Arbuthnott Church History


The fact that there was a Church (or 'Kirk') at Arbuthnott is established through surviving documents that relate the long dispute that arose between the Thanes of Arbuthnott and successive Bishops of St. Andrews.  There has been a long-standing close association between the Church, the land and its people and their daily lives. Arbuthnott was developing as an agricultural community in the latter part of the 12th century and the close tie between the eldership of the Church and the agricultural community can still be seen in all Kirk affairs today.


The chancel is the earliest part of the building.  It is built in the early English style and is lit by five small lancet windows and contains a piscina under the eastmost south lancet. The lancet windows and the top part of the east gable have been considerably altered.  From earliest times the chancel served as a burial place for the Norman family of Allardyce to whom the lands of Allardyce were granted in 1165, or thereabouts.   The first nave was built soon after the chancel and then rebuilt on the eve of the Reformation. The existing bell tower at the west end of the nave and the Lady Chapel, otherwise the Arbuthnott Aisle, was constructed by Sir Robert Arbuthnott of that Ilk around the year 1500.  


At the Reformation, Alexander, the first Protestant minister of the church was a member of the Arbuthnott family, whose memorial stone is seen in the north wall of the church close to the pulpit.  He later became the first protestant Principal of King's College, Aberdeen, and was Moderator of the General Assembly.  The other large plaque in the north wall above the centre of the nave is a memorial to another Sibbald, John, of Kair, who was the minister of the Parish in the middle of the 17th century.  It was he who gave a library to the church which was for many years housed in the upper part of the Arbuthnott Aisle.


Towards the middle of the 18th and into the 19th century the structure of the Church became decayed. The nave was restored in the middle of the 19th century when galleries were added to three sides and the pulpit was set against the south wall.  In 1890 fire destroyed the greater part of the nave and another restoration, which included the re-roofing of the chancel, was carried out by the architect Marshall Mackenzie of Aberdeen.  It may have been at this time that the lancet windows were altered.


In the mid-20th century, further attention was given to the church and heating was installed.  The outside of the church and Aisle were pointed and the care of the graveyard became the responsibility of the Local Authority. Outside the church, to the west, a slight depression in the churchyard marks the original boundary of the burial ground.  Beyond this depression and to the west stood the original school of Arbuthnott, which building was demolished about the year 1920.


Arbuthnott Church was linked to Kinneff before joining with Bervie.


Taken from ‘The Kirk of Saint Ternan Arbuthnott.’


The building used by Arbuthnott Church is one of the few pre-reformation structures in rural Scotland still in use for regular Sunday Worship. There is every indication that a church existed on the present site before the chancel was dedicated on 3rd August A.D. 1242 by the David de Bernham, Bishop of St. Andrews.


The Parish of Arbuthnott was brought into being as a result of the Norman influence that pervaded all Scottish affairs during the reigns of Queen Margaret and her sons.