Strathmartine (Strathdighty Martin) Parish Church

Strathmartine churchyard, site of church

Summary description

Abandoned after 1799, after a new church was built elsewhere. The site of the church may be occupied by two burial enclosures; the replacement church has been adapted as a house.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Martin(1)

The discovery in the graveyard at the site of old Strathmartine church in the nineteenth century of a recumbent gravestone of Class III type, probably dating to the tenth century, points strongly to the presence here of a religious site of some considerably antiquity and importance.(2)  No early record of the church, however, survives before the thirteenth century, by which time it had been granted to the Hospital of Soutra by an unknown patron.  What was probably originally a grant of the patronage was converted at some point between 1211 and 1226 by Bishop William Malveisin into possession in proprios usus, with the teinds to be devoted to the sustentation of the brethren of the hospital and the paupers in their care.(3)

The next record of the church occurs on 18 May 1249, when Bishop David de Bernham dedicated the church of Strathmartine.(4)  There is no reference to the church, either as a parsonage or a vicarage, in the accounts of the papal tax-collector in Scotland in the mid-1270s, which indicates that Bishop Malveisin’s annexation of the revenues to Soutra had been effective.  Ian Cowan suggested that the vicarage was served down to the mid-fifteenth century by a canon of Soutra and named vicars or men to whom the vicarage revenues were assigned ae recorded in the 1450s.(5)

After a number of previous failed attempts, in 1460 Soutra was annexed to the new collegiate church of the Holy Trinity in Edinburgh and all of its resources, including the church of Strathmartine, were annexed along with it.(6)  The parsonage fruits of the the church were used to support the two of the principal dignitaries of the new college, the Master and the Sacristan, whilst a third prebendary was designated ‘of Strathmartine’.(7)  Following the 1460 annexation, the vicarage appears to have been served by secular priests, the first named incumbent being recorded in 1489.(8)  The annexation of the parsonage remained operative at the Reformation, when the vicarage was valued at 30 merks.(9)


1. J M Mackinlay, Ancient Chuch Dedications in Scotland: Non-scriptural Dedications (Edinburgh, 1914), 314.  Mackinlay makes this not unreasonable proposal on the basis of the place-name, but Charters of the Hospital of Soltre, of Trinity College, Edinburgh, and Other Collegiate Churches in Midlothian (Bannatyne Club, 1861), Soutra, no.20 [hereafter Midlothian Charters] identifies the dedication of the church as to St Martin.  It may be later false etymology in action, but at South Balluderon in the parish there is a Class II Pictish stone known as the ‘Martin Stone’: J R Allen, The Early Chrisian Monuments of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1903), part III, 215-216.

2. Allen, Early Chrisian Monuments, part III, 230-231.  The gravestone is now in Dundee Museum.

3. Midlothian Charters, Soutra, no.20.

4. A O Anderson (ed), Early Sources of Scottish History, ii (Edinburgh, 1922), 526 [Pontifical Offices of St Andrews].

5. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, v, 1447-1471,eds J Kirk, R J Tanner and A I Dunlop (Glasgow, 1997),  no.311; Calendar of Writs Preserved at Yester House, 1166-1625, eds C Harvey and J McLeod (Scottish Record Society, 1930), no.118; I B Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society, 1967), 191.

6. I B Cowan and D E Easson, Medieval Religious Houses: Scotland, 2nd edition (London, 1976), 192-3 [Soutra], 221 [Holy Trinity].

7. Midlothian Charters, 66.

8. StAUL, Burgh Charters and Miscellaneous Writs, B65/23/117c.

9. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 79.

Summary of relevant documentation


Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: The church was confirmed to the uses of Soutra by bishop William of St Andrews in 1211x26. The church and teinds remained with hospital. In 1460 it was annexed to Trinity College, Edinburgh. The vicarage was originally served by canons from Soutra but thereafter by seculars.(1)

Mackinlay suggests that the church was dedicated to St Martin, as the name of the parish indicates.(2)

1457 Edmund Hay of Talow patron, collates John Young, vicar of Strathmartine, to kirk of Morham, vacant by resignation of John Maxwell.(3)

1487 David Peresone described as prebendary of Strathmartine. [same man as chaplain of altar in Kinghorn in 1485?](4)

1489 (10 Apr) John Mathieson, vicar of Strathmartin, witnesses a notarial instrument in St Andrews.(5)


Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church vicarage value 30 marks, used for the ‘teiching of the schole of Abirbrothok, callit the prepositive’.(6)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of vicarage £6 13s 4d. Third of parsonage £26 13s 4d.(7)

1613 (5 Sept) Visitation of that year records that the minister from Mains also serves Strathmartine and sets a plan for the planting of a new church there. It has a stipend of £80 and belongs to the burgh of Edinburgh.(8)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Alexander Strachan, 1792): ‘Church built in 1779’.(9)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev David Cannan, 1833): ‘Union of parishes in 1799 (Strathmartine and Mains). The church is situated in the centre of the [new] parish. It was built in 1800’.(10)

[No reference in either account to earlier church buildings]


1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 191.

2. Mackinlay, Non-Scriptural Dedications, p. 314.

3. Yester Writs, no. 118.

4. Prot Bk of James Young, 1485-1515, no. 74.

5. StAUL, Burgh Charters and Miscellaneous Writs, B65/23/117c.

6. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 79.

7. Donaldson, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, 10 & 11.

8. Selections from the minutes of the Synod of Fife, p. 68.

9. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1792), xiii, 98.

10. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1833), 63.


StAUL, Burgh Charters and Miscellaneous Writs, B65/23/117c.

Calendar of writs preserved at Yester House, 1166-1625, 1930, eds. C. Harvey & J. McLeod (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh.

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.

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

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

Protocol Book of James Young, 1485-1515, 1952, ed. G. Donaldson (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh.

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

Architectural description

The large number of early stones that have been found in the vicinity of Strathmartine suggest that it was a place of Early Christian worship.(1) One of these stones, a fragment of a cross slab, is now in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh; but unfortunately most of the other stones, which were at Baldovan House, are thought to be lost.

The church was annexed to Soutra Hospital by Bishop William at a date between 1211 and 1226, and along with that hospital was appropriated to Trinity College and its hospital in 1460, where the parsonage revenues were divided between four prebendaries. Initially the cure had been served by one of Soutra’s canons, but it was later served by secular priests.(2) Bishop David de Bernham carried out one of his dedications here on 18 May 1249.(3)

Soon after the Reformation a close relationship was established with the parish of Mains, and on 5 September 1613 it was recorded that the minister of Mains also served the church at Strathmartine.(4) The two parishes were formally united in 1799, and a new church was built at the centre of the united parishes in the following year.(5)

The site of the medieval church is assumed to have been the level area at the highest point of the graveyard at NO 37832 35273. The site of the chancel may be marked by the burial enclosure of the Laird of Strathmartine family, and if that is the case the enclosure of the Ogilvy of Inverquharity family may be within what was the area of the nave.

The new church, at NO 38443 34276, was augmented in 1895 by Alexander Johnston,(6) but has now been abandoned for worship and adapted for housing.


1. J. Romilly Allen and Joseph Anderson, The Early Christian Monuments of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1903, pt. 3, pp. 208-9, 230-34, 266-67.

2. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 191.

3. Alan Orr Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History, Edinburgh, 1922, vol. 2, p. 526.

4. Ecclesiastical Records. Selections from the Minutes of the Synod of Fife, ed. George R. Kinloch (Abbotsford Club), 1837, p. 68.

5. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 11, pp. 56 and 63.

6. John Gifford, The Buildings of Scotland, Dundee and Angus, New Haven and London, 2012, p. 268.



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

  • 1. Strathmartine churchyard, site of church

  • 2. Strathmartine churchyard, gravestone, 1

  • 3. Strathmartine churchyard, gravestone, 2

  • 4. Strathmartine churchyard, Laird of Strathmartine enclosure, 1

  • 5. Strathmartine churchyard, Laird of Strathmartine enclosure, 2

  • 6. Strathmartine churchyard, Ogilvy of Inverquarity enclosure, 1

  • 7. Strathmartine churchyard, Ogilvy of Inverquarity enclosure, 2

  • 8. Strathmartine cross fragment (lost)(Allen and Anderson)

  • 9. Strathmartine cross slab no 3 (National Museum of Scotland)(Allen and Anderson)

  • 10. Strathmartine cross slab no 4 (Allen and Anderson)

  • 11. Strathmartine cross slab no 5 (Allen and Anderson)

  • 12. Strathmartine recumbent stone (Dundee Museum)(Allen and Anderson)