Lamberton Parish Church

Lamberton Church, exterior, from south

Summary description

The partial shell of what was probably a two-compartment structure in its final medieval state. Passed out of ecclesiastical use after 1650.

Historical outline

Dedication: unknown

There is no record of Lamberton in surviving sources before the end of the twelfth century when in 1199x1200 Bishop Roger de Beaumont of St Andrews granted the church to the uses of the monks of Durham.(1)  Possession was confirmed in 1253 but from the outset it seems that the parsonage revenues, in common with the arrangements in respect of most of the parish churches in Scotland held by Durham, were assigned for the support of Coldingham and followed the eventual transfer of that priory from Durham’s control into the hands of the monks of Dunfermline.(2)  Durham resisted the efforts of the Scottish crown to secure the detachment of Coldingham and its associated parishes from the control of an English monastery, securing confirmation of its possessions – including Lamberton – from Pope Eugenius IV in 1444, but the resistance was futile(3).  It seems that a vicarage settlement had been instituted by 1271.(4)

Other than as a named property in the long contest over control of Coldingham, Lamberton is otherwise effectively invisible in pre-Reformation records.  It was, however, one of twenty-two churches in the deanery of the Merse that were reported to Archbishop John Hamilton as being in serious disrepair and lacking in altar ornaments, mass vestments and equipment as a consequence of the neglect of obligations on the parts of both appropriators and parishioners.  As a consequence, in April 1556 Hamilton wrote to the dean of the Merse instructing him to investigate further and take remedial measures as appropriate.(5)  How far advanced that process was when the tide of the Reformation swept away the operations of the old hierarchy is unknown.

At the Reformation, no clear record survives of how the cure was being served but apparently the vicarage settlement established by 1271 was still functioning.  In The Books of Assumption it was noted that the church pertained to Coldingham and teind income was valued at £48 annually.(6)


1. The Correspondence, Inventories, Account Rolls and Law Proceedings of the Priory of Coldingham, ed J Raine (Surtees Society, 1841), Appendix, no.cccclxix [hereafter Coldingham Correspondence).

2. J Raine, History and Antiquities of North Durham (London, 1852), Appendix, no.dcxlix; Coldingham Correspondence, cxiii; J Bain (ed), Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland, i (Edinburgh, 1881), no.360.

3. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, iv, 1433-1447, eds A I Dunlop and D MacLauchlan (Glasgow, 1983), no.1111.

4. Raine, North Durham, Appendix, no.ccccxxx.

5. NRS Miscellaneous Ecclesiastical Records, CH8/16.

6. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 199, 202.

Summary of relevant documentation


Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: The church was granted 1199-1200 to the uses of the monks of Durham by Roger, bishop of St Andrews. The revenues went to Coldingham and the vicarage was served by a monk.(1)

1444  December, Pope Eugene IV issues a confirmation of the possession of Durham in Scotland, including the churches of Ayton (chapel), Swinton, Ednam, Stitchel, Old Cambus, Lamberton, Berwick, Fishwick, Edrom and Earlston.(2)

1556 (9 April) Parish church is one of 22 from the Merse specifically mentioned in two letters (the 1555 letter does not have a specific date, McRoberts suggests August) from John Hamilton, archbishop of St Andrews (1547-1571) to the Dean of Christianity of the Merse. Hamilton states that ‘a great many of the parish churches are - their choirs as well as naves - wholly thrown down and as it were levelled to the ground; others were partly ruinous or threatening collapse in respect of their walls and roofs; they were without glazed windows and without a baptismal font and had no vestments for the high altars and no missals or manuals…. The fault and shortcomings belong to the parishioners as well as to the parsons’. The dean was instructed to investigate the fruits, garbal teinds and other rights of the said churches.(3)


Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church pertains to Coldingham, teinds worth £48.(4)

[Joined to parish of Ayton after Reformation then to parish of Mordington (1656)]

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev George Drummond, 1792): ‘The building, in which public worship was performed, still remains, and is now the burial place of the family of Lammerton’.(5)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev George Fulton Knight, 1835): ‘This chapel [of Lamberton] has now nothing remaining but part of the outer walls, and is used as the burying place of the family of Mr Renton of Lamberton’.(6)


1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 126-27.

2. CSSR, iv, no.1111.

3. NRS Miscellaneous Ecclesiastical Records, CH8/16. Noted in Donaldson, Scottish Reformation, p. 23 and McRoberts, ‘Material destruction caused by the Scottish Reformation’, 427.

4. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 199 & 202.

5. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1792), xv, 174.

6. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1835), ii, 340-41.


NRS Miscellaneous Ecclesiastical Records, CH8/16.

Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1433-47, 1983, ed. A.I. Dunlop and D MacLauchlan, Glasgow. 

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

Donaldson, G., 1960, The Scottish Reformation, Cambridge.

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

McRoberts, D., 1962., ‘Material destruction caused by the Scottish Reformation’, in D. McRoberts, Essays on the Scottish Reformation, 1513-1625, Glasgow.

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

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

Architectural description

Lamberton was granted to the uses of Durham Cathedral Priory by Bishop Roger in 1199-1200, and by the end of the thirteenth century its teinds had been allocated to Durham’s daughter house at Coldingham.(1) Being so close to the border with England, the church evidently suffered in the sixteenth century, and in a letter of 9 April 1556 from Archbishop John Hamilton it was referred to as a one of 22 churches in the Merse that was in bad repair.(2)

Following the Reformation the parish was successively annexed to a number of other parishes: in 1616 with Foulden, in 1627 with Ayton, and in 1650 with Mordington(3) After the last of those it passed out of use other than as a burial place for local families: the Rentons of Lamberton in the chancel, and the Logans of Lintlaw and Burnhouses in the nave.

The main structural losses appear to have taken place around the late eighteenth and earlier nineteenth centuries. According to the Statistical Account ‘the building...still remains’,(4) but the author of the New Statistical Account recorded, rather dismissively perhaps, that it ‘has now nothing remaining but part of the outer walls’.(5)

The church appears to have been a two-compartment structure, with an east compartment of about 9.85 by 5.7 metres and a west compartment of 10.3 by 6.6 metres. However, it is unclear to what extent its walls still represents the medieval building, since no diagnostic details have survived, and the door openings into the two parts are clearly no earlier than the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries.

The east compartment is constructed of regularly coursed masonry of relatively large scale blocks, which appears likely to be medieval. However, the absence of windows or chancel arch suggests that it may have been extensively rebuilt using medieval materials. It may also have been truncated, since there is a footing at the south-east angle that continues the line of the south wall. The rubble-built western chamber appears likely to have been even more extensively rebuilt, and now has rounded western angles.


1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, pp. 126-27.

2. National Records of Scotland, Miscellaneous Ecclesiastical Records, CH8/16.

3. Francis H. Grome, Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, vol. 4, 1883; G.A.C. Binnie, Churches and Churchyards of Berwickshire, Ladykirk, 1996, 379.

4. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-99, vol. 15, p 174.

5. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 2, pp. 340-41.



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

  • 1. Lamberton Church, exterior, from south

  • 2. Lamberton Church, exterior, continued footing at south east angle

  • 3. Lamberton Church, exterior, east chamber, north wall

  • 4. Lamberton Church, exterior, from north west

  • 5. Lamberton Church, exterior, from south east

  • 6. Lamberton Church, interior, east chamber, looking east

  • 7. Lamberton Church, interior, west chamber, memorial in west wall

  • 8. Lamberton churchyard, gravestone, 1

  • 9. Lamberton churchyard, gravestone, 2