Weem Parish Church

Weem Old Church, exterior, from south east

Summary description

Although all of the visible features of the present T-shaped church are datable to the early seventeenth century, it is highly likely that it is an essentially medieval structure that has been augmented and remodelled.

Historical outline

Dedication: unknown

The church at Weem first appears in a surviving documentary record in 1274 when it was listed as a free parsonage in Bagimond’s Roll.(1) The patronage of the church was exercised down to the fourteenth century by the earls of Atholl and was seemingly reserved to them in c.1300 when the lands of Weem were granted to the Menzieses. Control of the patronage of the church, however, was disputed between the Menzies lords of Weem and the Stewart earls of Atholl in the fifteenth century. In 1444, for example, David Menzies was named as rector and may have been an appointee of his head of kin,(2) but in 1456 John Stewart, earl of Atholl, presented his candidate, sir Gavin Brady vicar of Saline, to the parsonage following Menzies’ resignation.(3) In 1464, however, the earl gave up his right to the patronage in the form of a formal grant to John Menzies of Weem, made ostensibly for ‘for true affection and cordial love, and also for his good service offered’ but probably in truth to end a potentially damaging contest.(4) Although the church remained unappropriated at the Reformation its rector was apparently an absentee and the cure was served by a vicar pensionary who received one third of the fruits of the parish.(5)

There is a Menzies family tradition, apparently of only nineteenth-century origin, that the burial-place of the leading members of the kindred was Inchaiden. It is clear from the mid-sixteenth-century Chronicle of Fortingall, however, an account primarily of events local to the country between Glen Orchy and Strath Tummel, that the Menzies family were buried at Weem from at least the 1500s and probably before.(6)


1. SHS Misc, vi, 47, 73.

2. CSSR, iv, no 1023.

3.NAS GD112/51/122 Nos 1 and 2.

4. RMS, ii, no 783.

5. Kirk (ed.), Book of Assumptions, 318; Donaldson (ed.), Thirds of Benefices, 90, where the vicar pensionar is named as John Duncanson.

6. Black Book of Taymouth, 118, 119, 122, 126.

Architectural analysis

Possible evidence for Early Christian activity has been postulated on the basis of what is thought to have been a section of an early Christian cross slab re-used as the doorway lintel of a cottage in the village. The two early stone crosses preserved within the church were brought here from Dull Church, however.

The Church is a T-shaped structure with a main body that is 20.52 metres from east to west and 7.2 metres from north to south. The north aisle, which is very slightly to the east of the central north-south axis, measures 7.04 metres from east to west and 6.2 metres from north to south. The main front of the church faces south, and is pierced by two rectangular doorways, one towards the west end, and the other to the east of the centre point; between the two doorways are two large rectangular windows, and there is a small square window to the east of the eastern doorway. In each of the two gable walls is a pointed window, though slight changes in the masonry suggest that the window heads represent a later modification. In the north aisle there is a window in the west wall and a blocked doorway in the east wall. Above the west gable is a birdcage bellcote. Apart from the east doorway in the north aisle, all of the openings are framed externally by narrow quirked rolls around their jambs and lintels or arched heads, but the fact that the sills of the two large windows in the south wall are clearly re-used roll-moulded stones demonstrates that at least some of these stones are either in secondary use or that the openings have been modified at some stage.

Internally it may be noted that the small window towards the east end of the south wall has a stone lintel, whereas all of the other windows have timber safe lintels through the thickness of the wall. On the evidence of cut-back joists it can be seen that the north aisle had an upper floor, and there was a fireplace in its north wall; it was presumably here that members of the Menzies family were seated during worship after the Reformation. There is also evidence for a narrow gallery at the west end of the main space, and there would have been another at the east end.

Externally the church now has the appearance of being entirely a structure of the early seventeenth century, and of having been built under the patronage of the family that lived in nearby Castle Menzies and had established its rights of patronage in the church by 1464. An armorial lintel over the south-east doorway bears the date 1609 with the initials of Alexander Menzies and his third wife, Marjorie Campbell, and the same initials are placed over the south-west doorway, while the south skewputt of the west gable has Alexander’s initials and the date 1614. Alexander also installed against the north wall of the eastern arm of the building an extraordinarily ambitious mural monument to his family, which is dated 24 January 1616 and proudly proclaims his family’s ancestry and connections. The close concern of members of the Menzies family in the church is further indicated by the initials on an aumbry in the south wall of Duncan Menzies and Jean Leslie, who married in 1623. According to the entry in the Statistical Account published in 1794 there were further works in 1752, and it may be that modifications to the windows were part of that phase of work.

Despite the superficial appearance of a post-Reformation date of construction indicated by the mouldings of the doorways and windows, as well as by the inscriptions on doorways and skewputt, it may be seen that the plan of the church’s main body is longer and narrower than might be deemed best practice in a post-Reformation church. Beyond that, the asymmetrical arrangement of the two doorways is more what would be expected in a church requiring the provision of separate access to the chancel for the clergy and to the nave for layfolk. (Indeed, it seems that initially the ‘chancel’ doorway may have been a little further east, since internally there is a vertical break a short way to its east, while the embrasure on that side has a re-used roll-moulded stone.)

Taking account of the medieval history of the parish and the orientation of the building, there is therefore much to suggest that the church is a basically medieval structure that has undergone a relatively superficial remodelling in 1609-14, at which time the north lateral aisle was presumably also added.

The church passed out of use for worship in 1836, when it was adapted as a family mausoleum for the Menzies family, a function it had in fact been serving together with that of a place of worship since at least the early seventeenth century. By the later nineteenth century it had fallen into disrepair, and it was eventually re-roofed and brought back into a sound condition in 1936. The church that was built to replace it in 1835 has now itself been lost, and the present parish church, located a short distance to the east of the old church, is a building that was originally erected in 1878 for an Episcopal congregation.


Bowie, W., 1855, The black book of Taymouth, ed. C. Innes, Edinburgh, 118, 119, 122, 126.

Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1433-47, 1983, ed. A.I. Dunlop and D MacLauchlan, Glasgow, no 1023.

Cowan, I.B., 1967, The parishes of medieval Scotland, (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh, 207.

Dewar, A.D., 1969, ‘The Old Kirk of Weem, Scottish Field, cxvi, 34-6.

Discovery and Excavation Scotland, 1992, 78.

Donaldson, G. 1949, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, (Scottish History Society), Edinburgh, 90.

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 47, 73.

Gifford, J., 2007, The Buildings of Scotland, Perth and Kinross, New Haven and London, 742-4.

Hay, G., 1957, The architecture of Scottish post-Reformation churches, Oxford, 54, 208, 218, 270.

Kirk, J., 1995, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, (British Academy) Oxford, 318.

MacGibbon, D. and Ross, T., 1896-7, The ecclesiastical architecture of Scotland, Edinburgh, iii (1897), 619-22.

New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1845, Edinburgh and London, x, 709. 

Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum, 1882, Edinburgh, ii (1424-1513), no 783.

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

Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-9, ed. J. Sinclair, Edinburgh, xii, 138-9.



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

  • 1. Weem Old Church, exterior, from south east

  • 2. Weem, present parish church

  • 3. Weem Churchyard monument

  • 4. Weem Churchyard, cross

  • 5. Weem Church, interior, cross from Dull 2

  • 6. Weem Church, interior, cross from Dull 1

  • 7. Weem Old Church, plan (MacGibbon and Ross)

  • 8. Weem Old Church, interior, Menzies monument

  • 9. Weem Old Church, interior south wall, aumbry 2

  • 10. Weem Old Church, interior south wall, aumbry 1

  • 11. Weem Old Church, interior, east wall, south end, aumbry

  • 12. Weem Old Church, interior, east wall, north end, aumbry

  • 13. Weem Old Church, interior, looking east

  • 14. Weem Old Church, exterior, south west skewputt

  • 15. Weem Old Church, exterior, south wall, west door lintel

  • 16. Weem Old Church, exterior, south wall, east door lintel

  • 17. Weem Old Church, exterior, from north east

  • 18. Weem Old Church, exterior, west gable

  • 19. Weem Old Church, exterior, from north west