Mordington Parish Church

Mordington, burial vault on site of first church, entrance front

Summary description

Burnt down in 1757 apart from a seventeenth-century burial vault, and rebuilt on a new site in 1757. A third church was built on another site in 1867-68, which was closed in 1987. All three churches are lost.

Historical outline

Dedication: unknown

Mordington first appears as a free parsonage in 1275 when the rector of the church was noted as having paid four merks taxation in the accounts of the papal tax-collector in Scotland.(1)  On 21 November 1372, George Dunbar, earl of March, issued a charter conveying the lands of Mordington to Sir James Douglas of Dalkeith and Agnes Dunbar, George’s sister, as part of her marriage portion.(2)  The church, or any rights of advowson in it, are not specifically mentioned in the charter, which otherwise detailed all of the financial and jurisdictional rights which were passed to James and Agnes, but it appears that the patronage of Mordington also came into the hands of the Douglases of Dalkeith.  On 9 November 1475 Pope Sixtus IV granted the petition of James Douglas of Dalkeith, earl of Morton, concerning the proposed erection of the collegiate church of St Nicholas at Dalkeith, which provided for the annexation of three churches in the earl’s patronage to prebends in the new foundation.(3)  Mordington was one of the three named churches.  The papal letter instructed that suitable portions were to be reserved for perpetual vicars.  On 17 May 1477 the new erection of the collegiate church at Dalkeith was confirmed by charter, with the the fruits of the churches of Kilbucho, Mordington and Newlands, all of which were in the patronage of Earl James, annexed to prebends within it.(4)  As per the 1475 letter, portions were assigned for the support of vicars pensionary to serve the cure thereafter at all three churches.

Mordington thereafter effectively disappears in the surviving recond and there is no concrete proof of the continued existence of the prebend in the rather fragmentary records of the collegiate church.  It is, however, named in 1556 as one of twenty-two churches in the deanery of the Merse which were reported to Archbishop John Hamilton of St Andrews as being in a poor physical state, which was blamed on the neglect of both the appropriating institutions and the parishioners.(5)  The dean was instructed to investigate the finances of the parishes in question and take appropriate steps to remedy the deficiencies.  What measures, if any, were instituted is unknown as the swift collapse of the apparatus of church government in the increasingly unstable political environment leading up to the Reformation intervened.  At the Reformation the appropriation to Dalkeith is not specifically mentioned in the surviving records, the church of Mordington with its pendicle of Longformacus being noted as valued at £21, a level of income that seems more appropriate for a vicarage than a parsonage.(6)

Notes

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

2. Registrum Honoris de Morton (Bannatyne Club, 1853), ii, no.131 [hereafter Morton Registrum].

3. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, xiii, 1471-1484, ed J A Twemlow (London, 1955), 467-8.

4. Morton Registrum, no.230.

5. NRS Miscellaneous Ecclesiastical Records, CH8/16.

6. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 185.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Both parsonage and vicarage, along with its pendicle of Longformacus, were erected into a prebend of the college of Dalkeith in 1477 at the instigation of James Douglas, earl of Morton. The cure thereafter was  served by a vicar pensioner.(1)

1377 Church given to James Douglas by George, earl of Dunbar as part of his marriage portion.(2)

1475 Petition for appropriation of the church by the collegiate church of St Nicholas, Dalkeith, by James Douglas, earl of Morton, patron of the church, reserving a portion for a perpetual vicar.(3)

1477 Church annexed to Dalkeith on its foundation as a college by James Douglas, earl of Morton; rents and fruits of the church specified with a perpetual vicarage erected.(4)

1556 (9 April) Parish church is one of 22 from the Merse specifically mentioned in two letters [the 1555 letter does not have a specific date, McRoberts suggests August] from John Hamilton, archbishop of St Andrews (1547-1571) to the Dean of Christianity of the Merse. Hamilton states that ‘a great many of the parish churches are - their choirs as well as naves - wholly thrown down and as it were levelled to the ground; others were partly ruinous or threatening collapse in respect of their walls and roofs; they were without glazed windows and without a baptismal font and had no vestments for the high altars and no missals or manuals…. The fault and shortcomings belong to the parishioners as well as to the parsons’. The dean was instructed to investigate the fruits, garbal teinds and other rights of the said churches.(5)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church along with Longformacus valued at £21.(6)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of vicarage £7.(7)

[Disconnected from Longformacus after Reformation and had Lamberton parish annexed to it]

1644 (23 May) Visitation of the Kirk of Mordingtoun by the Presbytery of Chirnsyde, conform to an Ordinance of the Commissioners of the General Assembly that James Lord Mordingtoun, in the face of God's kirk, should renounce popery, 'swear and subscribe' the Confession of Faith, and also the Solemn League and Covenant, which his Lordship did. Mordington Kirk.(8)

1697 (27 July) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Duns includes a report from William Donaldson, wright, and Thomas Lawson, mason; repairs to the church and manse will cost £80 18s.(9)

1720 (28 June) The minister of Mordington went to Edinburgh for the process of annexation and agreed that the church, manse and gleib should be moved to a more commodious location in the parish. On 30 Aug a commission was sent to decide on the new location.(10)

#1757 [nothing in the presbytery records and the kirk session have not survived for that year]

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev George Drummond, 1792): ‘The church was built in 1757’.(11)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev George Fulton Knight, 1835): ‘It [the parish church of Mordington] was built in 1757, when it was removed from the former situation on the south of Mordington House. The field still known as Kirk Field’.(12)

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 151.

2. Registrum de Morton, ii, no. 131

3. CPL, xiii, 467-68.

4. Registrum de Morton, ii, no. 230

5. NRS Miscellaneous Ecclesiastical Records, CH8/16. Noted in Donaldson, Scottish Reformation, p. 23 and McRoberts, ‘Material destruction caused by the Scottish Reformation’, 427.

6. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 185.

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

8. NRS Papers of the Graham Family, Dukes of Montrose, GD220/3/75.

9. NRS Presbytery of Duns, Minutes, 1690-1698, CH2/113/2, fol. 98.

10. NRS Presbytery of Chirnside, Minutes, 1702-1721, CH2/516/2, fols. 332 & 334.

11. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1792), xv, 186.

12. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1835), ii, 345.

Bibliography

NRS Miscellaneous Ecclesiastical Records, CH8/16.

NRS Papers of the Graham Family, Dukes of Montrose, GD220/3/75.

NRS Presbytery of Duns, Minutes, 1690-1698, CH2/113/2.

NRS Presbytery of Chirnside, Minutes, 1702-1721, CH2/516/2.

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.

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

Donaldson, G., 1960, The Scottish Reformation, Cambridge.

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

McRoberts, D., 1962., ‘Material destruction caused by the Scottish Reformation’, in D. McRoberts, Essays on the Scottish Reformation, 1513-1625, Glasgow.

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

Registrum Honoris de Morton. A series of ancient charters of the Earldom of Morton with other original papers, 1853, ed. T. Thomson (Bannatyne Club), Edinburgh.

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

Architectural description

In 1477 the church at Mordington, together with its pendicle at Longformacus, was granted to Dalkeith Collegiate Church at the behest of James, earl of Morton. The cure was served by a pensionary vicar.(1) On the eve of the Reformation the church was one of 22 churches in the Merse said to be in a poor structural state in a letter of Archbishop John Hamilton dated 9 April 1556.(2)

In 1650 the parish was united with that of Lamberton,(3) which then passed out of use. The site of the church came to be enveloped within the grounds of Mordington House, whose owners appear to have been anxious to have it moved elsewhere, and on 30 August 1720 presbytery sent a commission to decide what the best alternative site would be.(4) Nothing appears to have followed from this, and the church was burned down under mysterious circumstances in 1757, after which a new church was built on a different site.(5)

The site of the medieval church, in Kirk-Park, close to Mordington House, is marked by an overgrown graveyard on a raised platform of ground. Apart from fragmentary footings of part of the church, the chief upstanding remains are of a seventeenth-century burial vault, which was evidently adjacent to the east gable of the church. That ashlar-built vault has had gables to east and west, with a barrel vault over the interior; the entrance is through a doorway in the east gable wall.

Resting on the truncated east gable is a displaced lintel stones with the initials of Anne, Lady Mordington and her son William, second Lord Mordington; it is said to have had the inscribed date 1662.(6) Built into the internal west wall is a late medieval relief carving of the crucifixion, flanked by the rather doll-like figures of the Virgin and St John.

The church of 1757 was built at some distance to the south of its medieval predecessor, by the road from Duns to Berwick. The location of this church is partly discernible in the north-east corner of the graveyard that still marks the site. That second church was itself replaced in 1867-9 by a third church, designed by John Lessels, on a site between the locations of its two predecessors.

In 1927 the parish was united with that of Foulden, and sixty years later, in 1987, the church was closed for worship. Two years later it was demolished,(7) apart from the lower courses of part of its south wall, into which a number of memorials have been built.

The third church, which is the only one about which anything is known of its architecture, was an aisle-less cross-shaped building of snecked rubble. It had a porch and bellcote to the west gable, a vestry in the north transeptal offshoot, and traceried windows in the east and south gables. The nave was lit by windows rising into gablets and the interior was covered by an arch-braced roof. Its site is surrounded by a graveyard.

Notes

1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 151.

2. National Records of Scotland, Miscellaneous Ecclesiastical Records, CH8/16.

3. G.A.C. Binnie, The Churches and Churchyards of Berwickshire, Ladykirk, 1995, p. 373.

4. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Chirnside, Minites, 1702-21, CH2/516/2, fol.334

5. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 15, p. 345.

6. James Robson, The Churches and Churchyards of Berwickshire, Kelso, 1896, p. 187.

7. Binnie, 1995, p. 376.

Map

Images

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

  • 1. Mordington, burial vault on site of first church, entrance front

  • 2. Mordington, burial vault on site of first church, entrance front

  • 3. Mordington, burial vault on site of first church, inscribed stone, 1

  • 4. Mordington, burial vault on site of first church, inscribed stone, 2

  • 5. Mordington, burial vault on site of first church, crucifixion panel

  • 6. Mordington, site of second church

  • 7. Mordington, site of third church, 1

  • 8. Mordington, site of third church, 2