Lethnot Parish Church

Lethnot Church, exterior, from north east

Summary description

Rebuilt in 1827, possibly incorporating medieval fabric. Since 1953 no longer in ecclesiastical use and now roofless.

Historical outline

No record survives of the independent existence of a church and parish of Lethnot before the fourteenth century, but from 1331 until the mid-1380s a succession of rectors of the church is named in papal records and the church is described as being in lay patronage.(1)  In February 1385, acting on the request of Sir David Lindsay, lord of Glenesk, who held the patronage of the church, Bishop Stephen of Brechin erected both parsonage and vicarage into a prebend in the cathedral of Brechin.(2

A reservation of 22 merks on the fruits of the parish was made for the support of a vicar pensioner, who was instructed to be resident at Lethnot.  Part of his duties was also designated as serving the parishioners who attended the dependent chapel of Lochlee at the head of Glen Esk.  The patronage remained in the hands of Sir David’s successors as lords of Glenesk.(3)

Notes

1. CPL, ii, 399; CPL, iii, 419, 519, 543; CPP, 518; CPL, Clem, 1.

2. Registrum Episcopatus Brechinensis, i, no 17.

3. RMS, v, no.884.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Parsonage and vicarage erected into a prebend of Brechin cathedral in 1384/5, with a vicar pensionary instituted. Both patronage and presentation were to remain with David Lindsay of Glenesk.(1)

According to Mackinley the church was dedicated to Our Lady (a well of the same can be found in the parish).(2)

1331 George of Stirling described as rector.(3)

1351 Williams de Forres, (student of canon law for 3 years at Paris) collated to church at request of King John of France before being moved to Caithness in 1355.(4)

1366 Ingram de Ardelas (scholar of canon law) supplicated for the church of Lethnot, described as in lay patronage, value 30 marks.(5)

1378 John de Lycton (at university of Parish studying the law) collated to another prebend of Brechin alongside Lethnot.(6)

1384 Church formed into a prebend of cathedral by Stephen, bishop of Brechin (1383-1404x05) with the consent of patron David Lindsay of Glenesk. Parsonage and vicarage fruits with the cathedral and a vicar pensioner paid 22 marks pa (annexation of church also includes its chapel of Lochlee which the pensioner is also to serve).(7)

1430 David de Ogilvy (MA student of canon and civil law and son of the treasurer of the king of Scotland) Alexander Lindsay, earl of Crawford), holds prebend.(8)

1435 Examination of claim by the bishop and chapter that 28 marks pa are owed to them from Lethnot. Pension first paid by David Ogilvy, when he was rector. Later rector John Lychtoun gave a large horse to the bishop in payment. Henry Lychtoun later contributed towards a stone causeway built to Finavon. William Wright, now lord of Glenesk and patron of the church presents Andrew Ogilvy to the prebend. Dispute settled by Alexander Ogilvy (sheriff of Forfar and father of Andrew).(9)

1442 One of the prebends required to pay 5 marks from first fruits towards sustenance of Brechin cathedral.(10)

1444 Lethnot held by William de Rhynde (son of a priest).(11)

1476 (4 Apr) Charter by Elizabeth Reid, widow of Alexander Ramsay, citizen of St Andrews, witnessed by James Boece, rector of Lethnot.(12)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: Parish does not feature.

 [Joined with the parish of Navar in 1723]

1637 (6 Jan) The Bishop of Brechin and Laird of Dun convened at the parish church of Lethnot to consider the true estate of church of Lethnot and consider whether that church and the church of Lochlee can be conjoined to Navar. The text notes that the kirk of Lethnot stands distant from the kirk of Lochee by 7 miles. These churches have been served by one minister for some time. The parish lies about a mile from the kirk by the river Esk. Lethnot has 140 communicants, Lochlee has 240 communicants. The kirk of Navar stands about a mile from the kirk of Lethnot (to the west) across the water over which there is no bridge or boat the water being impassable in winter. The kirk itself being the southernmost house in the parish. There are 140 communicants in Navar. The bishop and Laird recommend that Lochee and Lethnot be joined to Navar.(13)

1658 (5 Aug) A visitation of the churches of Lochlee and Lethnot by the Presbytery of Brechin finds the minister (one serves both churches) to be competent, but the elders of Lochlee regret that they had not so often preaching and examination as was necessary for the last ten years. The elders continue that it is not only the ministers fault, but also the great distance and difficulties of the way between his dwelling at the kirk of Lethnot and them, being 8 long and mountainous miles and the extraordinary streams in that winter that are impassable. The minister, having been asked why he had long neglected the Lord’s Supper at Lochlee, he answered that the cause was their [the parishioners of Lochlee] great ignorance and unfitness for it which he not able to help due to his great distance from his dwelling and the ‘tempests’ that often hinder him. Minister ordered by the presbytery to visit Lochlee more regularly. The Laird of Edzell, as heritor of both parishes, is asked to provide a reader for his ‘desolate people’ at Lochlee.(14)

1723 (12 Mar) Report from the Lords of Plantation of churches who have passed an act disjoining the church of Lethnot from Lochlee and the annexation therof to Navar. Extended report to the Presbytery on 1 May notes that Lochlee is 8 miles in length and has 100 examinable persons. The parishes of Lethnot and Navar if united would be about 4 miles in length and 4 in breadth with around 400 examinable persons. After the union, ratified by the sessions and presbytery, the church of Lethnot will become the meeting place for both parishes and be enlarged to that end. It is noted that the church of Navar is totally ruinous and the manse uninhabitable.(15)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev John Taylor, 1791): ‘The church is probably two or three hundred years old’.(16)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Alexander Gardner, 1838): ‘The church was built in 1827; it is in a good state of repair’.(17)

[No reference to pre-existing church buildings]

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches: (George Hay):1827; interior recast 1886.(18)

Notes

1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 131.

2. Mackinley, Scriptural Dedications, p. 100.

3. CPL, ii, 399.

4. CPL, iii, 419, 519 & 543

5. CPP, 518.

6. CPL, Clem, 1.

7. Registrum Brechinensis, i, no. 17.

8. CSSR, iii, 87 & 89.

9. Registrum Brechinensis, i, no. 47.

10. CPL, ix, 247.

11. CSSR, v, no.1040

12. StAUL, Burgh Charters and Miscellaneous Writs, B65/23/67c.

13. NRS Navar: Copies (2) of report of visitation of the parishes of Navar, Lethnot and Loghlie by commissioners appointed by the Commissioners for Surrenders and Teinds, GD45/13/181.

14. NRS Presbytery of Brechin, Minutes, 1639-1661, CH2/40/1, fol. 409.

15. NRS Presbytery of Brechin, Minutes, 1721-1729, CH2/40/8, fols. 136-145.

16. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1791), iv, 13.

17. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1838), 690.

18. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, p. 246.

Bibliography

NRS Navar: Copies (2) of report of visitation of the parishes of Navar, Lethnot and Loghlie by commissioners appointed by the Commissioners for Surrenders and Teinds, GD45/13/181.

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

NRS Presbytery of Brechin, Minutes, 1721-1729, CH2/40/8.

StAUL, Burgh Charters and Miscellaneous Writs, B65/23/67c.

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 Clement VII of Avignon, 1976, ed. C. Burns, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh.

Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1428-32, 1970, ed. A.I. Dunlop; and I.B. Cowan, (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.

Hay, G., 1957, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, 1560-1843, Oxford.

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

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

The fragment of an Early Christian cross arm that was found during repairs to the floor of the church in 1884, points to a long history of Christian presence on this site. The fragment, which is now in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, has an extremely rare inscription, which reads FILII MEDICII.(1)

Both the parsonage and vicarage of the medieval church were erected into a prebend of Brechin Cathedral by Bishop Stephen in 1384-5, with the cure served by a vicarage pensionary. The patronage remained with the Lindsay lords of Glenesk, however.(2)

On 6 January 1637 it was recommended that the churches of Lethnot and Lochlee should be conjoined to Navar.(3) But it is not clear that this was put into effect at that time, because it was only as late as 12 March 1723 that there was an act disjoining Lethnot from Lochlee and annexing it to Navar. It was stipulated that Lethnot should be the place of worship, because Navar was ruinous.(4)

The church in the form that it retained up to the end of the eighteenth century is likely still to have had as its basis the medieval building, since the Statistical Account said that at that time it was probably two or three hundred years old,(5) Stones built into the base of the belfry, that are said to be inscribed 1672 and 1742, but which are now barely legible because of lichen growth, indicate that there had been structural interventions at those dates. On the latter date the roof was sheathed in lead.(6)

The church is said to have been rebuilt in 1827,(7) though its dimensions of 7.56 by 16.2 metres suggest it is likely to be on the footprint of its medieval predecessor. There may also be some medieval fabric in the lower part of the walls. It can be seen that the lower two-thirds of the south and north walls are of a different character from the upper third, with a distinct break between the two parts, suggesting that the building has been heightened at some stage. However, it would be difficult to determine if that was done before or after the Reformation. At both levels the masonry is of pink rubble.

The main front, which faces south, has two tall arched windows at the centre, on each side of which are an arched door and a shorter arched window, the latter presumably lighting lofts at each end of the building. The windows have plain arrises, but the doors have a continuous cavetto moulding.

The north wall is much simpler than its southern counterpart, having a single low-set rectangular window towards each end, which must have lit the area below the level of the lofts, though there are traces of a blocked door near the centre of that wall. The gable walls each have a single high-level rectangular window, and there is a small birdcage bellcote on the west gable. In the church yard, immediately adjacent to the south wall, is a damaged medieval monolithic coffin.

The church was abandoned for worship following union with Edzell in 1953. It is now a roofless but structurally complete shell that has been stabilised through the provision of concrete safe lintels to the window rear arches.

Notes

1. J. Romilly Allen, The Early Christian Monuments of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1903, pt. 3, pp. 262-63.

2. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 131.

3. National Records of Scotland, GD 45/13/181.

4. National Records of Scotland, Presbytery of Brechin, Minutes, 1721-29, CH2/40/8, fols 136-45.

5. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-9, vol. 4, p. 13.

6. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-9, vol. 4, p. 13.

7. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 11, pp. 690.

Map

Images

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  • 1. Lethnot Church, exterior, from north east

  • 2. Lethnot Church, exterior, from south east

  • 3. Lethnot Church, exterior, from south west

  • 4. Lethnot Church, exterior, from west

  • 5. Lethnot Church, exterior, view along north wall

  • 6. Lethnot Church, exterior, bellcote

  • 7. Lethnot Church, interior, from west

  • 8. Lethnot Church, interior, wall monument, 1

  • 9. Lethnot Church, interior, wall monument, 2

  • 10. Lethnot churchyard, gravestone, 1

  • 11. Lethnot churchyard, gravestone, 2

  • 12. Lethnot churchyard, gravestone, 3

  • 13. Lethnot churchyard, monolithic stone coffin

  • 14. Lethnot cross fragment (National Museum of Scotland)(Allen and Anderson)