Portmoak / Kirkness Parish Church

Portmoak church site

Summary description

Possibly accommodated within a priory church of Augustinian Canons. Abandoned after the church was relocated to a different site in the mid-seventeenth century, leaving no structural remains.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Stephen the Martyr and ‘St Moanus’(1)

King Edgar (1097-1107) is accounted in a diploma later copied into the cartulary of the Augustinian priory at St Andrews as having conferred Portmoak on the céli Dé of Loch Leven.(2)  In c.1150 the church passed with the monastery of Loch Leven and all of its other possessions into the hands of the canons of St Andrews Priory by gift of King David I, Bishop Robert of St Andrews adding his confirmation of that act sometime between 1152 and his death in 1159.(3)  Further confirmations followed in two charters from Bishop Arnold (1160-62), the first a general confirmation of all of St Andrews’ possessions including Portmoak kirk and everything pertaining to it, the second specifically confirming the canons in possession of the church with teinds, oblations and everything else pertaining it.(4)  Shortly after his accession in 1165, King William issued a general confirmation to St Andrews of all of its possessions, including the church of Portmoak, which was identified as the gift of Bishop Arnold.(5)  Six papal confirmations followed between 1183 and 1228.(6)  Between 1198 and 1202, the church was confirmed to the priory in proprios usus by Bishop Roger, converting it ‘for the increase and service’ of the refectory at St Andrews and no other purpose.(7)  In a papal confirmation by Innocent IV in 1246, however, Portmoak was listed as one of the churches held by St Andrews where their right extended to the advowson only.(8)

The church was dedicated by Bishop David de Bernham on 23 July 1243, it perhaps being on this occasion that the St Stephen the Martyr dedication was added to its original Gaelic patron.(9)  No reference to the church occurs in the accounts of the papal tax-collector in Scotland in the 1270s, which would indicate that the appropriation to the priory made by Bishop Roger was effective at that date.

At the Reformation it was noted that the parsonage still pertained to the priory at St Andrews and was set for £51 annually, the vicarage resting with St Andrews’ priory-cell of Lochleven and valued at the substantial sum of 80 merks a year.(10)  It was noted in the Books of Assumption that the vicarage at present yielded nothing but if the rights noted in the Book of Reformation were enforced that it would yield in the order of around 40 merks annually.  This is still a high vicarage value and presumably relates to the produce associated with the loch itself – fish and wildfowl – for which it has long been famed.

Notes

1. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree in Scotia (Bannatyne Club, 1841), 348 [hereafter St Andrews Liber].

2. St Andrews Liber, 115.

3. The Charters of David I, ed G W S Barrow (Woodbridge, 1999), no.208; St Andrews Liber, 34.

4. St Andrews Liber, 128, 131.

5. Regesta Regum Scottorum, ii, The Acts of William I, ed G W S Barrow (Edinburgh, 1971), no.28.

6. St Andrews Liber, 71-81, 232-6; Scotia Pontificia: Papal Letters to Scotland before the Pontificate of Innocent III, ed R Somerville (Oxford, 1982), nos 119, 148, 149.

7. St Andrews Liber, 154.

8. St Andrews Liber, 92-5.

9. St Andrews Liber, 348; A O Anderson (ed), Early Sources of Scottish History, ii (Edinburgh, 1922), 524 [Pontifical Offices of St Andrews].

10. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 16-17, 56-7.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Church originally connected with Culdees of Loch Leven, passed to priory of St Andrews in 1150. Revenues in dispute between both priorys, all teinds with the exception of garbal teinds, assigned to loch Leven, church served by a chaplain.(1)

Mackinlay suggests that the church was re-dedicated in to St Stephen the Martyr and St Moak  (a friend of St Brendan from the 6th century.(2)

1097-1107 Edgar, son of Mael Coluim III, king of Scotland (1097-1107), conferred Portmoak to the céli Dé of Loch Leven.(3)

1152 x 1159 Robert, bishop of St Andrews, gave (dare) Portmoak and a mill near the bridge to the cathedral priory as part of the assets of the monastery of Loch Leven.(4)

1165 x 1169 William I confirmed (gen. conf.) the church of Portmoak to the priory as a gift of Arnold, bishop of St Andrews.(5)

1172 x 1178 The cathedral priory exchanged lands in Portmoak (and Arnot) with Bishop Richard for Allanhill near to St Andrews.(6)

Papal Confirmations

1183 Pope Lucius III confirmed the church of Portmoak as a gift of Bishop Arnold. The church of Portmoak was confirmed by Gregory VIII in 1187, Clement III in 1188, Innocent III in 1206, and Honorius III in 1216.(7) 1228, Alexander II confirmed (gen. conf.) the church of Portmoak as a gift of Bishop Arnold.(8)

1246 Pope Innocent IV confirmed (gen. conf.) that the cathedral priory held the advowson of the churches of Dairsie, Cupar, Markinch, Scoonie, Portmoak, St Cyrus, Lathrisk and Kennoway.(9)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage pertains to priory of St Andrews, set for £51. Vicarage with priory of Portmoak, valued at 80 marks.(10)

1630 (15 Apr) Record of the stipends of ministers in the Pres of Kirkcaldy, the minister gets 400 marks pa.(11)

Church ‘in(un)commodious’

1636 (3 Aug) Visitation of Portmoak finds the minister (Harry Wilkie) to be competent, however, the whole elders and heritors regret ‘the uncommodiousness’ of the kirk and desire the same to be signified to the (general) assembly and the bishop. A school is ordained to be planted, the brethren suggest £80 pa should suffice (the laird of Arnot and earl of Morton are to look to it).(12)

1640 (18 June) Session of the Presbytery of Kirkcaldy held at the church notes that the elders and heritors regret the ‘uncommodious’ state of their kirk ‘both in respect of the place as is notorious and also in respect of the quantity which is so little it cannot contain the parishioners (the presbytery refer it to the synod of Fife).(13)

1642 (6 July) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Kirkcaldy reports on the incommodious state of the church,  but due to arguments amongst the heritors recommends that the provincial synod interpose (overall view is that the church needs to be transported: see below for report). The laird of Arnot (one of the main heritors) asks to be allowed to go to another church with his family.(14)

1642 (4 Oct) Report to the Synod of Fife by the parishioners describes the state of the kirk as most incommodious. The laird of Arnot and other gentlemen of the parish ask permission to attend a more commodious church (for the time being), the synod to discuss transporting the church to a more commodious place when expedient.(15) Further report of the church (5 Apr 1643) records that the minister has been transported to another church and has not been replaced.(16)

1649 (12 Dec) Report on the bounds of Portmoak parish describe it as 2 miles in length and 1.5 miles in breadth, the said church is most incommodiously situated with the loch on the one side and the moss on the other side, it is totally ruinous both in walls and roofs that without great hazard the people cannot resort there or stay within, it is also not up to capacity to retain the parishioners, not being able to retain 300 and the number of the ministrants extends to 500. It appears necessary for transporting the kirk. The town of Scotlandwell is considered to be the most commodious place for seating a new church. Situation referred to the commission for the plantation of churches.(17)

[no presbytery or kirk session records survive for 1659-1661, so not clear which of the Statistical accounts has the right date for the church]

1710 (20 Sept) Visitation of the church notes that the roof of the kirk and also the manse are not in a good condition and the yard (of the manse) is ruinous and there are no kirkyard dykes. The heritors note that there is a fund laid down for defraying the expenses of the repair (collector appointed to organise the stent).(18)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Andrew Grant, 1791): ‘The church was built in 1659, till which period, part of the old priory served for a place of worship’.(19)

‘one corner of the monastery ( of Portmoak) remains’.(20)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Hugh Laird, 1839): ‘The old church was built in 1661 and was rebuilt several years ago’.(21)

The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches (George Hay): 1832 with earlier belfry; original pulpit, detached session house; 1843 bell (lateral rectangular plan).(22)

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 166.

2. Mackinlay, Scriptural Dedications, p. 300.

3. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, p. 115.

4. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, p. 43.

Regesta Regum Scottorum, Acts of William I (1165-1214), ii, no. 28.

6. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, p. 140.

7. Scotia Pontificia, nos. 119, 148 & 149, Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, pp. 71-6, 76-81.

8. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, pp. 232-236.

9. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, pp. 92-5

10. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 16-17, and 56-57.

11. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Kirkcaldy, Minutes, 1630-1653, CH2/224/1, fol. 8.

12. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Kirkcaldy, Minutes, 1630-1653, CH2/224/1, fols. 182-183.

13. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Kirkcaldy, Minutes, 1630-1653, CH2/224/1, fol. 314.

14. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Kirkcaldy, Minutes, 1630-1653, CH2/224/1, fols. 391-392.

15. National Records of Scotland, Records of the Synod of Fife, 1639-1657, CH2/154/2, fol. 71r.

16. National Records of Scotland, Records of the Synod of Fife, 1639-1657, CH2/154/2, fol. 81v.

17. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Kirkcaldy, Minutes, 1630-1653, CH2/224/1, fol. 579.

18. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Kirkcaldy, Minutes, 1704-1713, CH2/224/3, fols. 247-248.

19. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1791), v, 167.

20. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1791), 171.

21. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1839), ix, 30.

22. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, pp. 116, 117, 188 and 233.

Bibliography

National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Kirkcaldy, Minutes, 1630-1653, CH2/224/1.

National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Kirkcaldy, Minutes, 1704-1713, CH2/224/3.

National Records of Scotland, Records of the Synod of Fife, 1639-1657, CH2/154/2.

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.

Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree in Scotia, 1841, ed. T. Thomson (Bannatyne Club), Edinburgh.

Mackinlay, J.M, 1910, Ancient Church Dedications in Scotland. Scriptural Dedications, Edinburgh.

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

Regesta Regum Scottorum, Acts of William I (1165-1214), 1971, Edinburgh.

Scotia pontificia papal letters to Scotland before the Pontificate of Innocent III, 1982, ed. R. Somerville, Oxford.

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

Architectural description

The church of Portmoak, which was also known as Kirkness, appears to have been connected with the community of Culdees at Loch Leven; that community was later transformed into a priory of Augustinian Canons. Soon after 1150 the church was presumably conveyed to St Andrews Cathedral Priory, along with Loch Leven itself, when David I granted the latter to St Andrews. But there were ongoing disputes over revenues, and eventually it was decided that the parsonage pertained to St Andrews and the vicarage to Loch Leven.(1) Bishop David de Bernham carried out one of his dedications here on 23 July 1243.(2)

By the 1630s and ’40s it was complained that the church was ‘incommodious’ and ‘notorious’ for its location and site. In 1649 it was specified that this was because of the presence of the loch on one side and the moss on the other, while the building was said to be so ruinous in its walls and roof that it was hazardous for people to go there.(3) It was suggested in that year that it should be relocated to Scotlandwell, and this probably happened some years later.

In 1791 it was recollected that the old church had been within a part of the medieval priory, one corner of which still then survived.(4) That priory had been the mainland base of the Augustinian successors of the Culdee community of Loch Leven, at NO 1735 0087.(5) In 1882 it was said that three monuments remained in the burying ground there,(6) those presumably being the three ledger slabs that are still to be seen there.

Following the abandonment of the church in about 1650, it is likely that much of its masonry was eventually recycled in the buildings of Portmoak Farm, and a number of stones likely to have emanated from the church were identified in a corn drying kiln in 1976.(7)

In 2009 resistivity and gradiometer surveys indicated a rectangular area of low resistivity that it was thought could represent the site of the church.(8) Since then the presumed area of the church, a rectangle of approximately 16.6 by 6.4 metres has been marked out on the ground with stones around an area of sand.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the move to Scotlandwell was remembered as having taken place in either 1659(9) or 1661.(10) Nothing is known of the first church on the new site, however, because it was rebuilt by Andrew Cumming in 1831-2;(11) the date 1832 is inscribed on a tablet at the centre of its main front, which faces south-west. That front has a pair of pointed-arched windows between two tiers of rectangular windows, and there is a bellcote on the north-west gable.

Notes

1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 166.

2. Alan Orr Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History, Edinburgh, 1922, vol. 2, p. 524.

3. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Kirkcaldy, Minutes, 1630-54, CH2/224/1, fols 182-83, 314, and 579.

4. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-9, vol. 5, p. 171.

5. Ian B. Cowan and David E. Easson, Medieval Religious Houses, Scotland, London and New York, 1976, p. 93.

6. A. Kerr, ‘Description of the ecclesiastical remains existing upon St Serf's Island, Lochleven, at 6th July 1881’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scot, vol.16, 1882, p. 162.

7. D.M. Munro, ‘Portmoak Farm, corn-drying kilns, pottery and cross-slab’, Discovery and Excavation Scotland, 1976, p. 38.

8. T. Cowie and M. Hall, ‘Portmoak Farm, Perth and Kinross (Portmoak parish), geophysical survey’, Discovery and Excavation Scotland, 2009, p. 158

9. Statistical Account, vol. 5, p. 167.

10. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 9, p. 30.

11. John Gifford, The Buildings of Scotland, Perth and Kinross, New haven and London, 2007, pp. 697-98.

Map

Images

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

  • 1. Portmoak church site

  • 2. Portmoak churchyard, gravestone, 1

  • 3. Portmoak churchyard, gravestone, 2

  • 4. Portmoak churchyard, gravestone, 3

  • 5. Portmoak old churchyard, monument, 1

  • 6. Portmoak old churchyard, monument, 2

  • 7. Portmoak old churchyard, monument, 3

  • 8. Portmoak old churchyard, monument, 4

  • 9. Portmoak, later church, exterior

  • 10. Portmoak, later church, exterior, date stone