Elie Parish Church

National Grid Reference (NGR): NO 49150 00100, map


High Street

Also known as:

  • Elie Kirk (1639)


This T plan church was built in 1639 and its tower was added in 1726.   The church lies east to west, the long axis with the tower facing south towards Elie High Street.   It is in a walled graveyard which surrounds the church to the south, east and west and is probably of a similar age to the church.  It has been in use until very recently.   Features of interest include a carved octagonal font which was removed from Wood Memorial Church prior to its demolition in the 1960s.   

Description (exterior)


The church and session house are built from sandstone, which may previously have been harled, and are roofed in Scottish slate.   The east elevation has a four centred arch with clear glass at gallery level and is topped by a pinecone finial.  A seventeenth century graveslab featuring deathsheads and cherubs has been inserted into the wall;   a flat roofed extension with two windows and ball finials on each corner covers a blocked opening. The east wall of the extension has a coffin style memorial in the wall, probably also seventeenth century in date, which has a skeleton protruding from the top of the coffin with an hourglass and memento mori above its head.     To the north of the transept a square headed door with a moulded frame and lintel is the main entrance into the church. This is flanked by a rectangular slit opening and a tall rectangular window.   Above the door is a projecting string course which runs to the edges of the wall. There is a pediment at the wallhead above the string and a rounded finial on the corner.   To the north there is a further flat roofed sandstone extension with a square headed window for a room which is used as a session house.

The south elevation faces the High Street. It has four semi-circular arched windows, all with stained glass. To the west of the windows is a door, which does not appear to be in use. There are two blocked openings in this face; a rectangular one between the two most westerly windows and a semicircular arched one between the two most easterly windows. In the centre of the face is the tower, which cuts the margins of two of the windows.

The west elevation is a mirror of the east, with a similar flat roofed porch in the centre. To the north of the porch are a blocked square headed window, and a semi-circular arched stained glass window.   There is also a blocked opening which was probably a door.

On the north elevation there are arched rectangular stained glass windows  on either side of the central cell. The string on the pedimented face on the east elevation continues under the flat roof of the north elevation, stopping when the roof slopes upwards to become a gable. The gable and the flat roof both have rounded finials.   There is a semi-circular arched stained glass window under the gable.

The tower has two stages, capped by a belfry which was probably added in the early nineteenth century in place of an earlier spire.   The lower stage of the tower is entered through a door under rounded arch on the south face.   Above this is a framed Latin inscription, dating the construction of the tower to 1726.   The second stage of the tower is octagonal and divided into eight faces by strips of dressed sandstone.   To the east a blocked window has a memorial inserted below.   To the west is another blocked window.  This stage has a clock face to the north, south, east and west, and  a louvered vent below the clockface on the south elevation. The bellcote is rounded,  divided into four by strips of sandstone, and has four louvered openings in rounded arches. It  is covered by a domed roof and has an abstract silver weathercock.  

The old session house of the church is built into the church wall on the south side of the graveyard.  

Description (interior)

The interior has galleries to the north, east and west. On a raised area to the south there are an elaborately carved pulpit, a communion table, font and lectern. In the nave facing the pulpit, the organ is on the east wall.   There are pews  facing the pulpit in the nave, and also facing inwards both from the east and the west.   On either side of the pulpit are stained glass windows depicting Moses on the east and Christ to the west.   To the west under the gallery the window also depicts Christ.  In the west end of the north wall is one of two windows by Burne Jones, working out of the William Morris Studio, with the inscription �Glory to God� and depicting St. Matthew.   In the east wall is a memorial window with the inscription �The Lord is my Shepherd�. The other Burne Jones window is on the north wall to the east of the entrance, depictine  St. Luke and has the inscription �Glory to God�. There is a further stained glass window in the south wall, to the east of the large windows on either side of the pulpit which  also depicts Christ.   All of the windows, except those on either side of the pulpit were removed from the Wood Memorial Church when it was demolished in the 1960s (Site No. 8417).

People / Organisations:

Mr John CurrieArchitect1855Responsible for alterations to the church in 1855.
Peter MacGregor ChalmersArchitect1905-1906Added the east porch, vestry and organ chamber.
The Anstruther FamilyBenefactor1697Elie The Anstruther Family became heritors of the church.
Mr William BurnArchitect1639-1640Designed the church.
Church of ScotlandDenomination1639-NOW
Sir John AnstrutherBenefactor1726Commissioned the tower.
William Scott of ArdrossBenefactor1639Paid for the church to be built.


  • Graveyard: Opening (1639)
    The graveyard has been in use as long as the church.
  • Church: Build/construction (1639)
    The church was built in 1639.
  • Church: Addition (1642 to 1643)
    A new church floor was laid.
  • Church: Addition (1643)
    A new bell was installed.
  • Church: Repair (1653 to 1654)
    The masonry was repointed and limewashed.
  • Church: Repair (1662)
    The scaffold supporting the pulpit was repaired.
  • Tower: Build/construction (1726)
    The tower was added by Sir John Anstruther.
  • Church: Build/construction (1726)
    The tower was added by Sir John Anstruther.
  • Church: Damage (1739)
    A hurricane took of the roof of the kirk.
  • Church: Repair (1809 to 1810)
    The church was closed for two weeks for repairs.
  • Church: Alteration/conversion (1831)
    Two south porches were removed, two south doors were blocked, the east and west doors were put in with small porches. East and west galleries were added (there was previously only a north one). The walls were raised to accommodate the galleries. Wooden pillars supporting the north gallery were removed and a wooden beam put in. The interior walls were replastered. The four south windows were enlarged, the pulpit door was blocked up and the north windows in the east and west transepts were inserted. The harling was removed.
  • Session house: Build/construction (1831)
    The session house was built.
  • Tower: Removal (1831)
    An outside stair, a door and a window were removed.
  • Tower: Addition (1831)
    A domed belfry was added in place of an earlier steeple.
  • Church: Removal (1831)
    An outside stair, a door and a window were removed from the tower.
  • Church: Addition (1831)
    Addition of a domed belfry, which replaces an earlier steeple.
  • Church: Repair (1855)
    The walls were repointed. The stairs to the galleries were moved from the outside to the inside. The east porch was altered. The kirk roof was repaired. The pulpit was covered with crimson cloth and the gallery fronts with fringe cloth.
  • Church: Addition (1865)
    The church had gas lighting installed.
  • Church: Addition (1881)
    Elie participated in a water scheme which resulted in the building of a reservoir behind Arncroach. Therefore, the church was able to get water for heating and to drive an organ.
  • Church: Renovation (1885)
    The interior was renovated and the seating rearranged. A boiler was installed under the tower.
  • Church: Addition (1900)
    The clock was installed. This was later replaced and its mechanism was reused for the floral clock in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh.
  • Tower: Addition (1900)
    A clock was installed.
  • Church: Addition (1906)
    An organ was added to the church.
  • Church: Repair (1927)
    Repairs were carried out.
  • Church: Addition (1936)
    Electricity was introduced.
  • Church: Union (1949)
    The parish church congregation united with that of Wood Memorial Church (site 8417).
  • Church: Addition (1960c)
    Wood Memorial Church was abandoned in favour of the parish church and may of its fixtures and fittings were moved to the parish church.
  • Church: Addition (1965)
    The church received a new organ.
  • Church: Addition (1972)
    A new clock was added following the corrosion of the old clockfaces.
  • Tower: Addition (1972)
    The clock was replaced after its faces became corroded.

Archive References:

Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 30959 and 30958
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 30958
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 30959
Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 1109
Scran - Online databaseReference: 1109
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 32571Elie Parish Church.
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 100685Churchyard gateway, wall and session house.
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 251533Churchyard with mural monument.

Bibliographic References:

Buildings of Scotland: FifeGifford, J1988p. 207
Elie Kirk, 350 Years 1639-1989Thomson, D.1989
Guide to the East Neuk of FifeFleming, D Hay1886Available as an ebook at http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/usebooks/fleming-eastneuk/index.html See Chapter 11