Old Parish Church, Gullane

Feature Sets (4)


The surviving stonework shows that the 12th-c church consisted of an aisleless nave and chancel, but it is unknown whether the chancel was square ended or had an apse. A drawing in 1817 shows the plan of the chancel at that date as square ended. The Romanesque chancel arch and S nave doorway (filled in) survive, with chevroned arches. There are also large sections of Romanesque string coursing on the exterior of both the nave and chancel. During or shortly after the Reformation, the so-called ‘Congleton Aisle’ was added onto the N side of the nave. But, in 1612, the church at Gullane, by Act of Parliament, was translated to Dirleton, as its site in Gullane was deemed too remote from the centre of the parish, and because church and churchyard were continually being overblown with sand. After this, the church became effectively abandoned, with the nave and chancel converted to use as private burial spaces. A late 18th-c etching shows the chancel arch as still open at this date. By 1817, the eastern and western burial extensions had still not been built, but a small burial area (the Cochrane Aisle) had been created on the exterior corner where the Congelton Aisle and chancel meet.  By 1896, the chancel arch and Congelton arch had been filled in and E (Yule Aisle) and W (Forrest Aisle) burial extensions created. Various grave stones, a few of which show early decoration, are to be found in the churchyard on the S side of the church ruins.


It appears that the de Vaux lords at Eldbottle were living in the area by the mid 12thc, but direct mention of the church at Gullane only first appears in 1221, when the patronage of the church was given to Dryburgh Abbey on behalf of the church at Fidra by William de Vaux. It is believed that the de Vaux family first came to Scotland during David I’s reign (1124-1154) and that he built Elbottle/Fidra Castle(s), which was/were the centre for the family before building the present castle in nearby Dirlton. King David I issued two of his charters at Eldbottle, probably between 1141 and 1147. The church at Gullane was formally dedicated in 1242. In the 1270s, the church is recorded as a vicarage (‘the vicarage of Golyn’). John Haliburton (d. 1355) married a co-heiress of William de Vaux. By 1437, the vicarage of Gullane was held by a canon of Dryburgh.


Exterior Features


S nave doorway.

The ground level around the church is much higher than when the church was built, but the upper part of the blocked S nave doorway can still be seen. The interior has been greatly altered, with only the side jambs visible, but the exterior side shows a major part of an arch carved with lateral chevron, the profile of which is too weathered to determine. Part of the label also survives but it, too, is very weathered. On the W side of the exterior, a portion of a capital remains, the S face of which gives the impression that it was of cushion form.

Width (between jambs on N interior face) 1.13 m

Exterior Decoration

String courses


Remains of stringcoursing can be found on both the N and S exterior walls of the nave and chancel. That on the nave is set at a higher level than that on the chancel.  Both are plainly carved and are similar in profile, with upper and lower chamfer.

Height of chancel stringcourse 0.20 m
Height of nave stringcourse 0.22 m

Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Chancel Arch

The W face of the blocked chancel arch shows a chevroned arch surrounded by a plain label. The label is simply carved, with outer and inner chamfers. The chevron is also quite simple, carved with a single lateral roll with cogwheel motifs in the lower triangular spaces. No capitals appear on this side of the arch. The imposts are quite damaged, but were probably originally carved with a single lower chamfer like those still found on the E side of the arch. The jambs are undecorated. A late 18th-c depiction of the W side of the arch suggests there was/is an inner arch, also decorated with chevron.

The E face of the chancel arch has two plain archivolts and no label. The imposts are simply carved with a lower chamfer and the jambs are undecorated. On each side of the arch, below the inner archivolt, is a scallop capital. Both capitals are carved in a similar way, with cable-moulded necking, plain cones and recessed upper faces. The capitals are only partially visible because of the blocking and presently show two scallops on both the faces. However, the late 18th-c depiction of the W side of the arch  shows only one capital on each side, under the soffit of the arch. If this representation is accurate, then there is likely to be/have been at least one more scallop (and possibly two) on each inner face.

Height of impost 0.17 m
N capital on E face height 0.33 m
N capital on E face width 0.22
S capital on E face height 0.30 m
S capital on E face width 0.28 m
Width at bottom of arch (W face) 3.15 m
Width between jambs (W face) 3.25 m
Width of inner arch (E face) 2.37 m

Loose Sculpture

Churchyard, cross.

Both sides of the cross head are carved similarly. The cross is formed by two straight convex strands in each arm which meet in the centre of the cross. There is a large enclosing circle, but the ends of three arms of the cross extend beyond the circle into short, squared projections. The circle, itself, is recessed between the arms of the cross and the outer band of the circle. At the base of the cross is an attached section of stone which slants outwards on two sides.


Depth (at ground level) 0.14 m
Depth of cross 0.12 m
Height (from ground) 0.43 m
Width (at ground level) 0.31 m
Width of cross 0.33 m


The main diagnostic features of the church are the carved capitals, which are most likely to have been influenced by work at Dunfermline abbey, where related capitals first appear towards the W end of the nave. The nave of the church there appears to have been completed about 1150. All available evidence points to a date in the middle or second half of the 12thc (most probably no later than the third quarter) for the Romanesque church at Gullane.

There are a few early graves in the churchyard, the others probably no earlier than the 13thc, but the stone with a cross carved on both sides is worthy of attention. The cross type is hard to parallel. It is possible that the stone was used as a gravestone, or that it topped a free-standing cross. It is equally possible that it stood at the end of a roof gable of the church.


  • AOC Archaeology Group, St Andrews Kirk, Gullane, East Lothian; Historic Building Recording; Final Report (2011).

  • R. Fawcett, et al., Corpus of Scottish Parish Churches (http://arts.st-andrews.ac.uk/corpusofscottishchurches/).

  • D. MacGibbon and T. Ross, The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland I, Edinburgh 1896, 339-41.

  • C. McWilliam, The Buildings of Scotland, Lothian, Harmondsworth 1978, 227.

  • RCAHMS, Inventory of Monuments - East Lothian, Edinburgh 1924, 14-21.

  • The Scots Peerage IV, ed. J. Paul, Edinburgh 1907, 330-38.


Site Location
Old Parish Church, Gullane
National Grid Reference
NT 480 827 
pre-1975 traditional (Scotland): East Lothian
now: East Lothian
now: n/a
medieval: St. Andrews
medieval: St Andrew
Type of building/monument
Ruined parish church  
Report authors
James King 
Visit Date
22 Sept 2011, 13 Nov 2011, 16 Nov 2011, 09 May 2012