Beath Church

National Grid Reference (NGR): NT 15240 92120, map


Old Perth Road

Also known as:

  • Beath and Cowdenbeath North Church
  • Beath Parish Church


This church is the latest in a series of buildings on the same site (e.g. site number 10542), since at least the 12th century.   The present church was constructed in 1834-5 by James MacFarlane and was altered in 1884-6. It is on flat ground at the northern end of a graveyard which slopes down to the south.    The old graveyard is higher than the surrounding ground level and is surrounded by high saddle back coped random rubble walls.    The original gateway was in the western wall, in line with the church porch, but  this is now blocked with a low wall topped with railings, though the large ashlar pyramidal coped gatepiers with ball finials are still present.   There would originally have been steps up to the higher ground level on the interior of the churchyard but these have now been covered over.    The present entrance gates are at the northern end of the western wall. There is a further opening in the southern end of the western wall with sandstone block gatepiers.   There is a gateway at the northern end of the eastern wall which gives access to the new section of the cemetery. The oldest gravestones date to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and are likely to be associated with the previous church on the site.   The newer gravestones, which date to the nineteenth century, are further away from the church at the southern end of the graveyard.   

The graveyard was extended in the late nineteenth century and Beath Old Cemetery across the road to the west was established.    This cemetery was further extended and a new section of the cemetery was established to the south of the old graveyard.    There is also what may have been a hearse house just outside the boundary walls of the old graveyard at the southwest corner.   This cemetery is surrounded by stepped random rubble walls topped with iron railings on the road (east) side and the entrance gates are at the southern end of this wall.    The highest ground is at the northern side of the cemetery, with the ground sloping downwards to the south. This cemetery was later extended to the land on the other side of the road, to the south of the original graveyard.   The entrance gates for the older and new sections of the cemetery face each other on opposite sides of the road.

Description (exterior)

In the centre of the western gable is a single storey porch which obscures the main door.   This porch has a lower stage of sandstone and a central stage of timber topped by a row of small windows and a round arched roof.   There is a door on the return to the south.   Above the porch is a large two light Tudor-arched hoodmoulded window with white painted wooden muillions.     An octagonal corbelled bellcote is on the apex of the gable with pointed arched openings on each face which originally had a tall pointed roof later replaced by a  squat stone roof.

At the nave walls (northern and southern elevations) the base courses are constructed from large squared sandstone blocks. Above this is roughly coursed, squared sandstone with cherry cocking.   There are four large Tudor-arched hoodmoulded windows in both walls, with painted wooden transoms and mullions.

The chancel at the east end is constructed in a similar style to the nave walls.    There is a large hoodmoulded Tudor-arched six light window in the centre of the face which has decorative coloured glass quarries.    In the gablehead there is a roundel with segmental surrounds and stained glass.   A chimney stack is on the southern side of the roof and a stone cross on the apex but the rest of the southern side of the gable is obscured by a single storey vestry extension.    On the eastern face of this extension there is a window with a date stone bearing the initials "W. P." and the date "1540" the origin of which  is uncertain.   On the return to the north there is a door and a basement entrance and on the return to the south there is a further window.

By the 1880s the graveyard was proving to be too small and it was extended in 1897,  and the Old Beath Cemetery across the road to the west of the original graveyard was established.

Description (interior)

The church is entered at the western end. The main door leads into a porch area which has a flight of steps at either side which lead up to the gallery in the nave of the church. This gallery extends around the northern, southern and western sides of the church and is supported by thin columns. There are three rows of fixed timber pews facing towards the eastern end of the church. The interior furnishings date to 1884.

People / Organisations:

Church of ScotlandDenomination1835 - present
James MacfarlaneArchitect and Contractor1834
John WhitelawMade alterations1884-6Galleries and a pulpit were added
Burke and Hareallegedly grave-robbed from the graveyard


  • Church: Build/construction (1834 to 1835)
    The current church replaced the earlier Kirk built in 1640
  • Hearse house: Build/construction (1850)
    Weathered date stone over door appears to display a date of 1850.
  • Church: Alteration/conversion (1884)
    Interior alterations: gallery and pulpit added. The building was also possibly reroofed and the central spire removed
  • Cemetery: Founded (1897)
    The graveyard was too small and so was extended to create the cemetery.

Archive References:

Dictionary of Scottish Architects - Online databaseReference: M026322
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 231
Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 4610

Bibliographic References:

Buildings of Scotland: FifeGifford, J1988p. 131
Old CowdenbeathHutcheson, J.1998p. 35