Culross West Church

National Grid Reference (NGR): NS 97960 86480, map


KY12 8EW

Also known as:

  • Culross Parish Church (1633b)
    Superseded by the Abbey Church (site number: 1642) as the main church in Culross by an Act of Parliment in 1633.
  • Culross Old Parish Church (1633A)
  • West Kirk
  • Wester Kirk
  • Culross Old Kirk


Situated to the northwest of Culross in West Kirk Churchyard and surrounded by agricultural land, this was the former parish church of Culross.   It was replaced by the Abbey Parish Church (site number: 1642) by an Act of Parliament of 1633.   However, it appears that the church had been out of use for some time before this, as the Act records that it was already in a ruinous condition.    The church is now roofless and a large tree grows inside the western end of the building and much ivy on the walls.   The graveyard is surrounded by low rubble boundary walls, which are in a poor state of repair in several places, and is entered at the southeast corner, where there are square gatepiers.   In general the graveyard is relatively flat but the church is on a slightly higher area on the northern side.   There is a large variety of headstones and table stones within the graveyard dating from the seventeenth -nineteenth centuries. The earlier monuments display symbols of death and mortality and a number of trades are also depicted, such as farmer, mariner and miner.

A late nineteenth century rectangular mausoleum is just outside the western edge of the graveyard, surrounded by sandstone rubble walls. There are three round arched openings in the northern, eastern and southern faces of the mausoleum, each of which is covered by decorative ironwork, but only those on the eastern face are accessible as gates. Each elevation is flanked by column shafts cut into the quoins. The interior of the mausoleum is largely overgrown but several memorial stones to the Dalgleish family are on the back (western) wall.



Description (exterior)


The church was built of cubed sandstone blocks.    The original rectangular shape was altered by the addition of the Johnston burial aisle in the seventeenth century, which extended from the centre of the southern elevation, which is crowstepped and still stands to its full height. To the west of this there is a low square headed doorway, which is possibly a later insertion.   Above the doorway there is a faint gabled roofline,   suggesting that there may have been a porch over the doorway at one time.   To the west of this doorway is a narrow rectangular window which is possibly an original feature. To the east of the burial aisle the wall of the church now only stands to a few courses in height.

The eastern and western gable walls are both ruined, standing only a few courses in height;   the western face is slightly bowed due to the large tree growing on the interior.    The remains of a window are visible to the south of the centre of the east gable.

There are two square headed doorways in the north wall, on either side of the centre of the face. Tthe westernmost doorway may be a later insertion, as is the case with the opposite doorway in the southern elevation. The doorway to east of centre is only partially complete.

Description (interior)

To the west of the Johnston aisle an inscribed stone tablet has been incorporated into the wall, which bears a coat of arms and is now weathered. To the west of this is the square headed later insertion doorway, the lintel of which is formed from a reused medieval grave slab which is incised with a decorative key.    The narrow rectangular window to the west of this has splayed surrounds.    The opposite doorway in the northern elevation is also a possible later insertion and also has a lintel formed from a reused grave slab, incised with swords. Above the lintel is a second reused grave slab, with the same decorative key depiction as that above the southern doorway.    In the eastern end of the northern wall there is an inscribed stone.    In the eastern elevation there are three reused 16th century graveslabs, perhaps inserted as part of the repairs carried out in the seventeenth century.    These are now very weathered but the remains of coats of arms can be made out.    There are a number of grave slabs on the floor of the interior

People / Organisations:

Pre-reformation Church of ScotlandDenomination1500-1560


  • Church: Build/construction (15E0 uncertified)
    Pre-Reformation church, possibly early sixteenth century construction date.
  • Graveyard: Consecration (15E0 uncertified)
    It is likely that the graveyard was consecrated at the same time as the construction of the church, which was possibly in the early sixteenth century.
  • Church: Closure (1610-1633)
    An Act of Parliament of 1633 records the church as being in a ruinous condition. But closure likely occured after the isertion of the doors at the western end of the north and south elevations.
  • Church: Repair (16L0)
    Repair works and rebuilding were carried out in the seventeenth century, possibly at the same time the Johnston Burial Aisle was added.
  • Church: Build/construction (16L0 uncertified)
    Addition of the Johnston burial aisle to the southern side of the church.
  • Burial aisle: Build/construction (16L0 uncertified)
    Built on the southern side of the church.
  • Mausoleum: Build/construction (187L to 188E)
  • Church: Addition (c1600 uncertified)
    Insertion of doors at the western end of the north and south elevations.

Archive References:

Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 23969Church and churchyard
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 23969
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 48029
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 48832
Scran - Online databaseReference: 000-000-025-743-C
Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 1641

Bibliographic References:

Buildings of Scotland: FifeGifford, J1988p. 151