Kemback Parish Church

Kemback, site of medieval church, effigy, 2

Summary description

The site of the medieval church is marked by a female effigy and a socket stone. It was replaced in 1582 by a new building on a different site, which may have been built to a T-plan from the start, and which survives as a roofless shell. The second church was in turn replaced be a new church on a different site in 1810-14.

Historical outline

Dedication: unknown

No pre-thirteenth-century reference to this church and parish is known to survive, its first appearance being in 1244 when it was noted that it had been dedicated by Bishop David de Bernham on 6 September.(1)  There is no reference to the church in the records of the papal tax-collector in Scotland in the 1270s but nor is there evidence that it had been annexed to any institution by that date.  Rectors of the church are recorded between 1420 and 1446.(2)  On the latter occasion, Bishop James Kennedy confirmed a charter of Robert Fernie of that ilk and Margaret Oliphant, lady of Kemback, his wife, which granted four acres of land around the church and manse of Kemback, plus pasturage for three cows and their followers and one horse, to the church of Kemback, Mr Gilbert Galbraith the rector and his successors.  The rector and his successors were to celebrate mass in the church on Mondays and Fridays, and on the obits and anniversaries of Bishop Kennedy, the granters and Galbraith. Galbraith, who witnessed the confirmation, was licentiate of decreets and probably already involved in the delivery of teaching in the University of St Andrews.  On the foundation of the collegiate church of St Salvator in St Andrews in 1450, its founder, Bishop Kennedy, annexed both parsonage and vicarage of Kemback to the college as the prebend of the licentiate.(3)  The union continued at the Reformation, when a vicar pensioner served the cure.(4)

Notes

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

2. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, i, 1418-1422, eds E R Lindsay and A I Cameron (Scottish Record Society, 1934), 217, 226; Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, iii, 1428-1432, eds A I Dunlop and I B Cowan (Scottish Record Society, 1970), 189, 241; NRS Makgill, Viscounts Oxfuird Papers, GD82/14.

3. R G Cant, The College of St Salvator (Edinburgh, 1950), 54.

4. I B Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society, 1967), 93.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Both parsonage and vicarage were erected into a prebend for the licentiate of St Salvator’s in 1450, with the cure served by vicar pensioner.(1)

Place Names of Fife vol. 2:  The ruined parish church has the date 1582 on a door lintel, and is one of the first post-Reformation churches in Scotland. There is a burial ground close to Kemback House…which contains a medieval burial effigy, and it is certain that this is the site of the pre-Reformation church, though no traces of the building now remain.(2)

1420 Thomas de Penicuik (vicar of Bathgate) attempts to obtain the church in exchange with George de Newton.(3)

1431 Above exchange appears to have been invalid; church now void by promotion of George to archdeaconry of St Andrews. William Wochart unsuccessfully supplicates; Gilbert de Galbraith is collated.(4)

1446 (29 June) Confirmation by James, bishop of St Andrews, with consent of prior and convent thereof, of charter, 27 June 1446, by Robert de Fernie of that ilk and Marion Oliphant, lady Kemback, his spouse, to the parish church of Kemback, diocese of St Andrews, Mr. Gilbert de Galbraith, licentiate in decreets, rector thereof, and his successors.(5)

1553 (15 Apr) William Cranston, provost of Seton collegiate church, rector of Kemback and official of St Andrews adjudicates on a dispute over legitimacy between Janet Ramsay and Mariota Watson.(6)

[No references to the church in the Thirds of Benefices]

1583 (30 April) Petition by Mr John Rutherforde to the General Assembly to designate a glebe for the newly built church of Kemback.(7) In that year Patrick Scheves arranged an exchange whereby the original land of the kirk and glebe near Kemback House reverted to him, while he granted the site for a new kirk in a more central position.(8)

1583 (29 May) Instrument of exchange notes that ‘the paroche church of Kemback beand of loang tyme bypast awtterlie demolischit baith in ruf and wallis nathar havand doore nor windowe’ [no preaching has taken place there for the last 20 years].(9)

1652 (7 Dec) Controversy of the election of a new minister. The synod asks the presbytery of St Andrews to take advice from the heritors and parishioners of Kemback as to the dispute.

1653 (1 Apr) Further reference to the planting of the church mentions that the dispute has been referred to the general assembly.(10)

1654 (26 Sept) Committee manage to reach an agreement with the kirk session and heritors, the debate had been between the Laird of Kemback and the burgh over presentation to the church.(11)

[New bell purchased]

1660 (17 Jan) First note of the need to speak to the heritors regarding paying for the bell, £18 already raised.(12)

1661 (19 Mar) Note that the heritors’ portion of the money for the bell £26 13s had been received by the kirk session. £13 6s had been raised by general collection.(13)

1661 (2 Apr) £40 was paid for the ‘siches’ of the bell and bringing of it from Leith.(14)

Cant (History of Blebo Craigs and Kemback) notes that the medieval parish church was located beside the manor house of Kemback, and although nothing is left of its fabric save a few scattered stones, among these is what appears to be a female effigy, possibly the tomb of Mariota Ollifard.(15)

1582 On the initiative of the principal heritor of the parish, Patrick Schevez of Kemback, a new church was built near the centre of the parish, the old one being said to be ‘ane lang tyme bypast allutterlie demolischit’ and its location thought to be unsuitable for the ‘gathered congregation’.(16)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev James MacDonald, 1791): ‘The church and manse are both old buildings’.(17)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev J MacDonald, 1843): ‘The teinds and rights of patronage belong to the Archbishop of St Andrews [given to St Salvator’s in 1458]’.(18)

‘The present church was opened for public worship in 1814’.(19) [no further reference to old building]

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches: (George Hay):1814; late addition and interior recast; remains of 1582 kirk (lateral rectangular plan).(20)

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 93.

2. Taylor & Markus, The Place-Names of Fife. Volume Two. p. 187.

3. CSSR, i, 217 & 226.

4. CSSR, iii, 189 & 241.

5. NRS Makgill, Viscounts Oxfuird Papers, GD82/14.

6. Liber Officialis Sancti Andree, no. 113

7. StAUL, Barclay of Collairne papers, ms37490/32.

8. Taylor & Markus, The Place-Names of Fife. Volume Two. p. 187.

9. StAUL, Barclay of Collairne papers, Instrument of Excambion ms37490/33, cited in McCallum, Reforming the Scottish Parish, p.47.

10. NRS Records of the Synod of Fife, 1639-1657, CH2/154/2, fols. 248 & 253.

11. NRS Records of the Synod of Fife, 1639-1657, CH2/154/2, fol. 280.

12. NRS Kemback Kirk Session, 1657-1665, CH2/204/1, fols. 55-56.

13. NRS Kemback Kirk Session, 1657-1665, CH2/204/1, fol. 75.

14. NRS Kemback Kirk Session, 1657-1665, CH2/204/1, fol. 76.

15. Cant, History of Blebo Craigs and Kemback, p.4.

16. Cant, History of Blebo Craigs and Kemback, p.4.

17. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1791), xiv, 309.

18. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1843), 725.

19. Ibid, 726.

20. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, pp. 32, 116 & 257.

Bibliography

NRS Kemback Kirk Session, 1657-1665, CH2/204/1.

NRS Makgill, Viscounts Oxfuird Papers, GD82/14.

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

StAUL, Barclay of Collairne papers, ms37490/32.

StAUL, Barclay of Collairne papers, Instrument of Excambion ms37490/33.

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 1428-32, 1970, ed. A.I. Dunlop; and I.B. Cowan, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh.

Cant, R. G., 1984,  History of Blebo Craigs and Kemback, Blebo Craigs.

Cowan, I.B., 1967, The parishes of medieval Scotland, (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh.

Hay, G., 1957, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, 1560-1843, Oxford.

Liber Officialis Sancti Andree, 1845, (Abbotsford Club), Edinburgh.

McCallum, J., 2010, Reforming the Scottish Parish. The Reformation in Fife, 1560-1640, St Andrews.

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

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

Taylor, S & Markus G., 2008, The Place-Names of Fife. Volume Two. Central Fife between the Rovers Leven and Eden, Donington.

Architectural description

The church at Kemback was dedicated by Bishop David de Bernham on 6 September 1244.(1) It evidently remained an independent parsonage until 1450, when both parsonage and vicarage were erected into a prebend for the licentiate attached to Bishop James Kennedy’s newly founded college of St Salvator in St Andrews.(2)

The site of the medieval church was close to Kemback House, at NO 41700 15686, but nothing remains of that building. However, its site is marked by an abandoned burial place, within which is a medieval female effigy and part of what appears to have been a socket stone of some kind. Following the Reformation, on 29 May 1583 it was said that the church had for a long time been utterly demolished in its walls and roof, and Patrick Scheves, the land-holder, arranged for an exchange of land that permitted a new church to built at a more convenient location.(3)

By then, it appears that the new church had in fact already been built at NO 41722 15108, since it bears the date 1582 on the lintel of its south-east door. The new church was one of the first to be built in Scotland after the Reformation, and is therefore of great interest for indicating what were the architectural requirements for reformed worship at a time of great change in forms of worship.(4)

This second church, which has rubble walls with ashlar dressings, has a rectangular main body with dimensions of 15.5 by 6.35 metres, the south, north and west walls of which survive virtually complete to the wall head, while the east wall is complete apart from its gable. The west gable is crow-stepped, and there is the base for a bellcote at its apex. It is possible that some of the materials of the first church were recycled in the second church, since an aumbry that is rebated for a door frame on the interior of the west wall has the appearance of being of medieval origin.

There has been a rectangular lateral aisle on the north side, entered through a broad segmental arch (now blocked), and located a little to the east of the central point of the main body of the church. If that aisle is a primary feature, the church would have been one of the first to be set out to a T-plan, a layout which permitted those within three arms of the building to focus against a pulpit set at the centre of one of the long walls.

As originally built, all of the openings were in the south, east and west walls, and there are some indications that the church was initially planned to have a longitudinal internal axis, focused on the east end of the building. This possibility is initially suggested by the fact that the only original doorway was towards the west end of the south wall. The windows along the south wall, which are externally rebated, presumably for shutter frames, consist of a sequence from west to east of a low-set window (now blocked), two full height windows and a second low-set window. A second door has been inserted between the two full-height windows in 1760.

The west wall has an elevated door to give access to a gallery, above the lintel of which is a window. The one original window in the east wall has been blocked, probably when an elevated door was cut towards the south end of the wall to give access to a gallery.

There appears little doubt that the west gallery was a primary feature, both on account of the access provided in the west wall and of the low-set window at the west end of the south wall, which would have lit the area below the gallery. There has clearly also been an east gallery on the evidence of the elevated door in the east wall as well as of the low-set window.

However, the possibility should at least be considered that initially it was intended there should be only a west gallery. That might explain both why the north aisle was set to the east of the mid-point of the church, and why access to the east loft necessitated a later cutting. Such an arrangement would also be consistent with the sense of internal orientation suggested by the initial provision of a door only towards the west end of the south wall.

However, against this is the provision of the low-set window towards the east end of the south aisle, which appears to be an original feature, and which also points to the presence of a loft. Perhaps all that can be said on this matter is that the evidence for the internal arrangements that existed at successive phases of the church’s history call for further investigation.

On the indications of the memorials it houses, the partial shell of the north aisle has been the burial place of the Makgill of Kemback family since at least the time the church was abandoned. But it may initially have been intended to accommodate Patrick Schevez and his successors, who had formalised provisions for the church to be located to this site in 1583.

The estate, together with rights of property over the aisle, had presumably passed to the Macgill family by 1667, however, because in that year there was an agreement between Helen Schevez of Craigludie and John Makgill that she should place her arms on the north end of the aisle.(5) The arms she then had made are presumably those on a plaque that has been re-set on the inner face of the west wall of the aisle, on which the initials H and S are carved to each side of the helm and mantling above the arms of Schevez.

The second church was itself abandoned when a third church was built a short distance to the east in 1810-14, at NO 41906 15133. That third church, which remains in use, is of rectangular plan; it has a bellcote on its south gable, and there are three sharply pointed windows with timber Y-tracery piercing its west face.

Notes

1. Alan Orr Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History, Edinburgh, 1922, vol. 2, p. 525.

2. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 93.

3. St Andrews University Library, Barclay of Collarnie Papers, MS 37490/33.

4. Accounts of the church include: David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland, Edinburgh, vol. 3, 1897, p. 576; Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Inventory of Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, Edinburgh, 1933, p. 160; George Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, Oxford, 1957, p. 32; John Gifford, The Buildings of Scotland, Fife, London, 1988, p. 257; Deborah Howard, Scottish Architecture from the Reformation to the Restoration, Edinburgh, 1995, p. 178; Simon Taylor, The Place Names of Fife, vol. 2, Donington, 2008, p. 187.

5. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Canmore on-line resource, citing National Records of Scotland GD 82/352.

Map

Images

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  • 1. Kemback, site of medieval church, effigy, 2

  • 2. Kemback, site of medieval church, socket stone

  • 3. Kemback, site of medieval church, effigy, 1

  • 4. Kemback, second church, exterior, east section of north wall

  • 5. Kemback, second church, exterior, east wall

  • 6. Kemback, second church, exterior, from north west

  • 7. Kemback, second church, exterior, from south

  • 8. Kemback, second church, exterior, from south east

  • 9. Kemback, second church, exterior, south-east door, inscription on lintel

  • 10. Kemback, second church, exterior, south-west door

  • 11. Kemback, second church, exterior, south-west door, inscription on lintel

  • 12. Kemback, second church, exterior, west gable, bellcote base

  • 13. Kemback, second church, exterior, west wall

  • 14. Kemback, second church, exterior, west wall, gallery door and window

  • 15. Kemback, second church, interior, aumbry in west wall

  • 16. Kemback, second church, interior, blocked entrance to north aisle

  • 17. Kemback, second church, interior, elevated view from west

  • 18. Kemback, second church, interior, heraldic plaque in north aisle

  • 19. Kemback, second church, interior, looking east, 1

  • 20. Kemback, second church, interior, looking east, 2

  • 21. Kemback, second church, interior, monument, 1

  • 22. Kemback, second church, interior, monument, 2

  • 23. Kemback, second church, interior, monument, 3

  • 24. Kemback, second church, interior, seating for west gallery along north wall

  • 25. Kemback, second church, interior, shell of north aisle

  • 26. Kemback, second church, interior, south wall, looking east

  • 27. Kemback, second church, interior, south wall, looking west

  • 28. Kemback, second church, interior, south wall, south-west door and blocked low window

  • 29. Kemback, second church, interior, south-east corner, low window and east gallery door

  • 30. Kemback, second church, plan (T.S. Robertson; MacGibbon and Ross)

  • 31. Kemback, third church, from west, 1

  • 32. Kemback, third church, from west, 2