Arbirlot Parish Church

National Grid Reference (NGR): NO 60160 40550, map


DD11 2NX


Arbirlot Parish Church was built on the probable site of an earlier church or settlement. The church was given to Arbroath Abbey by the Bishop of St. Andrews in his Diocese and dedicated to St Ninian. Little information is known about the pre-Reformation church building. The church was rebuilt with extensions in 1832 on the same site, and further alterations were made in 1886. The church is located near a river crossing (a ford and bridge). It was built in sandstone and has a slate roof.

During the construction of the church's manse a Pictish cross was discovered. This is now in Brechin Cathedral. There is a hearse house in the burial ground of the church.

Description (exterior)

This is a cruciform building surrounded on all sides by its burial ground. It is built of red sandstone with ashlar surrounds and corner stones (quoins), and the roofs are slated. It lies east-west and has a nave, transepts, and a porch on the west and east gables. 

The east gable has corner buttresses and a small timber and sandstone gabled porch extension. The porch has a row of rectangular windows and the wooden gable is painted green. Tall, narrow, pointed-arch lancet windows flank the porch and above is a group of three round-headed windows and a louvered vent at the gablehead. A small ball finial is mounted ont he apex of the gable.

The north elevation has a central gabled transept arm or aisle. It has three lancet windows in the gable and hipped roof stair turrets are attached to the transept on the east and west sides. The opposite south elevation has a larger gabled transept arm with a large rose window, flanked by tall, narrow lancet windows. A cross finial is mounted on the apex of the gable. The south wall of the church has pointed-arch windows with simple Y-tracery on either side of the central transept.

The west gable is similar to the east gable, except the porch is built entirely of sandstone (the gable is not wooden like that of the east porch), and the gable is topped by a fine bellcote. The bellcote, straddling the gablehead and roof, has four ashlar columns (with ball finials), which support a slender stone spire.

Description (interior)

The interior of the church is fairly restrained and simple. The square sanctuary area is at the east end of the church and contains the pulpit, communion table, font and Elders' chairs, all of which are in wood and have simple carved panels. Behind the sanctuary is the pipe organ, which is flanked by two stained glass windows (described below). The north and south aisles each have small galleries with wood-panelled fronts. They are supported on two slender columns and accessed via stair towers to the sides. The nave has plain fixed back wooden (pine) pews, which are also present in the aisles, beneath the galleries. 


There are a number of stained glass windows in the church. Two tall pointed-arch windows flank the pipe organ in the sanctuary area. They show biblical figures and events and are very detailed and intricate. Several other windows in the nave have stained glass, most of them of a later date and with larger pieces of coloured glass.  The large west window also has stained glass. It shows Christ and several saints beneath and alongside. 

People / Organisations:

Sydney Mitchell and Wilson.Architects1886-90


  • Church built on the site of an earlier buildi (1832)
  • Extension built (1886 to 1890)

Archive References:

Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 4592B-listed
Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 0891
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: NO64SW 7:00

Bibliographic References:

The New Statistical Account of Scotland1845Vol. XI, p334
The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation ChurchesG Hay1957p244
Celtic and medieval religious houses in AngusD G Adams1984p10
The Parishes of Medieval ScotlandI B Cowan1967p7
'Medieval religious houses, Scotland: with an appendix on the houses in the Isle of Man'I B Cowan and D E Easson1976p52
Angus or Forfarshire: the land and people, descriptive and historicalA J Warden1880-5Vol. 2, p365-6