Kirk Yetholm, parish church

Download as PDF

Feature Sets (2)


The church was substantially enlarged in 1609. This was recorded in the 1845 Statistical Accounts as ‘an addition, larger than the original church … built to the west end’. The medieval east end seems to have remained until the present church was built in 1836-7. Described as in a very poor state, along with being too small for the quickly growing number of church attendees, the old church was taken down and the new church built on the same site as the previous one. When cutting the foundations and preparing the floor, various fragments were found, which are assumed to have come from the medieval church. These were later placed in in the garden of the Manse, where they remained for many years. The Royal Commission of Scotland listed these as two voussoirs, three bases, one nook shaft and a capital. The interior of the 19thc church was remodelled in 1934 and the west gallery enclosed in 1973. In 2017, the carved stones, with the addition of four other carved stones (one carved with cavetto, another with a rounded section, one with a cone and roll, and one carved with large beads), were moved back to the church. Damage to the carved stones is evident, most significantly through weathering and lamination of the stone.


In the 17thc Twysden printed a transcription of an ancient document, possibly from the 10thc called the ‘Historia of Sancta Cuthberto’, in which there is a reference to a place named ‘Gathan’ existing in the 7thc. Scholars have argued that this is a reference to Yetholm. Later, in the ‘Liber’ of Kelso Abbey, there is also a reference to a chapel of St ‘Edildride’ not far from Yetholm, although neither the original date nor exact location of the chapel is known. The first definitive mention of Yetholm comes in the reign of King William the Lion (1165-1214) when ‘Ada de yetham’ appears as a witness. In one charter, Ada (Adam) is referred to as soldier/knight (milite) and in another his father is given as ‘Reginaldi de yethame’. Thereafter, one finds a range of spellings for  the village, such as ‘Jetham’, ‘Jetam’, ‘Yheteham’, ‘Yhetam’, ‘Yetham’, ‘Yethame’, ‘Yetheam and ‘Zethame’.  In 1225, William of ‘Yetham’ appears as Archdeacon of Glasgow and Teviotdale, but only in 1233 does one first hear of a church at Yetholm, when Nicholas de ‘Gleynwim’, rector of the church of ‘Jetham’, appears as a witness to a charter. The church was part of the diocese of Glasgow and is listed in the Baimond Roll of c.1275 and the Ragman Roll of 1291. About 1296, 'Mestre Walran', parson of ‘Yetham’, swore fealty to Edward I of England. In late August 1304, Edward I stayed in Yetholm on his return to England after his northern expedition, and throughout the 14thc both Edward I and Richard II presented various people to the church there. Then, in 1374, Edward III sanctioned the exchange of the churches of Minto and Yetholm between their respective parsons. About 1406, William de Hawdene, lord of ‘Kirkzethame’/‘Kirkyethame’, gave the right of advowson to the monks at Kelso, who continued to exercise the patronage until at least 1459/60. Later, in 1490/1, the advowson was passed to Sir Robert Kerr of Cessford. By or in 1495, it had passed to Patrick, earl of Bothwell and it remained in the hands of the Earl of Bothwell at the Reformation. Only in the 15thc does one first see a distinction made between ‘Kirk’ Yetholm and ‘Town’ Yetholm. In November 1542, the English burned both places.


Loose Sculpture


The engaged base has a lower, wide, convex moulding (its profile approximately a quarter section of a circle) with a concave area above this and a convex section (roughly resembling a torus roll) at the top. The stone is weathered and the exact profile of the original upper sections is difficult to determine. The base appears to have been intended for a nook-shaft, but as one side of the stone is broken off this cannot be certain. The sculpted base sits on a plain plinth and at the back of the stone is a rectangular cuboid.


Height 0.28 m
Width, long side, carved section only 0.275 m
Width, long side, total 0.45 m
Width, narrow side 0.25 m

Base for two attached shafts

The two nook-shaft bases are carved from a single stone. They have been carved with the same profile: a lower convex moulding surmounted by a large concave area. The face of one undecorated side is largely intact, but the other is broken. Part of the simple, lower plinth remains.


Height of carved bases only 0.14 m
Height of stone 0.285 m
Widths of left base 0.175 m x 0.175 m
Widths of right base 0.185 m x 0.185 m
Widths of stone 0.42 m x 0.49 m

Base with spurs

A considerably weathered base with one corner cut away, presumably for re-use. Intended for an attached half-shaft, the original base consisted of a lower convex roll moulding with a large scotia above it. The carved base has two, undecorated downward pointing spurs. These emanate from the lower convex section of the base and stop at the lower edge of the scotia. The original top surface of the stone is gone, making the upper profile of the base indeterminate. The lower part of the stone has laminated, and the original lowest section is missing.


Depth 0.42 m
Height 0.16 m
Width of base only 0.50 m
Width of stone 0.54 m

Corner capital

An engaged, corner capital with wedges. The bell is elongated, with a single shield on each of the two carved faces. The shields are relatively small (in proportion to the rest of the capital) and are decorated with foliate forms under which there is a small roll. The necking of the capital is a simple torus roll. The stone shows significant weathering.


Diameter of necking 0.175 m
Height 0.315 m
Length of stone 0.36 m
Width of top of capital on long side 0.185 m
Width of top of capital on narrower side 0.185 m

Section of shaft

The section of shaft is undecorated and appears not to have been en-deilt, as the back of the shaft is flat and the front is the only curved part of the stone.


Depth 0.16 m
Diagonal width 0.16 m
Length 0.42 m

Stone carved with beads

The face is decorated with aligned beading set against a concave background. The beading extends over one entire face and meets beading on an adjoining face, but the latter decoration extends across only part of this. The stone shows considerable lamination, with the original upper and lower surfaces of the stone no longer extant.


Height 0.10 m
Length of pelleted section on long side 0.18 m
Length of stone 0.36 m
Width 0.245 m

Stone carved with cavetto

The stone is carved with a cavetto following a curved face and has a rectangular section along one side of the stone. The cavetto is carved into the curved section only and not into the rectangular projection. There is also a separate thin stone which is detached from the one with the cavetto but which follows the same template and dimensions. The thin stone has no other diagnostic features.


Depth 0.265 m
Height 0.085 m
Width 0.265 m

Stone carved with roll and cone

The stone is carved on one face with a section of roll moulding set diagonally across it, extending into one corner of the stone. On the corner diagonally opposite to this is carved a section of cone-like moulding.


Height 0.21 m
Widths 0.145 m X 0.16 m

Stone carved with rounded section

The rounded section of the stone is shallow and sits on a plinth-like section below it. Along one side of the carved section is a rectangular area. No other diagnostic features are evident. 


Depth 0.285 m
Height 0.10 m
Width 0.27 m

Two voussoirs

One side of each stone is carved with chevron, the profile of which is a half roll flanked by two quirks and a deep hollow moulding. The opposite side is carved with a large angle-roll moulding. Between the two outer sides is a flat panel, carved with two sunk, intersecting half rolls, which would have created lozenges when the stones were put side by side. Presumably these voussoirs formed the soffit of a large arch.


Voussoir 1
Height 0.225 m
Length 0.40 m
Width of side opposite soffit 0.17 m
Width of soffit 0.15 m
Voussoir 2
Height 0.225 m
Length 0.40 m
Width of side opposite soffit 0.15 m
Width of soffit 0.15 m


The decorated stones seem to have come from at least one arch. The most common comparisons for such decoration are chancel arches and main doorways. The two voussoirs suggest the former, but it is likely that the stones have come from more than one placement in the church. Good comparisons for the capital type, with its thin, elongated lower section and small upper shields, are difficult to find, but this type would appear to have occurred late in the evolution of the cushion capital, the earliest of which arrived in Britain in the second half of the 11thc. The beaded stone may well have formed part of an impost, with the undecorated section of the partially beaded side hidden by another stone. Most likely, the stone with surviving cavetto, and the associated thin slabs, once formed part of a base (or bases). From the details of the decorated stones, it is probable that the Romanesque church from which they came was no earlier than the middle of the 12thc and may well have been built in the second half of that century.


  • J. Alexander, The History and Antiquities of Roxburghshire and Adjacent Districts, 3, Edinburgh 1859, 202, 229-39, 258-65.

  • J. Bain, ed., Calendar of Documents relating to Scotland, 1, Edinburgh 1881, 552.

  • J. Bain, ed., Calendar of Documents relating to Scotland, 2 Edinburgh 1884, xliii, 11, 199 and 210.

  • J. Bain, ed., Calendar of Documents relating to Scotland, 3, Edinburgh 1887, 96 and 108.

  • W. Baird, Memoir of the late Rev. John Baird, London 1862, ills. facing p.10.

  • Bannatyne Club, Origines Parochiales Scotiae, 1, Edinburgh 1851, 427-429.

  • The Bannatyne Club, Liber Sancta Marie de Melros, 1, Edinburgh 1837, 130 no. 139, 131 no. 140, and 238-9 no. 269.

  • The Bannatyne Club, Liber S. Marie de Calchou, Edinburgh 1846, 136-8 nos. 168 and 169, 173-4 no. 194 no. 239, 307-8 no. 392, 415-6 no. 526 , 457.

  • G. Barrow, The Kingdom of the Scots, 2nd edn, Edinburgh 2003, 27-9.

  • G. Chalmers, Caledonia, 2 London 1810, 163 fn. a, 192-3

  • G. Chalmers, Caledonia, 2 new ed., Paisley 1887, 670 fn. g.

  • G. Chalmers, Caledonia, 3, London 1824, 378.

  • I. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland, Edinburgh 1967, 212.

  • K. Croft, J. Dunbar and R. Fawcett, The Buildings of Scotland: Borders, New York and London 2006, 769-772.

  • J. Gairdner and R. Brodie, Letters and Papers, Henry VIII, 17, London 1900, no. 1136.

  • W. Hamilton, Descriptions of the Sheriffdoms of Lanark and Renfrew, Glasgow 1831,  179.

  • R. Keith, An Historical Catalogue of the Scottish Bishops down to the year 1688, Edinburgh 1824, 94-96.

  • The New Statistical Account of Scotland, 3, Edinburgh and London 1845, 173-4.

  • RCAHMS, An Inventory of the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Roxburghshire, 2, Edinburgh 1956, no. 1029, pp. 450-51.

  • J. Robson, The Churches and Churchyards of Teviotdale, Hawick 1893, 21-23, 36.

  • Surtees Society, ‘Historia de Sancta Cuthberto’, Symeonis Dunelmensis Opera et Collectanea, 1, Durham, London and Edinburgh 1868, 138-9.

  • R. Twysden, Historiae Anglicanae Scriptores X, London 1652, 67.

Church from SE
Illustration of old church, from W. Baird (1862)


Site Location
Kirk Yetholm, parish church
National Grid Reference
NT 825 280 
now: Scottish Borders
pre-1975 traditional (Scotland): Roxburghshire
medieval: Glasgow
now: n/a
medieval: unknown
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
James King 
Visit Date
16 April 2015, 27 Feb 2018