St Mary's Episcopal Church, Arbroath

National Grid Reference (NGR): NO 64720 41190, map


DD11 1EL


St Mary's Episcopal Church is situated at the brow of a hill, overlooking Abroath's town centre.  It was built in 1854 by John Anderson of Edinburgh when the congregation moved from an earlier, small church on High Street.

This church is one of the more successful Victorian attempts to imitate a mediaeval style. It was built with tooled (snecked) sandstone blocks with ashlar surrounds and dressings, and the roofs are all slated.

The church is located on a small hillside overlooking the Ponderlaw area of Arbroath. The grounds are largely asphalted for car parking space and there are no gravestones in the church grounds.

Description (exterior)

St Mary's is rectangular in plan, with a tall tower and spire at the north-western corner. There is also a north aisle, side chapel and chancel. The church has a pitched slate roof, and there are numerous buttresses and carved decoration.  


The four-stage tower dominates the church complex. The lower stage has a large pointed-arch doorway with a pediment above. The recessed double doorway is flanked by moulded surrounds with attached columns and chalice capitals. The pediment above has simple trefoil tracery. There are numerous pointed-arch windows in the tower of different sizes. The largest are found in the third storey, which are belfry openings and have louvers rather than window glass. There is an attached stair turret attached to the west face of the towerr. There are stepped buttresses on the corners of the tower, which rise up to the third stage. The ashlar stone octagonal spire has numerous gabled openings (lucarnes). Much of the stonework of the spire has been replaced or repaired in recent years.


The four-bay north aisle faces the street. Large pointed-arch windows with simple hoodmoulds are divided by broad, stepped buttresses, which reach to just below the wallhead. The windows have simple stone tracery with a cinq-foil round opening at the arch heads. The windows are covered with protective transparent perspex. The slated, gabled roof of the north aisle largely hides the large nave of the church, which is attached to the south.


At the east end of the church is a small side chapel (at the north-east corner) and the chancel, attached to the nave. The gable end of the chapel has a small pointed-arch window with stained glass. There is also a small gabled doorway into the chapel on the north elevation. The chancel of St Mary's has a single, very large pointed-arch window in the east gable. It has simple, mostly tre-foil tracery and thick mullions, and it holds impressive stained glass, again protected with perspex.


To the south of the church is a large, gabled hall and the manse is located just to the south-west of the church.

Description (interior)

The large interior of the church can hold several hundred people and has an impressive display of stained glass windows. The interior features a fairly narrow but long nave, chancel and side aisle. The walls are plastered and painted a cream colour and the floor is mostly covered with carpet. The timber hammer-beam roof is exposed.


The nave has original wooden pews divided by a central aisle. There is a highly ornate pulpit at the junction of the nave and chancel. The pulpit is very tall and has ornately-carved stone panels (including quatrefoils and pointed-arch niches) and an intricate traceried back board, which has similarities to the tracery in the stained glass windows. Alongside the pulpit, in front of the chancel, is a small stage area, where the rector often speaks.


The long, narrow side aisle is divided from the nave by an arcade with large, pointed-arch stone arches, which are supported by simply-carved capitals. The aisle has more wooden pews and a small side chapel and altar.


The chancel of the church has a very tall pointed-arch chancel arch and an impressive wooden rood screen, which has detailed traceried carving. A large rood cross is hung from the arch. The chancel itself is fairly plain, with the altar framed from behind by a wooden reredos. The pipe organ of the church is placed here, mostly set into a separate extension to the chancel. The floor of the chancel features finely-patterned coloured tiles.


The church has a large group of excellent stained glass windows, purposely made for St Mary's. They depict mostly biblical figures and events.

People / Organisations:

John HendersonArchitect1852-4


  • Church built (1852 to 1854)

Archive References:

Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 21145B-listed
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: NO64SW 154
Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 4497

Bibliographic References:

The Ecclesiastical Buildings of Arbroath and DistrictWilliam F Clark2010Draft booklet