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Insch Old Parish Church and associated memorials

A Scheduled Monument in West Garioch, Aberdeenshire

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Latitude: 57.3423 / 57°20'32"N

Longitude: -2.6106 / 2°36'38"W

OS Eastings: 363344

OS Northings: 828146

OS Grid: NJ633281

Mapcode National: GBR M9X9.W73

Mapcode Global: WH8NC.WQ04

Entry Name: Insch Old Parish Church and associated memorials

Scheduled Date: 27 November 1970

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3004

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Crosses and carved stones: tombstone; Ecclesiastical: church

Location: Insch

County: Aberdeenshire

Electoral Ward: West Garioch

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire


The monument consists of the W gable of the parish church of Insch and the site of the demolished parts of the church, together with two medieval memorials. The monument was scheduled in 1970 but an inadequate area was included; this re-scheduling corrects this.

The church's presumed dedication to St Drostan may indicate that the site had been associated with Christian worship from an early period, but it is likely that the basis for the later parish church was established during the early stages of the 12th/13th-century creation of the Scottish parochial network. The church was clearly in existence by the time that it was granted to Lindores Abbey in 1191x5 by the founder of that abbey, David earl of Huntingdon, and the provision for a vicar was confirmed in 1257.

In its final form, the medieval church was of rectangular plan, while an offshoot off the northern side of the chancel area shown on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey may have been a sacristy (although an offshoot in that position could also have been a chantry, laird's aisle or a burial enclosure). It remained in use through the Reformation period, albeit presumably with major liturgical re-ordering taking place at that time. A bellcote, dated 1613 (and with the initials MIL for a member of the Leslie family), was added at the apex of the W gable; its piers are decorated with enriched balusters, and it is capped with gablets embellished with pinnacles, volutes and finials. (The bell which used to hang here was dated 1706.) The inscription A[nno] R[edemptionis] 162- on the S skewput of the W gable suggests the addition of the bellcote was part of a larger programme of works, to which the rectangular doorway and pointed-arched window on the central axis of the gable perhaps also belonged.

The church was re-roofed in 1789 and re-seated in 1793, despite the fact that the walls were already showing signs of failure. The church was eventually replaced by a new building on a different site in 1886, after which all but the W gable with its bellcote, and short buttressing stretches of the N and S walls were demolished. However, the original extent of the church is known from its depiction on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey, and is still discernible from the terracing of the ground within the graveyard.

The gable was consolidated in 2004, at which time two medieval memorials were re-secured to the outer face of its base. One of these is a red sandstone ledger slab with a roll-moulded arris, now set vertically against the wall above a rubble plinth. It is incised with a disc-headed cross and the inscription 'ORATE PRO ANIMA RADULFI SACERDOTIS' (Pray for the soul of Ralph the priest). It has been suggested Ralph was a late 12th-century chaplain of the bishop of Aberdeen, and the style of the lettering would be consistent with such a date. It was found at a date before 1866 when a house N of the church was demolished. Attached to the N side of this stone and the plinth on which it rests is the mutilated upper part of a knightly effigy, which is probably of 15th-century date.

The area to be scheduled extends approximately 2m beyond the outer edge of the rectangular church and its N offshoot, as marked in red on the attached map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

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

INTRINSIC CHARACTERISTICS. Although the upstanding fabric is only partially preserved, our understanding of the final plan is sufficient to provide support for the view that rectangular plans were the norm for churches of parochial scale in north-eastern Scotland; Insch also appears to have had an augmentation to that plan in the form of an off-shoot which may have been a sacristy, a chantry chapel, a laird's aisle or a burial enclosure. The notably fine bellcote, which was carefully retained when the rest of the church was demolished, adds to our understanding of a type of feature which, although common throughout the whole of post-Reformation Scotland, tended to be given its greatest enrichment in the north-east.

CONTEXTUAL CHARACTERISTICS. The church can be understood as a characteristic example of medieval parish church planning, which adds significantly to the statistical basis for the assessment of the range of plan types. Of the surviving fabric, the finest feature is the bellcote, which is one of the outstanding examples of its type and provides an invaluable indicator of the decorative repertoire that might be applied to such features in this region.

ASSOCIATIVE CHARACTERISTICS. The role of lay patronage in the endowment, construction and maintenance of parish churches, both before and after the Reformation is illustrated by David earl of Huntingdon's decision to have the parsonage appropriated to his new monastic foundation of Lindores, and later by the evidently leading role taken by members of the Leslie family in the 17th-century rebuilding.

NATIONAL IMPORTANCE. The monument is of national importance both for its structural and its likely archaeological remains, each of which has the potential to enhance our understanding of the planning and liturgical arrangement of medieval parochial churches in north-eastern Scotland, particularly since an approximate terminus ant-quem for its initial construction is provided by the date of its appropriation. This importance is complemented by the evidence for the ways in which such churches might be adapted and remain in use for reformed worship. It gains additional significance from the preservation of the two medieval memorials now attached to its W wall, which offer a reminder of something of the range of memorials that would once have been housed in many such churches.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



The monument is recorded by RCAHMS as NJ62NW 20.


MacGibbon D and Ross T 1897, THE ECCLESIASTICAL ARCHITECTURE OF SCOTLAND, Edinburgh, Vol. 3.

Cowan I B 1967, THE PARISHES OF MEDIEVAL SCOTLAND, (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh.




Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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