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St John's church and Tower of Deskford, Deskford

A Scheduled Monument in Keith and Cullen, Moray

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Latitude: 57.6422 / 57°38'31"N

Longitude: -2.8243 / 2°49'27"W

OS Eastings: 350890

OS Northings: 861662

OS Grid: NJ508616

Mapcode National: GBR M8DJ.6XG

Mapcode Global: WH7KS.L59R

Entry Name: St John's church and Tower of Deskford, Deskford

Scheduled Date: 15 December 1934

Last Amended: 24 April 2018

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM90095

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Ecclesiastical: church

Location: Deskford

County: Moray

Electoral Ward: Keith and Cullen

Traditional County: Banffshire


The monument comprises the church, sacrament house and tower at Deskford. The church was first scheduled in 1934, and was taken into the guardianship of the state in 1938. The burial ground comprises a grade A listed building. This scheduling extends the protected area to include the whole of the church, sacrament house and tower.

The chapel of St John in Deskford is first recorded in 1541, when it was rebuilt. It is described as a church in 1545. When a new parish church was built in 1872, the old church was unroofed and its walls consolidated with cement. The church has the form of an elongated rectangle, measuring 20m by 7.7m overall, with walls 0.9m-1.2m thick. Although the roof has gone, the walls survive to their full height, and the west gable is topped by a crude open bell-cote. To judge by the series of openings in the S wall, the building has gone through a number of phases of alteration. The ground level has also been raised by 0.6m-0.9m, probably when the building was unroofed.

Among the features surviving from the 16th-century church may be noted a blocked window in the S wall of the sanctuary; this has a splayed segmental rear-arch defined by a thick roll on its interior arris. Also in the S wall are two partially recessed water stoops with ogee-arched heads. After the Reformation, two plain lintelled doorways were formed in the S wall, and others in the N; and a laird's loft in timber was inserted in the E end, reached by an external stair (now gone) and a door high in the E gable.

The Tower of Deskford seems formerly to have been attached to the N wall of the church, but the part abutting the church has now been cut away. This probably occurred when the church was unroofed and its walls consolidated in 1872. Although in the 1790s the tower stood three storeys high, with a garret, now only the remains of the vaulted ground floor survive. This was enclosed by a groin vault, with a newel stair in the SW corner.

The most significant feature of the church is the elaborately carved sacrament house in the N wall of the sanctuary. This appears to have been damaged when the laird's loft was inserted in the church after the Reformation, and then to have been placed higher up the wall when the ground inside the church was raised. It is 2.45m high and 1.06m wide, and comprises three registers enclosed by a vine-scroll border flanked by rectangular pilasters, supported on scalloped corbels with their pinnacles missing. The upper register contains two angels supporting a monstrance. In the middle register is the aumbry itself, enclosed by another vine scroll. Above it are two scrolls bearing the inscription: OS.MEVM.ES.ET.CARA.MEA. Below the aumbry is written: 'Ego sum panis vivus qui de celo descendi quis manducaverit ex hoc pane vivet in aeternum'. In the lower register are two shields. The first contains the arms of Ogilvie of Deskford and Findlater with the motto, TOVT JOUR, flanked by the initials A.O. The other contains the same arms impaled with those of Gordon, with the motto, LAVS DEO, for Ogilvie's second wife, Elizabeth Gordon. Below these is the inscription: THIS . P(rese)NT . LOVEBLE . VARK . OF . SACRAME(n)T . HOVS . MAID . TO . YE . HONOR + LOVI(n)G . OF . GOD . BE . ANE . NOBLE . MAN . ALEXANDER . OGILVY . OF . YAT . ILK + ELEZABET . GORDON . HIS . SPOUS . THE . ZEIR . OF . GOD . 1551.

Various other 17th- and 18th-century grave stones and memorials are attached to the church's wall, including that of Mr. Walter Ogilvy, minister of the parish, who died in 1658, and others dated 1613 and 1717.

The scheduled area comprises the church, the remains of the Tower of Deskford and an area of ground within and extending 2m out from their walls, forming an overall area of ground measuring some 24m E-W by 15m N-S, as shown in red on the accompanying revised map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

As part of the Dual Designation project, we have reviewed the structures at this site and concluded that scheduling is the most appropriate mechanism to recognise the national importance of St John's Church and Tower of Deskford, Deskford.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland


No Bibliography entries for this designation

Historic Environment Scotland Properties
Deskford Church
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Related Designations

Old Church of St John, burial ground excluding scheduled monument SM90095, Kirkton of DeskfordLB2209
Designation TypeListed Building (A)StatusDesignated


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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