Kirkliston / Liston Parish Church

Kirkliston Church, exterior, from south west

Summary description

The unaisled nave and partly truncated west tower of an unusually ambitious later twelfth century church, with two highly enriched doors; the chancel has been demolished. A lateral aisle was added at the east end of the south side in 1629; and there was perhaps a corresponding aisle on the north, which was replaced by a larger aisle further west in 1822. Major works in 1865 and 1884.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Cuthbert

Given the importance of this church in the Middle Ages, serving one of the richest estates attached to the mensa of the bishops of St Andrews, it is striking that there is almost no historical record of its existence before its appearance in 1244, when it was dedicated on 11 September by Bishop David de Bernham of St Andrews.(1)  It appears to have been a free parsonage throughout the thirteenth century, being recorded as the church of Lyston in 1275 and 1276 in the accounts of the papal tax-collector in Scotland.(2)  Named rectors are recorded through the fourteenth century in papal records.(3)

It was only in 1387 that the bishop of St Andrews sought to extend his revenue-base in Kirkliston to the fruits of the parish church itself.  On 4 October 1387 Pope Clement VII issued a mandate to the bishop of Brechin.  This narrated how the bishop of St Andrews had claimed that on account of wars, raids, and many other reasons, the revenues of his episcopal mensa were now inadequate to meet the calls upon his hospitality and charity.  The bishop further claimed that the manors of Dairsie and Kirkliston which pertained to the mensa, formerly magnificently constructed, were now dilapidated and in a collapsed condition, their revenues being insufficient to repair them.  For those reasons he petitioned that the parish church of Kirkliston which was near Lyston manor, and the parish church of Kilmany, which lay near Dairsie, should be incorporated to the episcopal mensa.  Being ignorant of the facts of the matter, Pope Clement commissioned the bishop of Brechin to determine the truth, especially about the reduction of revenue and the value of the parishes, and to report back to the pope, who would then decide what should be done in this case.(4)  There is no record that the appropriation proceeded any further.

Rectors continue to be recorded from that point into the mid-fifteenth century.(5)  It is somewhat unexpected when in 1444, Michael Gray, preceptor of St Anthony’s hospital in Leith, who was possibly a kinsman of the then incumbent rector John Gray, petitioned for the appropriation of Liston to his hospital, the cure to be served in future by perpetual vicar (stipend of £20), with a life pension to be paid to John Gray.(6)  That petition was supported on 17 Jan 1444 by a supplication from James II, king of Scots, and James, earl of Douglas, ‘defender of the kingdom’, for annexation of the church (valued at £60) to the hospital, with provision for a vicar to serve the cure.(7)  The union can barely have been operative when on 8 July 1444 a supplication in the name of King James II requested that the letters of union and incorporation of the parish church of Liston to the house of St Anthony near Leith could be revoked and annulled.  His stated reason was St Anthony’s was founded upon alms and collections and it did not seem fitting that the church should be incorporated to it.(8)

That revocation was barely achieved when a new proposal was made instead by Sir Alexander Livingstone of Callendar for its annexation to his proposed collegiate church to be erected within the parish church of Falkirk.  The mandate to make the union effective was rescinded the following year at the request of King James II, who told the pope that Livingstone was a forfeited traitor and in exile.(9)  Almost immediately in1451, however, Bishop James Kennedy secured the appropriation of the church to his episcopal mensa, the union to become active on the death of John Gray.  If the union was successful, the ancient appropriation of the church of Lasswade (qv) to the episcopal mensa would be revoked.(10)

The annexation of the church appears to have been accompanied by the erection of a vicarage pensionary to serve the cure.  The first reference to that situation, however, survives only from 1494, when it was held by John Williams, valued at £4 annually.(11)  It is even later that surviving record of the annexation to the mensa is recorded in a surviving source when in1516/1517 in a dispute between Archbishop Forman and John Hepburn, prior of St Andrews, explicit reference was made to Kirkliston as pertaining to the archiepiscopal mensa.(12)  In 1539 the value of the church to the archbishop was recorded at £131 6s 8d.(13)  As appropriator, however, there were also charges on the archbishop’s account, payment of 50s 8d being made from the Chamberlain of St Andrews’ account in 1539 for the repair and reforming of the tiles/slates of the choir and remaking of one glazed window, and in 1542 a further 44s was spent repairing the choir.(14)

The union continued down to the Reformation, Gilbert Makinaught being recorded in 1555 as the vicar pensioner.(15)  At the time of the Reformation it was noted that the church pertained to the spirituality of the archbishops of St Andrews, the parsonage being set for £167 6s and the vicarage for £13 6s 8d.(16)

Notes

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

2. A I Dunlop (ed), ‘Bagimond’s Roll: Statement of the Tenths of the Kingdom of Scotland’, Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vi (1939), 33, 55, 56.

3. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, iii, 1342-1362, eds W H Bliss and C Johnson (London, 1897), 82, 153, 203, 243-4, 593; Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Petitions to the Pope, ed W H Bliss (London, 1896), 92, 325, 332, 538 [hereafter CPP].

4. Calendar of Papal Letters to Scotland of Clement VII of Avignon 1378-1394, ed C Burns (Scottish History Society, 1976), 132.

5. Calendar of Papal Letters to Scotland of Benedict XIII of Avignon 1394-1419, ed F McGurk (Scottish History Society, 1976), 22, 179; CPP, 598, 636, 637; Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, i, 1418-1422, ed E R Lindsay and A I Cameron (Scottish History Society, 1934), 55, 179, 397, 296-7; Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, vii, 1417-1431, ed J A Twemlow (London, 1906), 154 399; Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, ii, 1423-28, ed A I Dunlop (Scottish History Society, 1956), 90-91; Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, iii, 1428-1432, ed I B Cowan (Scottish History Society, 1976), 100-101; Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, ix, 1431-1447, ed J A Twemlow (London, 1906), 406, 570 [hereafter CPL, ix].

6. CPL, ix, 406.

7. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, iv, 1433-1447, ed A I Dunlop and D MacLauchlan (Glasgow, 1983), no.987 [hereafter CSSR, iv].

8. CSSR, 1433-1447, no.1035

9. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, v, 1447-1471, eds J Kirk, R J Tanner and A I Dunlop (Glasgow, 1997), nos 251, 340.

10. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, x, 1447-1455, ed J A Twemlow (London, 1915), 220.

11. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, xvi, 1492-1498, ed A P Fuller (Dublin, 1986), no.239.

12. St Andrews Formulare, 1514-46, ed C Macrae, vol 1 (Stair Society, 1942), 93.

13. Rentale Sancti Andree, ed R Hannay (Scottish History Society, 1913), 39-40

14. Rentale Sancti Andree, 62, 138.

15. Protocol Book of Dominus Thomas Johnsoun, 1528-1578, eds J Beveridge and J Russell (Scottish Record Society, 1920), no.375.

16. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 3.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: The church was to be annexed to the mensa of the bishops of St Andrews in 1387 but it is doubtful whether this was ever effective. It was ppropriated to the hospital of St Anthony, Leith in 1443/4 but this was revoked almost immediately and it was not until 1451 that the church was once again annexed. This was not effective in the long term, as the parsonage and vicarage pertained to the archbishops of St Andrews at the Reformation, with the cure a vicar pensionary.(1)

1343 Angus de Ergadia (of Argyll, clerk of David II) provided to Liston, void by failure of William Lauder to get ordained and unlawfully held by William Hundbit. On death of Angus (dead by 1345) suit follows between Gilbert Fleming and Robert de Den; Robert eventually wins by 1348.(2)

1358 On death of Robert at Avignon, John Kenan is provided.(3)

1378 Gilbert de Greenlaw provided anew to Liston (had claimed in original supplication that he was a MA, which he is not).(4)

1394 Walter Forester (MA and student of canon law at Avignon) is rector, promoted to Brechin in 1406 and replaced by William de Lauder. On his promotion to Glasgow Andrew de Hawick (secretary of Robert, Duke of Albany and later his son Murdoch) collated and holds rectory until death in 1425.(5) Briefly deprived in favour of Edward Lauder in 1420, accused of continuing to adhere to Benedict XII. Regains church on intervention of Albany who claims that Andrew was on his business in France and payment to Lauder.(6)

1425-51 John Gray (MA and doctor of Medicine for James I) provided on death of Andrew, (holds prebends in Le Mans, Orleans and Tours as well as church of Calder Comitis; son of a Cistercian nun).(7)

1444 Michael Gray [relative of rector?] preceptor of St Anthony’s, Leith, petitions for the appropriation of Liston to his hospital, cure to be served by perpetual vicar (£20), life pension to be paid to John Gray.(8)

1449 Alexander Livingstone attempts to have Kirkliston united to his projected college in Falkirk. 1450 James I supplication to revoke the decision in favour of Livingstone (as he is a traitor now in exile).(9)

1451 Appropriation of the church to the episcopal mensa of St Andrews at the request of bishop James Kennedy, to become active on the death of John Gray, if successful appropriation of Lasswade to mensa to be revoked.(10)

1492 John Williams described as perpetual vicar pensionary of Liston (£4).(11)

1451 Altar of St Kentigern founded in St Giles, Edinburgh, by John Gray, rector of Kirkliston. To revert to the patronage of the burgh on his death.(12)

1516/1517 Dispute between Archbishop Forman and John Hepburn, prior of St Andrews; reference to Kirkliston pertaining to archiepiscopal mensa.(13)

1539 The value of the vicarage of Kirkliston recorded as £131 6s 8d in the St Andrews rental book.(14)

1542 Payment of 44s recorded in the St Andrews rental book for the ‘repairing of the choir’ of the church of Kirkliston.(15)

1544 Further payment of £3 6s 8d for the repair of the choir of the church given to Gilbert makmath, vicar of Kirkliston.(16)

1555 Gilbert Makinuaght [presumably same as above] is vicar pensioner of the church.(17)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church vicarage pertains to archbishop of St Andrews, set for £13 6s 8d, parsonage set for £167 6s.(18)

1591 (6 Apr) Synod of Lothian and Tweedale warns ministers to proceed against those playing ‘ketch football’ or any kind of gaming in kirks and kirk yards it ‘being found on the winter day that footballing was usit in the kirkyard of Kirkliston.(19)

1644 (7 Nov) Process against John Boog, minister of Kirkliston, for ‘tippling in a base way with base companie both on the Lords day afternoon and at other unseasonable times’, suspended by the presbytery.(20)

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

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Adam Duncan Tait, 1839): ‘The church is not in a central situation, being one mile from the northern extremity and three and a half from the southern. The church is evidently of great antiquity, erected probably in the 12th century…. There is a very fine old doorway in the south side of the building, not in use now… The church underwent a complete repair in 1822’.(21)

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 121.

2. CPL, iii, 82, 153, 203 and 243-44, CPP, 92 & 325.

3. CPL, iii, 5093, CPP, 332.

4. CPP, 538.

5. CPL, Ben, 22 & 179, CPP, 636, 637 & 598.

6. CSSR, i, 55, 179, 397 & 296-7, CPL, vii, 154.

7. CSSR, ii, 90-91, CPL, vii, 399, CSSR, iii, 100-01, CPL, ix, 570.

8. CPL, ix, 406.

9. CSSR, v, nos. 251 & 340.

10. CPL, x, 220.

11. CPL, xvi, no.239.

12. Registrum Sancti Egidii de Edinburgh, no. 73.

13. St Andrews Formulare, i, 93.

14. Rentale Sancti Andree, pp..39-40.

15. Rentale Sancti Andree, p.138.

16. Rentale Sancti Andree, p.182.

17. Prot Bk of Dominus Thomas Johnsoun, no. 375.

18. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 3.

19. Synod Records of Lothian and Tweeddale, p. 25.

20. Synod Records of Lothian and Tweeddale, pp. 165-66.

21. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1839), i, 145.

Bibliography

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 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 1423-28, 1956, ed. A.I. Dunlop, (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.

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.

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.

Protocol Book of Dominus Thomas Johnsoun, 1528-1578,  1920, eds. J. Beveridge & J. Russell (Scottish Record Society) Edinburgh.

Registrum Cartarum Ecclesie Sancti Egidii de Edinburgh, 1859, ed. D. Laing (Bannatyne Club), Edinburgh.

Rentale Sancti Andree, 1913, ed. R. Hannay (Scottish History Society), Edinburgh.

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

Architectural description

There were a number of abortive attempts to annexe Kirkliston’s parochial teinds to various bodies and individuals, but by the early sixteenth century it was firmly in the possession of the archbishops of St Andrews.(1) A dedication carried out here by Bishop David de Bernham, on 11 September 1244, is unlikely to have any significance for the fabric of the building, which had probably been completed several decades before then.

Modification of the medieval fabric to adapt it for new forms of worship probably began soon after the Reformation. The greatest changes were those that involved the demolition of the chancel and the partial truncation of the tower. Neither of those is dated, though it is one possibility that the square bellcote on the east gable of the tower, which has a pyramidal roof flanked by ball finials at the corners, is of the same vintage as the bell, which is dated 1687.

The first firmly dated addition was a rectangular laterally projecting aisle at the eastern end of the south wall for the owners of the Newliston estate, the lintel over the entrance to which is incised with the date 1629 and the initials of John Dundas and his wife Margaret Crichton. This used to open into the church through a wide arch, and it is possible that it perpetuates the location of a medieval family chapel. There was a similar arch in the corresponding position on the north side of the nave, which perhaps suggests a symmetrical arrangement of transept-like chapels. Unfortunately the details of both arches are now concealed.

There were major repairs in 1822,(2) and as part of that operation the nave was augmented by a large lateral north aisle, which resulted in a T-shaped plan; in the process the north nave door was moved to the north face of the new aisle. A plan of 26 April 1847 by the Rev’d John Sime shows the church at this stage in its history;(3) the information it provides is supplemented by two models, one of timber and the other of stone, the latter being now rather damaged.

Further works were carried out in 1865 to the designs of Brown and Wardrop. But the greatest changes came in 1884, when the north aisle was doubled in length to the designs of Anderson and Browne,(4) and the interior was completely refitted. As part of this operation the north nave door, which had earlier been moved to the north end of the north aisle, was moved to the east face of the porch on the east side of the aisle.   

Despite the extent to which it has been remodelled, it remains clear that the medieval church was an unusually impressive building.(5) As first built it evidently consisted of three parts: a chancel and a nave – both of which were unaisled – and an axial western tower. The chancel is completely lost, though the way in which the nave string course returns a short distance along its east wall demonstrates that, as might be expected, the chancel was narrower than the nave.

The nave, which has dimensions of about 18.25 by 8 metres, is constructed of coursed rubble. A partly surviving string course, which runs at mid-height, presumably indicates the original location of the windows, none of which survive in a medieval state. At the wall head there is a substantial corbel table which supports what appear to be the lower courses of a parapet, over which the roof now sweeps. The nave was entered by two doorways of a complexity that is unusual for a parish church; they provide the best diagnostic evidence for the date of the building. One of those doorways has certainly been relocated, and this may also be true of the other.

The south doorway, which is the more ambitious of the two, and which has been blocked since at least the mid-nineteenth century, is of four main orders within a hood mould. In the arch, two of the orders are decorated with deeply undercut point-to-point chevron, with a roll at the meeting of the points, while the other orders have continuous mouldings. The hood mould is decorated with semi-dogtooth. In the jambs the innermost order has an engaged roll, while the other orders are supported by an alternately advanced and recessed sequence of six en délit shafts. The badly worn caps appear to have been of waterleaf or crocket form.

It might have been expected that such a deep doorway would have been contained within a salient that was either finished with a gable or that was weathered back at the top, but there is nothing above the extrados of the hood mould. This, together with the fact that the doorway is located further east in the south wall than might have been expected, suggests that it may have been relocated.

Its smaller partner, which is presumed originally to have been the northern entrance to the nave, but is now in the east face of the north-east porch, certainly has been relocated. It is of three orders, the inner order having an engaged angle roll, while the two outer orders are carried on an en délit shaft on each side. The rather compressed capitals are of waterleaf or crocket form. In the arch the inner order has a keeled angle roll, while the other orders are plain.

Partial analogies for these doorways may be found in works such as the far more ambitious doorways in the nave of Jedburgh Abbey, where work is thought likely to have started around the 1180s. On this basis, a date in the later years of the twelfth century appears to be most acceptable for Kirkliston’s nave.

The west tower rests on a deep base course, and the surviving portion is divided into three stages by string courses. There are clasping buttresses at the two western angles, and there is a central buttress to the west face that rises no higher than the first stage. A substantial rectangular stair turret rises through two storeys in the re-entrant angle between the south face of the tower and the west face of the nave. The upper part of the tower has been reconstructed to receive a saddle-back roof, and it is not known if a medieval belfry stage had to be removed to allow this to be done.

Internally the tower now contains the stair to the west gallery, and the arch that opens into it from the nave is blocked. However, parts of the south jamb and the arch above it remain visible within the tower. The jamb had a nook shaft, of which the cap survives: it is of chalice form beneath a deep square abacus. The arch order above it is also of square profile, though it should be borne in mind that the less visible side of tower and chancel arches may be less richly treated than the side that is seen from the nave.

All of the modifications to the nave for which there is clear evidence are of post-medieval date. The only features that might point to later medieval additions to the plan are the two arches that opened off the flanks at the east end of the nave, and which it has been suggested above might indicate that there had once been transeptal chapels. It may be noted that Sime’s plan of 1847 shows both of those arches as still open, albeit leading into spaces that in one case dates from 1629, and that in the other case is of unknown date. Since it is no longer possible to inspect those arches, their dates cannot be asseed, and no more can be said than that the  possibility that they are of medieval origin should be held in mind.

Notes

1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p, 121.

2. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 1, p. 145.

3. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, DP 032702.

4. Online Dictionary of Scottish Architects

5. Accounts of the church will be found in: David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1896–7, vol. 1, pp. 366–70; Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Inventory of Midlothian and West Lothian, Edinburgh,1929, pp. 209–11; Ian G. Lindsay, The Parish Kirk of Kirkliston, Houston, 1949; Christopher Wilson, in Colin McWilliam, The Buildings of Scotland, Lothian, Harmondsworth, 1978, pp. 273–74.

Map

Images

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  • 1. Kirkliston Church, exterior, from south west

  • 2. Kirkliston Church, stone model of exterior

  • 3. Kirkliston Church, exterior, from north east

  • 4. Kirkliston Church, exterior, nave from south east

  • 5. Kirkliston Church, exterior, Newliston Aisle, east face

  • 6. Kirkliston Church, exterior, Newliston Aisle, inscription over south door

  • 7. Kirkliston Church, exterior, north aisle from west

  • 8. Kirkliston Church, exterior, north-east door

  • 9. Kirkliston Church, exterior, north-east door, north caps

  • 10. Kirkliston Church, exterior, north-east door, south caps

  • 11. Kirkliston Church, exterior, south flank

  • 12. Kirkliston Church, exterior, south nave door

  • 13. Kirkliston Church, exterior, south nave door, east caps

  • 14. Kirkliston Church, exterior, south nave door, west caps

  • 15. Kirkliston Church, exterior, tower, from south west

  • 16. Kirkliston Church, interior, from south

  • 17. Kirkliston Church, interior, from south east

  • 18. Kirkliston Church, interior, from south west

  • 19. Kirkliston Church, interior, stone model 1

  • 20. Kirkliston Church, interior, stone model 2

  • 21. Kirkliston Church, interior, stone model 3

  • 22. Kirkliston Church, interior, tower arch cap from west

  • 23. Kirkliston Church, interior, tower arch from west

  • 24. Kirkliston Church, interior, tower stair safe lintels

  • 25. Kirkliston Church, interior, tower west windows rear arches

  • 26. Kirkliston Church, plan (Hay)