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History of Kirkton Church

What We Know At The Moment

The Kirkton Church: History and Background

The origins of Kirkton Old Church date back to the 13th century, although there may have been an earlier church on the site in the 12th century as documents mention one in 1130 (when David I granted the lands of Kinghorn Wester to Dunfermnline Abbey). By 1240, Burntisland was part of the parish of Kinghorn, with the settlement at Kirkton referred to as Kinghorne Wester. The church has also been referred to as Parva Kinghorn (ie, Little Kinghorn) and is thought to have been originally dedicated to St Serf. Indeed, the Pontificale Ecclesiae Sancti Andreae (p. xv) notes the consecration of St Serf (or ‘St Servanus’) of Parva Kinghorn by Bishop de Bernham in 1243. Confirmation charter of Richard, Bishop of St Andrew's 1163-77, but in 1240 "the revenue of the church is so small that if a vicar were instituted there, virtually nothing would accrue to the monks, and the bishop decreed that the church be served by fit and proper chaplains". However, the church was dedicated by Bishop de Bernham on 19th May, 1243 and dedicated to St Serf So we can say for certain that this was the kirk’s dedication after 1243. In 1598, a newer larger kirk was built in East Leven Street, although Kirkton Church continued in use until the 17th century

Relevant extracts from other sources:

  • James Speed's Notes on the History of Burntisland,
  • Transcribed by Alexander Foster in 1869

The parish now called Burntisland anciently formed part of the parish of Kinghorn (or more correctly Kingorne) and was called Little Kingorne or Kingorne Waster; and what is now called Kinghorn was called Great Kingorne or Kingorne Easter. The village now called Kirkton was called the Toun of Kingorne Waster. The church, the Minister's manse, and parish burying ground were there. The church is now in ruins, and is surrounded by the burying ground, which is still used. It is recorded that the church of Great Kingorne was consecrated by David Barnham on the 15th, and the church of Little Kingorne on the 14th, of the Kalends of June 1243 (the 16th and 17th of May respectively).  The whole parish and its two churches were dedicated to Saint Adamnan, successor of Saint Columba in the office of Abbot of Iona.

⦁ Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland

The ruined church of Parva Kinghorn (Little Kinghorn) is said to have been dedicated to St Serf (RCAHMS 1933, D MacGibbon and T Ross 1896-7) or St Adamnan (D MacGibbon and T Ross 1896-7). It dates from about the first quarter of the 13th century. The church consists of a chancel, nave, and a south aisle, which is a later addition, and to which is attached a 13th century vaulted cell at the SE angle. All features seem to indicate that the church was erected in the 13th century, although it has been surmised that it was rebuilt in the 15th century. The simplicity of the chancel arch and the absence of an E window are against that supposition.  (RCAHMS 1933; D MacGibbon and T Ross 1896-7.)


⦁ John Blyth, Burntisland: Early History and People, Fifeshire Advertiser, 1948

John Blyth gives us this description of how the Kirkton might have appeared as folk gathered for the Sunday service in the 1500s: 
Before the Reformation and the subsequent erection of the town into a Royal Burgh, the Kirkton and its Church filled an important part in the life of the community. Here, each Sabbath, the inhabitants gathered for public worship - seamen, fishermen, merchants, craftsmen and others, lairds and farm workers, all with their wives and families. Doubtless there was a sprinkling of strangers on many occasions, as, for example, during the period when the French troops of Mary of Lorraine occupied the town, or when some ship from England, France, the Low Countries or the Baltic chanced to lie in the local haven. In the churchyard, after service, would be gathered the usual pedlars and merchants, who were wont to use such occasions to supply the needs of landward folk who had little opportunity to purchase odds and ends of finery, etc. The Roman Church did not frown on this practice, which fitted with the necessities or convenience of olden days, but the Reformation brought an end to such scenes. Inevitably, too, there would be many beggars, deserving and otherwise.


The Kirkton church was largely superseded in 1598 by the new Parish Church in East Leven Street, but remained in use until well into the 17th century as a more convenient place of worship for those in the rural hinterland. Burials continued in the Kirkton churchyard until the early 20th century. The Aytouns and the Youngs are the most prominent families interred there. The fate of many of the more humble folk is recorded in the old burial register.


Burntisland Port of Grace

By Iain Sommerville

Published by Burntisland Heritage Trust 2004

ISBN- 0953935310

The story of the Royal Burgh of Burntisland to the Union of Parliaments 1707


Burntisland A Social History

By Iain Sommerville

Published by Burntisland Heritage Trust 2009

ISBN- 9780953935352

It tells the story of the peopleof The Royal Burgh of Burntisland from 1700 to the present day.


Burntisland Early History And People

By John J. Blyth

Published by Fifeshire Advertiser Ltd. 1948


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