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St Baldred, Tyninghame, East Lothian

(56°0′31″N, 2°36′45″W)
Tyninghame, church ruins
NT 619 797
pre-1975 traditional (Scotland) East Lothian
now East Lothian
medieval St. Andrews
  • James King
  • Neil Cameron
  • James King
01 Nov 2010, 03 July 2016, 03 Aug 2019

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Situated within the policies of Tyninghame House, St Baldred’s Church survives as a roofless structure. The only significant structural survivals at Tyninghame are the two chancel arches and two apsidal wall shafts. The west face of the chancel arch also has two round-arched altar recesses. Portions of the lower courses of the walls remain, allowing clear identification of the original plan, which consisted of a western tower, an unaisled rectangular nave, a square chancel and an eastern apse. There is a late medieval tomb recess in the south wall of the chancel which encloses an effigy. At some point following the Reformaiton, the interior of the church was re-organised, a school set up in the western part, and a laird's loft built within the eastern section. The church remained in use until the village was cleared in 1760-61, at which time the parish was united with Whitekirk. In 1628, the Earl of Haddington bought Tyninghame and its land. Following this, the earls and their families were buried within the church, which continued even after the church ceased to function in 1761. In 1924, some work was carried out on the surviving ruins, and in the 1930s an excavation took place, at which time the nave and west tower foundations were discovered, as well as the correct line of the eastern apse. In 1947 damage was caused to the east apse during a severe storm, requiring some reconstruction work, as inscribed on the rear of the SE respond. A letter from Lady Binning concerning this storm and damage is kept in the Haddington files of the Scottish Record Office, Edinburgh.


In the earliest references to Tyninghame, one hears of the anchorite Balthere (later called Baldred), who died in or about 756. In the following centuries, this reference is consisitent, but at some point he seems to have been conflated with a different religious man, also named Baldred, who died in the 7th century and is associated with St Kentigern of Glasgow. This conflation, at least in some minds, is clearly shown in the Aberdeen Breviary of 1510 and later by Chalmers in 1810. The Chronicle of Melrose lists: 'Aecclesia sancti Baldredi in Tiningham', though Symeon of Durham states: 'ecclesia Sancti Baltheri'. Legend states that Balthere’s body was miraculously buried in three churches in the region - Tyninghame, Auldham and Preston - but the earliest references tying Balthere with a specific place mention just Tyninghame. The early church of Tyninghame, and the lands belonging to it, is recorded as being within the diocese of Lindesfarne. Anlaf (or Onlaf) burnt and laid waste to St Baldred’s Church in the year 941. It is unclear when the first church was actually built, and physical evidence for the early religious community is scarce, but part of a late-9th century cross was found in the 1930s built into the 12th-century tower base. The cross fragment is now kept in the Stables House at Tyninghame. A hogback stone, found in 1955, which is said to date from the later-10th century was also found near Tyninghame in a field, but it is unclear from where it originated.

The not infrequent mention of Tyninghame in the chronicles suggests that it was held in high esteem. But when exactly the early religious community disappeared is uncertain. If a charter reputedly made in 1094, considered by many to be spurious, is correct in its main details, then some sort of religious community existed even at that date. This charter, found recorded in the Historia de Sancto Cuthberto (see: Symeonis Dunelmensis Opera et Collectanea, p.140) states: ‘monasterium Sancti Balthere quod vocatur Tinningaham’. The purpose of the charter, if genuine, was to confirm that King Duncan II of Scotland gave various places, including Tyninghame, to St Cuthbert (i.e. Durham). Whatever the truth of the charter, it seems never to have taken affect. Previously, in the first half of the 11th century, according to Symeon of Durham, a priest of the monastery of Durham, called Aelfred son of ‘Westueor’, had collected relics from various places and had taken them to Durham. Symeon further states that Aelfred, having dug up the holy bodies, then let local people venerate the bones. Of the relics taken to Durham, there were included, amongst others, part of the remains of the anchorite Balthere and all of the bones of Boisil, who was buried at Old Melrose. Although Balthere is not mentioned on the opening of St Cuthbert's coffin in 1104, Turgot described what was found, making reference to the many relics of saints found inside it, with specific mention of the bones of Boisil. At some point, apparently after 1100, the bishops of St Andrew built a house at Tyninghame. Reference that the church of Tyninghame enjoyed the privilege of sanctuary comes in a royal charter of Malcolm IV king of Scotland (1153-65) to the monks of Kelso (in reference to the church of Innerleithen). Symeon of Durham, in the 12th century, states that St Balthere the anchorite was celebrated on 6 March ('pridie Nonas Martias').

The earliest remains in the present ruins of the church at Tyninghame date to the 12th century, by which time is was a parish church. In a charter of Hugo, bishop of St Andrews 1178-85, the parson of 'Tiningeh', named Andrew, is listed as a witness. Later, in the registers of Pope Innocent III, dated 1206, Tyninghame (Thiningan) is listed as being within Lothian (Laodonia), in the Diocese of St Andrews. In the Bagimond Roll for the tenth of the Holy Land of 1287, assessments within the diocese of St Andrew include: 'Rector Ecclesie de Tynigham ix marc.' and 'Ecclesia de Timingham lx s.'. King David II of Scotland was at Tyninghame in 1200, where two charters by him were given. Patrick de Leuchars was rector of the church before becoming bishop of Brechin in 1351. He was succeeded as rector by Roger de Musselburgh. Alexander de Newron was said to hold the parish church of Tyninghame in 1431, and George Brown was rector of Tyninghame church before becoming bishop of Dunkeld in 1483. The church at Tyninghame managed to remain independent until the reign of King James III of Scotland, when attempts were made to annex it to the mensa of the new archbishopric of St Andrews, but such attempts failed. In 1537, however, it became annexed to the College of St Mary at St Andrews University.


Exterior Features

Exterior Decoration

Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches
Nave arches



Loose Sculpture


The stone with circular motifs, lying south of the nave, is paralled with a stone built into the E exterior of the Stable House. Although no surviving documents have come to light concerning the changing of the church into a folly, there are other similarities with stones built into the Stables House which suggest that these come from the church. (See site for Stables House, Tyninghame)

The foundations of the N nave wall appear to suggest a doorway of one order, but the surviving lower courses of the S nave dooway show that it was built with three orders. Comparisons with Dalmeny Church (west of Edinburgh) have been made, which is vaild, but the decorative elements suggest that St Baldred's Church was built a bit later than that at Dalmeny, both probably in the second half of the twelfth century. Leuchars' church (Fife) also shows certain similarities.

The chevroned recesses which flank the W chancel arch are likely to have been built as altar niches, but the S nave wall is enigmatic, as it overlaps the S recess.


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