Fetteresso Parish Church

Fetteresso Church, exterior, from south east

Summary description

The truncated shell of the rectangular medieval church survives, augmented by a lateral north aisle in 1720, and with a bellcote of 1737. Superseded by a new church on a different site in 1810-12.

Historical outline

Dedication: unknown(1)

No surviving reference to this church exists from before the middle decades of the thirteenth century but there is no reason to suppose that it is not of greater antiquity.  The first record in a surviving source appears to be the noting of its dedication by Bishop David de Bernham on 25 May 1246.(2)  It occurs as a parsonage in 1262 when Thomas Charteris received dispensation from the pope to hold it with a second benefice.(3)  It was still a free parsonage in 1274-5 when it was recorded in the accounts (as ‘Fetheressagh’) of the papal tax-collector in Scotland, being assessed at 40s for the two years of taxation.(4)

On 22 May 1276, Bishop William Wishart of St Andrews dedicated the church of Cowie, the note of this act recording that it was done in such a way ‘that no prejudice should result to the mother-church of Fetteresso’.(5)  This parochial chapel was an important local centre of worship within the parish of Fetteresso, serving the north-east section of the parish beyond the valley of the Cowie.  It appears to have been patronised later by the important local family of Hay of Urie.  On 28 December 1502 a royal confirmation at mortmain was issued under the Great Seal, confirming a grant made by the late William Hay of Urie, of a number of named crofts within the toun of Urie, the rents from which were to be assigned for the maintenance of a perpetual chaplain in the chapel of the Virgin Mary and St Nathalan near the toun of Cowie.(6)

In the mid-fourteenth century Fetteresso appears regularly as the subject of competition for provision, indicative of the relative value of the benefice.  In 1344 it was described as unlawfully detained by William Innes in claims of rightful presentation by Gilbert Armstrong, a canon of Aberdeen.  A further petition by Armstrong mentions the voidance of the cure through the neglect of Alan de Lernok, who had failed to secure ordination as a priest in suitable time, and through the neglect of the lay patrons and proper collators of the church.  Armstrong strengthened his case through reference to the support for his presentation from King David II and Queen Joan.(7)  Throughout this period and down into the fifteenth century, the status of the church as a free parsonage was never compromised.

This independent status ended in 1425 when Bishop Henry Wardlaw of St Andrews annexed Fetteresso to the collegiate church or Chapel Royal of St Mary-on-the-Rock at St Andrews.  According to his charter, he had noted how few clergy there were in the chapel royal (a total of seven at that date), so he had granted Fetteresso for erection into an additional prebend.(8)  It occurs in 1433, described as a canonry and prebend in the collegiate church, held by John de Lichton who had recently exchanged his previous charge for it with the original incumbent.(9)  Provision had been made in Wardlaw’s annexation for a perpetual vicacarage but that settlement seems never to have been instituted, for both parsonage and vicarage appear to have been annexed to the prebend at the Reformation.  At that time the parsonage was valued at £209 3s 4d, set in tack to the Earl Marischal, and the vicarage was valued at £20 ‘in common and guid years’.(10)

Notes

1. Mackinlay suggested a relatively obscure Welsh saint called Caron, but this appears to be based simply on the local river-name, Carron.  See J M Mackinlay, Ancient Church Dedications in Scotland. Non-Scriptural Dedications (Edinburgh, 1914), 199.

2. A O Anderson (ed), Early Sources of Scottish History, ii (Edinburgh, 1922), 526 [Pontifical Offices of St Andrews].

3. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, i, 1198-1304, ed W H Bliss (London, 1893), 387.

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), 64.

5. Anderson (ed), Early Sources, ii, 674.

6. Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum, ii, 1424-1513, ed J B Paul (Edinburgh, 1882), no.2682.

7. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, iii, 1342-1362, ed W H Bliss (London, 1897), 152; Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Petitions to the Pope, ed W H Bliss (London, 1896), 77, 346, 555.

8. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree in Scotia (Bannatyne Club, 1841), 407-409.

9. Calendar of Scottish Supplication to Rome, iv, 1433-1447, eds A I Dunlop and D MacLauchlan (Glasgow, 1983), no 19.

10. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 404.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Erected into a prebend of St Mary on the Rock, St Andrews in 1425. Provision was made for a perpetual vicarage but this evidently had become pensionary by the Reformation.(1)

Mackinlay notes that the church was dedicated to St Caron (an early Welsh saint). This is also the name of a nearby river.(2)

1262 Thomas de Charteris dispensed to hold church with other benefices.(3)

1344 Unlawfully detained by William de Ennes; Gilbert Armstrong (canon of Aberdeen) was provided.(4) Further petition mentions void by neglect of Alan de Lernok (who was not ordained priest) and by the neglect of the patrons and ordinary collectors of the church. Gilbert supported by David II and Queen Joan.(5)

1376 Findlay de Kettins collated to the church.(6) On Findlay’s death in 1382 Walter Trail (later bishop of St Andrews) collated followed by his kinsman Thomas Trail in 1383 (student at the University of Paris).(7)

1413 George de Howden collated (nephew of bishop Wardlaw of St Andrews) value £45. In 1417 another nephew of the bishop, Nicholas Inglis was provided.(8)

1422 Thomas of Tyninghame described as rector; exchanged church with David Fauconer.(9)

1424 William Croyser collated (described as ambassador to the Pope from Archibald, earl of Douglas, resigned and Nicholas de Atholia (Doctor of Canon law) is provided after William faces unspecified charges.(10)

1426 William restored after being cleared of the charges and a supplication in his favour supported by James I and Alexander Stewart, earl of Mar.(11)

1439 Fetteresso described as a prebend of Collegiate church of St Mary on the Rock, St Andrews, and again in 1458 when Jasper Cranston provided to prebend (value £30).(12)

1532 James Brown, rector of Fetteresso, witnesses a charter.(13)

1544 James Brown still rector in that year, granted 16s 8d to augment the kirklands of the church.(14)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage pertains to James Brown (set in tack to William Keith, earl Marischal), value £209 3s 4 d. The vicarage is valued at £20 ‘in commoun and guid years’.(15)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of vicarage and parsonage £79 14s 5 1/3d.(16)

1677 (11 July) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Fordoun, notes that the minister is John Milne, with a stipend of £300 marks; being asked about the fabric of the church and how it was maintained, he answered that it was being upheld by penalties extracted from the scandalous persons. Criticised by the presbytery, the money should be for the poor, and orders that the heritors should maintain the fabric.(17)

1719 (23 Jun) The kirk session met and was told ‘that the fabric of the church being at the time in such as ruinous condition, it was not practicle to get the sacraments of the Lords Supper celebrated this year. Delayed until reparation finished. [this suggests repairs are underway](18)

1720 (3 Jun) Noted that repairs were still not finished, so again the sacrament could not be celebrated that year.(19)

1721 (28 Feb) The moderator informs the kirk session that there will be an alteration …of the seats in the church by reason of so much being taken off the length of the kirk and an addition made to the middle  part by way of the [new] aisle.(20)

Statistical Account of Scotland ((Rev Mr John Hutcheon), 1791): Detailed information concerning the old church.(21)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev George Thomson, 1842): Reference to ancient church of Cowie in the parish.(22)

‘Former parish church situated on southern boundary, rather more than a mile from Stonehaven. Ancient but without architectural importance. Its walls still remain, purchased by Mr Duff of Fetteresso and are not likely to be demolished but by the hands of time. Length (94 foot by 19) curtailed in 1720, small aisle built across from the pulpit. In 1813 new church and manse was erected near Stonehaven’.(23)

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches: (George Hay):1810; enlarged 1878; remains previous kirk with 1729 aisle.(24)

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 65-66.

2. Mackinlay, Non-Scriptural Dedications, p. 199.

3. CPL, i, 387.

4. CPL, iii, 152.

5. CPP, 77, 346 & 555.

6. CPL, iv, 224.

7. CPL, Clem, 75 & 98.

8. CPL, Ben, 274-75 & 364.

9. CSSR, i, 299-300.

10. CPL, vii, 358 & 400.

11. CPL, vii, 464-65.

12. CSSR, iv, 132. CSSR, v, no.700

13. Prot Bk of John Foular, 1528-34, no. 372.

14. Rentale Sancti Andree, p.183.

15. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 404.

16. Donaldson, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, 10.

17. NRS Presbytery of Fordoun, Records of Visitations, 1677-1688, CH2/157/13, fols. 9-13.

18. NRS Fetteresso Kirk Session, 1716-1754, CH2/153/2, fol. 23.

19. NRS Fetteresso Kirk Session, 1716-1754, CH2/153/2, fol. 26.

20. NRS Fetteresso Kirk Session, 1716-1754, CH2/153/2, fol. 29.

21. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1791), xii, 595.

22. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1842), xi, 264.

23. Ibid, 265.

24. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, p. 260.

Bibliography

NRS Fetteresso Kirk Session, 1716-1754, CH2/153/2, fol.

NRS Presbytery of Fordoun, Records of Visitations, 1677-1688, CH2/157/13.

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 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.

Mackinlay, 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 John Foular, 1528-34, 1985, ed. J. Durkan (Scottish record Society), Edinburgh.

Rentale Sancti Andree, 1913, ed. R. Hannay (Scottish History Society), Edinburgh.

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

Architectural description

A church at Fetteresso was dedicated by Bishop David de Bernham on 25 May 1246.(1) In 1425 it was erected into a prebend of the college of St Mary on the Rock in St Andrews, with both parsonage and vicarage eventually being appropriated to that prebend and the cure served by a vicar pensioner.(2)

The church, which is built of buff-coloured rubble with ashlar dressings, stands on the highest part of a large mounded churchyard. Apart from a breach in the north wall, where a lateral aisle was added in 1720,(3) the main body stands virtually complete to the wall head. It is an oriented rectangle of 26.3 metres from east to west and 7.1 metres from north to south and, despite having being modified on a number of occasions, it appears to be a basically medieval structure.

The most clearly identifiable medieval features are a pair of holy water stoups within the nave and chancel doors on the south side of the church; both have lost their basins, and the recess of the chancel stoup is now infilled. A north nave doorway with a pointed arch and chamfered arrises is also evidently medieval. It is also possible that the south chancel door and the jambs of the south nave door are late medieval, but all other openings appear likely to date from post-Reformation modifications.

The structurally most extensive of those modifications were carried out in 1720, when the north aisle was added and the eastern end of the church was truncated,(4) following which there was a re-allocation of seating.(5) In the course of these changes a broken lintel inscribed ‘16AF’ was built into the wall below the south-east skewputt. By this stage there was evidently a gallery in at least the eastern end of the building, because an elevated door was provided in the new east gable, and there is a blocked window in the adjacent south wall that must have lit the area below the gallery. Some years later, a bellcote was constructed over the west gable, which is inscribed with the date 1737 on its shaped west gablet.

The truncation of the church and addition of the north aisle were deemed by the late eighteenth-century minister to be ‘of service to the preacher, by enabling him to speak with greater ease’. But he also registered the common range of complaints by ministers whose churches were still in their essentially medieval form, saying it was ‘old, inconvenient, and unfit to contain a congregation, when fully assembled together...Neither walls nor roof are plastered; and as the floor is from 3 to 4 feet lower than the surface of the ground on the outside of the walls, pools of water stand in the area several days after heavy rain’.(6)

Some years after that complaint, in 1810-12 a new church was built closer to Stonehaven, to the designs of John Paterson.(7) The walls of the old church were acquired by Mr Duff of Fetteresso,(8) for use as a burial enclosure, a function that has helped to preserve many abandoned Scottish churches. The only subsequent addition to the church was a small roofed structure in the re-entrant angle between the north aisle and the nave, which is said to have been inscribed with the date 1857, and which presumably served as a burial aisle. Few traces of this remain, but it is recorded on a plan and sketch by MacGibbon and Ross.(9)

Notes

1. Alan Orr Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History, Edinburgh, 1922, vol. 2, p. 526.

2. Ian B. Cowan, the Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, pp. 65-66.

3. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 11, p. 265.

4. New Statistical Account, vol. 11, p. 265.

5. National Records of Scotland, GD/105/763.

6. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-99, vol. 12, p. 595.

7. Howard Colvin, Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Architects, 4th ed., New Haven and London, 2008, p. 786; National Records of Scotland, GD105/781.

8. New Statistical Account, vol. 11, p. 265.

9. David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland, Edinburgh, vol. 3, 1897, p. 564.

Map

Images

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  • 1. Fetteresso Church, exterior, from south east

  • 2. Fetteresso Church, exterior, east wall

  • 3. Fetteresso Church, exterior, from north east

  • 4. Fetteresso Church, exterior, from south west

  • 5. Fetteresso Church, exterior, bellcote

  • 6. Fetteresso Church, exterior, bellcote, dated gablet

  • 7. Fetteresso Church, exterior, from south

  • 8. Fetteresso Church, exterior, north door

  • 9. Fetteresso Church, exterior, south flank, 1

  • 10. Fetteresso Church, exterior, south flank, 2

  • 11. Fetteresso Church, exterior, south flank 3

  • 12. Fetteresso Church, exterior, south-east skewputt

  • 13. Fetteresso Church, interior, from north west

  • 14. Fetteresso Church, interior, from north west

  • 15. Fetteresso Church, interior, stoup within south chancel door

  • 16. Fetteresso Church, interior, stoup within south nave door

  • 17. Fetteresso Churchyard, monument, 1

  • 18. Fetteresso Churchyard, monument, 2

  • 19. Fetteresso Church, see from north west (MacGibbon and Ross)

  • 20. Fetteresso Church, plan (MacGibbon and Ross)