Tibbermore Parish Church

Tibbermore Church, exterior, from south

Summary description

The church is a T-plan structure, the present form of which dates largely from 1632 and 1810. It appears inherently likely, however, that it embodies much of the shell of its medieval predecessor.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Mary

Tradition recorded by Alexander Myln in the early sixteenth century suggests that the parish of Tibbermore may have originally formed the southern portion of the parish of Pitcairn and that the church of St Mary began as an oratory attached to the bishop of Dunkeld’s manor-house at Tibbermore.(1) The chapel appears to have been in existence by c.1200, when Robert and Peter, chaplains of Tibbermore, witnessed a charter of Bishop John of Dunkeld to the monastery of Inchaffray.(2) It had evidently attained full parochial status in the thirteenth century but the parsonage had probably been annexed from the first to the episcopal mensa, as only a vicarage is recorded in Bagimond’s Roll in 1274.(3) In 1418, Henry Ogilvy was described as rector of Tibbermore in a papal letter, but this appears to be an error, as in subsequent correspondence he is styled perpetual vicar.(4) It is, however, only in the sixteenth century that its status as a mensal church is confirmed in the surviving record, at which time the cure was still a vicarage perpetual.(5)

The mensal status of the church is also confirmed by Bishop Brown’s repairs to the building in the early 1500s. The Granitar’s accounts for 9 November 1507 to 7 April 1508 record payment of 18s 11d for unspecified repairs to the choir. Between December 1509 and April 1510 substantial work was undertaken on the east gable, recorded in a payment of £10 to the carpenter John Fendour. Finally, between April 1513 and January 1514, a further 18d was disbursed on unspecified repairs.(6)

In addition to the close relationship between the bishops of Dunkeld and the church of Tibbermore, the lords Ruthven, resident at nearby Huntingtower or Ruthven Castle, were important patrons of the church. In July 1509, King James IV confirmed at mortmain the charters of William, lord Ruthven, establishing two endowed chaplainries, one in the chapel of St Peter at Ruthven, the other in the chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary ‘founded within the cemetery of Tibbermore’.(7) In January 1533/4, King James V granted mortmain confirmations of further charters by William, lord Ruthven, endowing two chaplainries founded in 1533 by sir James Cuthbertson, priest, one in honour of St Cuthbert and the other in honour of St James the Great and St Ninian, within the church of Tibbermore. Cuthbertson was to serve as first holder of the chaplainry of St Cuthbert, with sir David Wilson as first chaplain at the altar of St James and St Ninian.(8) In 1565, Patrick, lord Ruthven, was confirmed in possession of the advowson and gift of the chaplainries at Ruthven and in Tibbermore.(9)


1. Myln, Vitae, 44.

2. Inchaffray Liber, no  VII.

3. SHS Misc, vi, 48.

4. CPL, Benedict XIII, 369; CSSR, ii, 81, 96-7.

5. Rentale Dunkeldense, 9; RSS, iv, nos 1830, 1831.

6. Rentale Dunkeldense, 207, 213, 231.

7. RMS, ii, no 3357.

8. RMS, iii, no 1341

9. RSS, v, no 2020.

Architectural description

Of particular interest in the accounts for Bishop Brown’s work between 1507 and 1514 are payments of £10 for carpentry work to John Fendour, who was presumably the same wright who carried out major works at the cathedral and St Nicholas’ parish church in Aberdeen. The extent of Bishop Brown’s involvement in works at Tibbermore is also indicated by the fact that its bell, which is now in Perth Museum, bears his arms.

Despite the fact that its current appearance is largely post-medieval, there seems little reason to doubt that the church is essentially a remodelled medieval building. Its dimensions of 8.13 metres from north to south and of 19.75 metres from east to west would be consistent with those of a medieval building, allowing for the fact that it is said to have been extended eastwards by about three metres in 1789. It is also oriented, although the axis is closer to east-north-east to west-south-west than strictly east to west. It may also be mentioned that the significant numbers of eighteenth-century memorials within the churchyard make clear that this was the long-established location of a burial place, and presumably also of a church.

There appears to have been a first remodelling of the church in the 1630s, perhaps to make it conform more closely with the liturgical ideas advocated in the time of Charles I. The author of the entry on the parish in the New Statistical Account of 1845 gave the date of the church as 1632, and that date is inscribed on the west side of the bellcote, while a monument to the family of Sir James Murray of Tibbermore was erected in 1631. It is likely, however, that the works carried out in the 1630s involved the remodelling of an existing building rather than a fresh construction.

The author of the entry in the Statistical Account of 1796 stated that the church was then an old building that had lately been repaired and made more convenient. This was in reference to major works carried out in 1789 by the mason Andrew Preston and the wright James Miller, when it seems that the chancel was rebuilt and extended by about three metres, with its north and south walls being realigned so that they are extensions of those of the nave. While that is particularly unfortunate for our understanding of the medieval fabric, since the chancel as remodelled in 1507-14 was the product of one of the few relatively closely documented medieval parochial building operations in the study area, the work resulted in the regularity of appearance so highly favoured in the eighteenth century, and it offers an interesting illustration of how that might be achieved. The present regular fenestration of two large rectangular windows towards the centre of the south front, with two small windows below the galleries at each end presumably dates from these operations. The extent of the rebuilding at the east end is detectable in a very slight change of texture visible below the surface render of the south wall, and in the differences between the east gable, which has straight skews, and the west gable, which is crowstepped.

Further modifications were made when a north aisle, with an unusual raking floor, was built in 1808-10 to accommodate the workers of the Ruthven Printfield Company. The way in which the Murray of Tibbermore memorial is set into the east wall of the aisle at its junction with the eastern limb of the church may suggest that there had been an earlier laird’s aisle in this position. It is perhaps more likely, however, that it was simply relocated from the section of wall that had to be demolished in order to create an opening into the aisle. The external east wall of the aisle incorporates at least one re-used stone of possibly medieval date. The bellcote was evidently reconstructed at this time, since it is inscribed with the date 1808 on its south face. Later additions included porches and a session house, and there was an internal re-ordering in 1874.

The church passed out of use for worship in 1986, and since 2001 has been in the care of the Scottish Redundant Churches Trust.


Calendar of Papal letters to Scotland of Benedict XIII of Avignon, 1976, ed. F. McGurk, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh, 369.

Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1423-28, 1956, ed. A.I. Dunlop, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh, 81, 96-7.

Charters, Bulls and other Documents relating to the Abbey of Inchaffray, 1908, (Scottish History Society), Edinburgh, no VII.

Cowan, I.B., 1967, The parishes of medieval Scotland, (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh, 197.

Dunlop, A.I., 1939, ‘Bagimond’s Roll, statement of the tenths of the kingdom of Scotland’ Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vi, 1-77, at 48.

Gifford, J., 2007, The Buildings of Scotland, Perth and Kinross, New Haven and London, 732-3.

Hay, G., 1957, The architecture of Scottish post-Reformation churches, Oxford, 43, 168, 270.

New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1845, Edinburgh and London, x, 1036.

Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum, 1882, Edinburgh, ii (1424-1513), no 3357. 

Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum, 1883, Edinburgh, iii (1513-46), no 1341.

Registrum Secreti Sigilli Regum Scotorum, 1908-82, ed. J.M. Thomson et al., Edinburgh,iv, no 1830, 1831.

Registrum Secreti Sigilli Regum Scotorum, 1908-82, ed. J.M. Thomson et al., Edinburgh, v, no 2020.

Rentale Dunkeldense, 1915, ed. R.K. Hannay, (Scottish History Society), Edinburgh, 9, 207, 213, 231.

Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-9, ed. J. Sinclair, Edinburgh, xvii (1796), 640.

Vitae Dunkeldensis Ecclesiae Episcoporum…Ad Annum Mdxv, 1823, ed. T. Thomson, (Bannatyne Club), Edinburgh, 44.



Click on any thumbnail to open the image gallery and slideshow.

  • 1. Tibbermore Church, exterior, from south

  • 2. Tibbermore Churchyard, monument 2

  • 3. Tibbermore Churchyard, monument 1

  • 4. Tibbermore Church, interior, arms above Murray of Tibbermore memorial

  • 5. Tibbermore Church, interior, N aisle, Murray of tibbermore memorial

  • 6. Tibbermore Church, interior, looking west

  • 7. Tibbermore Church, exterior, north aisle, re-set stone in east face

  • 8. Tibbermore Church, exterior, bellcote, date on west face

  • 9. Tibbermore Church, exterior, bellcote, date on south face

  • 10. Tibbermore Church,exterior, from east

  • 11. Tibbermore Church, exterior, from south west