Click for Bookshop

Whitekirk Parish Church


(Parish Church of St. Mary)

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

This edition is copyright © The Editors of the Gazetteer for Scotland, 2002-2016.

It has taken much time and money to make the six-volumes of Groome's text freely accessible. Please help us continue and develop by making a donation. If only one out of every ten people who view this page gave £5 or $10, the project would be self-sustaining. Sadly less than one in thirty-thousand contribute, so please give what you can.

Use the tabs on the right of this page to see other parts of this entry Arrow

Whitekirk and Tyninghame, a coast parish of NE Haddingtonshire, whose church stands 4¼ miles SE of North Berwick, 71/8 WNW of Dunbar, and 4 N by E of the post- town, Prestonkirk (East Linton). Comprising the ancient parishes of Tyninghame, Aldham, and Hamer or Whitekirk, it is bounded NW by North Berwick, NE by the German Ocean, SE by Tyninghame Bay and Dunbar, and SW and W by Prestonkirk. Its utmost length, from NNW to SSE, is 5 miles; its utmost breadth is 4¼ miles; and its area is 7153½ acres, of which 822¼ are foreshore and 43½ water. The river Tyne, entering from Prestonkirk, first goes 21/8 miles north-eastward across the southern district, and then meanders 25/8 miles north-north-eastward through Tyninghame Bay to its mouth in the German Ocean; whilst the East Peffer Burn, after tracing 4½ furlongs of the Prestonkirk boundary, flows 3 miles north-eastward through the northern interior, and falls into the sea at a point 15/8 mile NW of Tyne Mouth. The coast, from the mouth of the Tyne to that of the Peffer, is a sandy tract, diversified only by the small headland of Whitberry and Ravensheugh Craig; but from the mouth of the Peffer to the boundary with North Berwick, it is a series of rocky ledges and rugged cliffs, rising in some places to a height of 100 feet. Whitekirk Hill (182 feet) on the north. western border, and Lawhead (100) 1¾ mile to the SSE, are the highest ground in the interior, and command an exquisite prospect over the Lothians, the German Ocean, the Firth of Forth, and the coast of Fife. A belt of flat rich haugh extends S of Lawhead from nearly the western boundary to the coast; the rest of the surface either declines slowly through Whitekirk Hill and Lawhead, and is otherwise so gently featured as to possess all the softness, without any of the monotony, of a luxuriant plain. The entire parish, as seen from Lawhead, exhibits surpassing opulence of natural beauty and artificial embellishment. The rocks are partly eruptive, but chiefly red sandstone, red clay, ironstone, and red and green slaty clays. The soil, on the haugh lands, is alluvium; on the gentle slopes adjacent to the haughs is mostly a darkcoloured loam; and on the highest grounds, is thin and shallow but good. About two-thirds of the entire area are in tillage; and the other third, with slight exception, is either in grass or under wood. The trees on the Tyninghame estate are especially fine, and cover a very large area; but thousands of them were felled by the tremendous gale of 14 Oct. 1881. Of the three ancient churches of Tyninghame, Aldham, and Hamer, the two first have been noticed separately. Hamer, or ` the greater ham,' in contradistinction to Aldham, or `Auld-ham, ' took its present name of Whitekirk from the whiteness of its kirk. The parish forms the central part of the united district, and lay, of course, between Aldham and Tyninghame. The church, whose interior was beautifully restored in 1885, was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and from the 12th century till the Reformation belonged to the monks of Holyrood. It early became a resort of pilgrims; and on pretext of a pilgrimage to it, with the alleged purpose of performing a vow for the safety of her son, the dowager-queen of James I. outwitted Chancellor Crichton, and carried off James II. in a chest to Stirling (1438). Prior to this, in 1356, when Edward III. invaded East Lothian, some sailors of his fleet entered the church. One of them rudely plucking a ring from the Virgin's image, a crucifix fell from above, and dashed out his brains; and the ship, we are told, which was stored with the spoils of this and of other shrines, was wrecked off Tynemouth by a vehement storm. It was probably on this account that the famous Æneas Silvius, known to history as Pope Pius II., made a pilgrimage hither, just eighty years later, on landing in Scotland after a perilous voyage. He walked ten miles barefoot over the frozen ground, and caught thereby a chronic rheumatism, which lasted to the end of his days. The present church, which certainly dates from pre- Reformation times, has a square tower; and in the churchyard is a large stone slab, removed from the chancel some years ago in the course of repairing, and bearing the life-size effigy of an ecclesiastic. Behind the church is-what is rare in Scotland-the ancient barn in which the monks stored their grain, and which is absurdly affirmed to have given a two-nights' lodging to Queen Mary. Aldham was united to Whitekirk in the 17th century; and Tyninghame in 1761. At Seacliff, overlooking the sea, stood a chapel, whose ruins are still extant. Mansions, separately described, are Newbyth, Seacliff,and Tyninghame. This parish is in the presbytery of Dunbar and the synod of Lothian and Tweeddale; the living is worth £410. Two public schools, Tyninghame and Whitekirk, with respective accommodation for 122 and 100 children, had (1884) an average attendauce of 82 and 54, and grants of £70 and £43, 8s. Valuation (1860) £11, 084, (1885) £11,705, 1s. Pop. (1801) 925, (1841) 1170, (1861) 1113, (187l) 1073, (1881) 105l.—Ord. Sur., shs. 33, 41, 1863-57.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

If you have found this information useful please consider making
a donation to help maintain and improve this resource. More info...

By using our site you agree to accept cookies, which help us serve you better