Kinnoull Parish Church

Kinnoull Aisle, exterior, 1

Summary description

The only relic of the church on the medieval site is a burial aisle off its north side of 1635. The church itself was rebuilt in 1779 but demolished after a new church was built on a different site in 1826.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Constantine the Martyr

There are no early references to a church of Kinnoull and it is unrecorded in the accounts of the papal tax-collectors in Scotland in the last quarter of the thirteenth century.  It emerges first in the fourteenth century as a free parsonage in the patronage of the Erskines of that ilk, who possessed the barony of Kinnoull.  In a charter dated 27 January 1361, Robert, lord Erskine, granted the patronage of the church to the canons of Cambuskenneth for his soul’s weal and for the welfare of his ancestors, heirs and successors.(1)  On 7 February 1361, considering the poverty of the monastery on account of wars and fire damage arising from a lightning-strike, Bishop William Landallis of St Andrews united the church in proprios usus to Cambuskenneth with faculty to serve the cure with a suitable chaplain.(2)  The same day, Bishop Landallis and the chapter of St Andrews issued letters ordaining that a pension of £10 annually should be reserved from the fruits of the church for the perpetual vicar or curate.(3)  Finally, on 7 April 1361, King David II gave royal confirmation of the gift.(4)  Confirmation of David II’s charter was sought in 1364 in a peitition to the pope, which provides the first indication that the appropriation of the church to Cambuskenneth might have been proving difficult to put into effect.(5)

The following year (1365), Andrew of Trebrim was provided to the church and in 1366 was soon involved in litigation with the canons of Cambuskenneth over possession of the rectory, which was valued at £20.(6)  Andrew was still in possession in March 1379 when he was provided to the archdeaconry of Dunkeld.  He received dispensation to hold Kinnoull for a year in conjunction with the archdeaconry, after which time he was to resign the parish.(7)

On 26 October 1379 a bull of Pope Clement VII was directed to the Bishop of Galsgow narrating a petition that had been presented on behalf of Cambuskenneth.  This explained the canons’ view of the conveyance of Kinnoull to them, and how they had peaceably possessed the church for about two years after the death of Brice of Creich, the last rector.  Subsequently, a dispute had arisen between them and Andrew of ‘Trebrine’, a priest of St Andrews diocese, who maintained that the church had been provided to him by apostolic authority, and that he had obtained a final judgement in his favour.  Under pretext of this judgement, Andrew had deprived the abbey of Kinnoull and installed himself in it.  The bull charged the bishop to inquire into the circumstances, and if he found that the church of Kinnoull should be annexed to the abbey, to effect that union, so that when it became vacant of the said Andrew, the abbey could obtain corporal possession.  The bishop was also charged to assign a suitable portion for the maintenance of a perpetual vicar to officiate in the church.(8)  Litigation continued, with questions over the validity of the appropriation.(9)

It is uncertain if Andrew of Trebrim is the same man as Andrew Trebuny, who on 13 October 1394 was described in a papal letter as rector of Kinnoull.(10)  The letter was a mandate to provide Trebuny to a canonry of Brechin with reservation of a prebend that fell vacant after 10 March 1403, notwithstanding that he was known to Kinnoull and had recently been presented to the parish church of Errol.

Cambuskenneth, however, was not prepared simply to give up its legal claim and on 2 April 1405 secured direction of a papal mandate to the bishop of St Andrews.  This mandate instructed him to unite and annexe again Kinnoull in proprios usus to Cambuskenneth, reserving a suitable portion for a perpetual vicar.  The union was to be operative from the death, cession or any other demission of it by its present rector.  Pope Benedict XIII’s new appropriation rehearsed how the case had been made to his predecessor Clement VII and that William, bishop of St Andrews, had originally made the annexation.  Clement had subsequently mandated the bishop of Glasgow to effect the union by apostolic authority which was subsequently carried out by Walter, bishop of Glasgow, but Benedict had declared all such previous grants null and void, therefore confirmation had been petitioned for by King Robert III and granted by Benedict.(11)  That same year, however, one John Borthwick MA supplicated the pope that Andrew of Trebuny held the church illegally and requested provision in his place.(12)

Despite its regular successes at Rome and the support of the papal mandatories, Cambuskenneth was unable to make its possession of Kinnoull effective.  Independent rectors are recorded through the fifteenth century.(13)  The abbey, however, appears never to have willingly or formally yielded its claim and went through careful legal restatement of its rights when vacancies arose.  Such seems to be what is recorded in letters drawn up on 18 November 1521 by John, prior of St Andrews, during a vacancy in the see.  These narrated that he had caused Mr John Boswell, ‘claiming to be rector of Kinnoull’, and all others with an interest in the church, to be cited to see and hear the cancellation and annulment of the collation of the rectory granted to him on the presentation of James, archbishop of Glasgow, chancellor, on behalf of the king.  On the appointed day Boswell attended with his agent in the aisle of the church of St Andrews, whereupon Sir William Nory requested the prior to cancel the collation and to grant collation of the rectory to him instead.  The presentation this time was explained as belonging to Alexander earl of Huntly and Isabella Gray, his countess, to whom he alleged this turn of the presentation belonged.  The reference to ‘turn’ reveals that the patronage of the church had remained vested in the lay patrons of Kinnoull and had fallen to the co-heirs to be exercised in turn.  Nory’s request was protested by Boswell’s agent, who alleged that there was a suit respecting Kinnoull in progress at Rome against Nory at the instance of a third party, Mr William Stewart.  In an almost pathetic coda to this long document, it was narrated that ‘at length’ Alexander Myln, abbot of Cambuskenneth, had represented himself and his abbey, and having produced legal documents, proposed that the case should be proceeded with, that the collation given to Boswell should be cancelled, but that collation should not be given to Nory, because the patronage of the church belonged to Cambuskenneth by the gift of the lord of Kinnoull, who was the undoubted patron.(14)  All the litigants, including Cambuskenneth, were apparently unsuccessful as one James Heriot appears as rector in c.1522.(15)

At the Reformation the church was still an independent parsonage in lay patronage.  At that time the eagerness of the abbey and its various secular priest rivals to secure the parsonage becomes more explicable in the recorded value of the church.  Held by Robert Carnegie, it was valued £266 13s 4d, plus pasch fines and corpse presents valued at £10; an 80-merk pension was paid to David Methven.  Carnegie did not discharge his rectorial functions in person, the cure being served by his pensionary vicar, Balthasar Spens, who recived a stipend of 20 merks.(16)

It is understandable that a large and wealthy church located immediately adjacent to the burgh of Perth on the north side of the River Tay opposite the town should enjoy patronage from wealthier members of the local community.  Evidence for that patronage occurs only in January 1518 when John Watson, a burgess of Edinburgh, issued a charter to Mr James Davidson, chaplain of the altar of St Ninian within the parish church of St Constantine the Martyr of Kinnoull, granting him possession of a tenement on the south side of the South Gait of Perth.(17)  This is our only surviving reference to the dedication of the parish church to Constantine, a very unusual dedication for Scotland and possibly representing a personal association of the parish’s former Erskine lords (or their predecessors).  The Ninian dedication of the subsidiary altar is a common late medieval Scottish trend which favoured ‘national’ saints.  Nothing more is heard of the altar and chaplainry, the properties of which after the Reformation were appropriated to what became the King James VI Hospital in the burgh.


1. Registrum Monasterii S Marie de Cambuskenneth (Grampian Club, 1872), no.160 [hereafter Cambuskenneth Registrum].

2. Cambuskenneth Registrum, no.161.

3. Cambuskenneth Registrum, no.163.

4. Cambuskenneth Registrum, no.162.

5. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Petitions to the Pope, ed W H Bliss (London, 1896), 425 [hereafter CPP].

6. CPP, 506, 535.

7. Calendar of Papal Letters to Scotland of Pope Clement VII of Avignon 1378-1394, ed C Burns (Scottish History Society, 1976), 24 [hereafter CPL, Clement VII].

8. CPL Clement VII, 36.  The bull is wrongly dated to 1378 in Cambuskenneth Registrum, no.165.

9. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, iv, 1362-1404, eds W H Bliss and J A Twemlow (London, 1902), 237; CPP, 539.

10. Calendar of Papal Letters to Scotland of Benedict XIII of Avignon 1394-1419, ed F McGurk (Scottish History Society, 1976), 14 [hereafter CPL, Benedict XIII].

11. CPL, Benedict XIII, 134-5 Cambuskenneth Registrum, no.166.

12. CPP, 633.

13. Liber Ecclesie de Scon (Bannatyne Club, 1843), no.209; Copiale Prioratus Sanctiandree. The Letter-Book of James Haldenstone, Prior of St Andrews (1418-1443), ed J H Baxter (Oxford, 1930), 458; Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, v, 1447-1471, eds J Kirk, R J Tanner and A I Dunlop (Glasgow, 1997), no.581; Abstract of the Protocol Book of the Burgh of Stirling, 1469-84 (Edinburgh, 1896), 51.

14. Cambuskenneth Registrum, no.169.

15. Liber Officialis Sancti Andree (Abbotsford Club, 1845), no.29.

16. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 323, 331.

17. NRS GD79/4/114.

Summary of relevant documentation


Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes:  The church was granted to Cambuskenneth by Robert Erskine in 1361, with provision made for a vicar pensionary. The abbey had lost the church by 1363 and thereafter there was constant litigation between the abbey and other claimants. The church remained independent at the Reformation.(1)

1364 Confirmation by David II of appropriation of church to Cambuskenneth on account of damage to the abbey from wars, and fires caused by lightning.(2)

1365 Andrew de Trebim (MA) provided to church (value £20), in litigation over rectory with Cambuskenneth by 1366.(3)

1378-79 Litigation between Cambuskenneth and Andrew de Trebim; question as to whether the church was appropriated to the abbey or not.(4)

1394 Alexander Trebury (MA) successful and is described as rector.(5)

1405 Fresh confirmation of annexation of church to Cambuskenneth with provision for perpetual vicar; same year John Borthwick (MA) claims Andrew holds Kinnoul unlawfully and supplicates for it (not supported by abbey).(6)

1429 (1 July) Patrick Young was rector of the parish church (see Liber Ecclesie de Scon, 171)

1445 (13 Mar) Robert Fevir is rector of Kinnoul.(7)

1482 Vicarage set by John Crichton, rector of Kinnoul.(8)

1520x22 James Heriot, rector of Kinnoul (canon lawyer), appears on behalf of Elizabeth Buchanan, Lady of Cader in her divorce case against Robert Knollis (within related degrees of consanguinity and he had been contracted to a Margaret Mentieth).(9)

Altars and chaplaincies

St Ninian

1518 (4 Jan) Charter by John Watson Burgess of Edinburgh to Mr James Davidson, chaplain of the altar of St Ninian, within the parish church of St Constantine the martyr of Kinnoul, of a tenement on the south side of the southgate.(10)


Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage and vicarage held by Robert Carnegie, value £266 13s 4d, pasche fines and corpse presents valued at £10 and a 80 marks pension  paid to David Methven.

Vicar pensioner Balthasar Spens paid 20 marks.(11)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of vicarage and parsonage £88 17s 9 1/3d.(12)

1636 (30 Mar) The visitation of Kinnoul (recently planted with a new minister Thomas Haliburton), finds it to have no manse or gleib.(13)

1642 (17 Aug) Following an act of the General Assembly anent the patronage of churches the Presbytery of Perth records the patrons of churches within its bounds; Perth belongs to the town, Kinnoul belongs to the earl of Kinnoul, Scone belongs to the king, Cambusmichael also belongs to the king, Kilspindie also belongs to the king being a former kirk of abbey of Scone, Errol belongs to the earl of Kinnoul, Kinfauns belongs to the king being a former kirk of the abbey of Scone, Rhynd belongs to the king being a former church of the priory of Pittenweem, Arngask belongs to the king being a former church of Cambuskenneth, Dunbarney belongs to the town of Edinburgh, Forteviot belongs to the (old) college of St Andrews, Methven belongs to the Duke of Lennox and Luncarty belongs to the king.(14)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Lewis Dunbar, 1795): ‘The church was rebuilt in 1779 but is much too small for accommodating the parishioners. …The church is beautifully situated on the banks of the Tay opposite Perth’.(15)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev John Edward Touch, 1842): ‘In that year (1826), however, the present handsome and spacious structure, in the gothic style, was erected… within a few hundred yards of the old one’.(16)

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches (George Hay): 1826 by William Burns architect. Church is a minor sequel to his work on Dunfermline abbey church.(17)


1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 115.

2. CPP, 425.

3. CPP, 506 & 535.

4. CPL, iv, 237.CPP, 539.

5. CPL, Ben, 14, CPP, 620.

6. CPL, Ben, 134, CPP, 633.

7. Copiale Prioratus Sanctiandree, p.458

8. Abstract of the Prot Bk of Stirling, 1469-84, 51.

9. Liber Officialis Sancti Andree, no.29.

10. NRS Records of the King James VI Hospital, Perth, Altarages, GD79/4/114.

11. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 323 & 331.

12. Donaldson, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, 15.

13. NRS Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1618-1647, CH2/299/1, fol. 355.

14. NRS Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1618-1647, CH2/299/1, fol. 423.

15. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1795), xviii, 555.

16. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1842), x, 942.

17. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, pp. 130, 208 & 270.


NRS Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1618-1647, CH2/299/1.

NRS Records of the King James VI Hospital, Perth, Altarages, GD79/4/114.

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

Architectural description

In 1361 there was an abortive attempt by Robert Erskine, lord of Kinnoull, to grant the parish to the Augustinian abbey of Cambuskenneth; however, despite confirmations of this grant by David II and Bishop William William de Landallis, and repeated resort to law, the parish ultimately retained its independence.(1)

The parish church was rebuilt in 1779,(2) and was largely demolished in 1826, when a new church was built on a nearby site to the designs of William Burn.(3) The only relic of the old church is an aisle that was built on its north side in 1635 as a tomb house for George Hay, first earl of Kinnoull, who had died in the previous year. It is built of pink rubble with ashlar dressings.

Short lengths of walls that extend out from the south-east and south-west corner of the aisle to contain a burial enclosure are presumably relics of the church that the aisle abutted. However, in the absence of diagnostic features, it is unclear to what extent these wall fragments are medieval, of 1635 or of 1779. Vertical joints in the masonry of the aisle’s south wall indicate the location of the arch that opened between the aisle and the interior of the church.

The north wall of the aisle is blank, and has a crow-stepped gable rising above a chamfered intake; the corbel at the eastern base of the gable is dated 1635.(4) The east and west faces of the aisle each have a pair of rectangular windows rising up to lintels below the cavetto-moulded wall-head cornice. Between the windows of the east face is a door surmounted by an armorial panel.

Internally the aisle is dominated by the monument to the earl of Kinnoull, which occupies much of the north wall. Above a plinth decorated with a strapwork-framed cartouche and military trophies, is a screen of three Corinthian columns, within which the standing earl is shown against a table with the purse containing his seal as Chancellor.(5)


1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, pp. 115-16.

2. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-99, vol. 18, p. 555.

3. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 10, p. 942.

4. Accounts of the aisle include: David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland, vol. 3, 1897, pp. 580-81; Deborah Howard, Scottish Architecture from the Reformation to the Restoration, 1560-1660, Edinburgh, 1995, pp. 205-07; Deborah Howard, ‘The Kinnoull Aisle and Monument’, Architectural History, vol. 39, 1996, pp. 36-53; John Gifford, The Buildings of Scotland, Perth and Kinross, New Haven and London, 2007, pp. 648-50.

5. Gordon Donaldson, ‘The Dunbar Monument in its Historical Setting’, Dunbar Parish Church, Tribute to the Past, Hope for the Future (East Lothian Antiquarian and Field Naturalists’ Society), 1987, pp. 1-16; Howard, 1995; Gifford, 2007.



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

  • 1. Kinnoull Aisle, exterior, 1

  • 2. Kinnoull Aisle, exterior, 2

  • 3. Kinnoull Aisle, exterior, 3

  • 4. Kinnoull Aisle, exterior, 4

  • 5. Kinnoull Aisle, exterior, traces of arch into church, 1

  • 6. Kinnoull Aisle, exterior, traces of arch into church, 2

  • 7. Kinnoull Aisle, interior, Kinnoull Monument

  • 8. Kinnoull Church, Kinnoull Aisle, exterior, north-east skewputt

  • 9. Kinnoull later church