Whitekirk, Parish Church / Whitekirk, St Mary's Church And Burial-ground
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- HER number: MEL1269
- Site Name: Whitekirk, Parish Church / Whitekirk, St Mary's Church And Burial-ground
- Grid Reference: 359626 681523
- Civil Parish:
- Summary: Medieval church, rebuilt after fire of 1914
- Description: NT58SE 11 5962 8151.
(1)-(4) (NT 5962 8151) Whitekirk Parish Church: In the 12th century, Whitekirk was simply a parish church (dedicated to the Virgin Mary) belonging to Holyrood Abbey, but by about 1300 miracles of healing were being performed at a nearby well (NT58SE 30) and the church was placed under the protection of James I; it reverted to its position as a parish church in the 17th century and survived almost without alteration until 1914, when it was set on fire by suffragettes. The walls sustained little damage and a careful restoration was carried out by Robert Lorimer. It is cruciform on plan with a squat central tower and a two-bay choir with prominent buttresses. The only medieval tracery is in the S window. The E wall is blank except for a small oculus high up (renewed correctly after 1914) and a small armorial panel; the arms have been identified as those of Abbot Crawford of Holyrood (1460-83). This is not reconcilable in any obvious way with a record that Adam Hepburn of Hailes Castle built the choir in 1439. The N transept has no old features and the S transept is of 1830, much rebuilt by Lorimer.
Central tower with small two-light openings, a stair-turret at the NW corner and a low slated spire recessed behind a corbelled parapet. The N wall of the nave opens into a shallow rectangular projection added in 1832 and rewindowed by Lorimer. The S porch has a large, roughly detailed arch, a canopied niche over diagonal buttresses and, inside, a tunnel-vault with surface ribs. Plain pointed tunnel-vault over the choir. The crossing is entirely Lorimer's but reproduces the old design. Also by Lorimer the ceiled wagon roof over the nave and transepts.
C McWilliam 1978; RCAHMS 1924, visited 1913; D MacGibbon and Ross 1897; D C Bailey and M C Tindall 1963
Photographed by the RCAHMS in 1978.
(Undated) information in NMRS.
Whitekirk Parish Church: in use,
Visited by OS (WDJ), [no date cited].
(5) Historic Scotland Listed Building Ref: 1884/43/-
Historic Scotland Listed Building Description:
15th century parish church on cruciform plan, possibly
incorporating earlier Kirk, with N aisle added 1832; S
transept restored, by R Rowand Anderson 1894 and again
by Robert Lorimer 1914-17, further restoration after
suffragette fire. Coursed red sandstone. Pointed arch
Y-traceried windows. Dominating square tower.
S ELEVATION: large crowstepped porch with wide
hoodmoulded pointed archway, imposts and battered angle
buttresses, formerly bearing moulded pinnacles. Blind
niches to buttresses and in weathered panel above
archway. Rib vaulted porch. Metal studded 2-leaf
doors. Arched nave windows with cusped Y-tracery.
Crowstepped S transept to right of ashlar (Anderson
1894) and coursed stone (Lorimer) with ashlar battered
angle buttresses and trefoiled oculus in gable head;
pairs of square headed, 2-light windows with
perpendicular tracery on W return. Buttressed chancel
with 3-light traceried window in S wall.
N ELEVATION: window to nave to outer right; crowstepped,
projecting N aisle (1832) to left with cat slide roof
and 2-light square headed windows as above. Crowstepped
gabled transept to left with tripartite tracery, pyramid
capped stair projection with set-offs adjoining NW angle
of tower. Crowstepped, cat-slide roof to vestry in E
re-entrant of transept with pointed arch doorway.
Polygonal stack on raised base at eaves level to left.
Deep-set chancel light flanked by battered buttresses.
E GABLE: crowstepped with quatrefoiled oculus.
W GABLE: pointed 3-light window; coped skews.
CROSSING TOWER: 3-stage with dividing string courses and
corbelled parapet. Pointed arch windows with simple Y-
tracery to upper stages on all faces; small rectangular
stair lights, mostly blocked. Slate pyramid roof.
Wrought-iron cockerel weathervane.
INTERIOR: white washed, aisle-less nave with timber
barrel-vaulted ceiling; parquet flooring. Rib vaulted
chancel. Pointed stone barrel vault above chancel with
stone flagged floor. Simple carving to choir stalls.
Pink sandstone communion table by Lorimer, with oak
pulpit and lectern. W window stained glass by C E Kempe
post 1889; N aisle 4 lights by Kenneth Parsons, 1916,
with trefoiled S transept oculus. Decoratively carved
wall plaque in N transept, pink sandstone, post 1917, to
11th Earl of Haddington.
Rubble retaining wall enclosing church and graveyard
with yett pattern timber gates to S.
MacGibbon and Ross ECCLESIASTICAL ARCHITECTURE OF
SCOTLAND (1897), vol III, pp. 269-275.
C McWilliam LOTHIAN (1978), p. 467-8 Inventory, number
TRANSACTIONS of Edinburgh Architectural Association vol
II, pp 116-8.
Ecclesiastical building in use as such. The earlier
church also served as a pilgrimage centre. Aeneas
Silvius Piccolomini visited, before becoming Pius II.
Name of Whitekirk stems from former whitewashed walls.
Oliver Cromwell stabled horses in church, while
attacking Tantallon. Porch niche formerly held figure of
St Mary. Oculus on E end bears Bishop Crawford's
armorial, much weathered. Suffragette fire destroyed
Laird's loft in N transept, and 2-stage pulpit.
Whitekirk parish joined by Tyninghame in 1760. See
Whitekirk Tithe Barn listed separately.
(6) David Elder lists Whitekirk Church as having a dovecot in the church tower, and photographed the church in 2003 (see attached) (7).
(8) There are a few notable 18th century grave monuments in the churchyard of Whitekirk Parish Church, and one illegible slab which is probably 17th century.
- For more information contact: East Lothian Council HER
- Related Places:
- Associated Periods:
- Bibliographic reference: Fraser, I A. 1990?. A church filled with history [Whitekirk Parish Church, newscutting] [199-?].
- Bibliographic reference: Blanc, H J. 1892e. 'Whitekirk (St Mary's)', Trans Edinburgh Architect Ass Vol. 2 1892, p.116-18.
- Bibliographic reference: Fawcett, R. 2002. Scottish medieval churches: architecture and furnishings. 73, 79, 89, 236, 347.
- Bibliographic reference: Rankin, E B. 1914. St Mary's, Whitekirk.
- (1) Bibliographic reference: McWilliam, C E. 1978a. Lothian except Edinburgh. 467-8.
- (2) Bibliographic reference: RCAHMS. 1924. The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions of Scotland. Eighth report with inventory of monuments and constructions in the county of East Lothian. 125-8, No.200.
- (3) Bibliographic reference: MacGibbon and Ross, D and T. 1896-7. 'The ecclesiastical architecture of Scotland from the earliest Christian times to the seventeenth century'. Vol.3, 269. fig.1187.
- (4) Article in monograph: Bailey and Tindall, D C and M C. 1963. 'Dovecots of East Lothian', Trans Ancient Monuments Soc (New) Vol. 11 1963, p.23-52. 52.
- (5) Bibliographic reference: Historic Scotland. Historic Scotland Listed Building.
- (6) Unpublished document: Elder, D. 2004, 2006. East Lothian Doocots.
- (7) Photograph: Elder, D. 2003. East Lothian Doocots.
- (8) Article in serial: Graham, A. 1960-61. 'Graveyard Monuments in East Lothian', PSAS 1960-61, p. 211-271. 264.