Norman Tower, circa 1200. Church (rebuilt) executed and probably designed by Thomas Barclay 1786-88; James Barclay re-design of octagonal spire, and N aisle added, executed by Thomas and George Barclay 1806; internal gallery replaced by Alexander Leslie 1807; session house at E Robert Hutchison 1839; N aisle stone vault and stairtowers added, and probably S wall pulpit by James Gillespie 1883-4; internal improvements and organ chamber Gillespie & Scott 1913; tower underpinned and lancets re-opened 1929.
TOWER: 4-stage tower with later octagonal spire, almost square-plan (16? NS x 17? EW). Coursed, dressed and squared large rubble blocks (near cubic) with ashlar dressings. Chamfered coping to deep base course, dividing string courses with lozenge detail (much eroded) and later corbelled wallhead cornice and parapet. Round-headed doors and small lancets, keystone, voussoirs and stone mullions.
1ST STAGE: W face with 2-leaf boarded timber door and semicircular plate glass fanlight off-centre right in round-headed, keystoned doorway (alteration) surmounted by small arrow-slit, lancet to left below string course. Original entrance, small round-headed door to right of centre above ground to N. Later lean-to dog-leg stairtower in re-entrant angle to S with boarded timber door to W and stair windows to S and W. E face adjoining church.
2ND STAGE: lancets off-centre right to W and S; N face with small opening to right over string course with similar opening directly above. E face adjoining adjoining church.
3RD STAGE: W face with 3 irregularly displaced small openings near base and lancet off-centre right above, further small opening to left above; 3 small openings near base to S and lancet at centre; 3 similar openings to N with further small opening above to right; lancet to E at centre.
4TH STAGE: set back over string course. Each face with 2-light belfry opening at centre adjoining string course at cill with semicircular arches cut out of single stone, centre and angle shafts with cushion capitals and heavy abacus; flanking small openings at base, Roman-faced clock above, the latter surmounted by 3 further small openings. Spire: carried on domed-head of 4th stage. Octagonal, each face with 3 diminishing blind oval panels, smaller cap and cast-iron ball finial.
CHURCH: rectangular-plan aisless church with tower to W, small session-house to E and 3-part porch extension to N. Dressed, squared and snecked rubble with raised stone margins and quoins strips. Chamfered coping to base course of porch and eaves cornice. Round-headed and shouldered openings, keystones and impost blocks to some, stone mullions and stop-chamfered arrises.
N (ENTRANCE) ELEVATION: full-height round-headed windows to outer right and left. Advanced, piended 3-part entrance porch off-centre right with 2-leaf boarded door in round-headed and keystoned, architraved doorway with blind fanlight and small flanking windows; slightly recessed, lower flanking piend-roofed side entrances with timber doors and glazed semicircular fanlights in round-headed roll-moulded door surrounds; shouldered 2-light windows on returns to right and left. Slightly higher, further recessed stair towers behind side porches, that to right with lean-to roof adjoining lower piend-roof of W side porch; shouldered 2-light window at ground and 1st floor right with stair window to left (all facing W). Stepped E face of that to left with shouldered 2-light window to left at both levels; rounded corner chamfered to square above to right with further shouldered window to both levels of return; recessed face with pedimented memorial stone at ground below narrow stair window of lean-to roof adjoining lower piended roofline of E side porch. 3 small, gableted timber-louvred roof ventilators.
S ELEVATION: 7-bay at ground. Curvilinear-headed memorial stone at centre ground flanked by full-height round-headed windows and small square-headed windows to outer bays, that to outer left in blocked doorway. Glazed oculus close to eaves at centre with round-headed windows in bays 2 and 6. 3 roof ventilators as above.
W ELEVATION: projecting tower at centre (see above). Round-headed window in bay to left at ground with square-headed window above; bay to right with advanced lean-to dog-leg stairtower (in re-entrant angle with tower) timber door to left (Laird?s entrance), small stair window on return to right and further stair window to right: small square opening to left above.
E ELEVATION: low, 5-part canted session-house projecting at centre with boarded timber door on return to right and small armorial stone of Prior John Hepburn above; round-headed windows in flanking bays and above, Diocletian gallery window at centre and broken vase finial at gablehead.
Windows glazed with square and diamond-pattern leaded lights (stained glass see below). Grey slates. Coped ashlar skews with gablet skewputts. Cast-iron downpipes with decorative rainwater hoppers and decorative wrought-iron hinges to Laird?s Loft and N doors.
INTERIOR: vaulted entrance hall to N porch, U-plan galleried interior, rendered walls with boarded dado. Fixed timber pews (wire hangers beneath for housing of top hats?) to N, E and W (ground and gallery) facing central pulpit and organ flanked by large windows in S wall. 3-sided, raked, panelled gallery with pilastered corners supported on Doric columns and entered from N (2 square and 1 round-headed door) and from Laird?s entrance on W wall. Plain cornicing with delicate plasterwork fan design at corners. Curved stair to 2-tier, canted timber pulpit with blind quatrefoil-headed panels at centre of panelled and bracketted organ case. Communion table and font on platform below. Coloured glass with variety of astragal patterns including oval design reflecting spire detail. Small square window in S wall, ?Suffer Little Children to Come Unto Me? 1921. N aisle porch window ?The Sower? John Blyth 1985. S wall coloured glass in oculus obscured behind organ; flanking tall windows with timber traceried paired lancets and foil containing red star with repeated cross in circle motif which appears on most windows. Commemorative armorial panel below Balbirnie Loft (on N wall) to General Alexander Leslie, Earl of Leven; and on W wall the white marble stone in black aedicule with swagged urn at tympanum, of John Pinkerton former minister "Born 9th August Old Stile 1717; died 16th of June N.S. 1784, in the 67th year of his age ...".
Statement of Special Interest
Ecclesiastical building in use as such.
The site is believed to be that of a 6th century Culdee Cell established by St Drostan (a nephew of Columba), with the first written record between 1034 and 1055 in the Register Book of the Priory of St Andrews when "Malduin, Bishop of St Andrews, gave the church of ?Markincke? and the land belonging to it to God and Saint Servanus and to the ?Keledies? of the Isle of Lochleven" (Cunningham, p10). How the tower was originally finished is a matter for conjecture but Macgibbon & Ross are of the opinion that it would have been saddleback or gabled. It is one of only 5 similar square towers still extant on the Scottish mainland, the others being St Rule?s Tower (St Andrews), Muthill, St Serf?s (Dunning) and Dunblane. 1203 Duncan Earl of Fife returned the church to the Priory of St Andrews and in 1243 the building (probably new) was dedicated by Bishop David de Bernhame "to the native St Drostan and to John the Baptist" or only to the latter as "his intention was to erase completely all the vestiges of the old Culdee Church - especially that of St Drostan" (Hunter, p6); while Macgibbon & Ross record the dedication to "Saints John the Baptist and Modrest". Early 16th century improvements were carried out by Prior John Hepburn (founder of St Leonards College, St Andrews University); his motto "Ad Vitam" and coat-of-arms (2 lions pulling at a rose upon a chevron and crested by a crozier head) appear on the E gable. During the last quarter of the 17th century, the church was enlarged and slated for the first time. For the next century there were seats only for Heritors, Elders and choir members with 3 rented seats, each holding 11 people, in the loft of the Leven aisle (wing to N). By 1786 when the church was rebuilt, Kirk Session Records frequently complain that the fabric is "most ruinous and most incommodious". Heritors Minutes do not begin until 1788 so it is not certain that Thomas Barclay was responsible for reconstruction, although he was enlarging the manse at this time. By 1800 the building was again too small and the pyramidal spire declared dangerous; it was replaced 1807-10 at a cost of over ?200 to a design reported upon as "a great improvement" with "the outside of the building in an octagon figure, which would present only half the space to the storm that a square one does" (Hunter, p16). The octagonal design with oval panels is an exact replica of the spire of St Andrews Church, Dundee by Samuel Bell, 1772. Later improvements include the housing of a new bell 1815, new clock 1839, introduction of gas 1850. It is generally accepted that Gillespie & Scott erected the organ in 1913 but archive drawings are dated 1923. However, internal improvements of 1913-14 included gifts from Provost Dixon of eagle lectern, communion table and organ.