Prestonkirk / Linton Parish Church

Prestonkirk Church, chancel, east wall

Summary description

The eastern bays of the thirteenth-century chancel were retained when the rest of the church was rebuilt in 1770, and the lower part was adapted as a burial vault in 1818. The church was modified in 1824 and 1891-92.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Baldred?

Early records of the church of Linton or Prestonkirk are wholly lacking, the first surviving reference to it dating from 1241 when its dedication by Bishop David de Bernham, possibly to St Baldred,(1) was noted.(2)  It was a free parsonage in 1275 when its rector is on record in the rolls of the papal tax-collector in Scotland paying the princely sum of £8.(3)  A subsequent rector, Richard, is on record in 1296.(4)  Between 1320 and 1330 it was held by the underage Thomas Goslin or Gordon, who was aged only 20 in 1324.(5)

It appears that the patronage of the church lay with the earls of Dunbar, for in 1342 on the erection of the collegiate church of Dunbar Linton was annexed to a prebend in Earl Patrick’s new foundation.(6) Both parsonage and vicarage revenues were appropriated to the prebend, the cure of the parish being served by a vicar pensionary to whom an annual stipend of 10 merks was allotted.(7)  A supplication to the pope dated 26 February 1461 described the canonry and prebend of Linton [also known as Hauch] as lying in the gift of Patrick Hepburn, lord of Hailes,’ the true patron and in possession of the said canonry and prebend’, to which he presented his son, Patrick Hepburn.(8)  The union to the prebend continued at the Reformation at which time the parsonage, referred to as ‘the Hauche’, was held by George Hepburn and valued at £233 6s 8d.(9)

Two additional altars and chaplainries are recorded only around the time of the Reformation or later but there is no reason to doubt that these were not of much greater antiquity.  The more important of these, the chaplainry of Our Lady Aisle, was recorded in 1559 when the chaplain laid claim to an annual rent from lands in Preston.(10)  At the Reformation the chaplainry of Our Lady was valued at over £10 annually, with a note that since the burning of Haddington in 1548 it had been reduced greatly in value.(11)  A second chaplainry, at the altar of St John the Baptist, is recorded only in 1601.(12)

Notes

1. J M Mackinlay, Ancient Church Dedications in Scotland: Non-Scriptural Dedications (Edinburgh, 1914), 19.

2. A O Anderson (ed), Early Sources of Scottish History, ii (Edinburgh, 1922), 521 [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. Rotuli Scotiae in Turri Londiniensi et in Domo Capitulari Westmonasteriensi Asservati, eds D Macpherson and others, i (London, 1814), 25.

5. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, ii, 1305-1342, ed W H Bliss (London, 1895), 236, 348.

6. ‘Foundation-Charter of the Collegiate Church of Dunbar, AD 1342’, ed D E Easson. Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vi (1939), 79-109.

7. ‘Foundation-Charter of Dunbar’, 93.

8. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, iv, 1447-1471, eds J Kirk, R J Tanner and A I Dunlop (Glasgow, 1997), no.827.

9. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 3, 170.

10. NRS Material relating to the parish: Prestonkirk, Saltoun, Soutra, Spott, Stenton, GD1/413/11, folio 21.

11. Kirk (ed), Books of Assumption, 174-5.

12. NRS Material relating to the parish: Prestonkirk, Saltoun, Soutra, Spott, Stenton, GD1/413/11, folio 21.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Both parsonage and vicarage were erected into a prebend of Dunbar in 1347. The cure was a vicar pensioner thereafter (see Register of the Great Seal of Scotland, vi, no. 1735).(1)

Mackinlay notes that the church was one of three (along with Tyninghame and Auldhame) in East Lothian, dedicated to St Baldred.(2)

1320-1330 Thomas de Goslin holds the rectory of Linton (value 40 marks).(3)

1412-24 Alexander de Carnis (counsellor of Archibald, earl of Douglas) provided to the church, described as a secular prebend in the church of Dunbar.(4)

1447 William Gibson (son of a priest) holds the prebend.(5)

1461 John Methures dead, Lord Hailes presents Patrick Hepburn his son (student at university of Cologne) and not yet a priest to the prebend, value £20.(6)

#1462 Patrick Hepburn, rector of Linton (see Wedderburn writs).(7)

1515 Gavin Dunbar (later archbishop of Glasgow) dispensed to hold the prebend of Linton, described as in the patronage of lay men, with other benefices.(8)

1532 Thomas Melville, rector appears as a witness.(9)

1541 Patronage of the church formerly held by the late John Lord Somerville (d. 1523), granted by James V to his brother Hugh Somerville (d.1549).(10)

Altars and chaplaincies

Our Lady

1559 Chaplain of Our Lady aisle claims annual rents from lands of Preston.(11)

St John the Baptist

1601 William Hepburn, chaplain of the altar in the church of Linton, grants all the lands connected with the altar to Adam Hepburn (see Protocol Book of Robert Shortus).(12)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage (called the ‘Hauche), held by George Hepburn, valued sat £233 6s 8d.(13)

Altars and Chaplainries

Chaplainry of Our Lady in the church of Linton, valued at £5 16s 4d (was double that until burning of Haddington).(14)

1656 (23 July) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Dunbar [no reference to fabric].(15)

1660 (25 July) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Dunbar, notes that the heritors have been neglected in helping with the fabric of the kirk and the kirk yard dykes which are not in order. The minister also notes that the church is not repaired.(16)

1665 (12 Apr) Heritors and minister of Preston request a meeting with the brethren of the Presbytery of Dunbar to discuss the reparation of their kirk. The brethren meet with the heritors and arrange the mending of the church.(17)

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; John Daliell reports that the heritors have agreed for the reparation of their kirk.(18)

1673 (26 June) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Dunbar finds the minister regretting the state of the fabric of the church, having no communion cups and that the church bell was not in good condition. The brethren to discuss the situation with the heritors.(19)

1677 (8 May) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Dunbar, notes that the fabric of the church is decayed and stands in need of reparation and the kirk yard dykes there are ruinous and broken down. Heritors agree to get craftsmen to sort it out, on condition that they get new seats in the repaired church.(20)

1687 (25 Oct) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Dunbar mentions the ruinous fabric of the church, especially the glass windows which were much broken down by the school boys seeing the school is kept in the church. The presbytery order the heritors to take order with this for speedy repair.(21)

1768 (7 July) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Dunbar [only noted in session records] anent the fabric of the church. Tradesmen [unnamed] report that ‘the north wall was ruinous, and a great part of the rest of the fabric is in a very shattered condition’. Heritors indicate that they are willing to repair or rebuild the church.(22)

[no further details of the building work until below]

1770 (24 May) It was noted in the kirk session that on this day the foundations of the new kirk of Preston were laid.(23)

1771 (22 July) meeting of the session and heritors to divide the church with seats (new church is presumably operational by this point).(24)

Statistical Account of Scotland ( Rev Daniel McQueen, 1793): ‘The chancel of the old church still remains and is the burial place of the family of Smeaton’.(25)

‘The present church was built in the year 1770’(26) [on the site of the old church which was pulled down]

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Revs James and John Thomson): [Nothing to add to above; no further reference to the survival of the chancel]

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches (George Hay): 1770, with 13th century chancel and 17th century tower; enlarged 1824 and c.1890, interior recast.(27)

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 133.

2. Mackinlay, Non-Scriptural Dedications, p.19.

3. CPL, ii, 236 & 348.

4. CPL, Ben, 247-48, CSSR, i, 221, CSSR, ii, 56.

5. CSSR, v, no. 232.

6. CSSR, v, no. 27.

7. NRS Material relating to the parish: Prestonkirk, Saltoun, Soutra, Spott, Stenton, GD1/413/11, fol. 21.

8. CPL, xx, no. 378.

9. Prot Bk of John Foular, 1528-34, no. 387.

10. Prot Bk of Sir William Corbet, no. 2.

11. NRS GD1/413/11 Material relating to the parish: Prestonkirk, Saltoun, Soutra, Spott, Stenton, fol. 21.

12. NRS GD1/413/11 Material relating to the parish: Prestonkirk, Saltoun, Soutra, Spott, Stenton, fol. 21.

13. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 170.

14. Ibid, 174.

15. NRS Presbytery of Dunbar, Minutes, 1652-1657, CH2/99/1, fols. 118-120.

16. NRS Presbytery of Dunbar, Minutes, 1657-1684, CH2/99/2, fols. 56-57.

17. NRS Presbytery of Dunbar, Minutes, 1657-1684, CH2/99/2, fols. 112-114.

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

19. NRS Presbytery of Dunbar, Minutes, 1657-1684, CH2/99/2, fol. 182.

20. NRS Presbytery of Dunbar, Minutes, 1657-1684, CH2/99/2, fols. 217-220.

21. NRS Presbytery of Dunbar, Minutes, 1657-1684, CH2/99/2, fols. 287-288 & 302.

22. NRS Prestonkirk Kirk Session, 1725-1785, CH2/306/3, fols. 176-177.

23. NRS Prestonkirk Kirk Session, 1725-1785, CH2/306/3, fol. 181.

24. NRS Prestonkirk Kirk Session, 1725-1785, CH2/306/3, fol. 187.

25. Statistical Account of Scotland,  (1793), xi, 86.

26. Ibid, 87.

27. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, pp. 174 & 255.

Bibliography

NRS Material relating to the parish: Prestonkirk, Saltoun, Soutra, Spott, Stenton, GD1/413/11.

NRS Presbytery of Dunbar, Minutes, 1652-1657, CH2/99/1.

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

NRS Prestonkirk Kirk Session, 1725-1785, CH2/306/3.

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

Calendar of Papal letters to Scotland of Benedict XIII of Avignon, 1976, ed. F. McGurk, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh.

Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1418-22, 1934, ed. E.R. Lindsay and A.I. Cameron, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh.

Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1423-28, 1956, ed. A.I. Dunlop, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh.

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.

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.

Mackinlay, J.M, 1914, Ancient Church Dedications in Scotland. Non-Scriptural Dedications, Edinburgh.

Protocol Book of John Foular, 1528-34, 1985, ed. J. Durkan (Scottish record Society), Edinburgh.

Protocol Book of Sir William Corbet, 1529-1555, 1911, eds. J. Anderson & W. Angus (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh.

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

Architectural description

The parish church of Prestonkirk, in the village of East Linton, which was also known as Hauch, became a prebend of Dunbar Collegiate Church in 1342, with the cure of souls provided by a vicar pensioner.(1)

The east gable wall and the south flank of the eastern two bays of the chancel survived the rebuilding of the rest of the church,(2) being retained because of their use as a burial aisle for the Hepburn of Smeaton family. Those walls, built of carefully laid pink sandstone ashlar, and clearly part of a very handsome building, rise from a deep plinth that may have been reconstructed at some stage.

On the east face, the three large equal-height lancets with double-chamfered reveals beneath hood moulds are tightly framed by buttresses: substantial gableted buttresses set in from the angles, and slender chamfered buttresses terminating in weathered-back offsets between the lancets. The south flank has two lancet windows with broadly chamfered reveals beneath hood moulds; they have evidently been modified to accommodate the mortuary use of the chancel.

Drawings of Dunbar Church, about eight kilometres to the east of Prestonkirk, show that before its rebuilding in 1818 the east gable wall there was a very similar composition, with an echelon grouping of lancets framed by three slender gableted buttresses.(3) Since each of these churches was in 1342 appropriated to the college established by the earl of Dunbar within Dunbar Parish Church,(4) one wonders if the two of them could have been earlier expressions of the patronage of that same family. It should be noted, however, that there are very similar buttressed east gable walls with triplets of lancets over the English border, at the Northumberland churches of Lindisfarne and Ovingham, indicating that Prestonkirk and Dunbar were examples of a more widely-spread approach to the design of parochial east gable walls.

The north wall of the remaining part of the chancel has been rebuilt, presumably in 1818, and is now pierced by two doors, one of which opens directly into the Hepburn burial chamber. A smaller door opens onto a stair leading up to a room above the burial chamber; that room also connects with the east loft in the church, and was presumably a retiring room for the Hepburn family. An inscribed tablet above the door to the burial chamber states ‘SACRUM FAMILIAE de SMEATON HEPBURN Antiquae Nunc Renovatae Anno Salutis MDCCCXVIII’. The east, south and west walls of the burial chamber are lined by cells for coffins, and the chamber is covered by a two-bay groined vault which cuts across the eastern of the two south windows.

The only other visible fragment of the pre-Reformation church is a corbel built into the south wall of the later church, at its west end, where it supports a sundial. It is carved with what appears to have been three ivy leaves, and appears to be of late medieval date.

The condition of the church was causing some concern in the mid-seventeenth century. As early as 1660 it was said that the heritors were neglecting their duties, and, although they agreed to repair the church in 1665, there were continuing complaints about the state of the building in the 1670s and ‘80s.(5) Nevertheless, a rubble-built tower at the west end of the church appears to be of the late seventeenth century. There are three tiers of round-arched openings with raised margins, and it is capped by a slated roof of ogee profile.

The main body of the church was rebuilt in 1770. It was recorded that when the old nave was being demolished its oak beams, which were evidently medieval, showed signs of burning.(6) The relationship of the south wall of the new church to the retained chancel and tower would be consistent with the greater part of it being on the line of the south wall of the medieval nave. However, it is likely that it is longer than the medieval nave, having taken over the area occupied by the western part of the chancel.

The new south wall is built of pink ashlar, and is pierced by four windows and two doors, all with raised margins and keystones; an additional door has been formed below the easternmost of the windows. The wall appears to have been subsequently heightened by three courses, possibly in 1824, when it is said that the church was enlarged,(8) and it may be noted that the corbel supporting the sundial, referred to above, is at what appears to have been the original wall head.

The new church was made much wider towards the north than its medieval predecessor, projecting well beyond the east-west axis established by the chancel and tower, though it is not clear if that is a result of the rebuilding of 1770 or the enlargement of 1824.

A major remodelling and re-ordering was carried out in 1891-2 to the designs of James Jerdan.(7) In the course of this operation the north and west galleries were removed, and an opulent screen was inserted at the west end as the backdrop to the pulpit and communion table; that screen also accommodated the pipes of the organ.

Notes

1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland, London and New York, 2nd ed., 1967, p. 133.

2. Descriptions of the church include: David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1896–7, vol. 2, pp. 271–72; Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Inventory of East Lothian, Edinburgh, 1924, p. 90; Christopher Wilson in Colin McWilliam, The Buildings of Scotland, Lothian, Harmondsworth 1978, p. 197.

3. National Library of Scotland, Hutton Collection, Adv. MS 30.5.23, 28b.

4. David E. Easson, ‘Foundation charter of the collegiate church of Dunbar’, Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vol 6, 1939, pp. 89–97.

5. National records of Scotland, Presbytery of Dunbar, Minutes, 1652-57, CH2/99/1, fols 118-20; 1657-84, CH2/99/2, fols 56-57, 112-116, 182, 217-220, 287-188, 302.

6. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-99, vol. 11, pp. 86-87.

7. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 2, p. 25.  

8. National Records of Scotland H313, RHP 94032-94036.

Map

Images

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  • 1. Prestonkirk Church, chancel, east wall

  • 2. Prestonkirk Church, chancel, from north east

  • 3. Prestonkirk Church, chancel, from south east

  • 4. Prestonkirk Church, exterior, chancel, incised tablet on south face

  • 5. Prestonkirk Church, exterior, from south 1

  • 6. Prestonkirk Church, exterior, from south, 2

  • 7. Prestonkirk Church, exterior, from south west

  • 8. Prestonkirk Church, exterior, from west

  • 9. Prestonkirk Church, exterior, possibly re-used medieval fragment at south-west angle

  • 10. Prestonkirk Church, interior, chamber in upper part of medieval chancel

  • 11. Prestonkirk Church, interior, looking east