Penicuik, Old Parish Church of St Kentigern

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Feature Sets (2)


The present parish church (St Mungo’s) dates from 1771 and is built on a new site near the old church. The surviving ruins of the earlier church seem to date from the 17thc. and early 18thc. In 1648, the church minutes record that the church was in need of significant repairs and in a memorandum of 1743, Sir John Clerk states that he had in 1733 built an aisle in the church, as the church had become too small.  He also states that he had built the steeple of the church, which is presumed to refer to the surviving west tower. After 1771, the site of the old church was gradually sold off for burial. The only known evidence for a Romanesque church on this site is a multi-scallop capital re-used at ground level on the W nave wall (E ext. of the W tower). The plan of the Romanesque church, itself, is unknown.


Little is known about the early history of Penicuik. John Wilson (1891) says the earliest reference to the church that he could find referred to the advowson in the 12thc., which he said belonged to the lord of the manor. It is uncertain from where this information comes. Rymer (1745) lists a Walterus Edger, Persona Ecclesiae de Pemcok, Vicecomitis de Edenburgh as a witness to a 1296 charter of Edward I, believed to be the first definitive documented reference to both Penicuik (which in early records is called Penicok) and to the church. There is no known surviving medieval record for the dedication of the church, though it is assumed that the later references to St Kentigern (St Mungo) are likely to be continuations of the original dedication.


Loose Sculpture

Scallop capital with attached sections of shafts

Built into loose masonry at the base of the west tower is scallop capital with four scallops across the front face, each scallop defined by at least one incised curve. Whether the scallops continued onto the sides is not possible to determine in the stone’s present location, built into later walling. It appears to have surmounted a double attached shaft, though neither the capital, itself, nor the rope-moulded necking is carved as two distinct capitals. Between the cones are concave triangles. There is also an incised triangle between the shaft sections at the top. How this stonework was originally used is uncertain. It may have been part of wall arcading, respond, doorway, arch or part of some church furniture, such as a pillar piscina, but unless the piece is removed and examined more fully, it is not possible to determine the most likely original setting.


Diameter of shafts 0.14 m
Height of capital 0.17 m
Height of stone (total) 0.32 m
Width across top of capital 0.28 m


Romanesque scallop capitals are common in Scotland, but the unusual way in which this capital is carved is not. The closest comparisons suggest a date either in the 2nd or 3rd quarters of the 12thc. Comparisons may be made, for example, with capitals on the E Chancel Arch of St Cuthbert's Ch., Dalmeny (City of Edinburgh); S nave doorway of Holyrood Abbey (Edinburgh); W clerestory of the N transept of Kirkwall Cathedral (Orkney); Chancel Arch of St Brendan's Church at Birnie (Morayshire); reconstructed doorway (outer S capital) at Edrom Church (Scottish Borders); and the W end of the S nave aisle at Kelso Abbey (Scottish Borders).  None of these is exactly the same as that at Penicuik, but are all of a similar type.


  • G. Chalmers, Caledonia, new edn., vol. 4 (Paisley, 1889), 809-811.

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

  • C. McWilliam, The Buildings of Scotland: Lothian (Harmondsworth, 1978), 379-80.

  • RCAHMS, Inventory of Monuments - Midlothian and West Lothian (Edinburgh, 1929), 150-51.

  • T. Rymer and R. Sanderson, Foedera, 3rd edn., vol. I (1745), 163.

  • J. Wilson, Annals of Penicuik; Being a History of the Parish and of the Village, privately printed (Edinburgh, 1891), 72-95.

General view from SW.
General view, S exterior.
General view from SE.


Site Location
Penicuik, Old Parish Church of St Kentigern
National Grid Reference
NT 237 599 
pre-1975 traditional (Scotland): Midlothian
now: Midlothian
medieval: St. Andrews
now: n/a
medieval: St Kentigern
Type of building/monument
Ruined church  
Report authors
James King, Neil Cameron 
Visit Date
19 Oct 2011