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Forbes Church and burial ground

A Scheduled Monument in Huntly, Strathbogie and Howe of Alford, Aberdeenshire

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Latitude: 57.2404 / 57°14'25"N

Longitude: -2.7981 / 2°47'53"W

OS Eastings: 351925

OS Northings: 816909

OS Grid: NJ519169

Mapcode National: GBR M9GL.6WN

Mapcode Global: WH7MQ.Z8QT

Entry Name: Forbes Church and burial ground

Scheduled Date: 29 October 2003

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM11011

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Ecclesiastical: church

Location: Tullynessle and Forbes

County: Aberdeenshire

Electoral Ward: Huntly, Strathbogie and Howe of Alford

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire


The monument comprises the remains of Forbes Church, also known as the old parish church of Forbes, and its walled burial ground.

The monument is situated at the mouth of Glen of Brux where it begins to open out onto the Howe of Alford. It sits on the E bank of a sweeping bend of the River Don, amongst fertile haughs, which in turn are almost completely enclosed by hills. The parish of Forbes is believed to date from the 13th century with a dedicated to the nine maiden of St Donald, and appears to have taken its appellation from the Forbes family.

It is first documented in 1325 when the church and its dependent chapel of Kearn were erected as a prebend of Aberdeen Cathedral by Bishop Henry le Chen. Both parsonage and vicarage were annexed, the patronage remaining with the lords of Forbes, while the cure was evidently a vicarage pensionary. The church went out of use in 1808 when the parish merged with Tullynessle; the church was reportedly in a bad state of repair before it was abandoned. In 1907 the shell of the church was stabilised.

The church, is a simple rectangular building, measuring 11.8m E-W by 4.6m transversely within walls 0.8m thick. This simple plan suggests that the building may have its origins in the 13th century, although subsequently altered at different periods with changes to the door and windows, the addition of crow-stepped gables and an internal gallery.

The building is roofless, but stands intact to its wall heads, which have been coped with large flat flags, probably during the 1907 repairs. The walls are rubble-built with extensive remains of render, although the N wall has been heavily repointed with cement, again probably in 1907. Both gables are crow-stepped and the skew-puts have a simple caveto-moulding. The gables were finished with a finial, and the W finial still survives, although it now lies on the wallhead at the foot of the gable.

The structure has a door with chamfered freestone jambs towards the W end of the S wall. The lintel is reused from a window, and bears a broad chamfer on both its inner and outer edges. Two worn steps descend to the interior. In the S wall there are two small rectangular-headed windows, splayed internally, with chamfered jambs grooved for glazing, and plain sills. Iron bars have been fitted externally in each window, but only those in the E window remain.

In the E gable there is a large blocked opening and a blocked doorway; the window has an external rectangular head, which internally has a shallow arch and splayed jambs. The doorway below the window is largely robbed out and is visible only in the outer face of the wall. It was reported that before the repairs of 1907, the traces of an external stair, serving an internal gallery, were visible on the E gable.

Within the interior, towards the E end of the N wall, there is a robbed out tomb recess. Between this and the E gable is a small, plain, aumbry. The location of the tomb recess and the aumbry suggests that the former may have served as an Easter Sepulchre, while the latter may have been a sacrament house.

The kirkyard is octagonal on plan and enclosed by a mortared rubble dyke. Extending around the inner face of the dyke is a bank; this bank reflects the facets of the dyke, and in its present form post-dates it.

The area to be scheduled includes the remains of the chapel, the burial ground and the enclosing wall. The area is an octagon in shape and is defined by the boundary wall (which is included in the scheduling) of the burial ground. The area has maximum dimensions of 34m N-S and 35 transversely as marked in red on the attached map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance as a very well preserved example of a medieval parish church, the origins of which appear to date from the 13th century. The fabric of the church has been altered throughout the period it was in use, reflecting changing forms of worship and architectural styles.

The aumbry, if it is a robbed out sacrament house, in conjunction with the tomb recess, places Forbes Church within a group of NE churches where such features are also present. In the NE of Scotland the endowment of a church with an elaborate sacrament house was a particularly popular expression of lay devotion in the late medieval period. As the patronage of church lay with the Forbes family, it is probable that they endowed Forbes Church as their dynastic church and burial place.

The crow-step treatment of the gables was a late medieval alteration, reflecting current architectural styles, while the presence of an upper doorway to an internal gallery indicates post-Reformation alterations to the internal arrangements of the church, due to changes in the form of worship. The idyllic surrounding in which the church sits does much accentuate its aesthetic qualities.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as NJ51NE 8.


Cowan I B (1967) THE PARISHES OF MEDIEVAL SCOTLAND, Scot Rec Soc 93, Edinburgh, 67.


Simpson W D (1949) THE EARLDOM OF MAR: BEING A SEQUEL TO 'THE PROVINCE OF MAR' 1943, Aberdeen, 36.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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