Kinghorn-Easter / Magna Kinghorn Parish Church

Kinghorn Church, interior, chancel from south west

Summary description

The partial shell of a medieval chancel with a south aisle survives to the east of the present church. A north aisle projecting from that church may also be of medieval origin, while a south aisle dates from 1609. The church was repaired in 1774 and 1852, and extended westwards in 1894-95, when a north-west tower was added. 

Historical outline

Dedication: All Saints(1)

As the church serving one of the most important royal estates on the south coast of Fife, Kinghorn appears to have been in the gift of the king when it first appears on record shortly after 1165, although royal possession of the right of patronage is only stated explicitly in a supplication to Rome in 1419.(2)  King William confirmed its gift to the canons of Holyrood by himself and Bishop Richard of St Andrews between 1165 and 1178.(3)  This initial gift was apparently of the patronage of the church only, for between 1224 and 1231 Bishop William Malveisin agreed to an equal splitting of the garbal teinds that pertained to the parsonage, half being retained by the parson and half going to the abbey for the maintenance of the poor and pilgrims.(4) This division was confirmed in 1240 by Bishop David de Bernham as part of a general confirmation of the possessions of Holyrood in his diocese.(5)  It was Bishop David who also formally dedicated the church on 17 May 1243.(6)  The parish church’s peculiar half-appropriated state is perhaps reflected in the fact that it was listed in the rolls of the papal tax-collector in Scotland in 1274/5 as an independent parsonage – the church of Magna Kyrgorn – but with its tax assessed at the surprisingly low rate of 100s,(7) the balance presumably being rolled into the overall assessment figure for Holyrood Abbey.

This division of the parsonage revenues persisted until December 1396 when, following a petition from King Robert III for a full appropriation, the abbot of Melrose received a mandate to investigate and act accordingly.  The king’s petition claimed that the abbey had formerly held the full parsonage teinds in proprios usus but now held only half.  With full possession the canons would establish a vicarage perpetual, with a value of 20 merks annually, which would be held by one of their number.(8)  Acting upon the mandate, the following year the abbot instituted the full union and establishment of the perpetual vicarage.(9)  The abbey obtained possession in 1402 upon the resignation of the incumbent rector, Walter Bell, whereupon the vicarage settlement was made operative and in November 1402 John of Wedale, canon of Holyrood, received letters of provision and collation to the vicarage.(10)

It was not long before the annexation of the parsonage was being challenged in the papal curia.  The first challenge came in 1409 when a commission was instituted to investigate and annul ‘the pretended union’ of to Holyrood, which was said to have taken effect on the death or cession of the rector Walter Bell. William Cunningham (described in the commission as a kinsman of Robert III and James I) had claimed that fraud had occurred in this union as Bell was paid off with a pension.(11)  The outcome of this process is not recorded, but in 1414 Richard Cady, perpetual vicar of Kilgour, petitioned Pope Benedict XIII that the union was irregular and that the abbey’s resources had not been so diminished as King Robert’s supplication had suggested to require annexation of the remaining moiety.  He claimed also that Walter Bell was in receipt of a £40 pension from the fruits of the parsonage.  This situation was to be investigated and, if found to be true, the union was to be dissolved at Richard was to be instituted as rector.(12)  He, too, appears to have been unsuccessful but the allegation was repeated in 1418/9 by George Ker, who claimed that ‘it is said by some that simony took place’ and that for that and other reasons the union should be annulled and provision given to him.(13)  Cady and Ker were later in litigation with each other over conflicting claims to the church.(14)

On 21 July 1419, in the midst of these claims and counter-claims, the abbot and convent of Holyrood made their own supplication which rehearsed their version of their right in the church of Kinghorn.  They stated that they had received possession from Bishop Richard, with the consent of the chapter of St Andrews, and of King William, who had the right of patronage, and had thereafter held it for the uses of themselves and the monastery.  After a period of peaceable possession, at the instance of the parishioners and because the church lay outside the town proper, the then abbot (unnamed) had caused a new church to be built within the town and to be consecrated by the ordinary as the parish church.  The ordinary – the Bishop of St Andrews - had collated the new church to a clerk to serve the cure but discord had arisen between the clerk and the canons for an undisclosed reason but presumably because its resolution resulted in a division of the garbal teinds the issue was over his income.  According to the abbot it was at length agreed that the abbey would receive half of the teinds and the clerk and his successors, ‘rectors of the said new church’, the other half plus all oblations and other emoluments.  This situation had prevailed until the time of Pope Benedict XIII, who on account of the poor financial state of Holyrood on account of war and other causes gave mandate to incorporate, annex and unite the said church to the uses of the canons, without requiring the licence of the bishop of St Andrews.  He had also instructed that the cure of souls should be exercised by one of the canons of Holyrood who would hold the perpetual vicarage, that presentation should belong to the abbot and convent together, and the vicar would have a stipend of 20 merks annually.  As a result of that mandate the church was so incorporated, possession being obtained by the free resignation of Walter Bell ‘alleged rector’.  The £40 pension which Cunningham, Cady and Ker all referred to had arisen as the result of a ‘treaty’ with Robert, duke of Albany, governor of Scotland, to which the abbot had consented, whereby the abbot was to pay Walter, that he might be Robert’s counsellor, a pension for life of £40.  In what was clearly recognition of the dubious legality of their possession of the full parsonage revenues and the possibility that the pope might revoke and annul the union, the canons supplicated for a fresh confirmation.  Their supplication was accepted, with a mandate for a fresh grant should legitimate cause be proven to an appointed judge-delegate.(15)

The investigation was evidently settled in Holyrood’s favour and in 1430 Bishop Henry Wardlaw of St Andrews issued a confirmation of the union and arrangement for the vicarage.(16)  A further confirmation followed a fresh supplication from the convent in 1449 as part of a response to a number of challenges to the appropriation of various churches to Holyrood.(17)  The union was maintained thereafter down to the Reformation, at which time it was noted that the parsonage and vicarage were set by the canons for £100 13s 4d, while the vicarage was held by John Wolsoun, valued at £66 13s 4d, from which 20 merks were deducted to pay a curate.(18)

For so large and wealthy a parish church, it is striking that there is little evidence for wider acts of patronage and endowment in its support by local landowning families or burgesses of Kinghorn.  There is only one reference in a surviving source to a secondary altar within the parish church, dedicated to St James.  This reference occurs in 1485, when the altar was served by David Pearson, chaplain, the patronage of the altar being noted as lying in the hands of the bailies of the burgh.(19)  We have no indication of when the altar and chaplainry were founded, by whom, and with what source of endowment.  It is not recorded as a separate benefice at the time of the Reformation.

Notes

1. S Taylor and G Markus, The Place-Names of Fife, i, West Fife between Leven and Forth (Donington, 2006), 391.  The dedication is mentiond explicitly in an indulgence granted in 1290 for those visiting the church of All Saints at Kinghorn on the feasts of All Saints, the Assumption and St Leonard: Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relation to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, i, 1198-1304, ed W H Bliss (London, 1893), 512.

2. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, i, 1418-1422, eds E R Lindsay and A I Cameron (Scottish History Society, 1934), 92-4 [hereafter CSSR, i].

3. Regesta Regum Scottorum, ii The Acts of William I, ed G W S Barrow (Edinburgh, 1971), no.540A.

4. Liber Cartarum Sancte Crucis (Bannatyne Club, 1840), no.47 [hereafter Holyrood Liber].

5. Holyrood Liber, no.76.

6. A O Anderson (ed), Early Sources of Scottish History, ii (Edinburgh, 1922), 523 [Pontifical Offices of St Andrews].

7. A I Dunlop (ed), ‘Bagimond’s Roll: Statement of the Tenths of the Kingdom of Scotland’, Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vi (1939), 40.

8. Calendar of Papal Letters to Scotland of Benedict XIII of Avignon 1394-1419, ed F McGurk (Scottish History Society, 1976), 69 [hereafter CPL, Benedict XIII].

9. Holyrood Liber, no111 and Appendix nos 13, 14.

10. CPL, Benedict XIII, 81, 99.

11. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Petitions to the Pope, ed W H Bliss (London, 1897), 637.

12. CPL, Benedict XIII, 289.

13.CSSR, i, 7-8.

14.CSSR, i, 178.

15.CSSR, i, 92-4

16. Holyrood Liber, no.115.

17. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, v, 1447-1471, eds J Kirk, R J Tanner and A I Dunlop (Glasgow, 1997), no.264.

18. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 80, 91.

19. Protocol Book of James Young, 1485-1515, ed G Donaldson (Scottish Record Society, 1952), no.18.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Known as Magna Kinghorn, the church was granted to Holyrood by William I, with the parsonage fruits divided between the abbey and the parsons in a later arrangement. The church was fully annexed in 1397 with a canon serving the cure.(1)

Place Names of Fife vol. 1:  Taylor/Markus note that the church was dedicated to All Saints; it was first mentioned in the undernoted indulgence in 1290.(2)

1165x78 Abbey received the church of Kinghorn Easter from Richard, bishop of St Andrews, confirmed by William I.(3)

1224x31 William, bishop of St Andrews, gave half the teinds of wheat (garbal teinds) to the abbey in simplex beneficium to help sustain the poor and pilgrims [on way to St Andrews?].(4)

1244 Possession of the church with half the garbal teinds and three acres of land confirmed by David de Bernham, bishop of St Andrews; parsonage divided between abbey and parson.(5)

1350 Indult for Henry Stupi, rector of Kinghorn, to choose a confessor. Still rector in 1381 when described as official of St Andrews.(6)

1395 Walter Bel obtains the church in exchange for his vicarage of Dunbarney. Unsuccessful litigation the following year by John Bel who claims that Walter is ineligible to hold church as he has a prebend in Brechin and that John Mercer has detained the church since the death of Andrew Ox.(7)

1396 Petition by Robert III to appropriate Kinghorn to Holyrood, which they held anciently in proprious usus but now only draw half the garbal teinds. Abbey to provide perpetual vicar with pension of 20 marks to serve the cure. 1402 John de Wegalle (canon of Holyrood) collated to the vicarage on resignation of Walter Bel.(8)

1397 Church completely annexed to Holyrood; cure to be served by a canon thereafter. Confirmed by Benedict XIII in the same year.(9)

1409/1414 and 1418. Series of attempts by seculars to annul union and secure vicarage for themselves. First: 1409 Commission to investigate and annul ‘the pretended union’ of Kinghorn (£40 value, union dated 1397) to Holyrood, which was said to take effect on the death or cession of rector Walter Bel. William Cunningham (kinsman of Robert III and James I) claims that fraud took place in this union as Bel was paid off with a pension. Second: 1414 Richard Cady (see Kilgour) claims that Holyrood has sufficient resources and does not require Kinghorn. Third: 1418 George Ker (MA) claims that ‘it is said by some that simony took place’ when church was annexed to Holyrood, value 80 marks. In 1420 Cady and Ker in litigation with each other over the church.(10)

1421 Response by Holyrood. Claim they built the church (no date) at the instance of the parishioners, as the former church was outside the town, and did a deal with the  incumbent dividing the teinds. War etc means they now need the full fruits of the church. 40 marks was paid to Walter Bel as a pension after he had freely resigned the church, so that he could operate as the secretary of Robert Duke of Albany [counter to simony claims].(11)

1430 Union with Holyrood confirmed by Henry, bishop of St Andrews.(12)

1442 (27 Mar) Walter Bell described as rector of East Kinghorn.(13)

1449, 1454 and 1470 Requests by Holyrood for papal confirmation of their control over various churches including Kinghorn Easter.(14)

c.1538 Collation of John W (canon of Holyrood) to the church of Kinghorn, which is usually governed by canons of Holyrood.(15)

1540 (18 Feb) John Donaldson, vicar of Kinghorn is witness to an unrelated charter.(16)

References to liturgical provision/architecture/building, indulgences etc

1290 Indulgence of 1 year 40 days. To all penitents who visit the church of All Saints, Kinghorn, on the Feasts of All Saints, the Assumption, St Leonard [perhaps explained by presence of Leonard Chapel and hospital located in the burgh] and anniversary of the church’s dedication.(17)

Altars and chaplaincies

St James

1485 David Peresone, chaplain of the altar of St James in Kinghorn, in the patronage of the baillies of the burgh.(18)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage and vicarage with Holyrood, parsonage set for £100 13s 4d. Perpetual vicarage held by John Wolsoun, valued at £66, 13 4d; curate paid 20 marks from this amount.(19)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of vicarage £13 6s 8d.(20)

1571 (15 Jan) The minister is nominated to be one of the 21 members of the chapter of the Archbishop of St Andrews.(21)

1608 (26 June) The mariners decided to repair the upper part of the South Aisle by building a loft.(22)

1624 (22 Feb) The kirk session concluded that day nothing should be done concerning the partition of the church before advise had been taken from lord Invertiell(?).(23)

1624 (28 May) The gentlemen of the parish ordered to compear before the kirk session for advice to be taken on the reparation of the choir and such other parts of the church that need to be helped. The session asks whether to write to the earl of Kinghorn and to ask him if he will be content  to take on the repair of the choir or whether he would be content to contract with the parishioners and town to repair on his charges the third of that part of the church that needs presently to be repaired.(24)

1624 (26 Dec) The minister reports to the session that he spoke to the earl of Kinghorn who refuses to subscribe any contract between his lordship and the parishioners and burgh for repairing the church, but will only take on the choir, as that part belonging to him which he will cause to be repaired with all great expediency and has written to James Robertson and Robert Orrok to cause to close the present hole in the roof.(25)

1626 (26 Feb) The session orders William Cuik and Simon Dunbar to be paid for taking 14 lead slates from the tollbooth to the kirk.(26)

1630 (15 Apr) Record of the stipends of ministers in the Presbytery of Kirkcaldy; the minister gets 400 marks pa.(27)

1636 (5 July) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Kirkcaldy finds the minister and reader to be competent but finds fault with some holes that are in the roof of the kirk, desiring the same to be repaired. The main heritors are the earl of Morton and earl of Kinghorn.(28)

1640 (20 Feb) Visitation of Kinghorn by the Presbytery of Kirkcaldy finds the minister (John Moncrieff) and reader to be competent. The minister reports that he had met with the Laird of Balcornie anent the repairing of his aisle in the kirk; he promises to cause the repair with all diligence.(29)

#1642 (3 Apr) Gentlemen of the landward part of the parish ordered to appear before the kirk session to advise on the reparation of the kirk and bell house being ruinous and decayed in sundry parts. Described as faulty in the roof, windows and entry to the kirk. The house in which the bell rings is so ruinous and decayed that the bell could not be rung without hazard to the house and bell. The session, heritors etc agree that the kirk should be repaired with all diligence with the landward and town parishioners paying half of the fee each. The landward gentlemen agree to pay 500 marks to repair the bell house (after the payment of 500 marks they shall never be troubled to repair the bell house again).(30)

1642 (17 May) Then kirk session presented with a bill from Sir John Scott of Scottstarvit, of the right to a burial place within the communion aisle of the church granted to him by the earl of Kinghorn. Agreed by the session. The burial place to be in the southeast part of the church extending in length some 16 foot from the east end westward and of fifteenth foot of breadth from the south wall to the partition wall of the choir. Scott is allowed to make any divisions and partition walls between the said bounds and any other place of the church adjoining to, and to strike out doors and windows at his own cost and expense without hurt to the walls of the church.(31)

1642 (18 May) Visitation of Kinghorn [perhaps in response to above?] by the Presbytery of Kirkcaldy makes an ordinance that they should be no burial in the kirk, that is to say in the body of the kirk, as for the aisles, that is left to further consideration.(32)

1643 (3 Apr) Meeting between the minister and heritors for repairing the bell house, it being ruinous and decayed in sundrie parts. Also consideration to be taken for the reparation of the said kirk, being faulty in the roof, windows and entry to the kirk. Likewise the bell house is decayed and the bell cannot be rung for danger of hazard of the house. Agreement made for payment between the heritors and council, £500 marks for the bell house. [no specific amount mentioned for the church].(33)

1644 (30 July) Noted in the kirk session that the work on the bell house was likely to be stopped for want of money for furnishing meals and drink for the workmen and to pay their wages by reason that the landward parishioners had not paid their part (order made for furnishing the money).(34)

[No more references in remaining session records – possibly war etc disrupted the work?]

1647 (5 Jan) John Masterton, glass wright paid for making and mending the kirk windows [no specific amount mentioned].(35)

1647 (29 May) Act made for a new pulpit, the old one being deficient.(36)

1774 (30 Mar) Petition given in by the minister of Kinghorn, Thomas Hisbister that ‘the church of Kinghorn has been universally known to be insufficient. The petition notes that in May 1771 some tradesmen made a report concerning the dangerous state of the church. It also noted that in Jan 1773 George Paterson, architect, and James Young, wright, examined the church and gave an account of the conclusions of the necessary repairs of the church. They note that ‘the whole of it required a new roof, three of the north arches, the west gavel, part of the south walls were necessary to be rebuilt’. Last Thursday there was a further meeting of heritors, some objections were made by the town of Kinghorn (who are paying for half the repairs). Further visitation appointed.(37)

1774 (15 Apr) Visitation notes that there was some dispute between heritors and town concerning whether the repair is absolutely necessary as the state of the church is better than it had been in previous reports.(38)

1774 (6 May) Reported to the presbytery that final agreement had been made to mend the church as planned by Paterson (an alternative plan to build an entirely new church was rejected). Repairs estimated at costing £233.(39)

#1774 A major rebuilding took place in that year; the overall length was considerably reduced, the medieval chancel being sacrificed as a total ruin. It is now a plain preaching box, of elegant proportions, but with wings at the east end; to the south the Sailors aisle, and to the north, the Balmuto Aisle.(40)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev John Usher, 1793): ‘The church was rebuilt in 1774. The shell of the house is respectable enough, but within it is rather awkward and paltry in appearance’.(41)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Fergus Jardine, 1843): ‘The church is the only public building that remains in much the same state as it has done since 1774, when it was rebuilt’.(42)

[Neither account makes reference to buildings from before 1774]

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 112.

2. Taylor & Markus, The Place-Names of Fife. Volume One. p. 391.

3. RRS, ii, 540A.

4. Holyrood Liber, no. 47.

5. Holyrood Liber, no. 76.

6. CPL, iii, 401, CPL, Clem, 58.

7. CPL, Clem, 58 & 59-60.

8. CPL, Clem, 69, 81 & 99.

9. Holyrood Liber, no. 111, App i, no. 13.

10. CPP, 637, CPL, Ben, 289, CSSR, i, 7-8 & 178.

11. CSSR, i, 178.

12. Holyrood Liber, no. 115.

13. Copiale Prioratus Sanctiandree, pp.68 & 422.

14. CSSR, v, nos. 264, 532 & 1427, CPL, x, 711, CPL, xii, 730-1.

15. St Andrews Formulare, ii, 199-200.

16. NRS Prot Bk of James Androson, 1535-48, NP1/5A, fol.21r.

17. CPL, i, 512.

18. Prot Bk of James Young, 1485-1515, no. 12.

19. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 80 & 91.

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

21. Acts and Proceedings of the General Assemblies of the Kirk of Scotland, i, 222-23.

22. NRS Kinghorn Easter Kirk Session, 1581-1632, CH2/472/1, fol. 64, Cain, Kinghorn Parish Church, p. 9.

23. NRS Kinghorn Easter Kirk Session, 1581-1632, CH2/472/1, fol. 133.

24. NRS Kinghorn Easter Kirk Session, 1581-1632, CH2/472/1, fols. 139-140, Selection of extracts from minutes of the Kirk Session of Kinghorn, p.26.

25. NRS Kinghorn Easter Kirk Session, 1581-1632, CH2/472/1, fol. 152, Selection of extracts from minutes of the Kirk Session of Kinghorn, p. 27.

26. NRS Kinghorn Easter Kirk Session, 1581-1632, CH2/472/1, fol. 169, Selection of extracts from minutes of the Kirk Session of Kinghorn, p. 28.

27. NRS Presbytery of Kirkcaldy, Minutes, 1630-1653, CH2/224/1, fol. 8.

28. NRS Presbytery of Kirkcaldy, Minutes, 1630-1653, CH2/224/1, fols.174-75.

29. NRS Presbytery of Kirkcaldy, Minutes, 1630-1653, CH2/224/1, fols. 292-293.

30. Selection of extracts from minutes of the Kirk Session of Kinghorn, pp. 45-48.

31. NRS Kinghorn Easter Kirk Session, 1639-1647, CH2/472/2, fols. 55-57, Selection of extracts from minutes of the Kirk Session of Kinghorn, pp. 41-42.

32. NRS Presbytery of Kirkcaldy, Minutes, 1630-1653, CH2/224/1, fols. 386-387.

33. NRS Kinghorn Easter Kirk Session, 1639-1647, CH2/472/2, fols. 91-93.

34. NRS Kinghorn Easter Kirk Session, 1639-1647, CH2/472/2, fol. 144.

35. NRS Kinghorn Easter Kirk Session, 1639-1647, CH2/472/2, fol. 202.

36. NRS Kinghorn Easter Kirk Session, 1639-1647, CH2/472/2, fol. 235.

37. NRS Presbytery of Kirkcaldy, Minutes, 1769-1808, CH2/224/9, fols. 111-112.

38. NRS Presbytery of Kirkcaldy, Minutes, 1769-1808, CH2/224/9, fols. 113-114.

39. NRS Presbytery of Kirkcaldy, Minutes, 1769-1808, CH2/224/9, fols. 117-121.

40. Cain, Kinghorn Parish Church, pp. 9-10.

41. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1793), xii, 235.

42. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1843), ix, 811.

Bibliography

NRS Kinghorn Easter Kirk Session, 1581-1632, CH2/472/1.

NRS Kinghorn Easter Kirk Session, 1639-1647, CH2/472/2.

NRS Presbytery of Kirkcaldy, Minutes, 1630-1653, CH2/224/1.

NRS Presbytery of Kirkcaldy, Minutes, 1769-1808, CH2/224/9.

NRS Prot Bk of James Androson, 1535-48, NP1/5A.

Acts and Proceedings of the General Assemblies of the Kirk of Scotland, 1839-45, ed. T. Thomson (Bannatyne Club), Edinburgh.

Cain, A, 1979, Kinghorn Parish Church, Kinghorn.

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 1447-71, 1997, ed. J. Kirk, R.J. Tanner and A.I. Dunlop, Edinburgh.

Copiale Prioratus Sanctiandree. The Letter-Book of James Haldenstone, Prior of St Andrews (1418-1443), 1930, ed. J. H. Baxter, Oxford.

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.

Kirk, J., 1995, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, (British Academy) Oxford.

Liber Cartarum Sancte Crucis, 1840, ed. C. Innes, (Bannatyne Club), Edinburgh.

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

Protocol Book of James Young, 1485-1515, 1952, ed. G. Donaldson (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh.

Regesta Regum Scottorum, Acts of William I (1165-1214), 1971, Edinburgh.

St Andrews Formulare, 1514-46, 1942-44, eds. G. Donaldson & C. Macrae (Stair Society), Edinburgh, i. 

Selection of extracts from the ancient minutes of the Kirk Session of Kinghorn, 1863, Kirkcaldy.

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

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

Architectural description

The parish of Kinghorn, which was also known as Kinghorn Easter and Magna Kinghorn, was granted to the Augustinian Abbey of Holyrood by King William I and Bishop Richard (1163-78). An agreement that the fruits of the parsonage should be shared between the abbey and the parson was confirmed by Bishop David de Bernham in 1253/4,(1) who had earlier carried out a dedication of the church on 17 May 1243.(2) In 1397, however, the parsonage revenues were entirely appropriated to Holyrood, with one of the canons serving as vicar perpetual.

The only clearly medieval part of the building is a ruined and ivy-capped fragment of the chancel, to the east of the present church, which has external dimensions of 9.5 metres from north to south and 8.9 metres from the east end to the sanctuary of the present church, and 14 metres to the east wall of the main body of the church. The east gable, which is without windows, stands to a considerable height, and has an intake at the base of the gable.

Less survives of the north wall, but there are traces of at least two windows of uncertain date; the rear arch of that towards the east is very narrow, while that further west was evidently wider. There has been a south aisle or chapel, the east wall of which extended from that of the main body of the chancel; there is a fragmentary spur of the arcade wall but nothing remains of the south wall of the aisle.

Against the exterior of the east wall are a number of ex-situ drums of semi-cylindrical arcade responds with a diameter of 0.4 metres, and of fragmentary pier drums of greater diameter. There are also some capitals with deep bells that appear likely to be of the thirteenth century, and which it is generally assumed are from the south chancel arcade. That may be the case, though it would be unusual to have a chancel aisle in the thirteenth century, and the blank east chancel wall with its intake may suggest the eastern part of the building is rather later. On that basis, it could be that the ex-situ fragments were from another part of the building.

In this connection it should be borne in mind that the nave must have had at least a north aisle in its final state, because amongst the parts itemised as requiring repair by George Paterson in 1774, at a time when it seems that the chancel was finally abandoned, were three of the north arches.(3) The fact that it was felt necessary to specify that it was the north arcade which required repair could indicate that there was also a south arcade. Some support for this may be found in the way that the south wall of the south chancel aisle lines up with the south wall of the present church, suggesting that the church as repaired in 1774 could have been on the footprint of a medieval nave whose outer south wall continued into that of the chancel.

An interesting feature of the church is a pair of rectangular aisles that project laterally on each side of the east end of the present building. The southern one, known as the Sailors’ Aisle, has an anchor and the date 1609 on a tablet at the gable apex; the location of this aisle confirms that the south wall of the church was on its present line by 1609 at the latest, though possibly well before then.

The northern aisle, which has a vault below a loft, appears to have had a complex structural history. It has a finely carved inscription on an oval tablet set in its north wall which states that it was rebuilt in 1774 by Claud Boswell of Balmuto, and there is a much-modified loft front towards the interior that must be of that date. However, a photograph of the interior before re-ordering in 1894 appears to show that at that time the aisle extended into the body of the church, and that there was a gallery along the north side of the nave to its west.

One possible explanation for this curious inter-relationship might be that the laterally projecting north aisle had been built as a family chapel before the construction of the aisle that ran along the rest of the north flank. Some support for a medieval origin may be seen in the east wall, where there is a cut-back feature that may have been an aumbry; there are also re-set sections of an illegible medieval inscription of uncertain origin on the exterior of the north wall.

At the risk of placing more weight on the evidence than it will bear, there may be a case for considering that both of the lateral chapels are in fact of pre-Reformation origin. Taking account of the fact that their position so far east in the church as truncated in 1774 might not have been especially convenient for their occupants, it may be that their location would have been less arbitrary if they had been transeptal chapels at the junction of the medieval nave and chancel.

On this basis, it may be tentatively speculated that, in its final medieval form, the church had a nave with an aisle running along each flank, with a laterally projecting chapel off the east end of each of those aisles, and a chancel with a single south aisle. A possible building sequence that resulted in this form could have been: first, the construction of a bicameral building with structurally distinct chancel and nave; second, the addition of a south aisle to both the chancel and the nave, in either one or two campaigns; third, the addition of a rectangular chapel at the east end of the north nave flank; fourth the addition of an aisle along the rest of the north side of the nave; and fifth, the addition of a chapel at the east end of the south nave aisle.

The estimates for work carried out to George Paterson’s designs in 1774, that have already been referred to, included replacement of the roof, and rebuilding of the west gable and parts of the side walls as well as the three north arches.(4) The end result may, however, have been rather makeshift. It was said some years later that the church was not yet completely seated and that there was a mixture of old and new pews and forms.(5) By the time of the New Statistical Account the best that could be said was that the walls were tolerably good, but that the pavement and walls were damp because the churchyard was up to five feet above the internal floor level. It was still reported that the seats were old and rickety, and that those in the sailors’ gallery were older than the rest.(6

Further repairs were evidently carried out by James Gillespie Graham in 1852,(7) and late nineteenth-century photographs show a box-like structure with a double-pitched roof sweeping overall, apart from the separately roofed Sailors’ and Balmuto Aisles, and with a square bellcote on the west gable.

An altogether more elegant tone was given to the building as a result of additions carried out in 1894-5 by Sidney Mitchell and Wilson.(8) An additional bay was added onto the central part of the west front, with a Venetian window above a door with a broken pediment dated 1894, and that bay was flanked to the north by a tower with an Italianate belvedere-like belfry below a roof of ogee profile. At the east end a short sanctuary was added, lit by a rose window, with a vestry to its south. There was a general internal re-ordering, which may have involved the removal of galleries, and the cutting back of the Balmuto Aisle to the line of the north wall; a ceiling of four-centred profile was inserted.

Notes

1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 112.

2. Alan O, Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History, Edinburgh, 1922, vol. 2, p. 533.

3. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, CANMORE online resource; National records of Scotland GD164/Box 40/286.

4. John Gifford, The Buildings of Scotland, Fife, London, 1988, p. 270.

5. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-99, vol. 12, p. 235.

6. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. P, p. 815.

7. Howard Colvin, Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 4th ed., New Haven and London, 2008, p. 442; National Archives of Scotland, CH 2/224/12 pp. 283, 289-90.

8. The Buildings of Scotland, Fife, p. 270.

Map

Images

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

  • 1. Kinghorn Church, interior, chancel from south west

  • 2. Kinghorn Church, interior, east gable, from south east

  • 3. Kinghorn Church, interior, east gable, from west

  • 4. Kinghorn Church, interior, chancel from south

  • 5. Kinghorn Church, exterior, east gable from east

  • 6. Kinghorn Church, ex situ fragments against east gable, 1

  • 7. Kinghorn Church, ex situ fragments against east gable, 2

  • 8. Kinghorn Church, exterior in 1865, from south west

  • 9. Kinghorn Church, exterior, Balmuto Aisle, foundation tablet

  • 10. Kinghorn Church, exterior, Balmuto Aisle, from north west

  • 11. Kinghorn Church, exterior, Balmuto Aisle, relocated inscription, 1

  • 12. Kinghorn Church, exterior, Balmuto Aisle, relocated inscription, 2

  • 13. Kinghorn Church, exterior, from north west, 1

  • 14. Kinghorn Church, exterior, from north west, 2

  • 15. Kinghorn Church, exterior, from south east

  • 16. Kinghorn Church, exterior, from south west

  • 17. Kinghorn Church, exterior, Sailors' Aisle, date tablet

  • 18. Kinghorn Church, exterior, Sailors' Aisle, south gable

  • 19. Kinghorn Church, interior

  • 20. Kinghorn Church, interior in 1894, looking from Sailors' Aisle to Balmuto Loft

  • 21. Kinghorn Church, interior in the 1930s, looking east

  • 22. Kinghorn Church, interior, Balmuto Aisle, aumbry in east wall

  • 23. Kinghorn Church, interior, Balmuto Aisle, relocated loft front

  • 24. Kinghorn Church, interior, looking east

  • 25. Kinghorn Church, interior, looking south east

  • 26. Kinghorn Church, interior, looking west