Bourtie Parish Church

National Grid Reference (NGR): NJ 80450 24850, map


Kirkton of Bourtie
AB51 0JS


The parish church of Bourtie is located in a secluded, rural situation, with tall trees around the boundary walls and open farmland surrounding the site, on a south-facing slope. The large former manse is alongside the church to the west and there are a number of cottages a short distance to the north. 

This location has a long history of worship and ritual, with a medieval church known to have been built on the site prior to this church, and the remains of a prehistoric stone circle can be seen a few hundred meters to the west. 

Description (exterior)

The church was built at the start of the 19th century and may have encorporated parts of the previous church. It is an externally quite a plain building, and almost square on plan. It was built with coursed granite rubble with tooled corner stones (quoins) and window and door surrounds. The slated roof is tall and hipped, forming a pyramidal structure. 


The south elevation has two large pointed-arch windows with timber tracery and original multi-pane glazing. The west and east elevations have small, central gablets, each with a small round-arched window. The west gablet is topped with a tall bellcote, comprised of rectangular blocks and with a large ball finial. The opposite east gablet has a square masonry base, on which may have stood a finial. The north gable has two pointed-arch doorways, each with its original rectangular double-leaf door and traceried, glazed fanlight. Inbetween the doors is a very small, narrow rectangular window, which lights the small vestry. 

Description (interior)

The interior of the church is almost entirely original. The walls are lined with wood and the ceiling is plastered. The wooden floor is carpeted in places, particularly around the sanctuary area. The interior walls and ceiling originally had a vivid painted mural, including a blue ceiling with gold stars, stencil patterns, foliage and grapes, heraldic panels and a figure holding a cross. This was painted when the church opened in 1806-7 and was subsequently painted over with thick cream-coloured paint in the 1930s. Investigative work by Historic Scotland in the mid 1990s revealed the original paintwork is mostly preserved under the later decoration work. 


The main focus of the interior is the pulpit and sanctuary area. The pulpit stands against the south wall and has a large wooden staircase up to the speaking platform. There is a tall backboard and an elaborate ogee-curved canopy. In front of the pulpit is the precentor's box and the minister's family box pew. There is a fairly plain communion table, which is likely a later addition. The nave has plain fixed wooden pews, which appear to be original. 


There is a gallery at the north end of the church, accessed by a stone stair in the vestibule area. It is largely untouched and has its original wooden pews. Under the gallery is a small vestry, placed between two vestibule areas at the doors. A small area at the east end of the church contains two fine medieval stone effigies, which were found in the graveyard and positioned inside in the 1950s. The large stone is said to be that of Thomas de Longville, killed in battle nearby in 1308. 

People / Organisations:

W & A ClerkArchitects of the church1806
John MowatMade the church bell1760


  • Church built on site of original building (1806)
  • Repairs and internal decoration (1934)
  • Investigative work by Historic Scotland to re (1995 to 1996)

Archive References:

Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 401
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 2815A-listed
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: RCAHMS NJ82SW 5:00
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 19727

Bibliographic References:

Aberdeenshire: Donside and Strathbogie, an illustrated architectural guideIan Shepherd2006p115-116
The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation ChurchesG Hay1957p241
Epitaphs and inscriptions from burial grounds and old buildings in the north-east of Scotland with historical, biographical, genealogical and antiquarian notesA Jervise1875-9Vol. 2, p72
The New Statistical Account of Scotland1845Vol. XII, p628
The Object Name Book of the Ordnance SurveyOrdnance Survey1867Book 10, p37
Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae: the succession of ministers in the Church of Scotland from the ReformationH Scott et al (eds.)1915-61Vol. 6, p148-51
The Kirkyard of BourtieS M Spiers2001