Orwell Parish Church

Orwell, mausoleum on site of medieval church, porch

Summary description

The site of the medieval church is occupied by a mausoleum of 1865; the church had been relocated in 1729.

Historical outline

Dedication: unknown

For discussion of the early history of this church see Kinross.  Although it passed as a dependent chapel with its mother church into the hands of the monks of Dunfermline in 1314, it appears to have gained independent parochial status by the 1460s.  In 1469 its rector, Alexander Kennedy, was named as one of the executors of the will of Bishop James Kennedy of St Andrews.(1)  His title may have been an error on the part of the papal scribe for the subsequent incumbents, who were also in possession of Kinross, were merely vicars.(2)  At the Reformation it was recorded as only a pendicle or chapel of Kinross, included within the £120 valuation of the parsonage and vicarage of its mother church in the revenues of Dunfermline Abbey.  It was also noted, however, that the recently deceased vicar pensioner John Mows had been paid an annual stipend of 40 marks and served both Kinross and Orwell as vicar, and that the vicarage pensionary of Kinross and Orwell was then held by Mr Walter Balfour and valued yearly at 40 merks for the two churches.(3)

Notes

1. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, xii, 1458-1471, ed J A Twemlow (London, 1933), 670.

2. Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum, ii, 1424-1513, ed J B Paul (Edinburgh, 1882), no.2955.

3. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 26, 38, 48, 88.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: In origin a chapel of Kinross, closely associated with Kinross but appears to have obtained parochial status in late 15th century; cure always a conjoint vicarage pensionary.(1)

1469 Alexander de Kennedy, rector of the parish church of Uriel, one of the executors of the will of James Kennedy.(2)

1556 Financial transaction made in the church of Urwell (Orwell?).(3)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage and vicarage with Dunfermline, with its pendicle/chapel of Orwell set for £120. Vicar pensioner John Mows recently deceased, he had been paid 40 marks and served both Kinross and Orwell.(4)

1660 (9 May) Reference in the Presbytery of Dunfermline to the ‘ruinous fabric’ of the kirk of Orwell because the heritors and session of that parish have passed from theirs acts so they had disposed of the seat revenues, which are required for ready reparation of the ruinous kirk. Letter to be sent to the earl of Morton to organise the repair of the ruinous fabric of the part of the kirk called the choir which his lordship’s predecessors of honest memory had rights to.(5)

1663 (29 July) Further exhortation to the heritors to take speedy action over the repair of the ruinous church.(6) 23 Sept the minister Alex Malcolm reports that he is hopeful of getting the church repaired without resorting to legal measures.(7)

1700 (26 June) Visitors from the Presbytery of Dunfermline enquire if it was watertight and in good care. It was answered that it was, but that such as had not paid in their proportional expenses for the reparation of the church should be exhorted to. [Perhaps suggests recent work?](8)

1729 (1 Jan) Mr Mair brought a request, representing the heritors of Orwell, that for ‘ease and convenience’ of the parish deigned to transport their kirk and manse from Orwell to Milnachort. (Meeting organised to approve it.)(9)

1730 (July) Kirk session meeting held in Milnathort thereafter (previously held at the church at Orwell or the Manse). [new church seems to be ready](10)

The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches (George Hay): 1729;  recast c.1880, detached session house enlarged; 1773 bell.(11)

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 160.

2. Calendar of entries in the Papal registers relating to Great Britain and Ireland; Papal letters, xii, 670.

3. Protocol Book of Sir Alexander Gaw, 1540-58, no. 166.

4. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 26, 38, 48 and 88.

5. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Dunfermline, 1647-72, CH2/105/1/1, fols. 353-354.

6. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Dunfermline, 1647-72, CH2/105/1/1, fol. 385.

7. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Dunfermline, 1647-72, CH2/105/1/1, fols. 386.

8. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Dunfermline, Minutes, 1696-1704, CH2/105/3, fols. 100-104.

9. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Dunfermline, Minutes, 1717-1727, CH2/105/5, fol. 354.

10. National Records of Scotland, Orwell Kirk Session, 1710-1798, CH2/551/2, fol. 109.

11. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, pp. 161 and 261.

Bibliography

National Records of Scotland, Orwell Kirk Session, 1710-1798, CH2/551/2.

National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Dunfermline, 1647-72, CH2/105/1/1.

National Records of Scotland,Presbytery of Dunfermline, Minutes, 1696-1704, CH2/105/3.

National Records of Scotland,Presbytery of Dunfermline, Minutes, 1717-1727, CH2/105/5.

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.

Protocol Book of Sir Alexander Gaw, 1540-58, 1910, eds. J. Anderson & W. Angus (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh.

Architectural description

The church at Orwell originated as a chapel of Kinross, and it consequently passed with Kinross when it was granted to the Benedictine abbey of Dunfermline by Robert I in 1314. It had evidently achieved parochial status before the sixteenth century, albeit being regarded as a joint pensionary vicarage with Kinross.(1)

Following the Reformation it appears that the earls of Morton took over the chancel, presumably for their aisle and burial place, because in 1660 the earl was asked to repair ‘the part of the kirk called the choir’. It was said his ancestors had enjoyed rights over that part. At that time the church, like so many others, was described as ‘ruinous’, though this may mean little more than that urgent repairs were required.(2)

On 1 January 1729 the heritors sought permission to relocate the church and manse to Milnathort, and this was agreed to by presbytery.(3) Nothing identifiable now remains above ground of the old church at NO 14678 03859, other than the partial mounded lines of the demolished walls which are currently largely obscured by rampant vegetation.

It may be speculated that a mausoleum towards the east end of the site could perpetuate the location of the ‘choir’ that had been taken over by the earls of Morton. This mausoleum is a buttressed windowless rectangular structure with a porch projecting from the central part of its south face. Above the porch door, which is now blocked, is a shield bearing the date 1865.

Archaeological watching briefs that were carried out in 2002 and 2007, the former associated with works on the churchyard wall and the latter associated with the creation of a new path, located nothing of significance for the understanding of the church.(4)

Building of the T-shaped new church at Milnathort must have been started immediately after permission was granted for its relocation to this site, since above a sundial on the south wall is a tablet bearing the date 1729. The dial and tablet were presumably raised when the walls were heightened in 1797, and a north aisle was added in 1808. There was a major remodelling by John Lessels in 1874.(5)

The main front, which faces south, has four round-arched windows, the two at the centre being wider than the others and being divided into two lights with a circlet at the head. At both ends of the font is a round-arched door below a quatrefoil. Over the west gable is a birdcage bellcote with a pyramidal cap.

Notes

1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 160. 

2. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Dunfermline, Minutes, 1647-72, CH2/105/1/1, fols 353-54.

3. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Dunfermline, Minutes, 1717-29, CH2/105/5, fol. 354.

4. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Canmore online resource.

5. John Gifford, The Buildings of Scotland, Perth and Kinross, New Haven and London, 2007, pp. 531-32.

Map

Images

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

  • 1. Orwell, mausoleum on site of medieval church, porch

  • 2. Orwell, mausoleum on site of medieval church, date stone above entrance

  • 3. Orwell, mausoleum on site of medieval church, entrance

  • 4. Orwell, mausoleum on site of medieval church, rear wall

  • 5. Orwell Church (Milnathort), exterior, from south

  • 6. Orwell Church (Milnathort), exterior, from west

  • 7. Orwell Church (Milnathort), exterior, south front, date stone

  • 8. Orwell Church (Milnathort), interior, 1

  • 9. Orwell Church (Milnathort), interior, 2

  • 10. Orwell Churchyard (Milnathort), gravestone