Pittenweem Parish Church

National Grid Reference (NGR): NO 54910 02600, map


KY10 2LF


This impressive medieval church was founded sometime before 1200 (as shown by a fragment of doorway at the east end of the north elevation), and as such predates the foundation of Pittenweem Priory to the southeast (see separate site). Most of the church dates to the sixteenth century when many parts of the building were rebuilt and enlarged. It faces prominently onto Pittenweem High Street and is attached to the town's tolbooth, which gives the impression of a west tower of the church. The church is surrounded by a graveyard to the north, south and east, which has many carved gravestones and memorials from several hundred years.

J Dowling 2017

Description (exterior)

The nave of the church is harled and gable ended with a Scottish slate roof. It was extended in the late nineteenth century to form a T plan by adding a gable ended transept with sandstone facade on the north elevation.

The east elevation has gablet skewputts and a platform at the apex of the gable which formerly held a finial.  Half way down both sides of the roof is a decorative trefoil. Below the apex is a wheel window with stained glass. Below this is a pointed arched window with Y tracery and clear glass.

The south elevation has four stained glass windows set into lancets. Between the windows is a datestone which reads '1532', a year before Pittenweem became a separate parish.

The west gable has the same arrangement of decorative mouldings on the skew as the east elevation. It also has a similar wheel window with stained glass and two windows in pointed arches. There is a slim pier with moulded capital between the church and tolbooth, which is probably part of an eighteenth century market cross.

The north elevation of the church is pierced by a single stained glass lancet. Of particular interest is a small rectangular opening towards the east of the face with a small sandstone capital inside, perhaps uncovered in 1981, when the harling was temporary removed to reveal the medieval fabric of the church.

The principal facade of the north transept is to the north. There is a finial at the apex and kneelered gablets over two windows with thick tracery. Between the windows is a doorway recessed in a pointed arch of two orders. Over this is a further gablet with a finial and foliate stops. Above the door is a plate tracery window within a rounded arch frame. This has three lancet lights. Above these is an abstract eight leaf within a circular frame. There is a plain dripstone above. The north and south elevations are harled and have square headed windows with clear glass.


Tolbooth Tower

The tolbooth tower and its bailies' loft were added in 1588. It is joined to the church on its east and south sides and their histories are intertwined.   The tower is of four storeys with a vaulted basement. There is a stair turret to the east and an early seventeenth century spire behind a balustraded parapet.

The tower can be divided into two stages. The lower stage is harled and pierced by several small square windows. There are square headed entrances to the west and to the south. The upper stage of the tower is built from coursed sandstone. There is a clock on every face. Above this is the corbelled and balustraded parapet. Water spouts protrude from below the balustrade and small pinnacles on top. The spire itself is sandstone and is capped by a weathercock.


Description (interior)

The interior, reached through a narrow vestibule from which the stairs to the gallery lead, is galleried on the north side.  The pulpit is in the centre of the south wall, with pews to the right, left, and facing. The four stained glass windows on the south side depict The Four Evangelists, The Miraculous Draft of Fishes, The Sermon from the Boat and Christ Walking on Water.  On the north side the single stained glass window is  themed 'Hope'.


People / Organisations:

Pre-reformation Church of ScotlandDenominationB1560
Church of ScotlandDenomination1560-NOW
Mr James BrownArchitect1882Architect during rebuilding of church and addition of North aisle.
Mr John SmithCraftsman1773Horologist. Made clock for church tower.
Mr SymingtonCraftsman1858clockmaker? Made clock for church tower to replace previous clock.


  • Church: Build/construction (1200C)
    Earliest construction work.
  • Church: Build/construction (1588 to 1589)
    A new church built, including part of previous (Priory) church, and a tower (Tolbooth) were built.
  • Tower: Build/construction (1588)
  • Church: Installed (1633)
    A bell was installed in the church.
  • Church: Build/construction (1634)
    Top storey and spire added to tower.
  • Church: Installed (1742)
    A second bell was installed in the church.
  • Church: Installed (1773)
    A clock made for church tower by the clockmaker John Smith of Pittenweem.
  • Tower: Addition (1773)
    Addition of the church clock.
  • Church: Installed (1858)
    A new clock installed in church tower.
  • Tower: Addition (1858)
    Replacement of the church tower clock.
  • Church: Build/construction (1882)
    The church was rebuilt and North aisle was added by the architect James Brown.
  • Church: Installed (1882)
    Stained glass window themed \"Hope\"
  • Transept: Build/construction (1882)
    The aisle was built.
  • Church: Installed (1958)
    Stained glass window \"Sermon from the Boat\"
  • Church: Installed (1959)
    Stained glass window of 4 Evangelists
  • Church: Installed (1963)
    Installation of stained glass window \"The Miraculous Draft of Fishes\"
  • Church: Installed (1974)
    Stained glass window \"Christ Walking on Water\"
  • Church: Restoration (1981)
  • Graveyard: Consecration (b1200)
  • Tower: Build/construction (c1630)
    Addition of the spire and balustrade.

Archive References:

Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 39868
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 34242Parish Church and Tolbooth Steeple.
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 34242
Dictionary of Scottish Architects - Online databaseReference: 100666
http://www.scotland247.co.uk/ - Online databaseReference: Pittenweem
www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk - Online databaseReference: Pittenweem
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 117683
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 117683Churchyard, burial ground
Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 1454

Bibliographic References:

1000 Churches to Visit in Scotland, Year 2006/2007 editionScotland\'s Churches Scheme2006Illustrations Copyright: John R Hume,2005.
Maps Copyright: Jim Lewis, 2005. Number 533.
What to See in Pittenweem: A Guided WalkMartin, P.1994
Old PittenweemEunson, E.1999p. 32
Discovering FifeLamont-Brown, Raymond1988pp. 155, 160-162.
Buildings of Scotland: FifeGifford, J1988p. 348
Coast - Pittenweem TollboothBBC2007http://www.bbc.co.uk/scotland/whereilive/coast/stages.shtml?walk=centralandfife&stage=4