St Mary, Ratho

Feature Sets (2)


The church has undergone numerous changes throughout the past, but still incorporates masonry of 12thc. date. The base course with chamfered edge, presumably from the Romanesque church remains in part on the exterior of the W front and the lower part of a blocked doorway on the N side of the nave can still be seen.  The most significant surviving section of the early church is part of a blocked doorway on the S exterior of the nave, west of the later (1830) S extension. There is evidence above the doorway of at least two phases of construction. The church interior was re-ordered in 1932 and nothing Romanesque is now to be seen inside.


There are no known documents referring to the church before the middle of the 13thc., when the church appears to have been an independent parsonage. In 1444, the tiends and patronage were appropriated to the collegiate establishment at Corstorphine with the consent of the Archbishop of St Andrews.


Exterior Features


Blocked doorway on S exterior of nave

The W half of a round-headed, blocked doorway survives.  It is of single order with plain right-angled voussoirs.  The hoodmould around this is carved with sawtooth decoration, below which is an indented edge and chamfer. The plain impost is cut from the same stone as the capital and has a simple lower chamfer. The surviving capital is partly imbedded in the later infill, but the main face is of triple scallop form, with a plain roll necking and undecorated upper face. Neither a shaft nor a base survives, but there are chamfered stones across the base of the doorway.

Height of capital (not including attached impost) 0.18 m
Height of doorway 2.9 m (approx.)
Width of front face (capital only) 0.22 m


Base course

Only portions of the original base course have been found, these primarily on the W front. Other than an upper chamfer, the base stones are plain.

Re-used carved stone

On the E exterior is a re-used stone, carved with a four-petal design. The petals overlap and extend beyond an indented circle.


There is no documentary evidence to help date the Romanesque church. The decoration on the doorway points to a date in the 12thc., but the scallop capital is not distinct enough to narrow down the date. Sawtooth decoration is not a commonly found motif in Scotland, but it does occur in the early part of Kirkwall Cathedral, a church largely influenced by Dunfermline Abbey church and Durham Cathedral. Stylistically, the most likely date for the church at Ratho, therefore, would seem to be either the 2nd or 3rd quarters of the 12thc.


  • R. Fawcett, Corpus of Scottish Medieval Parish Churches (

  • D. MacGibbon and Ross, The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland, I (1986), 371.

  • C. McWilliam, The Buildings of Scotland: Lothian (Harmondsworth, 1978), 401-2.

  • RCAHMS, Inventory of Monuments - Midlothian (1929), 158.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
NT 133 709 
now: City of Edinburgh
pre-1975 traditional (Scotland): Midlothian
now: n/a
medieval: St. Andrews
now: St Mary
medieval: St Mary
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
James King, Neil Cameron 
Visit Date
21 April 2011, 25 July 2011