Kinneil Parish Church

(SMR 291)

 NS9810 8058


6th century: St. Serf crossed the Forth at Kinneil.

8th  century: The  Venerable  Bede mentions a “place  called  in  the  Pictish language  Peanfahel,  but  in  the English tongue Penneltun”  being  two  miles distance from the monastery of Abercurning (ie Abercorn).   It is possible that there was an ecclesiastical settlement here at that time which provided his point of reference.

An air photograph taken in 1969 shows a circular ditch running at some distance round the church.  Excavation revealed a floor level 20ins below that of the later twelfth century building, at it south-east corner.

11th century: A rood stone possibly of this date was found re-used in a later extension.

1130-1163: Herbert, Camerarius, grants the church to Holyrood.

1160-1163: Grant confirmed by Malcolm IV; Herbert’s nephew given  as “clericus”.

1163-1198: Confirmation by Richard, Bishop of St.  Andrews, mentions the tithes of the mills and salt pans amongst the pertinents.

The surviving remains of the church consist of a nave and chancel in Romanesque style, suggestive of a twelfth century date consistent with the church having been erected by Herbert.  The internal length of the church was 60ft 3ins, the nave being 20ft 6ins across and the chancel 16ft 3ins.  The axis of the church is 252 degrees.  The chancel opening was 7ft 7ins.  The south door had the base stone of a column surviving on its west side.  Externally a course of ashlar stones carried a short chamfer just above ground level.  The west gable still survives and contains rows of putlug holes, some of which penetrate the wall.  It carries a double corbelled belfry.

1251: The vicarage rated at 10 merks (Falkirk rated at 20 and Airth at 10).

1512: Grant of £10 by John Stirling, Easter Cracky, to a chaplain serving one of the altars at Kinneil.

1640: John Hammiltone paid £1 for “keeping of ye sailors loft at Kinneil”.  The entry is repeated in 1646 for “keeping of ye keey of ye Sailloris Loft att Kenniell”.   An aisle extending 15ft south of the chancel, at the junction with the nave, was 12ft 8ins wide.  The south and west walls were 25ins thick with a chamfer along the western.  There was a narrow doorway in the south end of the west wall with a threshold 18ins above floor level.  An external stair would have led to the gallery.

17th century: The churchyard level was raised, necessitating the introduction of steps to the south doorway.

The buildings mentioned by MacGibbon and Ross in 1897 as being attached to the north of the church may belong to this period.

 A small door was inserted into the north side of the nave opposite the earlier south door.

1638:  A new church was built at Corbiehall and the minister of Kinneil did services at both churches.

1669:  Kinneil Church and Parish suppressed on 23rd December, Bo’ness Church declared by Parliament to be the church of the united parish.   This partly resulted from pressure by the Hamilton family who owned Kinneil House.

1691: The old village of Kinneil completely abandoned.  The church was probably used as a private chapel for the House.

1745: A body of dragoons sent to protect Kinneil House accidentally set fire to some of the seats that were still in the church, and it was destroyed in the subsequent fire.

18th century: The inhabitants of the old Parish of Kinneil retained some of their identity by being buried in the southern part of the new graveyard at Bo’ness, and by using different collection ladles in that church to those used by the residents of Bo’ness.


The church possessed two bells, only one of which is known to survive in the Parish Church at Bo’ness.   The  bell bears  the  following  inscription  in Lombardic capitals: +EN KETERINA:UT:PER:ME:VIRGINIS:ALINE: It was exhibited at the Scottish Exhibition of Natural History, Art and Industry in Glasgow 1911.


17th century gravestones may be seen in the present graveyard.   These display various trade symbols such as the collier’s pick, maltman’s shovel and sailor’s anchor.   Some have been removed to the safety of Kinneil House.  These are all from the upper tier of the graveyard, which must have been raised, early in the seventeenth century.  There are now steps into the body of the church.

After the suppression of the church, burials were made in the upper part of the churchyard at Bo’ness, the lower portion being used for the people of Bo’ness.

For more information about Kinneil Churchyard, click here for PDF.


1567Johnston, John 
1571Hamilton, Peter1585
1588Peblis, Thomas1621
1618Peblis, JohnMar 1625
1625Dicksone, RichardMay 1648
Aug 1649Wishart, William1660 imprisoned

G.B. Bailey (2019)

(updated 2021)