St. Serf's Old Parish Church

National Grid Reference (NGR): NT 30360 92960, map


Address

Shore Road
Dysart
Fife
Scotland

Introduction

A church was built near to St. Serf's Cave (site no. 10547) in the early thirteenth century. However, this was replaced by the old parish church in the approximately 1500 and there are no visible remains.

St. Serf has been associated with Dysart since the eighth century, when he used caves close to the site of the old parish church as a retreat (see site number: 10547).    A church of which there are no visible remains was built near the caves in the early thirteenth century and was dedicated in 1245, but  was replaced by another church c.1500, the remains of which can still be seen today.    The large 22m high tower was added to this church slightly later. This old parish church was replaced by a new church (site number: 4631) in 1802 and the north aisle was mostly destroyed in 1807 by a new road linking the harbour with the town.      In the graveyard there are mainly table stones some with sextant trade emblems. and ruins of a mort-house to the southeast.    This site is surrounded by a saddle backed coped rubble wall which on its northern side incorporates the two remaining arches of the arcade which would have separated the nave from the northern aisle.   There is a sign on the northern boundary wall indicating the site of the old church manse.


Description

This is a stone built church.   The crowstepped western gable of the nave survives to its full height, and in it there is a large pointed arched window and below this there is a low round headed doorway.    On the northern side there are two pointed arches resting on circular piers above which are a row of corbels.   These are the remains of the arcade which would have separated the nave from the northern aisle (which was destroyed  in 1807 when the road leading up from the harbour to the town was made).    The two arches of the arcade have been incorporated into the surrounding boundary wall, which also has a square headed opening  in the westernmost bay.   A single arch of the southern aisle arcade is still present and so is a large section of the southern church wall.   The southern aisle originally ran the full length of the church, like the opposite northern aisle but the square plan tower was built at the western end of the southern aisle infilling the westernmost bay.   A single storey porch was added beside the tower  (in what was originally the second bay of the southern aisle), which. has a round headed doorway in the southern wall leading through the southern aisle into the nave of the church.    The eastern gable was possibly largely rebuilt when this end of the church became a burial aisle after the Reformation.
The ashlar constructed tower is of three stages, 22m in height and is topped by a corbelled parapet and a small crowstepped caphouse.    It is divided into six floors, with string courses at the second and fourth floors. Some of the stonework in the tower walls has been repaired, evidenced by the more brightly coloured, less weathered sandstone blocks.   Entry to the tower is at the northern side from the nave.    Stone steps lead up from the nave to the door which is on the first floor.    Each floor is marked by a series of stepped arrowslits.   The belfry is marked by lancet openings on the sixth floor


People / Organisations:

NameRoleDatesNotes
Roman CatholicDenomination1500-1560

Events:

  • Church: Build/construction (1244B)
  • Church: Build/construction (1500 uncertified)
  • Graveyard: Build/construction (1500 uncertified)
    There has been a church on this site since approximately 1500.
  • Tower: Build/construction (1500 uncertified)
    Later addition to the church which was built in the mid-late fifteenth century.
  • Church: Destruction/demolition (1500 uncertified)
    Replaced by the old parish church in approximately 1500.
  • Church: Addition (1500A)
    The large square plan tower was built at the southwest corner.
  • Church: Addition (1500A to 1560B)
    South porch added. Carving of a vase of three lilies (a symbol connected with the Virgin Mary) above the porch door was not destroyed during the Reformation.
  • Church: Renovation (1560A)
    Eastern gable possibly rebuilt when this end of the church became a burial aisle after the Reformation.
  • Church: Repair (1583)
    Roof repaired with turf.
  • Tower: Addition (1592)
    A clock was installed in the tower.
  • Graveyard: Closure (1700)
    Closed towards the end of the eighteenth century.
  • Church: Abandonment (1802)
    Replaced by a new Parish church (site no. 4631, now a YMCA Hall).
  • Church: Destruction/demolition (1807)
    Partially destroyed by the construction of a road linking the harbour with the town.
  • Church: Repair (1900 uncertified)
    Sir Micheal Nairn acquired St. Serf\'s when he bought Dysart House and carried out restoration work in the early twentieth century.
  • Tower: Restoration (1900)
    Sir Michael Nairn acquired St Serfs when he bought Dysart house and carried out restoration work in the early twentieth century.

Archive References:

NameReferenceNotes
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 53991
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 36415
Scran - Online databaseReference: 000-000-025-613-CImage: Edwina Proudfoot
Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 2455

Bibliographic References:

NameAuthorDateNotes
Buildings of Scotland: FifeGifford, J1988p. 288-9
Dysart Village History and WalkaboutWemyss Environmental Education Centre1989