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The earliest record of a church in Oldhamstocks is the 12th century. A 16th century aisle was adjoined to church built in 1701, built on part foundations of circa 14th century church.

It was announced in 2022 by the Church of Scotland that it intended selling Oldhamstocks Parish Church in 2023.

Dedication: St Michael

Few records survive of the medieval parish church of Oldhamstocks. What appears to be one of the earliest mentions of the church is the record of its dedication to St Michael, by Bishop David de Bernham of St Andrews on 19 October 1242.

It appears as a free parsonage in the accounts of the papal tax-collector in Scotland in 1276, when the executor for the late rector was recorded as paying 10 merks* 4s 4½d in the first year of the taxation.

Identification of its dedication occurs in the testament of Alexander Hume of Dunglass, dated 3 February 1423-4. 

In 1451, however, a £5 portion of its teind** income was diverted to the new collegiate church of Dunglass, which was founded within the parish.

Oldhamstocks, however, remained an independent parsonage at the Reformation, at which time it was recorded that 13 merks were due to a prebend*** in the collegiate church, while the parsonage, pertaining to Mr Thomas Hepburn, was valued at £186 13s 4d.

*The merk is a long-obsolete silver coin used as currency until 1603

**Teind is a Scots word for tithe, meaning a tenth part

***the portion of the revenues a collegiate church formerly granted to a canon or member of the chapter

Pre-Reformation Clergy of Oldhamstocks

1127 Adulf priest of Aldehamstoc

1261 -1273 Johanne (John), rector of Haldeharnstoc as documented in several charters of Patrick lll Earl of Dunbar

1296 Thomas de Hunsingoure was ‘parson of the church of Aldhamstoke’ (See Battle of Dunbar 1296 on the Village Page)

1458 Patrick Sinclair was ‘rector of Aldhamstocks’ as documented in a charter of Alexander Hume of Dunglas, which he witnessed

1489 Patrick Crawford, rector of ‘Auldhamstoxs’ as documented in a charter of Stephen of Mordington, which he witnessed

1538 Patrick Moneypenny, rector of ‘Auldhamstox’ as documented in a charter of Andrew Brown, which he witnessed

The Role of Priests in the MiddleAges

Priests provided care in thecommunity. They performed baptisms and weddings and were the main source ofeducation. The priest was in charge of ensuring religious occasions and eventswere observed and would hold the responsibility to perform the final ritesto the dying.

One of the most significant dutieswas establishing and running a local school. This was particularly vital whenthe Kings realized the importance of education in the development of thecountry and in winning battles. Only a small selection of students would betaught by educated priests on how to read and write in Latin. They also taughtreligious studies, philosophy, and rhetoric.

Societal Aspects

In the Middle Ages priests made aliving from tithes. The amount of tithe a person would pay would bea tenth of their earnings or their harvest. Thus, peasants would contribute atenth of their meat and a tenth of their harvest to the church. The clergywould use one-third of the contributions for their own upkeep, while the Bishopand the poor in the community would share the remaining contributions. Themoney that was given to, or collected by the church was used for repairs withinthe church, for purchasing books and candles.

Priests were generallyallowed to marry and have children. Priesthood during the middle ages washereditary so that the priest’s son would take over the church when his fatherdied. Women were not permitted to become priests. A parish priest would be moreeducated, than a village priest but still illiterate. Society was divided intothose who prayed, fought or worked. 

Historical Documentation:

Listed as a parsonage in Bagimond's Roll, the church remained unappropriated, lying within the patronage of the earls of Bothwell by 16th century.

1627 Report on the parish by the minister describes the church as formally being under the patronage of the earl of Bothwell and now under the patronage of the laird of Buccleuch.

1665 Thomas Hepburn reports that the kirk is well repaired, the manse is competent.

1672 Letter from the bishop of Edinburgh authorising the visit of the ruins of the manse of Oldhamstocks. John Douglas, mason, and James Mitchell, wright, commissioned to build it at a cost of £730 6s 6d.

1673 Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Dunbar, finds the minister noting that the church requires reparation.

1697 The minister reported that day that there was a general charge given to all the proprietors…for building of the church.

1701 Mr Currie (minister) reported to the presbytery the dangerous condition of the kirk and produced a letter from Mr Smyth, mason.

1701 Workmen George Rankin, John Hogg and Patrick Hogg, masons, and various wrights and glasiers, visited the church and it ‘in their judgement it was impossible to repair the church so as to make it stand and that there was an absolute necessity to take it down and build a new one.

1701 (8 June) The minister reported that he had asked the presbytery of Dunbar whether he could preach in the church of Dunglass until the church shall be rebuilt.

1701 (2 Nov) The minister made public the intimation…the church is now finished. 

Oldhamstocks Church Bell

The church bell was built by C & G Mears (Master Founders), Whitechapel Bell Foundry, London in 1850

In 1752 the foundry (then known as Lester and Pack) cast the Liberty Bell. As a result of damage sustained during its stormy passage across the Atlantic, the bell cracked when it was first rung, and after repeated repairs cracked again in 1846 when rung to mark the birthday of George Washington.

Big Ben was cast in 1858 and rung for the first time on 31 May 1859. Big Ben weighs 13½ tons and is the largest bell ever cast at the foundry. This bell also cracked because too heavy a hammer was initially used. The crack and the subsequent retuning gives Big Ben its present distinctive tone.

In Memoriam

Johanni Broadwood

Filli Ejus

Dono Dederunt 

Anno 1851

C et G Mears, Londini


Bell in situ 2021

In Memory of

John Broadwood

By his sons

They gave as a gift 

In the year 1851

C & G Mears, London


Stained Glass Window

The window inserted by James Ballantine (Ballantine & Son) into the aisle’s eastern gable wall.

It depicts "The Ascension"with Christ shown in its centre surrounded by shimmering rays of golden light emanating out toward the walls. Beneath are the figures Mary, John and the Apostles "in a traditional medieval manner and here the draperies are arranged in interesting shapes of deep-toned colours" each (according TheScotsman article describing its unveiling) "in harmony with this ancient part of the church".

Almost camouflaged within the tracery above are the emblems of the "Lamb and Banner", the "Descending Dove" and "the Pelican" - traditional Christian motifs which are also repeated elsewhere in the building.


These traditional Christian motifs are also repeated elsewhere in the building, most notably on the nearby oak pulpit gifted to the church in 1935 by a Miss Mitchell in memory of her father the Rev Thomas Mitchell who was parish minister from 1843 to 1875.

“A pulpit gifted by Miss Mitchell…was dedicated in Oldhamstocks Church on Sunday. The pulpit, which is a handsome one of Scots oak, has carvings in each of the five panels symbolic of many of the great doctrines of the Christian faith.” The Scotsman, 30 Apr 1935

Post Reformation Ministers of Oldhamstocks

Rev. Thomas Mitchell
1843 - 1875 

Rev. W M Hutton 
1875 – 1913

Rev. James Bryce Gordon 
1913 - 1941

Rev. David Smith 
1942 – 1945

Rev. D Frank Philip

1947 – 1949

Robert Keltie

1949 - 1957

Rev. John W M Cameron

1957 – 1964

Rev. D F S Dick

1965 – 1976

Rev. Bruce Robertson

1976 – 1980

Rev. Paraic Reamonn

1982 – 1991

Rev. Anne Lithgow

1994 – 2009

Rev. Suzie Fletcher 

2011 - present

Details of Court Case to adjudicate over entitlement to a Grass Glebe which went to the House of Lords

Rev. Robert Moore v Alexander Hepburn Murray Belches

May 21, 1827

Subject: Grass Glebe

The Presbytery of Dunbar designed four and a half acres of Blackcastle, the property of Alexander Hepburn Murray Belches, Esq. of Invennay, as a grass glebe to the Rev. Robert Moore, minister of the parish of Oldhamstocks.

Mr Belches objected principally because the lands designed were the site of the old manor-house of Blackcastle, in ruins, and offered instead a grass glebe further away (Woollands) which he said was equally good and convenient.

The case came before Lord Gillies, who tasked a Mr Turnbull, a person of skill, to inspect the land offered by Belches. Turnbull reported that the land was suitable.

The Court approved of this report and ruled that the land on the Woollands should be made the glebe and that Rev.Moore was not entitled to compensation for the four years that he had been without a glebe, as he claimed.

Rev. Moore appealed on the grounds that “a minister is entitled to have a grass glebe designed to him out of the kirk lands nearest to the manse; and the heritor is not entitled to defeat the enactment by an offer of other lands, not kirk lands, and less convenient in pointof situation and in other respects. The lands designed by the Presbytery once belonged to the old parsonage of the parish and are therefore the most eligible under the word and spirit of the statutes.”

The appeal went to the House of Lords. The original ruling was reversed and the grass glebe designed by the Presbytery was awarded to Rev. Moore and a further ruling stated that he was entitled to a monetary compensation for the four years he had been denied said glebe.

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