Old Parish Church, Kirknewton (see also: Edinburgh, National Museum of Scotland)

Download as PDF

Feature Sets (2)


The medieval church does not survive, but some ashlar may have been reused in the construction of a burial vault on the site. In 1627, the church was described as in a ruinous state, the roof already decayed. Certain repairs were made in 1669, but in 1688 a report noted further faults with the roof. In 1750, it was finally decided to unite the parish of Kirknewton with that of East Calder, following which a new church was built on an entirely different site. In 1780, much of the church appears to have been demolished, and in 1844 it was reported that there were ‘scanty remains’ on the site of the old church. Until the 1950s/60s, a hogback type grave cover was to be seen in the churchyard, S of the ruins. It has since disappeared, but a photograph and various descriptions survive.


There is no reference to the church before 1275, when it appears in the papal tax accounts. The first known rector is Patrick Lesours, who is named in 1450. In 1472, Kirknewton was appropriated to a prebend in the collegiate church of St Giles, Edinburgh.




Coped grave cover (now missing).

A description of the hogback type grave cover and the surviving photograph show scale ornament on the sides and on the W end. The E end is described as broken and the end stones are described as not original to the grave, though the siting of the grave cover is thought to have occupied its original position, at about 6 yards S of the W end of the ruins. The ridge of the grave cover is not exactly in the centre of the sloping sides and it is slightly arched.

Average height (measured 1929) 0.33 m
Length (measured 1929) 1.715 m
Width of E end (measured 1929) 0.36 m (approx.)
Width of W end (measured 1929) 0.465 (approx.)


J. T. Lang (1976) argued that the hogback type grave cover at Kirknewton was probably late 11th- or early 12th-c. The grave cover is not like earlier Viking hogback grave covers, and the association elsewhere of similar grave covers with churches of a Romanesque type (see, for example, Skaill in Orkney) does make his dating attribution quite likely. Whether this type is a direct development of the purer hogback type, or whether it is the result of Romanesque grave covers (as for example, at Fordwich in Kent) remains an open question. In September, 2012, in verbal discussion with Mr. J. L. Hardie (a local historian in Kirknewton), it transpired that the grave cover had been taken away when the West Lothian Council was first formed and it was decided to reorganize the gravestones in order to make mowing easier. It had been intended that the grave cover would be returned to the cemetery, but it never was. The matter was taken up with the Council, who suggested the stone had been stolen, but there is a suspicion that the grave cover was destroyed. Whatever the truth of it, there is at present no information concerning what happened to the grave cover and whether it still survives in another location.


  • W. Cameron, ‘Parish of Kirknewton’, The Statistical Account of Scotland, Edinburgh 1793, 407.

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

  • J. Lang, ‘Hogback Monuments in Scotland’, Proceedings of the  Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 105 (1975), 206-35.

  • C. McWilliam, The Buildings of Scotland, Lothian, Harmondsworth 1978, 275.

  • RCAHMS, Inventory of Monuments - Midlothian and West Lothian, Edinburgh, 1929, 96-97.

  • A. Reid, ‘Notes on the Churchyard of Currie, Kirknewton, and the Calders’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 40 (1906), 231-32.

  • T. Ross, ‘Notice of Undescribed Hog-backed Monuments at Abercorn and Kirknewton’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 38 (1904), 422-27.

Site of church.


Site Location
Old Parish Church, Kirknewton (see also: Edinburgh, National Museum of Scotland)
National Grid Reference
NT 114 669 
now: West Lothian
pre-1975 traditional (Scotland): Midlothian
medieval: St. Andrews
now: n/a
medieval: unknown
Type of building/monument
Ruined parish church  
Report authors
James King, Neil Cameron 
Visit Date
07 Feb 2012, 29 Feb 2012, 29 Sept 2012