Methven Parish Church

Methven Church, collegiate chapel from north east

Summary description

A north transeptal chapel adapted as post-Reformation burial vault is the only relic of the church that was made collegiate in 1433. Its replacement was built a short distance to its east in 1782, and enlarged in 1825-26.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Merverus

An enigmatic charter datable to 1214x1223 of ‘the clerks of Methven’ in favour of the monks of Lindores Abbey, by which the clerks quitclaimed all right which they had to receive conveth from the toun of Ecclesiamagridle in return for a two-shillings per annum payment from the bishops of Dunblane, is our only indication that there was an important church establishment at Methven before c.1200.(1) What the nature of that establishment was is open to question but it seems to have been one of a number of communities of secular priests and quasi-monastic clergy that continued to function in Strathearn into the second quarter of the thirteenth century. Given that the clerks secured the seal of Bishop William Malveisin of St Andrews to authenticate their charter, it seems that they recognised his status as diocesan over them, perhaps pointing to some connection between their community and the pre-Augustinian monastery at St Andrews. This document, however, is the only surviving evidence for the existence of such a community, there being no other physical trace of an early ecclesiastical establishment at Methven. Indeed, we do not even know if they were based at the church which Bishop David de Bernham of St Andrews dedicated on 25 August 1247.(2)

There is no record of Methven as a parish church of any status in the rolls of the papal tax-collector in Scotland in 1275/6. Equally, however, there is no evidence that it had been appropriated to any other institution by that date. When it reappears in surviving records in the late 1370s Methven was an independent parish church. At that time it was in the hands of a rector, Alan de Lorgis, who was clerk of audit in the household of King Robert II.(3) The patronage of the church presumably had lain with Robert Stewart as earl of Strathearn before he became king but passed to his youngest legimate son, Walter Stewart, to whom he gave the lordship of Methven. Following a charter of erection of 1 May 1433, on 29 August 1433 the pope accepted the supplication of Walter, who at that date had the title earl of Atholl, and confirmed the erection of the church of Methven into a collegiate church. The new establishment was for a provost, five perpetual chaplains and four boys. The confirmation of the bishop of St Andrews and the consent of the prior and chapter had already been received.(4) By this settlement both the parsonage and vicarage fruits were annexed to the college for the support of the provost and chaplains – supplemented by income from other parish churches which had lain in the patronage of the earl – while the cure was served by a vicar pensioner. It is from a further supplication dated 16 September 1463 that the dedication of the collegiate church to ‘St Merverus’ is recorded.(5)

The constitution set out by Walter Stewart in 1433 lasted until 1510 when the then provost, John Tiry, provided an endowment for a further prebend. This was extended in 1516 by a further eight prebends funded from the fruits of Tiry’s own provostry, several of which were funded on rather slender resources. It seems that the vicar pensioner may also have been one of the prebendaries and in 1525 the vicar pensioner was David Tyrie, kinsman of the provost.(6)

At the Reformation, the parsonage and vicarage remained annexed to the provostry, with the collegiate church fruits including the annexed church of Auldbar yielding £97 6s 8d annually. The five chaplains of the choir received 106 merks annually.(7)

Notes

1. Chartulary of the Abbey of Lindores 1195-1479, ed J Dowden (Scottish History Society, 1903), no.XLVIII; I B Cowan and D E Easson, Medieval Religious Houses: Scotland, 2nd edition (London, 1976), 50.

2. A O Anderson (ed), Early Sources of Scottish History, ii (Edinburgh, 1922), 526 [Pontifical Offices of St Andrews].

3. Calendar of Papal Letters to Scotland of Clement VII of Avignon 1378-1394, ed C Bu, rns (Scottish History Society, 1976), 93; Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, iv, 1362-1404, ed W H Bliss and J A Twemlow (London, 1902), 248; Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Petitions to the Pope, ed W H Bliss (London, 1896), 548, 550.

4. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, viii, 1427-1447, ed J A Twemlow (London, 1909), 460-1; Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, iv, 1433-1447, eds A I Dunlop and D MacLauchlan (Glasgow, 1983), no 74; Cowan and Easson, Medieval Religious Houses, 224.

5. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, v, 1447-1471, eds J Kirk, R J Tanner and A I Dunlop (Glasgow, 1997), no.956.

6. Cowan and Easson, Medieval Religious Houses, 224; NRS Records of King James VI Hospital, Perth, Altarages, GD79/4/90.

7. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 298, 299.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Erected into a collegiate church in 1433 by Walter Stewart, earl of Atholl. The cure was served by a vicar pensionary, with the fruits used for the provost and chaplains.(1)

1378-c.1383 Alan de Lorgis (clerk of the audit of Robert II’s household) is rector of Methven.(2)

1433 Supplication to erect church into a college with vicar pensionary presented to the bishop of St Andrews by the provost and paid from fruits of church.(3)

1525 (4 Jan) David Tyrie, the vicar of Methven, is the recipient of prayers in a dedication in the parish church of Perth made by his kinsman, John Tyrie, the provost of the collegiate church of Methven [see also various other dedications by the extended Tyrie family in Perth].(4)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church college total fruits, including annexed church of Aldbar, value £97 6s 8d.(5)

Altars and Chaplainries

Chaplainry of the choir, 5 chaplains paid total of 106 marks.(6)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of provostry £39 2s 2 2/3d.(7)

1571 (15 Jan) The Minister is nominated to be one of the 21 members of the chapter of the Archbishop of St Andrews.(8)

1628 (9 July) Report of the visitation of Methven by the Presbytery of Perth, finds the church to be in ‘good order, the parishioners are referred to the ‘book of the visitation’ for more details [no longer extant, the presbytery of Perth records only contain a few visitations compared to other minutes].(9)

1642 (17 Aug) Following an act of the General Assembly anent the patronage of churches the Presbytery of Perth records the patrons of churches within its bounds; Perth belongs to the town, Kinnoul belongs to the earl of Kinnoul, Scone belongs to the king, Cambusmichael also belongs to the king, Kilspindie also belongs to the king being a former kirk of abbey of Scone, Errol belongs to the earl of Kinnoul, Kinfauns belongs to the king being a former kirk of the abbey of Scone, Rhynd belongs to the king being a former church of the priory of Pittenweem, Arngask belongs to the king being a former church of Cambuskenneth, Dunbarney belongs to the town of Edinburgh, Forteviot belongs to the (old) college of St Andrews, Methven belongs to the Duke of Lennox and Luncarty belongs to the king.(10)

1647 (7 Oct) Supplication by the heritors and parishioners of Methven, requests that Mr John Murray, son to the minister David Murray, is to be able to succeed his father as minister (approval granted the next day).(11)

1676 (7 Sept) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Perth, asked concerning the fabric of the church and whether they had any of their own communion vessels; the minister answers no, they are supplied by the heritors. The fabric was being well upheld by the lord of Methven, patron thereof.(12)

1697 (14 July) Visitation enquires as to the fabric of the kirk, the session reports that they have been repairing it but that it needs more repair and that the session had expended considerable amount on it both out of the box and from bonds. The heritors warned to see to the further repairs and reimburse the session.(13)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev John Dowe, 1793): ‘The present church is a plain, neat and commodious edifice, and was built in 1781’.(14)

‘A collegiate church was established in 1433 by Walter Stewart, earl of Atholl. An aisle, which was connected with this last church, appears, from a stone built into the wall, to have been erected by some of the royal family. On the stone is sculpted the Royal Lion of Scotland, with the Crown above and there are some defaced and ineligible Saxon characters below’.(15)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Thomas Clark, 1837): ‘addition of an aisle to the parish church in 1825’.(16) [aside from this ref merely copies verbatim OSA report on stone slab]

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches (George Hay):1781; aisle and steeple 1826, interior recast; medieval aisle extant.(17)

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 147.

2. CPL, Clem, 93, CPL, iv, 248, CPP, 548 & 550.

3. CSSR, iv, no.74, full charter CPL, viii, 460-61.

4. NRS Records of King James VI Hospital, Perth, Altarages, GD79/4/90.

5. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices,  298.

6. Ibid, 299.

7. Donaldson, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, 14.

8. Acts and Proceedings of the General Assemblies of the Kirk of Scotland, i, 222-23.

9. NRS Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1618-1647, CH2/299/1, fol. 201.

10. NRS Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1618-1647, CH2/299/1, fol. 423.

11. NRS Acts of the Synod of Perth and Stirling, 1639-1655, CH2/619/25, fol. 144.

12. NRS Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1662-1681, CH2/299/4, fols. 290-294.

13. NRS Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1690-1700, CH2/299/5, fols. 176-177.

14. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1793), x, 613.

15. Ibid, 619-20.

16. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1837), xi, 154.

17. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, p. 269.

Bibliography

NRS Acts of the Synod of Perth and Stirling, 1639-1655, CH2/619/25.

NRS Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1618-1647, CH2/299/1.

NRS Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1662-1681, CH2/299/4.

NRS Presbytery of Perth, Minutes, 1690-1700, CH2/299/5.

NRS Records of King James VI Hospital, Perth, Altarages, GD79/4/90.

Acts and Proceedings of the General Assemblies of the Kirk of Scotland, 1839-45, ed. T. Thomson (Bannatyne Club), Edinburgh.

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 Clement VII of Avignon, 1976, ed. C. Burns, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh.

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

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.

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.

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

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

Architectural description

The pre-Reformation parochial history of Methven is largely unrecorded, apart from a dedication by Bishop David de Bernham on 25 August 1247 that has no known bearing on the structural history.(1) The sole relic of the medieval church is an unbuttressed chapel built of heavily weathered pink coursed rubble with ashlar dressings, which once projected from its north flank.(2) This chapel is associated with the foundation of a college by Walter Stewart, earl of Athole, Caithness and Strathearn on 1 May 1433, a foundation that eventually included a provost, nine prebendaries and five chaplains.(3)

Although there have been suggestions that the chapel was one of a pair of symmetrical projections on each side of the church, there is no known evidence to support that. It is perhaps more likely that it was a single asymmetrically-set chapel of the type that was common in medieval Scotland. The chapel would presumably have opened into the main body of the church through its south wall, and there is an arch of two broadly chamfered orders in that wall. However, the traces of a raised margin running around the arch, considered together with the tooling of the surrounding masonry, suggest that the south wall has been almost completely rebuilt after the abandonment of the rest of the church.

As was common with such chapels, the main architectural feature is a window in the outer gable wall, which is of three lights and has reticulated tracery, but is now blocked. A window of that type would not be inconsistent with a date of construction in the 1430s, around the time of the college’s foundation; reticulated tracery was employed in the choir aisles of Perth St John, which was started around 1440, and such tracery was to remain in use for many years afterwards.

However, the gable above the window has large-scale coped crow steps of a kind that are not usually found before the years around 1500. In addition, the block-like canopy of the tabernacle to the east of the window, would also be more consistent with a later date. Those features may thus point to a date of construction around the time that additional prebends were added to the collegiate foundation in 1510 and 1516.(4)

Nevertheless, there may be a case for considering that the main body of the chapel was built at the time of the foundation of the college, but modified in the early sixteenth century. The reason for this is the awkward relationship between the jambs of the window on the one hand, and the arch and tracery on the other, which might suggest that they belong to different phases of work. The jambs and arch are of strikingly differing profiles, and the ogee arch heads of the outer lights rest on the jamb capitals in a rather unusual way. But, in the absence of other evidence for two building campaigns, this awkward relationship between the constituent elements is probably best attributed to inexperience on the part of the designing mason, and on balance it seems most likely that the aisle as a whole is of the early sixteenth century. There are no liturgical fixtures within the aisle that might help to clarify the date of its construction.

Following completion of a new church a short distance to the east of the medieval church in 1782, the medieval building was abandoned apart from the north aisle. This was retained as a mausoleum for the Smythe of Methven family, who had acquired the lands of Methven in 1664,(5) a function it continues to serve.

For the new church built in 1782 James Watt and John Taylor were the masons and James Anderson the wright.(6) The church was enlarged in 1825-6 by William Macdonald Mackenzie.(7)

Notes

1. Alan Orr Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History, Edinburgh, 1922, p. 526

2. Accounts of the chapel will be found in: David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland, Edinburgh, vol. 3, 1897, pp. 519–20; John Gifford, the Buildings of Scotland, Perth and Kinross, New Haven and London, 2007, pp. 526–27.

3. Ian B. Cowan and David E. Easson, Medieval Religious Houses, Scotland, 2nd ed., London and New York, 1967, p. 224; Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, ed. W.H. Bliss et al., London, 1893-, vol. 7, pp. 460–61.

4. T. Morris, The Provosts of Methven, Edinburgh, 1875, pp. 34–40, 112–13.

5. David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland, Edinburgh, vol. 4, p. 278.

6. Gifford, 2007, p. 526.

7. Howard Colvin, Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Architects, 4th ed., New Haven and London, 2008, p. 670.

Map

Images

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

  • 1. Methven Church, collegiate chapel from north east

  • 2. Methven Church and collegiate chapel from south

  • 3. Methven Church, collegiate chapel from south west

  • 4. Methven Church, collegiate chapel, interior, looking north east

  • 5. Methven Church, collegiate chapel, interior, monument 1

  • 6. Methven Church, collegiate chapel, interior, monument 2

  • 7. Methven Church, collegiate chapel, interior, monument 3

  • 8. Methven Church, collegiate chapel, north window

  • 9. Methven Church, collegiate chapel, tabernacle to east of north window

  • 10. Methven Churchyard, Lynedoch Mausoleum

  • 11. Methven Churchyard, gravestone