Lying about three miles west of South Queensferry, Scotland, is Abercorn Parish Church. The church is in the tiny hamlet of Abercorn.
The church is instantly appealing. Your first view is of its south side, across a large churchyard surrounded by trees. The nave is largely obscured by a series of aisles projecting to the south, the most easterly of which gives a clear indication that at least some of the church is very old.
This is the Duddingston Aisle (the small aisle, on the right hand side), which comes with a date of 1603 carved into its external wall. But it is all too easy to overlook a nearby indication that part of the church goes back much, much further. This is the blocked up doorway in the south wall of the church, immediately to the east of the Philipstoun burial enclosure. Complete with its understandably faded chevron decoration, the doorway has been dated to the 1100s, when it probably gave access to a small two celled church.
Abercorn Parish Church is a remarkable place. But even though a small part of it can be dated back to the 1100s, what you can see today is only part of the story. There are clues to an even longer history in the collection of stones on view in the Abercorn Museum, just inside the churchyard gates. These include Viking hog-back burial stones; a cross stone; and a carved cross-shaft dating back to the 600s.
The site of Abercorn Parish Church has been sacred ground since St Ninian visited during a mission to the Picts in the late 400s. Before long his followers had established a church here, perhaps the earliest in this part of Scotland. And by the late 600s the Northumbrians established Abercorn as the seat of one of their four Bishops: the others residing at York, Hexham and Lindisfarne. The Bishop of the day, Bishop Trumwin, fled with his monks to Whitby after the Picts defeated the Northumbrians at the battle of Nechtansmere in AD685 (see our Historical Timeline).
It seems likely that the small church whose blocked-up door remains on view in the south wall of Abercorn Parish Church was built on the site of the church or chapel serving the Northumbrian monastery. And this in turn could have been a development of the original church built here by the followers of St Ninian. As a result today’s church has a remarkable sense of continuity that goes back 1500 years or more.
Three bracketed JPGs converted to HDR in Photomatix.
Camera: Canon EOS 450D
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