Haddington, St Mary's Parish Church

Church, War Memorial(s) (20th Century)

Site Name Haddington, St Mary's Parish Church

Classification Church, War Memorial(s) (20th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Abbey Church; College Kirk; Haddington Parish Church; Lauderdale Aisle; St Mary The Virgin; Old Parish Church; 8th Battln The Royal Scots Plaque

Canmore ID 56502

Site Number NT57SW 2

NGR NT 51893 73635

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

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

  • Council East Lothian
  • Parish Haddington
  • Former Region Lothian
  • Former District East Lothian
  • Former County East Lothian

Archaeology Notes

NT57SW 2.00 51893 73635

(NT 5188 7363) Church (NR) (remains of)

(NT 5188 7362) Church (NAT)

OS 6" map, (1969).

NT57SW 2.01 Centred NT 51855 73600 Churchyard

For (associated) lodge (NT 51774 73596), see

The Parish Church of Haddington, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is first mentioned in 1139 when it was granted to St Andrews by David I. This church is thought to have been a small Norman building occupying the site of the choir of the present church. This structure was begun some time after the destruction of the previous church by Edward III in 1356. It was formally constituted as a college about 1540, though the 'college Kirk of Haddington' is mentioned in 1537.

Built of red and grey sandstone, it is cruciform in shape and composed of a choir, nave, wide side-aisles and transepts without aisles at the crossing. A massive tower rises above the crossing; from the N aisle of the choir there projects the pre-Reformation re-vestry, partly built in the 17th century and since then used as a burial aisle. The total length of the church is 206ft (62.8m), breadth 62ft (18.9m); the transepts are 30ft (9.1m) broad have a total length of 113ft (34.5m).

After the Reformation the nave was transformed for Prostestant worship (and is still in use as the parish church), while the choir and transepts were allowed to decay. The church underwent extensive reconstruction in 1811, and in recent years the choir and transepts have been restored.

RCAHMS 1924, visited 1922; W F Gray and J Jamieson 1944; I B Cowan and D E Easson 1976; SBS Haddington 1977.

The remains of the church are as described.

Visited by OS (BS) 16 July 1975.

The church of St Mary the Virgin is one of the largest churches built during the 'boom-time' of the late 14th-early 15th century, when greater prosperity encoraged the building or rebuilding of a number of burgh kirks. It is second in Lothian only to Edinburgh's St Giles, and is comparable in size to the smaller Scottish cathedrals. The church is cruciform with an aisled nave and choir; the transepts are unaisled. Above the crossing the massive tower is thought once to have had (or been promised) an open crown in the manner of St Giles.

In the restoration of 1971-3, the choir and transept vaults (ruinous since their destruction in the siege of Haddington, 1548) were reformed in fibreglass; the plaster vaulting of the nave, however, is an unjustified reconstruction of 1811 when the aisle walls were raised and English-looking parapets and pinnacles added.

The former sacristry projects from the N aisle of the choir. Partly pre-reformation in origin, it was largely rebuilt in the 17th century since when it has been used as a burial-aisle; it houses a remarkable Renaissance marble monument to John Maitland, Lord Thirlestane, Chancellor of Scotland under James V (died 1595), to his wife Jane Fleming and to their son John, 1st Earl of Lauderdale. Beneath lies the Lauderdale family vault.

The churchyard contains a number of interesting 18th-century table-tombs.

J R Baldwin 1985.

(Former index no. 90158). Lauderdale Aisle descheduled.

Information from Historic Scotland, Certificate of Exclusion from Schedule dated 5 February 2009.

Architecture Notes


Architect: George Henderson (restored nave, prepared designs for choir and transepts)

N.M.R.S. Duke of Lauderdale's coffin - translation of Latin inscription

The Church of St Mary, Haddington by James Jamieson, 1949 - text & illustrations


Scottish Record Office.

Scott of Gala

Bundles 317

'A cast of the stent for repairing the ruines of the Church of Haddingtoune

being computed to 700 lib laid according to the valued rent' 1637


Repair of Kirk and glass windows.

List of sums imposed by heritors and Kirk Session of Haddington parish.

1691 GD 18/1901/2

Edinburgh Evening Courant, Feb 5, 1810.

Haddington Parish Church. Repairs and resenting

advertisement for tenders.

(Undated) information in NMRS.



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