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Kirkton of Leochel, St Marnoch's Church

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

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Latitude: 57.1752 / 57°10'30"N

Longitude: -2.7458 / 2°44'44"W

OS Eastings: 355006

OS Northings: 809625

OS Grid: NJ550096

Mapcode National: GBR WS.1X4Z

Mapcode Global: WH7MY.SXP8

Entry Name: Kirkton of Leochel, St Marnoch's Church

Scheduled Date: 23 March 2006

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM11398

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Ecclesiastical: church

Location: Leochel-Cushnie

County: Aberdeenshire

Electoral Ward: Huntly, Strathbogie and Howe of Alford

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire


The monument consists of the remains of the medieval parish church of Kirkton of Leochel.

Although it has been argued that a church here could have been founded in the 7th century by St Marnoch (to whom the later church was dedicated), the first certain reference to a church was in 1165-70, when it was granted by Gilchrist earl of Mar to Monymusk (which at that time was probably still home to the successors of a community of Culdees, but which became an Augustinian priory shortly afterwards).

The main body of the church, with dimensions of c. 17m E-W and 6m N-S is of the simple rectangular plan that was becoming normal for rural parish churches by the later 12th century, with the main focus of worship being an altar at the E end. Although only the rubble-built W gable wall survives to a significant height, the lower masonry of parts of the E wall is also evident. The W wall is now concealed by vegetation, but there appear to be the substantial remains of a bellcote at its apex; a bell of 1754, which presumably once hung in this bellcote, is now at Cushnie Church. In the lower part of the W wall is an elevated doorway with chamfered jambs, and with a rectangular window above it; these openings are likely to have been inserted after the Reformation to give access and light to a loft.

Near the mid-point of the N wall is a laird's aisle of approximately square plan, which would presumably have looked across to a centrally placed pulpit against the S wall. On the E side steps lead down to a burial vault. It cannot be ruled out that an offshoot of the scale and in the location of this aisle was first built as a medieval chantry chapel, though there is nothing now evident that could be certainly regarded as pre-Reformation. There is a doorway with chamfered jambs and lintel in its N wall, and traces of a window with chamfered reveals in the E wall.

The parish was formally united with that of Cushnie in 1795, although the church may have been abandoned for worship shortly before then, since there is a monument of c.1782 against the E wall. It was evidently largely demolished soon after abandonment. Because of this a wall was built across the S side of the laird's aisle, on its side towards the church, to allow the aisle to remain in use as a burial enclosure. That wall is pierced by a barred rectangular opening. It was presumably around the same time that a pair of massive sloping buttresses was built inside the W gable, which perhaps began to lean dangerously after the removal of the side walls of the church.

The area to be scheduled includes the footprint of the medieval church, together with the laird's aisle off its N side, and a strip of 2m around the exterior of those walls, as marked in red on the accompanying map extract

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument's significance can be characterised on the following criteria:

Intrinsic characteristics: Although only surviving in fragmentary state, it is possible to understand the broad outlines of this church's developmental sequence, from an oriented rectangle focused on an E altar, and against the flank of which a chantry chapel was possibly added, to a preaching box focused on a S pulpit facing across to a laird's aisle, and with a W bellcote.

Contextual characteristics: What remains of this church affords sufficient architectural, archaeological and statistical evidence to permit understanding of the planning of a modestly endowed rural church of medieval origin, and to locate it within the wider context of this class of buildings. As such, its typicalness is itself of significance for showing how universally acceptable this plan type had become, and also how adaptable it was to changed liturgical requirements after the Reformation.

Associative characteristics: The church has significance as the place of worship of the local community over six centuries from at least the late 12th century until the late 18th century, with the possibility that it may have been associated with worship from as early as the 7th century. It has additional significance as a continuing place of burial since its abandonment for worship.

National importance. The monument can be regarded as of national importance as a characteristic example of the type of unicameral rural parish church that became the norm over much of Scotland from the later twelfth century onwards, the only significant augmentation of which may have been a rectangular chantry chapel. It gains additional significance for the archaeological potential of a site that may have been associated with Christian worship from the 7th century, and also for the exisiting and potential evidence for its post-medieval adaptation to meet the needs of reformed worship, including the provision of a laird's aisle.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



The monument is recorded by RCAHMS as NJ50NE 4.


Cowan I B 1967, 'The parishes of medieval Scotland' SCOT REC SOC, Edinburgh, 130.

Scott H et al., FASTI ECCLESIAE SCOTICANAE, Edinburgh, 1915-61, Vol. 6, 134-6.

Simpson W D 1935, THE CELTIC CHURCH IN SCOTLAND, Aberdeen, 82.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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