Woolmet / Woomet / Wymet Parish Church

Woolmet, churchyard wall, 1

Summary description

The church of Woolmet was within a walled graveyard that is no longer accessible; in 1742 it was replaced by a new church on a different site which served the united parishes of Woolmet and Newton.

Historical outline

Dedication: unknown

David I’s great charter of confirmation to the monks of Dunfermline included the lands of Woolmet amongst the gifts he had made to them.(1) David’s charter specifically granting Woolmet does not survive but it seems that only the real property was involved as no mention is made of a church or teinds.  If no church existed at the time of David’s original gift one was established at some stage shortly afterwards and was included amongst seven other parish churches and two chapels that were confirmed in the abbey’s possession by Bishop Robert of St Andrews (d.1159).(2)  Royal and episcopal confirmations followed through the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries until in 1240 it was confirmed in proprios usus to Dunfermline by Bishop David de Bernham in the same settlement as Kinghorn Wester or Little Kinghorn (qv).(3)  Although Ian Cowan stated that Bishop d Bernham authorised the monks to serve Woolmet with a vicar or a suitable chaplain, that alternative was made available at Kinghorn Wester only and at Woolmet only the former was permitted, it also being stipulated that the vicar was to receive a suitable stipend.(4)  On 4 October 1242, Bishop de Bernham also consecrated the church.(5)

It seems that the monks exercised their right of annexation at the first opportunity, uniting both parsonage and vicarage teinds to their monastery and installing a vicar pensionary to serve the cure.  That vicar seems almost immediately to have been serving also as vicar of the adjoining parish of Newton (qv).  Newton’s annexation to the abbey had been confirmed by papal bull of Gregory IX in 1233,(6) to follow on the death or resignation of the incumbent, and if this event coincided with the appropriation of Woolmet then this might have been used as the opportunity to effect a union of the two parishes.  No formal record of the date at when this was achieved survives but it was the case by 1437 when Newton and Woolmet appears as a joint cure.(7)  By the sixteenth century the conjoined parishes were being identified under the single name of Newton.  Their union with the abbey remained in effect at the Reformation, their revenues being included within the overall statement of Dunfermline’s income.

Notes

1. Registrum de Dunfermelyn (Bannatyne Club, 1842), no.35 [hereafter Dunfermline Registrum].

2. Dunfermline Registrum, no.92.

3. Dunfermline Registrum, no.119. A confirmation by the chapter of St Andrews in February 1240/1, ibid no.143, attributes the annexation to ‘Bishop W’, presumably Bishop William Malveisin (d.1238), possibly reflecting an original act at the end of his life but more probably being a clerical error. (4)

4. I B Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society, 1967), 211.

5. A O Anderson (ed), Early Sources of Scottish History, ii (Edinburgh, 1922), 522.

6. Dunfermline Registrum, no.266.

Summary of relevant documentation

Medieval

Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes:  The church was confirmed to Dunfermline by Bishop Robert (1126x59). It was confirmed to the uses of the abbey in 1240, with both parsonage and vicarage revenues annexed.  The parish was united with Newton in 1437.(1)

[Newton united with Woolmet/Wymet at the Reformation, Newton church became parochial for new parish]

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev John Main, 1791): ‘The church was built in the year 1742’.(2) [no reference to remains of either Newton or Woolmet churches]

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev John Adamson):

 ‘An ancient edifice, adjoining the village of Edmonstone, which had been used for divine worship before the Reformation for the parish of Wymet, was afterwards converted into a chapel… having gone into decay it was renewed in the form of an elegant mausoleum by the late proprietor [laird of Edmonstone]’.(3)

Bibliography

1. Cowan, I.B., 1967, The parishes of medieval Scotland, (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh.

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

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

Architectural description

Woolmet has a complex parochial history. It had been granted to Dunfermline by David I, and the grant was confirmed by Bishop Robert (1126-59). It was confirmed to the uses of the abbey in 1240 by Bishop David de Bernham, with provision for appointing a vicar or a suitable chaplain.(1) On 4 October 1242 Bishop de Bernham carried out a dedication of Woolmet.(2) Subsequently, however, the parishes of Newton and Woolmet were united.

The post-Reformation use of the church, which stood at NT 3053 6947, was the subject of a full account in the New Statistical Account that casts an interesting light on the uses of private chapels in the seventeenth century. It was said to be:

an ancient edifice, adjoining the village of Edmonstone, which had been used for divine worship before the Reformation for the parish of Wymet, [and] was afterwards converted into a chapel, where the laird of Edmonstone received permission from the presbytery (1641) to have ‘reading of prayers morning and evening providing it were not prejudicial to the public exercises in the church’, and where, by the same authority, children were permitted to be baptized, ‘providing always the people should be there present at public worship’. In process of time, it came to be exclusively converted into a burying place of the Edmonstone family, and having gone into decay it was renewed in the form of an elegant mausoleum by the late proprietor.(3)

That proprietor was the head of the Wauchope family, who occupied the nearby Edmonstone House. The mausoleum has since been demolished, though the walled churchyard in which it was set survives amongst modern housing, though it is no longer accessible behind the high walls that surround it.

A new church was built to serve the united parishes of Newton and Woolmet at NT 31507 69343 in 1742.(4) The main body is set out to a T-plan with the aisle on the north side. It is built of pink rubble with broached tooling, with block rustication to the quoins, and with ample buff-coloured ashlar dressings throughout. There is a birdcage bellcote above the west gable, and the large windows along the south face are round-arched. Porches have been added at the end of each of the arms; a session house at the centre of the south front has a possibly relocated sundial, which is inscribed with the date 1742.

Notes

1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 211.

2. Alan Orr Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History, Edinburgh, 1922, vol. 2, p. 522.

3. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 11, p. 568.

4. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-9, vol. 11, p. 535.

Map

Images

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  • 1. Woolmet, churchyard wall, 1

  • 2. Woolmet, churchyard wall, 2