ON THE BANKS OF THE TAY
Lindores Abbey, or the ‘Church by the Water’, was founded in 1191 by David Earl of Huntingdon, on land overlooking the Estuary of the River Tay, given to him by his brother King William I.
It was built with local red sandstone, and covered a very large area, the extent of which is still discernible today, although many of the buildings to the South have been destroyed. The position for the Abbey would have been chosen because of its plentiful supply of timber and stone, and for the swift running waters of the Pow of Lindores running over the land down to the Tay.
EARL OF HUNTINGDON
In the Middle Ages, the wealthy and powerful believed that if they founded a religious house, it would win them great honour in heaven. This partly explains Earl David’s decision to found the Abbey.
The other story goes that, when Earl David was returning home from the Holy Land, his ship fell foul of a storm and he vowed that if he escaped drowning, he would found a large church in honour of the Blessed Virgin.
This story was made famous by Sir Walter Scott in his book The Talisman, recording the Earl’s perilous journey home to Scotland.
Although a relatively unknown site today, Lindores Abbey was once a very important and wealthy place, visited by Kings and Queens (including Edward I of England, John Balliol, David II, James III and IV), warriors and statesmen.
William Wallace even took refuge with 300 of his men after their victory over the English at the nearby Battle of Black Earnside. The weary, battle-stained band stopped to drink from the Holy Burn, a strand of water running near to the Abbey before they entered. Wallace is said to have declared of the Lindores water that ‘The wine in France I ne’er thought half so good’.
A WEALTHY AND POWERFUL PLACE
The Abbey traded both locally and with the wider world, as far afield as Flanders. Salmon from the Tay, wool and fruit were exchanged for money, tapestries and silks, sometimes through middlemen or negotiators, like the Baillies of Lindores.
Many of these transactions are recorded. For instance, we know that in 1507 the Abbot sent his man with ‘plowmyss’ for King James IV who was staying, as he often did, at Falkland Palace nearby. On this occasion the King paid 3 shillings.
The Abbot of Lindores was a very powerful man and had complete jurisdiction over his territory which, by 1266, included the burgh of Newburgh.
His authority and position meant that he was involved in both political and commercial life beyond the Abbey walls.
At its peak, the Abbey owned property across England and Scotland for which it received large rentals. Great wealth was also amassed during the Crusades, when knights and noblemen paid the monks of Lindores to pray for their souls and the souls of their families for all eternity, keeping a candle alight in perpetuity.
THE ABBEY'S DEMISE
In the 16th Century, Scotland was wracked by political unrest and twice the Abbey was attacked and overthrown by Reformers. The second time under the instruction of rabble-rouser, John Knox.
By the end of the Reformation, the Abbey was beginning to be dismantled (with the Abbey clock purchased by Edinburgh Town Council), but by the 17th Century, it was being used as a quarry, with slate, stone and carvings being taken and used in the building of many houses in neighbouring Newburgh.