St James Episcopal Church, Cruden

National Grid Reference (NGR): NK 06850 35630, map


A795, Chapel Hill
Cruden Bay
AB42 0SF


This large church stands on a prominent hill top location a short distance west of Cruden Bay. It is surrounded by open countryside and arable farmland. The site, called Chapel Hill, appears to be associated with an early Christian place of worship. A fairly small rectangular graveyard with mostly 19th and 20th century burials surrounds the church on all sides and there is a car parking area to the south. 

Description (exterior)

The church is rectangular on plan, with a square tower at the west end and a slightly later chancel to the east. It was built with coursed pink granite stone with an ashlar base course and dressings (including on buttresses, pinnacles and tower). The large double-pitch roofs are slated. 


The most prominent feature of the church is the tall tower attached to the centre of the west gable. It is square on plan and has large stepped buttresses at the corners. There is a large pointed-arch doorway in the west face , with slightly smaller doorways in the side (north and south) faces. Above are a further two stages, separated by angled stringcourses. There are tall pointed-arch (lanet) windows on the north, west and south faces, all with chamfered margins and large panes of clear glass. The top of the tower is gabled and the buttresses end in sturdy, gabletted pinnacles. An octagonal spire, in ashlar stone, rises from the tower and has a large stone finial at the top. The west gable has a tall lancet window on either side of the tower and the central section of the gable is advanced slightly. There are small corner buttresses and the skews are stepped in two places. 


The side elevations of the nave have six equally-spaced lancet windows with stepped buttresses inbetween. The eastern corners have tall stone pinnacles rising from the skews, but these are not found at the west end. There is a small cross finial on the east apex of the nave. 


The chancel at the east end of the church was added in the 1870s and is slightly narrower and shorter than the nave. There are small lean-to side rooms on the north and south sides of the chancel - a vestry and meeting room/kitchen. The east gable has three lancet windows with stained glass, and there are much smaller lancets in the side elevations. 

Description (interior)

The interior of St James' is fairly plain and open, although when visited in 2012 there was a major redecorating programme in progress and most of the furnishings had been removed or covered. The walls are plastered and painted a bright white, and the simple, trussed roof structure, supported on corbels in the side walls, is exposed. 


The nave has a small gallery at the west end, reached by a stair in the tower. It has a wooden, panelled front and it extends forwards slightly to the centre. There is a small organ at the rear of the gallery, but it was covered during the time of the visit. The nave windows have clear panes of glass, which helps to lighten the interior. There are simple wooden pews with two passages leading to the chancel. At the east end of the nave are choir stalls at right angles to the pews. They face each other across a central area in which is a table and chair, likely used by the minister. There is a small wooden pulpit at the junction of the nave and chancel, with trefoil-headed panels. 


The chancel has a moulded and chamfered pointed-arch, which reaches nearly to the ceiling. The chancel is stepped up from the nave and has red carpet on the floor and steps. There is a small altar in front of the east windows with a plain wooden reredos behind. The east windows have small stained glass panels with areas of clear latticed glass. 

People / Organisations:

William HayArchitect of the church1842-3


  • Church built (1842 to 1843)
  • Chancel added to the east end (1876)

Archive References:

Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 451
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 3060B-listed

Bibliographic References:

The Third Statistical Account of Scotland: The County of Aberdeen1960sp464