Nenthorn Parish Church

Nenthorn Churchyard, 1

Summary description

Fragmentary remains of the medieval church, which was replaced by a new building on a different site in 1802. That later church passed out of ecclesiastical use in 1972 and has been adapted as a house.

Historical outline

Dedication: unknown

In origin one of three chapels dependent on the mother-church at Ednam (qv), Nenthorn passed with that church into the hands of the monks of Durham, who assigned the fruits of Ednam and its dependencies to the uses of the priory-cell at Coldingham.(1)  Early in the 1190s a dispute arose between Roger de Beaumont, bishop-elect of St Andrews, and the Durham monks over procurations due to him from the church of Coldingham and its appropriated parishes.  This was resolved c.1194 when in return for a renunciation of his claim against Coldingham Durham gave the chapel of Nenthorn to the church of St Andrews, free of the parochial rights of Ednam.(2)  Nenthorn was established as a parish church in its own right with a dependent chapel at Newton.  It is unclear if the parsonage was annexed to the episcopal mensa from the time of this settlement but it had been annexed before 1275 when it was recorded as a vicarage in the accounts of the papal tax-collector in Scotland.(3)

Despite the agreement with Roger de Beaumont there appears to have been continuing difficulties between the Bishops of St Andrews and the Church of Durham into the early fourteenth century, with Bishop William Lamberton seeking to renegotiate the deal.  In 1316, when further negotiations with Durham were ended by the Anglo-Scottish wars, Lamberton exchanged Nenthorn and Newton with the monks of Kelso for their church of Cranston.(4)  From that date, the parsonage and vicarage of Nenthorn were appropriated to the abbey, the cure being served by a chaplain, remaining so annexed at the Reformation.(5)

There are references in the fifteenth century to perpetual vicars of Nenthorn, but these were presumably perpetual vicars portionary.(6)  In 1469 the fruits of Nenthorn were assigned in part as a source of a pension paid to Richard Robson, former abbot of Kelso.(7)  There are few other pre-Reformation records of the church, probably in large part due to the loss of a substantial part of Kelso’s later medieval records, but Nenthorn was named in 1556 as one of twenty-two parishes churches in the deanery of Merse reported to Archbishop John Hamilton by the dean as being in very poor physical condition and lacking in furnishings.  Hamilton’s instructions to the dean noted that the dilapidated condition of these buildings was as much the fault of the appropriators as the parishioners, and he ordered the dean to investigate the financial state of the parishes and act accordingly.(8)  How any remedial work progressed is unknown, it being likely that the events of the civil war leading to the Reformation in 1560 overtook any efforts at repair and refurbishment.


1. For the early history of the church see the Corpus entry under Ednam.

2. Regesta Regum Scottorum, ii, The Acts of William I, ed G W S Barrow (Edinburgh, 1971), no.368.

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

4. Liber S Marie de Calchou (Bannatyne Club, 1846), no.316.

5. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 224, 232, 235, 238, 241.

6. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, viii, 1427-1447, ed J A Twemlow (London, 1909), 428, 556.

7. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, v, 1147-1471, eds J Kirk, R J Tanner and A I Dunlop (Glasgow, 1997), no.1335.

8. NRS Miscellaneous Ecclesiastical Records, CH8/16.

Summary of relevant documentation


Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: In origin a chapel of Ednam, it was granted to Durham in c.1165. Owing to conflict between the bishops of St Andrews and Durham, the church was disjoined from Ednam and granted to the bishop. Exchanged for Cranston with Kelso in 1316, the parsonage and vicarage remained with the abbey, the cure being served by a chaplain.(1)

1432 Possible reference - William Brown, perpetual vicar of Naton [editors suggest Nenthorn]; previous vicar John Brown had resigned.(2)

1469 Pension paid to Richard Robson, monk and former abbot of Kelso, of £20 from all and sundry teinds of Nenthorn and Keith Hundeby.(3)

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.(4)


Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage (£80) and vicarage (£13) with Kelso.(5)

1692 (2 Aug) During a visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Earlston the heritors compeared to consider the reparation of the church and manse. Thomas Wait and Andrew Ker, masons, George Bull, wright, present their report on 5 Sept and note that the sum required for repairing the kirk amounts to 900 marks (with a further 400 for the manse).(6)

1699 (9 Nov) The laird of Lithdean requests that the presbytery of Earlston visit the church which he is now repairing [he is after a certificate to confirm his ‘good works’].(7)

1703 (28 Feb) Visitation of the church includes a report by George Gill, wright, Adam Hogarth and others, who note that for casting down the forwall of the church, (£31) for materials and workmanship.(8)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Abraham Ker): [No reference to the church buildings]

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev John Gifford, 1834): ‘the church which was built in 1802 on a very contracted scale…. The church yard where the old church stood, is at a considerable distance, embosomed among the trees in a sequested spot by the side of the Eden’.(9)


1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 155.

2. CPL, viii, 428 & 556.

3. CSSR, v, no 1335, CPL, xii, 665.

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

5. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 224, 232, 235, 238 & 241.

6. NRS Presbytery of Lauder/Earlston, Minutes, 1691-1704, CH2/118/1, fols. 22-23 & 73.

7. NRS Presbytery of Lauder/Earlston, Minutes, 1691-1704, CH2/118/1, fol. 166.

8. NRS Presbytery of Lauder/Earlston, Minutes, 1691-1704, CH2/118/1, fol. 271-272.

9. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1834), ii, 221.


NRS Miscellaneous Ecclesiastical Records, CH8/16.

NRS Presbytery of Lauder/Earlston, Minutes, 1691-1704, CH2/118/1.

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

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., 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.

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

Architectural description

The medieval parish church of Nenthorn originated as a chapel in the parish of Ednam, and with that church it was granted to Durham Cathedral Priory in about 1105, albeit allocated to the uses of Durham’s daughter house at Coldingham. However, as a result of a dispute between Durham and St Andrews, Nenthorn and its pendicle of Newton were to be separated from Ednam and attached to St Andrews. In 1316 Bishop William de Lamberton agreed with Kelso Abbey to exchange Nenthorn for Cranston. The cure of souls was in the hands of a chaplain.(1)

By 9 April 1556 the church was one of 22 churches in the Merse that was in a poor structural state, according to a letter of Archbishop John Hamilton,(2) presumably largely as a result of the impact of the wars with England. In the post-Reformation period there are the usual records of attempts to keep the church in a decent state of repair, though works proposed in 1703 appear to have been more far-reaching, since they involved ‘casting down the forewall,(3)

The site of the medieval church is close to Nenthorn House, at NT 6781 3686, and is some distance to the south-west of the village. Little more than fragmentary and heavily overgrown linear mounds mark the site of the church, its masonry having been presumably re-utilised in building the church that replaced it in 1802.(4)

The new church built in 1802 at NT 68019 37344 was small T-plan structure of whinstone rubble that was remodelled in the mid-nineteenth century. That later church itself passed out of ecclesiastical use in 1972 and has been converted into a house. There is a gabled bellcote on the south-west gable and a session house and ashlar-fronted porch project at the north-east end. The south-east flank, towards the village street, has two three-light windows, while the gable walls each have a circular window and an asymmetrically set round-headed window with Y-tracery.


1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 155.

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

3. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Lauder/Earlston, Minutes, 1691-1704, CH2/118/1, fols 271-272.

4. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 2, p. 221.



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  • 1. Nenthorn Churchyard, 1

  • 2. Nenthorn Churchyard, 2

  • 3. Nenthorn Churchyard, monument, 1

  • 4. Nenthorn Churchyard, monument, 2

  • 5. Nenthorn, later church