Torryburn / Torry Parish Church

Torryburn Church, exterior, from south east

Summary description

Rebuilt in 1800, incorporating an aisle of around 1696. Remodelled in 1928 when a sanctuary and vestries were added.

Historical outline

Dedication: unknown

There appear to be no surviving references to the church of Torry before the later thirteenth century.  Its first recorded notice occurs in the accounts of the papal tax-collector in Scotland for 1274-5, where it was listed as an independent parsonage.(1)  The lands of Torry appear to have pertained to the Valance family and came by marriage into the hands of the Wardlaws.  In 1435 Christian Valance, lady of Torry, settled her heritable lands, including patronage of churches, on Henry Valance, the son of her first marriage.(2)  It remained unappropriated in the patronage of the Wardlaws at the Reformation.

Suggestions that there was a separate church and parish of Torryburn in the pre-Reformation period do not appear to have any basis in fact.(3)  The teinds of Torryburn, however, were held by the monks of nearby Culross Abbey at the Reformation while the rest of Torry remained independent, and the distinction between Torry and Torryburn was perhaps based on a personal association.  At the Reformation, the parsonage and vicarage was set for 50 merks, it being noted that the fruits were split with 12 merks annually as a pension paid to Mr David Gairlie, 18 merks to the minister, and 20 merks falling to the parson, Mr Edward Bruce.(4)


1. A I Dunlop (ed), ‘Bagimond’s Roll: Statement of the Tenths of the Kingdom of Scotland’, Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vi (1939), 37.

2. NRS GD15/390 Papers of the Erskine family of Cardross, Perthshire.

3. I B Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society, 1967), 199; S Taylor and G Markus, The Place-Names of Fife, i, West Fife between Leven and Forth (Donington, 2006), 540.

4. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 73.

Summary of relevant documentation


Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Torry - an independent parsonage in Bagimond’s Roll, the church remained unappropriated at the Reformation, the patronage being with the Wardlaws of Torry from at least 1435.

Torryburn - it appears from certain records that this church had a separate existence from that of Torry, with the revenues pertaining to Culross at the Reformation.(1)

Place Names of Fife vol. 1 suggests that the earliest reference to Torryburn is in Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices, regarding the survival of an early burial aisle. No reference to the dedication.(2)

According to Mackinley the church was dedicated to St Fotinus/Photinus.(3)

1467 John Lyon (rector of Collace) obtains church on exchange with incumbent Henry Barrie who had succeeded William Clark (value £9). (John called William in second charter).(4)

1484 William Walban (MA) described as rector; still has church in 1492.(5)


Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage and vicarage of Torrie set for £33 6s 8d.(6)

1649 (27 May) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Dunfermline; the minister requests that the church be enlarged as it cannot hold the congregation.(7)

1681 (6 Mar) It was considered by the minister and session that the east of the church is decaying through want of slates and pointing thereof. They thought fit that a letter be sent to Lady Cleish to cause the reparation of the church. The chamberlain of the Lady paid £6 12s to contribute to the repair.(8)

1729 (28 May) Report to the presbytery of Dunfermline that the kirk of Torryburn ‘was in bad condition’ and would go to ruin if it was not repaired soon. Visitation ordered. On 12 June the tradesmen report repairs, including those to the bell house and stair at the east end of the church, £249 in total.(9)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev David Balfour): [No reference to parish church buildings]

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Thomas Doig, 1841): ‘The parish church, rebuilt in 1800, is in good condition with the exception of one of the gables, which is rent from top to bottom’.(10)

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches (George Hay): 1800 with earlier burial aisle; alterations and additions c.1930, detached house session. Gothic revival belfry early 19th century.(11)


1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 198-99

2. Taylor & Markus, The Place-Names of Fife. Volume One, p. 540

3. Mackinley, Non-Scriptural Dedications, p. 323.

4. CSSR, v, nos. 1224, 1249, CPL, xii, 373.

5. CPL, xv, 700, CPL, xvi, no. 204.

6. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 73.

7. NRS Presbytery of Dunfermline, 1647-72, CH2/105/1/1, fols. 306-307.

8. NRS Torryburn Kirk Session, 1671-89, CH2/355/1, fol. 136.

9. NRS Presbytery of Dunfermline, Minutes, 1729-1745, CH2/105/6, fols. 6 & 12-13.

10. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1841 rev 1843), ix, 736.

11. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, pp. 170, 233 & 258.


NRS Presbytery of Dunfermline, 1647-72, CH2/105/1/1.

NRS Presbytery of Dunfermline, Minutes, 1729-1745, CH2/105/6.

NRS Torryburn Kirk Session, 1671-89, CH2/355/1.

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

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.

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

Taylor, S & Markus G., 2006, The Place-Names of Fife. Volume One. West Fife between Leven and Forth, Donington.

Architectural description

There is some confusion over the names Torryburn and Torry.(1) The most recent study of the place-name evidence suggests that Torryburn is essentially an amalgamation of the medieval parishes of Torry and Abercrombie, the latter coming to be known as Crombie, with no known reference to Torryburn before 1561.(2)

The earliest part of the existing church appears to be the walls of a much-remodelled mortuary aisle against its north flank, which it has been suggested could date to works known to have been under consideration in 1696.(3) The main body of the church was built in 1800,(4) though some decades later one of the gables was said to be split from top to bottom.

It is an oriented rectangle constructed of grey rubble with ashlar dressings, with a west porch, and a hexagonal birdcage bellcote corbelled out over its west gable. It has three windows along the south flank and a pair flanking the aisle on the north flank.

There was a major remodelling in 1928, when a sanctuary bay flanked by vestries was built at the east end, the west porch was heightened, and two-light plate tracery was placed in the windows.


1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 199.

2. Simon Taylor, The Place-Names of Fife, Donington, vol. 1, 2006, p. 540.

3. John Gifford, The Buildings of Scotland, Fife, Edinburgh, 1988, pp. 418-19.

4. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 9, p. 736.



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

  • 1. Torryburn Church, exterior, from south east

  • 2. Torryburn Church, exterior, from north east

  • 3. Torryburn Church, exterior, from north west

  • 4. Torryburn Church, graveyard memorial, 1

  • 5. Torryburn Church, graveyard memorial, 2

  • 6. Torryburn Church, graveyard memorial, 3

  • 7. Torryburn Church, interior, 1

  • 8. Torryburn Church, interior, 2

  • 9. Torryburn Church, interior, 3