Records of the Presbytery of Cupar, Fife

Scope and Content

Minutes, 1646-1660 and 1693-1807; Separate register, 1761-1771, 1792-1797 and 1900-1947; Scroll minutes, 1761, 1779-1785, 1792-1797, 1815-1861and 1928-1944; Sederunt book, 1950-1958 and 1966-1975; Minute book of the examination of students in divinity, 1854-1867.

Administrative / Biographical History

In 1581 it was proposed by the General Assembly that a Presbytery at Falkland be established, and in 1591 the new court was erected, but with its seat at Cupar and not at Falkland. In 1611 King James requested that the seat of this recently erected presbytery be removed to Falkland, and in obedience to the Royal wish, the presbytery was removed from Cupar to Falkland. When the Synod of Fife met on the 4th September 1611 however, it was agreed that, due to the inaccessibility of Falkland during times of extreme weather, the seat be once more returned to Cupar. The register of the Presbytery of Cupar, which formerly sat within the Synod of Fife and which was dissolved at the restructuring of the presbyteries in 1976, begins on the 15th October 1646.

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland of 1581 set down a pattern of presbyteries, and an Act of the Scottish parliament (c. 8, 1592) which finally established the Presbyterian system in Scotland made reference to the powers of the Presbytery. The Presbytery superintends the kirk sessions and ecclesiastical activity within its boundaries, and also elects the ministers and elders who are to attend the annual General Assembly. As a court presbyteries have the power of review of decisions taken by kirk sessions or congregations. Its membership comprises ministers, certain elders and (from 1990) members of the diaconate within its bounds. The Presbytery's main officials are a moderator (effectively chairman), clerk and treasurer. Presbyteries meet more or less monthly.

The General Assembly has the power to unite, disjoin or erect presbyteries. A very significant adjustment was undertaken in 1976 on the reorganisation of local government in Scotland. Presbyteries were the level below the synods, but synods were dissolved as from 1 January 1993.

The Presbytery includes amongst its tasks the oversight of records (eg kirk session minutes, accounts, communion rolls) produced by each Kirk Session. Within each five-year period it will formally visit each congregation. When a congregation lacks a minister, then the Presbytery has an important role in ensuring that the spiritual needs of the congregation are fully met, fulfilling its responsibility for the spiritual well-being for all parishes within its bounds. The Presbytery will appoint an interim moderator to make arrangements for continuing services and the election of a new minister. Presbyteries have the duty of caring for the well-being of its ministers, and for those who are candidates for the ministry.

Source: Hew Scott and others (ed.), Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae, vol. 11 (Edinburgh, 1915-2000).

Access Information

By appointment with the Archivist. Access to unpublished records less than 30 years old and other records containing confidential information may be restricted. Special conditions apply to photographs.

Acquisition Information

Held under charge and superintendence of the Keeper of Records for Scotland.


Description compiled by Rachel Hart, Archives Hub Project, based on description created by Lesley Doig and modified by Alan Borthwick, Scottish Archive Network project.

Other Finding Aids

Typescript catalogue available in St Andrews University Library Department of Special Collections and in National Archives of Scotland search rooms.

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the University Archivist. Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents.

Geographical Names