Leuchars Parish Church

Leuchars Church, exterior, chancel, apse and tower, from south

Summary description

The apse and chancel survive from a highly enriched mid-twelfth-century church, with fine arches into both parts. A tower was built over the apse vault in 1744. The nave was rebuilt in 1857-58, and there was a restoration campaign in 1914.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Bonoc(1)

The upper part of a Class III cross-slab, found at the site of Leuchars Castle to the north of the village, is now displayed in the church.  This fine piece of sculpture indicates that there was a significant Christian presence near to this location by the ninth century.(2)  There is, however, no documentary record to any church at this location before the later twelfth century, when c.1183x1188 it was granted to the priory of St Andrews by Ness, son of William.(3)  The grant was confirmed within that same time period by King William and by Ness’s daughter Orabile.(4)  Between 1179 and 1188 Bishop Hugh of St Andrews confirmed the priory’s possession of the church with its chapels, lands, teinds and oblations, reserving only his episcopal dues.(5)  A second episcopal confirmation was received in 1198x1199 from Bishop Roger de Beaumont as part of a general confirmation of the priory’s possessions.(6)  Further reinforcement of the canons’ possession of the church was received in general bulls of popes Gregory VIII in 1187 and Clement III in 1188, and in a second confirmation from King William between 1189 and 1195.(7)

Despite all of these grants and confirmations, c.1204 Orabile’s son, Saher de Quincy, appears to have claimed the right of patronage of Leuchars and intruded one of his kinsmen, Simon de Quincy, into the church.  The result was an appeal to Rome and in 1205 Pope Innocent III appointed the abbots of Arbroath, Lindores, and Coupar Angus as papal judges delegate to resolve the case. The mandate to the judges noted that the canons had received the church from Saher’s grandfather, and they had received approval and confirmation of their possession from bishops of St Andrews, the king and papacy, but Saher had nevertheless intruded his clerk into Leuchars against their will although up until that time they had rightfully possessed it.(8)  On 9 June 1206 Innocent III mandated the abbots of Melrose, Dryburgh, and Jedburgh as judges delegate to convene a second panel to hear the matter. The letter again outlined the canons’ complaints against Saher, namely usurpation of the advowson of the church of Leuchars. His letter also observed that the dispute had been brought into the curia regis of William I, which was ‘contrary to the customs of the Scottish Church’, and had there been settled unjustly.(9)  Like the first panel, thesy seem to have been unable to reach a settlement.

Early in 1207 Pope Innocent confirmed the priory’s rights to the garbal teinds from ten vills that appear to have comprised the southern half of the parish of Leuchars, perhaps relating to an original partition between the canons and the parson of Leuchars in the time of Ness.(10)  This confirmation may reflect the attempted settlement imposed on the priory by King William in his court, which was to feature as a significant element of the canons’ grievances as reported in the next round of litigation.  The dispute took a fresh turn in June 1207 when Pope Innocent convened a third panel of judges delegate to resolve the case.(11)  The papal letter narrated in some detail the case against Saher de Quincy, identifying his ‘usurpation of the patronage of the church by violence’ and went on to report how King William had compelled the canons to appear in the curia regis where they were forced by his threats and terrors into an agreement with Saher which was to the priory’s loss.

King William was clearly determined to enforce his judgement and in 1209 x 1211 asserted his settlement of the dispute, although the actual terms of the settlement are unclear.  The text of the document preserved in the priory cartulary has been purposely damaged probably, as Geoffrey Barrow noted, the ‘very thorough-going obliteration of the text may have been due to the canons’ indignation’.(12)  It is likely that the charter of 1207 x 1219 granted to the canons by Saher de Quincy, earl of Winchester, and lord of Leuchars, which gave them three marks annually from his mill of Leuchars for his soul and those of his grandparents and mother and father, Robert de Quincy and Orabile daughter of Ness, was his side of the settlement reached in the curia regis of William, compensating their loss of the right of patronage with this annual payment.(13) The charter is attested by Simon de Quincy, parson of Leuchars, which underscores the failure of the St Andrews canons to regain their rights to the church.

The compromise reached in the curia regis proved to be lasting, however unpalatable it was to the canons.  In 1240 Bishop David de Bernham confirmed the priory’s possession of the garbal teinds from the ten vills named in the 1207 bull of Innocent III, and in 1248 Pope Innocent IV issued a bull confirming possession of those teinds which they had in the parish of Leuchars.(14)  No mention was made in either of these documents of any rights or claimed rights to the patronage of the church.  It was in the midst of this period that on 4 September 1244 that de Bernham dedicated the church.(15)

A question mark is raised over the status of the church in 1274-5 when in the accounts of the papal tax-collector in Scotland payment of four merks was recorded from ‘vicarius de Loghros’ (the vicarage of Leuchars).(16)  An ‘ecclesia de Lonchorn’ in the same section of the account-roll, paying six merks, has been suggested to relate to the rectory of Leuchars but why separate entries were needed when there is no evidence for either an appropriation or vicarage settlement is unknown.(17)  In the second year of the taxation a ‘vicarius de Lonthers’, which appears to be Leuchars, is recorded but not the church/rectory.(18)

It is only 1280 x 1295 that William de Ferrers, great-grandson of Roger de Quincy, gave the canons the advowson of the church of Leuchars, plus two acres of associated land.(19) This led to the appropriation of the church in 1295, when Bishop William Fraser annexed it to the priory in proprios usus, stipulating that the canons could present one of their convent to the rectory and have two chaplains to help him serve the cure.(20)  Fraser’s appropriation survives only in a confirmation of 1317 made by Bishop William Lamberton.  Thus, around a century after the beginning of the dispute over the patronage, which had seen the priory stripped of its rights and forced into acceptance of a three-merk annual pension by way of compensation, the canons had finally regained possession of the advowson and converted that in short order into corporal possession.(21)

After this long, complex process through the later twelfth and thirteenth centuries which produced substantial amounts of parchment record, the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries witnessed the retreat into semi-obscurity of the parish church in terms of recorded evidence.  What appears to be the first record of a named vicar occurs only from 1394 when Michael of Balcongy, canon of St Andrews, was incumbent and still held the vicarage in 1420.(22)  The next recorded vicar, James Cragie, canon of St Andrews, was recorded in 1441 when he was deprived of his benefice as an adherent of the Council of Basel.(23)  In 1474 when Thomas Ruch, canon of St Andrews, secured the perpetual vicarage the church was described as ‘wont to be governed by canons’.(24)  The appropriation of the parsonage and the vicarage settlement remained operative at the Reformation, when the former was recorded as in the possession of the priory and valued at £50 13s 4d annually while the latter, held by Robert Carnegie, was valued at £46 13s 4d.(25)

There is only a single record of any additional devotional arrangements in the church beyond the high altar.  In 1476 a lease of the Holy Rood altar in the church was made by the then vicar, Richard Brady, to the chaplain, Andrew Craggorth.(26)  There is no secure evidence for where the altar was located in the church but from its dedication it is reasonable to assume that it was either in a rood loft or in the nave just west of the rood screen.  No record survives of who founded the altar, when and with what endowments it was supported.  It is not noted as a separate benefice at the Reformation.

Notes

1. S Taylor and G Markus, The Place-Names of Fife, iv, North Fife between Eden and Tay (Donington, 2010), 478-480 [hereafter PNF, iv].  The tradition dedication to ‘St Athernase’ arises from confusion of medieval forms of the names of Leuchars (Locres) and Lathrisk (Losceresch) see Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree in Scotia (Bannatyne Club, 1841), 348 (hereafter St Andrews Liber).

2. N Johnson, ‘Part of a Cross-Slab from Leuchars, Fife’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, LXXXII (1947-8), 299; H Coutts, Ancient Monuments of Tayside (Dundee, 1970), 62.

3. St Andrews Liber, 287.

4. Regesta Regum Scottorum, ii, The Acts of William I, ed G W S Barrow (Edinburgh, 1971), no.271 [hereafter RRS, ii]; St Andrews Liber, 287-288.  Orabile’s charter may have been issued at the time of her father’s death and seems too be related to two charter testimonials issued by Matthew, bishop of Aberdeen and Duncan II, earl of Fife, who both confirmed that they had been present when Ness had granted the church to St Andrews: St Andrews Liber, 288-289.

5. St Andrews Liber, 289-290.

6. St Andrews Liber, 149-152.

7. Scotia Pontificia Papal Letters to Scotland before the Pontificate of Innocent III, ed R. Somerville (Oxford, 1982), nos 148, 149; RRS, ii, no.333.

8. St Andrews Liber, 350.

9. St Andrews Liber, 351.

10. St Andrews Liber, 85-6.  For the vills, see PNF, iv, 477, 481-2.

11. St Andrews Liber, 352.

RRS, ii, no.491.

13. St Andrews Liber, 255-6. There is a confirmation made at the same time by Saher’s son and heir, Roger; ibid, 256-7.

14. St Andrews Liber, 103-106, 164-5.

15. A O Anderson (ed), Early Sources of Scottish History, ii (Edinburgh, 1922), 525 [Pontifical Offices of St Andrews].

15. A I Dunlop (ed), ‘Bagimond’s Roll: Statement of the Tenths of the Kingdom of Scotland’, Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vi (1939), 39.

17. Dunlop (ed), ‘Bagimond’s Roll’, 39 n.4.

18. Dunlop (ed), ‘Bagimond’s Roll’, 61.

19.. St Andrews Liber, 397-8.

20. St Andrews Liber, 400-402.

21. The chronology of this protracted process offered by Ian Cowan is seriously in error at a number of points, most obviously in its dating of William de Ferrers’ grant (given as c.1204), which he believed was confirmed in that year by Bishop William Malveisin rather than William Fraser: I B Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society, 1967), 131.

22.. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Petitions to the Pope, ed W H Bliss (London, 1896, 617; Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, i, 1418-1422, ed E R Lindsay and A I Cameron (Scottish History Society, 1934), 223-4; Copiale Prioratus Sanctiandree. The Letter-Book of James Haldenstone, Prior of St Andrews (1418-1443), ed J H Baxter (Oxford, 1930), 79, 439.

23. Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, iv, 1433-1447, ed A I Dunlop and D MacLauchlan (Glasgow, 1997), no.752.

24.. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Papal Letters, xiii, 1471-1484, ed J A Twemlow (London, 1955), 378.

25. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 9, 13, 17, 20, 83.

26. Abstract of the Protocol Book of the Burgh of Stirling, 1469-84 (Edinburgh, 1896), 31.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Granted to the priory of St Andrews by Ness son of William  1172x87, the rights were limited. Patronage was with Saer de Quincy 1208. Parsons were recorded in the 13th century. In 1264 on the death of last de Quincy, the church was granted to the priory and the cure was served by a chaplain or a canon.(1)

According to Mackinley the church was dedicated to St Athernesk.(2) Place Names of Fife vol. 2 notes that it is not certain what the dedication of the parish church was, although the evidence points toward a St Bonoc(us), appearing also as Bunnow and Bonach, and later variously as Bennet, Bernard and Bunyon. Part of a jawbone of St Bonocus, bishop was gifted in 1525 to the altar of St Fergus in St Andrews. In 1540 a fair was granted to Leuchars on the day of St Bonocus. His cult is found nowhere else in Scotland, and nothing certain is known about him. Taylor also states that we can dismiss the oft repeated assertion that it was St Athernicscus. This seems to have stemmed from an 19th century confusion between Leuchars and Lathrisk.(3)

Complicated early history of the church

1183 x 1188 Ness, son of William, gave (dare) the church of Leuchars with tithes, oblations and the lands of Pitlethie and the two pehtlumnes with common pasture. The charter stipulates burial at the cathedral priory for Ness.(4)

1183 x 1188 Grant confirmed by William I.(5)

1183 x 1188 Orabilis, daughter and heir of Ness, son of William, confirmed to priory her father’s gift of the church of Leuchars.(6)(7)

1179 x 1188 Hugh, bishop of St Andrews, confirmed the church of Leuchars with chapels, lands, tithes, and oblations, saving only episcopal right.(8)

Papal confirmations

The church was confirmed by Pope Gregory VIII in 1187 and again in 1188 by Pope Clement III.(9)

1189 x 1195 William I again confirmed the church of Leuchars with chapels, lands, and tithes.(10)

1198 x 1199 Roger, bishop of St Andrews, also confirmed the church of Leuchars.(11)

Controversy over the church from 1204 between St Andrews Priory and Saer de Quincy

1205 Pope Innocent III appointed the abbots of Arbroath, Lindores, and Cupar Angus as judges delegate in a controversy which had arisen between the cathedral priory of St Andrews and Saer de Quincy, lord of Leuchars, the grandson of Ness, concerning the church of Leuchars. The bull noted that the priory had received the church from Ness, son of William, and the act had been approved and confirmed by charters (in instrumento publico) of the diocesan bishop, William I, and the Holy See. Nevertheless, the bull states that the Saer de Quincy had intruded Simon de Quincy, a clerk, into the church of Leuchars against the will of priory who up until that time rightfully possessed it.(12)

1206 (9 June) Pope Innocent III wrote to abbots of Melrose, Dryburgh, and Jedburgh, in order to convene a second judges delegate panel to hear the matter. The bull outlines the complaints made by the priory against Saer de Quincy, namely usurpation of the advowson (ius patronatus) of the church of Leuchars (and also of church of Lathrisk). The bull reveals that the dispute was brought into the curia regis of William I, which the bull noted was ‘contrary to the customs of the Scottish Church’, and there settled unjustly.(13)

1207 (14 Mar) Pope Innocent confirmed to the cathedral priory the tithes of wheat belonging to their parish church of Leuchars specifically from the vills of Ardit, Dron, Lucklaw, Balmullo, Kethethin, Pitcullo, Bruckley, Seggie, Pusk, and Salechoc.(14)

1207 (6 June) Pope Innocent III wrote to the bishop of Brechin, the abbot of Scone, and the prior of Arbroath to convene a third panel of judges delegate to litigate the case between the cathedral priory and Saer de Quincy anent the church of Leuchars.(15)

1209 x 1211 William I announced the settlement of a dispute between Prior Thomas and the convent of St Andrews and Saer de Quincy concerning the right to the advowson (ius patronatus) of the church of Leuchars. The terms of the settlement are unclear. This charter was attested by William Malveisin, bishop of St Andrews.(16)

1207 x 1219 Saer de Quincy, earl of Winchester, and lord of Leuchars, gave (dare) to the cathedral priory three marks annually from the mill of Leuchars for his soul and those of his grandparents and mother and father, Robert de Quincy and Orabilis. The charter, which outlines the payment schedule in detail, appears to relate to the settlement reached in the curia regis of William. It would appear that as compensation for their rights in the church of Leuchars the priory would receive three marks annually. The charter is attested by Simon de Quincy, parson of Leuchars.(17)

1240 David de Bernham, bishop of St Andrews, confirmed to the priory all the garbal tithes which they hold in the parish church of Leuchars, namely in the vills of Ardit, Dron, Lucklaw, Balmullo, kectethin, Pitcullo, Bruckley, Seggie, Pusk, and salwhoc.(18)

1248 Pope Innocent IV confirmed to the cathedral priory the tithes which it holds in the parish of Leuchars (Decimas quas habetis in parochia de Louchris).(19)

1280 x 1295 William de Ferrers, son of William, the grandson of Roger de Quincy (d. 1264), gave to the cathedral priory the advowson (advocatione) of the church of Leuchars; he also included a gift of two acres of land. This led swiftly to the appropriation of the church by the house.(20)

1295 William Fraser, bishop of St Andrews, gave the church of Leuchars to the priory in proprios usus; stipulating that the priory could present a canon to the rectory and have two chaplains to help him serve the cure.(21)

Post 1300 materials

1394-1420 Michael de Balcongy (canon of St Andrews) holds the vicarage.(22)

1405 (30 Apr) Michael de Balgogy, vicar of parish church of Leuchars is mentioned in a letter by Henry Wardlaw, bishop of St Andrews.(23)

1441 James Cragy (canon of St Andrews), deprived of vicarage for being an adherent of council of Basle; replaced by Robert de Ketch (canon of St Andrews).(24)

1474 Thomas Ruch (canon of St Andrews), assigned perpetual vicarage (value £25); described as ‘wont to be governed by canons’.(25)

1479 James Ogilvy of Erny, pays £30pa for 10 year lease of the teind sheaves of parish church of Leuchars.(26)

1539 Payment of £20 as the subsidy for James Baldovy, vicar of Leuchars recorded in the St Andrews rental book.(27)

Altars and chaplaincies

Holy Cross

1476 Lease by Richard Brady, vicar of church, of the Holy Cross altar to Andrew Craggorth.(28)

Post-medieval

Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage with priory of St Andrews, value £50 13s 4d. Vicarage held by Robert Carnegie, value £46 13s 4d.(29)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of vicarage £15 11s 1 1/3d.(30)

1593 (27 Apr) In General Assembly, John Kinnear provided to the ministry of Leuchars.(31)

1602 (6 Nov) General Assembly ratifies a supplication by residents of the Ferrie of Scottiscraig, Garpat, Shamwell and Muirtane, who due to the distance from Leuchars, have erected their own church, which they wish to be considered parochial.(32)

1665 (25 June) James Turner noted as overseeing the work men repairing the steeple (heritors still to pay some of the costs).(33)

1666 (6 May) £6 4s 8d spend mending the kirk yard dykes.(34)

1667 (15 Dec) £4 given to slaters for pointing of the church.(35)

1695 (3 July) Visitation of the kirk, manse and school house by the Presbytery of St Andrews and the heritors who unanimously concluded that they are in need of reparation. On 17 July John Disher, wright, James Brown, slater, and John Ingles, glasier, report that 774 6s 4d Scots are require for mending all the faults [no individual details and it does not feature in the Kirk Session records].(36)

1730 Mary Countess of Southesk died in the Castle of Leuchars about the year 1730, and was buried in Leuchars parish church, within the aisle appropriated to the Southesk family.(37)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Mr Kettle, 1793): Long section on the ancient church.(38)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev David Watson, 1836): Plan of church and 3 pages of information regarding it.(39)(40)(41)

Notes

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

2. Mackinley, Non-Scriptural Dedications, p. 139.

3. Taylor & Markus, The Place-Names of Fife. Volume Four, pp. 478-480.

4. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, p. 287.

5. RRS, ii, no. 271.

6. For the eventful career and marriages of Orabilis, see Ritchie, The Normans in Scotland, pp. 284-6. See also Hammond, ‘Women and the adoption of charters in Scotland north of Forth, pp. 13-16. This confirmation seems to have been related to the death of her father. At this time, a further two charters were produced by Matthew, bishop of Aberdeen, and Duncan II, earl of Fife, confirming the act, Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree,, pp. 287-8, 288, 288-9.

7. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, pp. 287-8, 288, 288-9.

8. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, pp. 289-90.

9. Scotia Pontificia, nos. 148, 149.

10. RRS, ii, no. 333.

11. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, pp. 149-52.

12. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, p. 350.

13. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, p. 351.

14. These ten vills seem to have constituted the southern half of the parish of Leuchars, Taylor & Markus, The Place-Names of Fife. Volume Four, pp. 477 & 481-82. Evidently, the cathedral priory claimed the rights to garbal tithes in the parish and the pope confirmed their rights. It is fascinating that the claim was only for half of the parish. It may be that this relates to the original arrangement made at the time of the original conveyance between the priory and the parson, Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, pp. 85-86.

15. In this bull the claims against Saer de Quincy, apparently based on letters from the abbot of Arbroath and first panel of judges delegate, are described in more detail, namely ‘the usurpation of the advowson of the church by violence (violentiam usurpabat ipsius ecclesiae patronatus)’. It goes on to explain that the king compelled the cathedral priory to appear in the curia regis where the prior and convent were forced by the king’s threats and terrors (minis et terroribus) into an agreement with Saer de Quincy, which was detrimental to the priory, Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, p. 352.

16. RRS, ii, no. 491. The document preserved in the cartulary was purposely damaged probably as Barrow noted the ‘very thorough-going obliteration of the text may have been due to the canons’ indignation’, RRS, II, p. 448.

17. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, pp. 255-6. On the same occasion, a charter was produced in the name of Roger de Quincy, son and heir of Saer de Quincy, confirming to the priory the three marks annually from the mill of Leuchars, Ibid, 256-57.

18. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, pp. 164-65.

19. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, pp. pp. 103-6.

20. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, pp. 397-8

21. This charter occurs within an inspection made in 1317 by William Lamberton, bishop of St Andrews, Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree, pp. 400-02. A general confirmation of Alexander II in 1228 is quite telling concerning the outcome of the dispute. It confirms to the cathedral priory the gifts made by Ness, son of William. However, this no longer included the church of Leuchars (only Lathrisk). However, the three marks annually from the mill of Leuchars given to the house by Saer de Quincy and confirmed by Roger de Quincy was confirmed, Ibid, pp. 232-6). It seems that the three marks in the church of Leuchars was intended to compensate for the priory for the complete loss of any rights in the church of Leuchars.

22. CPP, 617, CSSR, i, 223-24.

23. Copiale Prioratus Sanctiandree, pp. 79 & 439.

24. CSSR, iv, no. 752.

25. CPL, xiii, 378.

26. Extracts from the Records of Stirling, 258.

27. Rentale Sancti Andree, p.50.

28. Abstract of the Prot Bk of Stirling, 1469-84, 31.

29. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 9, 13 , 17 , 20 & 83.

30. Donaldson, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, 13.

31. Acts and Proceedings of the General Assemblies of the Kirk of Scotland, iii, 811.

32. Acts and Proceedings of the General Assemblies of the Kirk of Scotland, iii, 1004.

33. NRS Leuchars Kirk Session, 1665-1677, CH2/1209/1, fol. 1.

34. NRS Leuchars Kirk Session, 1665-1677, CH2/1209/1, fol. 21.

35. NRS Leuchars Kirk Session, 1665-1677, CH2/1209/1, fol. 56.

36. NRS Presbytery of St Andrews, Minutes, 1693-1698, CH2/1132/20, fol. 80.

37. Fraser, History of the Carnegies Earls of Southesk, p. 171.

38. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1793), xviii, 599.

39. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1836), ix, 220.

40. Ibid, 221-22

41. Ibid, 223.

Bibliography

NRS Leuchars Kirk Session, 1665-1677, CH2/1209/1.

NRS Presbytery of St Andrews, Minutes, 1693-1698, CH2/1132/20.

Abstract of the Protocol Book of the Burgh of Stirling, 1469-84, 1896, Edinburgh.

Acts and Proceedings of the General Assemblies of the Kirk of Scotland, 1839-45, ed. T. Thomson (Bannatyne Club), Edinburgh.

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 Scottish Supplications to Rome 1418-22, 1934, ed. E.R. Lindsay and A.I. Cameron, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh.

Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1433-47, 1983, ed. A.I. Dunlop and D MacLauchlan, Glasgow.

Copiale Prioratus Sanctiandree. The Letter-Book of James Haldenstone, Prior of St Andrews (1418-1443), 1930, ed. J. H. Baxter, Oxford.

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.

Extracts from the Records of the Burgh of Stirling, AD 1519-1666, 1887, ed. R. Renwick (Scottish Burgh Records Society), Glasgow.

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

Hammond, M.H, 2011, ‘Women and the adoption of charters in Scotland north of Forth, c. 1150-1286’, Innes Review, 62:1, 5-46.

Kirk, J., 1995, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, (British Academy) Oxford.

Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree in Scotia, 1841, ed. T. Thomson (Bannatyne Club), Edinburgh.

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

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

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

Rentale Sancti Andree, 1913, ed. R. Hannay (Scottish History Society), Edinburgh.

Ritchie, R.L.G, 1954, The Normans in Scotland, Edinburgh.

Scotia pontificia papal letters to Scotland before the Pontificate of Innocent III, 1982, ed. R. Somerville, Oxford.

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

Taylor, S & Markus G., 2010, The Place-Names of Fife. Volume Four. North Fife between Eden and Tay, Donington.

Architectural description

Leuchars was granted to St Andrews Cathedral Priory, at a date between 1172 and 1187, by Ness, son of William,(1) whose name could suggest that he was the offspring of a marriage between a native mother and an incomer of French origin.(2) Despite that grant, patronage of the church was to be contested for a number of decades. On the stylistic evidence of the surviving parts, it is perhaps most likely that the earliest portions of the church were built no later than the central decades of the twelfth century, and thus some decades before the grant to St Andrews. There was a dedication by Bishop David de Bernham on 4 September 1244, but that is unlikely to be of any significance for the fabric.(3)

The plan of the medieval church is only partly known, since no more than the square chancel and eastern apse survive. It is uncertain if there was ever a tower at the west end of the nave, though, bearing in mind that churches of comparable date and quality such as Dalmeny and Tyninghame did have west towers, it might be thought unusual for such an ambitious church as Leuchars not to have had one.

The chancel was walled off from the nave at some date after the Reformation, apparently leaving little visible evidence of the fine arch that had opened into it.(4) An octagonal two-stage domed bell tower was raised over the apse that can probably be attributed to John Douglas, who is known to have worked on it in 1744,(5) but the line of the earlier apse roof is still visible against the east gable wall of the chancel. The nave was extensively remodelled for parochial worship on a number of occasions, and there are recorded works in 1812-14 by Robert Balfour.(6) At some stage a lateral north aisle was added.

The nave was entirely rebuilt to an elongated rectangular plan and in a mildly Romanesque idiom in 1857-8 by John Milne. Its show front, to the south, has a central gabled salient with a door covered by a later porch; that salient is flanked symmetrically by pairs of windows and by a doorway towards each end, that to the east being now blocked. On the less visible north side, considerable extents of cubical masonry suggest that Romanesque fabric has been re-cycled. Milne also carried out some restoration works on the chancel and apse.

A more scholarly restoration was carried out by Reginald Fairle in 1914, who reopened the chancel arch towards the nave. Within the re-opened arch he placed a timber screen, but this was relocated to the vestibule to form a baptistery area in 1935. Fairlie had also proposed shortening the nave of the 1850s, while doubling its width towards the north and adding a western tower and narthex.(7

The Romanesque chancel and apse are remarkable for their extraordinarily lavish external decoration, with two levels of blind arcading carried on decorative string courses that run around both parts. At the lower level of the chancel flanks the arcading is intersecting and carried on paired en délit shafts with cushion or scalloped caps. At the upper level of the chancel the arcading is simple, and is carried on en délit shafts flanking pilaster-like projections; the upper arches have continuous mouldings to the inner order and a cable moulding to the outer.

The lower level of the apse has simple arcading that is carried on engaged pairs of shafts separated by a spur, with chevron decoration to the arches. The apse rises to a lower height than the chancel, and the simple arcading to its upper level is carried on similar supports to those of the chancel, though the arches have chevron to the inner order and multiple billet to the outer. There is greater variety to the capitals of the upper apse arcading, with several of volute form. The wall-head around both chancel and apse has a decorative corbel table with grotesque human and animal heads.

Enclosed within the upper arcading around chancel and apse, there are two small-rounded windows to the south flank of the chancel and one on the north, while the apse has three such windows. It appears, however, that in their  present form they date from John Milne’s restoration of 1857-8, and that they replace ‘two square windows with a single stone mullion’ in the south chancel wall and one in the apse.(8) It is likely, however, that the original windows were of this form.

On the north side there is evidence that the Romanesque nave was, as might be expected, slightly wider than the chancel, though it did not extend so far to the north as the nave of 1857-8. The evidence for this is seen in the survival of its base course below the east face of the north-east corner of the mid-nineteenth-century nave. There is also above it a corresponding section of decorated string course, at a level corresponding to mid-height of the upper level of blind arcading on the adjacent chancel. The evidence has been somewhat confused by the way in which that string course has been extended by reset lengths of string course with the same moulding along the whole of the east nave wall and back along the eastern part of its north wall. But there can be little doubt that the base course provides a firm indicator of the width of the nave on the north side, because it can be seen that it returns towards the west.

Internally, it is clearer than on the exterior that the chancel has been heavily restored, and there must be some doubt over the extent to which there was any basis for the form of the restored rear-arches to the two windows in the south wall and the one in the north. The rear-arches of the apse windows, however, appear to be more likely to reflect their original form. Their chevron-decorated arches are carried by en délit shafts that rise from a string course.

Rising from that same string course, above grotesque head corbels, are wall shafts that support the ribs of the vault, which have triple-rolls to their soffits. The ribbed part of the vault is confined to the semi-circular eastern part of the apse, and there is a short section of barrel vault to the western part. There may have been some restoration of the vault when Reginald Fairlie removed an arch that had been inserted to support the tower over the apse.(9) There is no evidence that the chancel has been vaulted. 

The chancel and apse arches are the finest features of the interior. The responds in each case have a leading half-shaft on the face of a pilaster, which is itself flanked by three-quarter nook-shafts, and the caps are of cushion or scalloped form. The chancel arch has an inner order with triple soffit rolls and simple chevron to the leading face, while the outer order has continuous mouldings and there is a chip-carved hood mould. The apse arch is more richly treated, with two chevron-decorated orders and a billet-carved hood mould towards the chancel.

There is an ongoing debate over the location of the principal altar in the parish churches of the mid-twelfth century. It is frequently suggested that, where there is an apse, that apse was not intended to house the altar, so much as to act as a back-drop to it, and at Dalmeny, for example, where the chancel arch is more richly treated than the apse arch, it may indeed be that the altar was within the chancel. At Leuchars, however, a number of factors might suggest that the altar was within the apse: the apse arch is treated more richly than the chancel arch, suggesting it marked the entrance to a more important part; the chancel is unvaulted; and the elongated plan of the apse is internally emphasised by the section of barrel vault over its western part. This is not in itself conclusive for the location of the altar, though it is suggestive.

On a final point, it has been plausibly suggested that the presence of some of the same masons’ marks as are found at Dunfermline Abbey indicates that a number of masons were involved at the two buildings. While it is by no means certain that a mason would use the same mark at different buildings on which he was involved, the presence at Leuchars of masons from Dunfermline, some of whom may have worked previously at Durham, would be a satisfactory way of explaining both the decorative repertory and the quality of much of the work.

Notes

1. Liber Cartarum Prioratus Sancti Andree in Scotia, ed, Thomas Thomson, Bannatyne Club, 1841, pp. 63 and 287-90. Discussed in Ian B. Cowan, the Parishes of Medieval Scotland, Scottish record Society, 1967, p. 131.

2. Geoffrey Barrow, The Kingdom of the Scots, 1973, p. 90.

3. Alan Orr Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History, Edinburgh, 1922, p. 525.

4. The Ordnance Gazetteer  of 1883 (vol. 4, p. 504) said that the only evidence of the chancel arch was ‘traces of a large semicircular arch, which had perhaps divided the nave from the choir’.

5. Howard Colvin, A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 4th ed., New Haven and London, 2008, p. 330.

6. Colvin, Dictionary, p. 94.

7. Patrick Nuttgens, Reginald Fairlie, Edinburgh and London, 1959, p. 18-19 and pl. 9.

8. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 9, pp. 220-23.

9. That arch is shown on fig. 266 in David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland, Edinburgh, vol. 1, 1896.

Map

Images

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  • 1. Leuchars Church, exterior, chancel, apse and tower, from south

  • 2. Leuchars Church interior, apse arch (Billings)

  • 3. Leuchars Church, apse arch (Walker, 1885)

  • 4. Leuchars Church, chancel arch (Walker, 1885)

  • 5. Leuchars Church, cross section looking west (Walker, 1885)

  • 6. Leuchars Church, cross section looking east (Walker, 1885)

  • 7. Leuchars Church, elevation (Walker, 1885)

  • 8. Leuchars Church, exterior from north east (Billings)

  • 9. Leuchars Church, exterior from north-east (Paton and Ballingall), 1872

  • 10. Leuchars Church, exterior, apse corbels

  • 11. Leuchars Church, exterior, apse windows

  • 12. Leuchars Church, exterior, apse, from south

  • 13. Leuchars Church, exterior, base course at juction of north chancel wall and east nave wall

  • 14. Leuchars Church, exterior, chancel and apse arcading (Billings)

  • 15. Leuchars Church, exterior, chancel and apse, from north

  • 16. Leuchars Church, exterior, chancel and apse, from south

  • 17. Leuchars Church, exterior, chancel, arcading

  • 18. Leuchars Church, exterior, chancel, north flank, string course

  • 19. Leuchars Church, exterior, chancel, north flank, window arcade

  • 20. Leuchars Church, exterior, chancel, south flank, corbels

  • 21. Leuchars Church, exterior, from south west

  • 22. Leuchars Church, exterior, nave, early masonry at north-east corner

  • 23. Leuchars Church, interior, apse arch

  • 24. Leuchars Church, interior, apse arch, north cap

  • 25. Leuchars Church, interior, apse arch, north caps

  • 26. Leuchars Church, interior, apse arch, south cap

  • 27. Leuchars Church, interior, apse arch, south caps

  • 28. Leuchars Church, interior, apse from west

  • 29. Leuchars Church, interior, apse vault

  • 30. Leuchars Church, interior, apse vault corbel, 1

  • 31. Leuchars Church, interior, apse vault corbel, 2

  • 32. Leuchars Church, interior, apse window

  • 33. Leuchars Church, interior, chancel and apse arches

  • 34. Leuchars Church, interior, chancel and apse arches, 1

  • 35. Leuchars Church, interior, chancel and apse arches, 2

  • 36. Leuchars Church, interior, chancel and apse from west, 1

  • 37. Leuchars Church, interior, chancel and apse from west, 2

  • 38. Leuchars Church, interior, chancel arch

  • 39. Leuchars Church, interior, chancel arch, north cap

  • 40. Leuchars Church, interior, chancel arch, north caps

  • 41. Leuchars Church, interior, chancel arch, south cap

  • 42. Leuchars Church, interior, chancel arch, south caps

  • 43. Leuchars Church, interior, chancel, north window

  • 44. Leuchars Church, interior, chancel, south wall

  • 45. Leuchars Church, interior, choir, north window

  • 46. Leuchars Church, interior, choir, south window

  • 47. Leuchars Church, interior, cross slab

  • 48. Leuchars Church, interior, from west

  • 49. Leuchars Church, interior, nave from east

  • 50. Leuchars Church, long section (Walker, 1885)

  • 51. Leuchars Church, north side and east end nave, 1

  • 52. Leuchars Church, north side and east end nave, 2

  • 53. Leuchars Church, plan (Walker, 1885)

  • 54. Leuchars Church, proposals for restoration by Reginald Fairlie, 1914