Ancient Monuments

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Carnock, Old Parish Church

A Scheduled Monument in West Fife and Coastal Villages, Fife

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Latitude: 56.0853 / 56°5'6"N

Longitude: -3.5422 / 3°32'31"W

OS Eastings: 304129

OS Northings: 689122

OS Grid: NT041891

Mapcode National: GBR 1V.NN5M

Mapcode Global: WH5QQ.K9GT

Entry Name: Carnock, Old Parish Church

Scheduled Date: 30 April 1937

Last Amended: 27 June 2017

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM829

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Ecclesiastical: church

Location: Carnock

County: Fife

Electoral Ward: West Fife and Coastal Villages

Traditional County: Fife


The monument comprises the remains of Carnock Old Parish Church and its burial ground. The church was probably in existence by the 13th century but the standing structure was partially rebuilt and altered during the 17th century. The church and burial ground occupy a raised area, enclosed from the modern cemetery beyond by a retaining wall and steps. The monument lies at the northwest edge of Carnock village, around 100m above sea level.

The church is rectangular, measuring approximately 13m east-west by 5m transversely, and built in grey sandstone. An aumbry or recess in the inside of the eastern gable wall, and round-headed archway entrances on the north and south walls may be of medieval date. A renaissance-style belfry on the western gable wall is a later addition and a sundial on the southwest corner of the church bears the date 1683. A small rectangular entrance porch located on the southern side of the church has been converted into a burial vault with an inscribed date of 1652. Graves and marker stones within the church indicate that burials may also be present within the structure.

The scheduled area is an irregular polygon on plan, to include the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.  The scheduling specifically excludes all freestanding memorials and monuments, all burial lairs where rights of burial still exist, upstanding elements of the watch house and burial enclosure to the east of the church containing John Row's memorial, the retaining wall and steps of the raised enclosure and the top 300mm of all paths.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

The ruins of the church and burial ground survive in good condition. Documentary sources record that Carnock church was probably built about 1200, and abandoned around 1840 when a new church was built to the south east. Survival of architectural features from these various phases of development mean that Carnock has the potential to inform us about how medieval church architecture and construction methods evolved, as well as the impact of the Reformation on places of worship in Scotland. Below ground, further archaeological evidence for the construction and use of the chapel is likely to survive including interior fittings, furniture and burials. There is the potential for high status burials in the eastern end of the church where the altar would have been located.

The raised ground on which the church stands and the burial ground is located, indicates an accumulation of archaeological deposits, possibly including earlier ecclesiastical remains. The discovery of fragments of an early memorial in the 1920s, possibly from an early Christian cross slab (Canmore ID 319289), suggests the likelihood of a long development sequence at the site. This could enhance our understanding of the origins, use and re-use of places of worship and burial grounds over a considerable length of time. It is likely that important archaeological deposits survive in and around the chapel that could contribute towards our understanding of church construction, burial practices and the origins, nature and duration of use of ecclesiastical sites. Skeletal and environmental remains could also reveal evidence for heath, illness, diet and social demographics during the medieval and post-medieval periods.

Contextual Characteristics

This monument is a good example of a parish church and burial ground in Fife. The parish church was the foundation of worship in the medieval period. Similar churches in the region include St Fillan's or Forgan (scheduled monument reference SM5643 and Canmore ID 33121), and Kinghorn (scheduled monument reference SM835 and Canmore ID 52732) which is of similar date and survives to a lesser degree. The monument can be compared with other broadly contemporary churches in Fife to enhance our understanding of development of places of worship within the region and of the organisation of the pre and post-Reformation parish church structure of south Fife and further afield.

Associative Characteristics

The monument is the product of medieval and post-medieval ecclesiastical, ritual and funerary practices. Bishop Malvoisin of St Andrews (1202-38) granted the church to the hospital at Loch Leven during the early 13th century. Around 1250, it was passed with all of that hospital's possessions into the control of the Trinitarian house of Scotlandwell by grant of Bishop David de Bernham.  Developments in religious practice have affected the history of the site, particularly following the Reformation. The burial enclosure (listed building reference LB3412) located beside the exterior of the eastern side of the church is dedicated to John Row, the first minister of the church from 1592 until 1646.

Assessment of national importance

The monument is of national importance as it provides a good example of a medieval parish church with later alterations, which can provide important material evidence for the pre-Reformation and post-Reformation parish structure of Fife. Investigation and analysis of the building and its underlying archaeology offers the potential to enhance our understanding of ecclesiastical history, architecture, material culture, funerary practices and craftsmanship and design in the south Fife area from the mid-medieval period onwards, and possibly earlier. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our ability to understand and appreciate the nature and development of the church and burial practices before and after the Reformation in Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland CANMORE ID: 49429

Scottish Church Heritage Research (SCHR), Carnock, Old Parish Church, webpage, accessed 14/12/2016, available online:

University of St Andrews, A corpus of Scottish Medieval Parish Churches – project page

MacGibbon, D. & Ross, T. (1896) The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland from the Earliest Christian Times to the Seventeenth Century, Volume 3, Edinburgh, p.436


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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