Gullane Parish Church

Gullane Church, exterior, south flank

Summary description

The shell of a twelfth-century two compartment church, retaining its chancel arch and part of a south door. A later medieval lateral aisle was added north of the nave, and the nave extended westwards. The church was abandoned in favour of a new church at Dirleton in 1612. The chancel has been extended to house burials, probably in the early nineteenth century. 

Historical outline

Dedication: St Andrew

When the church of Gullane first appears on record in 1221 it was in the patronage of the de Vaux lords of Dirleton.  InApril that year William de Vaux granted his rights of patronage to the canons of Dryburgh but it emerged at that time that the nuns of the Cistercian priory of Berwick-upon-Tweed (usually referred to as South Berwick) had already been granted certain rights in the church.(1)  The result was a dispute between the nuns and the canons which was settled by the negotiation of Master James, papal legate to Scotland, who confirmed the church in Dryburgh’s possession but reserved certain teinds to the uses of the nunnery, and shortly after Gullance was confirmed in proprios usus to Dryburgh.(2)  The division of teind with the nunnery remained in operation until 1391, when King Robert III annexed all of the lands and revenues of what was claimed to be a defunct institution to the abbey.(3)

The church was dedicated by Bishop David de Bernham on 8 October 1242.(4)  A vicarage settlement was confirmed by the Gamelin, bishop of St Andrews, in 1268, whereupon a vicarage perpetual was instituted.(5)  It is as a vicarage that the church is recorded in the rolls of the papal tax-collector in Scotland in the 1270s, appearing first as ‘the vicarage of Golyn’ and assessed for tax at 2 merks 6s 8d.(6)  By the fifteenth century it appears that the vicarage was usually held by a canon of Dryburgh, the first such instance being recorded in 1437 when it was held by James Crawford.(7)  Canons of the same house were regularly in competition for the lucrative benefice, as in 1468 when a supplication to Rome by John Fenton, canon of Dryburgh, cast doubt on the status and rights of a fellow canon, David Ralston, who was the then holder of the benefice, in an attempt to secure the vicarage for himself.(8)

The union of the parsonage with the abbey remained in effect at the Reformation.  At that date, the parsonage was feued out to laymen, the set valued at £100.  The vicarage was held at that time by George Haliburton, yielding £30 annually.(9)


1. Liber S Marie de Dryburgh (Bannatyne Club, 1847), no.23 [hereafter Dryburgh Liber].  This charter is incorrectly dated to c.1170 in the Bannatyne Club edition, despite the internal dating evidence given by the presence of Master James the Papal Penitentiary, who was legate to Scotland in 1221.

2. Dryburgh Liber, nos 25-27, 35-37.

3. Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum, i, 1306-1424, ed J M Thomson (Edinburgh, 1882), no.832.  The result was a protracted legal process with successive appeals and counter-appeals by nuns, would-be prioresses of Berwick, and the canons and their supporters that lasted through into the 1430s.  For discussion, see R D Oram, ‘Dividing the Spoils: War, Schism and Religious Patronage on the Anglo-Scottish Border, c.1332-c.1400’, in A King and M Penman (eds), England and Scotland in the Fourteenth Century: New Perspectives (Woodbridge, 2007), 136-156 at 152-4.

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

5. Dryburgh Liber, no.40.

6. 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, 58.

7. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, iv, 1433-1447, eds A I Dunlop and D MacLauchlan (Glasgow, 1983), nos 362, 419.

8. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, v, 1447-1471, eds J Kirk, R J Tanner and A I Dunlop (Glasgow, 1997), no.1467.

9. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 175,

Summary of relevant documentation


Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Patronage granted to Dryburgh by William de Vaux c.1170. The South Berwick nuns had some claims which they relinquished in 1221. A perpetual vicarage was set up in 1268, held from time to time by canons.(1)

1437 James de Crawford (canon of Dryburgh), perpetual vicar, accused and later absolved of simony.(2)

1468 James Fenton accuses David Ralston of unlawfully holding church for 8 years years (pretending to be a canon), church (value 9 marks) wont to be held by canons of the said monastery.(3)

1470 Patrick Brown, clerk  and married to an only daughter, supplicates for office of custodian or clerk of Gullane, wont to be held by a secular clerk, even married, in lay patronage of George Halliburton of Dirleton.(4)


Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage with Dryburgh, set for £100. Vicarage held by George Haliburton, £30.(5)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of vicarage £10.(6)

1588 (5 June) A visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Haddington finds the minister to be adequate but that the kirk yard needs to be kept (otherwise everything is well).(7)

1594 (30 July) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Haddington finds the minister to be competent and the kirk yard is unbuilt; baillies and provost to organise a tax.(8)

1606 (31 Dec) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Haddington finds the minister lamenting the difficulties of getting bread and wine for the communion and the [bad] state of the church [not specified]. The problems are due to negligence [vague entry, some sections missing].(9)

1612 Parliament granted permission for the church at Gullane to be demolished and for the stone, timber and other materials to be used for the construction of a new church (at Dirleton).(10)

Statistical Account of Scotland: [No reference to church buildings]

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev John Ainslie, 1836): ‘the ruins of the old parish church of Golyn are still in good preservation’.(11)

‘In 1612 the parish church was removed to Dirleton’.(12)  [old church at Gulane left to go to ruin]


1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland (Edinburgh, 1967), 78.

2. CSSR, iv, nos. 362 & 419.

3. CSSR, v, no. 1316, CPL, xii, 296-97.

4. CSSR, v, no. 1467.

5. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 175, 190 & 197.

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

7. NRS Presbytery of Haddington, Minutes, 1587-96, CH2/185/1, fol. 10.

8. NRS Presbytery of Haddington, Minutes, 1587-96, CH2/185/1, fol. 95.

9. NRS Presbytery of Haddington, Minutes, 1596-1608, CH2/185/2, fol. 296.

10. APS, iv, p. 490.

11. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1836), ii, 211.

12. Ibid, 217.


NRS Presbytery of Haddington, Minutes, 1587-96, CH2/185/1.

NRS Presbytery of Haddington, Minutes, 1596-1608, CH2/185/2.

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.

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.

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 Gullane was granted to the Premonstratensian abbey of Dryburgh by William de Vaux in about 1170; the Cistercian nunnery of Berwick, however, appears initially to have maintained some rights in it, which were eventually relinquished in 1221.(1) Bishop David de Bernham carried out one of his dedications on 8 October 1242 though, as usual, this is unlikely to have been connected with any specific building programme.(2)

As early as 1606 the church was said to be in a poor state as a result of neglect,(3) and it was abandoned for worship when an Act of Parliament of 23 October 1612 provided for the parish to be relocated to Dirleton.(4) It was subsequently adapted and augmented for burial enclosures, and is now a roofless shell, parts of which survive for much of their height, though the west wall and part of the north nave wall have been lost.(5) In recent years (around 2010) the walls have been cleared of ivy through local effort, and information boards provided; it is hoped to carry out full consolidation of the fabric.

The building appears to have originated as a two-compartment structure, with a rectangular chancel and a larger rectangular nave. It has been speculated that there might initially have been an eastern apse,(6) but whilst this is an attractive possibility there is currently no visible evidence to support the idea.

In the later middle ages the church was augmented by a lateral north aisle off the east end of the nave. At some date, possibly also in the later middle ages, the nave has been extended westwards. The chancel has also been extended, though in this case this appears to have been a late augmentation, after the chancel had been taken over as a burial enclosure for the Yule of Gibslees family. The earliest burial of that family specified as being within the chancel was in 1830, and it may have been around then that the chancel was extended. In some support of that, a plan of about 1812 in the collection of General George Henry Hutton shows the chancel as a short rectangle with its east wall represented as lost, though it cannot be ruled out that this was simply case of a recent modification being omitted.(7)

The earliest parts of the church are built of roughly squared buff-coloured rubble that is brought to courses at intervals. A double-chamfered string course runs around the earliest walls, and is set at a higher level on the nave than on the chancel, presumably reflecting the relative walls heights of those parts. There is a change in the masonry west of the eastern two-thirds of the south nave wall, suggesting that the western third is a later addition, and there is an even more obvious masonry change in the eastern half of the chancel walls.

The likelihood that the western third of the nave is not part of the first campaign of work is supported by the fragmentary survival of a door head a short distance to the east of the masonry change, which had presumably been provided as the principal entrance to the church, and which might be expected to be towards the west end of the nave. The head of this door was later cut by a rectangular window, which is likely to have been provided when the nave was extended; but enough of the door remains to see that it had a nook shaft capital in the jambs, with a chevron-decorated outer order framed by a hood mould in the arch. Such detailing points to a date around the second quarter of the twelfth century.

Although it is now blocked and its details partly obscured, The chancel arch is clearly of a similar date as the nave door. Towards the nave the chevron-decorated outer order, framed by a hood mould, is fully exposed, and the fragmentary remains of capitals show that there must have been a nook shafts set against the plain arris of the outer order of the jambs. A sketch of 1785 in the Hutton collection appears to show that there are two chevron-decorated arch orders towards the nave.(8) The arch was evidently plainer towards the chancel, the two orders being of simple rectangular profile and without a hood mould. On this side, however, the capitals of the engaged nook shafts are visible: they are of scalloped type, with recessed lunettes.

None of the windows or doors that continued in use at the time of abandonment in 1612 appears to be of primary date. There are two narrow windows in the south face of the chancel; the western of these is of lancet form, which might suggest a thirteenth-century date, although the reveal mouldings, with segmental hollows framed by fillets may point to a later date. In the nave a series of rectangular openings with chamfered surrounds has been provided, probably around the time that the nave was extended westwards. Two windows of this type, together with a door that presumably superseded the twelfth-century door further east, survive from this campaign.

The lateral aisle off the north side of the nave was entered through a wide opening with semi-octagonal jambs supporting moulded capitals, spanned by a round-headed arch with chamfered arrises. This opening is now blocked by a wall pierced by a simple rectangular door. In the north wall there has been a large window that is now walled up, but which the plan in the Hutton Collection shows to have been of three lights. The sketch in the Hutton collection appears to show that the window was rectangular, though if this is accurate it must have been a later modification, since there are the remains of the north springer of a window arch. There may also have been a west window. In the east wall, to the south of the presumed site of the altar is a rectangular piscina recess framed by an ogee-headed roll moulding.

The latest significant structural augmentation was presumably the doubling in length of the chancel, which it has been suggested above could date from as recently as the early nineteenth century. Its walls are thinner than those of the medieval chancel, and its outer faces are inset from them; it is constructed of buff-coloured rubble coped with large field stones, and is entered through a rectangular door in the south wall, above which the coping is roughly arched.


1. Ian B. Cowan, the Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, pp. 78-9.

2. A.O. Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History, 1922, vol. 2, 1922, p. 522.

3. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Haddington, Minutes, 1596-1608, CH2/185/2, fol. 296.

4. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 2, p. 217.  

5. Accounts of the church include: David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1896-7, vol. 1, pp. 339-41; Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Inventory of East Lothian, 1924, pp. 14-15; Christopher Wilson in Colin McWilliam, The Buildings of Scotland, Lothian, Harmondsworth, p. 227.

6. MacGibbon and Ross, 1896-7.

7. National Library of Scotland, Adv. MS 30.5.23 29. This plan also identifies a small enclosure on the north side of the chancel as being that of Major Colman.

8. National Library of Scotland, Adv. MS 30.5.23 30c.



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

  • 1. Gullane Church, exterior, south flank

  • 2. Gullane Church, exterior, from west

  • 3. Gullane Church, exterior, chancel, south flank, 1

  • 4. Gullane Church, exterior, chancel, south flank, 2

  • 5. Gullane Church, exterior, chancel, south flank, west window

  • 6. Gullane Church, exterior, chancel, north flank

  • 7. Gullane Church, exterior, nave, blocked north door and inserted window

  • 8. Gullane Church, exterior, nave, blocked south door

  • 9. Gullane Church, exterior, nave, south flank, 1

  • 10. Gullane Church, exterior, nave, south flank, 2

  • 11. Gullane Church, exterior, nave, north flank

  • 12. Gullane Church, exterior, north chapel, north gable wall

  • 13. Gullane Church, interior, chancel arch from east 1

  • 14. Gullane Church, interior, chancel arch from west

  • 15. Gullane Church, interior, chancel arch, from east 2

  • 16. Gullane Church, interior, chancel arch, north jamb from east

  • 17. Gullane Church, interior, chancel arch, north jamb, from west

  • 18. Gullane Church, interior, from south east

  • 19. Gullane Church, interior, north chapel, entrance arch and piscina

  • 20. Gullane Church, interior, north chapel, piscina

  • 21. Gullane Church, interior, chancel arch and arch into north chapel

  • 22. Gullane Church, plan (MacGibbon and Ross)