Caterline Parish Church

Caterline Churchyard, 1

Summary description

The probably site is the highest point of the churchyard. Built into the boundary wall is an aumbry head that may have been part of a Sacrament House.

Historical outline

A parish of Caterline is on record in the last quarter of the twelfth century when between 1178 and 1187 King William granted and Turpin, bishop of Brechin (1178-98), confirmed possession of the church to the monks of Arbroath Abbey.(1)  Bishop Ralph confirmed the grant of the church to the abbey in proprios usus, giving them the right to serve the cure there with a chaplain.(2

The monks’ possession of Caterline was undisputed until the time of Bishop Albin (1246-69), who claimed that it and five other churches held by Arbroath in his diocese pertained by right to his episcopal mensa.  The dispute was resolved in vicarage settlement in September 1248, which established that here and at three other churches in Albin’s diocese held by Arbroath, vicarages perpetual were to be instituted but the poverty of the church of Caterline meant that limitations were placed on the vicars’ future obligations to the bishops of Brechin and the monks of Arbroath were bound in future to make up any deficiency in the vicars’ financial position.(3)  This poverty appears borne out in Bagimond’s Roll in the mid-1270s, when the vicarage was assessed for taxation at one merk.(4)

Despite the 1248 settlement, subsequent bishops of Brechin continued to claim rights in the church of Caterline.  In 1304, William Lamberton, bishop of St Andrews, arbitrated in a dispute between Bishop John and the monks of Arbroath, which resulted in a new settlement whereby Caterline and Maryton was assigned to the bishops of Brechin whilst the six other churches in the dispute were to be retained by the abbey.(5

From this time until the Reformation, the parsonage of Caterline was annexed to the mensa of the bishops of Brechin while the cure was served by a vicarage perpetual.(6)  Between 1459 and 1461, the abbey sought to reverse Lamberton’s judgement and began an appeal at the curia.(7)  The appeal failed and the pope confirmed the bishops of Brechin in possession.(8)  At the Reformation, the vicarage was valued at £6.(9)


1.RRS, ii, nos. 232 and 513; Arbroath Liber, i, no 177.

2. Arbroath Liber, i, no 183.

3. Arbroath Liber, i, nos 239, 243.

4. SHS Misc, vi, 52.

5. Arbroath Liber, i, no 244.

6. Cowan, Parishes, 30.

7.CSSR, v, nos. 750, 864 and 868, CPL, xii, 52.

8. Arbroath Liber, ii, no. 135

9. Kirk (ed), Book of Assumptions, 397.

Summary of relevant documentation


Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Confirmed to Arbroath by bishop Turpin (1178x98); controversy over the church and 5 others is resolved in 1248 when the bishop of Brechin renounced all rights and vicarage settlement is  made. Dispute continues 1304 when it is decided that Caterline belongs to Brechin. It becomes a mensal church thereafter with cure served by a vicar pensionary.(1)

1178x87 Church granted (along with Banchory) to Arbroath by William I with all lands, teinds, meadows, pasche fines etc. 1213 church is included in confirmation by William I of the possessions of Arbroath.(2)

1178x98 Confirmation of the possession of the church by Arbroath by Turpin, bishop of Brechin, the first specifically related to the church, the second including all the churches held by Arbroath in the diocese of Brechin in usus proprios.(3)

1200 Church included in papal bull by Innocent III confirming possessions of Arbroath.(4)

1211x18 Possession of church by Arbroath confirmed Radulf, bishop of Brechin in two charters, the first specifically related to the church, the second including all the churches held by Arbroath in the diocese of Brechin.(5)

1218 & 1218x22 Church included in confirmations by bishops Hugh and Gregory of Brechin of all churches held by Arbroath in their diocese.(6)

1248 Bishop Albin renounces all right to church along with 5 others in possession of Arbroath within the diocese of Brechin. Vicarage settlement sees vicar pensionary paid 10 marks.(7)

1304 Decision made by William Lamberton, bishop of St Andrews  with regard to 6 churches. Caterline and Maryton/Old Montrose to become mensal churches of Brechin. Arbroath retains Dunnichen, Kingoldrum, Monikie and Panbride.(8)

1401 Provision of John Lyle to perpetual vicarage of Caterline (value 8 marks) on resignation of David Fauconer (Treasurer of Glasgow).(9)

1406 Henry Stely mentioned as rector of Caterline.(10)

1459-61 Attempts by Arbroath to reverse decision of 1304 and re-annex Caterline to the abbey.(11)

1461 Papal bull by Pius II confirming the decision by Lamberton, Caterline and Maryton remain with Brechin, Dunnichen, Kingoldrum, Monikie and Panbride with Arbroath.(12)

1467 John, bishop of Brechin supplicates for a confirmation of 1304, Caterline annexed to Brechin, ‘as the fruits of Brechin are so scant that the bishop is not able to sustain himself according to the needs of his episcopal dignity’, John also subtlety mentions that in comparison the abbots of Arbroath enjoy fruits of £3000 pa.(13)


Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church vicar pensioner is William Owsteane, value £6.(14)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson):

Third of vicarage £2.(15)

1700 (9 Aug) Note in the presbytery records that the stipend of the vacant church of Caterline should be bestowed on repairing the ruinous church. The presbytery orders a report on the ‘ruinousness’ of the church to be drawn up.(16)

 1702 (18 Aug) Presbytery of Fordoun completes a perambulation of the parishes of Benvie, Kinneff and Catterline. The presbytery note that they could not conveniently continue their meeting in the church of Caterline, it being without a roof, they therefore adjoined to the house of the laird of Caterline. This perambulation was part of the process as to whether Catterline should be annexed to Kinneff. Decision taken to join the two parishes and keep services at both churches. Part of Kinneff parish was to be disjoined and added to Benvie. The two main heritors, the laird of Caterline and Bridgeford, note that the stipend is 280 marks. Asked whether the church should be annexed to another parish (Kinneff) they answer yes. But the church should be maintained because it has a church for upward of 4 score years being a separate, independent parish. Also that Kinneff is too far away for some in the parish and the church is old and can be repaired.(17)

[Ultimately decision delayed until 1709 when the churches were joined]

[United with Kinneff in 1709, two churches used until 1738 when the new one was built at Kinneff]

[The statistical accounts for Kinneff mention the union of the parishes but make no references to the remains of the church at Caterline]


1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 29-30.

2. RRS, ii, nos. 232 & 513, Liber Aberbrothoc, i, no. 1.

3. Liber Aberbrothoc, i, nos. 177 & 178.

4. Liber Aberbrothoc, i, no. 221.

5. Liber Aberbrothoc, i, nos. 183 & 185.

6. Liber Aberbrothoc, i, nos. 186 & 187

7. Liber Aberbrothoc, i, no. 239.

8. Liber Aberbrothoc, i, no. 344.

9. CPL, Ben, 392.

10. CPP, 632.

11. CSSR, v, nos. 750, 864 & 868, CPL, xii, 52.

12. Liber Aberbrothoc, ii, no. 135.

13. CSSR, v, no.1228.

14. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 397.

15. Donaldson, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, 11.

16. NRS Presbytery of Brechin, Minutes, 1698-1700, CH2/40/2, fol. 97.

17. NRS Presbytery of Fordoun, Minutes, 1700-1710, CH2/157/3, fols. 48-55.


National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Brechin, Minutes, 1698-1700, CH2/40/2.

National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Fordoun, Minutes, 1700-1710, CH2/157/3.

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

Calendar of entries in the Papal registers relating to Great Britain and Ireland; Papal Petitions, 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 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.

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 S Thome de Aberbrothoc, 1848-56, ed. C. Innes and P. Chalmers, (Bannatyne Club) Edinburgh.

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

Architectural description

A church at Caterline was confirmed to Arbroath Abbey by Bishop Turpin of Brechin (1178-98), possibly soon after the foundation of that abbey. However, subsequent bishops claimed it as a mensal church, and, after an extended period of disagreement, in 1304 Bishop Lamberton of St Andrews ruled that it was in fact a mensal church, a situation that continued up to the Reformation, with the cure a perpetual vicarage.(1) At some stage the parish was united with that of Kinneff and the church was abandoned; according to one account this took place before the Reformation,(2) though it may not have been until as late as 1719.(3)

The church almost certainly stood to the north-west of a village in a graveyard that has clearly been in use since at least the eighteenth century on the evidence of the memorials within it. The most likely location for the church is a level area at the highest point of the sloping ground within the walled enclosure. There are no visible remains of the church walls, but built into the boundary wall, close to the entrance, are a late medieval aumbry and a cross-incised slab. The former is carved from a single block of stone, with its locker headed by an ogee arch framed by a roll moulding; the locker is rebated for a door and there are fixings for hinges and a latch. It may be suspected that it served as a Sacrament House.


1. Ian B. Cowan, the Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, pp. 29-30.

2. Francis H. Groome, Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, vol. 1, 1882.

3. Royal Commission of the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, CANMORE on-line resource.



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

  • 1. Caterline Churchyard, 1

  • 2. Caterline Churchyard, 2

  • 3. Caterline Churchyard, 3

  • 4. Caterline Churchyard, aumbry re-set in boundary wall

  • 5. Caterline Churchyard, monument, 1

  • 6. Caterline Churchyard, monument, 2