Fishwick Parish Church

Fishwick, mortuary chapel on presumed site of medieval church, interior

Summary description

The church was abandoned after 1614, and the site is now occupied by mausoleum of about 1835.

Historical outline

Dedication: unknown

Fishwick’s origins are obscure but it appears to have originated as a chapel serving an outlying dependency – a wīc – of one of the major Northumbrian estates of the Merse district that came into the hands of the Community of St Cuthbert and through them to the monks of Durham at an early date.  In the early twelfth century, in common with most of Durham’s possessions north of the Tweed, it was assigned to the support of its dependent cell at Coldingham.  Around 1141-44, Earl Henry, son of King David I, issued a notification that Swain the priest had quitclaimed his interest in the church of Fishwick and that it had been restored to the possession of the monks of Coldingham.(1) It remained thereafter in Coldingham’s possession and was confirmed to the priory by King William, son of Earl Henry, although confirmations also continued to be made to Durham.(2)

A vicarage had been instituted by 1275, when it was recorded in the rolls of the papal tax-collector in Scotland as ‘Fiswent’ or ‘Fiswic’, taxed at 6s 8d per term of taxation.(3)  A papal tax-roll of the 1290s listed the church of ‘Fychewyk’ amongst the properties of Coldingham and noted its value at 20s.(4)  The perpetual vicarage appears to have continued to operate through the remainder of the medieval period, in 1472 one John Edwardson being recorded as incumbent.(5)

The fortunes of Fishwick followed that of its appropriator, passing from the possession of Durham to Dunfermline in the fifteenth century when the Scots ended the control of so wealthy and important a monastery as Coldingham by an English mother-house.(6)  Located close to Berwick and in the heart of one of the most hotly-contested zones of military control, in the 1550s it was amongst twenty-two churches in the Deanery of Merse reported to Archbishop John Hamilton as being in serious dilapidation through the neglect of both the appropriators and the parishioners.  Hamilton ordered the Dean of Christianity to investigate and to make suitable moves to redress the position, but any such action was swiftly overtaken by the events of the Scottish Reformation.(7)  At the Reformation, it was noted that the parsonage lay with Coldingham and its revenues were bound up in the total for that house; no separate account was made of the vicarage.(8)

Notes

1. The Charters of King David I, ed G W S Barrow (Woodbridge, 1999), no.122.

2. Regesta Regum Scottorum, ii, The Acts of William I, ed G W S Barrow (Edinburgh, 1971), no.73; J Raine, The History and Antiquities of North Durham (London, 1852), Appendix, nos vi, cccclxix, cccclxix; Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, iv, 1433-1447, eds A I Dunlop and D MacLauchlan (Glasgow, 1993), no.1111.

3. A I Dunlop (ed), ‘Bagimond’s Roll: Statement of the Tenths of the Kingdom of Scotland’, Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vi (1939), 59.

4. The Correspondence, Inventories, Account Rolls and Law Proceedings of the Priory of Coldingham, ed J Raine (Surtees Society, 1841), Appendix, cxiii.

5. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, xiii, 1471-1484, ed J Twemlow (London, 1955), 335.

6. I B Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society, 1967), 67.

7. NRS Miscellaneous Ecclesiastical Records, CH8/16.

8. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 199, 204.  

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Lands and church belonged to Durham from an early date; the church was confirmed in 1150. Its revenues were devoted to the use of Coldingham By 1275 a vicarage had been erected.(1)

1444  (December) Pope Eugene IV issues a confirmation of the possession of Durham in Scotland, including the churches of Ayton (chapel), Swinton, Ednam, Stitchel, Old Cambus, Lamberton, Berwick, Fishwick, Edrom and Earlston.(2)

1472 John Edwardson is described as perpetual vicar.(3)

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.(4)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage with Coldingham; teinds in produce.(5)

1563 (28 Dec) Visitation of Menteith by Thomas Drummond and John Duncansone led to a complaint made against the Robert Gibson, priest, for ‘saying messe everie Sabbath day in Fishwick, maintained by the Laird of Blacader’.(6)

[Parishes of Hutton and Fishwick united in 1614, parish church moved to Hutton]

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Adam Landels): [No reference to church at Fishwick]

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev John Edgar, 1834): ‘Fishwick is situated on the north bank of the Tweed, and the ruins of the church and churchyard yet remain’.(7)

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 67.

2. CSSR, iv, no.1111.

3. CPL, xiii, 335.

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

5. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 199 & 204.

6. Acts and Proceedings of the General Assemblies of the Kirk of Scotland, i, 40.

7. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1834), ii, 150.

Bibliography

NRS Miscellaneous Ecclesiastical Records, CH8/16.

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 Scottish Supplications to Rome 1433-47, 1983, ed. A.I. Dunlop and D MacLauchlan, Glasgow.

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

The lands of Fishwick belonged to Durham Cathedral Priory from an uncertain but early date, and in 1150 this was confirmed, with provision for the revenues to be allocated to Durham’s daughter house at Coldingham. A vicarage had been erected by 1275.(1) Fishwick evidently suffered in the border warfare with England in the early sixteenth century, because in a letter of 9 April 1556 from Archbishop John Hamilton it was said to be one of 22 churches in the Merse that were in a decayed state.(2)

In 1614 the parish was united with Hutton,(3) and the church was subsequently abandoned. The churchyard is on a high promontory above the bank of the Tweed, and within it are a number of post-Reformation gravestones.

In about 1835 much of what remained was demolished when James MacBriare of Broadmeadows built a mortuary chapel on its site.(4) That chapel is an ashlar-built structure of three buttressed bays. The entrance front has a doorway with two orders of engaged shafts below an encircled cinquefoil, and at the apex of the gable is a bellcote. At the opposite end of the chapel three lancets are embraced within a semicircular containing arch. The open-timber roof has been of arch-braced form, but is now almost completely collapsed.

Notes

1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 67.

2. National Records of Scotland, Miscellaneous Ecclesiastical Records, CH8/16.

3. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 2, p. 150.

4. James Robson, The Churches and Churchyards of Berwickshire, Kelso, 1896, p. 136.

Map

Images

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

  • 1. Fishwick, mortuary chapel on presumed site of medieval church, interior

  • 2. Fishwick, mortuary chapel on presumed site of medieval church, exterior, 1

  • 3. Fishwick, mortuary chapel on presumed site of medieval church, exterior, 2

  • 4. Fishwick, mortuary chapel on presumed site of medieval church, exterior, entrance front

  • 5. Fishwick, mortuary chapel on presumed site of medieval church, interior, entrance to vault