Rosyth Old Parish Church

National Grid Reference (NGR): NT 08520 82840, map


Bruce Haven Road


Now ruinous, this church dates from the middle of the twelfth century. The land was granted to the Monastery of Inchcolm by Richard, Bishop of Dunkeld,  1170-1178.

The north and east gable are the only visible remains of the church. The internal floor area measures approximately fifty feet in length and twelve feet in width. The east gable and part of the north gable belonged to the original chancel, whilst the remainder of the north wall comprised of part of the nave, dates from the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.     The interior is heavily overgrown with vegetation.

The church ruins sit on an elevated site, surrounded by gravestones, with the newer area of the graveyard to the north and west.   The burial ground contains a number of interesting gravestones. Some date from the post-Reformation period and depict, for example, skulls, hourglasses, crossed bones and angels.   The original burial ground of Rosyth old Kirk was extended in the early nineteenth century. A large memorial in the lower burial ground thanks Thomas Bruce, Earl of Elgin for his grants of land in 1816 and 1827 to be used for burials.  
A stone wall was erected in 1825 when the graveyard was enlarged and at the same time as the construction of a mort house. The walls are of sandstone rubble with rough coping. There is a gateway to the south west corner with tall square sandstone gate piers with pyramidal caps and timber gates. Stile steps are located to the south, to the east of the boundary wall.  
There are glazed ceramic grave markers to the memorial stones. Some of the markers are inscribed "TWO or Four ROOMS".   A private burial enclosure is located in the north east corner with low droved stone wall and railings. The wrought iron gates are heavily corroded. There is a memorial stone set into the wall, dated 1902 to Louisa Elizabeth, daughter of the 3rd Earl of Elgin.   Access is over a stile when the graveyard is locked.

A morthouse of solid stone construction is near to the gated entrance, to the south of the graveyard and is built into the bank on the east elevation, effectively forming part of an external boundary wall to the south along the coastal pathway.   The walls are reported to be three feet thick and are of random sandstone blocks bound with lime mortar and shells in the aggregate.   The tails are of droved red sandstone.    All the main openings are now boarded up to prevent access to the interior.    The north wall is within the graveyard boundaries and has a single square headed blocked window to the left hand side of the doorway and a single arrow ventilation slit to the right hand side.    A small porthole opening is to the centre of the west gable apex, perhaps echoing the fact that ship owners had been instrumental in orchestrating the construction of the mort house.   There is a solid buttress to the south elevation, and a small square window opening to the far right, close to the buttress.

A small Manse next to the church was demolished in the mid 1800s.

Description (exterior)

The church was constructed partly of regular coursed ashlar sandstone, and partly in irregular courses.   The east elevation, constructed of regular coursed ashlar has been likened to Norman work.   The walls are approximately one metre deep.   The gable has two lancet windows with simple moulding to the exterior and deep splays to the interior.    The insertion of a tablet to the right hand side of the interior wall disfigured one of the windows.    It is dated 1824, is inscribed with "Ultina Daws Memorial to James Wilson Mason of Limekilns",  and has a small cast iron angel to the top.    The apex of the gable is missing and the top third of the gable has now collapsed.   The north wall is entirely different being constructed of irregular ccourses.    The block work continues for approximately six metres until a small blocked niche on the interior may indicate different wall construction where there was a chancel screen.


Description (interior)

On the north wall there is a small blocked niche to the interior wall which may mark the position of a chancel screen.    There is an aumbry with squared lintel at the east end of the interior and there is also a recess for a wooden door.   

People / Organisations:

Saint JohnDedicatee


  • Burial ground: Founded
    1812 & 1827 Grants of land to extend burial ground.
  • Church: Build/construction (1300)
  • Morthouse: Build/construction (1825)
    This was built in the early nineteenth century during the period when body snatching was rife.

Archive References:

Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 3751
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 49515
Scran - Online databaseReference: 000-000108-828-cGeoff Russell
Scran - Online databaseReference: 000-000-109-049-cImage: Geoff Russell
Scran - Online databaseReference: 000-000-109-050-cImage: Geoff Russell
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 3752
Scran - Online databaseReference: 000-000-108-828-C
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 101216
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 222842
CSA: Inventory of Scottish Church Heritage - HardcopyReference: 10341Fieldwork notes (R. McEwan): Archive available at Dunfermline Central Library.
Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 2268

Bibliographic References:

The Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions of Scotland - Fife etcRCAHMS1933Eleventh report with inventory of monuments and constructions in the counties of Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan. p. 106
Pre- Reformation churches - Fife & The LothiansWalker, J.R.1883Available at RCHAMS library
The Story of LimekilnsFotheringham, N.1997pp. 8-11 pp. 8-9