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Burntisland, East Leven Street, Burntisland Parish Church

Church (16th Century)

Site Name Burntisland, East Leven Street, Burntisland Parish Church

Classification Church (16th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Episcopal Church Of Scotland; Kirk Of The Bible; Scholar's Brae; St Columba's Parish Church

Canmore ID 52793

Site Number NT28NW 25

NGR NT 23350 85712

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/52793

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2018.

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

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

Archaeology Notes

NT28NW 25.00 23350 85712

NT28NW 25.01 23358 85675 Churchyard

(NT 2335 8570) Ch. (NAT)

OS 6" map, (1938)

The present parish church was built in 1592.

RCAHMS 1933; OSA 1792; NSA 1845.

The parish church of St. Columbus is in use for public worship.

Visited by OS (A C) 11 March 1959.

St Columba's Church is still in use.

(Undated) information in NMRS.

Architecture Notes

NT28NW 25.00 23350 85712

Built in 1592 and interesting as an early effort at Protestant planning.

Inventory No. 68. p. 38.

NMRS Print Room

Burntisland Parish Church & Churchyard

2 prints - exterior

W Schomberg Scott Photograph Collection

Acc No 1997/39

EXTERNAL REFERENCE:

Edinburgh Public Library -

James Grant's Sketch Book in MSS - Nos. 255, 256. Notes with view, circa 1850

Activities

Publication Account (1987)

This church replaced the former parish church, the ruins of which still stand at the Kirkton, north of the town (NT 230863). Burntisland had grown considerably in the 16th century and achieved Royal Burgh status in 1568. To symbolise this prosperity the inhabitants of the burgh decided to build a new church. Permission was obtained from the heritors and the townsfolk raised the funds. The design made a considerable contribution to the development of the architectural traditions of the Reformed church, producing a plan form and method of construction unparalleled in Scotland. The church was erected in 1592 and local tradition suggests that it was copied from Noorderkerk, Amsterdam. It does not resemble that building but is closer in planning terms to the Oosterkerk in Amsterdam, the Nieuwe Kerk in Haarlem and the Scot's Kirk in Rotterdam (now destroyed), although all four churches are later than Burntisland. The idea may indeed have come from the continent but, until a model is found there, it must be regarded as a Scottish design.

The building is approximately 18m square internally and four piers enclose a 6m square in the centre. The piers are connected by semi-circular arches, whilst rampant arches spring from external angled buttresses to about the piers on the diagonal. The tower and buttresses are constructed of ashlar, and the walls are harled rubble. The four lower courses of the tower are original, but the top section dates from 1749. A stone above the west door has the date '1592' and an inverted anchor.

The gallery is entered from the east by means of a forestair with a good moulded balustrade. The moulded doorway architrave is inscribed on the lower member of the cornice: 'GODS. PROVIDENCE. IS. OUR. INHERITANCE. HUNE 6 1679.' and has an inverted anchor on a cushioned frieze.

Internally, the church has a wooden gallery on each wall. The fronts of these galleries are panelled and painted. The panels bear a number of dates, mottoes and representations of ships, seamen and nautical instruments. There are also a number of craft or guild symbols.

The pulpit is sited against the south-west pier leaving an entrance area, vestry and stair to the gallery in that corner. The minister could then preach diagonally across the church. This was an important break with the traditions of the Roman Catholic churches and expressed the Presbyterian requirement to hear the spoken word. Directly opposite the pulpit is a fme 17th century canopied pew, constructed of oak inlaid with other woods. The front and back are panelled and the canopy is supported on moulded and reeded shafts. It bears the date 1606, the initials SRM. and the arms of Sir Robert Melville.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Fife and Tayside’, (1987).

References

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