Old Parish Kirk

National Grid Reference (NGR): NT 28040 91680, map


Address

Kirk Wynd
Kirkcaldy
Fife
Scotland

Also known as:

  • St. Bryce's (1244)
  • St. Patrick's (1244)
  • Old Parish Church

Introduction

The Old Kirk in Kirkcaldy sits on an elevated site in Kirk Wynd, towards the northern end of Kirkcaldy High Street.   Growth of the town has lessened the prominence of the Kirk, but it has clearly been the dominant site in the town and the medieval tower retains a strong presence.   Local lore states that the earliest church on the site was founded around 600 by St. Columba. The tower is said to date from c.1500, while the present body of the church dates from 1807.   In 1244, the medieval church was given its dedication by Bishop David de Bernham of St Andrews, during a time in which he consecrated more than one hundred and forty churches in his diocese.   The church was dedicated to both St. Patrick and St. Brisse, and at this time the church was given to the Abbey of Dunfermline.

There are few available records regarding the appearance of the pre-1806/7 church, save for a late eighteenth century plan which shows the tower with a nave, chancel and north aisle, with several porches and external and internal stairs.   At the east end of the church was the Synod House, while the Kirk Session met in the ground floor of the tower.   This church was described in the 1799 Statistical Account as being in the Norman style of architecture, but being more built for convenience than design.

Due to its deteriorating state, the church was rebuilt in 1806-7 to designs by the architects J & A Elliott of Edinburgh.   The new church was classically proportioned with Gothic detailing. In 2000, the Old Kirk united with St. Bryce Kirk (St Brycedale)  (site number: 4635).

A graveyard surrounds the church on the northern, eastern and southern sides, and contains many good headstones, the earliest of which date from the seventeenth century.   Notable memorials include that to linen manufacturer Robert Philp from 1828 in the north east corner, and a group of early stones in the south west corner against the wall, including one to James Oswald of Dunnikier from 1816.   The Manse, which joins the north west corner of the churchyard, was built in 1808 by the mason John Stevenson, with later extensions.

The Session House, known as Hendry Hall, was built next to the kirk steps at the south west corner of the churchyard in 1890.


Description (exterior)

The church is built in ashlar with classical proportions and gothic detailing. The windows are pointed arch with Y tracery and stone mullions and transoms. The gables are crowstepped with bartizans on each corner, and at the eastern apex. There is a continuous peardrop cornice. Entrance porches are situated at the centre of the northern and southern elevations, with the northern one being used as the main entrance today. At the east elevation is a 1960s flat-roof session house extension.

The tower is said to have been built c.1500, and is a solid square structure of coursed ashlar. The pointed arch doors date from the early nineteenth century, before which time there appears to have been no external access to the tower. There is a single stringcourse above which are lancet windows below a corbelled parapet. On the south face there is a clock. Above the parapet is a 1799 belfry, which originally had a pyramidal roof.


Description (interior)

Following the fire of 1986 the interior of the church was completely renovated. The only surviving original feature is the peardrop cornice, which matches that on the outside. The organ of 1885 remains also, on the east wall. The seating in the church at that time was still in the form of pews, and at some point after this the interior was again renovated, and seating is now provided in the form of individual chairs. A raised section has been inserted at the eastern end in front of the organ, with chairs and open space in front. Apart from the raised area, all the furnishings on the main floor can be cleared away to create a larger space.

The Old Kirk contains several fine stained glass windows, including two from the William Morris works in Surrey. These are on the east wall, and are the oldest stained glass windows in the church, dating from the 1880s. The northern window depicts Elijah and Moses with the Ten Commandments. The southern window, said to be the finer of the two, shows Ruth, the immigrant who showed what full love is like. These windows were designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, and produced at the William Morris works. Sections of the windows have distinctive William Morris type styling.

All the windows on the north and south walls were donated to the kirk by Mr John Hunter in 1914, with some of them being dedicated to various members of his family. The upper sections of all these windows show well known ministers associated with the Church of Scotland since the Reformation, such as John Knox, George Wishart and George Gillespie. The lower sections depict scenes from the Gospel.

Following the fire of 1986, the windows in the west wall of the kirk needed to be replaced. The replacements were produced by stained glass artist John Clark. The southern window shows Moses and the Burning Bush, and the northern shows Moses and the Pillar of Fire.

The newest window in the kirk is on the north side and was gifted by the Rev. George Sim in 1994 in memory of his wife, Jean. The window shows Christ holding one of the Kirk's silver communion cups, with various local religious sites depicted below him.


People / Organisations:

NameRoleDatesNotes
J & A ElliottArchitect1807Firm of architects who designed the church in 1807.
Bishop David de Bernham1244Dedicated the church in 1244.
Saint BrisseDedicatee1244
Saint PatrickDedicatee1244
Pre-reformation Church of ScotlandDenomination1244-1560
Church of ScotlandDenomination1560-NOW
Alexander McFarlaneBuilder1807Contractor of St Andrew's-Erskine church in Dunfermline.

Perth builder responsible for building Kirkcaldy Parish Church in 1807. Perth builder responsible for building the church.
Mr John FordFounder1807Provost of Kirkcaldy, laid the foundation stone of the new church.
Mr Daniel HendryBenefactor1890Local businessman who donated the site for the new Session House, Hendry Hall.
Miss Georgina LittleBenefactor1961Left money to the church for building of new east Session House in 1961.
Wheeler & SprosonArchitect1968Anthony Wheeler renovated the interior of the kirk in 1968.
Sir Edward Burne-JonesStained Glass Artist1886Designed the stained glass windows in the east wall.
Mr John HunterBenefactor1914Donated stained glass windows in the north and south walls.
Mr John ClarkStained Glass Artist1986Designed stained glass windows in the west wall.
Ms Crear McCartneyStained Glass Artist1994Designed Sim memorial window in the north wall.
Vicky ShieldsResearcher2007-2008Voluntary researcher.

Events:

  • Church: Build/construction (1500)
    The tower is said to have been built c.1500.
  • Tower: Addition (1799)
    Addition of the belfry.
  • Church: Build/construction (1806 to 1807)
    The present body of the church was built at this time.
  • House: Build/construction (1808)
    Original house built.
  • Tower: Alteration/conversion (180e)
    Insertion of doorways.
  • House: Addition (1867)
    East extension.
  • Stained Glass: Installed (1880)
    Burne-Jones windows in the east wall.
  • House: Addition (1881)
    South extension.
  • Session house: Build/construction (1890)
  • House: Addition (1899)
    Dormer windows.
  • Stained Glass: Installed (1914)
    North and south wall windows.
  • Church: Addition (1961)
    East Session House built.
  • Stained Glass: Installed (1986)
    West wall windows.
  • Church: Alteration/conversion (1987)
  • Stained Glass: Installed (1994)
    Sim memorial window.
  • Tower: Build/construction (c1500)

Archive References:

NameReferenceNotes
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 36320
Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 2453J. Dowling
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 36317Church
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 36319Graveyard
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 36320Hendry Hall
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 36361Manse
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 52957Church
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 121439Graveyard
CSA: Inventory of Scottish Church Heritage - HardcopyReference: 2453
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 36361
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 94292
Dictionary of Scottish Architects - Online databaseReference: M012818
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 36317
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 52957
Dictionary of Scottish Architects - Online databaseReference: M012818Manse
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 36317Church including tower.
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 36319
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 121439

Bibliographic References:

NameAuthorDateNotes
Buildings of Scotland: FifeGifford, J1988pp. 280-281, 285
The Kingdom of FifePride, G.1999p. 52
Kirkcaldy\'s Churches Brief HistoriesKirkcaldy Civic Society1999pp. 14-19
Guide to Kirkcaldy\'s GraveyardsKirkcaldy Civic Society2004pp. 19-31
Churches To Visit in Scotland 2004Hume, J.R.2004p. 189
The Medieval Parishes of ScotlandCowan, I.B.1967Periodical:
p. 118
Some of the Saints of Fife and Where we Remember ThemUniversity of the Third Agepp. 10-11, 39-41
Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches 1560-1843Hay, G.1957pp. 124, 140, 129