St Margaret's Episcopal Church, Braemar

National Grid Reference (NGR): NO 15250 91470, map


Castleton Terrace
AB35 5ZR


St Margaret's Episcopal Church stands on a prominent, raised site, overlooking the village of Braemar. It was built by Sir J Ninian Comper over 8 years from 1899 in an English Gothic Revival style, and is considered a very fine and important example of this architect's work. It was built to house a congregation of summer tourists, mostly from England, who had visited the village in growing numbers, especially after the expansion of the railway in the mid 19th century. It replaced a temporary, wooden church built by Pirie & Clyne in 1880. The £8000 cost of St Margaret's was paid for by Eliza Schofield and local donations. As the congregation dwindled the south aisle was used to hold services, but the church is now no longer in use and most of its windows are boarded up. The church held the area's first meteorological station, which was located at the top of the tower.

There is an on-going attempt to raise funding from various sources to repair the church interior and convert it to a number of community-based uses, including an art studio with exhibition and meeting spaces and a small area for worship. If funding is sourced then it is hoped work can start in later 2012.

Description (exterior)

The church is nearly cruciform on plan and consists of an entrance porch, nave, chancel, tower and south aisle/transept. It was built using roughly-coursed granite blocks with ashlar surrounds and dressings. The hidden cores of the walls are a very rough mixture of mortar, rubble stone and brick courses. The roofs of the church are slated.


The nave has a large 5-light pointed-arch window with intersecting tracery. It has small panes of glass, some of which are missing. There are stepped, diagonal buttresses at the corners. The nave has three bays, with pointed-arch windows with tracery and hoodmoulds. Attached to the north-west corner is a flat-topped, battlemented porch. This has a wide, arched entranceway, which leads to an inner door.


The large square tower joins the nave and chancel. There is an attached south aisle or transept, but non to the north. Instead there is a blocked arch and buttresses. It is not clear if a transept was intended to be built or has been removed at some point. The north face of the tower has an impressive, large heraldic panel. At the south-east corner is a stair tower and slated piended roof. The attached south aisle is orientated east-west and has similar pointed-arch windows as found in the nave. There is a small porch at the west end of the aisle.


The chancel has a large east window, similar in size to the west window. It has intersecting tracery with a quatrefoil opening. The south and north faces have two pointed-arch windows with tracery.

Description (interior)

The interior is still mostly wind and water tight and the seating in the nave still in place. The internal walls are of lath and plaster and painted white. In places the plaster has failed due to water ingress and this shows the inner wall structure has a poor quality rubble and brick core. The floors are largely thick stone slabs with wood used in small areas such as in the vestry.


The nave is sparsely furnished with moveable wooden chairs arranged in rows with a central passage. The roof structure tie-beam bracing is exposed and clad in wooden castellated decoration. Above there is a barrel-vaulted ceiling in wood, which is intact and in good condition. The crossing is light and high, and has a fine rib-vaulted roof structure in stone supported on corbels in the wall. The stone pulpit is built into the structure in the south-west corner, next to the chancel arch, and is accessed by a narrow stair tower leading from the vestry. 


Arguably the finest internal feature of the church is the highly carved, ornate oak rood screen in front of the chancel. Traceried panels with a central doorway divide the chancel from the nave and above is a narrow rood gallery or loft, accessed by a doorway in the stairtower. Framing the screen is a very large, central painted and gilded crucifix with statues of the Virgin Mary and St John alongside. 


The chancel is narrower than the nave and has a raised granite altar at the east end with railings in place but the reredos and altar covering were not present when visited (2012). Most of the choir stalls have been removed too, apart from the carved fronts. Flanking the altar is an ashlar piscina and a sacrament house. The south transept has temporary metal supports behind its ashlar pointed-archway. There is a side altar, also in granite, and a piscina in the south-west corner. 

People / Organisations:

Sir Ninian ComperArchitect of the church1899-1907


  • Church built (1899 to 1907)

Archive References:

Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 4033Extensive photographic survey
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 6266A-listed
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: RCAHMS NO19SE 24
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 148567

Bibliographic References:

Crathie and Braemar: History of a United ParishJ Stirton1925
The Church of Saint Margaret of Scotland, BraemarD Findlay1991
Deeside and The Mearns: An Illustrated Architectural GuideJ Geddes2001p153