Oldhamstock Parish Church

  • Dedication: St Michael
  • Diocese of St Andrews
  • Deanery of Haddington/Lothian

Few records survive of the medieval parish church of Oldhamstocks.  What appears to be the earliest mention of the church in a surviving source is the record of its dedication to St Michael,(1) by Bishop David de Bernham of St Andrews on 19 October 1242.(2)  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.(3)  Identification of its dedication occurs in the testament of Alexander Hume of Dunglass, dated 3 February 1423-4, which made provision for pro anima masses on Alexander’s behalf to be said annually by one chaplain in the church of St Michael of ‘Aldhampstocks’.(4)  It remained independent throughout the pre-Reformation period with rectors being identified in 1450, 1488 and 1538.(5)  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, since it was commented that ‘the rector can do without them’.(6)  Oldhamstocks, however, remained an independent parsonage at the Reformation, at which time it was recorded that 13 merks of the teinds were due to a prebend in the collegiate church, while the parsonage, pertaining to Mr Thomas Hepburn, was valued at £186 13s 4d.(7)

Saint Michael

Michael is an archangel in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran systems of faith, he is called "Saint Michael the Archangel" and "Saint Michael". In the Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox religions, he is called "Saint Michael the Taxiarch".

Michael is mentioned three times in the Book of Daniel. The idea that Michael was the advocate of the Jews became so prevalent that, in spite of the rabbinical prohibition against appealing to angels as intermediaries between God and his people, Michael came to occupy a certain place in the Jewish liturgy.

In the New Testament Michael leads God's armies against Satan's forces in the Book of Revelation, where during the war in heaven he defeats Satan. In the Epistle of Jude Michael is specifically referred to as "the archangel Michael". Catholic sanctuaries to Michael appeared in the 4th century, when he was first seen as a healing angel, and then over time as a protector and the leader of the army of God against the forces of evil.

'Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil; May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; And do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.'

Oldhamstocks parish church was recast in 1701, a N jamb with a family aisle making it in to a T-plan. Signs of an older church include, in the E gable, a splayed double base-course of about the 14th century. The Hepburn aisle was added to this in 1581; the S door of this, however, probably dates to 1701. The pointed windows of the church are newer in workmanship if not in form, and although the staged W tower may be original (or even basically medieval), its belfry is of the later 18th century. A sundial, evidently of 1701, is bracketed from the SW corner of the church. Internally, the Hepburn aisle was developed as a 'chancel' in successive 20th century alterations. It has its original ashlar vault.

The original entrance, now blocked, has the date 1701 on the lintel, and the E gable of the Hepburn burial aisle contains two heraldic plaques, one dated 1581.

Historically, parishioners attended services at either Oldhamstocks parish church (Church of Scotland) or the Secessionist Free Church, which in 1890 moved to Cockburnspath and left its buildings in Oldhamstocks to be converted to private houses (Sunnyside and Leeside). In the 1940s there was at least one family, the Chapmans, who were Plymouth Brethren and they held services, including funerals, in their farmhouse at Oldhamstocks Mains.

Oldhamstocks parish church may date from the 1100s and although little of the earliest foundations remain, the later structures including the 16th century Hepburn aisle have been maintained and are in good repair. The 1824 watch house is disused and deteriorating but the graveyard, which contains memorial stones from the early 1600s, is still in use. The glebe was sold and the old manse, built in 1848, became a private home after the Oldhamstocks church was linked with St Helen’s, Cockburnspath in 1947 (which itself had united with St John’s Co’path in 1937).

In 1977 a bungalow manse was built at Thurston prior to the next linking of the churches with Innerwick in 1978. All three Church of Scotland congregations were united as Dunglass parish in 1994 and one minister now conducts a Sunday service at each church (see Innerwick parish – CD-ROM for more information). In 1997 the manse was moved again, this time back to Cockburnspath and another new house.

In 2000, the parish of Dunglass recorded some 450 members in total (Cockburnspath – 250, Innerwick – 150, Oldhamstocks – 50), there were far fewer regular attenders. The average Sunday attendance at Oldhamstocks was just ten or twelve. More attended Communion and Christmas services but at weddings and especially funerals, there might be standing room only.


Corpus of Scottish Churches https://arts.st-andrews.ac.uk/corpusofscottishchurches/site.php?id=158820

Canmore - National Record of the Historic Environment https://canmore.org.uk/site/58913/oldhamstocks-parish-church

East Lothian Fourth Statistical Account 1945-2000: The parishes of Dunbar, Innerwick, Oldhamstocks, Spott, Stenton. vol 6

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