Tuesday, 2 February 2016

St Bridget's Kirk.

Where does one storm end and another begin? The last few days, the weather here has been horrendous. Turns out that was Storm Gertrude battering down upon us, but now she's cleared off and Storm Henry has taken over. I don't really understand the difference; all I know is that it's been very windy, very rainy and very cold for days now. Just to put it into context, that photo above? It's in colour.

This has somewhat hampered my plans to get out and explore, and even though we again have command of a car (thank you in-laws!) it really is too horrible to go very far (I have always scoffed at the warnings telling us to avoid unnecessary travel, but after a drive this evening I finally understand - I thought that I was going to die, and in Kirkliston of all places...).

Last week, while Gertrude (one of my favourite storm names ever, just FYI) was howling and screaming at us, Blair and I made a quick trip over the Forth Road Bridge to the Kingdom that is Fife. Last year, Blair took a couple of days to walk the start of the Fife Coastal Path and had spotted a little place he wanted to show to me - St. Bridget's Kirk in Dalgety Bay. 

*I'm going to apologise here and now, because not one of the photos we took is in focus, or not covered in spots of rain on the lens. In our defence, it was cold and miserable!*

Originally built in the 1100s, this ruined church is right on the banks of the Forth Estuary. It was at one point the responsibility of Augustine Canons from the abbey on the nearby island of Inchcolm, but during the Scottish Reformation, St. Bridget's was altered significantly to become a place of Protestant worship. It served the locals till around 1830, as the majority of parishioners were by then living in the nearby town of Fordell, so a replacement was built there.

The Inglis Aisle.

Following the Reformation, the original body of the kirk was altered. Not only did the focus obviously change from the Catholic tradition of focusing on an altar to the idea of a minister giving a sermon from a pulpit, completely altering the interior of the church, but also some of the most important local families added private aisles to the building. These aisles, such as the Inglis family aisle above, served both as a place for the family to sit during the religious services, and also as a place to bury family members, in a vault below the floor. I don't know about you guys, but the idea of my family sitting on my grave every Sunday is not okay with me. Very rude.

The Laird's Loft with the doorway to the retiring room.
While the Inglis aisle is pretty impressive, one man really took the biscuit with his addition to St. Bridget's, and that man was Alexander Seton, 1st Earl of Dunfermline. While most people were happy with a little mini-church for some privacy, Seton built himself a two-storey building. Not only did he have a burial vault on the ground floor, he had two rooms upstairs - the 'laird's loft' where Seton and his family would sit during the services, and a 'retiring room' where they could rest, eat, and take in the views over the Estuary.

Even though the kirk was unroofed in 1830, the graveyard was apparently still used for a time. However, as anyone who has heard of Burke and Hare will know, the 1800s were also a time famous for body-snatchers and grave-robbers - people who would dig up freshly-buried corpses to sell them to anatomy schools in order for students to train with. Apparently water-side kirks like St. Bridget's were very vulnerable, with people coming over from Edinburgh to dig up graves, so a small hut was built in the graveyard, known as a mort house (House of the Dead). This little hut enabled relatives to watch over the graves of their dearly departed, and ensure they were safe. We didn't spot any grave robbers, but we did see a deer, which is just as good. Although it got spooked by a dog and seemed to run into the sea, so hopefully deer can swim...

Despite the terrible weather, I thought the kirk was really interesting and quite a hidden gem. Definitely worth a look if you were in the area.

Have you found any interesting hidden gems in your area lately?


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