Benholm Parish Church

National Grid Reference (NGR): NO 80440 69250, map


Address

Kirkton of Benholm
Kincardineshire
DD10 0HT

Introduction

This site has a long history of religious use. Little is known of the early churches; the first substantial building was erected in the 13th century. The current church is built on a promontory, bordered by a stream; a site typical of early churches.  Benholm has had a parish church since at least 1242, but amalgamation of local parishes has resulted in this building now being in Mearns Coastal Parish. The latest church was built in 1832 on the foundations of an earlier medieval church (see separate site Benholm Old Church).  The original graveyard surrounds the church.

The category A-listed church is no longer in ecclesiastical use. The last service was carried out by Rev. George Hastie in June 2004.


Description (exterior)

The church was built in 1832 on the site of its medieval predecessor, which had necessitated the use of gunpowder to remove the foundations. The new church was built on sprung arches to avoid disturbing old burials under the floor (until 1800 the Lairds and their families had the right of burial here). Benholm Church is built in a Georgian style, the architectural characteristics being simple, basic and cheap. It took only six months to build after the demolition of the old church. Traces of the early building are visible at foundation level and on the east gable.

 

Benholm Church is rectangular on plan and has four bays, pedimented gables, bellcote and slate roof. The walls are harled with ashlar surrounds and corner (quoin) detailing. The pedimented west gable of the church has a wide, round-arched doorway with timber double-leaf door and 5-window fanlight. Above is a shallow-arched multi-pane window. The east gable mirrors that of the west except there is a small, open bellcote on the apex of the gable. The bell is now housed within the church. The south elevation has four round-arched windows with multiple panes, while the north elevation is featureless.

 

The original graveyard surrounds the church. A detailed plan was made of it in 1892, showing the plots and rows, or lairs, but there is no recent record of burials. An iron-fenced mausoleum is located near to the east entrance of the church. There are numerous 18th and 19th century stones, some with finely-carved memento mori depictions (such as crossbones, skulls and winged heads).

 


Description (interior)

The light, airy interior features a number of artefacts saved from the previous church, and was designed to seat 768. There is a three-sided gallery that dominates the interior space, with a Laird's pew facing down onto the pulpit, placed centrally on the south wall. The ground level has rows of pews facing the pulpit. This wooden furnishing is original to the present building, dating to 1832.

 

The east gable wall contains an impressive sacrament house, thought to date from the 15th century and therefore a relict of the Medieval church. Roman Catholics at one time worshipped in the earlier church and built this structure to keep the consecrated bread or "Host", used at the celebration of mass. The sacrament house has a small carved wooden door (possibly original), surrounded and framed by carved stonework. Inside is a carved Medieval stone (part of a 16th c gravestone) with images of a winged angel, hourglass and crossbones. To the left of the pulpit is an impressive and large stone monument dedicated to the memory of Lady Mary Keith, who died in her 5th year. It was built by her parents (George Keith, 5th Earl Marischal and Dame Margaret Ogilvie). It is dated 1620 and survives from the earlier church. To the west of the pulpit is another monument, dated 1690 and dedicated to Robert Scott by his wife. It again comes from the earlier building.  A bell, cast in 1820 and possibly a survivor of the old building, or brought from another church, is on display inside the church.


People / Organisations:

NameRoleDatesNotes
Rev. George HastieMinister of the church, conducted the last serviceJune 2004

Events:

  • Church built (1832)
  • Church closed (2004)

Archive References:

NameReferenceNotes
Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 0946
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: NO86NW 1
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 2813A-listed
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 36750

Bibliographic References:

NameAuthorDateNotes
The Ecclesiastical Architecture of ScotlandMacgibbon and Ross1896Vols. II and III
Benholm Church: a journey through the agesGraham Bruce1982
The architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation churchesG Hay1957
The Parishes of Medieval ScotlandI B Cowan1967p16
The Statistical Account of Scotland1791-9Vol. 15, p223-4
The New Statistical Account of Scotland1845Vol. 11, p56-7
Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae: The succession of ministers in the Church of Scotland from the ReformationH Scott et al (eds)1915-61Vol. 5, p454