The Collegiate Church of Bothans
The Collegiate Church of Bothans lies 100 yards east of the mansion of Yester, on the left bank of the Gifford Water, near the village of Gifford. It superseded an older church on the same or an adjacent site. The present building was laid out on a cruciform plan, of which the only portions left are the choir and transepts, and these appear to have undergone extensive alterations and repairs. Whether the nave existed or not can only be determined by excavation, as the west end of the crossing is faced with an 18th century wall covering any traces of the bonding of the nave walls.
The exterior of the building has been repaired and largely refaced. A plain 15th century splayed basecourse returns along the walls of the transept and along a portion of the choir walls. A piece of carving repre senting two grotesque animals, over one of which peers a human head, is built into the south skew of the east gable; this probably came from the older church, as there is no trace of any similar work on the present building, which is singularly plain. Modern angle buttresses are attached to the west wall.
Internally the building presents some features of interest. Each portion is roofed with a stone pointed barrel vault necessitating, in the absence of buttresses, walls quite four feet thick. There are no signs of there having been a central tower. The transepts are 13 feet wide and respectively 17 and 18 feet long internally; these open into the crossing by semicircular arches in two orders. In the gable of each transept is a three-light window with cusped semicircular heads, all within a segmental arch stopping on the splayed jambs. In the east wall of the north transept is a piscina the basin of which is almost entirely broken off; the head is formed of an ogival arch enriched on the extrados with crockets. On the sinister side of the head is a shield charged per pale dexter, on an inescutcheon three escutcheons (for the Hay family); sinister three fraises (for Fraser). The Fraser arms were assumed by the Hays after the marriage of Sir Gilbert de Hay of Locherworth with the daughter and co-heiress of Sir Simon Fraser of Oliver, Peebleshire (who was executed in 1306), whence the Hay lands in that county. The piscina, however, is of a much later date.
An opening in the north wall of the south transept in proximity to the arch of the crossing is filled in, as is a doorway high up in the north wall near the apex of the roof. The choir arch has been removed, and a later and wider arch substituted, which rests on console capitals and renaissance piers. On the vaulted roof are traces of quasi-vaulting ribs, as at Seton, Ladykirk, and other churches of the period. The choir would appear to have been shortened, as with a width of 18 feet 10 inches from north to south it only measures 13 feet 7 inches from east to west-an unusual proportion. Moreover the eastern ribs on the vaulted roof would terminate against the east gable before reaching the springing level. The walls show signs of infilling and renewals. In the east gable, at a height of ii feet from the ground, is a three-light pointed window filled apparently with later tracery of a debased character. On this window exteriorly is incised the date 1635.
The Church has been and is still used as a mortuary chapel by the Tweeddale family and in it are the following memorials. In the south transept is a monument in Renaissance style without any dedicatory inscription. Pilasters set on either side of a recess rest on a pedestal and are surmounted by a cornice, on which is set a pointed arched tympanum bearing a shield flanked by the initials W H and H C and charged per pale, a star between three escutcheons for William Hay of Linplum (d. 1614) and a crescent between three cocks for Helen Cockburn his wife (d. 1627)* The shield has been tinted red and the other details of the monument outlined in black colour. In the same transept are two stones dated respectively 1566 and 1613; a third bears a skull and cross-bones and the motto “MORS MORTUA MINI VITA”; and on a shield parted per pale : a chevron within a tressure flory (for Fleming); a chevron between three cinquefoils two and one (for Hamilton of Pencaitland).
Bothans was originally the name of the parish and village. The “church of Bothans” paid the crusading tithe in 1275-6.1 It was then but a parish church, and no doubt is the “church of Yester” (Yestrith) consecrated by David de Bernham in 1241. In 1448 Alicia de Hay granted lands to the altar of the B.V. Mary and a chaplain celebrating there “in the collegiate church of Bothans.” Stephen Kerr, provost, and two chaplains were witnesses to the charter.2 In 1539 Hay of Yester gave to ‘Robert Walterstoune’ provost of the collegiate church of Bothans, for the support of a chaplain in the choir celebrating at the altar of the Holy Cross, a site for a manse (locum mansionis faciendi) in the township of Bothans (in pago de Bothanis).3 The same form appears in another connection, in references of 1592 – “The college of the bothanis, bothane Kirk, the preistis of the bothanis etc.”4 Then in 1645 we have a specification of templar lands here as in Sanctbothans,5 and this form has persisted for the church, though it is merely. a. late formation by analogy with Abbey St. Bathan’s, Berwickshire. But the dedication of the collegiate church and therefore also o€ the parish church, from which it was developed, was to. St. Cuthbert: in 1447 we have “St. Cuthbert of the College Kirk of Bathans” and in 1540 ” the Collegiate Church of St. Cuthbert of. Bothanis” etc.6
The placing of the, parish church upon a collegiate basis was due to Sir William Hay, Thomas Boyd, Eustace Maxwell and Dougall Macdowall, who, on 1st August 1420 addressed a joint petition to Henry, bishop of St. Andrews asking for the erection of the church into a college for a provost and four prebendaries, and the. bishop’s, charter of erection is dated 22nd April 1421. The four names: in the petition are those of the husbands of the four heiresses of the, Gifford lands: they describe themselves as co-lords (codominorum) of the lordship of Yester and patrons in turn of the parish kirk of Bothans. These joint patrons and their successors were to have the right, of presentation to the provostship and chaplainries.2 When, again, in 1452 Robert Boyd of Kilmarnock surrendered his fourth share for other lands to Sir David Hay, he retained his share a€ the patronage of the collegiate church of Bothans.7 Apparently this was confiscated with the rest of, the Boyd possessions in the reign of Jarnes III, and in 1511 the provostship was confirmed by James IV. to Adam Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell. 8 By the exchange of the following year with Hay of Yester the collegiate church passed under the patronage of the Hays of Yester. Keith’s Catalogue gives the staff as a provost with seven prebendaries and two singing boys; the usual statement is, six prebendaries. The Tweeddale papers. mention under 1447 the altar of B.V. Mary, also an altar of St. Edmund,, king and martyr, in the south transept or St. Edmund’s aisle, a chaplain of the. Holy Cross and the Rood altar; there was also an altar to St Ninian.9
After the Reformation the patronage of the collegiate church and its prebends continued with the Hays,10 but in 1708 following on the change made in the parish of Yester by the, union of the: parishes of Bara and Garvald, the Marquis of Tweeddale had a new church with manse and glebe provided in the town of Gifford, itself a recent foundation, and the last parish service was held in the church at Bothans on 17th September 1710.11 which thereafter was retained by the family as a burying-place.