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Abercorn Church West Front.jpg
Abercorn Church
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Location within West Lothian
OS grid reference NT082788
Council area
Lieutenancy area
Country Scotland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district EH30
Dialling code 0131
Police Scotland
Fire Scottish
Ambulance Scottish
UK Parliament
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55°59′35″N3°28′23″W / 55.993°N 3.473°W / 55.993; -3.473 Coordinates: 55°59′35″N3°28′23″W / 55.993°N 3.473°W / 55.993; -3.473

Abercorn (Gaelic: Obar Chùirnidh, Old English: Æbbercurnig) is a village and civil parish in West Lothian, Scotland. Close to the south coast of the Firth of Forth, the village is around 5 km (3.1 mi) west of South Queensferry. The parish had a population of 458 at the 2011 Census. [1]



Etymologically, Abercorn is a Cumbric place-name. It is recorded as Aebbercurnig in c.731. [2] The first element is aber 'mouth, confluence'. William J. Watson proposed that the second element meant 'horned', from a Brittonic word related to Welsh corniog. The name would thus mean 'horned confluence'. [3] [2] However, because Abercorn sits by the Cornie Burn, Alan James has suggested that the name means 'mouth of the Cornie Burn'. [3] The name of the stream itself is also Cumbric and seems to derive from *kernan 'mound, hill' and so to be named after the hill on which Abercorn stands. [3] [2]


The English monk and historian Bede mentions Abercorn as the site of a monastery and seat of Bishop Trumwine, who was the only bishop of the Northumbrian see of the Picts. The 7th monastery is now known to have existed close to the present-day church. [4] The church itself dates partially from the 12th century, although its most interesting features are the private aisles created for the three major families of the area, the Dalyells, the Hamiltons, and later the Hopes, who had their own enclosure behind the altar built by architect William Bruce. The Hope mausoleum, designed by William Burn, is located adjacent to the kirkyard. [5] Older burial monuments include Norse "hogback" grave markers, and fragments of 7th-century Northumbrian crosses. [6] Adjacent to the churchyard at Abercorn, is a small museum containing prominent examples of medieval gravestones. [7]

The lands of Abercorn were granted to Claud Hamilton in the 16th century. His son was later created the Earl of Abercorn. In the early 17th century, a branch of the Hamilton dynasty moved to Ulster in Ireland. The family would, henceforth, play a major part in Ulster affairs. Thus, the estate was later sold to the Hope family, who were created Earls of Hopetoun, and built Hopetoun House to the east of the village. [6] On the approach to the church, the Factor's house is a prominent L-shaped building in the Scottish baronial style, built circa 1855. [4]

The House of the Binns, seat of the Dalyell family, is within the parish. [6] [4]

Abercorn's population was recorded as 1,044 at the time of the 1821 census, although it has since declined. [8]

Abercorn Castle

A castle also existed here, near Hope Burn, from the 12th century, belonging to the Avenel family. It passed through marriage to the Graham family in the mid-13th century and to the Mure family in the early 14th century. The Clan Douglas acquired the castle around 1400. [9]

It was besieged and sacked in 1455 by James II in his attack against the "Black Douglases" and their chief James Douglas, 9th Earl of Douglas. It passed to the Seton family but they did not restore the castle and it was thereafter left to decay, such that it is now only marked by an earth mound. The site was excavated by archaeologists in 1963. [10]

Ecclesiastical history


For a very short time, Abercorn was a residential bishopric. In 681, during the reign of King Ecgfrith of Northumbria, Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury, appointed Trumwine "Bishop of the Picts", with his seat at Abercorn. [11] This was part of a more general division of the Northumbrian church by Theodore, who also created the Bishopric of Hexham by separation from the Bishopric of Lindisfarne. [12]

Four years later, Trumwine may have been present at the defeat and death of Ecgfrith at the Battle of Dun Nechtain, [13] after which he was forced to flee from his Pictish bishopric, retiring to the monastery at Whitby. [14] The bishopric of Abercorn thus ceased to be a residential diocese.

Titular see

It is today listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see. [15] The diocese was nominally restored as a Latin Catholic titular bishopric in 1973. It must not be confounded with the former Diocese of Abercorn in southern Africa.

It has had the following incumbents, all of the lowest (episcopal) rank:

Notable burials in Abercorn

See also

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  1. Census of Scotland 2011, Table KS101SC – Usual Resident Population, published by National Records of Scotland. Website http://www.scotlandscensus.gov.uk/ retrieved Apr 2018. See “Standard Outputs”, Table KS101SC, Area type: Civil Parish 1930, Area: Abercorn
  2. 1 2 3 Grant, Alison (2010). Macleod, Iseabail (ed.). The Pocket Guide to Scottish Place-Names. Glasgow: Richard Drew Ltd. p. 23. ISBN   978-1-899471-00-3. OCLC   759569647.
  3. 1 2 3 Bethany Fox, 'The P-Celtic Place-Names of North-East England and South-East Scotland', The Heroic Age, 10 (2007), http://www.heroicage.org/issues/10/fox.html (appendix at http://www.heroicage.org/issues/10/fox-appendix.html).
  4. 1 2 3 Jaques and McKean (1 September 1994). West Lothian - An Illustrated Architectural Guide. Scotland: The Rutland Press. p. 37. ISBN   978-1873190258.
  5. Historic Environment Scotland. "Hopetoun House, Mausoleum (142185)". Canmore . Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  6. 1 2 3 Abercorn History Archived 2014-04-08 at the Wayback Machine from The Seton Family retrieved 24 May 2013
  7. Historic Environment Scotland. "Abercorn Museum (251979)". Canmore . Retrieved 13 May 2022.
  8. Abercorn from Vision of Britain retrieved 24 May 2013
  9. The Castles of Scotland, by Martin Coventry ISBN 1-899874-00-3
  10. The Castles of Scotland, by Martin Coventry ISBN 1-899874-00-3
  11. Bede, Ecclesiastical History IV.12.
  12. Bertam Colgrave (tr.), Bede: The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, p. 403, s.v. 192.
  13. Fraser, Battle of Dunnichen, p. 47.
  14. Bede, Ecclesiastical History IV.26.
  15. Annuario Pontificio 2013 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2013 ISBN   978-88-209-9070-1), p. 821