The Hornblawer

Historic Corstorphine, its Christian History and
Subsequent Connections with the Forrester Family


by Annette Hixenbaugh, Oklahoma Regional Commissioner

Corstorphine Church

Back in 1995 when we Forresters made our tremendous journey to Scotland we had the good fortune to not only visit the Corstorphine Collegiate Church of St. John the Baptist, but also to visit with our Scottish Forrester cousins. While in the region, we were privileged to visit the Dower House, where currently the Corstorphine Trust is housed. It was there that I purchased Part One in a series of publications relating the history of the Corstorphine area. This marvelous series takes us back to even the Roman occupation of Great Britain and its Christian cemeteries which have been discovered in the area. Of course, the Forrester family is introduced when they obtained a land grant in Corstorphine in the late 14th century where Corstorphine Castle, once stood, and the little chapel attached to that castle, today stands.

This chapel would, after the Reformation become a Collegiate Church since many of the Catholic Churches in Scotland were destroyed by Henry VIII in his "Routh Wooing" of the infant, Mary Queen of Scots, and later by Oliver Cromwell, in his deliberate destruction of all Catholic Churches. The Forrester's Corstorphine Castle Chapel, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, even suffered at the hands of Cromwell, one effigy being decapitated, and another being defaced by his soldiers' sharpening their sword blades on it. The following series of articles is taken from the Corstorphine Trust series, since they are now out of print.


At its southern end Kirk Loan, Corstorphine turns in a curvilinear fashion towards the village High Street. The survival of this rounded ground close to the medieval church may be the last vestige of an early Christian burial site and chapel. Early enclosed burial grounds were oval or circular in plan.

In 1699 when antiquary Edward Lhuyd visited the Catstane, now within the area of Edinburgh Airport, and comparatively near Corstorphine, the stone was seen to be in the center of a low mound. When the farm land on which it stood, was acquired for the airport, the ground surrounding the stone had been largely flattened by years of agricultural cultivation. The Catstane, a block of whinstone rises five feet above the ground in which it is embedded. It carries a Latin inscription ascribed to the late 5th century: IN OCT/(v)MVLOIAC(E)T/ VETTAF/VICTR...meaning possibly, that in this tomb lies Vetta, daughter of Vitricus. In 1977 when the airport ground was being prepared for the main eastwest runway, parallel rows of long cist burials were exposed, revealing an early Christian cemetery. It can be pretty well concluded that Christianity came to the British Isles with subsequent Roman occupation, after 33 A.D. Dating the coming of Christianity to Lothian is debatable. The extent of the evangelizing travels of Ninian in the 4th century, has been disputed in recent years. Less controversial is the missionary work of the Northumbrian Church in the 7th century. Southeast Scotland from the Forth estuary to the Borders was, at this period, part of the territory controlled by the Northumbrian Angles. Cuthbert was active in Melrose where he followed as Prior, the Christian Boisil, whose name lives on in the place name of St. Boswells. Between 651 and 661, according to tradition, Cuthbert preached in Perthshire, Fife, and the Lothians, teaching the practices of the Celtic Columban Church of Iona. It may be that when Cuthbert came to the loch beneath the deep, frowning flory of the rock of Edinburgh, fortified, possibly a few years earlier by Edwin of Northumbria as his most northern outpost, the churchman decided to build a cell or small casa for his missionaries in the surrounding countryside. More certain it is, that the site of St. Cuthbert's Church, Edinburgh is, if not the oldest, then one of the oldest ecclesiastical sites in Scotland.

Dedications to St. Cuthbert in medieval times may be a deliberate choice or may indicate earlier associations with him. Churches bearing his name in the Lothians include Colinton (Hailes), Kirknewton, Midcalder, and Dalmeny.

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