9 July) During the visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Dalkeith the minister regrets that the kirk needs slating, kirkyard dykes need mending and the bell house is required. The stent agreed and the minister notes that he serves both Fala and Soutra.(5)

1647 (26 Aug) A further visitation of the church notes that the people lay far away from the church and also because it was ruinous and not able to hold the parishioners, it also fails to keep out the wind and rain. The heritors agree to mend the church. The minister notes that a better bell was needed and that the windows need mending with glass (2 new ones are required), a new door as well. The laird of Lugtown, the main heritor to organise the stent of 700 marks. The same day it was agreed that the eastern half of the church should belong to the laird of Lugtown.(6)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Archie Singers, 1792): ‘The church [at Fala] is small’.(7)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev James Ingram, 1844): ‘The date of its [church at Fala] erection is not known. Externally it is one of the most humble and unpretentious of our sacred edifices, but interesting for its venerable proportions, its narrow, lengthened form, its high peaked roof’.(8)

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 189.

2. CPL, viii, 617.

3. NRS Presbytery of Dalkeith, Minutes, 1582-1630, CH2/424/1, fol. 488.

4. Reports on the State of Certain Parishes in Scotland, pp. 64-68.

5. NRS Presbytery of Dalkeith, Minutes, 1639-1652, CH2/424/3, fols.47-48.

6. NRS Presbytery of Dalkeith, Minutes, 1639-1652, CH2/424/3, fols. 191-193.

7. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1792), x, 605.

8. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1844), i, 540.

Bibliography

NRS Presbytery of Dalkeith, Minutes, 1582-1630, CH2/424/1.

NRS Presbytery of Dalkeith, Minutes, 1639-1652, CH2/424/3.

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

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.

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 church of Fala was evidently annexed to the hospital at Ednam for much of its history, though this can only be seen as a certainty in 1512/13. It is likely that the cure was served by a curate.(1)

In 1618 the parishes of Fala and Soutra were united, with Fala becoming the place of worship for both. But for many years it seems that little was done to keep the church in repair, and on 17 September 1621 the minister described it as ruinous.(2) The situation had not changed by 26 August 1647, when it was said that the wind and rain could not be kept out, and it was agreed that the eastern half of it should be deemed to belonged to the laird of Lugtown.(3)

At the end of the eighteenth century the author of the parish entry in the Statistical Account stated rather despondently that ‘the church is small and indifferently seated; but as no great ones attend, it does not much signify’.(4) A description in the New Statistical Account suggests that the church may well still have been essentially the medieval building, though its qualities appear to have been a little more appreciated:

The date of its erection is not know. Externally it is one of the most humble and unpretentious of our sacred edifices, but interesting for its venerable proportions, its narrow, lengthened form, its high pitch roof.(5)  

David Bryce was said to be building a new church in 1863.(6) However, it is perhaps more likely that he was remodelling the existing structure, since in 1883 the church could still be described as ‘a plain old building’,(7) and on the north side there is a retained memorial to members of the Falconar family who died in 1795 and 1820.

The church is a basically rectangular structure built of buff coursed rubble with ashlar dressings, with porches at the west end and towards the west end of the south front. Most of the windows along the flanks are pointed-arched openings with hood mouldings, but the western bay on each side has a rectangular two-light window.

Notes

1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 64.

2. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Dalkeith, Minutes, 1582-1630, CH2/424/1, fol. 488.

3. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Dalkeith, Minutes, 1639-52, CH2/424/3, fols 191-3.

4. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-9, vol. 10, p. 605.

5. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 1, p. 540.

6. Colin McWilliam, The Buildings of Scotland, Lothian, Harmondsworth, 1978, p. 203.

7. Francis H. Groome, Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, vol. 3, 1883.

Map

Images

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  • 1. Fala Church, exterior, from north west

  • 2. Fala Church, exterior, from south

  • 3. Fala Church, exterior, monument against north wall

  • 4. Fala churchyard, monument, 1

  • 5. Fala churchyard, monument, 2