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Luffness, Carmelite Friary

Fishpond (Period Unassigned), Friary (Medieval), Grave Slab (15th Century), Effigy (Medieval)

Site Name Luffness, Carmelite Friary

Classification Fishpond (Period Unassigned), Friary (Medieval), Grave Slab (15th Century), Effigy (Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Friary And Fish Ponds; Luffness Convent; Luffness Friary

Canmore ID 55042

Site Number NT48SE 2

NGR NT 47117 80138

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

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

Archaeology Notes

NT48SE 2 47117 80138

(NT 47117 80138) Remains of Friary (NR) (Carmelite)

(NT 47173 80231) Fish Ponds (NR) (Remains of)

OS 6" map (1968)

The house of Carmelite friars at Luffness is first mentioned in 1335-6, but may have been founded in the previous century. No references to it have been found after 1512, but lands formerly belonging to it were leased by the crown in 1609. The foundations of the church can be clearly discerned, but the associated buildings have almost entirely disappeared. About 100 yds NE of the church are the remains of two fishponds, and 100 yds further in the same direction is a fragment of building, now incorporated in a boundary wall.

D E Easson 1957; RCAHMS 1924; Trans E Lothian Antiq Fld Natur Soc 1929

The remains are as described above. The walls of the church, which measures 31.0m x 8.0 m, average 0.7m wide and 0.7m high except at the E end on the N side, where the wall is 1.7m high.

All that remains of the two fish ponds are two waterlogged hollows overgrown with rank grass or weeds. They have a maximum depth of 1.5m. The fragment of building mentioned above was located at NT 4730 8026. It consists of the NW angle of a building, the N side being 0.5m long, the W side, 3.0m long, and standing to a height of some 3.5m. There are two blocked-up slit windows in the N wall.

Revised at 25".

Visited by OS (WDJ) 21 November 1962

No change to previous field report.

Visited by OS (SFS) 16 July 1975

At the E end of the N wall of the church, a recess contains an effigy of a knight in late 13th century armour. The position is that normal for a founder's tomb. This effigy proves that the friary was founded several decades before it first appears on record. Also, the proportions of the church compare with late 13th century mendicant churches outside Scotland (e.g. Alnwick Carmelites, Brecon Dominicans).

C McWilliam 1978.

Scheduled as 'Luffness Friary, ...the remains of Luffness Convent'.

Information from Historic Scotland, scheduling document dated 14 February 2002.

Architecture Notes

Non-Guardianship Sites Plan Collection, DC23156- DC23160, 1926.


Field Visit (3 July 1913)

No.1 Luffness Convent.

The remains of an establishment of Carmelite Friars (1) are situated within the policies of Luffness House equidistant ¼ mile from the House and the village of Aberlady. The foundations of the church can be clearly discerned, but the conventual buildings have almost entirely disappeared. About 100 yards to the north-north-east of the church are the remains of two fishponds, and 100 yards farther in the same direction is a fragment of building, now incorporated in a boundary wall.

The church (fig. 32 [plan]) was an oblong structure, orientated and unaisled, comprising nave and choir both apparently contained beneath one roof. The eastern portion of the choir is elevated to form a sanctuary 11.5 feet in length. From the north wall of the choir there projected sacristy, which can be traced for only some few feet of its east and west walls. At the angles of the church two buttresses are placed at right angles to each other. On the east gable there is a central buttress, and on the west gable are two intermediate buttresses. As played basement course returns around the gables and the buttresses, except at the southwest angle, where the course abuts on the buttress projecting westwards. The gables are 3 feet thick; the lateral walls 2 feet 4 inches. Traces of other building can be seen on the north and south of the church.

The nave, which is 20 feet 2 inches wide and 43 feet 8 inches long is separated from the choir by a pulpitum 2 feet 9 inches thick. The choir is the same width as the nave and is 48 feet 7 inches long. The doorway in the north wall opening into the sacristy had a pointed arched head. The sanctuary is elevated on two steps above the level of nave and choir, the lower step being 6 inches east of the sacristy door.

EFFIGY: In the north wall of the sanctuary is an arched tomb recess containing a much weathered effigy of a knight, 6 feet 6 inches in length by 2 feet 4 inches broad, wearing a surcoat over armour apparently of mail and having a heater shaped shield inclined to the left. At present lying on the effigy is a fragment of masonry, which is circled on its upper surface and wrought within the circle in flutes to resemble a six pointed rowel 1.25 feet in diameter. A very similar object in Bodmin Church, Cambridgeshire, is a piscina.

MONUMENTAL SLAB: In the centre of the sanctuary is a mutilated 15th century monumental slab 7 feet by 4 feet bearing a patriarchal cross on a step. On the uppermost armies inscribed I N R I; below the lower arm a shield is planted on the shaft bearing on a chevron a rose between two lions counter combatant-the Hepburn arms. Around the edge of the stone is the inscription in Gothic characters: HONORABILIS VIR KENTIGERNUS HEPBURN DE WAUCHTOUN.

In the sanctuary and in the angles of the nave are traces of paving. The structure dates from the end of the 13th century.

HISTORICAL NOTE: The Carmelites or White Friars were constituted as a mendicant order in 1264. They wore a white cappa or cloak over a brown tunic &c., whence the descriptive name. The friars of Luffness (fratres de Lufnok) had a grant in alms of ten marks annually from the Luffness estate, which grant, in 1335-6, was said to be ancient (2). At this date the land of 'Lufnok' was in the hands of Edward III of England by his forfeiture of John de ‘Bikirtoun’ (3). On its transference to the Hepburns in the fifteenth century and Kentigern Hepburn see No.3. The tomb noted above was said (1723) to be of one of the Bickertons . . ‘commonly called Lord Bickerton’ (4) but there was no such title. According to James Miller (1844) 'the statue of a man as large as life, with a shield on his breast' went by the name of ‘Friar Bickerton’ (5).

The lands and buildings ‘ad lie Carmelit Freiris’ of Luffness were granted in feu farm in 1609 to Robert Hepburn junior in Over Hailes but nine years later to Patrick Hepburn of Waughton (6).

RCAHMS 1924, visited 3 July 1913.

(1) Scotichronicon, ii., p. 540; Reg. Mag.Sig., i., p. 606; (2) Cal. Docts. iii., p. 338; (3) Ibid; (4) Macfarlane, Geog. Colls. i., p. 374; (5) Lamp of Lothian, p. 122 note; (6) Reg. Mag.Sig. s.a.

OS map ref. iv. N.E. Convent (Carmelite Friars).


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