St. Bridget's Church

National Grid Reference (NGR): NT 16950 83780, map


Address

Fife Coastal Path
Dalgety Bay
Fife
KY11 9SJ
Scotland

Also known as:

  • St. Bridget's Kirk
  • Dalgety Old Parish Church

Introduction

Situated in a graveyard which overlooks the Firth of Forth, this church was built to serve the old village of Dalgety;   this village had disappeared by 1836.   The original church on this site was built before 1178,  as a Papul Bull of that date mentions the church as a possession of Inchcolm Abbey.   The original church was largely reconstructed after the Reformation and a number of private aisles were added.  It was abandoned in 1830, when the Earl of Moray built a new parish church on a site further to the north (site number: 2229).   The roof from St Bridget's was removed around this time.    In recent years the church has suffered from vandalism.    The graveyard is on ground sloping downwards towards the south and the beach below.    It is surrounded by high rubble walls on the north, east and west.   The current entrance gates are at the northwest corner of the graveyard but it is possible that the original entrance to the graveyard was in the western wall, beside a watch house.   The headstones date from the seventeenth - nineteenth centuries and many have symbols of death and mortality. There are also a large number of grave tablestones, the earliest dating to 1665.   A rubble built watch house with slate roof is situated outside the western wall of the churchyard, with its eastern wall formed from the graveyard boundary wall. The structure was built to provide shelter for people wishing to protect the graves of their recently buried friends and relatives from the resurrenctionists. It probably went out of use after the Anatomy Act of 1832 expanded the legal supply of cadavers for medical research and education. The doorway is on the southern side and there is a thirteenth century carved stone inserted into the doorjamb and a small square window in the western face.


Description (exterior)

The original church was a narrow rectangle built from cubed sandstone blocks and squared sandstone rubble.   The western section of the southern elevation became the Dunfermline Aisle and much of it remains.   At the western end of this face a nineteenth century headstone has been incorporated into the wall and above this there is a small square window.    To the east of the headstone is a pointed arched doorway which may be a later insertion, possibly part of the post-Reformation alterations.   Further to the east at first floor level is a square headed doorway which probably gave access to a gallery on the interior of the church  (the remains of what is possibly a forestair can be seen below the doorway.   Just below and to the east of this doorway is a small square window which was originally a doorway which was partially blocked to form the window.   There are two further windows to the east of this,  one above the other, the lower having been blocked.    In front of the face are the remains of a later addition simple burial aisle (the remains of a doorway are visible in the eastern wall).    To the east of the burial aisle, in the face of the church, there is a square headed doorway  containing an iron studded timber door above which there is a square headed window.   To the east of this a large eighteenth century memorial with curved pediment has been built against the wall. There is another memorial stone incorporated into the wall to the east of this and above it there is a bipartite square headed window.    The ledge of another window is visible above this.    At the edge of the face there is a bulky buttress which may be a later addition.

The exterior of the west face is not visible because of the addition of the Dunfermline Aisle.   A large rectangular window was inserted into the upper section of this face at the time of the aisle construction, in order to allow the occupants to observe the church service.   Below this viewing window is a line of putlog holes which probably supported a gallery. The eastern gable of the Dunfermline Aisle is taller than the adjoining (western) church gable and two old rooflines are visible on the eastern face of the aisle which faces into the church. 

The northern elevation has been modified by the later addition of aisles. At the eastern end of the face there is a small square opening.   To the west of this the Inglis Aisle projects from the face of the church, and further to the west are the remains of the Fordell Aisle.   The former entrance to this aisle from the nave of the church has been blocked up at a later date but the partial remains of the arched entranceway are still visible.   There is a square headed window in the section of the wall which blocks the aisle entrance.    To the west of the aisle there is a square headed doorway which is now blocked.    To the west of the northern face of the church is the Dunfermline Aisle.

At the eastern wall, a later stone forestair has been constructed which leads up to a doorway at first floor level, prpbably giving access to a later addition gallery (evidenced by the putlog holes along the wall on the interior of the building under the doorway).

The walls of the Inglis Aisle were constructed of large blocks of coursed sandstone and it had a stone slab roof.    The aisle extends from the eastern end of the northern wall of the church, and is entered through a pointed archway which leads into a pointed arched tunnel vaulted room with stone slab floor.    In the west wall there are five square headed niches, and in the back (north) wall there is a blocked square headed doorway.    On the exterior of the northern wall this doorway is topped by a curved pediment which is broken at the top by a crest.   This doorway splits a string course which runs across the centre of the face.

The Fordell Aisle had rubble-built sandstone walls.    It was built in the approximate centre of the northern wall of the original church. It would have been accessed through a doorway in the northern wall of the church.    This was blocked at a later date and a square headed window included in the blocked section, but part of the arched entranceway is still visible. Part of the east and west walls survive, with the remains of a doorway visible in the western wall.   The northern gable stands almost to its full height.  Two arrow slits appear at ground level on the exterior but on the interior these are further up the wall because of a difference in ground level.    Also, on the interior these arrow slits have larger splayed square headed recesses surrounding them.   To the east of each of these recesses is a small square headed niche.    The remains of a four paned square window with stone mullions and transoms is visible at first floor level.

 

The two storey Dunfermline Aisle was built from coursed blocks of cubed sandstone and is at the western end of the church.   It has a burial vault on the lower floor and a lairds' loft on the upper floor, with a retiring room at the southwest corner.   The upper floor is accessed by a turnpike stair on the northeast corner.   On the exterior of the western gable there is a large rectangular opening at ground floor level which has been blocked.    At first floor level there are two square headed windows with a smaller square niche between them. There are three small slits in a triangular formation in the gable head;    on the interior these extend into larger square niches.    These may have held supporting roof timbers.   There is a simple later addition bellcote on the apex of the gable.    At the southern side of the gable there is a  projecting section which is formed by the retiring room on the interior.   Built against this is a large monument dated 1685 which has a curved pediment with angels� heads and skulls. The central inscription panel is now missing.   Above this in the first floor of the retiring room is a window.    On the exterior of the northern wall of the aisle there is a square headed doorway leading to the lower floor burial vault, but this  is not accessible because of problems with vandalism in recent years;   there is a blank panel above this doorway.   There is a square headed window at the west of the face at first floor level.    Projecting from the eastern side of the face there is a semi-octagonal turnpike staircase accessed by a square headed doorway with a blank panel above it.   The eastern wall of the aisle abuts the church and a large viewing window was inserted into the upper section of the church wall at the time of the aisle construction, in order to allow the occupants to observe the church service. The eastern gable of the Dunfermline Aisle is taller than the adjoining (western) church gable and two old rooflines are visible on the eastern face of the aisle which faces into the church.    On the southern face of the aisle there are narrow slits at ground floor level allowing ventilation into the burial vault.    In the eastern set back section of the face at first floor level there are two square headed windows with a blank panel between them.    There is another window in the advanced (retiring room) western section of the face, with yet another window on the return to the east. A number of nineteenth century memorials have been built into the lower sections of the wall on the southern face. On the interior of the aisle in the first floor laird's loft the windows have splayed surrounds.   On the wall sections between the windows there are frames which would have held decorative panels.    A square headed doorway at the southwest gives access to the retiring room which contains a fireplace.


Description (interior)

 

A number of grave slabs dating mainly to the seventeenth century have been incorporated into the floor on the interior of the church. A large monument to Janet Inglis, dated 1681, has been built against the south wall to the west of the eastern doorway, which has columns with carved capitals and a pediment containing a coat of arms. There is a seventeenth century grave slab inserted into the northern wall to the east of the entrance to the Inglis Aisle with an armorial carving on it.


People / Organisations:

NameRoleDatesNotes
Inchcolm AbbeyOwnerB1178See site 4657. A papal bull of Pope Alexander III, dated 11th March 1178, mentions the church in Dalgety as a possession of the abbey.
Bishop David de BernhamClergyman1244Re-consecrated the church and dedicated it to St. Bridget.

Events:

  • Church: Build/construction (1187)
    A Papal Bull dated 11th March 1178 mentions the church in Dalgety as a possession of Inchcolm abbey.
  • Church: Consecration (1244)
    Dedicated and re-consecrated by Bishop de Benham.
  • Church: Alteration/conversion (1560)
    Post-Reformation alterations: addition of the forestair on the eastern gable and eastern gallery. Also possibly included the addition of the arched doorway in the south wall and the buttress at the southeast corner of the church.
  • Church: Addition (1600)
    Addition of the Inglis Aisle in the early seventeenth century.
  • Church: Addition (1610)
    Addition of the Dunfermline Aisle.
  • Church: Addition (1645)
    Addition of the Fordell Aisle.
  • Aisle: Addition (1700)
    The bellcote on the western gable is possibly an eighteenth century addition.
  • Watchhouse: Build/construction (1800)
    Probably built in the early 1800s.
  • Church: Abandonment (1830)
    A new parish church was constructed to the north (site no. 2229).
  • Church: Removal (C1830)
    Removal of the roof on the orders of the Earl of Moray.

Archive References:

NameReferenceNotes
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 50883
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 3667
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 3646
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 112282
Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 2227J. Dowling

Bibliographic References:

NameAuthorDateNotes
Of Monks and Ministers- Dalgety ChurchArnott, R.G.K.1992Restenneth
Buildings of Scotland: FifeGifford, J1988pp. 170-172
Fife, Pictorial and HistoricalMillar, A.H.1895Volume II.
Bygone FifeWilkie, James1931
Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches 1560-1843Hay, G.1957p. 193