Font Size

100% 150% 200%

Background Colour

Default Contrast
Close Reset

Markinch, St Drostan's Parish Church

Church (18th Century), Tower (12th Century)

Site Name Markinch, St Drostan's Parish Church

Classification Church (18th Century), Tower (12th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Parish Kirk Of St Drostan; Church Of St Mordrustus And St John

Canmore ID 29951

Site Number NO20SE 13

NGR NO 29745 01967

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2019.

Toggle Aerial | View on large map

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Fife
  • Parish Markinch
  • Former Region Fife
  • Former District Kirkcaldy
  • Former County Fife

Archaeology Notes

NO20SE 13 29745 01967

NO20SE 13.01 NO 29748 01955 Churchyard

NO20SE 13.02 NO 29726 01982 Session House

Markinch Church is the successor of a preaching station said to have been established here towards the close of the 6th century. About the middle of the 11th century, it was given to the Culdees of Loch Leven and c.1203, Duncan, Earl of Fife gave the church to the Priory of St Andrews. On the 19th July 1243, the church was rededicated to St John the Baptist, the former dedication being to St Drostan or Modrust.

A H Miller 1895.

(NO 2974 0197) Although the rest of the parish church is modern, the western tower dates from the 12th century. The present spire and cornice, with the course of masonry below the latter are modern and so, too, is the present entrance.

RCAHMS 1933, visited 1927.

As described and in normal use.

Visited by OS (JP) 19 June 1974

NO 2975 0196 Inserted into the wall at the E end of the church is a stone bearing a worn shield with a device including a chevron with a figure at the apex, possibly of the Balfour family.

Built into the outer face of the wall retaining the S edge of the graveyard are two small piscinas, about 0.1m wide, possibly from the church.

C A-Kelly 2000.

Architecture Notes

NO20SE 13.00 29745 01967

NO20SE 13.01 29748 01955 Churchyard

NO20SE 13.02 29726 01982 Session House

Copied from Architecture Catalogue slip:

ARCHITECT: James Barclay 1806-7 - additions and alterations

Robert Rowand Anderson 1875 - session house

James Gillespie recast 1883


Four elevations of a Church with steeple. Unsigned. One dated 1809.

[James Barclay's plan for extension of the church adopted in 1806. His plan for a spire with hewn stone and octagon adopted 1807.]

1798-1809 GD 26/10/118

Ground floor and Gallery plan.

1805 GD 26/10/119

Ground floor plan and loft labelled 'aisle'.

19th Century GD 26/10/119


Photographic Survey (April 1964)

Photographic survey by the Scottish National Buildings Record in April 1964.

Photographic Survey (25 January 2013)

An internal photographic survey of St Drostan's Parish Church was made through RCAHMS Threatened Building Survey as part of an ongoing program of work at the site. An external survey will be carried out when the weather has improved.

Measured Survey (25 January 2013 - 29 January 2013)

A measured survey of the church and tower of St Drostan's Parish Church was made, using both hand measured and laser scanned techniques, as part of an on-going program of survey work at this site.

Photographic Survey (26 June 2013)

The exterior of St Drostan's was recorded as part of the on-going programmme of survey work that RCAHMS Threatened Building Survey have undertaken at the site.

Geophysical Survey (1 January 2014 - 30 October 2014)

NO 29736 01965 (NO20SE 13) A programme of work undertaken, 1 January – 30 October 2014, formed year three of a four year project which aims to measure, record and interprete all traces of existing and former church buildings on the site.

Years one and two were confined to manuscript research, photography and measurement of the existing building and the surrounding graveyard. This included a resistivity survey, which confirmed the presence of an elliptical bank and ditch feature surrounding the church and possibly predating it. The tower and part of the W nave wall of the Romanesque

style building remain in reasonable condition, and show the exceptionally high quality of design and construction. The building was described as a ‘moustier’ or minster by a chronicler of King Edward I when he passed down the old pilgrim way from St Andrews to Dunfermline in 1296. It had

by then passed from the control of the MacDuffs to the Priory of St Andrews.

A ground penetrating radar survey under the existing church floor confirmed the outline of a nave and chancel with a substantial anomaly buried beneath the area where it is assumed the chancel arch was located. The measured footprint of the foundation trench matched external observations of remaining 12th-century corner features at the E and W ends of the existing building. A good cross section of the 12th-century

nave and subsequent alterations was obtained from raggle lines on the E side of the tower and from still visible thackstone inserts on the tower itself. On the basis of this evidence, plans, cross sections and 3D models of the church and tower have been drawn showing how the building developed from the 12th century onward. These have been considerably

assisted by a concurrent RCAHMS survey of the building employing additional and laser based surveying techniques. Detailed results for years one and two have been written up in a progress report.

In year three we took the opportunity afforded by repair work to the tower to investigate 12th-century features hidden beneath 19/20th-century plaster and a rotting timber ceiling. In the process we have uncovered a previously hidden blocked doorway to the spiral stair, a large double voussoir arch between the tower and nave, and what we interpret to be

socket holes for the tread wheel used to raise blocks during construction. The plaster removal has also enabled us to secure a full set of masons’ or banker marks from all levels of the tower. Panel removal within the church gallery has revealed a ‘cross pattée’ inscribed on the topmost voussoir of

the arch facing into the nave. Otherwise the arch voussoirs appear to be unadorned and unstepped. The tower arch measures 3.95m high from the floor of the nave to the soffit and is 2.01m wide and >1m in depth. Any decoration that the arch imposts might have had on the W side was found to have been removed during previous renovations, but a clear profile was obtained from marks on the S wall. The E side of the arch remains covered by modern plaster work. Within the tower post-12th-century dowels from wooden dado panelling have also been uncovered along with red staining applied directly to the stone after the panels had been removed. Plaster samples have been taken for analysis if funds permit. Loose finds from the NE part of the graveyard adjacent to the church included an arch hood-moulding with a chip-carved saltire motif. This matches a set of three recycled blocks already observed embedded in the 17/18th-century S wall.

The diameter is calculated to be c7m, slightly less than the estimated width of the 12th-century nave. These are now being interpreted as part of a substantial chancel arch. What appear to be recycled plain voussoirs have been identified embedded in the S wall. These may have underpinned the hood-moulding with the arch embedded in the nave walls in a fashion similar to the tower arch. It may have been related to an engaged foliate capital that was recycled in the fabric of the nearby Session House in the 1870s, but is now much worn. Dating of the building is proving to be difficult and the most recent report examines the possibility of an early 12th-century date alongside the currently accepted mid-12th-century date.

Mortar samples with both charcoal and limestone lumps have been taken from inside the 12th-century wall. It is hoped to excavate close to the walls in year three and to focus desk research on comparison with similar buildings in the northern part of the British Isles.

One of the key finds to date is a chip-carved hood-moulding of an arch with a double row of saltires and quirked beading, which was found in a formerly fenced off part of the graveyard. The design was common in late 11th- and early 12th-century buildings throughout Europe. It can also be interpreted as a row of intersecting lozenges and crosses. The find location was once the fenced-off burial plot of the church’s principal

heritors, the Balfour family. It was found adjacent to the church near the NE wall, facing in to the wall. The stone matches three others embedded in the S wall, which had been reused when the church was rebuilt in the 17th or 18th centuries. Although finely carved on the face, it is roughly hewn on the upper and lower surfaces and has a peg hole. A template of the design and curvature was made and measured to be c7m in diameter, slightly less than the estimated width of the nave. It is currently being interpreted as a segment of the chancel arch.

Archive: RCAHMS (intended). Reports: Hunter Archaeological Trust

Funder: Hunter Archaeological and Historical Trust, Heritage Lottery Fund and Fife Council

Bruce Manson, Neil Sutherland and Maureen Brand – Markinch Heritage Group (Source: DES)

Standing Building Recording (1 January 2015 - 15 October 2015)

NO 29000 01000 (Canmore ID: 29951) A programme of work undertaken, 1 Jan – 15 October 2015, marked the final year of a four year project (DES 2014, 87–88). During 2015 the focus has been upon comparison of Markinch Church with other 12th-century buildings in the N of England and E Scotland.

During the summer, a detailed survey of the stonemasons’ marks was undertaken on behalf of Markinch Heritage Group by Moira Greig. There are almost 900 of these, mostly well preserved except where rainwater penetration has led to some spalling. They occur on the internal coursing of the tower and on the remaining internal face of the nave adjacent to the tower accessible through an upper doorway. Most are simple three or four stroke marks especially on the lower courses but some are more elaborate with one that appears, so far, to be unique.

A detailed comparison of the marks with those found at Leuchars and Dalmeny has been carried out. There were over 30 types of mark recorded at Markinch but only a few were common to all 3 buildings. The overlap of marks between Dalmeny and Leuchars is significantly greater than between either of these and Markinch. By combining diagonal tooling with the marks themselves it was possible to establish the identity of one individual mason whose final dressing stroke almost invariably corresponded with the first stroke of his mark. This will be important in ongoing work to compare other 12th-century buildings in N Britain, as it may be possible to pick up this unique ‘fingerprint’ stone in other buildings. No such direct link has yet been found at either Leuchars or Dalmeny. An example of this mason’s mark appears on the same block as what appears to be an instruction as to how half-bonded construction should be carried out with the vertical mortared joint at the mid point of the stones above and below. This technique may have been sufficiently unusual to warrant a specific graphic demonstration permanently on display to the team of masons. Other grafitti appear to show a counterweighted T-shaped crane and some roof trusses. Finds during the year included pieces of mudstone slabbing that may have been used as roofing material. No further progress was made on uncovering the tower arch on the nave side although the removal of a wooden panel revealed a cross pattée on the keystone.

Archive: Markinch Heritage Group

Funder: Heritage Lottery Fund

Bruce Manson – Markinch Heritage Group

(Source: DES, Volume 16)


MyCanmore Image Contributions

Contribute an Image

MyCanmore Text Contributions