St John's Episcopal Church, Forres

National Grid Reference (NGR): NJ 04080 59210, map


Victoria Road


St John's Episcopal Church is located alongside the busy Victoria Road in Forres, which turns into High Street a short distance to the west. The church is just east of the town centre and across the road is the large Grant Park, a public park with large areas of grassland, recreational facilities and woodland. St John's was initially built in the 1830s, but only a few years later was completely altered inside and out to fashion it into an Italian-style church, apparently inspired by its first Rector who visited Florence and sketched a church there and wanted his church to match it. 

Description (exterior)

The church's principle elevation faces the road and it is aligned approximately north-south. The large rectory is attached to the east but set further back from the road than the church. The Italian frontage includes a four stage tower and there is a nave and chancel behind. The south elevation, facing Victoria Road, is built in fine sandstone ashlar blocks, while the flanks and rear of the church are of coursed sandstone rubble and partly harled. The shallow-pitch roof is slated and has wide eaves which overhang the walls. 


The south, principle elevation of St John's is notably Italian in style, with references to Classical Greek and Roman architecture. The gable is fronted by a large three-bay portico with round arches and undecorated pilasters. Above, the gable has a large round window with simple radiating tracery. Alongside are shallow pilasters which support a substantial pediment above. It is topped by a metal cross finial. Attached to the gable, on the east side, is a tall, fairly narrow square tower, which rises in four clear stages to a shallow pyramidal roof. The lower stage has partially blocked round-arch openings, which are similar in apparance to the arched openings of the nearby portico. There are windows in the arch head. The second stage has very narrow, rectangular windows on the south, east and north faces. The two upper stages are identical and feature twin arcade openings on each face, with low stone ballustrades. On top of the tower is a tall metal cross with a gold-coloured cockerel.


The west elevation of the church is largely obscured by neighbouring buildings, but is an aisleless structure with four rectangular windows which have simple timber tracery. Towards the north end is a gabled transept, which has a twin round-arched window to the centre. The east elevation has a narrow side aisle, which features a blind arcade with glazing in the arch heads of the arcade. Above, at clerestorey level, are four rectangular windows with timber tracery. The east transept is larger than the west one and has a rectangular window in the south face and a twin round-arched window in the gable. A small side porch or doorway is attached at the base of the transept and leads to the rectory next door, giving access to both buildings. 


At the north end of the church, obscured from exterior view, is a narrow semi-circular chancel. Towards the wallhead are three large rectangular windows, each with stained glass. They show the Crucifixion and other biblical events. The chancel roof is likely semi-conical and slated. 

Description (interior)

The interior of the church is fairly plain and with little decoration. The walls are plastered and painted white/cream and the floor is tiled with areas of mosaics. There is a plaster ceiling which has large squre panels and a small round roof light in front of the chancel allows in more light.The nave is narrow and tall and has simple oak pews with fleur-di-lys shape end panels. A sill course, highlighted in red, runs around the nave, transepts and chancel. 


The west transept has choir stalls/pews and a small side chapel with chairs and an altar. In a tall recess is a fairly large pipe organ. The east transept has pews facing the crossing of the church and there is a large painted mural on the north wall. A rectangular doorway in the transept end wall leads to the rectory. 


The chancel forms the main focus of St John's Church. It is stepped up from the nave by marble steps and has a fine mosaic floor. Polished chancel rails run across and there are prayer cushions on one of the steps leading to the chancel. The altar is set back and placed on a raised step or platform and is covered by cloth. Behind the altar, on the curved wall of the chancel, is a very large painting or mural, which shows The Last Supper. At the junction of the chancel and west transept is a very fine semi-octagonal oak pulpit. It has a carved arcade course and flowers and foliage. Nearby is a brass eagle lectern. 

People / Organisations:

Patrick WilsonArchitect of the church1830-40
Thomas MackenzieArchitect, carried out alterations1844
William HoleArtist, painted murals inside the church1907-11


  • Church built (1830-40)
  • Significant alterations (1844)
  • Interior murals created (1907 to 1911)

Archive References:

Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 4187
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: RCAHMS NJ05NW 223
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 172909
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 31769A-listed

Bibliographic References:

The District of Moray: An Illustrated Architectural GuideC McLean1987p74-5
The New Statistical Account of Scotland1845vol. XIII, p164-5