St Thomas of Canterbury Church, Arbroath

National Grid Reference (NGR): NO 63790 40620, map


Dishlandtown Street
DD11 1QU


This Roman Catholic church was built in 1847 by George Mathewson and consecrated in 1848. It has an adjoining presbytery, which had a school built onto it in 1874. The church is located in a Victorian new town development and forms a symmetrical focal point at the end of Dishlandtown Street. The west end of the church forms the main frontage and has twin towers and a large entrance porch. The priest's house and school are attached to the south.

The west front of the church was built with yellow ashlar sandstone with moulded decoration. However, the sides and east elevation are built in rubble sandstone, presumably to save on costs. The roofs are slated.

Description (exterior)

The west gable of the church is symmetrical and is dominated by twin octagonal towers, which are castellated at their tops and attached to the nave gable. The towers rise in three stages, depicted by string courses, and the belfry stage has round-arched openings. Below is a cruciform-shaped window. The gable of the west front has an unusual gablehead design. Below is a round window with simple tracery. The entrance porch has a wide round-arched doorway, over which steps a thick string course. This string course forms the cills of three narrow, round-arched windows which reach the cornice at gablehead level. The porch has simple, stepped diagonal buttresses at the corners and a cruciform finial on the gable apex. The porch is a miniature replica of St Augustine's gateway in Canterbury. 

The south and north walls of the church are relatively plain, with four tall round-arched windows with stained glass spaced along each elevation. The rear (east) elevation is largely hidden from view, but mirrors, to a large extent, the main west frontage. There is a chancel of roughly the same dimensions as the west porch, and it has three round-arched windows centrally placed. There are smaller-scale twin towers and the main gable has a round window similar to that in the west. There are small single-storey extensions to either side of the chancel, which are again rubble built. The priest's house was built in the same materials as the church, with sandstone walls and slate roofs. 

Within the grounds of the church are numerous memorials to past priests and members of the church. The priest's house was built in the same materials as the church, with sandstone walls and slate roofs.

Description (interior)

The interior is divided into the main nave, with side aisles and chancel. The walls are painted cream and the floor covered in red carpet. Modern central heating with radiators has been fitted and is fairly discreet. 

The side aisles are separated from the nave by tall, slender cast iron arcade columns. The aisles have iron roof supports, which spring from corbels mounted on the walls. There is a large chancel arch leading into the chancel, where the altar is placed.

 Most of the furnishing in the church is wooden, including the pews, chairs and reading desks. However, the elaborate altar and reredos in the chancel are marble with subtle back lighting.



People / Organisations:

George MatthewsonArchitect1847-8


  • Church built (1847 to 1848)

Archive References:

Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 4500
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 21241B-listed

Bibliographic References:

The Ecclesiastical Buildings of Arbroath and DistrictWilliam F Clark2010Draft booklet