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Fordyce, old church and burial ground

A Scheduled Monument in Banff and District, Aberdeenshire

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Latitude: 57.6623 / 57°39'44"N

Longitude: -2.7463 / 2°44'46"W

OS Eastings: 355572

OS Northings: 863850

OS Grid: NJ555638

Mapcode National: GBR M8LG.LNK

Mapcode Global: WH7KM.SNFV

Entry Name: Fordyce, old church and burial ground

Scheduled Date: 24 August 1959

Last Amended: 23 December 2004

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM352

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Ecclesiastical: church

Location: Fordyce

County: Aberdeenshire

Electoral Ward: Banff and District

Traditional County: Banffshire


The monument consists of the remains of the old parish church of Fordyce, situated within the village of Fordyce. It is believed to have been dedicated to St Tarlarican who was the supposed bishop of the area in the years around AD 600. The monument was first scheduled in 1959. On that occasion only the separate elements of the ruined structure were scheduled, omitting the site of the rest of the church. The monument is being rescheduled to include areas where remains may survive but which were not included in the original scheduling.

A church was established on this site before 1272, when the church at Fordyce was held in common by the canons of Aberdeen cathedral. The parish was extensive and the churches of Cullen, Deskford and Ordiquhill were pendicles of Fordyce. The village of Fordyce was raised to burghal status by Bishop Elphinstone of Aberdeen in 1499, with the market being held in the burial ground. John Abercrombie of Glassaugh was given permission by the Kirk Session and the Earl of Findlater to build a burial place in 1679 outside the church but 'foreagainst his own seetes'. The burial aisle still appears to survive. Between 1681 and 1684 a loft was built in the steeple house with a prison below on the first floor. The church was replaced by the present parish church in 1804.

The church consists of complex group of fragmentary remains. In its final form it must have been a very substantial building. The earliest church took the form of a narrow oblong with a porch projecting from the SW corner. Only the much altered chancel and porch now survive from the medieval period.

The chancel, which contains two very fine medieval mural tombs, was divided into two burial enclosures after the reformation. The E. enclosure contains the tomb of Sir James Ogilvie of Deskford d. 1509. which has a chest with an arcade of seven cusped and crocketed ogees, while the crocketed canopy has cusped cusping to its ogee arch, and the whole composition is framed by buttresses with shields at mid-height. It has a worn inscription on its cill. The tomb contains a recumbent effigy in armour with carved beast at its feet. This tomb almost certainty took its inspiration form the tomb built for Bishop John de Winchester (d. 1460) in Elgin cathedral. The W enclosure contains a similar but rather less complex tomb, built for Olgilvie of Findlater, and no longer houses an effigy.

The porch at the SW end of what would have been the nave, was later heightened as a three storey tower. The ground floor entrance porch has stone benches on either side. It is surmounted by a bellcote dated 1661. A forestair has been built up on the E side of the tower and bears an inscription with the date '1721'.

Other post-Reformation additions include the Abercrombie of Glassaugh aisle, a late 17th-century tall detached burial aisle with a small bellcote. It contains a fine marble memorial to General Abercrombie and is dated 1781. A second burial aisle, the Falconer of Durn aisle, lies to the east of the tower. Although seemingly a post-Reformation burial aisle, it appears to contain medieval fabric including an aumbry. It is possible that the structure was a later medieval chantry chapel, which was converted after the Reformation to serve as a private burial aisle.

The area to be scheduled includes the church and the old burial ground. It is defined by the boundary wall of the burial ground. The area is irregular with maximum dimensions of 56m E-W and 64m NNE-SSW as marked in red on the attached map. All modern burial lairs still in use and the boundary wall are excluded from the scheduling.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance as an example of a substantial medieval rural parish church, which underwent considerable alteration both before and after the Reformation. The two mural tombs within the chancel are extremely fine and the similarities between the tomb of James Ogilvie of Deskford and that of Bishop John de Winchester in Elgin Cathedral demonstrate the spread of artistic ideas from cultural centres such as the great provincial cathedrals out to their rural hinterland, through the actions of ecclesiastical and secular patrons. The monument is also important in demonstrating the structural changes made in response to new forms of worship after the Reformation, such as the addition of burial enclosures distinct from the church itself. The church lies within the unspoiled 18th century village of the Fordyce adjacent to Fordyce Castle. The surroundings of the church do much accentuate the aesthetic qualities of the remains.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as NJ56SE 1.


Cramond W 1912, The church at Fordyce.

Jervise A 1875-9, Epitaphs and inscriptions from burial grounds and old buildings in the north-east of Scotland with historical, biographical, genealogical and antiquarian notes, 2v, Edinburgh, vol. 2, 100-7, 422-3.

Knight G A F 1933, Archaeological light on the early christianising of Scotland, 2 vols, London, Vol. 2, 101.

OSA 1791-9, The statistical account of Scotland, drawn up from the communications of the ministers of the different parishes, Sinclair, J (Sir), Edinburgh, Vol. 3, 63.

RCAHMS 1996, Tolbooths and town-houses: civic architecture in Scotland to 1833, Edinburgh, 209.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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