Rait Parish Church

Rait Church, from north west

Summary description

The partial shell of a rectangular medieval church with the east gable almost complete.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Michael the Archangel and St Ulcan the Confessor(1)

In origin a dependent chapel of the church of Scone (qv), it passed with its mother-church into the hands of the Augustinian priory at Scone from the time of its foundation c.1115.  In a 1395 papal confirmation of the grant of various churches in proprios usus by Bishop Walter Traill of St Andrews to the by then Scone Abbey, Rait was still described as a chapel of the mother-church at Scone.(2)

Rait appears to have been granted parochial status in the course of the fifteenth century but as a fully appropriated church within Scone’s portfolio.  There are few references to it even at this stage.  On 29 November 1490 David Bruce of Clackmannan, lord of barony of Rait, granted a piece of land adjacent to the cemetery of the church of Rait, his grant being described as made in honour of St Michael the Archangel and St Ulcan the Confessor, for his own soul’s weal and that of Mariota Herries his wife.(3)  It is as a church that it also appears in a 1491 feuferme settlement concerning land located in its parish.(4)

At the Reformation the church was recorded as one of the possessions of Scone Abbey.  Both parsonage and vicarage revenues were annexed to the abbey, together valued at £20.(5)  The cure would appear to have been served by a priest or chaplain appointed at will by the canons, there being no record of any vicarage settlement.

Notes

1. HMC, 9th Report, part 2, appendix, p.187 no 21.  This document was unknown to Mackinlay, who postulated a dedication to St Peter based on the presence of a Peter Well in the parish:  J M Mackinlay, Ancient Church Dedications in Scotland: Scriptural Dedications (Edinburgh, 1910), 220.

2. Calendar of Papal Letters to Scotland of Pope Benedict XIII of Avignon 1394-1419, ed F McGurk (Scottish History Society, 1976), 48.

3. HMC, 9th Report, part 2, appendix, p.187 no 21.

4. Liber Ecclesie de Scon (Bannatyne Club, 1843), no.226.

5. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 334.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: In origin a chapel of Scone, the church passed to the priory c.1120. It appears to have attained parochial status in the fifteenth century, with its teinds, both parsonage and vicarage remaining with the abbey, who employed a priest to serve the cure.(1)

According to Mackinley the church was probably dedicated to St Peter (to whom there was also a well in the parish).(2)

1395 Described as a chapel of Scone.(3)

See Scone (included in grants regarding that church as a pendicle chapel)

1395 Still described as a chapel when included in confirmation by Walter Trail, bishop of St Andrews, of possessions of Scone in diocese of St Andrews.(4)

1491 In charter regarding feu of land in barony of Rait, describes said land as lying near the church of Rait [not chapel].(5)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church is listed as a church of Scone, value £20.(6)

1613 (1 Sept) Visitation concludes that the kirk of Rait be repaired. The manner after which the kirk shall be served will be set down once the same shall be rebuilt. [church is not in use at this time, parishioners go to Kilspindie].(7)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Anthony Dow, 1792): ‘There were originally two parishes, Rait and Kilspindie, and the walls of the church of Rait are still standing’.(8)

New Statistical Account of Scotland: [Nothing about the walls]

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches (George Hay): 1806, recast 1929, three mort safes extant.(9)

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 167-8.

2. Mackinley, Scriptural Dedications, p. 220.

3. CPL, Ben, 48.

4. Scone Liber, no. 193.

5. Scone Liber, no. 226.

6. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 334.

7. Selections  from the minutes of the Synod of Fife, p. 64.

8. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1792), iv, 202.

9. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, p. 269.

Bibliography

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

Cowan, I.B., 1967, The parishes of medieval Scotland, (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh.

Ecclesiastical Records. Selections  from the minutes of the Synod of Fife, 1611-87, 1837, ed. C. Baxter (Abbotsford Club), 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 ecclesie de Scon, 1843, (Bannatyne Club) Edinburgh.

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

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

Architectural description

Rait originated as a chapel in the parish of Scone, and appears to have passed to the Augustinian abbey of Scone on its foundation in about 1120. It had evidently achieved parochial status by the fifteenth century, albeit with both parsonage and vicarage appropriated to the abbey, which employed a priest to serve the cure.(1)

At an uncertain date after the Reformation the parish was united with that of Kilspindie; this must have taken place before 1629, when the minister of the united parishes complained that the church at Kilspindie, which was the one retained for worship, was too small.(2) Nevertheless, Rait Church appears to have been retained in a state of repair for some time, and in the late eighteenth century it was said that the walls were still standing.(3)

In 2009 Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust removed dense growths of ivy, and trees that were growing through the walls, to re-expose what survives of the church. It is an oriented rectangle of 22 by 8 metres, with rubble-built walls and ahslar dressing, and the proportions suggest that its plan is that of the medieval church. Geophysical investigation in 2007 showed there had been a structure of 10 by 7 metres at the north-east corner.(4)

The east gable survives almost complete, along with considerable stretches of the south and north walls and the collapsed west wall. All of the surviving openings are in the east and south walls. In the east wall there are two rectangular windows that are not vertically aligned, and in the south wall two doors and a central window survive, all of which are rectangular.

All of these openings appear to be of the seventeenth century on the basis of their raised margins, suggesting that, despite its apparently medieval plan, the walls of the church above that plan have been extensively rebuilt after the Reformation. There is some evidence of recycling of earlier masonry, most clearly seen in the re-use of what appears to be a chamfered lintel stone beneath the northern skewputt of the east gable.

Notes

1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, pp. 167-68.

2. National Records of Scotland, Records of the Synod of Fife, 1610-36, CH2/154/1, fol. 327r.   

3. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-99, vol. 4, p. 202.

4. P. Morris, Blairgowrie Geoscience, Discovery and Excavation, Scotland, new ser., vol. 8 (Archaeology Scotland), 2008, p. 151.

Map

Images

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  • 1. Rait Church, from north west

  • 2. Rait Church, from south west

  • 3. Rait Church, east gable from south west

  • 4. Rait Church, east gable from south east

  • 5. Rait Church, er-used masonry below north-east skewputt

  • 6. Rait Church, from west

  • 7. Rait Church, south flank