St John's Methodist Church, Arbroath

National Grid Reference (NGR): NO 64540 41060, map


15 Ponderlaw Street
DD11 1EU

Also known as:

  • Totum Kirkie


St john's Methodist Church is located on Ponderlaw Street close to Arbroath's busy town centre. The church is one of three places of worship in close proximity to one another in the Ponderlaw area. The church is aligned approximately north-west to south-east. The manse of the church, now privately owned, was built alongside. A large public park surrounds the rear of the church premises. 

The church was opened by John Wesley who then preached in it. The church was extended in 1882, when a porch and interior gallery were added. It is thought to be the oldest Methodist church in use in Scotland. 

Description (exterior)

The church has an unusual layout and shape, with the main nave and sanctuary being octagonal on plan and a hall, vestry, entrance porch and vestibule built onto this. The octagonal building is hidden from the road and only seen from the rear and side. 


The original octagonal building, housing the nave, is rubble built and has harled walls, which are painted white. Most of the bays of the octagonal structure have a single pointed-arch window, several of which have stained glass. Metal grills protect the glass. The piended roof is slated and has a metal finial at the centre. The vestry and meeting room to the south and west is rather crudely built on to the octagonal building, with rubble walls and slate roof, which is oddly-shaped to allow light to get to the church windows.


The later porch and hall are built in local red sandstone, and have poited arch windows with simple, thick tracery and pointed-arch doorways with hoodmoulds. The former manse alongside was also built in red sandstone. It was enlarged in 1869 and sold in 1902.

Description (interior)

The interior has a fairly typical layout despite the unusual shape of the church. There is a large wooden pulpit against the south-east wall. There is a short staircase on each side to give the minister access. A pointed-arch window with stained glass is directly behind and above the pulpit. In front of the pulpit, in the sanctuary area, is a simple communion table, a number of chairs for elders and minister and a font and lectern. Alongside to the east is a pipe organ with wooden panelling. This was inserted into the church (from an unknown closed church) in the 1940s, and necessitated the removal of a wall of the church and the construction of a small extension to house the organ. The original wooden pews in the nave are still in place and there are two aisles leading from two doorways in the vestibule. A large gallery was added in 1882 at the north-west end, overlooking the sanctuary. This is suported on an iron column with a decorative capital, and it is fronted by simple wooden panelling.


A pointed-arch doorway leads into a large vestry, with an added-on meeting room and kitchen area. The porch and vestibule gives access to the nave, gallery and kitchen/vestry. There is also a large Victorian church hall, which is built alongside the church and is used for several community groups and clubs.

People / Organisations:

John WesleyPreacher, opened the church1772


  • Church built (1722)
  • Church extended (1882)
  • Church hall built (1896)

Archive References:

Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: RCAHMS NO64SW 240
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 193237
Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 4498
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 21147B-listed

Bibliographic References:

The Ecclesiastical Buildings of Arbroath and DistrictWilliam F Clark2010Draft booklet
The Statistical Account of Scotland1791-9Vol. VII, p347
The New Statistical Account of Scotland1845Vol. XI, p96
The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation ChurchesG Hay1957p96