Balmerino Abbey


Site Name Balmerino Abbey

Classification Abbey

Canmore ID 31746

Site Number NO32SE 2

NGR NO 35821 24684

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Ordnance Survey licence number 100020548. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Fife
  • Parish Balmerino
  • Former Region Fife
  • Former District North East Fife
  • Former County Fife

Archaeology Notes

(NO 3580 2465) Balmerino Abbey (NR)

(Cistercian Founded AD 1226).

OS 6" map (1959).

NO32SE 2.01 NO 35862 24691 Abbot's House

NO32SE 2.02 NO 35772 24720 Barn

NO32SE 2.03 NO 3589 2474 Well (Monk's Well)

NO32SE 2.04 NO 35814 24727 Balmerino Farm Steading

NO32SE 2.05 NO 3580 2445 and NO 3585 2460 Copper Die; Spindle Whorls

NO32SE 2.06 NO 35797 24651 Church

NO32SE 2.07 NO 35865 24675 Effigies (by Chestnut tree, East of Chapter House)

For associated grange (NO c. 360 228), see NO32SE 11.

The Cistercian Abbey of Balmerino was founded by Alexander II and his mother Ermengarde c.1227, though the Chronicle of Melrose states "In December 1229, the abbey of St Edward of Balmerino was made and the convent sent to it from Melrose." However, a list of Cistercian foundations gives its date as 1227, and the abbot of St Edwards

attested an indenture at Kinloss in September 1229, before the date given in the Melrose Chronicle. The Abbey was burned by the English in 1547, and further damage was done by Reformers in 1559.

The church, dedicated to St Mary and St Edward, was evidently built about the second quarter of the 13th century. A south aisle was added later, possibly c.1286. Only the lower parts of the northern walls are standing, with little more than the foundations of the others, as exposed by excavation in 1896.

The cloister lay on the N side of the church. Of its N and W sides, nothing is left above ground, and the E range is reduced in height. Beyond it on the N and E are the remains of the Abbot's house (NO32SE 2.01), and the barn (NO32SE 2.02). (See RCAHMS 1933 for detailed account).

RCAHMS 1933, visited 1927; D E Easson 1957.

Balmerino Abbey is generally as described.

Visited by OS (JLD) 2 November 1956 and (RD) 12 June 1970.

Prior to the conservation of the nave of the abbey church, NTS conservation volunteers removed and sorted fallen debris from the walls. This was followed by a photographic survey of the fabric before the inevitable alterations arising from the restoration work. Similar recording will take place as the conservation of the buildings proceeds.

Sponsor: National Trust for Scotland (NTS).

NTS 1993.

NO 358 246. The Cistercian abbey of Balmerino dates from c 1229 and, like its mother house of Melrose, had its claustral ranges to the N of the church. In the mid-19th century a farm steading was erected on the N side of the abbey, probably over some of its demolished buildings and incorporating at least one of the monastic buildings. It is the intention to convert the farm buildings into residential units. As the first stage of that development, service trenches for water and sewage pipes were machine excavated around the perimeter of the steading, the excavations being carried out under the supervision of Scotia Archaeology Ltd. A large number of structures and features of probable medieval date were uncovered, the most significant of which are described here.

At the S end of the farm buildings were several walls of probable monastic origin. Two were aligned with the E and W walls of the monastic E range and also with those of a farm building further N. What appeared to be a corner of a substantial structure - perhaps the N claustral range or a building associated with it - lay to the W of these excavated walls. Further E a stretch of the great drain was uncovered, running slightly E of N from the E range of the abbey. Only the top of the drain (large, roughly worked sandstone flags) was uncovered although it was possible to measure its internal width as about 0.65m; its height was estimated at 1m. Another, smaller drain led into the great drain from a building beyond the E range of the abbey. One wall of this building was exposed in the extreme SE corner of the site.

At the N end of the farm was a well-constructed cobbled road, thought to be monastic and probably linking the abbey with a jetty on the shore of the Tay estuary some 200m to the N. The road had pronounced cambers and was 9m wide, more than sufficient to accommodate two-way traffic.

More work is planned for the future.

Sponsor: RonCal Developments.

J Lewis 1996.

Site recorded by Maritime Fife during the Coastal Assessment Survey for Historic Scotland, Fife Ness to Newburgh 1996.

NMRS, MS/829/17.

Scheduled as 'Balmerino Abbey... the standing fabric, carved stones, earthwork and buried remains of... a consolidated ruin.'

Information from Historic Scotland, scheduling document dated 11 June 2010.

Remains of Balmerino Abbey

(Cistercian - founded 1227) [NAT]

OS (GIS) MasterMap, August 2010.

Architecture Notes


National Library of Scotland, MSS of General Hutton. Vol1 Nos 5&6



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