Legerwood Parish Church

Legerwood Church, exterior, from south east

Summary description

A twelfth-century two-compartment church, augmented by a lateral north aisle. Modified in 1717, 1896 and 1898-99.

Historical outline

Dedication: unknown

Granted to the monks of Paisley c.1163 by Walter son of Alan, the gift conveyed the church with all pertinents.(1)  Between 1163 and 1178 Bishop Richard of St Andrews confirmed the church of Legerwood to the uses of the monastery.(2)  It appears that a vicarage settlement was instituted early in the thirteenth century but it is only with the accounts of the papal tax-collector in 1274/5 that the annexation of the parsonage to Paisley and existence of a vicar-perpetual is confirmed.  In those rolls, the church was listed along with the church of Innerwick as a possession of the abbot of Paisley, together assessed at five merks for tax, while the vicarage paid two and a half merks(3)  The church was dedicated on 30 October 1242 by Bishop David de Bernham.(4)

Apart from a few references to incumbents of the vicarage from the late fourteenth century onwards, there is scant notice of the church of Legerwood in pre-Reformation sources.  On the eve of the Reformation it briefly emerges, when in 1550 the teind sheaves and kirklands were set to the Hoppringle family for £50 annually.  The Hoppringles were also burdened with responsibility therefore to uphold the choir and high altar and to keep them in honest repair.(5)  At the Reformation was the parsonage was still in the nominal possession of Paisley, set still for £50, while the vicarage held by William Cranstoun was valued at £12.(6)


1. Registrum Monasterii de Passelet (Maitland Club, 1832), 7 [hereafter Paisley Registrum].

2. Paisley Registrum, 116-7.

3. A I Dunlop (ed), ‘Bagimond’s Roll: Statement of the Tenths of the Kingdom of Scotland’, Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vi (1939), 34, 35.

4. A O Anderson (ed), Early Sources of Scottish History, ii (Edinburgh, 1922), 523 [Pontifical Offices of St Andrews].

5. Protocol Book of Robert Wedderop, Lauder 1543-1553, eds T Maley and W Elliot (Selkirk, 1993), no.24.

6. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 193, 529, 530.

Summary of relevant documentation


Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Granted to Paisley by Walter Fitzallan 1165x73. The parsonage remained with the abbey, a perpetual vicarage having been established by the late 13th century.(1)

1381 John de Kirkcaldy holds the perpetual vicarage.(2)

1433-1450 John Berton/Barton (MA and rector of Kirkmalcolm, Glas) obtains church through exchange with William Hangandsyde. He attempts a further exchange in 1437 for church of Cadzow but ineffective.(3) In 1450 Barton (now canon in college of Bothwell) complains that he has held th church peacefully for 17 years with residing there, but now fears that he will be molested and has been warned under pain of deprivation since it is asserted by some that in the institution and endowment of the vicarage it is stipulated that the incumbent should reside and serve the cure. Barton granted indult not to reside in Legerwood.(4)

1463-65 James Inglis holds vicarage alongside chaplaincy of St Ninian in St Giles, Edinburgh.(5) Inglis resigns church in 1465 on promotion to church of Cadder (Glas), replaced by Robert de Forest (MA).(6) [perhaps ineffective - see below]

1473 Kentigern Crichton collated to church, vacant by death of James Inglis at apostolic see [no mention of Forest].(7)

1550 Teinds scheaves and kirklands, which pertain to the abbey of Paisley, set to the Hoppringall family, value £50. Duty of family to uphold the choir and high altar and keep them in honest repair.(8)

1554 Slaughter of Richard Ludardale by James and Oswald Murdo, parties reach agreement in church.(9)


Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage with Paisley, set for £50. Vicarage held by William Cranstoun, value £12 (with pasche fines etc deducted).(10)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of vicarage £4.(11)

1704 Visitation of the church by the presbytery of Lauder includes a report by Mungo Dick and James Young, masons and wrights who note that work on the roof of the kirk [no details].(12)

1712 (1 Apr) Visitation of the church and manse includes a report by Andrew Burnet, Mungo Dick, mason and wright who note the need to take down both the gabells as low as the side walls and repair the same. In addition to this, work on the roof and the choir. The total costs of the repairs estimated to be £2115 (£425 of which is to be spent on the church).(13)

1717 (17 Jan) New minister installed at the church (Thomas Old) after a vacancy of 4 years. Visitation on the same day includes a report which notes that the repairs suggested in the last inspection (1 Apr 1712) have yet to be carried out. [this seems to have partly been a result of the vacancy and partly due to questions over the patronage of the kirk](14)

1717 (1 Feb) The lairds of Moriston and Cranston were consulted, and agreed, as to a plan by the presbytery to devote the vacant stipend from 1713-1717 to repairing the church and manse. A further meeting at the church on 17 July confirms this plan. The visitors note that the kirk is ruinous being without a roof since 1709, and needing to be repaired in the walls, also the church wants a bell, communion cups and other utensils. They note that a sum of £875 will be required for mending the kirk as per the plan from 1712.(15) [no further references to the work in presbytery or session records].

1739 (26 Jun) £24 spent on repairing the roof of the kirk (further £117 spent on manse).(16)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Mr Murray and Mr Mirtle): [No reference to church fabric]

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev John Walker, 1835): ‘It is not known at what time the church was built. It appears, however, from an inscription on the edifice to have been extensively repaired in 1717’.(17)


1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, p. 129.

2. CPP, 558.

3. CSSR, iv, nos. 83 & 366-67.

4. CSSR, v, no 386.

5. CSSR, v, nos. 940 & 1046, CPL, xii, 189.

6. CPL, xii, 472 & 474.

7. CPL, xiii, 360.

8. Prot Bk of Robert Wedderop, Lauder 1543-1553, no. 24.

9. Prot Bk of Sir William Corbet, no. 81

10. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 193, 529 & 530.

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

12. NRS Presbytery of Lauder/Earlston, Minutes, 1704-1716, CH2/118/2, fols. 48-49.

13. NRS Presbytery of Lauder/Earlston, Minutes, 1704-1716, CH2/118/2, fols. 224-225.

14. NRS Presbytery of Lauder/Earlston, Minutes, 1716-1730, CH2/118/3, fols. 9, 14-15 & 16-17.

15. NRS Presbytery of Lauder/Earlston, Minutes, 1716-1730, CH2/118/3, fols. 18 & 33-34.

16. NRS Presbytery of Lauder/Earlston, Minutes, 1730-1748, CH2/118/4, fol. 235.

17. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1835), ii, 357-58.


NRS Presbytery of Lauder/Earlston, Minutes, 1704-1716, CH2/118/2.

NRS Presbytery of Lauder/Earlston, Minutes, 1716-1730, CH2/118/3.

NRS Presbytery of Lauder/Earlston, Minutes, 1730-1748, CH2/118/4.

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 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.

Donaldson, G., 1949, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, (Scottish History 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 Robert Wedderop, Lauder 1543-1553, 1993, eds. T. Maley & W. Elliot, Selkirk.

Protocol Book of Sir William Corbet, 1529-1555, 1911, eds. J. Anderson & W. Angus (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh.

Architectural description

At a date between 1165 and 1173 the church was granted to the Cluniac abbey of Paisley by Walter Fitzallan, and it was confirmed to the uses of the abbey by Bishop Andrew at a date between 1163 and 1173. By the early thirteenth century a perpetual vicarage had been established.(1) On 30 October 1242 the building was dedicated by Bishop David de Bernham.(2)

On the stylistic evidence of its chancel arch, it is likely that the church was built around the second quarter of the twelfth century. It was set out to a two-compartment plan, with a square chancel and larger rectangular nave; no additions are known to have been made to this plan throughout the middle ages. At an unknown date after the Reformation the chancel was walled off and reduced in height for use as a burial enclosure for the Moristoun family.

By 1712 major repairs were required. The mason Andrew Burnet and the wright Mungo Dick suggested that, amongst other works, the gables required to be taken down to the level of the side walls.(3) However, the operation may have been postponed for five years, because an inscription on the west wall records ‘Repaired 1717’. Further works were carried out in 1804 according to an inscription within an oval plaque at the centre of the south wall.

At some stage a lateral aisle was added on the north side of the nave, giving the church a T-plan. This aisle has been said to date from 1880,(4) though the architectural evidence suggests it is more likely to be of the eighteenth or early nineteenth century.

By 1896 the chancel, which was still walled off as a burial enclosure, was said to be roofless and ruined. But in 1898-99 it was restored for W. Van Vlack Lidgerwood to the designs of Hardy and Wight, an operation commemorated on an inscription inside the chancel. It was presumably as part of that operation that new windows were provided in the nave and a south porch added over the south doorway.

The church is built throughout of red sandstone, though only the walls of the chancel appear to be still largely of the twelfth century. They are built of cubical ashlar and rise from a narrow chamfered base course; the wall-head corbel table and rebuilt east gable are attributable to the works of 1898-99. There is a restored single narrow round-arched window in each of the south, east and north walls. The oculus in the east gable is entirely of 1899.

The widely occurring cubical blocks in the nave walls indicate that parts of its masonry may also be of the twelfth century, though much of it appears to have been re-used rather than in its original location. Indeed, the similarity of the masonry tooling with that of the north aisle suggests that the nave was remodelled and the aisle added as part of a unified plan to create a T-plan church in which the chancel made no contribution. In both there is widespread droved tooling with polished margins to the quoins.

The remodelling of the nave and addition of the north aisle may have been first carried out in 1707, though there can be little doubt that there were extensive modifications in both 1804 and 1898-9. In its final state the principal face of the nave, towards the south, has a pair of round-arched twin-light windows at the centre, and single-light windows towards each end. The south porch has a Romanesque revival entrance arch carried on nook shafts with scalloped capitals.

Internally, the finest medieval feature is the chancel arch, which survived because of the blocking off of the chancel. It has responds with a half-round engaged shaft to the axial order, flanked on each side by an engaged three-quarter nook shaft. The caps of the north respond are of volute form to the west, cushion form to the east, and of convex scalloped form on the axis. The three restored caps of the south respond are of cushion type. There is chip carving to the abaci, to the string course that stretches back across the wall from the abaci and to some of the capitals.

Within the chancel the walls are of cubical ashlar, albeit heavily restored in parts, as are the widely-splayed rear arches of the narrow round-headed windows. The most intriguing feature of the chancel is a single shaft in its four corners, each of which now carries a restored capital; it may be speculated if these indicate that stone vaulting had been contemplated for the chancel.

There is an aumbry in the north wall, and slight traces of painted decoration have been found at its back and elsewhere in the chancel. Built into the north wall of chancel are a pair of carved fragments, one with interlaced ornament that could be from a cross slab; the other has foliage that is too incomplete to permit an estimation of its date.

The chief reminder of the period during which the chancel was used as a burial aisle is a monument towards the north end of the east wall. It is a large Ionic aedicule which commemorates John Ker of Moristoun and his wife Grissell Cochrane, who is remembered for saving her father from execution by robbing the postman who carried his death warrant.

Virtually everything that is now seen in the nave and north aisle dates from 1898-99. There are plastered walls above a dado, with a boarded ceiling of polygonal section.


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

2. Alan Orr Anderson, The Early Sources of Scottish History, Edinburgh, 1922, vol. 2, p. 523.

3. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Lauder/Earlston, Minutes, 1704-16, CH2/118/2, fols 224-25.

4. G.A.C. Binnie, The Churches and Churchyards of Berwickshire, Ladykirk 1995, p. 345.



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

  • 1. Legerwood Church, exterior, from south east

  • 2. Legerwood Church, exterior, from north

  • 3. Legerwood Church, exterior, chancel, base course

  • 4. Legerwood Church, exterior, chancel, from south east

  • 5. Legerwood Church, exterior, from south

  • 6. Legerwood Church, exterior, nave, inscription on south wall

  • 7. Legerwood Church, interior, chancel arch

  • 8. Legerwood Church, interior, chancel arch caps

  • 9. Legerwood Church, interior, chancel arch, from south west

  • 10. Legerwood Church, interior, chancel arch, north respond

  • 11. Legerwood Church, interior, chancel arch, north respond cap

  • 12. Legerwood Church, interior, chancel arch, south respond

  • 13. Legerwood Church, interior, chancel, from north west

  • 14. Legerwood Church, interior, chancel, from south west

  • 15. Legerwood Church, interior, chancel, monument of John and Grissell Ker

  • 16. Legerwood Church, interior, chancel, north respond chancel arch and wall shaft

  • 17. Legerwood Church, interior, chancel, re-set fragments

  • 18. Legerwood Church, interior, looking east

  • 19. Legerwood churchyard, table tomb