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Old Parish Church, Gullane, East Lothian

(56°2′3″N, 2°50′9″W)
NT 480 827
pre-1975 traditional (Scotland) East Lothian
now East Lothian
medieval St. Andrews
now n/a
medieval St Andrew
  • James King
22 Sept 2011, 13 Nov 2011, 16 Nov 2011, 09 May 2012

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The surviving stonework shows that the 12th-c church consisted of an aisleless nave and chancel, but it is unknown whether the chancel was square ended or had an apse. A drawing in 1817 shows the plan of the chancel at that date as square ended. The Romanesque chancel arch and S nave doorway (filled in) survive, with chevroned arches. There are also large sections of Romanesque string coursing on the exterior of both the nave and chancel. During or shortly after the Reformation, the so-called ‘Congleton Aisle’ was added onto the N side of the nave. But, in 1612, the church at Gullane, by Act of Parliament, was translated to Dirleton, as its site in Gullane was deemed too remote from the centre of the parish, and because church and churchyard were continually being overblown with sand. After this, the church became effectively abandoned, with the nave and chancel converted to use as private burial spaces. A late 18th-c etching shows the chancel arch as still open at this date. By 1817, the eastern and western burial extensions had still not been built, but a small burial area (the Cochrane Aisle) had been created on the exterior corner where the Congelton Aisle and chancel meet. By 1896, the chancel arch and Congelton arch had been filled in and E (Yule Aisle) and W (Forrest Aisle) burial extensions created. Various grave stones, a few of which show early decoration, are to be found in the churchyard on the S side of the church ruins.


It appears that the de Vaux lords at Eldbottle were living in the area by the mid 12thc, but direct mention of the church at Gullane only first appears in 1221, when the patronage of the church was given to Dryburgh Abbey on behalf of the church at Fidra by William de Vaux. It is believed that the de Vaux family first came to Scotland during David I’s reign (1124-1154) and that he built Elbottle/Fidra Castle(s), which was/were the centre for the family before building the present castle in nearby Dirlton. King David I issued two of his charters at Eldbottle, probably between 1141 and 1147. The church at Gullane was formally dedicated in 1242. In the 1270s, the church is recorded as a vicarage (‘the vicarage of Golyn’). John Haliburton (d. 1355) married a co-heiress of William de Vaux. By 1437, the vicarage of Gullane was held by a canon of Dryburgh.


Exterior Features


Exterior Decoration

String courses

Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Loose Sculpture


The main diagnostic features of the church are the carved capitals, which are most likely to have been influenced by work at Dunfermline abbey, where related capitals first appear towards the W end of the nave. The nave of the church there appears to have been completed about 1150. All available evidence points to a date in the middle or second half of the 12thc (most probably no later than the third quarter) for the Romanesque church at Gullane.

There are a few early graves in the churchyard, the others probably no earlier than the 13thc, but the stone with a cross carved on both sides is worthy of attention. The cross type is hard to parallel. It is possible that the stone was used as a gravestone, or that it topped a free-standing cross. It is equally possible that it stood at the end of a roof gable of the church.


AOC Archaeology Group, St Andrews Kirk, Gullane, East Lothian; Historic Building Recording; Final Report (2011).

R. Fawcett, J. Luxford, R. Oram and T. Turpie, Corpus of Scottish Parish Churches (http://arts.st-andrews.ac.uk/corpusofscottishchurches/).

D. MacGibbon and T. Ross, The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland I, Edinburgh 1896, 339-41.

C. McWilliam, The Buildings of Scotland, Lothian, Harmondsworth 1978, 227.

RCAHMS, Inventory of Monuments - East Lothian, Edinburgh 1924, 14-21.

The Scots Peerage IV, ed. J. Paul, Edinburgh 1907, 330-38.