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Auchtermuchty Church





Auchtermuchty Parish Church History

The first recorded mention of any church on the site of the present Parish Church is on March 31st 1245 when the building, probably constructed of wattle and daub, was consecrated by the then Bishop of St Andrews, Archbishop de Burnham.

There may well have been a church on the chosen site before this and it might have been called St Serf's or St Severus' in remembrance of one of the early saints of this area. We can find out exactly what took place that day in 1245 as the records, including the order of service, are in the Louvre in Paris.

In the following year, Macduff, Thane of Fife, was captured in the Battle of Durham. He made a vow that, if he escaped with his life, he would make recompense to the Church, and in 1250, he gave the living of the Parish of Auchtermuchty, including the land and produce to the Abbey of Lindores.

There is a legend about the Church Bells that dates from this time. King David of Scotland gifted 4 bells to Lindores Abbey, one of which was supposed to be made of silver and called the Lady Bell . This bell found its way to Auchtermuchty after the Reformation. The authenticity was checked in Victorian times and it is, indeed, a Medieval bell, with a relief of Gabriel appearing to Mary on one side and, on the other, Mary and Jesus after Calvary.

The other bell, called the Reformation bell has an interesting history too. In 1618, Newburgh and Auchtermuchty both decided that each should have new church bell. The place to go for the best bells was the Netherlands, which had trading links with the coastal villages in Fife. Orders were therefore dispatched to the appropriate bell makers to make the bells. When word came that the bells were ready an official from each town went to Holland to supervise operations. When the bells were being swung out of the hold onto land at Newburgh pier, one of them fell and was cracked. The official from Newburgh was most perturbed and started to fuss about which community should have the remaining bell. The official from Auchtermuchty was quite calm. He announced that, before setting out on the voyage across the sea he had marked the Auchtermuchty Bell with chalk, and sure enough, the undamaged bell had a chalk mark. This bell was claimed for Auchtermcuhty, unloaded and dispatched along the road with all speed. When the official from Newburgh later examined the remaining bell, he found that it, too, had a chalk mark, but by then it was too late!

The Reformation that impacted on the rest of Scotland scarcely touched Auchtermuchty. In 1615 the Reverend James Barker, the 2nd Reform Minister, was accused by the Synod of Gambling and was Rebuked. The Rev Mr Barker was married to a relation of the local Laird whose family financed the building of the Reformation Church, which could explain the leniency of the sentence. Other ministers in other areas might have been dismissed or fined

At one time Auchtermuchty was said to have had seven bridges across the Calsay burn seven churches and seven pubs.

The seven bridges still stand and the seven churches were; The Parish Church, The Free Church (now St Stephen's the church hall for the Parish Church), The Burgher Church - on the Burnside, the Anti-Burgher Church, The Relief Church, the Episcopal Church (who met in Forresters Hall - now a private house below the church hall in Croft) and the Gospel Hall - now a private house at the top of Kilnheuch.

There were a number of independently minded clerics in Auchtermcuhty. One of these was John Glass, son of Rev Alexander Glass of the Separation Church. John Glass founded the breakaway sect of the Glassites who met in the open air in what is now know at Glassarts Glen to the north of the town on the Newburgh Road. From here John Glass went to Dundee and founded the Sandeman Church in 1727, whose parishioners served soup after services, giving the Sandeman Church the nickname of the Kail Kirk after the cabbage soup so often served.

In 1733, the Secession Church was founded by those who did not agree with the way the Parish church was being run at the time. They met at Abernethy.

In 1750, some people formed themselves into the Spirit Group who would have nothing to do with local Government.

Auchtermuchty Heritors - all those who had fireplaces in their houses - objected, being keen on local government, and formed the Burgher Church, which was built on the Burnside next to what is now the Bank of Scotland.

In 1786, the Anti-Burgher Church was built and is now used by Auchtermuchty School as a Gym Hall.

In 1767 the Relief Church was formed by those who broke away form the Parish Church as they objected to the way the local Laird, Moncrieffe of Myers Castle, chose the minister. These people met initially in Arnott Street, and latterly in what is now the garage for Westland House in Madras Road.

In 1800, Auchtermuchty was a centre for the handloom and weaving trade and around 4000 people lived in the town. At this time the Moncrieffes sold Myers Castle to the Bruce family who had made their fortune in the East India Trade. On the death of Mr Bruce, the estate passed to a niece who was the daughter of Mr Bruce's brother and an Indian Lady. She, in her turn married Mr Onesimus Tyndall, who took the name of Bruce. They were renowned for the money they poured into the Falkland Estate and a statue of Onesimus Tyndall stands beside the church in Falkland. A monument to him can be seen if you look across the Howe of Fife and half way up the hill to the right of Falkland.

In 1850 the Burgher Church and St Stephens combined and had as their minister a Mr Barlas. At that time parish ministers received a stipend (salary) of £480 per year plus perks which included the use of the Glebe - an area of ground for the use of the Manse, while ministers of other churches received only £100 per year.

Mr Barlas, although a gifted speaker and popular with his congregation ran into debt.

His father arrived from Edinburgh and together they became extremely drunk. The local Elders, threatened to evict him, but his parishioners voted to keep him on, mainly through the majority vote from the weavers. Many of the voters were not exactly regular church goers, but the vote was carried.

From 1890 - 1956 the Minister of the Church in the Burnside was Rev Mr Bell, whose son, H J B Bell was a famous hill climber. In his latter days, H J B Bell lived in the former manse, now known as Redwood, at the corner of Low Road and Gladgate.

If you would like to visit this area as part of a highly personalized small group tour of my native Scotland please e-mail me:

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