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Laurencekirk / Conveth Parish Church

Laurencekirk Church, 1

Summary description

Rebuilt in 1804 and enlarged in 1819 and 1894.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Laurence (1)

Between 1189 and 1193, King William granted Humphrey son of Theobald various lands in Conveth (now known as Laurencekirk), plus all of the rights that the thane of Conveth had previously held in the kirkton there, including the patronage of the church.(2)  At around the same time, King William confirmed a number of gifts that had been made to the priory of St Andrews, amongst which was the grant of the church of Conveth made by Humphrey de Berkeley.(3)  The grant was confirmed to the priory by Pope Innocent III in 1206.(4)

The church was dedicated by David de Bernham, bishop of St Andrews, on 19 October 1244.(5)  When it next appears in a surviving record, the rolls of the papal tax-collector of the mid-1270s, it is as an independent parsonage assessed for taxation at £4 annually.(6)  From this recording it is clear that Humphrey de Berkeley’s grant had conveyed only the patronage of the church and that it had remained unappropriated.  Various rectors of the church are named through the fourteenth and fifteenth century, often involved in disputed provisions to what was a comparatively wealthy free parsonage.(7)

Conveth remained independent until 1550, when Archbishop John Hamilton annexed both the parsonage and vicarage to the academic College of St Mary at St Andrews, which he was in the process of seeking a revision of its founding constitution for which additional endowment was necessary.(8)  For the last decade down to the Reformation, then, Conveth was served by a vicar pensioner.  The parsonage and vicarage of Conveth delivered income of £240 6s 8d to St Mary’s, and it was noted that ‘off this is gevin to him that wes curet and now redar…’ but no stipend was recorded.(9)


1. For the church of Laurencekirk and its dedication, see A MacQuarrie, The Saints of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1997), 2-3, 218.

2. Regesta Regum Scottorum, ii, The Acts of William I, ed G W S Barrow (Edinburgh, 1971), no.345 [hereafter RRS, ii].

, ii, no.333.

4. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree in Scotia (Bannatyne Club, 1841), 251.

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

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

7. See, for example, Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, iii, 1342-1362, ed W H Bliss (Dublin, 1897), 150, 425; Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Petitions, ed W H Bliss (Dublin, 1896), 325, 328, 559; Calendar of Papal Letters of Pope Benedict XIII of Avignon 1394-1419, ed F McGurk (Scottish History Society, 1976), 130, 218, 273; Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, v, 1447-1471, eds J Kirk, R J Tanner, A I Dunlop (Glasgow, 1997), nos 289, 527.

8. For St Mary’s College, see I B Cowan and D E Easson, Medieval Religious Houses: Scotland, 2nd edition (London, 1976), 233.  For the annexation, see Evidence, oral and documentary, taken by the Commissioners or visiting the Universities of Scotland (London, 1837), 359-60; Registrum Secreti Sigilli Regum Scotorum, iv, 1548-1556, ed J Beveridge (Edinburgh, 1952), no.187.

9. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 64.

Summary of relevant documentation


Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Granted to the priory of St Andrews by Humphrey de Barclay in 1174x78. Patronage alone pertained to priory and church remained independent until 1550 when both patronage and vicarage were annexed to the College of St Mary’s, St Andrews; the cure thereafter was served by a vicar pensioner.(1)

1344 John Herward (canon and prebend of Ross and St Andrews) was proved to Conveth, as a result of a request made by Queen Joan. This provision was perhaps ineffective as in 1351 David de Moray (can of Aberdeen and Treasurer of Moray) was provided, on the death of a certain Thomas de Kinnimond.(2) This latter provision was contested by a petition on behalf of Matthew Blake in 1358. By 1381 Robert de Lanyn (MA) was rector.(3)

1405 William de Ramsay in possession of Conveth, value £30 for non-resident. By 1410 Richard Knight (Militis) is described as rector and in 1413 he is dispensed to hold the canonry of Brechin as well (described as an envoy to the papacy from Robert, Duke of Albany).(4)

1423 Richard is still rector provided to the deanery of Aberdeen, but dies on return journey from curia. Thomas Greenlaw (MA and student of university of Paris) is provided as his successor (£25 value).(5)

1440 and 1441, Greenlaw at Councils of Basle and Florence and therefore removed from Conveth; Robert De Logthon and John Monypenny litigate for rectorship.(6)

1449 Greenlaw restored to church dies; competition between Richard Cady, James Kennedy (cousin of bishop Kennedy of St Andrews) and David Monypenny.(7)

1454 The case is resolved, with John Balfour now rector (£30) and in 1465 is allowed to hold the church in conmmendum.(8)

1467 Archibald Whitelaw is the rector (secretary of James III).(9)

1486 Hugh Douglas (MA) collated to church, in failure of William of Athole to be ordained.

1487 Robert Bisset assigned a pension of 30 marks from the income of Conveth.(10)

1513 Patrick Paniter, royal secretary, allowed to hold Conveth (and Fetteresso) for one year following accession to abbacy of Cambuskenneth.(11) [killed at Flodden in the same year]


Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage and vicarage pertain to St Mary’s College, St Andrews. Value £240 6s 8d. The curate is now a reader, [no reference to pay].(12)

1626 (18 Apr) Supplication by the parishioners of Conveth mentions that the kirk is altogether ruinous in roof and walls by reason whereof they cannot commonly repair there. They ask for help from the ministry to force the New College to bind themselves to mend the church.(13) [Fraser and Forbes suggests that a new church was built that year but it may have been a just a major repair].(14)

1683 (10 July) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Fordoun, the minister (William Dunbie) asked concerning the fabric of the church, it was answered that for the time being it was not in good care because several of the heritors neglected to mend their portions, the church being divided amongst the heritors according to their rents. The presbytery appoint that in all time coming the whole fabric of the church to be repaired instantly by all the heritors. The kirk yard dykes and glass windows are specifically to be repaired.(15)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev David Forbes, 1792): ‘Church built in 1626, manse in 1731’. In need of further repair and too small for congregation’.(16)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev John Cook, 1838): ‘When old church (1626) taken down in 1804, stones found of older date on which a figure of a man lying on a grill was carved' [Cook guessed St Laurence].(17)

‘New parish church built in 1804 and enlarged in 1819. Patronage belonged to St Mary’s College, University of St Andrews since 1550’.(18)


1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 35.

2. CPL, iii, 150 & 425.

3. CPP, 325, 328 & 559.

4. CPL Ben, 130, 218 and 273.

5. CSSR, ii, 26 & 38, CPL, vii, 268 & 299.

6. CSSR, iv, 176 & 198.

7. CSSR, v, nos.289, 448 & 456.

8. CPL, xii, 237-8.

9. CSSR, v nos. 527, 1215, CPL, x, 258-59, xii, 237-8

10. CPL, xvi, 114, xiii, 976-77.

11. CPL, xx, 102.

12. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 64 (p.493 also in index, refers to different church with same name).

13. NRS Records of the Synod of Fife, 1610-1636, CH2/154/1, fol. 303.

14. Fraser, History of Laurencekirk, p. 213.

15. NRS Presbytery of Fordoun, Records of Visitations, 1677-1688, CH2/157/13, fols. 49-52.

16. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1792), v, 179.

17. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1838), xi , 128-29. In footnote to this Cook noted that the site of the proper church was thought to be 2 miles to the east. Foundations were found a few years early in that area thought to be from this building.

18. Ibid, 145-46.


National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Fordoun, Records of Visitations, 1677-1688, CH2/157/13.

National Records of Scotland, Records of the Synod of Fife, 1610-1636, CH2/154/1.

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 1423-28, 1956, ed. A.I. Dunlop, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh.

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

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.

Fraser, W., 1880, History of the Parish and Burgh of Laurencekirk, 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.

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

Architectural description

The patronage of Laurencekirk, which was earlier known as Conveth, was granted to St Andrews Cathedral Priory by Umfridus de Berkley during the reign of William I, a grant that was confirmed by Pope Innocent III in 1206. In 1550 it was appropriated by Archbishop John Hamilton to St Mary’s College in St Andrews, with the cure from then being a vicar pensioner.(1) Bishop David de Bernham carried out one of his many dedications on 19 October, 1244.(2)

It is thought there may have been some rebuilding following a supplication in 1626 that the building was ‘altogether ruinous in roof and walls’,(3) though in 1683 it could still be complained that neglect by the heritors had resulted in the building being in poor repair.(4) By the time of the latter the parish had been united with Rait, at an uncertain date before 1634.(5)

The church was rebuilt in 1804, within the existing graveyard on the evidence of a number of memorials of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century date. It was enlarged in 1819,(6) and further extended in 1895 the designs of A. Marshall Mackenzie.(7) Nothing of medieval date appears to have survived these changes in identifiable form.

The core of the existing building is a rectangular rubble-built structure with three three-light windows containing intersecting tracery along the south front, and an echelon grouping of three Y-traceried windows below a circlet in the east wall. A slender bell tower rises at its west end, which is capped by a slated splay-foot spire. A small porch over the door towards the west end of the south wall has a re-cut inscription above its door which states ‘erected 1804 extended 1895’. Along the north flank is an array of gabled and flat-roofed additions that appear to be of a variety of dates.


1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 129.

2. Alan Orr Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History, Edinburgh, 1922, vol. 2, p. 525.

3. W. Fraser, History of the Parish and Burgh of Laurencekirk, Edinburgh, 1880, p. 213.

4. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Fordoun, Records of Visitations, 1677-88, CH2/157/13, fols 49-52.

5. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-99, vol. 4, p. 202.

6. Francis H. Groome, Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, vol. 4, 1883.

7. Jane Geddes, Deeside and the Mearns, an Illustrated Architectural Guide, Edinburgh, 2001, p. 52.



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

  • 1. Laurencekirk Church, 1

  • 2. Laurencekirk Church, 2

  • 3. Laurencekirk Church, 3

  • 4. Laurencekirk Church, gravestones

  • 5. Laurencekirk Church, inscription over entrance