Pluscarden Parish Church

National Grid Reference (NGR): NJ 14930 57320, map




Pluscarden Parish Church was built at the end of the 19th century to serve this rural community, which did not have a local church of its own. This is because Pluscarden and the surrounding area is part of Elgin parish and the only official church was in the town, several miles away. Locals tended to worship in the ruins of Pluscarden Abbey until it was bought by the Marquis of Bute, who gave the land for the church to be built on. It was originally a Free Church, as the congregation had 'come out' during the mid 19th century upheaval in the Established Church. 

The church is located on a small rise above a quiet, rural road, a short distance south-east of Pluscarden Abbey. The church is aligned east-west and there is a burial ground to the south. A narrow band of mature trees surround the building on three sides. 

Description (exterior)

The church is a fairly small building, dominated by the large entrance tower on the south-west corner. It was built with roughly-coursed and shaped rubble with ashlar dressings and surrounds. The roof of the nave is slated and has decorative ridge tiles, while the tower's spire is covered in lead or coper sheets. 


The tower is one of the main features of the church and has the principal entrance into the nave. The recessed and chamfered doorway is on the south face and the arch has moulded courses and is topped with a hoodmould. On the west face is a wide pointed-arch window with three lancet openings. Above, the west, south and east faces of the tower have a pair of small lancet (pointed-arch) windows and a round panel with a slit opening (the round panels presumably intended for clock faces, which were not added later). At the top of the tower is a corbelled cornice and a plain parapet. Water spouts project outwards at the corners. The thin, octagonal spire rises from the flat tower top and is sheeted in lead with a wooden frame lower down. It is surmounted by a large metal weather vane. 


The west gable of the church has a single, very large pointed-arch window, which features impressive stone tracery and a hoodmould, and was one of the church's features apparently modelled on the nearby Abbey. The window has small, square, leaded panes of glass. In the gablehead is a small, oval vent with a simple, decorative stone surround. Fairly short, stepped buttresses support the gable at the corners. 


The nave has small, gabled transepts or aisles at the east end, which have a single pointed-arch window in the gable with tracery and hoodmoulds. The south wall of the nave has two bays, each with pairs of pointed-arch (lancet) windows, separated by a buttress. The north wall has three bays like this, due to the absence of a tower, which occupies the western bay of the south elevation. 


At the east end of the church is attached a small vestry and session house complex, complete with side doorways to the south and east. The northern section of this building is shorter and narrower and was built recently and largely matches the original fabric of the church. The vestry and session house have plain, rectangular windows and the east gable of the nave has a large chimney on the apex with twin chimney pots. Lower down, and largely hidden by the vestry roof, is a small round window with thick stone tracery and leaded glass. 

Description (interior)

The interior of Pluscarden Parish Church is largely original and is fairly plain and undecorated. The interior walls are plastered and painted, along with the ceiling sections. The hammer-beam roof structure is left exposed and is supported by large stone corbels in the walls. The nave has plain pine pews, arranged in rows with two passageways. A pine dado reaches the window sills in the nave and side aisles (or transepts). 


The sanctuary area is at the east end of the nave and largely retains its Free-Church layout. The wooden pulpit can be accessed by flanking stairs to the north and south and in front is a wooden communion table and minister's chair. A pointed-arch recess in the wall frames the pulpit and above is the stained glass of the small round window towards the gablehed. 

People / Organisations:

A & W Reid & WittetArchitects of the church1898


  • Church built (1898)

Archive References:

Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 505
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 8443B-listed
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: RCAHMS NJ15NW 14
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 16086

Bibliographic References:

The District of Moray: An Illustrated Architectural GuideC McLean1987P62-64