Inverkeithing Parish Church

Inverkeithing Church, exterior, from south east, 2

Summary description

The medieval west tower survives, and there are the lower walls of an aisle-less chancel. The main body was rebuilt on the site of the nave after a fire in 1826, and the interior was re-ordered in 1900. An outstanding medieval font survives.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Peter

Dedicated to St Peter,(1) the church of Inverkeithing occurs first in a surviving document from shortly before 1160, when Waltheof, son of Earl Cospatric of Dunbar, granted it to the monks of Dunfermline Abbey.(2)  As the ‘chapel of Inverkeithing’, it was amongst properties confirmed in possession of the abbey by Robert, bishop of St Andrews, who died in 1159.(3)  King Malcolm IV confirmed the grant in 1160x1162, but the charter also refers to the ‘chapel’ of Inverkeithing and granted also two tofts, ‘one which is adjacent to the chapel and the other in the burgage’.(4)  It is styled similarly in confirmations by Bishop Arnold and Bishop Richard.(5)

By the early thirteenth century the chapel had gained full parochial status as an independent parish church.  Notification of this change is given in a charter of 1202x1212 of Bishop William Malveisin which granted the monks possession of the garbal teinds of Inverkeithing and confirmed the church in proprios usus to defray the costs of sustaining the poor and travellers.(6)  His award, however, was swiftly challenged in 1212 by Philip Mowbray, who had acquired Waltheof’s interests in Inverkeithing through marriage to Waltheof’s daughter, Galiena. The dispute was heard before papal judges-delegate, who secured a settlement whereby the abbey retained the parsonage, with Philip and Galiena resigning all claims to the garbal teinds, while in return the monks surrendered their patronage of the vicarage to Philip and Galiena.(7)  The couple’s formal acceptance of the settlement and guarantee that they would uphold it against any challenge was done at Inverkeithing in the presence of Queen Ermengarde.(8)  A vicarage settlement had evidently been instituted by 1275 when the vicar of ‘Inuerkechin’ was recorded in the rolls of the papal tax-collector in Scotland, paying 21s 10½d in the first year.(9)

The settlement before judges-delegate, however, did not end future disputes and in 1233 and 1244 there were further hearings to resolve continuing tensions over the rights of both parties and the rights and obligations of the vicar.(10)  That the vicars may have been particularly difficult to deal with might be reflected in the additional penalty charges imposed on the incumbent in 1275 for arrears and under-payment of the papal taxation.(11)  In 1305, there was a further dispute between the abbey and William Gugy, perpetual vicar of Inverkeithing, over grain teinds and in 1311 and 1314 over the responsibility for maintaining the choir of the parish church.(12)  Future tensions of this kind were effectively removed when King Robert I granted the rights of patronage of the vicarage to the monks following the forfeiture of Robert de Mowbray in 1320,(13) with a last recognition of the abbey’s rights in 1330 by the then perpetual vicar, John of Kinross.(14)

Through all of this period of conflict and dispute the church itself is a passive backdrop to events.  One of the few details to emerge from the record is a note of its dedication on 26 August 1244 by Bishop David de Bernham.(15)  Reference to the actual structure, however, is limited before the fifteenth centry to the question of the repair and roofing of the choir which led to litigation in the first quarter of the fourteenth century between the vicar and the monks of Dunfermline.  On28 September 1406, however, a charter of confirmation was granted by Robert, duke of Albany, made for the salvation of the souls of Malcolm, William and Alexander, their ancestors and successors, kings of Scots, and for his own soul and the soul of Muriela duchess of Albany and their children, and for the salvation of the souls of William Marshall, his wives, children, ancestors and successors, and of all the faithful dead, granted to God, the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Michael the Archangel, rents from various lands in the barony of Rosyth to sustain a perpetual chaplain at the altar of St Michael the Archangel in the parish church of Inverkeithing.(16)  This is the first record of a subsidiary altar within the church but it is unclear from the charter whether the altar had already been founded at an earlier date or if Albany founded it as well as the chaplainry.  The only reference to further endowment of this altar is a charter of 1 April 1488, confirmed at mortmain under the Great Seal by King James IV on 14 July 1491, whereby Sir David Stewart of Rosyth, for the souls of the late Henry Stewart, his grandfather, and Marjory Ogilvy his wife, David Stewart his father and Mariota Herries his mother, and Margaret Douglas his wife, granted an annual rent of £10 from the lands of Hiltoun in the barony of Rosyth to a chaplain celebrating at the altar of St Michael the Archangel.(17)  It is unclear if this supplemented the income of the existing chaplain or provided for a wholly separate chaplainry.

A substantial increase in secondary provision of altars and chaplainries came on 26 August 1420 when the bailies and the whole community of Inverkeithing supplicated the pope in respect of the altars of the Holy Cross and St Mary the Virgin which they had constructed in the parish church, and at which they had partly founded and endowed a chaplaincy.(18)  The supplication stated that on account of an outbreak of fire in the burgh the rents which had been assigned for the endowment of the altars were greatly diminished and could not support the chaplains unless papal help was received.  The burgesses requested that the pope would grant indulgences to anyone who visited the altars on the feasts of the Holy Cross and of the Assumption and Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, and who made offerings to support the chaplaincies.  The offer, it was requested, should last in perpetuity or at least until the rents of the said altars reached 20 merks sterling annually.  It was also requested that the priests ministering at the altars could give simple blessings, and excommunicate all who either alienate the lands or stole the possessions of the altars.

A fourth subsidiary altar was established in 1453, becoming one of the richest of the endowed chaplainries in the parish church.  Letters of mortification dated 9 April 1453 were issued by John Binning, burgess of Inverkeithing, to provide for masses to be said for King James II and Queen Mary and their children, and also for the father, mother, brothers and ancestors of the granter, and for himself and his wife, Margaret.  Under those letters, he founded an altar dedicated to St John the Baptist, located on the north side of the church, with a perpetual chaplain supported on annualrents from lands in and around the burgh.(19)

St Katherine the Virgin’s altar and its chaplain are recorded on 28 January 1477/8 in an instrument of resignation and sasine in favour of sir David Story, chaplain.(20)  Letters of mortification dated 21 June 1509 by Mr John Frog, vicar of Inverkeithing, provided for masses for James IV and Margaret Tudor, their children and their predecessors and successors, and for the granter’s father, mother, brothers and sisters and ancestors and for himself.  These were to be offered at the altar which he thereby founded in honour of St Katherine the Virgin, which was described as situated on the south side of the parish church.(21)  It is unclear if this was a new foundation of a relocated altar or if Frog was refounding an existing altar within the church.  In 1521, there is a reference to rents of 5s due to the altar of St Katherine in the church of Inverkeithing.(22)  No further record survives of this altar and its chaplains.

A significant new addition came in 1484 when King James III confirmed at mortmain a charter made by John Davidson, Richard Spitale and David Scott, baillies, William Broun, John Story, Thomas Broun, John Scott and William Bardy, councillors of the burgh of Inverkeithing, with consent of the executors of John Blackburn, their fellow burgess, and Janet his wife, and the tutors and governors of William Blackburn grandson (nepos) of the late John and son and heir of the late William Blackburn, son of the late said John.(23)  Their charter, drawn up on 20 August 1484, was made for the salvation of the souls of James II and Mary of Gueldres, established a chaplain at the altar of the Holy Blood located on the north side of the parish church, endowing the altar with an annual rent of 10 merks.  It is perhaps significant that this altar to the cult of the Holy Blood was being supported by leading figures of the burgh’s merchant community, for it is recognised that it was particularly favoured amongst members of that group throughout Scotland, usually among men involved in the Flanders trade.

There are references to two further dedications.  In September 1495 John Scott of Spencerfield was recorded as the founder of an altar of St Lawrence.(24)  There is no further surviving record of the altar.  An altar of St Ninian was recorded in 1512, when Alexander Setho was recorded as assigning 15s of annual rents to it.(25)  It, too, has left no further surviving notice in documentary records.

In addition to the principal altar of the church there thus seems to have been a further eight subsidiary altars and potentially more.  This is a not insignificant tally for the parish church of a moderately successful royal burgh with a wealthy burgess elite and several important local landed families who patronised the burgh and its church.  Little can be said about where the altars were located within the church beyond the general ‘north’ and ‘south’ side locations given for the altars of St John the Baptist and St Katherine the virgin respectively.  The Holy Cross altar we can probably assume was the Rood altar.  The dedications are unremarkable, for the most part being to the most popular saints of the Western Church and ones who enjoyed particular favour in Scotland in the Middle Ages.  The Holy Blood cult is the one ‘exotic’ in the collection and, as noticed above, probably reflects the influence of Flemish burgh tradition on members of the Scottish trading elite.(26)

Of all of these altars and chaplainries, only that of St John the Baptist was recorded at the time of the Reformation.  In the Books of Assumption it was recorded at a value of 17 merks 11s.(27)  The parsonage at that date still rested with Dunfermline Abbey and was recorded as set for £53 6s 8d, while the vicarage was also with the abbey and set for the higher figure of £100.(28)  The disparity between the figures probably reflects the limited production of grain around the burgh – upon which the parsonage teinds were based – and the relatively high level of teind received from the other products, offerings and oblations upon which the vicarage teinds were based.  The cure itself was served by a vicar pensioner, William Boswell.


1. S Taylor and G Markus, The Place-Names of Fife, i, West Fife between Leven and Forth (Donington, 2006), 370.  The first reference to the actual dedication survives only from 1581.

2. Registrum de Dunfermelyn (Bannatyne Club, 1842), no.165 [hereafter Dunfermline Registrum].  The document as its stands, which refers to the grant being made ‘for the love of God and for St Margaret’, is most likely the result of post-thirteenth-century embellishment of the original charter wording, but there is no reason to suppose that the tenor of the grant does not reflect an original award.

3. Dunfermline Registrum, no.92.

4. Regesta Regum Scottorum, i, The Acts of Malcolm IV, ed G W S Barrow (Edinburgh, 1960), no.178; Dunfermline Registrum, no.46.

5. Dunfermline Registrum, nos 93, 94.

6. Dunfermline Registrum, no.141.

7. Dunfermline Registrum, no.211.

8. Dunfermline Registrum, no.166.

9. A I Dunlop (ed), ‘Bagimond’s Roll: Statement of the Tenths of the Kingdom of Scotland’, Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vi (1939), 39.

10.. Dunfermline Registrum, nos 221, 222.

11. Dunlop (ed), ‘Bagimond’s Roll’, 60.

12. Dunfermline Registrum, nos 338, 340, 344.

13. Dunfermline Registrum, no.346.

14. Dunfermline Registrum, no.372.

15. A O Anderson (ed), Early Sources of Scottish History, ii (Edinburgh, 1922), 525 [Pontifical Offices of St Andrews].

16. Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum, i, 1306-1424, ed J M Thomson (Edinburgh, 1882), no 888.

17.. Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum, ii, 1424-1513, ed J B Paul (Edinburgh, 1883), no 2053 [hereafter RMS, ii].

18. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, i, 1418-22, eds E R Lindsay and A I Cameron (Scottish History Society, 1934), 228-9.

19. NRS GD1/224/1.

20. NRS B34/20/8.

21. NRS GD1/224/2.

22. Burgh Records of Dunfermline, 1488-1584, ed E Beveridge (Edinburgh, 1917), no.175.

23. RMS, ii, no 1596.

24. W Stephen, History of Inverkeithing and Rosyth (Aberdeen, 1921), 236.

25. Beveridge (ed), Dunfermline Burgh Records, no.360.

26. D Ditchburn, ‘The “McRoberts thesis” and patterns of sanctity in late medieval Scotland’, in S Boardman and E Williamson (eds), The Cult of Saints and the Virgin Mary in Medieval Scotland (Woodbridge, 2010), 177-194 at 179 and 188-9.

27. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 73.

28. Kirk (ed), Books of Assumption, 38, 68, 76.

Summary of relevant documentation


Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Granted to Dunfermline as a chapel by Waldeve, son of Gospatrick, the parsonage fruits were granted to the abbey in 1212. After a dispute between Dunfermline and Philip de Mowbray, the abbey retained the teinds, and Mowbray the patronage. Everything was annexed to the abbey with his forfeiture in 1306, and the cure then served by a vicar pensioner.(1)

1471 Richard Bellie is described as vicar of Inverkeithing.(2)

1472 Nicholas Bully holds the perpetual vicarage.(3)

1541 (31 Dec) John Hutchison is the vicar and Inverkeithing and an official of St Andrews.(4)

1581 Place Names of Fife vol. 1: Taylor/Markus notes that the earliest reference to the dedication of the church to St Peter was in 1581 (note that we can assume that it was dedicated to Peter from at least its consecration in 1244).(5)

References to liturgical provision/architecture/building, indulgences etc

1420 (20 Aug) Indulgence. The bailies of the whole community of the royal burgh of Inverkeithing, had an altar in honour of the Holy Cross, and another in honour of Our Lady constructed in the parish church, partly funded and endowed a chaplaincy at each and intended to endow them more fully. But on account of a fire in the town the rent of the altars has been greatly diminished. Supplication for those who visit the altars on feasts of Holy Cross, Assumption and Nativity of Our Lady and contribute to the upkeep, indulgence to continue until rents of altars are raised to 20 marks.(6)

Altars and chaplaincies

(see above indulgence for reference to Holy Cross and Our Lady)

Holy Blood

1484 (20 Aug) James III confirms in mortmain a charter made by John Davidson, Richard Spittal, and David Scot, bailies, William Brown, John Story, Thomas Brown, John Scot, and William Bardy, councillors of the burgh of Inverkeithing, by which, with the consent of the executors of John Blackburn, fellow-burgess of the said burgh, and of Janet his wife, and of the guardians and governors of William Blackburn, nephew of the late John, and of the son and heir of the late William Blackburn, son and heir of the said late John, for the salvation of King James II, Queen Mary, his consort, etc., they granted, in pure alms, to one chaplain celebrating mass annually at the altar of the Holy Blood in the parish church of the burgh of Inverkeithing on the north side, the annual rent of 10 marks.(7)

St Katherine

1478 (28 Jan) Instrument of resignation and sasine in favour of sir David Story, chaplain of the altar of St. Katharine the Virgin in the parish church of Innerkething, in name and on behalf of said altar of a tenement in said burgh, on resignation by David Kyrkcaldy.(8)

#1509 (10 June) John Fog, vicar of Inverkeithing founds an altar dedicated to Katherine situated on the south side of the church.(9)

1521 Reference to payment of 5s annual rent to altar of St Katherine in parish church of Inverkeithing.(10)

John the Baptist

1453 (9 Apr) Mortification to John de Bening, burgess of Inverkeithing, for masses for James II , royal family and his family he founds an altar in honour of John the Baptist in the parish church situated on the north side of the church.(11)

St Lawrence

# 1495 (2 Sept) First mentioned in that year and founded by John Scott of Spencerfield.(12)

St Michael

1406 Robert, Duke of Albany, granted, and by this our present charter have confirmed to God and Blessed Mary the Virgin and Blessed Michael the Archangel, all the lands of a third part of the barony of Rosyth, within the sheriffdom of Fife, to support one suitable chaplain at the altar of Saint Michael the Archangel in the parish church of Inverkeithing to officiate in perpetuity.(13)

St Ninian

1512 Reference to payment of 15s annual rents to the altar in the parish church by Alexander Setho.(14)


Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage with Dunfermline, set for £53 6s 8d. Vicarage also with abbey, set for £100, William Boswell is vicar pensioner.(15)

Altars and Chaplainries

Altar of St John the Baptist, value 17 marks 11s.(16)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of vicarage, £3 6s 8d.(17)

#1625 (8 Jan) Minute of the burgh session notes that the council resolved to impose a tax ‘for repairing of the parish kirk that is tending to dekay’.(18)

#1633 (Apr) Stent of 400 marks imposed upon the inhabitants for ‘repairs and beitting of the kirk of the said burgh in all parts in walls, roof and other necessaries as stood’.(19) [no further refs to fabric in town or session records after 1633].

1647 (4 Apr) Confirmation of the disjoining of Rosyth from Inverkeithing.(20)

1652 (7 Dec) Controversy over the election of a new minister at Inverkeithing (see Kemback for the same), due to differences amongst the parishioners; presbytery of Kirkcaldy told to sort it out.(21)

1653 (26 Apr) Report of a meeting at the church in which all the heritors and kirk session compeared (Lord Duddop, the main heritor), enquiry into the dispute and the situation was resolved with the transformation of a minister from Ballingry.(22)

#1685 (4 Oct) Kirk session minute of that date mentions a grave ‘betwix two of the Butridges of the south house of the church’, but (Stephen suggests) of the existence of buttresses along the walls no trace can now be found.(23) [These session records are no longer extant]

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Andrew Robertson, 1793): ‘The church was repaired and partly rebuilt within these twenty years… It is a little singular in appearance, being covered with three roofs of equal dimension, which are supported by two rows of arches within, and the two side walls…Upon the west side, adjoining to it is a steeple, which seems to be very ancient, from the appearance of the stones and the form of the building’.(24)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Andrew Robertson, different man from above, 1836):

 ‘The parish church is situated in the middle of the burgh… It was built in 1826, replacing the one which was partly burnt the year before… There is a very old steeple adjoining the west end of it’.(25)

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches: (George Hay):1826, incorporating medieval tower, James Gillespie Graham architect; refurnished 1900, medieval font, 1641 Burgerhuys bell. Gillespie Graham responsible for the rebuilding in 1826 after its destruction by fire. His design seems to have been suggested by the medieval plan of the original building of which the tower and font survive. As built the new church consists of 4 bays with cyclical piers and pointed arches.(26)


1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 89.

2. CSSR, v, no. 1557.

3. Abstract of the Prot Bk of Stirling, 1469-84, 10.

4. NRS Prot Bk of Edward Dickson, 1537-45, NP1/5B, fol. 150.

5. Taylor & Markus, The Place-Names of Fife. Volume One. p. 370.

6. CSSR, i, 228-29.

7. RMS, ii, no. 1596.

8. NRS Records of Inverkeithing Burgh, B34/20/8.

9. Stephen, History of Inverkeithing, p. 235.

10. Burgh Records of Dunfermline, no. 175.

11. NRS Inverkeithing parish church, letters of mortification 1453-1509, GD1/224/1.

12. Stephen, History of Inverkeithing, p. 236.

13. RMS, i, no. 888.

14. Burgh Records of Dunfermline, no. 360.

15. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 38, 68 & 76.

16. Ibid, 73.

17. Donaldson, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, 13.

18. Stephen, History of Inverkeithing, p.240.

19. Stephen, History of Inverkeithing, p. 240.

20. NRS Records of the Synod of Fife, 1639-1657, CH2/154/2, fol. 179.

21. NRS Records of the Synod of Fife, 1639-1657, CH2/154/2, fol. 251.

22. NRS Records of the Synod of Fife, 1639-1657, CH2/154/2, fol. 254.

23. Stephen, History of Inverkeithing, p. 233.

24. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1793), x, 508.

25. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1836), ix, 245.

26. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, pp. 129, 170, 214 & 259.


NRS Inverkeithing parish church, letters of mortification 1453-1509, GD1/224/1.

NRS Inverkeithing, Writs and Papers, 1435 – 1896, B34/20/8.

NRS Prot Bk of Edward Dickson, 1537-45, NP1/5B.

NRS Records of Inverkeithing Burgh, B34/20/8.

NRS Records of the Synod of Fife, 1639-1657, CH2/154/2.

Abstract of the Protocol Book of the Burgh of Stirling, 1469-84, 1896, Edinburgh.

Burgh Records of Dunfermline, 1488-1584, 1917, ed. E. Beveridge, 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 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.

Stephen, W., 1921, History of Inverkeithing and Rosyth, Aberdeen.

Taylor, S & Markus G., 2006, The Place-Names of Fife. Volume One. West Fife between Leven and Forth, Donington.

Architectural description

There is a reference to a chapel at Inverkeithing that was confirmed as dependent on Dunfermline by Bishop Robert at a date between 1152 and 1159, though it is not certain that chapel was within the burgh.(1) The parish church first comes on record when it was granted to Dunfermline by Waldeve, son of Gospatrick at a date between 1165 and 1182; however, following a dispute between Dunfermline and Philip de Mowbray, who had married Waldeve’s daughter, Mowbray was allowed to retain the patronage. The Mowbrays were forfeited by Robert I, after which the patronage reverted to Dunfermline, and the cure was ultimately a vicarage pensionary.(2) There was a dedication by Bishop David de Bernham on 26 August 1244,(3) which may have no bearing on the church’s architectural history.

The church remained in use after the Reformation, though it is not clear if this use embraced the whole building. Repairs and partial rebuilding are said to have taken place in the 1620s or ‘30s,(4) and it may have been as the culmination of those works that a Michael Burgerhuys bell was installed in 1641.

There were further works in the third quarter of the eighteenth century. According to the Statistical Account, which recrded that ‘the church was repaired and partly rebuilt within these 20 years’, it was said to be ‘a little singular in outward appearance, being covered with three roofs of equal dimensions, which are supported by two rows of arches within and two side walls’.(5)

There were further works between 1806 and 1808. In the earlier stages of that operation the medieval font was found within the tower, and it was said it had been carefully buried and surrounded with straw for its protection; it apparently contained human bones.(6) The works between 1807 and 1808 were carried out by the architect Richard Crichton,(7) though their nature and extent is no longer clear.

In 1825 there was a disastrous fire,(8) apparently caused by a careless plumber, and the medieval nave was rebuilt in 1826 above the old walls to the designs of James Gillespie Graham, with the on-site supervision of William Stirling.(9) A new spire was added over the tower by Thomas Bonnar in 1835, to which lucernes that were large enough for the faces of the burgh clock were added by Andrew Scobie in 1883. There was a re-ordering of the interior of the church in 1900 by Peter MacGregor Chalmers.(10) Recent significant work has involved the replacement of decayed stone on the tower, by the firm of Gordon and Dey, between 1980 and 1992.

The most clearly medieval part of the church as it now stands is the axial west tower,(11) which rises through four storeys. It is built of buff-coloured ashlar, the appearance of which is somewhat marred by doctrinaire replacement of defective stone to the putative original wall face.

At the two western corners of the tower, angle buttresses rise through the three lower storeys, with chamfered angles emerging from an offset above the lowest level, and a deep offset at the belfry stage. There is a polygonal stair turret in the re-entrant angle between the south face of the tower and the west wall of the nave, which is weathered back at the same level as the top buttress offsets.

The lowest storey of the tower serves as a porch, with a four-centred arch in the west wall that dates from 1826. But it may have served as a porch from a relatively early date, since there are doors in both the north and south walls, the latter now being blocked, while the former opens into an offshoot. The doors have equilateral arches externally and triangular rear arches, and are evidently of medieval date, though possibly not primary.

The two intermediate storeys are lit by single lancets at each stage. The belfry stage has two light windows with a transom at mid-height; within a circlet between the cusped light heads is a circlet containing three or four small circlets. None of the windows have hood moulds.

A date in the fourteenth century has generally been suggested for the construction of this tower, though a date around the last quarter of the fourteenth century may be more consistent with the details of the buttresses and window tracery. The wall head was possibly reconstructed in the fifteenth century, however, on the indications of the form of the corbels that support the parapet.

On the basis of the brief description of the church in the Statistical Account, it is clear that the medieval nave had an aisle along each flank. The reference to the ‘roofs of equal dimensions’ is of particular interest for suggesting that the nave may have been a hall church, with the three spaces of central vessel and flanking aisles being of the same width and height.

The walls of the medieval church appear to survive to a considerable height, below the level of the windows of 1826, as is particular evident along the north flank, where the early nineteenth-century masonry is ashlar, that contrasts markedly with the rubble of the lower walls. Nevertheless, the presumed medieval walls have clearly been modified on a number of occasions, as is evidenced, for example, by the lower courses of a blocked doorway on the south side, the raised margins of which suggest a seventeenth-century date.

The church of 1826 is five bays long, the windows along the flanks being simple openings with four-centred arches, while the two- and four-light windows at the east end have the types of rectilinear tracery that were particularly favoured by James Gillespie Graham. The roofs are punctuated by a dwarf walls that rise above the arcades, and the east and west gables are crow-stepped.

Internally, the pointed arches of the arcades are carried on cylindrical piers with moulded capitals. Although these arcades were presumably taller than their medieval predecessors, with the potential for accommodating galleries, the details of the capitals are sufficiently convincing for it to be wondered if they took a lead from those of the medieval piers. 

The plan of the eastern parts of the medieval church is not entirely certain. It is said that when the vestry was added at the east end of the church foundations of a wall were found that could have been the northern side of an apse, (12) which, if true, would suggest that the chancel of the first church was on the site of the eastern part of the later nave. However, some caution must be employed here, since Peter MacGregor Chalmers was prone to identify apses that have subsequently been difficult to locate, and it may be that there was an element of wishful thinking.(13)

There is a greater likelihood that a medieval chancel is perpetuated in a rectangular burial enclosure to the east of the present church. This has overall dimensions of about 11.5 metres from east to west and 7.7 metres from north to south, and has been in use for burials since at least the eighteenth century, and possibly for long before that. Its axial alignment with the nave, as represented by the lower walls of the present church, and the way in which its internal ground level is relatively flat and elevated above the falling levels of the churchyard on each side, strongly suggest that its walls have been retained from an architectural feature. That feature is presumably most likely to have been the medieval chancel.

The font that was found in 1806, and that is now located within the church to the north of the sanctuary steps, is one of the finest medieval liturgical furnishings to have survived in Scotland. It has a height of 1.1 metres, and is unusual in being of hexagonal form, the bowl resting on a pier with six filleted shafts separated by spurs, and with foliate caps. The faces of the bowl are aligned with the spaces between the supporting shafts, and the cornice is supported by shafts rising from head corbels above the six bulbous lower parts of the bowl.

On each face of the bowl a winged angel holds a shield. The shields are emblazoned with: the royal arms; the royal arms impaling Drummond; Stewart; probably Foulis of Colinton and Bruce of Balcaskie quartered; Melville of Glenbervie; Ramsay of Denoune.(14) The royal arms clearly refer to Robert III and Queen Annabella Drummond, which points to a date between his accession in 1390 and her death in 1401. The other arms are of local land-holders.


1. Simon Taylor, Place-Names of Fife, Donington, vol. 1, 2006, p. 270.

2. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 89.

3. Alan Orr Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History, Edinburgh, 1822, vol. 2, p. 525.

4. Notes on Inverkeithing Parish Church (church leaflet), n.d.

5. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-99, vol. 10, p. 508.

6. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 9, p. 240.

7. Howard Colvin, Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 4th ed., New Haven and London, 2008, p. 287; National records of Scotland, HR 279/1, 13 Feb 1807-22 July 1808.

8. New Statistical Account, vol. 9, p. 245.

9. John Gifford, Buildings of Scotland, Fife, London, 1988, p. 247.

10. Buildings of Scotland, Fife, p, 249.

11. Accounts of the church are published in: J. Russell Walker, Pre-Reformation Church in Fifeshire and the Lothians, Edinburgh, 1885; David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland, Edinburgh, vol. 2, 1896, pp. 547-51; Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Inventory of Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, Edinburgh, 1933, pp. 152-53; Buildings of Scotland, Fife, pp. 247-49.

12. W. Stephen, A History of Inverkeithing and Rosyth, Aberdeen, 1921.

13. He said he had found evidence of apses at both Glasgow Cathedral and Jedburgh Abbey, though later excavations found no such evidence; it may be added that the evidence for the apsidal church that he excavated below the nave of Dunfermline Abbey is also less certain than he suggested.

14. Inventory of Fife, p. 153.



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

  • 1. Inverkeithing Church, exterior, from south east, 2

  • 2. Inverkeithing Church, exterior, from south east, 1

  • 3. Inverkeithing Church, exterior, from north east, 1

  • 4. Inverkeithing Church, exterior, from north east, 2

  • 5. Inverkeithing Church, exterior, from south

  • 6. Inverkeithing Church, exterior, from south west

  • 7. Inverkeithing Church, exterior, tower from north west

  • 8. Inverkeithing Church, exterior, tower from south

  • 9. Inverkeithing Church, exterior, tower from south west, 1

  • 10. Inverkeithing Church, exterior, tower from south west, 2

  • 11. Inverkeithing Church, east burial enclosure, monument

  • 12. Inverkeithing Church, exterior, tower wall walk

  • 13. Inverkeithing Church, east burial enclosure, monument in east wall

  • 14. Inverkeithing Church, east burial enclosure, monument in north wall

  • 15. Inverkeithing Church, font 1

  • 16. Inverkeithing Church, font 2

  • 17. Inverkeithing Church, font 3

  • 18. Inverkeithing Church, font 4

  • 19. Inverkeithing Church, font (Walker)

  • 20. Inverkeithing Church, font bowl, 1

  • 21. Inverkeithing Church, font bowl, 2

  • 22. Inverkeithing Church, font bowl, 3

  • 23. Inverkeithing Church, interior, 1

  • 24. Inverkeithing Church, interior, 2

  • 25. Inverkeithing Church, interior, tower north door from north

  • 26. Inverkeithing Church, interior, tower north door from south

  • 27. Inverkeithing Church, interior, tower stair cap house

  • 28. Inverkeithing Church, interior, tower chamber window

  • 29. Inverkeithing Church, interior, tower chamber, 1

  • 30. Inverkeithing Church, interior, tower chamber, 2

  • 31. Inverkeithing Church, interior, tower stair door

  • 32. Inverkeithing Church, interior, tower upper chamber corbelling

  • 33. Inverkeithing Church, west tower, elevation, section and plans (Walker)