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Menmuir Parish Church

Menmuir Church, exterior, from north east

Summary description

The present church dates from 1842, replacing a church built in 1767, both of which are believed to be on the site of the medieval parish church.

Historical outline

Dedication: unknown/St Aidan

Although portions of Pictish sculpture found in the graveyard at Menmuir indicate an early origin for this church, it does not appear in surviving documentary records until the later thirteenth century. The first record of the church is in Bagimond’s Roll, where it was noted as already having been annexed to a prebend in Dunkeld cathedral.(1) A vicarage of Menmuir is first recorded in 1413, when Donald MacNaughton, canon of Dunkeld, secured papal confirmation of provision of the death of John Houl, late vicar.(2) This appears to have been a vicarage perpetual and the parsonage revenues only had been annexed to the prebend, but this is not confirmed by surviving records until the sixteenth century. At the Reformation, the parsonage remained annexed to the prebend in Dunkeld cathedral while the cure was served by a vicar.(3)


1. SHS Misc, vi, 74.

2. CPL, Benedict XIII, 271-2.

3. Kirk (ed.), Book of Assumptions, 374-5, 397.

Architectural analysis

Early carved stones of various kinds have been found within the vicinity of the church, three of which bear crosses. Two of these stones were found in the course of dismantling the churchyard wall at a date before 1844, while others were found in the manse garden in 1944; all are now displayed in the Pictavia Pictish Heritage Centre at Brechin.

The existing rectangular church was built in 1842, and is said to have replaced  building erected in 1767; it is no longer serving an ecclesiastical function, being currently used as a store.

There are indications that the church is on the site of its immediate predecessors, and, since the building is oriented, it may also be suspected that it is on the site of the medieval church. The chief evidence for its being on the site of earlier buildings is its relationship with the Carnegy Arbuthnott burial ground on the north side of the church. This is now an open enclosure, with a high wall on the east, a dwarf wall and fence on the north and west, and the church itself on the south. However, the area of the church wall towards the burial ground is of less regularly coursed masonry than the rest of the church, and there are traces of a gabled upper profile to that masonry, which together suggest that the area within the burial ground was originally a fully enclosed and roofed lateral aisle. An approximate date for the construction of the aisle is suggested by a heraldic stone set into the church wall which bears the date 1639. 

It is also significant that this part of the church’s north wall is carried on a segmental arch that is fully visible externally, and partly visible internally where the lath and plaster has been stripped. The need for such an arch suggests that the wall has been built over ground that is not firm, and a common reason for such provision is the existence of a subterranean burial vault. This could perhaps also indicate that the north wall of the church is further north than its predecessors, with the implication that the church has been widened, presumably to create a space more appropriate for preaching. If that is the case, the earlier proportions of the church would have been closer to what might be expected in a medieval building.

Re-located in the south wall of the church is a memorial to members of the Fairweather family which incorporates a gablet dated 1717.

In the valley to the south of the church is the site of St Aidan’s well, the waters of which were said to be effective in the treatment of asthma and diseases of the skin.


Allen, J.R. and Anderson, J., 1903, The Early Christian Monuments of Scotland, Edinburgh, pt 3, 263-5.

Atkinson, N., 1995, ‘Menmuir Church, Early Christian cross slabs’, Discovery and Excavation Scotland, 94.

Calendar of Papal letters to Scotland of Benedict XIII of Avignon, 1976, ed. F. McGurk, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh, 271-2.

Cowan, I.B., 1967, The parishes of medieval Scotland, (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh, 146.

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 74.

Hay, G., 1957, The architecture of Scottish post-Reformation churches, Oxford, 246.

Jervise, A., 1882, The history and traditions of the land of the Lindsays in Angus and the Mearns, Edinburgh, 303-4.

Kirk, J., 1995, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, (British Academy) Oxford, 374-5, 397.

New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1845, Edinburgh and London, xi (Forfar), 658.

Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Canmore database.

Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-9, ed. J. Sinclair, Edinburgh, v (1793), 150

Warden, A.J., 1880-5, Angus or Forfarshire, the land and people, historical and descriptive, Dundee, iv, 351-2, 362.



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

  • 1. Menmuir Church, exterior, from north east

  • 2. Menmuir Church, interior, Carnegy Arbuthnott Aisle internal relieving arch

  • 3. Menmuir Church, interior looking west

  • 4. Menmuir Church, interior looking east

  • 5. Menmuir Church, exterior Fairweather Memorial

  • 6. Menmuir Church, interior, Carnegy Arbuthnott Aisle 2

  • 7. Menmuir Church, exterior, Carnegy Arbuthnott Aisle 1