Oldhamstocks / Oldhamstock Parish Church

Oldhamstocks Church, exterior, from south east

Summary description

Largely rebuilt in 1701, possibly incorporating some medieval fabric, and with a burial vault of 1581 retained at its east end.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Michael

Few records survive of the medieval parish church of Oldhamstocks.  What appears to be the earliest mention of the church in a surviving source is the record of its dedication to St Michael,(1) by Bishop David de Bernham of St Andrews on 19 October 1242.(2)  It appears as a free parsonage in the accounts of the papal tax-collector in Scotland in 1276, when the executor for the late rector was recorded as paying 10 merks 4s 4½d in the first year of the taxation.(3)  Identification of its dedication occurs in the testament of Alexander Hume of Dunglass, dated 3 February 1423-4, which made provision for pro anima masses on Alexander’s behalf to be said annually by one chaplain in the church of St Michael of ‘Aldhampstocks’.(4)  It remained independent throughout the pre-Reformation period with rectors being identified in 1450, 1488 and 1538.(5)  In 1451, however, a £5 portion of its teind income was diverted to the new collegiate church of Dunglass, which was founded within the parish, since it was commented that ‘the rector can do without them’.(6)  Oldhamstocks, however, remained an independent parsonage at the Reformation, at which time it was recorded that 13 merks of the teinds were due to a prebend in the collegiate church, while the parsonage, pertaining to Mr Thomas Hepburn, was valued at £186 13s 4d.(7)

Notes

1. HMC, 12th Report, Appendix, Part VIII, The Manuscripts of the Duke of Athole, KT, and of the Earl of Home (London, 1891), 87, no.1 [Testament of Alexander Hume of Dunglass, 3 February 1423-4]; NRS GD1/413/9 Material relating to the parish: North Berwick, Oldhamstocks, Ormiston, Pencaitland, fol. 27.

2. A O Anderson (ed), Early Sources of Scottish History, ii (Edinburgh, 1922), 523 [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), 34.

4. HMC, 12th Report, Appendix, Part VIII, 87, no.1.

5. Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scottorum, ii, 1424-1513, ed J B Paul (Edinburgh, 1882), nos 389, 1814, 2771, 3479; Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scottorum, iii, 1513-1546, eds J B Paul and J M Thomson (Edinburgh, 1883), no.1831.

6. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, x, 1447-1455, ed J A Twemlow (London, 1915), 219.

7. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 166, 171.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Listed as a parsonage in Bagimond's Roll, the church remained unappropriated, lying within the patronage of the earls of Bothwell by 16th century. Some money from the teinds (£5) was allotted to Dunglass College from 1454-55.(1)

1423 Testament of Hume of Dunglass (Alexander?) mentions church with dedication to St Michael.(2)

1451 Erection of the collegiate church of Dunglass, in the parish of Oldhamstocks. £5 of the tithes of that parish church goes to the new foundation as ‘the rector can do without them’.(3) Referred to in 1476 as 8 marks.(4)

1458 Patrick Sinclair, rector of ‘Auldhamstocks’, witnesses a charter of Alexander Hume of Dunglas.(5)

1489 Patrick Crawford, rector of ‘Auldhamstoxs’, witnesses a charter of Stephen of Mordington.(6)

#1538 Patrick Moneypenny, rector of ‘Auldhamstox’, witnesses a charter of Andrew Brown.(7)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church - 13 marks from the teinds pertain to a prebend of Dunglass. Parsonage held by Thomas Hepburn, set for £186 13s 4d.(8)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of parsonage £62 4s 5 1/3d.(9)

1581 The minister Thomas Hepburn seems to have built a burial aisle at the east end of the church. It was subsequently converted into a chancel. There is a heraldic panel with the arms of the minister and his wife Margaret Sinclair and the date 1581.(10)

1627 (22 Apr) Report on the parish by the minister describes the church as formally being under the patronage of the earl of Bothwell and now under the patronage of the laird of Buccleuch.(11)

1665 (31 May) At a meeting of the Presbytery of Dunbar, the representatives of the various parishes are asked to report to the session of the condition of their kirks and manse; Thomas Hepburn reports that the kirk is well repaired, the manse is competent.(12)

1672 (24 Oct) Letter from the bishop of Edinburgh authorising the visit of the ruins of the manse of Oldhamstocks. John Douglas, mason, and James Mitchell, wright, commissioned to build it at a cost of £730 6s 6d.(13)

1673 (30 Oct) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Dunbar, finds the minister noting that the church requires reparation. The heritors were asked to organise a stent.(14)

[First note of the new church]

1697 (28 Nov) The minister reported that day that there was a general charge given to all the proprietors…for building of the church.(15)

1701 (16 Apr) That day Mr Currie (minister) reported to the presbytery the dangerous condition of the kirk of Oldhamstocks that it is very likely to fall, and produced a letter from Mr Smyth, mason, testifying the same; he sought advice from the Presbytery Treasurer. The brethren suggest that he shall not preach anymore in the kirk while so ruinous. Men spend to speak to the heritors, especially John Hall of Dunglass, anent the condition of the kirk (Dunglass to be used in the meantime).(16)

1701 (15 May) Visitation by the Presbytery of Dunbar at the request of the heritors. Workmen George Rankin, John Hogg and Patrick Hogg, masons, and various wrights and glasiers, have visited the church and it ‘in their judgement it was impossible to repair the church so as to make it stand and that there was an absolute necessity to take it down and build a new one. The heritors agree, the dimensions of the new church are 50 foot in length, 18 in breadth within the walls, the side wall 16 foot in height. The overall cost to be £2917, a stent was organised.(17)

1701 (8 June) The minister reported that he had asked the presbytery of Dunbar whether he could preach in the church of Dunglass until the church [of Oldhamstock] shall be rebuilt.(18)

1701 (2 Nov) The minister made public the intimation that the heritors and elders might meet at this place…the church is now finished [they are to divide up the room].(19)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev John Cochran, 1791): ‘The present church was built anno 1701’.(20)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Robert Moore, 1836): ‘The church of Oldhamstocks is very ancient’.(21) [Despite this statement no reference to church buildings surviving from earlier than 1701.]

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches (George Hay): 1701, 1581 burial aisle; interior recast 1930, 1824 watch house. Small burial aisle added c.1586, which in 1930 was converted into a rather irrelevant chancel.(22) p. 28

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 159.

2. NRS GD1/413/9 Material relating to the parish: North Berwick, Oldhamstocks, Ormiston, Pencaitland, fol. 27.

3. CPL, x, 219.

4. CPL, xiii, 644.

5. RMS, ii, no. 389.

6. RMS, ii, no. 1814.

7. RMS, iii, no. 1831.

8. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 166 & 171.

9. Donaldson, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, 28.

10. Spicer, ‘’Defyle not Christ’s kirk with your carrion”, 161-62.

11. Reports on the State of Certain Parishes in Scotland, pp. 101-103.

12. NRS Presbytery of Dunbar, Minutes, 1657-1684, CH2/99/2, fols. 115-116.

13. NRS Presbytery of Dunbar, Minutes, 1657-1684, CH2/99/2, fols. 169-170.

14. NRS Presbytery of Dunbar, Minutes, 1657-1684, CH2/99/2, fol. 184.

15. NRS Oldhamstocks Kirk Session, 1642-1761, CH2/288/1, fols. 320-321.

16. NRS Presbytery of Dunbar, Minutes, 1694-1704, CH2/99/3, fol. 133.

17. NRS Presbytery of Dunbar, Minutes, 1694-1704, CH2/99/3, fols. 136-137.

18. NRS Oldhamstocks Kirk Session, 1642-1761, CH2/288/1, fol.  223.

19. NRS Oldhamstocks Kirk Session, 1642-1761, CH2/288/1, fol. 226.

20. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1791), vii, 408.

21. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1836), ii, 355.

22. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, pp.30, 91, 236 & 255.

Bibliography

NRS Material relating to the parish: North Berwick, Oldhamstocks, Ormiston, Pencaitland, GD1/413/9.

NRS Presbytery of Dunbar, Minutes, 1657-1684, CH2/99/2.

NRS Presbytery of Dunbar, Minutes, 1694-1704, CH2/99/3.

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.

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.

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.

Spicer A., 2000, ‘’Defyle not Christ’s kirk with your carrion”: burial and the development of burial aisles in post-Reformation Scotland’, in B. Gordon and P. Marshall The Place of the Dead and Remembrance in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe, Cambridge, 149-69.

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

Architectural description

The church of Oldhamstocks remained unappropriated throughout the middle ages, and was in the patronage of the earls of Bothwell by the sixteenth century. However, portions of the teinds were held by Dunglass Collegiate Church and by the Cistercian nunnery of Abbey St Bothans.(1) Bishop David de Bernham carried out one of his dedications here on 19 October 1242.(2)

A burial aisle was added to the east end of the medieval church in 1581 by the minister, Thomas Hepburn, and this is the oldest part of the building to survive in clearly identifiable form. Hepburn had attempted to provide support for Mary, Queen of Scots following her escape from Loch Leven castle in 1568.

The medieval church presumably survived until the end of the seventeenth century, but in a report by the mason Mr Smyth of 16 April 1701 it was said to be on the verge of collapse.(3) On 15 May it was therefore agreed to rebuild it with a length of 50 feet (15.24 metres) and an internal width of 18 feet (5.49 metres), and with walls 16 feet (4.88) high. It was to cost £2,917.(4) While it was under construction, on 8 June the minister sought permission to preach in Dunglass Church,(5) though the new church was said to be finished on 2 November.(6)

In its final form the church was a T-plan structure. As a result of a range of twentieth-century modifications, including most notably a reordering of 1930,(7) the Hepburn Aisle has been absorbed into the body of the church as a chancel, which is entered through an arch with a segmental head.It is not clear how far the church of 1701 was conditioned by its medieval predecessor. However, the external dimensions of 6.25 by 17.18 metres would be consistent with the possibility that at least some of the walls are on the lines of their medieval predecessors. Support for this may be found in what appears to be a medieval chamfered base course below the east wall, which was presumably retained because the Hepburn Aisle, which was also to be retained, abutted it.

There is, however, some evidence to suggest that the church of 1701 is a little wider towards the north than its predecessor. This conclusion is based on the facts that the central axis of the Hepburn Aisle is marginally to the south of that of the church, and that the section of the east wall’s chamfered base course to the north of the Hepburn Aisle returns before the northern end of the east wall.

The Hepburn Aisle, which is built of red ashlar, is an important example of the survival of medieval architectural forms following the Reformation. The three-light east window might on first sight be taken to be an example of pre-Reformation reticulated tracery. It is only on closer inspection that a slight awkwardness can be seen in handling the relationship between the equilateral arches of the light heads and the ogee curves of the reticulation, which suggests a lack of familiarity with such forms. The stone-flagged extrados of the barrel vault is also a reflection of medieval structural techniques, though such techniques were to remain current for an extended period.

The most obviously post-medieval features of the aisle are the mouldings and finials of the pediment-like east gable, and the fine heraldic plaques on each side of the window arch. To the left of the window arch is a panel with Thomas Hepburn’s arms, his initials and those of his wife, Margaret Sinclair, together with the date 1581. To the right of the window is an inserted armorial plaque with the arms of a later member of the family, another Thomas Hepburn, who was minister here from 1642.(8)

As rebuilt in 1701the church is a T-plan structure with a substantial north aisle, and with a slender west tower. Both the main body and the aisle are lit through wide pointed-arched windows. Above the east door of the north aisle is a pediment containing a cartouche with the crest of Hall and Dunglass, the principal land-owning family of the parish.

A blocked door between the two easternmost windows of the church’s south wall, which is framed by a reveal of ogee-profile, has a tablet at the centre of the lintel inscribed with the date 1701. It is likely that the block-rusticated door the south wall of the Hepburn Aisle was inserted as part of the same operation, though it is more richly treated than the door into the church itself. A later porch has been built over the door between the two westernmost windows of the south wall.

It has been suggested above that the east wall of the church may have retained some of its medieval fabric on the evidence of the chamfered base course, with the form of the northern end of that base course suggesting that the north wall has been rebuilt a little to the north of its predecessor. On the basis of the church’s dimensions, it could not be ruled out that the south and west walls have also incorporated medieval masonry, though the absence of any base course suggests that, if they are on the lines of their medieval predecessors, they have been rebuilt from the foundations.

The possibility of the retention of earlier fabric may also be supported by a sundial at the south-west corner, which has been compared with one at the nearby church at Cockburnspath. A date around the beginning of the sixteenth century has been suggested for the latter.(9)

It has also been speculated that the tower could be of medieval origin, though on balance this appears rather less likely. It is of very small scale, with a sharp intake at the level of the church wall head, and with a lesser intake at the level of the church roof ridge. The bellhouse at its summit, which has Tuscan pilasters at the angles and is capped by a diagonally-set spirelet, appears to of the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century.

Notes

1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 159.

2. Alan Orr Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History, Edinburgh, 1922, vol. 2, p. 523.

3. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Dunbar, Minutes, 1694-1704, CH2/99/3, fol. 133.

4. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Dunbar, Minutes, 1694-1704, CH2/99/3, fols 136-7.

5. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Dunbar, Minutes, 1694-1704, CH2/99/3, fol. 223.

6. National Records of Scotland, Oldhamstocks Kirk Session, 1642-1761, CH2/288/1, fol. 226.

7. Colin McWilliam, The Buildings of Scotland, Lothian, Harmondsworth, 1978, pp. 371-72.

8. George Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, Oxford, 1957, p. 30.

9. David MacGibbon and Tomas Ross, The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland, Edinburgh, vol. 5, 1892, pp. 382-83.

Map

Images

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  • 1. Oldhamstocks Church, exterior, from south east

  • 2. Oldhamstocks Church, exterior, from north west

  • 3. Oldhamstocks Church, exterior, from south west

  • 4. Oldhamstocks Church, exterior, east aisle from south east

  • 5. Oldhamstocks Church, exterior, blocked south door, date-inscribed lintel

  • 6. Oldhamstocks Church, exterior, blocked south door

  • 7. Oldhamstocks Church, exterior, burial aisle (MacGibbon and Ross)

  • 8. Oldhamstocks Church, exterior, east aisle, east wall, armorial tablet to north of window

  • 9. Oldhamstocks Church, exterior, east aisle, east wall, armorial tablet to south of window

  • 10. Oldhamstocks Church, exterior, east aisle, south door

  • 11. Oldhamstocks Church, exterior, east aisle, east window

  • 12. Oldhamstocks Church, east aisle, interior

  • 13. Oldhamstocks Church, exterior, junction of church and east aisle

  • 14. Oldhamstocks Church, exterior, north aisle, east door pediment

  • 15. Oldhamstocks Church, exterior, north aisle, east door

  • 16. Oldhamstocks Church, interior, looking east