Larbert Parish Church

Larbert, possible fragment of 17th-century church

Summary description

The site of the medieval church is probably indicated by a burial enclosure of 1663 that may have abutted it; the church itself was evidently rebuilt by 1595 A new church was built nearby in 1818-20, which was extended in 1909-11.  

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: A chapel of St Ninian’s, it passed to Cambuskenneth 1140x58. It continued as pendicle at the reformation, although it may have obtained parochial status.(1)

1195 Papal bull of Celestine III confirms gift by Robert, bishop of St Andrews of the church of St Ninian’s with its chapels of Dunipace and Larbert.(2)

1251 Bishop David de Bernham of St Andrews confirms that chapels of Dunipace and Larbert are under St Ninian’s and thus did not owe episcopal payments as separate churches.(3)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church pertains to Cambuskenneth; vicarage set for £80 combined with Dunipace.(4)

1591 (16 Feb) A messenger was sent from the Presbytery of Stirling to inform the parishioners of Larbert to elect persons to organise and collect a stent. The taxation to be used for building and repairing their church which is partly ruinous. 22 Feb the commission sent to the church reports that the parishioners were willing to repair their ruinous church.(5) 6 April Thomas Bruce compears on behalf of the parishioners of Larbert and reports that John Livingstone had hindered the repairing of the church (son of William Lord Livingstone).(6)

1595 (1 Jan) Report to the Presbytery of Stirling that the church of Larbert is ready for divine service (the repairs having been finished) and a stipend organised for the minister. (112 marks pa). Further visitation on 11 June makes reference to the ministers stipend and the desire to have Dunipace united to Larbert.(7)

1599 (9 May) Larbert finally planted with a minister, reader and bedell. The minister also (in addition to 112 marks) gets 40d for announcing the bands of marriage (6s 8d if they were not from the congregation) and 40d for baptising children.(8)

1600 (30 Apr) Commissioners from the parish of Larbert desire that Henry Forrester remain their minister as he has promised. Henry replies that he will only stay if his stipend is paid fully (presbytery tell the parishioners to pay him). 1601 (25 Mar) Forrestor having left, Thomas Ambrose (formerly of Tillicoutry) becomes minister. After a short honeymoon period by 7 Sept 1602 the minister is once again complaining that his stipend has not been fully paid and that unless it is he will leave.(9)

1606 (9 Apr) Commissioner for Larbert asks the brethren of the Presbytery of Stirling for help in the planting and reparation of their church.(10)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev George Harvie, 1792): ‘Each parish [Dunipace and Larbert] has its own church. These churches were originally two chapels belonging to Cambuskenneth’.(11) [No reference to fabric of churches]

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev John Bonar, 1841): ‘New church begun in 1818 and completed two years later (1820)’.(12) [no reference to remains to previous church buildings]

Notes

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

2. Cambuskenneth Registrum, no. 25.

3. Cambuskenneth Registrum, no.117.

4. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefice, 538, 543, 545, 546 & 547.

5. NRS Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1589-96, CH2/722/2, fols. 90 & 93.

6. NRS Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1589-96, CH2/722/2, fol. 100.

7. NRS Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1589-96, CH2/722/2, fol. 437.

8. NRS Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1595-1604, CH2/722/3, fol. 113.

9. NRS Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1595-1604, CH2/722/3, fols. 155, 179 & 213.

10. NRS Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1604-1616, CH2/722/4, fol. 82.

11. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1792), iii, 333.

12. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1841), viii, 376.

Bibliography

NRS Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1589-96, CH2/722/2.

NRS Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1595-1604, CH2/722/3.

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

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

Registrum monasterii S. Marie de Cambuskenneth, 1872, ed. W. Fraser, (Grampian Club), Edinburgh.

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

Architectural description

In origin the church at Larbert was a chapel of Kirkton, that is St Ninian’s Church in Stirling, and it passed with that church to the Augustinian abbey of Cambuskenneth through a grant of Bishop Robert at a date between 1140 and 1158. Although it was still a pendicle of Kirkton at the Reformation, it may have achieved some form of parochial status.(1)

According to the Statistical Account  ‘at the Reformation [Larbert and Dunipace] were erected into different charges, and since that time have been under one minister’ but ‘each parish has its own church’.(2) The New Statistical Account stated that the union was quoad sacra.(3)

However, it may only have been in the 1590s that this situation took on definitive shape. On 16 February 1591 the church was said to be partly ruinous, and repairs were ordered;(4) on 1 January 1595 the church was said to be ready for divine service.(5) On 11 June of that year the wish to unite Larbert and Dunipace was formally expressed.(6)

The site of the church that was in use after the Reformation is assumed to be at NS 8556 8222, where a replacement headstone for the Rev’d Robert Bruce, who died in 1631, states ‘the mortal remains of Mr Robert Bruce of Kinnaird...lie interred in this spot at the foot of the pulpit of the first church in Larbert which he built’. A stone from the original monument is preserved within the vestibule of the present church; it is inscribed with Bruce’s initials (MRB) and the date 1631, together with the text ‘+CRISTVS.IN.VITA.ET.IN.MORTE.LVCRVM’.

It is uncertain if Bruce’s church was on the site of the medieval building, though the fact that it was repairs rather than rebuilding that were said to be necessary in 1591 may indicate that it was. It is possible that an adjacent aisle for the Elphinstones of Quarrel, which has survived through continued use for burials, may have been an addition to that church. The lintel of a blocked door in its east wall is inscribed with the date 1663 and the initials SRE and DEC, for Sir Robert Elphinstone and Dame Euphemia Carstairs.

The church was replaced in 1818-20 by a new building within an extension of the same churchyard, which was erected to the designs of David Hamilton.(7) It is of four-and-a-half buttressed bays pierced by tall two-light windows with panel tracery; transom at mid-height indicate where the galleries are located internally. There is a tall west tower with three-light windows containing intersecting tracery, below a crenellated wall-head parapet with pinnacles at the angles.  

The interior was modified by John McLaren in 1887, and a chancel was added and the interior reordered by Peter Macgregor Chalmers in 1909-11.(8)

Notes

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

2. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-9, vol. 3, p. 333.

3. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 8, p. 340.

4. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1589-96, CH2/722/2, fols 90 and 93.

5. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1589-96, CH2/722/2, fol. 100.

6. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Stirling, Minutes, 1589-96, CH2/722/2, fol. 437.

7. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Inventory of Stirlingshire, Edinburgh, 1963, vol. 2, pp. 156-58;  Howard Colvin, Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 4th ed., New Haven and London, 2008, p. 472.

8. John Gifford and Frank Arneil Walker, The Buildings of Scotland, Stirling and Central Scotland, New Haven and London, 2002, p. 579.

Map

Images

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

  • 1. Larbert, possible fragment of 17th-century church

  • 2. Larbert, inscribed lintel from possible fragment of 17th-century church

  • 3. Larbert Church, stone from Robert Bruce of Kinnaird monument

  • 4. Larbert churchyard, replacement memorial for Robert Bruce of Kinnaird

  • 5. Larbert later church, exterior

  • 6. Larbert later church, interior