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Kirk Yetholm, Roxburghshire

(55°32′43″N, 2°16′44″W)
Kirk Yetholm
NT 825 280
pre-1975 traditional (Scotland) Roxburghshire
now Scottish Borders
medieval Glasgow
now n/a
medieval unknown
  • James King
16 April 2015, 27 Feb 2018

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Feature Sets

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 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.