St. Serf's Episcopal Church, Burntisland

National Grid Reference (NGR): NT 23620 86330, map


Ferguson Place


This church, which was constructed in 1903-5, is on a site in a residential area just to the north of the town's main street.   The site was acquired by the Episcopal Church in the late 1870s after the death of Rev. George Hay Forbes in 1875.   Hay played an important role in re-founding the Episcopal Church in the town, which had lapsed since the early eighteenth century.   He originally tried to construct a  church dedicated to St. Serf on East Leven Street beside the Parsonage, but  this building was demolished before completion on the orders of Bishop Wordsworth.    After the present site was acquired a 'tin church' was constructed in the 1880s and this remained until 1905, when enough funds had been raised for a permanent building. The low coped rubble wall topped by metal railings which surrounded the site of the old Tin Kirk is still present, although the railings may have been replaced.    However, the entrance has been moved from the western (Cromwell Road) side to the northern (Ferguson Place) side.    The entrance gates, which are flanked by ashlar piers, have small saltire crosses included in the design.   A small extension on the southern side of the building at the eastern was built as a chapel and vestry.

Description (exterior)

The building is constructed of sandstone, with hammer dressed squared rubble walls and ashlar window dressings and quoins;   the pitched roof is of red tiles .   The orientation is east-west, with an apsidal chancel at the east end.

Entry to the church is through a small gabled porch at the western end of the north elevation with a pointed arch moulded doorway and two flanking columns.   The continuous string course which encircles the building incorporates the hoodmould above the doorway.

On the nave of the building, to the east of the porch there are three bipartite pointed arch windows above the string course, one of which is of stained glass;   the other windows are of coloured glass quarries.  There is a buttress and coping on the roof above the  window with the stained glass, which marks the division between nave and chancel on the interior of the building. There is a Celtic stone cross finial on the roof.    In the chancel there are five lancets above the continuous string course, which are positioned slightly higher than the windows in the nave.

The chancel arch,  with a blind quatrefoil, is surrounded by a circular margin in the upper stage of each of the outer sides. There are two blind quatrefoils surrounded by circular margins in the central upper stage.   The roof has a decorative cast-iron finial.  The eastern elevation of the vestry and chapel are to the southern side of the apse.   A small harled store is has been built  against the southern elevation of the vestry and chapel.

On the southern elevation of the nave there are four windows  in the upper stage;   the two easternmost of these are of stained glass, whilst the others are of coloured glass quarries. To the east of the nave there is a slightly advanced bay gabled bay which houses the organ on the interior of the church.   The low extension which was originally the vestry and chapel is joined to the southern side of the organ bay and extends the length of the chancel.   Above this to the east of the organ bay, in the upper stage of the chancel, there are two lancets windows.

Two buttresses set slightly in from either edge of the western wall which extend in height to the tops of the two lancet windows in the upper stage of the central bay. Each of these lancets has a pointed arch hoodmould.    In the lower stage of the central bay is a stone dated 2nd July 1904.   

The extension at the southern side of the chancel which was originally used as a small chapel and vestry,  is at present used as an office, with a small chapel, a kitchen and a meeting place for the Sunday school.  A pointed arched door with hoodmould is at the top of a small flight of stone steps.   This door does not appear to be in use.   A gable detail hoodmould continues to the south  to form the hoodmould of the six light plate traceried window.   This window has coloured glass quarries, apart from the bottom right light which is of frosted glass. There are two sets of windows on the southern side of this extension, a bipartite window at the westernmost end and a quadripartite window at the eastern end.

Description (interior)

The exterior porch at the western end of the north elevation leads into a roofed and partially glazed wooden porch on the interior. A children's corner and the font are at the west end of the church opposite the entrance.   Most of the lower stage of the interior walls has been clad in timber panels, whilst the remainder have been white washed.     But  the stone detailing around the windows and on the arches have been left exposed, along with a continuous string course around the nave.    There are twelve Stations of the Cross on the  walls in the nave.  A hammer-beam roof  springs from exposed stone corbels.   Light fixtures are suspended from the roof at even intervals. The easternmost windows on the northern and southern sides of the nave both contain stained glass. The window on the northern side has a single stained glass light showing a figure of Christ;   this window was given in 1937 by the widow of Henry Hardy, the Rector of St. Serf's from 1898-1915.   The window on the southern side has two stained glass lights, one of which shows the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, and the other shows Christ with John the Baptist.   This window was erected by Elizabeth Fernie Richmond of Plains, Victoria, in memory of her father who had emigrated to Australia.    Timber pews with umbrella holders with a central aisle are on either side of the nave.   A carved wooden  pulpit and a small organ are at the front of the pews on the northern side of the church.   An arched  doorway on the southern side of the nave leads into the small chapel and vestry extension. The raised chancel, which has a vaulted roof,  is separated from the nave by a full height pointed stone arch and a low partition wall.    Carved wooden choir stalls are on either side of the chancel, and similar carved wooden seating for the officiating clergy.    On the the southern side is a large pointed arch organ bay.    The present organ came from a redundant church in Lochgelly.    In the sanctuary  there is a small door and a sedilla  recessed into the wall.   There is also a recessed water stoup and drain on the south side of the apse, and an aumbry on the north side.   There are two lancets on the south side, and five on the north.   The high altar is raised from the rest of the chancel, and is separated from it by a stone screen pierced by a large central pointed arch flanked by narrower arches supported by thin polished columns.   

People / Organisations:

Episcopal ChurchDenomination1905-NOW


  • Church: Build/construction (1880)
    A tin church was originally constructed on the site.
  • Church: Build/construction (1903 to 1905)
    The foundation stone of the new building was laid on the 2nd July 1904 and the building was opened and consecrated on 27th July 1905.

Archive References:

Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 22772
Dictionary of Scottish Architects - Online databaseReference: M019180
Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 4622

Bibliographic References:

Buildings of Scotland: FifeGifford, J1988p. 113
St Serf\'s Scottish Episcopal Church Burntisland, 1905-1995Christie, J. S.1995
Burntisland Online - www.burntisland.netSommerville,