Methil Parish Church

Methil churchyard, monument

Summary description

Abandoned in the early seventeenth century; the site of the church is possibly a level area in the churchyard now occupied by a burial enclosure.

Historical outline

Dedication: unknown

Early references to the church of Methil are lacking but in 1207 and 1218 it was noted that Methil lay amongst the possessions of the bishops of St Andrews.(1)  That connection with the bishops and archbishops of St Andrews continued throughout the period down to the Reformation, with them exercising the patronage of this unappropriated parish church but there is little record before the end of the fourteenth century for how their exercised their rights in Methil.  After those first notices of the church, the next surviving reference to it appears to be the record of its dedication by Bishop David de Bernham on 28 March 1245.(2)  The status of the church as an independent parsonage is then confirmed by its inclusion as the church of Methil in the accounts of the papal tax-collector in Scotland in 1275, where it was recorded as having paid 8s in taxation.(3)

After that reference in the tax-roll, the church effectively disappears from surviving records until the 1390s, when the first of a sequence of named rectors of this church is noted, with Stephen of Methil being succeeded in 1394 by Stephen Bigli.(4)  References to provision of men as perpetual vicars from 1450 onwards indicate that the incumbent rectors were probably largely absentee and delegated discharge of the cure of souls to deputies.(5)  The independence of the church, with nominal rectors and serving vicars continued at the Reformation, when the church was valued in parsonage and vicarage at £40.(6)

Notes

1. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, i, 1198-1304, ed W H Bliss (London, 1893), 30, 61.

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

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), 39.

4. Calendar of Papal Letters to Scotland of Benedict XIII of Avignon 1394-1419, ed C Burns (Scottish History Society, 1976), 10, 312; Caledar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Petitions to the Pope, ed W H Bliss (London, 1896), 594, 618, 627.

5. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, v, 1447-1471, eds J Kirk, R J Tanner and A I Dunlop (Glasgow, 1997), no.317.

6. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 82.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Listed as an idependent parsonage in Bagimond’s Roll, the church remained unappropriated at the Reformation, the patronage lying with the Archbishops of St Andrews.(1)

Place Names of Fife vol. 1 notes that the medieval parish church of Methil lay on the south bank of the River Leven, c.2.5 km from its mouth.(2)

1207 & 1218 Methil recorded amongst the possessions of the bishops of St Andrews.(3)

1394-1408 Stephan Bigli (student at university of Paris) holds the church, dispensed for being too young in 1394 when he succeeded Stephen de Methil, moves to Forgund in 1408, replaced by John de London.(4)

1415 John de Balbryny (rector of Auldcathy) obtains the church in an exchange with John de Ponfret.(5)

1450 George Young collated to vicarage, supplicates for the revocation of an annual pension paid to David Sibbald from the fruits.(6)

1450 George Young (perpetual vicar of Methil), has a perpetual chaplaincy without cure in the parish church of St Andrews (£4, not specified where).(7)

1480 (10 June) Reference to the late George Young who had given 5 marks to the altar of St James in the parish church of St Andrews.(8)

1490 Chaplaincy at the altar of St Bartholomew in the parish church of St Andrews, founded by Robert Pantre, vicar of Methil. Value £10.(9)

1492 William de Monte Alto (MA) becomes rector of Methil on resignation at the curia of Robert Keith (£16 value), 20 marks (about £4) assigned as pension to William Douri, priest who serves the cure.(10)

At the Reformation- Books of Assumption of Thirds of Benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage and vicarage independent, valued at £40.(11)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of parsonage and vicarage £13 6s 8d.(12)

[Dissolved after the Reformation and annexed to Wemyss]

Place Names of Fife vol. 2 notes that Methil was described as a parish in 1614 (RMS, vii, no. 1026) but does not feature in the Presbytery of Kirkcaldy which begins in 1638 (Taylor/Markus conclude that it was dissolved between those two dates).(13)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev George Grib, 1793): ‘There was once a parsonage and vicarage at Methil’.(14) [no reference to remains of the building or date of unification]

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev John Maclachan, 1838): ‘The remains of two Popish chapels, the one at Methil-Mill and the other a little beyond Wester Wemyss’.(15)

[Both references in the account are for Wemyss, to which Methil was annexed at a date unknown to the ministers]

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 146.

2. Taylor & Markus, The Place-Names of Fife.Volume Two, pp. 582-583

3. CPL, i, 30 & 61.

4. CPP, 594, 618, & 627, CPL, Ben, 10-11.

5. CPL, Ben, 312.

6. CSSR, v, no. 317.

7. CSSR, v, no. 317.

8. StAUL, Burgh Charters and Miscellaneous Writs, B65/23/88c.

9. Rankin, Church of the Holy Trinity St Andrews, pp. 92.

10. CPL, xv, no. 950.

11. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 82.

12. Donaldson, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, 13.

13. Taylor & Markus, The Place-Names of Fife.Volume Two, p. 583.

14. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1793), xvi, 527.

15. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1838), ix, 393.

Bibliography

StAUL, Burgh Charters and Miscellaneous Writs, B65/23/88c.

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 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.

Rankin, W.E.K., 1955, The Parish Church of the Holy Trinity St Andrews, Edinburgh.

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

Taylor, S & Markus G., 2006, The Place-Names of Fife. Volume One. West Fife between Leven and Forth, Donington.

Architectural description

The church at Methil remained unappropriated throughout its medieval history, within the patronage of the bishops and archbishops of St Andrews.(1) It still enjoyed parochial status in 1614,(2) though it was probably soon after then that the parish was annexed to that of Wemyss, and the church abandoned.

The likely site of the church is a platform at the north-west end of the modern graveyard. Nothing identifiable of the building remains in place, though it is thought that a burial enclosure and obelisk may be on the site of its east end.

Notes

1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 146.

2. Register of the Great Seal of Scotland, ed. J. M. Thomson et al., 1882-1914, vol. 7, no. 1026.

Map

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  • 1. Methil churchyard, monument

  • 2. Methil churchyard, monument, 2