Bendochy Parish Church

Bendochy Church, exterior, from south west

Summary description

The church is a basically rectangular structure with an offshoot projecting from the north flank that now serves as a vestry. In 1885 the building was Gothicised by the addition of shallow transeptal offshoots towards the east end of each flank, a south porch, and a bellcote at the west end 

Historical outline

Dedication: unknown

The first reference to the church of Bendochy occurs in the early thirteenth century when it appears that Bishop Hugh de Prebenda of Dunkeld (1214-29) confirmed its possession by the monks of Dunfermline. Litigation with the monks of Coupar Angus seems to have followed swiftly after this (c.1220) but a composition was agreed.(1) By that settlement, Coupar Angus was to hold the church from Dunfermline at a rental of two and a half merks per annum. Appropriation to Coupar Angus appears to have been confirmed shortly thereafter, the church appearing in Bagimond’s Roll for the first year of the taxation only, but with no tax collected, and not being listed subsequently.(2) At the Reformation, Coupar Angus still possessed the church, while the cure was served by a vicarage pensionary.(3) In the Book of Assumptions of Thirds of Benefices, it was noted that the vicarage was ‘furth of use and ungettable’ and was accounted in the abbey’s rental at £24.(4)


1. Dunfermline Registrum, nos 128, 217; Coupar Angus Charters, nos xxxii, xxxiii.

2. SHS Misc, vi, 48.

3. Kirk (ed.), Book of Assumptions, 355.

4. Kirk (ed.), Book of Assumptions, 410.

Architectural analysis

The core of the parish church is an oriented rectangular structure of 25.17 metres from east to west and 8.13 metres from north to south. Drawings made of it before restoration to the designs of Alexander Johnson in 1885 show it to have had three rectangular windows along the south flank, with a rectangular doorway towards each end of that flank. There was probably a similar number of windows along the north flank, and a single window in the west wall; it is not known if there were any windows in the east wall at that stage. A simple birdcage bellcote rose above the west gable. All of the openings appear to have been framed by slender quirked roll mouldings, which have been retained for the jambs of the two surviving - and less readily observed - windows on the north flank, albeit below later trifoliate window heads. There is known to be a window rear-arch of segmental form within the roof space above the flat plastered ceiling; its precise position could not be verified since the roof space is inaccessible, though photographs appear to indicate that it is within one of the gable walls, and the west wall is perhaps the more likely location.

The droved tooling of the roll-moulded window jambs in the north wall points to a date not before the early seventeenth century for most of what is to be seen, and an approximate date of construction may be indicated by the date of the Burgerhuys bell, which is 1608. It has been suggested that this church was a complete replacement of the medieval church, which may itself have been a short distance to the south within the graveyard. That must certainly be regarded as a possibility. However, against that, it should be noted that there are a number of features within the fabric which could suggest that an existing structure was retained but remodelled in the early seventeenth century. The south doorway, for example, has a quirked roll moulding of a more massive profile than that of the windows; its form, together with its less regular tooling, would be consistent with a sixteenth-century date. Further east along the south wall are traces of a small rectangular opening that has been carefully blocked, but that appears likely to be of an earlier date than the seventeenth-century rectangular openings. Also of significance is a chamfered intake in the east wall, at the base of the gable, which is of a type that became common in the later decades before the Reformation. It might also be added that the badly damaged Sacrament House that was re-set in the east wall in 1885 was found beneath the floor of the present church, and it is surely most likely that it would have been buried close to its original location. Initials thought to be those of Abbot William Turnbull of Coupar Angus (1507-23) have been detected amidst the shattered carving of that Sacrament House. While none of these pieces of evidence could be regarded as individually conclusive, the present authors are inclined to consider that the balance of probabilities points to the existing church having a medieval basis, albeit one that has been much remodelled.

The first addition to the rectangular core may have been the lateral offshoot towards the east end of the north flank, which now serves as the vestry, but which could initially have been added as a laird’s aisle. The author of the Statistical Account, of 1797, said that the church had been newly seated some twenty years previously and that before then there had been seats for the Keithick estate, which could be interpreted as suggesting that a laird’s pew had been suppressed or put to other uses. There are also a number of references to other works having been carried out on the church: the Imperial Gazetteer of 1865 mentioned works in 1752 and 1803, while the New Statistical Account of 1845 referred to works on the roof the previous year.

The greatest single impact on the fabric, however, was that of the restoration and liturgical re-ordering by Alexander Johnson in 1885, although it may be suspected that it was an operation in which costs were being kept to a minimum. Shallow gabled transeptal projections were added towards the east end of the two flanks, with a pair of lancets lighting each; a porch was built over the doorway towards the west end of the south flank; and a more Gothic bellcote carried on a shallow salient replaced the earlier birdcage dovecote above the west wall. It was presumably as part of this operation that a number of significant items were built into the internal walls. The early sixteenth-century Sacrament House that has been reset towards the south end of the east wall has already been mentioned. Set high towards the west end of the south wall is the armoured effigy of John Cumming of Couttie, who died in 1606, and which was presumably originally laid out on a tomb chest. Set into the west wall is the memorial of Leonard Leslie, who was commendator of Coupar Angus Abbey from 1563, and who is thought to have died in 1603, though the memorial suggests the date of his death was 1605.

Within the graveyard are a number of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century memorials.


Charters of the abbey of Coupar Angus, 1947, ed. D.E. Easson, (Scottish History Society), Edinburgh,  nos xxxii, xxxiii.

Cowan, I.B., 1967, The parishes of medieval Scotland, (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh, 16.

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.

Kirk, J., 1995, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, (British Academy) Oxford, 335, 410.

New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1845, Edinburgh and London, x, 1197-8.

Registrum de Dunfermelyn. Liber cartarun abbatie Benedictine S.S. Trinitatis et B. Margarete regine de Dunfermelyn, 1842, ed. C. Innes, (Bannatyne Club), Edinburgh, nos 128, 217.

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

Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, 1994, South-East Perth, an archaeological landscape, Edinburgh, 132, 137, 162.

Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-9, ed. J. Sinclair, Edinburgh, xix (1797), 356.

Walker, R.C., 1909, ‘Sacrament House, Bendochy’, Transactions of the Scottish Ecclesiological Society, ii, 391-2.



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

  • 1. Bendochy Church, exterior, from south west

  • 2. Bendochy Churchyard, monument

  • 3. Bendochy Church, interior mmonument of Leonard Leslie

  • 4. Bendochy Church, interior, effigy of John Cumming

  • 5. Bendochy Church, interior, Sacrament House (Walker)

  • 6. Bendochy Church, Sacrament House, head

  • 7. Bendochy Church, interior, Sacrament House

  • 8. Bendochy Church, interior, blocked window head in roofspace

  • 9. Bendochy Church, interior, from west

  • 10. Bendochy Church, interior, from east

  • 11. Bendochy Church, exterior, before restoration (Johnson)

  • 12. Bendochy Church, exterior, after restoration (Johnson)

  • 13. Bendochy Church, exterior, nave, south wall, blocked window

  • 14. Bendochy Church, exterior, nave, north windows

  • 15. Bendochy Church, exterior, nave, south door

  • 16. Bendochy Church, exterior, from south east