St Mary's Roman Catholic Church

National Grid Reference (NGR): NJ 32732 39895, map


Fife Street
Banff, Moray

Also known as:

  • St Mary of The Assumption Church (1825)


St Mary's Roman Catholic Church is located in the planned town of Dufftown, which was laid out in 1817 by the Earl of Fife. It sits on high ground above Fife Street in the south-east part of the town, close to the River Fiddich. The church was designed by the Reverend George Gordon and architect Rev. James Kyle and built in 1825. It is partially based on the chapel of the Spanish college where Gordon studied. It is one of the earliest Catholic churches to be built in the area. The chancel was extended a hundred years later. There is an attached hall and presbytery to the east. The church is currently in limited use as it is in need of extensive repairs. An on-going fund-raising effort should allow the church to be repaired shortly. The presbytery has since been converted into flats, although the hall is still used by the community. 

Description (exterior)

The church is a fairly small building and is aligned north-south. It is built mainly in grey rubble granite but has fine sandstone ashlar stonework around openings and for the buttresses and finials. The roof is slated. 


The south gable forms the principle elevation and overlooks garden grounds and the street in front of the church. It has three bays with tall buttresses between each bay. The central bay has a pointed-arch doorway with narrow double doors, which have decorative hinge plates. Above the doors is a small fanlight with fine stained glass. Above the doorway is a wide pointed-arch window with simple intersecting tracery and clear multi-pane glass. In the gablehead is a small round window (or oculus) with stained glass. The wallhead of the gable in the central bay has an ornate stone parapet course with a cross finial in the middle. The narrow buttresses on either side are of three stages and step inwards as they rise. They would have been topped by pinnacles but they have fallen or been removed. The outer flanking bays of the gable have tall, fairly narrow pointed-arch windows with the same glazing as the central window described above. There are angled corner buttresses, which have, likewise, lost their pinnacles. 


The east and west side elevations of the church are fairly plain and have three bays. There are two large pointed-arch windows, which reach the wallhead. They have leaded, coloured panes of glass or full stained glass. At the northern end of the elevations are small round windows (oculi), just below the wallhead. On the east side, to the north, is attached a small hall, with similar Gothic detailing as the church. Alongside is the former presbytery, which was extensively re-fitted and altered in the 1930s. 


Attached to the north end of the church is a small chancel, which was added in the 1920s. It a single pointed-arch window on the west side - its eastern wall is attached to the hall and presbytery complex. 

Description (interior)

The interior of the church has cream-painted, plastered walls and a rib-vaulted roof structure, which is supported on carved stone corbels in the walls. The nave has simple wooden bench pews with a central passageway. The lower walls have the Stations of the Cross paintings, which are mounted in ornate, carved wooden frames. At the northern end of the nave is the wooden pulpit, which is placed partially in a niche on the west side. 


The chancel contains the highest quality furnishings in the church. Placed centrally is a fine marble altar - a modern, geometric design with a flat top. Behind, raised on two wide steps, is the reredos, again in marble and of a similar design to the altar. Above, mounted on the wall is a large, framed painting of St Mary with blue curtains on either side. There is a wooden sounding board above the painting. The chancel walls have a tall wooden dado and there are wall hangings on the wall too. 

People / Organisations:

Rev. George GordonHelped design the church1825
Rev. James KyleArchitect of the church1825


  • Church built (1825)
  • Chancel built (1925)

Archive References:

Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 4053
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 24723B-listed
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: RCAHMS NJ33NW 81
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 193548

Bibliographic References:

The New Statistical Account of Scotland1836Vol. XIII, p106 and 108
The Architecture of Scottish Post Reformation Churches 1560-1843G Hay1957p157 and 250