St James The Great Episcopal Church, Stonehaven

National Grid Reference (NGR): NO 87300 85710, map


Arbuthnott Street
AB39 2JJ


This large Episcopal church is one of Stonehaven's most prominent landmarks and is located in Arbuthnott Street, next to Carron Water. The church has gardens around it and housing surrounds the site on all sides. 

The church was built in the 1870s by one of Scotland's foremost architects, Sir Robert Rowand Anderson. It replaced an earlier Episcopal chapel in the town. 

Description (exterior)

St James The Great Church is Romanesque in style and was built with coursed and squared sandstone rubble, with ashlar surrounds and dressings. The roofs of the church are slated. The church has a nave with low side aisles, large chancel, organ chamber, babtistry, sacristy and vestry. 


The tall, narrow nave has five bays and there are low side aisles to the north and south. The aisles have small round-arched windows with continuous hoodmoulds, which form a stringcourse. A sill course also forms a stringcourse. Small buttresses separate the windows. Above the aisles are large clearstorey round-arched windows, again with hoodmoulds and a stringcourse. The original cast-iron rainwater pipes and baskets are still in situ. The west gable has a single, large round-arched window with flanking blind arcading. There is an oval window in the gablehead. 


Attached to the west end of the church is a lean-to, crowstepped narthex and semi-octagonal baptistry. These buildings were added in 1906 and form the main entry into the church today. The baptistry has round-arched windows, hoodmoulds and stringcourses to match the rest of the church. 


The chancel at the east end of the church is round-ended and is slightly narrower and lower than the attached nave. It has tall, narrow windows with hoodmoulds and stringcourses. Attached to the chancel, on the north side, is the organ chamber, which was required when money was raised for the pipe organ in the 1880s. 


The south-east corner of the church, between the chancel and south aisle, has a vestry and sacristy. These have a similar arrangement of hoodmoulded round-arched windows and strincourses. There are also quatrefoil-traceried round windows and a round-arched doorway. Attached is a fairly narrow, square tower with a round belfry stage and slated spire. There are very small slit windows in the tower and round-arched belfry openings. 

Description (interior)

The original, unmodified Victorian Romanesque interior is light and spacious. The nave and aisles have simple fixed wooden pews. The arcading between the aisles and nave are supported on round sandstone columns. The large clearstorey windows flood the nave with light. There are many stained glass windows of various dates, most of them being 19th century by Clayton & Bell of London. They depict mostly biblical figures and scenes. The ornate, carved pulpit stands in the north-east corner of the nave, close to the side altar in the north aisle. There is an eagle lectern, found in most Episcopal churches, and a grand piano, a more unusual item in a church. 


The chancel has a tall chancel arch and is raised from the nave by stone steps. The plain altar is framed by a very ornate carved stone reredos. This has five gabled and tre-foil-headed niches with Saints Andrew, Peter, James and John. Three of the chancel windows have stained glass. 


The narthex forms the main entrance into the church and there is a small display area. Attached is the baptistry, which contains a large stone font, which derives from a church in Aberdeen and is thought to be 16th century in date. The fine stained glass windows in the baptistry were added by Sir Ninian Comper in 1929.

People / Organisations:

Sir Robert Rowand AndersonArchitect1875-7
Sir Ninian ComperMade stained glass for the baptistry1929


  • Church built (1875 to 1877)
  • Chancel, organ chamber and vestry added (1883 to 1885)
  • Baptistry and narthex added to west end (1906)

Archive References:

Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 4225
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 41552A-listed
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: RCAHMS NO88NE 152
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 185010

Bibliographic References:

Deeside and The Mearns: An Illustrated Architectural GuideJ Geddes2001p12-13
The Haven Under the HillE Christie1977p42-43