Arbuthnott Parish Church

National Grid Reference (NGR): NO 80150 74630, map


AB30 1NA


Arbuthnott Parish Church has a long history, with an early medieval (or earlier) chapel or church being located here before the 13th century chancel was built. The church is situated in a rural setting above a small valley and the Bervie Water. The former manse is located to the east and the church is surrounded by a large graveyard. 

Description (exterior)

The church consists of a nave, chancel and the Arbuthnott Aisle (see also separate site for this aisle). The church today is a mixture of different dates and styles, which reflects its long history. The church is built in sandstone. The chancel and nave are largely rubble-built with dressed sandstone surrounds while the Arbuthnott Aisle is built in a slightly darker, ashlar sandstone. 


The chancel is the earliest part of the church, built in the early 13th century and dedicated by Bishop de Bernham of St Andrews Cathedral in 1242. It is narrower than the later nave and has noticeably thick walls, especially the east gable. The side walls have small lancet windows and there is a small door in the north wall. The east gable shows signs of rebuilding, with a slightly inset gablehead, narrower than the lower section of the gable. The east gable has a group of three narrow, rectangular windows, each with stained glass. 


The nave is attached to the west and was originally built slightly later than the chancel, in the 13th century. It was largely rebuilt at the time of the Reformation (1560s) and again in the 1890s after a fire destroyed the nave. The west gable and belltower survives from around 1500. The south elevation has three large rectangular windows and a Norman style round-arched doorway. The north elevation is featureless appart from a small round-arched doorway and small lean-to vestry. The west gable has a fine round belltower, built by Sir Robert Arbuthnott (c1500). It has small belfry openings and a stone-slab conical spire. The west gable has small lancet windows, which flank the tower, and corner buttresses with small lancet recesses. 


The Arbuthnott Aisle is attached to the nave and chancel of the church, to the south. It was built by the Arbuthnott family (Sir Robert Arbuthnott) as a private burial aisle or chapel. It is two stories in height and has a small stair tower in the north-west corner. The south face of the chapel is supported by four large buttresses at the angles, each with large carved stone pinnacles. There are niches in the buttress faces, where statues would originally have been mounted. A small round-arched doorway with hoodmould leads into the lower room of the aisle and there are round-arched windows at ground floor level and rectangular windows in the room above. The stairtower has small slit windows and belfry openings. The roof of the aisle is covered with sandstone slabs.

Description (interior)

The interior of the church is plain and unadorned. The nave has white painted plastered walls and the simple roof structure is painted grey. The wooden pews in the nave, divided by a central aisle, are plain. There is a pipe organ at the west end of the nave. The wooden pulpit is positioned in the north-east corner of the church and a stone font is located nearby. A narrow, pointed chancel arch leads into the older and smaller chancel. 


The chancel has choir stalls or pews on either side of the aisle, which is carpeted. Steps lead up to the communion table, which has trefoil-headed openings. There east gable has stained glass windows. Small lancet windows in the side walls light the interior. A large round arch, thought to be the oldest part of the entire church, leads into the Arbuthnott Aisle, itself built in 1500. 


The Arbuthnott Aisle, used as a burial place for the family, originally housed the minister in the small first floor room. This is now empty but retains its tiled floor surface. The ground floor has a tombstone for a member of the Arbuthnott family and its original cobbled and stone slab floor survives. There is a water stoup near the west door and the east wall has a small aumbry or sacrament house. 

People / Organisations:

St TernanDedication1242
Sir Robert ArbuthnottBuilt Aisle and west belltowerc1500
A M MackenzieArchitect, rebuilt nave1890


  • West end of nave and belltower built (1500)
  • Nave rebuilt (1560s)
  • Nave largely rebuilt after fire (1890)
  • Arbuthnott Aisle built (c1500)
  • Church built (Early 13th century)

Archive References:

Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 0897
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 2876A-listed
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: NO87SW 11
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 36838

Bibliographic References:

The Statistical Account of ScotlandSir J Sinclair (ed)1791-9Vol. XVIII, p391
The New Statistical Account of Scotland1845Vol. XI, p158
Medieval religious houses in Scotland: with an appendix on the houses in the Isle of ManI B Cowan and D E Easson1976p187
Scottish medieval churches: architecture and furnishingsR Fawcett2002p39-40
Memorials of Angus and the MearnsA Jervise1885
The ecclesiastical architecture of Scotland from the earliest Christian times to the seventeenth centuryD MacGibbon and T Ross1896-7Vol. 3, p235-43
RCAHMS: The archaeological sites and monuments of South Kincardine, Kincardine and Deeside District, Grampian RegionRCAHMS1982p26
Exploring Scotland's Heritage: GrampianI A G Shepherd1986p114-115