History in Structure

Polwarth Church

A Category A Listed Building in Polwarth, Scottish Borders

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Latitude: 55.7382 / 55°44'17"N

Longitude: -2.3998 / 2°23'59"W

OS Eastings: 374995

OS Northings: 649492

OS Grid: NT749494

Mapcode National: GBR C2P2.7V

Mapcode Global: WH8XF.31JC

Plus Code: 9C7VPJQ2+73

Entry Name: Polwarth Church

Listing Name: Polwarth Church, Church of Scotland, Including Graveyard, Boundary Walls and Gates

Listing Date: 9 June 1971

Category: A

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 348953

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB15384

Building Class: Cultural

Also known as: Polwarth Parish Church

ID on this website: 200348953

Location: Polwarth

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: Mid Berwickshire

Parish: Polwarth

Traditional County: Berwickshire

Tagged with: Church building Parish

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Rebuilt 1703, incorporating earlier structure; interior recast 1928. Prominently sited, originally rectangular-plan church, made T-plan with gabled aisle projecting to N; 4-stage, square-plan tower to W; former Marchmont aisle to E with burial vault below. Whitewashed harl; red sandstone ashlar dressings. Narrow quoin strips; bead-and-hollow, roll-moulded door surrounds; chamfered margins to round-arched, pointed-arched and square-headed windows (architraved in part); flush cills.

W (ENTRANCE) ELEVATION: projecting 4-stage tower centred in nave with 2-leaf boarded timber door in wide, round-arched doorway; small-pane fanlight. Single windows centred at 1st and 2nd floors (carved armorial panel set between); small, pointed-arched openings at both floors to left; engaged sundial to right (gnomons missing); round-arched, louvred opening centred at upper floor; broached spire (finial missing). Single windows recessed at ground in flanking bays. Rubble-walled burial enclosure adjoined to left of tower; blind elevation to N aisle recessed to outer left.

S (SIDE) ELEVATION: 4-stage tower to outer left with rectangular panel at ground; single windows at 1st and 2nd floors (carved armorial panel set between); engaged sundial to left; round-arched, louvred opening at upper floor. 5-bay nave advanced to right with boarded timber doors in bay at centre and bays off-set to left and right; roll-moulded surrounds with basket-arched lintels; inscribed rectangular panels aligned above; pointed-arched windows flanking centre; inscribed sandstone panels to outer left and right.

E (REAR) ELEVATION: bipartite vault opening centred at basement; pointed-arched window aligned above (inscribed rectangular war memorial set between); crowned orange finial surmounting gablehead. Tower set behind with 2 louvred openings at upper floor; central wallhead stack. Blind elevation to N aisle recessed to outer right.

N (SIDE) ELEVATION: projecting N aisle with single window centred in gablehead; blind elevation to nave recessed to left; later lean-to addition recessed to right. Rubble-walled burial enclosure obscuring 4-stage tower recessed to outer right with sandstone panel at ground; round-arched, louvred opening at upper floor.

Predominantly small-pane glazing in timber casement and sash and case windows. Iron bars to burial vault opening. Graded grey slate roof; slated broach spire surmounting tower. Stone skews; scrolled skewputts; some beak skewputts with carved coats-of-arms set below. Corniced sandstone wallhead stack to rear tower; can missing.

INTERIOR: boarded timber vestibule with chequered stone-slab floor; circular sandstone Norman font set in corner. T-plan nave (raked N aisle) comprising boarded timber floor; boarded timber dado panelling; timber pews; whitewashed, open timber roof with axe hewn rafters. Chancel at E end (former Marchmont aisle/pew) with Laudian railing to front; simple communion table and chairs. Timber panelled pulpit; polygonal sandstone font on square-plan plinth (1928); mort bell dated 1715 on balustered base (1928). Organ (1928). Maxwell bell dated '1697 & 1717' (originally set in bell tower) in N aisle. Embroidered pulpit vallance by Lady Grisell Baillie (1703). Narrow timber panelled door in W end accessing tower: stone stair to 1st floor vestry (originally laird's loft with spyhole into church) with sandstone surround to cast-iron fireplace; beadle's chamber at 2nd floor (rope in place); spiral stair to bell tower with open timber roof, rubble walls, louvred openings, 19th century bell in place. Burial vault approximately 75m? with 4 ornate coffins set within.

GRAVEYARD, BOUNDARY WALLS AND GATES: irregular-plan surrounding graveyard with irregularly spaced 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th century gravestones including symbolic stones, classically-detailed stones, single table top monument. Rubble-coped, squared rubble walls enclosing site; stone mounting steps. 2-leaf iron gates with capped, polygonal piers.

Statement of Interest

Ecclesiastical building in use as such. Although the Latin inscription above the S door commemorating the church's 1703 rebuilding claims the original edifice dated from some time before 900 AD, there is little evidence to support this. Records do however prove it was re-dedicated to St Mungo in 1242 by David de Bernham. Having "...fallen into ruin" (see inscription) Lord John Sinclair of Herdmanston, East Lothian restored the church around 1378. Originally rectangular-plan and therefore, typical of its period, Polwarth was unusual in its incorporation of a burial vault (used as a hiding place by Sir Patrick Hume in 1684, following his implication in the Rye House Plot). By 1703, "...verging on decay through age", Sir Patrick Hume, by then 1st Earl of Marchmont, and his wife, Lady Grissell Kar, saw to its rebuilding "...augmented by the addition of a bell tower". Note the coat-of-arms in the tower and the crowned orange finial at the E end, signifying the restoration of Hume's fortunes by King William of Orange in 1688. Prior to the addition of the tower, the 3 (now sealed) doors in the S elevation were the main entrances - the central door being for the minister, that to the right for the Laird and his family and that to the left for the congregation. All 3 surmounting panels have Latin inscriptions - that at centre recording the church's development and those flanking with Biblical verses. Although the N aisle is generally thought to be contemporary with the tower, Binnie suggests it may be later - possibly added between 1842, when the Norman font (now in the vestibule) was in the church and 1875, when it was discovered in the grounds outside. The 1928 interior renovations saw the replacement of the pulpit and organ, as well as the possible removal of the Marchmont aisle/pew, originally at the E end. Prominently sited, well-detailed and surprisingly intact, Polwarth Church remains one of the most significant buildings in the parish and indeed, within Scotland as a whole.

External Links

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