Liff Parish Church

Liff churchyard, monument to Dr Addison (possible site of medieval church)

Summary description

There are slight traces of the medieval building north west of the present church of 1774.

Historical outline

Dedication: unknown(1)

The lands of Liff were granted to the canons of Scone Abbey c.1120 by King Alexander I.(2)  There is no early record of a church here and it is likely that the canons established one on their property to ensure that the teinds flowed into their hands.  Between 1172 and 1178 Bishop Richard of St Andrews confirmed all grants and previous confirmations given to Scone by kings Alexander I, Malcolm IV and William, and by his predecessors Robert and Arnold, including the church of Liff, which he granted to them in proprios usus along with six other churches possessed by them in his diocese.(3)  His grant gave the canons the right to serve the cure with chaplain appointable and removable at will and from that point both parsonage and vicarage were effectively annexed to the abbey.

In 1395 Liff was one of the churches reconfirmed in proprios usus to the canons by Bishop Walter Traill of St Andrews in a grant made ostensibly to help the abbey meet the burden of the costs of hospitality which it was required to sustain.(4)  Papal confirmation of that grant was received in a bull dated 12 September 1395, which narrated how Bishop Traill had confirmed the appropriation of seven parish churches of which it held the right of patronage by royal grant and in free and perpetual alms.  The bull also restated Bishop Richard’s twelfth-century award of the right to serve these churches with suitable priests, removable at will.(5)

Serving clergy are recorded from 1450 when Walter Bassendean was collated to the church, his stipend at that date being valued at £4.(6)  A supplication to the pope dated 2 January 1451 from John Smart, priest, perpetual vicar of Auldbar, requested that the pope would provide him to the perpetual vicarage pensionary of Logie[-Dundee] with the chapels of Liff and Invergowrie, united to it.(7)  If correct, this supplication implies that the abbey might have attempted to rationalise its possessions in the district to better financial effect by having the same curate serve all three of its churches there.  Such an arrangement was certainly operative in November 1555 when John Eldar, curate of Logie, Liff and Invergowrie, is recorded.(8)  The annexation of the revenues of the church continued at the Reformation when it was recorded that the parsonage and vicarage were both held by Scone, the parsonage fruits being received in produce and the vicarage being valued at £20 annually.(9)

Notes

1. Mackinlay suggested St Mary, but on what basis is unknown.  J M Mackinlay, Ancient Church Dedications in Scotland. Scriptural Dedications (Edinburgh, 1910), 103.

2. Liber Ecclesie de Scon (Bannatyne and Maitland Clubs, 1843), no.1 [hereafter Scone Liber].

3. Scone Liber, no.48.

4. Scone Liber, no.193.

5. Calendar of Papal Letters to Scotland of Benedict XIII of Avignon 1394-1419, ed F McGurk (Scottish History Society, 1976), 48.

6. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, x, 1447-1455, ed J A Twemlow (London, 1915) 499.

7. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, iv, 1447-1471, eds J Kirk, R J Tanner and A I Dunlop (Glasgow, 1997), no.388.

8. NRS Protocol Book of Duncan Gray, 1554-72, NP1/19, folio 6v.

9. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 332-334.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Confirmed to the uses of Scone by Richard, bishop of St Andrews in 1168x78. The parsonage and vicarage were annexed to the priory; the church was a pendicle of Logie-Dundee. It was sometimes served by a canon, but more commonly by a curate.(1)

Mackinlay notes that the church is dedicated to St Mary.(2)

c.1120 Central vill of the estate granted to Scone on its foundation (no record of a church so probably erected by the canons).(3)

1172x78 Richard, bishop of St Andrews confirms all the churches given to Scone Alexander I, Malcolm IV and William I and confirmed by his predecessors Roger and Aernald. In propros usus with the right to install or remove the chaplain, exempt from all episcopal exactions and customs.(4)

1178x84 Church included in a confirmation by Hugh, bishop of St Andrews, of all the churches possessed by Scone in the diocese of St Andrews in the same terms as Richard his predecessor.(5)

1203x09 Possession of the church confirmed by William, bishop of St Andrews, in two charters, the first confirming to the abbey the church with its chapels exempt from presentation and all other episcopal rights, the second a general confirmation of all the churches belonging to Scone in the diocese of St Andrews.(6)

1226 Church included in a papal bull of Honorius III confirming the possessions of the abbey the church of Scone.(7)

1395 Church included in confirmation by Walter Trail, bishop of St Andrews, of possessions of Scone in diocese of St Andrews.(8)

1450 William Bassendean collated to church of Liff, which depends on the abbey of Scone, and has been want to be governed by them (value £4 sterling). Referred to in same year as a chapel of Auldbar.(9)

1555 (Nov) John Eldar, curate of Liff, Logie and Invergowrie, nominates several individuals as his procurators.(10)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage and vicarage with Scone, vicarage value £20; parsonage in produce.(11)

1707 (27 Apr) The kirk session records an entry for the divots to mend a hole in the roof of the church. Some part seems to have been slated and other parts thatched.(12)

1708 (28 Mar) Attention was drawn to the ruinous state of the bell house and it was arranged to make a collection to defray the expense. (£12 7s 4d for repairs).(13)

1735 (26 Apr) It was resolved to build an aisle on the north side of the church because there was not enough room for the communion tables. The heritors refused to help but had no objection to the session doing it. Work was completed for the price of £269 14s 4d.(14)

1758 (1 Nov) Meeting at Liff to consider what enlargement were required at the church and manse of Liff to make it sufficient for containing the whole of the united parishes. It was noted that since the union of the churches there would be no more sermons at the church of Benvie.(15)

1773 (21 July) Report on a meeting held at Liff which noted that since the union of Liff and Benvie the church at Liff has been found ‘too little to contain the congregation’; the presbytery was asked to take enlargement of the church into consideration. Decision taken that the church was insufficient and irreparable excepting the north aisle.(16)

1773 (1 Sept) The minister Mr Playfair reported that the heritors decided that rather than repair the building they decided to build an entirely new church.(17)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Thomas Constable, 1792): ‘The present church fabric, except the aisle, was erected in 1774… and rests nearly on the foundations of the former building’.(18)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev George Addison, 1842): ‘The parish church is new, having been finished in 1831’.(19) [No reference to earlier buildings]

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches: (George Hay): 1831, William Burn, architect; refurnished, 1696 Burgerhuys bell.(20)

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland , p.132.

2. Mackinlay, Scriptural Dedications, p. 103.

3. Scone Liber, no. 1.

4. Scone Liber, no. 48.

5. Scone Liber, no. 50.

6. Scone Liber, no.53 & 54.

7. Scone Liber, no. 103.

8. Scone Liber, no. 193.

9. CPL, x, 499 & 504.

10. NRS Prot Bk of Duncan Gray, 1554-72, NP1/19, fol. 6v.

11. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 332-34.

12. NRS Liff and Benvie Kirk Session, 1673-1750, CH2/497/2, fol. 128, Dalgety, The Church and Parish of Liff, p. 15.

13. NRS Liff and Benvie Kirk Session, 1673-1750, CH2/497/2, fol. 132, Dalgety, The Church and Parish of Liff, p. 15.

14. NRS Liff and Benvie Kirk Session, 1673-1750, CH2/497/2, fol. 18, Dalgety, The Church and Parish of Liff, pp. 17-18.

15. NRS Presbytery of Dundee, Minutes, 1758-1767, CH2/103/13, fols. 9-10.

16. NRS Presbytery of Dundee, Minutes, 1767-1784, CH2/103/14, fols. 104-106.

17. NRS Presbytery of Dundee, Minutes, 1767-1784, CH2/103/13, fol. 108.

18. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1792), xiii, 121.

19. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1842), xi, 586.

20. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, pp. 232 & 246.

Bibliography

NRS Liff and Benvie Kirk Session, 1673-1750, CH2/497/2.

NRS Presbytery of Dundee, Minutes, 1758-1767, CH2/103/13.

NRS Presbytery of Dundee, Minutes, 1767-1784, CH2/103/14.

NRS Prot Bk of Duncan Gray, 1554-72, NP1/19.

Calendar of entries in the Papal registers relating to Great Britain and Ireland; Papal letters, 1893-, ed. W.H. Bliss, London.

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

Dalgety, A., 1940, The Church and Parish of Liff, Dundee.

Donaldson, G., 1949, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, (Scottish History Society), Edinburgh.

Hay, G., 1957, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, 1560-1843, Oxford.

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

Mackinlay, J.M, 1910, Ancient Church Dedications in Scotland. Scriptural Dedications, Edinburgh.

Liber ecclesie de Scon, 1843, (Bannatyne Club) Edinburgh.

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

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

Architectural description

Bishop Richard (1163-78) confirmed the church of Liff to the Augustinian abbey of Scone, and both the parsonage and vicarage were annexed. The cure was served by a curate, or on occasion by one of the canons of Scone.(1)

There are records of a range of post-Reformation repairs to the church. On 27 April 1707, for example the acquisition of divots for the roof suggests that the church was at least partly covered with turf,(2) while on 28 March 1708 repairs to the bellcote were costed at £12.7s.4d.(3) More substantial works were under consideration on 26 April 1735, when it was decided to build an aisle on the north side of the church, at a cost of £269.14s.4d.(4)

In 1613 the parish of Invergowrie had been united with Liff, and in 1758 the parish of Benvie was also united with Liff.(5) By 21 July 1773 it was decided that the church at Liff was too small for the needs of the united parish, and on 1 September of that year it was decided that a new church was to be built.(6) That new church was built in the following year, and it was said to be ‘nearly on the foundations of the former building’.(7)

The church of 1774 lasted no more than about sixty years before being replaced by a new church designed by William Macdonald Mackenzie. The date of completion of that church was given in the New Statistical Account as December 1831,(8) though it is frequently given as 1838-9.(9)

The early nineteenth-century church was a short distance to the south east of the building it replaced, but the foundations of that earlier building are still discernible. They indicate dimensions of about 20 by 8 metres, with a north aisle (presumably that of 1735) with dimensions of 7 by 6 metres. A monument for Dr Addison is said to mark the spot where the pulpit stood.

An octagonal stone basin believed to be from a medieval font is located by the entrance to the church. However, the vertical proportions of the basin, and the presence of a drain hole in its side, suggest it is more likely to have been a domestic mortar.

Notes

1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 132.

2. National Records of Scotland, Liff and Benvie Kirk Session, 1673-1750, CH2/497/2, fol. 128.

3. National Records of Scotland, Liff and Benvie Kirk Session, 1673-1750, CH2/497/2, fol. 132.

4. National Records of Scotland, Liff and Benvie Kirk Session, 1673-1750, CH2/497/2, fol. 18.

5. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 11, pp. 568-69.

6. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Dundee, Minutes, 1767-84, CH2/103/14, fols 104-106 and 108.

7. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-9, vol. 11, p. 121.

8. New Statistical Account, vol. 11, p. 586.

9. A.B. Dalgetty, the Church and Parish of Liff, Dundee, 1940, p. 42; Howard Colvin, Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 4th ed., New Haven and London, 2008, p. 670; John Gifford, The Buildings of Scotland, Dundee and Angus, New Haven and London, 2012, pp. 595-6.

Map

Images

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  • 1. Liff churchyard, monument to Dr Addison (possible site of medieval church)

  • 2. Liff Church, octagonal basin

  • 3. Liff Church, exterior, 1

  • 4. Liff Church, exterior, 2

  • 5. Liff Church, exterior, 3