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Crail, Marketgate, Crail Parish Church

Church (Medieval), Collegiate Church (Medieval)

Site Name Crail, Marketgate, Crail Parish Church

Classification Church (Medieval), Collegiate Church (Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Church Of Scotland; Collegiate Kirk; St Mary's

Canmore ID 35328

Site Number NO60NW 2

NGR NO 61339 07976

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

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

Archaeology Notes

NO60NW 2.00 61339 07976

NO60NW 2.01 centred NO 61366 07986 Churchyard

NO60NW 2.02 NO 61312 07990 Deadhouse (mort-house)

(NO 6134 0797) Church formerly Collegiate Kirk (NR)

OS 6" map (1912/38)

Similar information on cross slab to RCAHMS.

J Stuart 1856; J R Allen and J Anderson 1903.

No record of the first erection of the collegiate church of Crail exists but it would seem to date from the reign of David I (1124-1153) or his successors Malcolm IV (1153- 1165), or William the Lion (1165-1214). It is mentioned in a taxation roll which can be dated c.1175-1178, and William, Dean of Crail, is found at some period between 1202 and 1211, whilst the first definite notice still extant in relation to its fabric, is that of its consecration in 1243 by Bishop David de Bernham.

Some portions of the present church would appear to be part of the structure which was erected before 1176. Considerable alteration seems to have been made when the church became collegiate (1517).

Similar information on cross slab in relation to sculpture, dimensions and siting. It appears to date between AD 800 and 1150, but a puzzling feature is a panel with a sheild which can hardly be earlier than the 14th century. The reverse (built into the wall) is said to bear no sculpture.

E Beveridge 1893

A Charter by James II, dated 31st August 1458, whereby documents relating to property of the monastery of Haddington were repeated and confirmed, states that Ada, mother of William the Lion, gave to the monastery "The church of Carrale with the lands" etc.

It has been suggested that the present building is of David I's time but the architecture is of later date and it is more probable that it was erected c.1380 by Sir William Dischington of Ardross.

A H Millar 1895

Although it has been thought that some of the features of the church of Crail belong to the first pointed period, it is more likely that the whole structure except the recent work, dates from the beginning of the 16th century when the collegiate church was founded.

The stipend of this church is mentioned in 1177.

D MacGibbon and T Ross 1897

Parish Church, Crail. 'Although there has been considerable alteration it is clear that the building was first laid out in the form of an unaisled, rectangular nave and chancel. The only dateable feature left on the original masonry is a trigonal string course at what had been the northern junction of nave and chancel, which suggests a date in the second half of the 12th century. It is probable however, that additional evidence of period is afforded by three architectural fragments, unfortunately not in situ, which can only be part of an archway from a local church built in the Romaneogue style of c.1175, presumably the church of Crail. These are a cushion capital and a trifle rolled base, both used in the walling of the Tolbooth (60 NW 11) and a voussoir bearing traces of a leak head, now in the possession of a local resident.

The next stage in development, according to the architectural detail, occurred in the first 20 years of the 13th century. At that time the nave was virtuably raged, little but the east gable being left, and was rebuilt with north and south side aisles and with the present western tower which was evidently intended to be a story higher.

Evidence of this first reconstruction is most clearly seen at the northern junction of nave and chancel where the original north east angle of the nave is indicated by a race band and is also defined by a return on the trigonal string course.' Further major reconstruction has been carried out in the late 15th and the 16th century.

The church belonged to the convent or nunnery of St Clare at Haddington. In 1516 it became a collegiate establishment, with a provost and ten prebendaries. The royal charter confirming this is dated 1526.

A sculptured cross slab which has evidently been used again in the later 16th century, is built against the inner face of the wall at the west entrance. The slab stands 6'3" above the pavement and measures 2'6 1/2" across the base and is covered with sculptures in relief. In the centre is a cross of Celtic design with four arms of equal size ornamented with interlaced work while the shaft bears a key pattern. The remainder of the slab bears animal and human figures.



Antiquarian Observation (1857 - 1861)

Mason's marks from Scottish churches, abbeys and castles recorded between 1857 and 1861 on 29 drawings in the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Collection.

Field Visit (13 June 1927)

Visited by RCAHMS 13 June 1927.

Field Visit (15 October 1956)

Crail Church is a described above and is in use as a place of public worship. Marks on the east wall of the tower show that the roof was at one time of higher pitch. The sculptured stone is as described.

Visited by OS (DS) 15 October 1956

Field Visit (8 July 1957)

The description of the sculptured cross given by RCAHMS will be better understood by reference to the illustration in RCAHMS. The drawing reproduced on reverse of this card would appear to be a rather free interpretation, and does not show 'four arms of equal size'.

Visited by OS (CJP) 8 July 1957

Field Visit (27 August 1968)

No change.

Visited by OS (WDJ) 27 August 1968

Publication Account (1981)

The first mention of the parish church of Crail occurs in the reign of Malcolm IV (1153 x 1165) (Barrow, 1960, 282). It appears that at some point in his reign, Ada, Countess of Fife, granted to Haddington Priory, the church of Crail, the chapel of St. Ruffinus in the castle of Crail and other property, teinds, liberties, customs and so forth in the district (Barrow, 1960, 282). The church was consecrated by David de Bernham, Bishop of St.Andrews in 1243 and was dedicated in the first instance to St. Maelrubha of Applecross, and later to St.Mary (Anon, 1970, 5). St. Mary’s attained collegiate status in the first half of the sixteenth century, but after the Reformation in 1587 James VI granted to the bailies and community of the burgh for the maintenance of several municipal projects, the church, with its benefices and properties (Cowan and Easson, 1976, 217).

Through the centuries Crail parish church has undergone numerous alterations although it was evidently first laid out in the form of an unaisled nave and chancel and the masonry at what had been -the northern junction of the nave and chancel suggests a date in the second half of the twelfth century (RCAM, 1933, 57). In the first twenty years of the thirteenth century the church was rebuilt, the original nave being razed almost completely, and the reconstructed structure having both north and south side aisles and a western tower (RCAM, 1933, 58). The nave was re-roofed at a lower level in 1769, thus completely obscuring the old clerestory and the chancel was also reduced to half its original length and re-roofed (Anon, 1970, 6,7). Alterations to the church continued in the nineteenth and present centuries.

Information from ‘Historic Crail: The Archaeological Implications of Development’ (1981).

External Reference

NO60NW 2.00 61339 07976



'Uncatalogued MSS of General Hutton'

Volume 1, numbered 7. 1 Ground Plan.


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