Inveresk / Musselburgh Parish Church

Inveresk Church, exterior, from south

Summary description

Rebuilt in 1803-05 and again in 1893, probably on the site of the medieval church.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Michael

Dedicated to St Michael,(1) the church of Musselburgh or Inveresk first occurs in a surviving document in c.1128 when King David I granted possession of it to the monks of Dunfermline Abbey, possession to be gained after the death of the incumbent priest, Nicholas.(2)  Around 1128-9, Bishop Robert of St Andrews confirmed the monks’ possession of Musselburgh with its chapel of Cousland in a general confirmation which gave them the church with all fruits, rights etc, reserving only episcopal dues payable to the bishops of St Andrews.(3)  Further confirmations followed from King William and from Bishop Richard of St Andrews.(4)

Confirmation of the appropriation of the church in all things saving episcopal dues was made by Bishop William Malveisin 1202x1232.(5)  Subsequently, a vicarage settlement was made by Malveisin to resolve a dispute between Dunfermline and Richard, vicar of Musselburgh, concerning the taxation of his vicarage.  Richard was thereafter to receive all obventions and lesser teinds pertaining to the altarage, except for all kinds of fish and all teinds of the mills which were property of the monks, from which he was to render 10 merks annually to the monks.(6)  It was as a vicarage that the church of ‘Muskiburg’ was recorded in the accounts of the papal tax-collector in Scotland in 1275, with the vicar noted as having paid half a merk.(7) Named vicars perpetual occur regularly in documentary sources from 1385 onwards, often in connection with disputes over corporal possession of the cure.(8)  The union of the parsonage with Dunfermline continued at the Reformation, with the income received in produce. It was said that the vicarage ‘would nocht now be worthe’ 20 merks ‘or thairby’, presumably alluding to the damage inflicted locally by English armies at the time of the battle of Pinkie.(9)

As the parish church of a relatively prosperous trading burgh and with a number of significant local landowners making endowments to it, St Michael’s church in Musselburgh was augmented with a number of additional altars and chaplainries.  The earliest of these was the altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary which was first recorded on 24 July 1384, when John Halyburton, lord of Dirleton, granted Simon Preston, lord of Gourton, special licence to alienate in perpetual alms, all the lands of Cameron to the altar and to a chaplain endowed to celebrate there.(10)  Although it is not specifically named, a Great Seal charter of 6 March 1475/6 by King James III ratified at mortmain the gift by Simon Preston of Craigmillar of 10 merks of land in Cameron, made for the maintenance of one perpetual chaplain in the parish church of Musselburgh, was in respect of this altar.(11)  Letters of 3 October 1485 by John Crichton, lord of Burntoun, patron of the chaplainry and altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary, locates the altar on the north side of the parish church of Musselburgh.(12)  An additional chaplainry was founded their in 1513 under the terms of the testament of Sir Archibald Preston of Whitehill, but only for a term of two years.(13)  In 1548 the chaplain, John Preston, was named as procurator acting for Simon Preston of Craigmillar.(14)  On 23 July that year sasine was given on behalf of Sir Gavin Vallange, chaplain of the altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the parish church of St Michael of Musselburgh, to Archibald Hoppringle, indweller in Stow, of the lands called ‘Dernvikis landis’ in the burgh.(15)  That appears to be the last pre-Reformation reference to the altar or chaplainry.

It is likely that references in 1403 and 1439 to unnamed perpetual chaplainries in the church relate to the altar and chaplainry of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but further endowed chaplainries appear subsequently.(16)  In 1491 William Preston was recorded as chaplain of the altar of St Ninian’s aisle, which lay in the patronage of Sir Simon Preston of Craigmillar.(17)  This appears to be the only reference to this altar.  A final altar is first recorded on 19 October 1537, when mention was made of Alexander Thomson, chaplain of the Rood altar in the kirk of Musselburgh.(18)  This was the same altar described in a charter of George Prestoun of Craigmillar as ‘the chapelry and altarage of ye Haly croce situate in the loft in the parish Kirk of St. Michael in Musselburghe’, which was served by the same chaplain as served in the chapel of St Thomas the Martyr in Craigmillar Castle, ‘now vacant on the decease of Sir Alexander Thomsone last Chaplain’.(19)  Although these references are limited in number and detail, they provide a clear picture of the significant levels of patronage being directed towards Musselburgh by the Prestons of Craigmillar and their kinsmen locally.  They offer little insight into the religious fashions of either patrons or the wider community, being dedicated to saints common to the repertoire of later medieval Scotland.

Notes

1. National Register of Archives of Scotland 482/box 30/8.

2. Registrum de Dunfermelyn (Bannatyne Club, 1842), no.30 [hereafter Dunfermline Registrum].

3. Dunfermline Registrum, no.92.

4. Dunfermline Registrum, nos 50, 94.

5. Dunfermline Registrum, no.110.

6. Dunfermline Registrum, no.114.

7. A I Dunlop (ed), ‘Bagimond’s Roll: Statement of the Tenths of the Kingdom of Scotland’, Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vi (1939), 57.

8. Calendar of Papal Letters to Scotland of Clement VII of Avignon, 1378-1394, ed C .Burns (Scottish History Society, 1976), 109; Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Petitions to the Pope, ed W H Bliss (London, 1896), 569; Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, iv, 1433-1447, eds A I Dunlop and D MacLauchlan (Glasgow, 1983), nos 257, 467, 482, 1025, 1056, 1127 [hereafter CSSR, iv]; Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, ix, 1431-1447, ed J A Twemlow (London, 1912), 319; Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, v, 1447-1471, eds J Kirk, R J Tanner, A I Dunlop (Glasgow, 1997), 44, 56, 73; Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, x, 1447-1455, ed J A Twemlow (London, 1915), 335-6; Protocol Book of James Young, 1485-1515, ed G Donaldson (Scottish Record Society, 1952), no.486.

9. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 25-6, 29, 38-39, 47-48, 51-52, 120.

10. NRS GD122/1/144.

11. Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum, ii, 1424-151, ed J B Paul (Edinburgh, 1882), no 1228.

12. NRAS482/box 30/1

13. NRS GD122/2/356.

14. NRS Protocol Book of John Johnston, 1548-57, NP1/13B, fol. 12r.

15. NRAS482/box 30/8.

16. Calendar of Papal Letters to Scotland of Benedict XIII of Avignon 1394-1419, ed F McGurk (Scottish History Society, 1976), 114; CSSR, iv, no.597

17. Protocol Book of James Young, 1485-1515, ed G Donaldson (Scottish Record Society, 1952), no.486.

18. NAS GD122/2/367.

19. NRS GD122/1/163.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: The church (with its chapel of Cousland) was granted to Dunfermline by David I c.1138. A vicarage settlement took place in the 13th century. The parsonage remained with abbey, with a perpetual vicar.(1)

1387 John Richards has the perpetual vicarage.(2)

1437 On death of James de Edinburgh, Thomas de Kinghorn collated. However, not effective; on-going suit 1438-1445 between Alexander de Kinglass (chaplain of James II) and John Wright. William Broun (with the support of the earl of Douglas who is described as his kinsman) briefly collated, but on his death returning from the curia, suit between Kinglass and Wright continues.(3) Wright accused Kinglass of being ‘a notorious fornicator, and a known perjurer and excommunicate.(4)

1445 Situation resolved through death of Kinglass and resignation of Wright, John de Douglas.(5)

1476 Alexander Bothwell (MA) described as perpetual vicar.(6)

1491 Alexander Belisis (curate) and Richard Cockson (vicar) invest new parish clerk Archibald Preston, with holy water jar and bell rope as symbols of office.(7)

Altars and chaplaincies

Blessed Virgin Mary

1384 (24 July) Grant by John de Halliburton, Lord of Direlton, to Simon de Preston, Lord of Gourton special license to alienate in perpetual alms, all the lands of Cameron in the sheriffdom of Edinburgh, to the Altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Musselburgh and to a chaplain to celebrate there.(8)

1513 Testament of Sir Archibald Preston of Whitehill founding a 2 year chaplaincy at the altar.(9)

1548 (20 July) John Preston, chaplain of the chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the parish church of Musselburgh, acts as procurator for Simon Preston of Craigmillar.(10)

Holy Cross

b.1560 (1597) Charter of George Prestoun of Craigmillar acting with the consent of Mr George Lauder of Bass, ‘My uncle’ Mr John Prestoune of Fenton Barnis, Senator of the College of Justice, Mr Patrick Hepburne of Smytoun, and George Todrick, burgess and baillie of Edinburgh, his curators granting to Gavin Nisbett, the chapelry and altarage of ye Haly croce situate in the loft in the parish Kirk of St. Michael in Musselburghe, and ye chapelrie of St Thomas ye Martyre, founded and situate in the Chapel of the Castele of Craigmellor, now vacant on the decease of Sir Alexander Thomsone last Chaplain.(11)

St Ninian

1491 William Preston noted as chaplain of the altar of St Ninian’s aisle. Patronage with Simon Preston of Craigmillar.(12)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage with Dunfermline, teinds received in produce. Vicarage worth £13 6s 8d.(13)

1627 (8 May) Report on the parish by the minister (Adam Colt) describes the church as formally being under the patronage of Dunfermline and now under the patronage of the King.(14)

1632 (13 Oct) Visitation of the church [called Inveresk rather than Musselburgh] notes that the steeple lacks a roof, the people being enquire thereof, all agreed that it should have one. A stent was then organised with the parishioners and heritors dividing the cost.(15)

1641 (7 July) The parishioners give consent for the division of the parish and the building of a new church in the parish.(16)

1652 (7 Nov) The session and burgh agree to pay half the expenses for the new pulpit.(17)

1659 (7 July) The session ordained the treasurer to pay for the glass…laid upon the Craigmeand (?) isle, the money is to be got in from the lord later.(18)

1666 (30 Sept) The session convened ‘for repairing of the ruins of the fabric of the church…the Craigmillar aisle’. John Henryson elected to check out the costs.(19)

1668 (20 Oct) Note that timber has been bought of the steeple which is faulty in sundry parts. The session orders that some of the elders and a workman to see to it that the same might be repaired.(20) [does not seem to have been carried out]

1673 (7 July) Visitation of the church finds the fabric of the church and steeple to be somewhat ruinous; heritors agree to deal with it.(21)

1674 (21 Apr) Report on the visitation of Presbytery of Dalkeith; minister asked what had been done regarding the repair of the church and steeple. A stent had been devised and John Bain, wright, and Adam Heinlaw, mason commissioned to do the job.(22)

1675 (Dec) Payments made for materials and workmanship of repairing the stair and passage of the steeple (£116 16s in total).(23)

1676 (16 July) Gentlemen and session meet anent the church steeple; many have been deficient in not paying; this has caused delays as the workmen want money.(24)

1687 (5 July) Visitation of the church finds it in good condition and not requiring any help.(25)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Alexander Carlyle, 1792): ‘The church, of which the antiquity is not known, and which is called St Michael’s’.(26)

‘The body of the church is 102 feet long, and only 23 feet wide within the walls; but there are 4 aisles, two on each side of the church that have been built at different periods… The whole is now a ruinous condition and is a disgrace to the parish’.(27)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev  J G Beveridge, 1839): ‘The old church of St Michael’s, having been both ruinous and inadequate for the proper accommodation of a rapidly increasing population, was taken down, and the present church erected on the same site’.(28) [in 1806]

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 88.

2. CPP, 569.

3. CSSR, iv, nos. 257, 467 & 482.

4. CSSR, iv, no. 1025, CPL, ix, 319.

5. CSSR, iv, nos. 1056 & 1127, CSSR, v, nos. 44, 56 & 73, CPL, x, 335-36.

6. CPL, xiii, 523.

7. Prot Bk of James Young, 1485-1515, no. 486.

8. NRS Grant by John de Halyborton, Lord of Drylton, to Simon de Preston, Lord of Gourton, GD122/1/144.

9. NRS Indenture between Sir Robert Livingston and Sir Simon Preston, GD122/2/356.

10. NRS Prot Bk of John Johnston, 1548-57, NP1/13B, fol. 12r.

11. NRS Charter of George Prestoun of Craigmillar GD122/1/163.

12. Prot Bk of James Young, 1485-1515, no. 486.

13. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 25-6, 29, 38-39, 47-48, 51-52 & 120,

14. Reports on the State of Certain Parishes in Scotland, pp. 80-81.

15. NRS Presbytery of Dalkeith, Minutes, 1630-1639, CH2/424/2, fol.20.

16. NRS Presbytery of Dalkeith, Minutes, 1639-1652, CH2/424/3, fols. 73-74.

17. NRS Musselburgh/Inveresk Kirk Session, 1651-1677, CH2/531/1, fol. 17.

18. NRS Musselburgh/Inveresk Kirk Session, 1651-1677, CH2/531/1, fol. 153.

19. NRS Musselburgh/Inveresk Kirk Session, 1651-1677, CH2/531/1, fol. 218.

20. NRS Musselburgh/Inveresk Kirk Session, 1651-1677, CH2/531/1, fol. 260.

21. NRS Presbytery of Dalkeith, Minutes, 1673-1688, CH2/424/5, fols. 4-5.

22. NRS Presbytery of Dalkeith, Minutes, 1673-1688, CH2/424/5, fols. 17-18.

23. NRS Musselburgh/Inveresk Kirk Session, 1651-1677, CH2/531/1, fols. 273-274.

24. NRS Musselburgh/Inveresk Kirk Session, 1651-1677, CH2/531/1, fol. 278.

25. NRS Presbytery of Dalkeith, Minutes, 1673-1688, CH2/424/5, fols. 321-322.

26. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1792), xvi, 5.

27. Ibid, 24.

28. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1839), i, 295.

Bibliography

NRS Charter of George Prestoun of Craigmillar GD122/1/163.

NRS Grant by John de Halyborton, Lord of Drylton, to Simon de Preston, Lord of Gourton, GD122/1/144.

NRS Indenture between Sir Robert Livingston and Sir Simon Preston, GD122/2/356.

NRS Musselburgh/Inveresk Kirk Session, 1651-1677, CH2/531/1.

NRS Presbytery of Dalkeith, Minutes, 1630-1639, CH2/424/2.

NRS Presbytery of Dalkeith, Minutes, 1639-1652, CH2/424/3.

NRS Presbytery of Dalkeith, Minutes, 1673-1688, CH2/424/5.

NRS Prot Bk of John Johnston, 1548-57, NP1/13B.

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.

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 James Young, 1485-1515, 1952, ed. G. Donaldson (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh.

Reports on the State of Certain Parishes in Scotland, Made to his Majesty’s Commissioners for Plantation of Kirks, 1835, ed. A. MacGrigor (Maitland Club), Edinburgh.

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

Architectural description

Along with its chapel at Cousland, Inveresk was granted to the Benedictine abbey of Dunfermline by David I in about 1128. At a date between 1202 and 1232 Bishop William Malvoisin confirmed the church to the uses of the abbey, and a vicarage settlement was set in place.(1)

By the earlier seventeenth century the condition of the church was a matter of some concern: on 13 October 1632 it was noted in particular that the tower lacked a roof, and it was agreed that one should be provided.(2) However, references to the need for repairs to the tower continued between 1668 and 1676, and it is not clear that anything was done.(3

The much-modified and augmented medieval church appears to have survived up to the early nineteenth century. The author of the entry in the Statistical Account stated that:

The body of the church is 102 feet long, and only 23 wide within the walls; but there are 4 aisles, two on each side of the church that have been built at different periods...The whole is now in a ruinous condition and is a disgrace to the parish.(4

It was rebuilt soon afterwards, and the author of the entry in the New Statistical Account said:

The old church of St Michael’s, having been both ruinous and inadequate for the proper accommodation of a rapidly increasing population, was taken down, and the present church erected on the same site.(5)

The new church was designed by Robert Nisbet in 1802, and constructed in 1803-5.(6) The tower was built by Robert Lees, working to Nisbet’s design.(7) The church was internally remodelled on ecclesiological lines, and a new sanctuary added at the west end in 1893 by J. MacIntyre Henry.(8) Since the church of 1803-5 was erected on the site of its predecessor, nothing appears to have survived of the medieval building.

The present building has a highly impressive south front. At the centre is a tower, with a porch at its base that is given emphasis by an engaged tetrastyle Tuscan portico supporting a pediment inscribed with the date ‘AD 1805’. Between the central pilasters there is an arched door below an arched window. Above that lowest part are two compressed storeys, the lower one, which rises to the same height as the main body of the church, having a thermal window, and the upper one an advanced central section carrying a pediment. Above that are two octagonal stages, the lower one having engaged Roman Doric pilasters at the angles, and the upper one having engaged three-quarter Ionic columns at the angles; the cardinal faces of both those stages have round-arched openings. Rising above the tower is an octagonal stone spire with three levels of oval openings.

Immediately flanking the tower there is now a two-light arched window with a circlet at the head, above which is a small segmental-arched window. At the outer ends of the south front are three tiers of segmental-arched windows, those to the lower tiers being larger than those of the top tier. The north front is treated more simply, having three bays of three tiers of windows. The central window of the bottom tier replaced a door, the engaged Tuscan columns and entablature of which remain in place. 

Notes

1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 88.

2. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Dalkeith, Minutes, 1630-39, CH2/424/2, fol. 20.

3. National Records of Scotland, Musselburgh/Inveresk Kirk Session, 1651-77, CH2/531/1, fols 218, 260, 273-4 and 278; National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Dalkeith, Minutes, 1673-88, CH2/424/5, fols 4-5 and 97-98.

4. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-9, vol. 16, p. 24.

5. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 1, p. 295.

6. Howard Colvin, Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 4th ed., New Haven and London, 2008, p. 750.

7. Howard Colvin, Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 4th ed., New Haven and London, 2008, p. 641.

8. Colin McWilliam, The Buildings of Scotland, Lothian, Harmondsworth, 1978, pp. 263-5.

Map

Images

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

  • 1. Inveresk Church, exterior, from south

  • 2. Inveresk Church, exterior, from north

  • 3. Inveresk Church, exterior, from west

  • 4. Inveresk Church, exterior, from north east

  • 5. Inveresk Church, exterior, date tablet on pediment above entrance

  • 6. Inveresk churchyard, gravestone, 1

  • 7. Inveresk churchyard, gravestone, 2

  • 8. Inveresk churchyard, gravestone, 3

  • 9. Inveresk churchyard, gravestone, 4

  • 10. Inveresk churchyard, table tomb