Glamis Parish Church

Glamis Church, Strathmore Aisle, interior, looking north, 2

Summary description

The main survivor of the medieval church is a late fifteenth-century south aisle. The main body of the church was rebuilt in 1791-2 and re-ordered in 1933-34.

Historical outline

Dedication: St Fergus

A major Class II Pictish cross-slab standing in the manse garden, two fragments of other Pictish stones (one kept in the present church and one now lost), plus a second Class II stone at Loanhead just south of the village, together point to the presence at or near to the medieval church site of an important early religious centre.(1)  There is no subsequent surviving record of a church at Glamis until the late 1170s, when King William granted the church of this royal thanage to his new abbey at Arbroath at the time of its foundation.(2)  William’s grant was intended to be of the church and all of its resources, including teinds of all types, setting the ground for a future confirmation in proprios usus.  Possession was confirmed between 1178 and 1188 by Bishop Hugh of St Andrews and between 1198 and 1202 by Bishop Roger de Beaumont.(3)  Annexation in proprios usus was confirmed by Bishop William Malveisin and the chapter of St Andrews before c.1230, followed by a settlement instituting a perpetual vicarage.(4)

Bishop David de Bernham visited the church on 25 August 1242, on which day he dedicated it.(5) A vicarage settlement was instituted in 1249 by Bishop David as part of a general suite of arrangements for the vicars of churches appropriated to Arbroath, several of whom had complained about the meagreness of their provision.(6)  By this settlement, the vicar of Glamis was to receive the whole altarage offerings and the kirklands attached to the church, from which he was to pay episcopal dues and provide for a perpetual chaplain to serve in the dependent chapel of the parish that was located in Glen Clova.  A separate schedule of arrangements was drawn up at the same time which sets out in detail the provision for the chaplain at Clova and services in the chapel.(7)  The 1249 settlement lasted for just over a century until in 1352 several of the vicars of the abbey’s appropriated churches – including Glamis – complained to Bishop William Landallis of the insufficiency of their portions.(8)  Landallis made an ordinance concerning their financial position and requested papal confirmation.

Substantial endowments flowed to the church in the later fifteenth century from the Lyon family, lords of Glamis.  On 20 October 1487, John Lord Glamis made a grant of annual rents amounting to 12 merks to sustain one chaplain at the altar of St Thomas the Martyr, located on the south side of the parish church, presumably in the lateral aisle developed as the burial aisle of the Lyon family.  The endowment was made for the souls of his late parents, Sir Alexander Lyon, lord of Glamis, and Agnes Crichton.  The grant was confirmed at mortmain under the Great Seal by King James IV on 5 September 1494.(9)  A second significant endowment came from a local landowner, Walter Ramsay of Denoon, whose lands lay a little over a kilometre south of Glamis.  Made on the same day – 20 October – but five years later in 1492, Ramsay granted annual rents from his lands of Denoon to the chaplain William Thornton, and his successors, who celebrated in the chapel of the Holy Trinity that was attached to the north side of the church, reserving the presentation of future chaplains for himself and his successors.  His grant was made for the souls of King James IV, John Lord Glamis, and his own wife, Janet Ogilvy.  The king confirmed the grant at mortmain under the Great Seal on 14 June 1493.(10)

The annexation and vicarage settlement remained in force at the Reformation.  At that time, the parsonage was recorded as the property of Arbroath Abbey, valued at £100 annually.  The vicarage and chapel of Clova were recorded in the hands if Mr James Rolland, valued together at 80 merks.(11)  No entries are recorded for either the chaplainry of St Thomas or that of the Holy Trinity.


1. J Romilly Allen, The Early Christian Monuments of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1903), pt.iii, 221-223; H Coutts, Ancient Monuments of Tayside (Dundee, 1970), 58, 62-3.

2. Regesta Regum Scottorum, ii, The Acts of William I, ed G W S Barrow (Edinburgh, 1971), nos.197, 198; Liber S Thome de Aberbrothoc, i (Bannatyne Club, 1848), no.17 [hereafter Arbroath Liber]

3. Arbroath Liber, i, nos 145, 147.

4. Arbroath Liber, i, nos 153, 165-7.

5. A O Anderson (ed), Early Sources of Scottish History, ii (Edinburgh, 1922), 522 [Pontifical Offices of St Andrews].

6. Arbroath Liber, i, no.236.

7. Arbroath Liber, i, no.276.

8. Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers Relating to Great Britain and Ireland: Petitions to the Pope, ed W H Bliss (London, 1896), 235.

9. Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum, ii, 1424-1513, ed J B Paul (Edinburgh, 1882), no.2223 [hereafter RMS, ii].

10. RMS, ii, no 2158.

11. J Kirk (ed), The Books of Assumption of the Thirds of Benefices (Oxford, 1995), 359, 392.

Summary of relevant documentation


Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: Granted to Arbroath by William I in 1178. A vicarage settlement took place in 1249, after which the parsonage remained with the abbey.(1)

According to Mackinley the church was dedicated to St Fergus (also notes that John Lyon founds an altar of St Thomas in the parish.(2)

1352 Suit brought before the bishop of St Andrews between abbey of Arbroath and the vicars of Inverlunan, St Vigean, Barry, Arbirlot, Monifieth, Muirhouse, Newtyle, Glamis and Kirriemuir. ‘The vicars asserted that they had insufficient portions, whereupon the bishop made an ordinance, which the Pope is asked to confirm’.(3)

1398 Rudolf Wylde provided to Glamis then exchanges with John Wylde. John then exchanges with John Oliveri (illegitimate son of a priest) in 1405 (value £20).(4)

1417 John Paniter (perpetual vicar of Arbroath) collated to Glamis.(5)

1468-69 Following death of vicar William Cairns supplications by Nicholas Graham and Thomas Chalmers. 1470 further suit between Chalmers and Robert Barrie, (Graham dead), by 1471 Chalmers is also dead and Barrie eventually wins, value £15 sterling.(6)

1556 (11 Mar) James Rolland, vicar of Glamis, given lands in Dundee by his kinsman Robert Rolland.(7)


Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church parsonage with Arbroath, value £100. The vicarage is separate and held by James Rolland, value 80 marks (£53 6s 8d), less fermes and obligations ‘which used to be paid and now are not paid. (valuation submitted Jan 1562).(8)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of vicarage £17 15s 6 2/3d.(9)

1610 (19 Sept) Visitation of the church found the minister (David Brown) to be competent and the kirk was found to be ruined in the roof, materials in readiness for repairing the same and the slates (the kirk of Clova was found to be a pendicle of Glamis).(10)

1662 (1 April) Church along with rector and vicar teinds recorded as in the control of Patrick, earl of Panmure, inherited from his father, George (d.1661).(11)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev James Lyon, 1791): ‘Earl of Strathmore is the patron’.(12) [No reference at all to the actual church buildings]

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev James Lyon and Mr Blackadder (engineer), 1836): ‘Parish church built in 1793, the manse in 1788’.(13) [no reference to earlier church buildings]

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches: (George Hay):1793; interior recast, medieval Strathmore aisle. Built against the medieval aisle has also been severely dealt with. Its charming classical spirelet, is almost all that has escaped a ‘restoration’ in which the church was tricked out with suburban gothic furniture and a achieved a chancel.(14)


1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 63.

2. Mackinley, Non-Scriptural Dedications, p. 212.

3. CPP, 235.

4. CPL, Ben, 83-84 & 129.

5. CPL, Ben, 352-53.

6. CSSR, v, nos. 1272, 1309, 1341, 1424, 1445 & 1533, CPL, xiii, 24.

7. DDARC Dundee Burgh and Head Court Books, 1555-1558, fol. 37r.

8. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 359 & 392.

9. Donaldson, Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices, 10.

10. NRS Records of the Synod of Fife, 1610-1636, CH2/154/1, fols. 9-10.

11. Registrum de Panmure, p. 337.

12. Statistical Account of Scotland, (1791), iii, 128-29.

13. New Statistical Account of Scotland, (1836), xi, 348.

14. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, pp. 82, 175 & 245.


DDARC Dundee Burgh and Head Court Books, 1555-1558.

NRS Records of the Synod of Fife, 1610-1636, CH2/154/1.

Calendar of entries in the Papal registers relating to Great Britain and Ireland; Papal Petitions, 1893-, ed. W.H. Bliss, London.

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

Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1447-71, 1997, ed. J. Kirk, R.J. Tanner and A.I. Dunlop, Edinburgh.

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

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

Hay, G., 1957, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, 1560-1843, Oxford.

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

Mackinley, J.M, 1914, Ancient Church Dedications in Scotland. Non-Scriptural Dedications, Edinburgh.

New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, Edinburgh and London.

Registrum de Panmure, 1874, ed. J. Stuart, Edinburgh.

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

Architectural description

The survival of high quality Early Christian cross slabs and fragments at Glamis indicates that it was an important early location for worship;(1) the most impressive of those stones is that within the front garden of the house that used to be the manse. The church is particularly associated with St Fergus, who is thought to have carried out his mission in the early eighth century, and who is said to have been buried here; his head was later removed to the Augustinian abbey of Scone.(2)

The medieval parish of Glamis comes on record when it was granted to the Tironenisan abbey of Arbroath by that abbey’s founder, William the Lion, around the time of the abbey’s foundation in 1178, and in 1249 there was a vicarage settlement.(3) Bishop David de Bernham carried out one of his many dedications here on 25 August 1242.(4)

By 19 September 1610 a visitation found that the church was ruined in the roof, though it was said that the materials were ready for the necessary repairs.(5) The medieval church presumably survived until 1792-3, when a new church was erected that was described as ‘a plain commodious building with a spire’(6) That spire is at the centre of its west wall, rising above a slender tower and its octagonal superstructure. The date 1792 is inscribed at the apex of the east gable of the church.

The only part of the medieval church to survive the rebuilding of 1792 in identifiable form is a laterally projecting south aisle with dimensions of 8 metres from east to west by 10.6 metres from north to south, though that latter dimension presumably includes the width of the wall that it initially shared with the chancel of the church. The north-west corner of the aisle is immediately adjacent to the south-east corner of the church.

The aisle was the burial place of the earls of Strathmore and their ancestors, the Lords Glamis, whose principal residence was at nearby Glamis Castle. An extension, probably of early nineteenth-century date, has been added to the southern half of the east face of the aisle, which has now been adapted as a kitchen.

The aisle is assumed to have been built by Isabel Ogilvy, the widow of Patrick, first Lord Glamis, who died in 1459, as a place for prayers on his behalf, though a date closer to Lady Glamis’ own death in 1484 is architecturally more likely.(7) It may have been the eventual location of the altar of St Thomas the Martyr, which was stated to be on the south side of the church, and which was endowed by John, third Lord Glamis, in 1494;(8) he was buried in the aisle in 1497.

The ashlar-built aisle has been externally modified on more than one occasion; this is seen most conspicuously in a change in the character of the masonry about half-way along the west wall. The string course that runs at about a quarter the height of the aisle is confined to the northern half of the east and west faces of the aisle, but also runs along its south face. In addition, the south face has a chamfered base course along the greater part of its length. As will be discussed further in considering the internal evidence, these changes could be consistent with the possibility that the aisle has been extended southwards, a process that may have involved the reconstruction of the south wall on a new line.

Other external changes include the south door, the tracery in the south window, a sundial dated 1771 that has been clipped to the wall above a medieval foliate image corbel in the south gable, and a pair of heraldic beasts at the apices of the two gables. The south door has ogee mouldings of seventeenth-century type. It is a possibility that the original door into the aisle was framed by mouldings with a triple-filleted roll flanked by hollows, the jambs of which have been re-set into the internal west wall, albeit the mouldings are now directed outwards rather than inwards.

The heraldic beats appear likely to be of seventeenth-century date, and it may be suspected they originated as ornaments in the immediate policies of the castle rather than at the church. They may be compared with the beasts above the Satyr Gate to the policies of Glamis Castle, for example, which was built in 1681.

The chapel is now entered from the church through a vestibule that has been constructed in the angle between the east end of the present church and the north face of the aisle. Access is through a door in the blocking within a round arch of two orders that was the medieval access to the aisle. Above and to the east of the arch there are traces of two openings, which presumably opened through the south flank of the medieval chancel before the aisle was added.

The arch is carried on a semi-octagonal respond to the west and what appears to have been an octagonal pier to the east, though that pier is now partly subsumed within the wall to its east. It is clear that the pier was intended to carry a second arch to the east of the existing arch, and the springer of that arch is still to be seen. It therefore appears that the chapel was initially to have been separated from the chancel of the medieval chancel by an arcade of two arches, albeit the eastern arch was perhaps to have been narrower than its western counterpart.

Considered together with the external evidence that the aisle could have been extended southwards, this might be consistent with the possibility that the original intention had been to construction a longitudinal aisle along the flank of the chancel, and that in the course of construction it was instead decided to construct a laterally projecting aisle. However, since the medieval chancel has been completely destroyed, apart from the wall that it shared with the aisle, there is insufficient evidence to be certain of this.

The chapel is covered by a two-bay barrel vault of slightly pointed profile that is constructed of ashlar, with diagonal, transverse and ridge ribs set out to a quadripartite pattern. Those ribs are supported by corbels decorated with formalised foliage, mainly in the form of vine trails. There is also a lavish display of heraldry on both the corbels and the vault bosses, in which the royal arms and arms of the Lyon family figure prominently,(9) together with what appear most likely to be the arms of Ogilvy.(10)

In the aisle’s east wall, to the north of its mid-point, is a round-arched locker within an elaborately moulded ogee arch with crockets to its extrados and shields in its spandrels. This appears likely to have served as a Sacrament House. Set to the south of the partly subsumed octagonal pier in the north wall is a reconstructed tomb chest capped by a ledger slab inscribed with the names and dates of death of Patrick, Lord Glamis, and his widow, Isabel Ogilvy.

The way in which the north wall of the Glamis Aisle aligns with the south wall of the church church of 1792, to its west, strongly indicates that the eighteenth-century church is at least partly on the site of the medieval nave. It might be added that the church’s length of 21 metres would be acceptable for the length of the medieval nave. It is, however, considerably wider from south to north than the medieval church can have been, which means that it is unlikely that its north wall perpetuates the line of that of its medieval predecessor.

Along the foot of the south wall a series of relieving arches is built into the masonry, the stones of which appear to include some medieval spolia. Such arches were sometimes provided when a wall was bridging known burials, though, since it is likely the wall is above medieval foundations, that is unlikely to have been the reason for the arches in this case. It was perhaps simply the fear that the medieval foundations would be inadequate for a taller eighteenth-century wall that prompted their construction, as a means of reinforcing the wall.

Until the 1930s there was internally a polygonal arrangement of galleries directed towards a pulpit at the centre of the south wall. But in 1933-4 an eastern apsidal sanctuary was added to the designs of George Bennett Mitchell and Son,(11) and only the west gallery was retained in modified form. The fenestration was presumably modified at the same time, and in the north wall there are still traces of the eighteenth-century arrangement of windows.


1. J. Romilly Allen and Joseph Anderson, The Early Christian Monuments of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1903, pt 3, pp. 221-23; J.D. Boyd, ‘Glamis Church: Pictish Cross Slab, Discover and Excavation, Scotland, 1967, p. 3; George Henderson and Isabel Henderson, The Art of the Picts, London, 2004, pp. 35-37.

2. Alan Macquarrie, Legends of the Scottish Saints, Readings, Hymns and the Aberdeen Breviary, Dubline, 2012, pp. 292-95, 358-59.

3. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p.73.

4. Alan Orr Anderson, The Early Sources of Scottish History, Edinburgh, 1922, vol. 2, p. 522.

5. National Records of Scotland, Records of the Synod of Fife, 1610-36, CH2/154/1, fols 9-10.

6. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, vol. 11, p. 348; Francis H. Groome, Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, vol. 3, 1883.

7. J. Stirton, ‘Notes on the old parish church of Glamis’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. 45, 1911, pp. 186–97.

8. Register of the Great Seal of Scotland, ed. J.M. Thomason, et al., Edinburgh, 1882-1914, vol. 2, no 2223.

9. A lion rampant armed and langued within a double tressure flory-counter-flory.

10. The arms of Ogilvy are generally given as a lion passant guardant armed and langued crowned with an imperial crown and gorged with an open crown. However, although the lions that are impaled with those of Lyon are crowned, they are neither guardant nor gorged with crowns.

11. John Gifford, The Buildings of Scotland, Dundee and Angus, New Haven and London, pp. 497-98.



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

  • 1. Glamis Church, Strathmore Aisle, interior, looking north, 2

  • 2. Glamis Church and Strathmore Aisle, exterior, from east

  • 3. Glamis Church, exterior, from east

  • 4. Glamis Church, exterior, from north east

  • 5. Glamis Church, exterior, from west

  • 6. Glamis Church, exterior, corbels in east gable

  • 7. Glamis Church, exterior, east gable, date stone

  • 8. Glamis Church, exterior, relieving arches in south wall, 1

  • 9. Glamis Church, exterior, relieving arches in south wall, 2

  • 10. Glamis Church, interior, before the 1933-34 re-ordering

  • 11. Glamis Church, interior, looking west

  • 12. Glamis Church, interior, looking east

  • 13. Glamis Church, interior, early cross slab fragments, 1

  • 14. Glamis Church, interior, early cross slab fragments, 2

  • 15. Glamis Church, Early Christian cross slab, 1

  • 16. Glamis Church, Early Christian cross slab, 2

  • 17. Glamis Church, Strathmore Aisle, exterior, from south

  • 18. Glamis Church, Strathmore Aisle, exterior, from east

  • 19. Glamis Church, Strathmore Aisle, exterior, from west

  • 20. Glamis Church, Strathmore Aisle, exterior, corbel above south window

  • 21. Glamis Church, Strathmore Aisle, exterior, heraldic beast on gable, 1

  • 22. Glamis Church, Strathmore Aisle, exterior, heraldic beast on gable, 2

  • 23. Glamis Church, Strathmore Aisle, exterior, re-set sundial

  • 24. Glamis Church, Strathmore Aisle, exterior, south door

  • 25. Glamis Church, Strathmore Aisle, exterior, south face, base course

  • 26. Glamis Church, interior, Strathmore Aisle, vault

  • 27. Glamis Church, Strathmore Aisle, interior, looking north, 1

  • 28. Glamis Church, interior, Strathmore Aisle, aumbry

  • 29. Glamis Church, Strathmore Aisle, interior, pier cap and vault springer

  • 30. Glamis Church, Strathmore Aisle, interior, pier cap, 1

  • 31. Glamis Church, Strathmore Aisle, interior, pier cap, 2

  • 32. Glamis Church, Strathmore Aisle, interior, Sacrament House

  • 33. Glamis Church, Strathmore Aisle, interior, vault boss, 1

  • 34. Glamis Church, Strathmore Aisle, interior, vault boss, 2

  • 35. Glamis Church, Strathmore Aisle, interior, vault corbel, 1

  • 36. Glamis Church, Strathmore Aisle, interior, vault corbel, 2

  • 37. Glamis Church, Strathmore Aisle, interior, vault, 1

  • 38. Glamis Church, Strathmore Aisle, interior, vault, 2

  • 39. Glamis Church, Strathmore Aisle, interior, vault, looking south

  • 40. Glamis Church, Strathmore Aisle, interior, west wall, reset door jambs

  • 41. Glamis churchyard, gravestone

  • 42. Glamis churchyard, gravestones