Langton Parish Church

Langton Mausoleum, 2

Summary description

The site of the medieval church is marked by a derelict mausoleum. A new church was built on a different site in 1798, and was again rebuilt in 1872.         

Historical outline

Dedication: St Cuthbert(1)

Langton was granted to the monks of Kelso by Roger de Ou, lord of Langton, in c.1150 and confirmed to the abbey, with teinds, by Bishop Arnold of St Andrews (1160x1162).(2)  A general confirmation of possession of its properties was granted to Kelso by King William shortly after his accession in 1165, with Langton included amongst them.(3)  Between c.1191 and July 1195 William de Vieuxpont, to whom possession of the lands of Langton had passed, confirmed Kelso’s possession of the church, giving and granting it to them afresh for its resources to be devoted towards the works and maintenance of the church of Kelso.(4)  Vieuxpont’s charter was confirmed by King William on 29 July 1195.(5)  It was following this royal confirmation that Bishop Roger de Beaumont of St Andrews (1198-1202) confirmed Langton and several other of Kelso’s churches in proprios usus.(6)

Confirmation by Bishop David de Bernham in 1240 resulted in a vicarage settlement and the parsonage thereafter remained annexed to the abbey.(7)  Bishop de Bernham visited Langton on 6 April 1242, when he dedicated the church.(8)  The vicarage was functioning by the 1270s when it was assessed for tax purposes in the accounts of the papal tax-collector in Scotland, being noted as paying two merks in the first tax-year.(9)

There are few subsequent references to the church in surviving records.  One, from 1379, shows the vicarage perpetual as a subsject of competition between rivals for collation, with the eighteen-year-old Andrew ‘de Balmentacol’ securing possession over Richard Cockburn, who had failed to secure ordination as a priest within the time set in its previous award to him.(10)

In April 1556 Archbishop John Hamilton of St Andrews instructed the dean of the Merse to investigate and take necessary remedial measures following a report that twenty-two parish churches in his deanery were ruinous or lacking in proper ornaments for the altar, mass vestments and other equipment, or both.  Responsibility for the poor condition was laid squarely on the appropriators – who were responsible for the maintenance of the chancel area – and the parishioners, who had a duty to maintain the rest of the structure.(11)  Langton was one of the twenty-two whose condition the dean was instructed to inspect.  There is no record of how far, if at all, that process had gone before the Reformation overtook events.  At the Reformation, the parsonage remained in the hands of Kelso and was set for render in kind, while the vicarage, valued at £20, was held by one Thomas Kerr, although the church was actually served by a curate.(12)


1. J M Mackinlay, Ancient Church Dedications in Scotland. Non-Scriptural Dedications (Edinburgh, 1914), 250.

2. Liber S Marie de Calchou (Bannatyne Club, 1846), no.138 [hereafter Kelso Liber].

3. Kelso Liber, no.12.

4. Kelso Liber, no.142.

5. Regesta Regum Scottorum, ii, The Acts of William I, ed G W S Barrow (Edinburgh, 1971), no.381.

6. Kelso Liber, no.83.

7. Kelso Liber, 419, 451.

8. A O Anderson (ed), Early Sources of Scottish History, ii (Edinburgh, 1922), 521 [Pontifical Offices of St Andrews].

9. A I Dunlop (ed), ‘Bagimond’s Roll: Statements of the Tenths of the Kingdom of Scotland’, Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vi (1939), 35.

10. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Petitions to the Pope, ed W H Bliss (London, 1896), 543; Calendar of Papal Letters to Scotland of Clement VII of Avignon 1378-1394, ed C Burns (Scottish History Society, 1976), 30.

11. NRS Miscellaneous Ecclesiastical Records, CH8/16.

12. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 192, 226, 232, 234, 238, 240.

Summary of relevant documentation


Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Granted to Kelso by Roger de Ov c.1150, the church was confirmed with its tithes by Aernald, bishop of St Andrews in 1162x64. In 1240 provision was made for a vicarage settlement; the parsonage remained with the abbey.(1)

Mackinlay notes that the church was dedicated to St Cuthbert.(2)

1379 Andrew de Balmentacol (18 years old) void because Richard de Cockburn failed to get ordained.(3)

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.(4)


Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage with Kelso, set for victual. Vicarage held by Thomas Ker, £20, served by a curate.(5)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of vicarage £6 13s 4d.(6)

1627 (8 June) Report on the parish by the minister (Samuel Sinclair) describes the church as standing in the middle of the parish and as an old church of the monastery of Kelso and under the patronage of William Cockburn of Langton since the Reformation.(7)

1661 (27 May) James Culbie, mason, commissioned to build the minister’s manse with Adam Galloway, wright.(8)

1670 (18 Oct) Report to the Presbytery of Duns of the great disorder in the church of Langton by reason of several men, who in the time of Mr John Bruce’s infirmity and weakness have pretended to preach thereof being all of them either disposed ministers of young men (also travel to other parishes and preach). Heritors and elders ordered to sort it out.(9)

1700 (30 Jan) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Duns found several things necessary for completing [no details]; the session is ordered to complete the works.(10)

1710 (14 Mar) The presbytery notes a report by workmen anent the repair of the church, manse and office houses of Langton. The repair of the kirkyard dykes will cost £100, the church only requires minor repairs; £12 for the walls of the church and £24 for thatching the church.(11)

1713 (17 Feb) Visitation of the church includes a report by James and Archibald Waterstones, wrights, John Allan and John Japhra, thatchers, and John Clinksal and Alex Gillie, masons, who note that the manse, office houses and kirk yard dykes need repairing. Repairs to the church were only for the roof which required slating and leading at a cost of £333 33s.(12)

1738 (7 Nov) Visitation of the church includes a report by Alexander Aitchison, wright and glasier, and Alexander Gilthie and William Midlinow, masons. They note that the kirk ‘having been built new from the foundations and several considerable reparations made to the manse and office houses (only new repairs are to the manse and stable).(13)

#1756 [kirk session and presbytery records have no survived for 1756]

Statistical Account of Scotland (Alexander Girvan, 1793): ‘The church was built in 1756 and is at this time in a ruinous state’.(14)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev John Brown, 1834):

 ‘the present church was erected in 1798 at the west end of the village of Gavinton. Till that time the old church which stood near Langton House, had continued to be used. It is impossible to ascertain when the latter was built [in 1727 it fell to the ground]. It then underwent a thorough repair and stood till the present church was erected’.(15)


1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 127.

2. Mackinlay, Non-Scriptural Dedications, Edinburgh, p.250.

3. CPP, 543, CPL, Clem, 30.

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

5. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 192, 226, 232, 234, 238 & 240.

6. Donaldson, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, 24.

7. Reports on the State of Certain Parishes in Scotland, pp. 5-8.

8. NRS Presbytery of Duns, Minutes, 1659-1688, CH2/113/1, fol. 16.

9. NRS Presbytery of Duns, Minutes, 1659-1688, CH2/113/1, fols. 90-91.

10. NRS Presbytery of Duns, Minutes, 1698-1707, CH2/113/3, fols. 16-17.

11. NRS Presbytery of Duns, Minutes, 1707-1716, CH2/113/4, fols. 81-83

12. NRS Presbytery of Duns, Minutes, 1707-1716, CH2/113/4, fols. 169-172.

13. NRS Presbytery of Duns, Minutes, 1726-1739, CH2/113/6, fols. 279-280.

14. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1793), xiv, 582.

15. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1834), ii, 240.


NRS Miscellaneous Ecclesiastical Records, CH8/16.

NRS Presbytery of Duns, Minutes, 1659-1688, CH2/113/1.

NRS Presbytery of Duns, Minutes, 1698-1707, CH2/113/3.

NRS Presbytery of Duns, Minutes, 1707-1716, CH2/113/4.

NRS Presbytery of Duns, Minutes, 1726-1739, CH2/113/6.

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 Clement VII of Avignon, 1976, ed. C. Burns, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh.

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.

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

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

Mackinlay, J.M, 1914, Ancient Church Dedications in Scotland. Non-Scriptural Dedications, Edinburgh.

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.

Reports on the State of Certain Parishes in Scotland, Made to his Majesty’s Commissioners for Plantation of Kirks, 1835, ed. A. MacGrigor (Maitland Club), Edinburgh.

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

Architectural description

In about 1150 Langton was granted to the Tironensian abbey of Kelso by Roger de Ov, and  subsequent confirmation of this grant by Bishop David de Bernham in 1240 made provision for a vicarage settlement.(1) That same bishop carried out one of his dedications here on 6 April 1242.(2)

Langton was one of 22 churches in the Merse stated to be in a poor structural condition in a letter of 9 April 1556 from Archbishop John Hamilton.(3) The condition of the building was again a problem in the early eighteenth century, when on 17 February 1713 repairs to the roof were costed at £333.(4) If anything was then done, the roof was nevertheless again in ‘ill condition’ in 1721, and in 1727 it fell in.(5) Rebuilding took place in 1736,(6) so that on 7 November 1738 it could be said to have been newly built from the foundations.(7)

The church and village were originally located on a site close to where Langton House stood until its demolition in about 1950, but in 1758 the new proprietor of the estate, David Gavin, removed the village to its present location of Gavinton. Maintenance of the church appears to have been neglected, because in 1793 it was said to be ‘in a ruinous state’,(8) and a new church was eventually built at the heart of the relocated village in 1798,(9) to the designs of Alexander Laing.(10)

The site of the old church is now perpetuated by a derelict burial vault. The main face has an arched window within a square frame on each side of a blocked doorway, above which is a gable with memento mori in the form of a skull and crossed bones; a stone carved with a fleur-de-lis has been built into the blocking of the door.(11) This vault appears to be on the site of the chancel of the demolished church. The site is now too overgrown and derelict for certainty, but what may be a fragment of the north wall of the church is said to survive at its north-west corner; otherwise nothing is presently known of the church here.

The church at Gavinton was itself replaced in 1872 by a new building designed by James Maitland Wardrop, in an English mid-thirteenth century style.(12) Its south face, which overlooks the graveyard, is of buff stugged ashlar; it is divided into two double bays by a central buttress and has four two-light windows with geometric tracery. The less visible north face, which is of rubble, is unbuttressed, and has only two windows. The timber porch at the west end opens into a vestibule and vestry. The most prominent feature of the church is an east tower, of three storeys of rock-faced ashlar, capped by an octagonal stone spire with angle pinnacles and lucarnes. The porch at the base of this tower gives access to the laird’s pew.

Internally the church is covered by an arch-braced roof. The communion table and pulpit at the west end are within a railed enclosure, rising behind which is blind arcading framing marble panels inscribed with the Lord’s Prayer and Ten Commandments. At the opposite end of the church, on the first floor of the tower, is an organ loft, opening into the church through an arch with a traceried balustrade.


1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 127.

2. Alan Orr Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History, Edinburgh, 1922, vol. 2, p. 521.

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

4. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Duns, Minutes, 1707-16, CH2/113/4, fols 169-72.

5. James Robson, The Churches and Churchyards of Berwickshire, Kelso, 1896, pp. 151-52.

6. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-99, vol. 14, p. 582.

7. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Duns, Minutes, 1726-39, CH2/113/6, fols 279-80.

8. Statistical Account, vol. 14, p. 582.

9. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 2, p. 240.

10. Howard Colvin, Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, New Haven and London, 2008, p. 626.

11. A photograph of the vault when it was less overgrown and derelict than is now the case is in G.A.C. Binnie, The Churches and Graveyards of Berwickshire, Ladykirk, 1995, p. 317.

12. The following account is based on that in Kitty Cruft, John Dunbar and Richard Fawcett, The Buildings of Scotland, Borders, New haven and London, 2006, p. 321.



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

  • 1. Langton Mausoleum, 2

  • 2. Langton Mausoleum, 1

  • 3. Langton Mausoleum, carved detail

  • 4. Langton Mausoleum, interior

  • 5. Langton old churchyard, gravestone

  • 6. Langton, new church