Finavon / Finaven / Oathlaw Parish Church

Finavon, possible site of church

Summary description

No visible remains. Replaced by a church at Oathlaw after the Reformation, which was rebuilt in 1815 and has now been adapted as a house.

Historical outline

No record survives of the church of Finavon before the later thirteenth century, when it is recorded as a free parsonage in 1274 in the rolls of the papal tax-collector in Scotland.(1)  The parish remained independent throughout the fourteenth and much of the fifteenth centuries, reference to it occurring infrequently in papal and diocesan records, mainly in respect of litigation over teinds in dispute with neighbouring parishes.(2)

In 1474, with the agreement of David Lindsay, earl of Crawford, the lay patron of the parish, Bishop John Balfour erected the church into a canonry and prebend of Brechin, reserving patronage of the same in future for the earl and his descendants, with whom it remained at the Reformation.(3)  Following the erection, the cure was served by a vicar pensioner, for whom the prebendary was patron, with reservation of a stipend of 12 merks annually, with manse, toft and croft.  This arrangement remained in force at the Reformation.

Considering its association with the Lindsays and the location of their principal residence within the parish, there is little evidence to suggest that they directed any significant flow of endowments in its direction.  There is one post-Reformation reference, in 1587, to a chaplainry of St Leonard in the parish of Finavon, but it is unclear if this was within the parish church or at another location within the parish more generally.(4)


1. SHS Misc, vi, 52.

2. See, for example CPL, Benedict XIII, 144; CPL, vii, 240; Registrum Episcopatus Brechinensis, ii, no. 57.

3. Registrum Episcopatus Brechinensis, i, no.94; Kirk (ed), Book of Assumptions, 381.

4. Registrum Episcopatus Brechinensis, ii, no. 368.

Summary of relevant documentation


Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Parsonage and vicarage were erected into a prebend of Brechin Cathedral in 1474. The patronage remained with the earls of Crawford, while a vicar pensioner served the cure.(1)

Mackinley suggests that the church was probably dedicated to the Nine Maidens.(2)

1379 (20 Dec) Charter by Richard of Mowat, Lord of Ferne, witnessed by John de Monte Alto, rector of the church of ‘Fothnevyn’.(3)

1381 Petition on behalf of Alexander (called Dog) who is vicar of Finavon.(4)

1399 Gilbert Brown, rector of Finavon, made precentor of Brechin.(5)

1405 Mandate to restore William Young, rector, (chaplain of Duke of Albany and earl of Crawford) to the teinds and fruits of the parish church, unlawfully detained by John, Abbot of Arbroath and others.(6)

1422 William still rector, in conflict with Malcolm de Aula (rector of Tannadice) over the tithes of lands of Duwe.(7)

1434 John Wylde swaps Dundee for Finavon with John Fleming (son of a priest).(8)

1432 John Knight, rector of Finavon is witness to an episcopal charter.(9)

1464 Debate between rector John Lok and unnamed vicar of Rescobie over teinds from lands of Parkfurde.(10)

1474 Erection of church into a prebend of Brechin, with the assent of patron David Lindsay, earl of Crawford and rector John Lok (MA Theology). Vicar pensionary to receive 12 marks pa with a manse, toft and croft.(11)

Altars and chaplaincies

St Leonard

1587 Reference to a former chaplainry of St Leonard in the church.(12)


Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage held by Hugh Lindsay; patronage with the earl of Crawford, value £40.(13)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of parsonage £13 6s 8d.(14)

1641 (29 July) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Brechin.(15) [no details]

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Thomas Raiker): [No reference to church fabric]

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Andrew Cromar, 1835):

 ‘The old church foundations, called the church of Aikenhauld, are to be seen a little below the castle (of Finhaven). In all likelihood at one time this was the parish church. Being almost at one end of the parish it is probable that when it fell into decay, the other church at Oathlaw, being more centrally situated, became parish church’.(16)

‘The parish church (at Oathlaw) was built in 1815’.(17)


1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 66.

2. Mackinley, Non-Scriptural Dedications, p. 17.

3. Fraser, History of the Carnegies Earls of Southesk, ii, 492-493.

4. CPP, 563.

5. CPL, Ben, 90.

6. CPP, 622.

7. CPL, vii, 240.

8. CSSR, iv, no.155.

9. Registrum Brechinensis, ii, no. 29.

10. Registrum Brechinensis, ii, no. 57.

11. Registrum Brechinensis, i, no. 94.

12. Registrum Brechinensis, ii, no. 368.

13. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 380-81.

14. Donaldson, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, 9.

15. NRS Presbytery of Brechin, Minutes, 1639-1661 ,CH2/40/1, fol. 26.

16. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1835), 302.

17. Ibid, 307.


NRS Presbytery of Brechin, Minutes, 1639-1661, CH2/40/1.

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 1433-47, 1983, ed. A.I. Dunlop and D MacLauchlan, Glasgow.

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.

Fraser, W., 1867, History of the Carnegies Earls of Southesk and of their Kindred, 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.

Registrum Episcopatus Brechinensis, 1856, ed. C. Innes (Bannatyne Club), Edinburgh, i.

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

Architectural description

Both the parsonage and vicarage of Finavon were erected into a prebend of Brechin Cathedral by Bishop John Balfour in 1474, with the patronage being exercised by the earls of Crawford. The cure was a pensionary vicarage.(1)

The church at Finavon passed out of use after the Reformation, with a more conveniently located church at Oathlaw being used for worship. According to the New Statistical Account:

It would appear that there had at one time been two churches within the parish. The foundations of an old church, called the church of Aikenhauld, are still visible on a beautiful point of land, a little below the Castle of Finhaven, at the junction of the Esk and Lemno. From its situation in the immediate neighbourhood of the castle, this would appear to have been the original parish church; and the present church of Oathlaw, which is two miles distant from it, may have been at first, perhaps, a chapelry belonging to it.(2)

Nothing now remains of the church or the burial ground in which Finavon Church was located, though it is believed to have been in woodland at NO 5024 5660. In 1849, while digging trenches across the area of the churchyard, the farmer located remains of a tiled floor, consisting of tiles of about 15cm square in colours of red, blue and yellow. He also found two incised grave slabs, one with a cross and sword, the other depicting a priest in mass vestments.(3) The latter, which was moved to Oathlaw Church,(4) is thought to have commemorated a member of the Bruce family. It appears that what had survived of the masonry of the church had been used to build an embankment on the River South Esk.(5)

The church at Oathlaw was rebuilt in 1815,(6) and partly remodelled by John Carver in 1881.(7) It has now passed out of use for worship, and has been adapted for domestic accommodation. 


1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 66.

2. New Statistical Account of Scotland, vol. 11, 1834-45, p. 291.

3. Andrew Jervise, The History and Traditions of the Land of the Lindsays, Edinburgh, 2nd ed., 1882, pp. 162-64.

4. F.C. Eeles, ‘Two Incised Slabs: at Foveran, Aberdeenshire, and Oathlaw, Forfarshire, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. 43, pp. 1908-9, pp. 311-16.

5. S. Halliday, Headland Archaeology, ‘Aikenhatt and Nine Wells, Finavon’, Discover and Excavation in Scotland, 2000, p. 13.

6. New Statistical Account of Scotland, p. 307.

7. John Gifford, The Buildings of Scotland, Dundee and Angus, New Haven and London, 2012, p. 652.



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  • 1. Finavon, possible site of church

  • 2. Finavon Church, incised slab (in Oathlaw Church)