Falkirk / Eglesbrich / Varia Capella Parish Church

Falkirk Church, exterior, from south east

Summary description

The medieval church was cruciform, with a central tower that was heightened in 1738. It was rebuilt in 1810, retaining the tower on its south side; a session house was added to the south of the tower in 1892. Some architectural fragments and effigies are preserved.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Modan?(1)

A court case that continued into the fourteenth century between the canons of Holyrood Abbey and the descendents of Hervey, described as ‘abbot’ of Varia Capella, points to the existence at Falkirk of an early religious community of uncertain status.(2)  This prior existence of even a residual community of unreformed, non-regular clergy might explain the grant of the church of Falkirk to the Augustinians of Holyrood before 1164, in which year it and its dependent chapels were confirmed amongst the possessions of the abbey by Pope Alexander III.(3)  That grant appears to have been ineffective and in 1166 Bishop Richard of St Andrews, who appears to have been the original donor, confirmed possession of ‘Eiglesbrec’ to the canons.(4)

In January 1240 Bishop David de Bernham confirmed the canons in possession of all of their churches, including ‘Ecclesbryth which is nowadays known as Varia Capella’.(5)  Two years later, on 12 June 1242, the same bishop dedicated the church.(6)  The church was included amongst a general confirmation of Holyrood’s properties and rights made by Pope Innocent IV in 1247.(7)  Three years later a vicarage settlement was instituted whereby a perpetual vicarage was established with an annual stipend of 10 merks attached to it.(8)  The vicarage of Varia Capella, assessed at 2 merks 6s 8d, was listed in the rolls of the papal tax-collector in Scotland in 1274-5.(9)

This arrangement continued until 1395.  On 25 October 1395 Pope Benedict XIII granted an indult at the request of King Robert II, in favour of Holyrood, permitting the canons to incorporate in perpetuity the perpetual vicarage of Falkirk into their monastery.  The vicarage was described as then pertaining to the bishop of St Andrews, pointing to a retained interest in the church after Bishop Richard’s 1166 grant.  It was also conceded that the church should served by a canon of their choice.(10)  This arrangement came into effect in 1402 on the death of John Rew, the incumbent vicar, whereupon the abbot and convent collated and provided one of their own number, John of Edinburgh, to the perpetual vicarage.(11)

Annexation of the vicarage and nominal service by a canon of Holyrood was, it was soon claimed, unpopular with the parishioners.  On 30 June 1419 a certain John Bowmakar supplicated the pope about the vicarage of Falkirk, challenging the annexation made during the time of the Great Schism by the Avignonese pope Benedict XIII and citing a lengthy list of defects with the grant.  He claimed, moreover, that the parishioners wanted the cure of souls to be committed to a secular priest, as had formerly been the case, and for the serving canon to be taken back into the abbey.(12)  The canons received a counter-supplication in their support from Archibald, earl of Douglas, but a second supplication dated 3 June 1420, nominally from the nobles and people of the parish, reasserted the case for dissolution of the union as already made by Bowmakar.(13)  The canons appear to have defended their possession effectively, with a settlement in 1426 which saw both Bowmakar and John of Efdinburgh resign their claims, and in 1430 the canons secured a confirmation of their possession to this, and to other churches where their possession was facing challenge, from Bishop Henry Wardlaw of St Andrews.(14)  This, however, did not end challenges and in 1433 and 1435 there were further unsuccessful attempts to reverse the annexation of the vicarage.(15)

Perhaps the most serious challenge to the abbey’s possession of the vicarage was mounted in 1449 for the most powerful local noblemen, Alexander Livingston of Callendar, who controlled the person of the young King James II during the last years of his minority.  Livingston had great ambitions for his family and was seeking to establish their membership of the top rank of elite society in Scotland.  One marque of such prominence was patronage of a collegiate church which was a chantry-come-mausoleum for the founder’s family.  On 24 February 1449 Livingston, described as baron of Scotland and councillor of King James, intimated that he wished to found a collegiate church and endow it from his own goods to the value of £40.  The establishment would consist of a provost and six canons.  Without papal support, he claimed, he would not be able to do so at all easily, but if the perpetual vicarage of Falkirk were granted to him and erected into a collegiate church, and if the parish church of Kirkliston were united to it, then Alexander would add his own contribution.  King James and Livingston therefore supplicated that the pope would grant the perpetual vicarage of Falkirk (which he valued at £16 ster) for the foundation of a collegiate church, which would have a tower, bells and other necessary buildings.  It was also supplicated that the pope would institute the said six canons and a provost to have cure of souls, and that they be empowered to retain the vicarage in perpetuity; and that the pope would also unite the church of Kirkliston to it when it fell vacant.(16)  Livingston’s supplication was granted but less than six weeks later the pope also granted Holyrood a confirmation of its possession of the vicarage and other disputed properties.(17)

Regardless of Holyrood’s successful supplication for a fresh confirmation of its rights in Falkirk, Alexander Livingston’s scheme was fated to fail before any serious moves had been made to initiate the planned erection of the collegiate church.  On 1 June 1450, a supplication was made to the pope in the name of King James II.   It rehearsed Livingston’s proposal and the nature of the previous papal confirmation in its favour before going on to reject Livingston’s case.  The first point made was that the church belonged entirely to Holyrood and had been in the abbey’s possession for 200 years.  It was then intimated that the perpetual vicarage has been held by canons of Holyrood for many years but no mention of that had been made in Livingston’s supplication.  It was also explained that Livingston had not assigned the promised £40 from his own property towards the endowment of the collegiate church, and since he had rebelled against the king and been expelled from Scotland, all his goods being confiscated, there was no hope of progress.  On account of all of these things if the pope’s previous letters were permitted to stand it would be to the great injury of Holyrood.  Accordingly, King James and the canons supplicated that mandate be given for inquiry to be made into the situation and, if found to be true, for the letters in favour of Livingston’s supplication to be revoked and annulled.(18)

This appeal ended the scheme for the collegiate church and Holyrood was able to again have its possession of Falkirk re-confirmed in a general confirmation of its rights by Pope Calixtus III in 1456.(19)  It seems, however, that the abbey continued to be troubled by attempts by other clerics to secure papal provision to the perpetual vicarage.  To resolve this problem, in 1470 King James III petitioned for and secured papal confirmation that only canons of Holyrood could serve the vicarage of Falkirk and all other churches in the abbey’s possession.(20)  Holyrood canons thereafter held the annexed vicarage down to the Reformation.  At that time, the parsonage was recorded as being set at feu for £239, while the vicarage was valued at a further £67 13s 4d.(21)

The value of the vicarage, which was made up chiefly of the altarage offerings of the faithful, indicates that this was a church which attracted a significant level of benefaction from its parishioners.  This position is reflected, too, in the presence of additional endowed chaplainries established within it.  There is reference in 1527 to an aisle of St Michael the Archangel in the church and within it an altar dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary to which was attached one endowed chaplainry.(22)  On 1 January 1533/4 King James V confirmed at mortmain under the Great Seal a charter of sir Robert Batho, chaplain of the altar of St Mary within the parish church of Falkirk, dated 3 February 1531/2, by which he granted for the salvation of the souls of the late John Hepburn, prior of St Andrews, and others, an endowment for the maintenance of a perpetual secular chaplain at the altar of St Michael in the chapel which he had built on the north side of the church of Falkirk.(23)  It is presumably that chaplainry of the aisle of St Michael the Archangel that is recorded in 1559.(24)

Notes

1. J M Mackinlay, Ancient Church Dedications in Scotland. Non-Scriptural Dedications (Edinburgh, 1914), 148.

2. Liber Cartarum Sancte Crucis (Bannatyne Club, 1840), no.91 [hereafter Holyrood Liber]; I B Cowan and D E Easson, Medieval Religious Houses: Scotland, 2nd edition (London, 1976), 52.

3. Scotia Pontificia: Papal Letters to Scotland before the Pontificate of Innocent III, ed R Somerville (Oxford, 1982), no.53.

4. Holyrood Liber, cartae ex variis apographis, no.4.

5. Holyrood Liber, no.76.

6. A O Anderson (ed), Early Sources of Scottish History, ii (Edinburgh, 1922), 522 [Pontifical Offices of St Andrews].

7. Holyrood Liber, Appendix, no.8.

8. Holyrood Liber, no.75.

9. A I Dunlop (ed), ‘Bagimond’s Rolls: Statement of the Tenths of the Kingdom of Scotland’, Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vi (1939), 33, 56.

10. Calendar of Papal Letters to Scotland of Benedict XIII of Avignon 1394-1419, ed F McGurk (Scottish History Society, 1976), 54 [hereafter CPL, Benedict XIII].

11.. CPL, Benedict XIII, 394.

12. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, i, 1418-1422, eds E R Lindsay  and A I Cameron (Scottish History Society, 1934), 81-2 [hereafter CSSR, i].

CSSR, i, 111, 142, 203.

14. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, ii, 1423-1428, ed A I Dunlop (Scottish History Society, 1956), 125-6;  Holyrood Liber, no.115.

15. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, iii, 1428-1432, eds A I Dunlop and I B Cowan (Scottish History Society, 1970), 70; Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, iv, 1433-1447, eds A I Dunlop and D MacLauchlan (Glasgow, 1983), nos 42, 185.

CSSR, v, 1447-1471, eds J Kirk, R J Tanner and A I Dunlop (Glasgow, 1997), no.251 [hereafter CSSR, v].

17.CSSR, v, no.264.

CSSR, v, no.349.

19. Holyrood Liber, Appendix 1, no.1.

20. CSSR, v, no.1454.

21. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 91-99, 553.

22. NRS Haddington Burgh Protocol Books, James Meldrum, 1520-33, B30/1/1, fol.110v.

23. Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum, iii, 1513-1546, eds J B Paul and J M Thomson (Edinburgh, 1883), no 1333.

24. NRS Stirling Burgh Charters and other Documents B66/25/125.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Confirmed to Holyrood in 1160 by Richard, bishop of St Andrews. Vicarage settlement in 1251 but this was annexed to the abbey in 1394, with the cure served by a canon from Holyrood. The abbey’s control of the church constantly assailed by seculars.(1)

According to Mackinley the church was dedicated to St Modan.(2)

1164 Church of Falkirk with its chapels confirmed to the abbey by pope Alexander III.(3)

1166x67 Church given to the abbey by Richard, bishop of St Andrews in synod. [previous attempt prior to 1164 seems to have been ineffective](4)

1248 Church included in confirmation of possessions of the abbey by David de Bernham, bishop of St Andrews.(5)

1251 Vicarage settlement by David de Bernham, bishop of St Andrews; the parsonage remained with the abbey; perpetual vicarage valued at 10 marks.(6)

1268 Church included in confirmation of the possessions of the abbey in the diocese of St Andrews by Gameline, bishop of St Andrews.(7)

1344 Adam de Tyninghame (later described as secretary of earl of Douglas in Papal Petitions, 350) collated to Falkirk, in the gift of the abbey of Holyrood, void by James de Douglas failing to get ordained and detained by Thomas de Andrison (canon of Holyrood).(8)

1350 John de Stallis, (canon of Holyrood and chaplain of David II and Queen Joan) in unsuccessful litigation over Falkirk.

1361 William de Cheshelm is perpetual vicar on the promotion of Adam de Tyninghame to the deanery of Dunblane.(9)

1379 Thomas de Row (law student at university of Avignon) in litigation over Falkirk; this is successful and he is vicar until 1402.(10)

1395 Indult at the request of Robert III for Holyrood to incorporate in perpetual union the vicarage of Falkirk (described as then pertaining to the bishop of St Andrews) on death of secession of current vicar. Goods to be held by abbot, church served by a canon of their choice. Shortly followed in 1402 by the collation of John de Edinburgh (canon) on the death of previous incumbent Thomas Row.(11)

1419-20 John Bowmaker challenges the 1395 grant ‘since the parishioners rather desire the cure of souls to be committed to a secular priest, as formerly, and that the religious be taken back to the monastery’. Continuing litigation between John and incumbent canon John de Edinburgh.(12)

1420 Supplication by Archibald, earl of Douglas in support of Holyrood’s claim to the church (named protector of the abbey); in the same year further there is a suit by nobles and parishioners of Falkirk against the union which they claim was made ‘without reasonable or true cause’.(13)

1426 Settlement made with resignation of the church by Bowmaker and John de Edinburgh; James de Camera provided; he resigns within one year and Henry de Dryden is collated to the church.(14)

1433 and 1435 Further challenge to the 1395 settlement by James Bruce who accuses Henry of holding the church without dispensation. [no clear result].(15)

1449 Supplication by Alexander Livingstone that the church revenues be granted to him so that he could convert it into a college (£16 value), followed by further supplication of a confirmation of possession of Falkirk and Easter Kinghorn by Holyrood.(16)

1450 James I supplication to revoke the decision in favour of Livingstone (as he is a traitor now in exile) and return Falkirk to Holyrood.(17)

1454 Petition on behalf of the inhabitants of Manuel in Falkirk parish, that the church or chapel in the said place of Manuel has from time immemorial had cemetery, baptistery, chrism vase, burial place and a priest who celebrates divine office (temporal lordship owned by Rankin de Crawford), that they can have a clerk minister or parish clerk.(18)

1456 Church included in confirmation of the possessions of the abbey by Pope Calixtus III.(19)

1470 James III petitions for a confirmation that no secular or regulars of any order should be allowed to obtain the parishes churches of Falkirk, Tranent, St Cuthbert’s, Kinghorn Easter, Kinneil and others which are wont to be held by the canons of Holyrood.(20)

1490 1/3 part of the parsonage, belonging to Holyrood, set in tack to Robert Bruce.(21)

1501 William Crawford (canon of Holyrood) has perpetual vicarage, customarily governed by canons of Holyrood.(22)

1516-1540 William Crawford, vicar of Falkirk.(23)

1546 John Douglas granted annual pension from the rents of the Carse and from the teinds of the rectory of Falkirk.(24)

Altars and chaplaincies

Blessed Virgin Mary

1527 Robert Bathok, chaplain of  the altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the aisle of St Michael the Archangel in the parish church of Falkirk, (the patron is a man of the same name, presumably a relative).(25)

St Michael

1559 (10 April) Charter by sir James Oswald, chaplain of the aisle of St Michael the Archangel in the parish church of Falkirk, in favour of John Oswald, son and heir of the late Robert Oswald of Saltcottis.(26)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church with Holyrood, set for £239. Vicarage also with the abbey, valued at £67 13s 4d.(27)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of vicarage £22 4s 5 13d.(28)

1569 (3 Mar) Criticisms of Adam Bothwell, Bishop of Orkney before the General Assembly include the accusation that two kirks in his care, Falkirk and Whitekirk, with 300 souls each, ‘that never heard the word twice preached, nor received the sacraments, since the Reformation’.(29)

1571 (23 Jan) The vicarage of Falkirk (£13 6s 8d) temporarily granted to the uses of the regent (Matthew Stewart, earl of Lennox) for his sustenance.(30)

1581 (8 Aug) On the erection of the presbytery of Stirling, Andrew Forrestor of Garten was minister of the church.(31)

1587 (11 Apr) A visitation of the church found the minister Andrew Forrestor to be of good report [no reference to the church].(32)

1588 (10 Aug) Question raised in the Synod and passed on the Presbytery of Stirling regarding the size of the parishes of St Ninian’s and Falkirk. Some parishioners of St Ninian’s rarely attend service and as an excuse cite the long distance required to travel to the church (due to the strange shape of the parish).(33)

1591 (22 July) Visitation of the churches of Falkirk and Airth by the Presbytery of Stirling finds the ministers to be diligent with further details recorded in the book of visitation [unfortunately no longer extant].(34)

1592 (16 May) Presentation to the church by Dame Margaret Livingstone of one Henry Livingstone leads to a long running dispute between presbytery of Stirling and Livingstone (who was accused of being a Catholic). New minister Adam Bellenden finally planted in 3 July 1593.(35)

1593 (27 May) Parishioners of Falkirk brought infront of the Presbytery of Stirling for prophaning their parish church by burying theirin the corpse of the late Patrick Brown. Seats were moved and the floor broken.(36)

1594 (27 Feb) The brethren of the Presbytery of Stirling appoint a man to speak to the main heritors, the Lord of Livingstone and of Carse, to put a stop to the ongoing burial in the church.(37)

1606 (16 Apr) Report to the Presbytery of Stirling that the manse and gleib of Falkirk are not sufficient for the minister Adam Bellenden.(38)

1609 (25 July) The church is appointed to be visited (no information).(39)

1610 (18 July) The minister of Falkirk, Adam Bellenden, requests a second minister for the church. The lord of Linlithgow is the patron and eventually agrees to provide a reader (James Pook).(40)

1611 (3 July) Presbytery of Stirling receives a letter from the Archbishop of St Andrews informing them that he intends to visit Falkirk on the 5 July.(41)

1618 (17 Dec) The kirk session makes an agreement with Thomas Miller, slater in Linlithgow, that the said Thomas is bound to repair, mend, keep dry and watertight the whole body of the kirk, the north aisle, steeple and the ministers house, and to begin the reparation and mending thereof within a month or twenty days thereafter, for which Thomas shall have a annual pension of £10 [no references to the church thereafter for some years].(42)

1620 (11 May) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Linlithgow finds the minister Walter Armand to be competent. It was noted that the kirk yard was full of private burial places. The elders are reminded that no-one is to build these without the permission of the visitors.(43)

#1624 William Callendar of Dorrator buried one of his children in the church. (24 Feb) The kirk session fines William £5 for the breaking of the church floor.(44)

1628 (14 Feb) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Linlithgow, the minister (Thomas Spittall) is found to be competent. The fabric is found to be well repaired, not ruinous and is be helped in further repairs by the patron.(45)

1632-33 It was found necessary to give the building a general overhaul. The walls were pointed and the windows repaired. Gilbert Mastertoune (in Linlithgow) was engaged to uphold the windows of the church and the minister’s house for a yearly payment of £40 Scots. Various payments for slaters, to Thomas Miller for pointing and mending the kirk, and to a glass wright for dressing and mending the parson house windows.(46)

1633 New bell procured from Holland, home bringing cost £8 2s Scots. The placing of the bell was required to undergo ‘richting’ on two occasions after the wheel did not fit.(47)

1642 (2 Nov) Contest between the earl of Callander and Sir Thomas Hope (Lord Justice General) anent the property of that part of the choir of the kirk of Falkirk which is in the easternmost end thereof, and is separate from the rest of the church and choir by a rail of timber alleged by the said Sir Thomas Hope to be the property and burial place of the house of Karse wherein he alleges him to be heritable infeft, and the said earl of Callendar patron of the kirk. The synod of L&T having heard both sides decided not to meddle with a question anent the right of property and remits the same to be heard before the lords of session. A further complaint is made by the minister and parishioners that they ‘could hardlie in a storm remain within the same for exercise of divine worship by reason of the not repairing of the windows of the said place’. Synod of Lothian and Tweedale orders the kirk session along with the lord of Callendar to mend the windows.(48)

1645 (7 May) Further reference to ‘trouble lately made in the kirk of Falkirk touching an aisle and burial place in the east end of the choir of the kirk, wherein dame Helen Rae, widow of the late Sir Thomas Hope of Kerse, is infeft in liferent. The aisle is separated [from the choir] by a rail of three ells height, and wherein the people never did meet for hearing of the word in past memory of man. (Synod of Lothian and Tweedale orders the kirk session and minister to make no impediment of Rae and her son in the use of the burial place.(49)

1646 (23 and 29 Apr) The minister (Thomas Spitall) presents to the kirk session an agreement between Thomas Hope, Lady Kerse, the minister and the commissioners anent the east aisle. Although the agreement overturned their previous decisions they approved this new agreement. [no reference in Kirk session]

1648 (10 Nov) Recommendation to the Synod that the parish of Falkirk be divided (agreed by the Synod).(50)

1735 (29 May) visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Linlithgow anent the steeple and manse. Notes that the manse, office houses and steeple are in disrepair.(51)

1737 (20 Apr) Visitation of the church anent the steeple and manse notes that the steeple is to be repaired in the form of a ‘bell cast’. It is in such disrepair that it is in danger of falling and that the kirk also needed several repairs. An early estimate notes that repairs to the steeple will cost £276 out of a total of £1633 19s in total.(52)

1738 (14 Mar) Sedurent of the heritors of Falkirk taken to discern proportions for contributing to the repairs of the steeple of the kirk. Decision to be taken as to whether the steeple should be furnished in timber and slate as formerly or in stonework. Decision taken to make the tower in stone.  The original assessment of £1987 (which has been collected) needs to be augmented with 2500 marks for the completion of the work. [this also includes minor repairs to church and manse].(53)

1753 (1 Apr) Note in the presbytery records that the heritors of Falkirk have stented themselves for £100 for repairing the church.(54)

1757 (25 Dec) Commissioners report that on that date £80 was assessed from the heritors for several repairs to kirk and manse.(55)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev James Wilson, 1792): ‘The church of Falkirk… is in the form of a cross and far from sufficient for those who wish to attend’.(56)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (John Burns (writer), 1840, rev 1841):

 ‘The church of Falkirk... was rebuilt in 1810. The ancient fabric consisted of four lofty arches, with extended aisles in the form of a cross. The centre forming the area or body of the church and surmounted by a steeple…. The old aisles and steeple were allowed to remain [after the rebuild]’.(57)

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches: (George Hay): 1810, embodying medieval fragments, James Gillespie Graham architect; 1734 tower by William Adam, some late additions, disused 1740 Ormiston and Cunningham Bell. Chancel used as private burial plot for local lords. At Falkirk the present tower was erected in 1734 to the design of William Adam, over the old medieval crossing.(58)

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 64.

2. Mackinley, Non-Scriptural Dedications, p. 148.

3. Scotia Pontifica, no. 53.

4. Holyrood Liber, App ii, no. 4.

5. Holyrood Liber, no. 76.

6. Holyrood Liber, no. 75.

7. Holyrood Liber, no. 77.

8. CPL, iii, 152, CPP, 79.

9. CPL, iii, 420, CPP, 202, 325 & 368.

10. CPP, 544.

11. CPL, Ben, 54 & 394.

12. CSSR, i, 20, 81-82 & 88.

13. CSSR, i, 111, 142 & 203.

14. CSSR, ii, 125-26, CPL, vii, 455.

15. CSSR, iii, 70, CSSR, iv, no.42 & 185.

16. CSSR, v, nos. 251 & 264

17. CSSR, v, no.340.

18. CPL, x, 691-2.

19. Holyrood Liber, App i, no 1.

20. CSSR, v, no1454, CPL, xii, 735.

21. Prot Bk of James Young, 1485-1515, no. 383.

22. CPL, xvii, no.443.

23. Prot Bk of Thomas Johnsoun, nos. 21 & 252.

24. Holyrood Liber, App ii, no.32.

25. NRS Haddington Burgh Protocol Books, James Meldrum, 1520-33, B30/1/1, fol.110v.

26. NRS Stirling Burgh Charters and other Documents B66/25/125.

27. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 91-9 & 553.

28. Donaldson, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, 16.

29. Acts and Proceedings of the General Assemblies of the Kirk of Scotland, i, 163.

30. Acts and Proceedings of the General Assemblies of the Kirk of Scotland, i,c

31. Stirling Presbytery Records, p.1.

32. Visitation of the diocese of Dunblane and other churches, pp. 61-62.

33. NRS Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1581-90, CH2/722/1, fol. 360.

34. NRS Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1589-96, CH2/722/2, fols. 117-118.

35. NRS Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1589-96, CH2/722/2, fols. 190 & 295-96.

36. NRS Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1589-96, CH2/722/2, fol. 265.

37. NRS Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1589-96, CH2/722/2, fol. 365.

38. NRS Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1604-1616, CH2/722/4, fol. 82.

39. NRS Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1604-1616, CH2/722/4, fol. 218.

40. NRS Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1604-1616, CH2/722/4, fols. 268 & 278.

41. NRS Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1604-1616, CH2/722/4, fol. 302. 

42. NRS Falkirk Kirk Session, 1617-1640, CH2/400/1, fol. 32, Records of Falkirk Parish, p. 7.

43. NRS Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1618-1632, CH2/242/2, fol. 30.

44. Records of Falkirk Parish, p. 46.

45. NRS Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1618-1632, CH2/242/2, fol.s. 174-175, Records of Falkirk Parish, pp. 76-77.

46. NRS Falkirk Kirk Session, 1617-1640, CH2/400/1, fols. 231-237.

47. NRS Falkirk Kirk Session, 1617-1640, CH2/400/1, fols. 234-237, Records of Falkirk Parish, p.78.

48. Synod Records of Lothian and Tweeddale, p.134.

49. Synod Records of Lothian and Tweeddale, p. 173.

50. Synod Records of Lothian and Tweeddale, pp. 268-69.

51. NRS Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1731-1742, CH2/242/13,fols. 122-123.

52. NRS Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1731-1742, CH2/242/13, fols. 189-184.

53. NRS Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1731-1742, CH2/242/13, fols. 234-235.

54. NRS Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1742-1773, CH2/242/14, fol. 315.

55. NRS Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1742-1773, CH2/242/14, fol. 385.

56. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1792), xix, 76.

57. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1840, rev 1841), viii, 33.

58. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, pp. 20, 119, 125, 171 & 275.

Bibliography

NRS Falkirk Kirk Session, 1617-1640, CH2/400/1.

NRS Haddington Burgh Protocol Books, James Meldrum, 1520-33, B30/1/1.

NRS Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1618-1632, CH2/242/2.

NRS Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1731-1742, CH2/242/13.

NRS Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1742-1773, CH2/242/14.

NRS Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1581-90, CH2/722/1.

NRS Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1589-96, CH2/722/2.

NRS Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1604-1616, CH2/722/4.

NRS Stirling Burgh Charters and other Documents B66/25/125.

Acts and Proceedings of the General Assemblies of the Kirk of Scotland, 1839-45, ed. T. Thomson (Bannatyne Club), Edinburgh.

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 1418-22, 1934, ed. E.R. Lindsay and A.I. Cameron, (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 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.

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.

Liber Cartarum Sancte Crucis, 1840, ed. C. Innes, (Bannatyne Club), Edinburgh.

Mackinley, J.M, 1914, Ancient Church Dedications in Scotland. Non-Scriptural Dedications, Edinburgh.

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

Protocol Book of Dominus Thomas Johnsoun, 1528-1578,  1920, eds. J. Beveridge & J. Russell (Scottish Record Society) Edinburgh.

Protocol Book of James Young, 1485-1515, 1952, ed. G. Donaldson (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh.

Records of Falkirk Parish. A review of the Kirk Session Records of Falkirk, 1617-89, 1887, ed. G. I. Murray, Falkirk.

Scotia pontificia papal letters to Scotland before the Pontificate of Innocent III, 1982, ed. R. Somerville, Oxford.

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

Stirling Presbytery Records, 1581-1587, 1981, ed. J. Kirk (Scottish History Society), Edinburgh.

Synod Records of Lothian and Tweeddale, 1589-1596, 1640-1649, 1977, ed. J. Kirk (Stair Society), Edinburgh.

Visitation of the diocese of Dunblane and other churches, 1586-89, 1984, ed. J. Kirk (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh.

Architectural description

Known also as Eglesbrich or Varia Capella, Falkirk was a possession of the Augustinian abbey of Holyrood, a situation that was confirmed by Bishop Richard in 1164. There was a vicarage settlement in 1251, but at a date between 1394 and 1419 Pope Benedict XIII also agreed to the annexation of the vicarage, with the cure subsequently served by one of the abbey’s canons.(1) Bishop David de Bernham carried out one of his many dedications on 12 June 1242.(2)

Alexander Livingstone attempted to found a college in the church for a provost and six canons, for which papal consent was granted on 24 February 1449/50. However, following objections from both the abbey of Holyrood and the king, who deposed that Livingstone was an exiled traitor, that consent was withdrawn on 1 June 1450.(3)

In its final medieval state the church was a cruciform structure. Following the demolition of the greater part of it and its replacement by a new building, it was described as having consisted ‘of four lofty arches, with extended aisles in the form of a cross, the centre forming the area or body of the church, and surmounted by a steeple’.(4)

It remained in use for worship after the Reformation, though by 1632-33 it was evidently in need of a general overhaul.(5) Soon afterwards it becomes clear that the medieval chancel had been enclosed for burials, since there was an extended argument between the earl of Callendar and Sir Thomas Hope over burial rights.(6) It was said that the fence which enclosed that part was three ells in height, which would have been about 2.82 metres.

Following a visitation on 20 April 1737, during which it was noted that the steeple was in danger of falling,(7) in 1738 the upper parts of the tower were rebuilt to the designs of William Adam.(8) By the end of the century, however, thoughts were turning to rebuilding the church, with the first known proposals in 1796.(9) Subsequently, designs were submitted by Hugh Cairncross in 1801,(10) and William Sibbald in 1805.(11) In 1810 the Court of Session ruled that the old tower should be retained alongside the new church,(12) and in that same year the designs of James Gillespie Graham were accepted for the new church, with Henry Taylor as mason and William Black as wright.

The new church was described as ‘a square building with windows of Gothic form and a circular gallery’.(13) The same account recorded that ‘the old arches and steeple were allowed to remain, and the former area now serves as a porch for the present church’.

The new church was set to the north of the tower-porch, and overlaps its northern half.(14) Part of the roof line of the medieval chancel is still clearly visible on the tower’s east side, and the leading shafts of the two south crossing piers are partly visible internally.

An attempt to articulate the great mass of the new church was made by slightly advancing the end bays on all four elevations, and the wall heads are finished with pointed crenellation. The roof runs on an east-west axis between crow-stepped gables. Most of the windows have Y-tracery, though the two behind the pulpit in the north wall have four-light loop tracery. Off the south-east corner of the new church a mausoleum was constructed for the earls (later marquesses) of Zetland.

A number of later additions have been made to the church. The most substantial of these is a two-storey session house to the south of the tower built by Wardrop and Anderson in 1892. The part of the lower storey adjacent to the tower was treated as an open transe that gave access to the west door. It was at the same time that single-storey offshoots were built against the south side of the church, on each side of the tower, and an organ chamber was added on the east side of the church, though the latter was rebuilt in 1970. The last significant addition has been a block of church halls to the west of the church.

A number of medieval fragments have survived. The earliest of these is a twelfth-century cross head with wedge-shaped arms decorated with acanthus like foliage, and with a rosette at the centre within a pellet-decorated ring. Parallels have been drawn with cross heads at Aberdeen Cathedral and Kelloe in County Durham.(15) There is an ex situ vaulting boss with the arms of Livingstone of Callendar that appears to date from around the mid-sixteenth century on heraldic evidence, and which it is attractive to suspect could be from a vault over the lowest stage of the tower.

A pair of effigies likely to be of fifteenth century date are thought to commemorate a member of the Livingstone of Callendar family and his wife. They are said to have been in the south transept of the medieval church, and after being turned out into the churchyard in 1810, they were brought into the vestibule of the church in 1852.(16) For another pair of effigies that have been subjected to the same vicissitudes a provisional identification has been made with William, sixth Lord Livingstone, who died in 1592, and his wife.(17)

There is a grave slab for Alexander, 5th Lord Livingston, who died in France in about 1550, after having escorted the young Mary, Queen of Scots there. Mention should also be made of a curious composite monument in the churchyard, to the south-east of the church, which is said to commemorate one of the heroes of the battle of Falkirk in 1298, Sir John de Graham of Dundaff.(18) It has undergone major reconstruction at a date not long before 1723, and again in 1773 and 1860, and the effigy itself is now badly decayed; consequently, it would be difficult to say anything about the monument with confidence.

Notes

1. Ian B, Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1867, p. 64.

2. Alan Orr Anderson, The Early Sources of Scottish History, Edinburgh, 1922, vol. 2. p. 522.

3. Ian B. Cowan and David E. Easson, Medieval Religious Houses, Scotland, 2nd ed., London and New York, 1976, p. 228.

4. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 8, p. 33.

5. National Records of Scotland, Falkirk Kirk Session, 1617-40, CH2/400/1 fols 231-237.

6. Synod Records of Lothian and Tweeddale, ed. J. Kirk (Stair Society), 1977, pp. 134, 173 and 268-89.

7. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Linlithgow, Minutes, 1731-42, CH2/242/13, fols 189-184.

8. National Records of Scotland, CH2/242/13, fol. 234.

9. National Records of Scotland, GD171/122 bundle 1.

10. National Records of Scotland, GD171/122.

11. National Records of Scotland, HR 139/1.

12. National Records of Scotland, Forbes of Callendar Papers, box 122.

13. New Statistical Account of Scotland, vol. 8, p. 33.

14. Accounts of the church include: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Inventory of Stirlingshire, Edinburgh, 1963, vol. 1, pp. 150-54; John Gifford and Frank Arneil Walker, The Buildings of Scotland, Stirling and Central Scotland, New Haven and London, 2002, pp. 465-67; Ian Scott, The Parish Church of Falkirk, 1811-2011, Falkirk, 2011.

15. Neil Cameron, ‘A Romanesque Cross-Head in St Machar’s Cathedral, Aberdeen, Journal of the British Archaeological Association, vo. 142, 1989, pp. 63-66.

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

17. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Inventory of Stirlingshire, Edinburgh, 1963, vol. 1, p. 151.

18. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Inventory of Stirlingshire, Edinburgh, 1963, vol. 1, pp. 152-3.

Map

Images

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

  • 1. Falkirk Church, exterior, from south east

  • 2. Falkirk Church, exterior, from north east

  • 3. Falkirk Church, exterior, from east, with Zetland Aisle

  • 4. Falkirk Church, exterior, from south

  • 5. Falkirk Church, exterior, from south east

  • 6. Falkirk Church, exterior, from south west, 1

  • 7. Falkirk Church, exterior, from south west, 2

  • 8. Falkirk Church, exterior, tower east face

  • 9. Falkirk Church, exterior, scar of medieval chancel on east side of tower

  • 10. Falkirk Church, before rebuilding in 1810 (Kier, 1828)

  • 11. Falkirk Church, interior, 1

  • 12. Falkirk Church, interior, 2

  • 13. Falkirk Church, interior, cross head

  • 14. Falkirk Church, interior, effigies, 1

  • 15. Falkirk Church, interior, effigies, 2

  • 16. Falkirk Church, interior, fragment of south-east crossing pier

  • 17. Falkirk Church, interior, fragment of south-west crossing pier

  • 18. Falkirk Church, interior, grave slab, 1600

  • 19. Falkirk Church, interior, graveslab of Alexander Livingston

  • 20. Falkirk Church, interior, vault boss with arms of Livingston of Callendar

  • 21. Falkirk churchyard, monument to Sir John de Graham, 1

  • 22. Falkirk churchyard, monument to Sir John de Graham, 2

  • 23. Falkirk churchyard, monument to the Rev'd James Anderson, 1732

  • 24. Falkirk churchyard, monument to the Rev'd Patrick Muirehead, 1723