Arbroath Old and Abbey Parish Church

National Grid Reference (NGR): NO 64000 41000, map


West Abbey Street
DD11 1EQ

Also known as:

  • Abbey Parish Church


Arbroath Abbey Church is located on the corner of West Abbey Street and Abbey Park and is adjacent to the Abbey itself. The original church here was built in 1797 as a chapel of ease to the Old Parish Church. In 1990 it was united with the nearby Old Parish Church when the latter closed. The church is built on several abbey buildings and structures, and an abbey wall passes under it.

Description (exterior)

The church was built in 1876-8 by James MacLaren of Dundee and incorporated parts of the pre-existing Georgian church on the site. The church is Gothic in style and was built with red sandstone and has ashlar surrounds and dressings. There is a large hall complex attached to the church, including two 19th century ones and a modern 20th century hall extension.

Most of the late 18th century church survives, with a large extension and tower built onto the west to form a new frontage. This is evident by the different stone colour and toolings.

 The striking west frontage, built by MacLaren in 1878, is dominated by the corner tower. It has four stages and chamfered edges. It has a number of pointed-arch windows, the largest at first floor level. At the belfry stage there are pointed-arch louvered openings on each tower face. The top of the tower has a corbelled parapet. An octagonal slated spire rises from the tower, and has lucarn openings. Attached to the south of the tower is the rest of the late 19th century extension. The main entrance into the church is through an advanced gabled bay. At ground level are three pointed-arch doorways with flat-topped doors and blind fanlights. The gable has two large pointed-arch and traceried windows and a smaller round window above, in the gablehead. The gabled bay has corner buttresses, which are topped by tall ashlar pinnacles. The slated roof of the west extension is steeply pitched and piended, and has decorative red ridge tiles.

 The original 1797 church attached to the east of the later addition is rectangular on plan and has fairly small pointed-arch windows on two levels. The symmetrical north gable has five windows at ground and first floor levels, and there is a small blocked round vent at the gablehead. The east elevation is largely hidden by a later hall (now used as a children's nursery or Sunday School) but has a large central round window with fine tracery and popinted-arch windows to either side. There are also two small doors at ground level.

The three halls of the church are attached to the south and east. The original hall built by Chalmers, known as the 'large hall', has three  trefoil topped windows in the west gable. A disabled ramp runs across this gable face leading to the late 1990s-built hall to the south, which is square on plan and has a pyramidal roof. It has flat headed windows and a small clock on the central bellcote. The small east hall, facing East Abbey Street, is late Georgian in date and has a piended slated roof and rectangular windows.

Description (interior)

The interior of the church consits of the galleried nave and a large vestibule area at the west end. The vestry and other rooms are located in the hall complex attached to the south. 

The nave is orientated east-west, with the pulpit and communion table at the east end, framed by the organ pipes behind. The communion table, chairs, pulpit and organ pannelling are all of wood and have intricate carving. 

The wooden pews of the church are simple and are divided by two passageways. The horseshoe gallery above, on the west, north and south walls, are supported by iron columns and there are simple wooden gallery panels. The nave has an impressive pannelled ceiling with a decorative cornice at the wallheads. The east and west walls have stained glass windows, illustrating biblical figures and events.

People / Organisations:

James MacLarenArchitect1876-8Built the new west frontage and tower, and re-ordered and renovated original Georgian nave.
John ShanksContractor1876-8Main contractor and builder of 1870s extension.
Alex MacFarlaneArchitect1885Made alterations to the church and hall complex


  • Church built (1797)
  • New west front and tower built (1876 to 1878)
  • Addition and alterations (1885)

Archive References:

Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: NO64SW 162:00
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 21136B-listed
Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 9430

Bibliographic References:

The Ecclesiastical Buildings of Arbroath and DistrictWilliam F Clark2010Draft booklet about the church history of Arbroath
RCAHMS: The archaeological sites and monuments of central AngusRCAHMS1984
The architecture of Scottish post-Reformation churchesG Hay1957