Torryburn Parish Church

National Grid Reference (NGR): NT 02570 86060, map


Address

Main Street
Torryburn
Fife
Scotland

Introduction

Prior to the construction of the first church in Torryburn in 1616 the inhabitants worshipped in Crombie Old Parish Church (site no. 2611),  outside Torryburn to the southeast. After the construction of the first church the population continued to grow because of  the port and associated commerce in the area. The growing population required a larger church and  the original church was demolished and a larger church constructed on the same site. However, the original church was not completely demolished; the northern aisle which had been added, possibly in 1696, was retained and is still present (see below).  The current church building underwent several phases of renovation, but was closed for worship in January 2014.   The building may be sold.

The church is at the northwest side of a graveyard on the eastern edge of the village and there is a session house beside the entrance to the graveyard  The graveyard is beside a burn and a main road on the eastern edge of the Torryburn and is surrounded by a low coped rubble wall. Wrought iron entrance gates are at the northern end of the western boundary wall.   The small area of flat ground between the church and the northern boundary wall is covered with gravel and there are several partially buried headstones in this area. The rest of the graveyard is grass covered and the land slopes steeply downwards to the south and east from the church building. This graveyard has been in use since the first church was constructed on the site,  and a large number of gravestones and slabs date from this time. A number of the tablestones on the southern slope are unstable to the erosion of the slope. Several have also been moved to support trees which have also become unstable due to the slope erosion.

Beside the churchyard entrance gates, at the northwest corner of the graveyard, is a small hipped roofed session house which is constructed from random rubble masonry. The pointed arched door to the session house is in the northern wall. In the eastern face there is pointed arched window with blue painted Y-tracery which was possible added c. 1800. A small harled porch extension has been constructed against the southern face of the building and this has a window in its eastern face and a door in the southern face. The western (back wall) of the structure abuts the graveyard boundary wall. A chimney extends from the roof on this face.




Description (exterior)

The church walls are of sandstone, and the roof of slate.

Extending from the centre of the western elevation is a two storey squared rubble porch.    There is a round arched doorway with a hoodmould above it in the western face of the porch. The archway, which is flanked by red ashlar sandstone buttresses that extend to first floor height, gives access to a white washed entrance area. At the back of this, in the gable wall of the church building, is a two leaf square headed timber door. On the northern wall of the white washed entranceway a the memorial stone of the Rev. William Pitcairn Craig, 1918-1944.   On the opposite wall is a small painted stone giving the construction date of the church. There is a bipartite square headed window in the porch at second story level. This porch was originally only of single storey height but was extended in 1928 when the church was renovated. This renovation therefore probably also  included the construction of the stone steps in the return to the south. These give access to a square headed door in the southern wall of the porch at second story level. They partially obscure a blocked pointed arch doorway at the base of the southern face of the porch. There is a similar opening on the opposite wall of the porch, on the return to the north. To the north of the porch, against the gable wall of the church, is the large red sandstone gravestone of Captain Robert Fleming Doig, 1871. Above this, on the wall of the church, is a large wooden cross. On the apex of the gable is a corbelled hexagonal bellcote.

Extending from the centre of the northern elevation is a lower flat roofed aisle of random rubble masonry that has been repointed with cement. On the outer edges of this aisle are buttresses which extend past the height of the flat roof. This aisle belonged to the earlier church building, dating from 1696. but demolished in 1800 to make way for the current church. It is likely that this is when the corner buttresses were added to the aisle. In the centre of the northern face of the aisle is a small gothic style lancet which is now blocked and has a hoodmould above it. This is flanked by squat harled buttresses. On the western side of the northern face of the aisle there are two metal brackets. On the return to the west there is a low square headed door and beside this there is evidence of a second door which has been blocked. In the centre of the face, between these two doors, there is a large marble memorial stone of the Erskine family. On the return to the east is a later low harled extension with a corrugated iron roof and a blue door in the eastern side. The nave is built of squared rubble masonry and at the western end of the face is a large four light plate traceried pointed arch window with a hoodmould above it. This tracery was inserted in 1928 when the church was renovated. This window extends across two floors in the interior, as shown by the blank panel in the centre of the window. At the eastern end of the church building there is a two light pointed arched window with plate tracery (which also was added in 1928), and there is a hoodmould above it.  Joined onto the eastern end of the church building is the northern face of the later eastern chancel extension which was part of the 1928 renovation.. In this face of the low flat roofed arm of the chancel there is a square headed door reached by a few stone steps.

The eastern church gable is mostly obscured by 1928 chancel.   The extension is composed of a central gabled section which reaches almost to the full height of the church gable. This is flanked by two lower flat roofed sections; the northern section is slightly lower than the southern. In the centre of the chancel is a large round headed stained glass window whilst there is a small square headed window in the two lower sections. On the apex of the church gable is a small stone cross finial.


At the eastern end of the main church building is the southern face of the lower flat roofed section of the chancel extension. Positioned in front of this there is a small structure with a corrugated iron roof, possibly used for storage. In the main body of the church there are four pointed arch windows. The larger westernmost window is the same as the four light traceried window at the western end of the northern elevation. The three other smaller windows mirror that at the eastern end of the northern face.



Description (interior)

The church is entered through a square headed door at the western end which leads into a red carpeted porch area that is partitioned off from the nave of the church. Entry to the nave is through a timber and glass panelled door in the eastern wall of the porch. The windows in the northern and southern walls of the porch are composed of the lower sections of the large plate traceried pointed arched windows. Along the eastern and western walls of the porch, on either side of the timber and glass panelled doors, are wooden benches. There are several small tables in the porch area. At the western end of the nave is a gallery over the porch. Entry to this gallery is through a door in the southern wall of the porch at second storey level, which is reached by the stone staircase on the exterior of the building. There is a clock on the timber panelled gallery front. The walls of the nave are whitewashed with a small number of decorative wall hangings around the church. A red carpet covers the middle of the floor, between the fixed timber pews which run down either side of the nave. This carpet also covers the floor at the eastern end of the nave. The wooden pulpit and stone font are at this end of the building on the northern side. In the back wall of the nave is a large archway which gives access to the chancel extension.


People / Organisations:

NameRoleDatesNotes
Church of ScotlandDenomination1616-NOW

Events:

  • Church: Build/construction (1616)
  • Church: Addition (1696 uncertified)
    Construction of the northern aisle.
  • Church: Build/construction (1799 to 1800)
    Constructed on the same site as the earlier church.
  • Church: Destruction/demolition (1800)
  • Session house: Addition (1800)
    Gothic windows inserted approximately 1800.
  • Church: Addition (1928)
    Plate tracery inserted in the windows, addition of chancel at the eastern end of the church and west porch raised to two storeys.

Archive References:

NameReferenceNotes
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 16644
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 49468
Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 3658

Bibliographic References:

NameAuthorDateNotes
Buildings of Scotland: FifeGifford, J1988pp. 418-9