Glenbervie Parish Church

Glenbervie Church, within churchyard

Summary description

Possible fragments of the medieval church include a burial vault that may incorporate parts of the chancel. Replaced by a new church on a different site in 1826.

Historical outline

On its first recorded appearance in 1274, Glenbervie was valued at five merks twelve shillings in the accounts of the papal tax-collector and noted as being possessed by the treasurer of Brechin, presumably as his prebend.(1)  That link does not appear to have been maintained, Bishop Patrick Leuchars’ 1372 outline of the constitution of the cathedral chapter mentioning the treasurership as a canonry and prebend but not naming the church from which its income was derived.(2)  It had certainly been detached from the treasurership before 1409, when one John Devlyn was named as rector of Glenbervie in a suit at the papal curia(3)

In 1422, Alexander Stewart, earl of Mar, described as patron of the church, petitioned the pope for the erection of Glenbervie, valued at 150 merks, into a simple canonry and prebend of Brechin.(4)  The origin and nature of Mar’s connection with the parish is unknown, the barony of Glenbervie being held in the fourteenth century by the Melvilles and passing through marriage to one of the Melville heiresses in 1467 into the hands of the Auchinlecks.(5

The patronage of the prebend appears to have passed with the lands, in 1542 the advowson of the church and rectory of Glenbervie, with certain other benefices and chaplainries, being confirmed to Archibald Douglas of Glenbervie and his wife, Agnes Keith, as part of their conjunct infeftment in the barony.(6)  The patronage remained with the Douglases of Glenbervie at the Reformation, at which time the prebend was held by Robert Erskine, dean of Aberdeen.(7)

From the erection of the prebend in 1422, the actual cure was served by a vicar pensioner.  The vicar was assigned 11 merks from the fruits, plus the kirklands, upon which to sustain himself and pay all ecclesiastical dues and taxation.  A separate charge of 40 shillings on the fruits was made for the support of a chorister, presumably in the cathedral rather than at Glenbervie.  A vicar, John Goodfellow, is first recorded in 1434 as a witness to a charter of Bishop John Cranach.(8)  In 1492 a perpetual chaplainry of Drumlithie is recorded in the church,(9) presentation to this apparently lying in the hands of the prebendary.(10)


1. SHS Misc, vi, 52.

2. Registrum Episcopatus Brechinensis, i, no.15.

3. CPL, Benedict XIII, 200.

4.CSSR, i, 1418-22, 305.

5. RMS, i, no.212; ii, no.905.

6. RMS, iii, no.2644.

7. Kirk (ed), Book of Assumptions of Thirds of Benefices, 405-6.

8. Registrum Episcopatus Brechinensis, i, no.39.

9. CPL, xvi, no. 638.

10. Registrum Episcopatus Brechinensis, ii, Appendix, no.341.

Summary of relevant documentation


Synopsis of Cowan’s Parishes: 1274 Prebend of the treasurer of Brechin cathedral. In 1422 both vicarage and parsonage were erected into a simple prebend by earl of Mar, patronage with Melville of Glenbervie, the Auchinleks and then Douglas of Glenbervie and served by a vicar pensioner.(1)

According to Mackinley the church was dedicated to St Michael.(2)

1409 Charges brought by John Derling (of Glenbervie) against Richard Cornel (later rector of Dundee) regarding illegal deals between him and Ingram de Kethenis (rector of Blairgowrie).(3)

1417 Petition on behalf of John Derling (MA, graduate of university of Paris and brother of bishop of Moray/Brechin Henry de Lichton) for rehabilitation over the perpetual vicarage which he has held for 10 years without dispensation (value £10).(4)

1422 Glenbervie in the presentation of lay patronage, and the earl of Mar (Alexander Stewart wishes to erect it into a prebend of the church of Brechin. Assigns vicar 11 marks and lands of the church to pay fees and sustain himself; pension of 40 shillings for a chorister also provided.(5)

1424 William Croyser is provided on the death of John, and in 1436 John de Clact (canon of Aberdeen) is provided to the prebend of Glenbervie.(6)

1434 John Guydfellow, vicar of Glenbervie witness to an episcopal charter.(7)

1454 John Clark supplicates for, and in 1456 is granted, absolution from sentence of simony after paying the lay patron to be provided to the prebend (value £16).(8)

1472 William Auchinlek described as holding the prebend of Glenbervie.(9)

1492 Perpetual chaplain in the church, called Drumleti, mentioned.(10)

1506 Suit between Alexander Inglis and Alexander Auchinlek settled with Inglis pensioned off (£8, less than half the value) until he finds another benefice.(11)

1509 Further litigation between ‘several people’ over parish church, William Meldrum enjoined to sequestrate the fruits in the meantime, brought to court by Auchinlek and absolved from any wrongdoing, once again enjoined to sequestrate the fruits until a settlement made [no reference to settlement].(12)


Books of assumption of thirds of benefices and Accounts of the collectors of thirds of benefices: The Parish church teinds referred to as pertaining to the Robert Erskine, the dean of Aberdeen, (along with Arbuthnott), value is £149 6s 4d. Vicar pensionary is Andrew Eldare, who has the manse and glebe worth 20 marks.(13)

Account of Collectors of Thirds of Benefices (G. Donaldson): Third of parsonage and vicarage £35 11s 1 2/3d.(14)

1591 William Douglas, 9th earl of Angus died in that year and was buried in the Douglas aisle in the church of Glenbervie.(15)

1681 (1 June) Visitation of the church by the Presbytery of Fordoun finds that the minister (Robert Fearn) has a stipend of 800 marks. The fabric is in need of reparation, the minister is appointed to speak to the heritors.(16)

Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev Alexander Thom, 1791): ‘The church was partly rebuilt in 1771, and is in good condition but is ill contrived for its intended purpose’.(17)

New Statistical Account of Scotland (Rev James Drummond, 1838): ‘The parish church, built 12 years ago’.(18) (c.1826) [On same site as earlier building, no reference to survival of church fabric from earlier period]

Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches: (George Hay): 1826; refurnished.(19)


1. Cowan, The parishes of medieval Scotland, 74.

2. Mackinley, Scriptural Dedications, p. 350.

3. CPL, Ben, 200-01.

4. CPP, 607. CSSR, ii, 24.

5. CSSR, i, 305-6.

6. CSSR, ii, 68, CSSR, iv, no.248.

7. Registrum Brechinensis, i, no. 39.

8. CSSR, v, no. 523, CPL, xi, 269.

9. Registrum Brechinensis, i, no. 94.

10. CPL, xvi, no. 638.

11. CPL, xviii, no.638.

12. CPL, xix, no.132.

13. Kirk, The books of assumption of the thirds of benefices, 405-07.

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

15. Fraser, The Douglas Book, ii, 376, iii, 298.

16. NRS Presbytery of Fordoun, Records of Visitations, 1677-1688, CH2/157/13, fols. 29-31.

17. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-9, ed. J. Sinclair, Edinburgh, (1791), xi, 452.

18. New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1834-45, Edinburgh and London, (1838), xi, 167.

19. Hay, The Architecture of Scottish Post-Reformation Churches, p. 260.


NRS Presbytery of Fordoun, Records of Visitations, 1677-1688, CH2/157/13.

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

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 1418-22, 1934, ed. E.R. Lindsay and A.I. Cameron, (Scottish History Society) Edinburgh.

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

Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome 1428-32, 1970, ed. A.I. Dunlop; and I.B. Cowan, (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.

Fraser, W., 1885, The Douglas Book, 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, 1910, Ancient Church Dedications in Scotland. Scriptural Dedications, Edinburgh.

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

Registrum Episcopatus Brechinensis, 1856, ed. C. Innes (Bannatyne Club), Edinburgh, i.

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

Architectural description

For much of the middle ages Glenbervie was a possession of Brechin Cathedral’s chapter. According to Bagimond in 1274 it pertained to the treasurer, though in 1422 it was attached to one of the simple prebends. At the time of the Reformation it was held personally by the dean of Aberdeen.(1) The church is said to have been partly rebuilt in 1771,(2) but it was replaced by a new building on a different site in 1826.(3)

Fragments that may have originated as parts of the medieval church remain in the old churchyard. A pier of masonry is thought to survive from the south-west angle of the church, though it is now so completely swathed in ivy that nothing is visible.

Also possibly of ultimately medieval origin is a burial chamber that has dimensions of 7.35 metres from north to south and 5.3 metres from east to west. This chamber has well constructed walls to east, south and north, but a more roughly constructed partition across the west side that is set back from the truncated ends of the south and north walls.

The south wall of the chamber is mainly of finely cut ashlar above rougher masonry at the lowest level: it is pierced by a round-headed window and there is the east jamb and arch springing of a round-headed door to its west. To the east of the window there are traces of what appear to be two carefully blocked windows at differing levels.   

In its present form the external appearance of the burial chamber, and of the south wall in particular, presumably dates largely from the remodelling of 1771. However, inside the aisle, and set against a shallow rectangular recess in its east wall, is a table tomb of 1581, above which is a mural monument of 1680 that offers a crudely lettered – and largely spurious – history of the Douglas family. That family had held the patronage of the parish since 1492,(4) and it appears to be a strong possibility that they had taken over the chancel as their burial place after the Reformation.

This mortuary usage evidently continued through the remodelling of 1771, with the consequent likeliehood that the burial chamber has retained the plan, and perhaps also parts of the recased masonry fabric, of the eastern portion of the medieval chancel. It might be added that the width of 7.35 metres would be appropriate for a medieval church of modest scale.

It was presumably after the abandonment of the rest of the church in 1826 that the north and south walls were roughly truncated west of the chamber, and a cross wall of squared rubble with a central rectangular doorway constructed to enclose the area occupied by the Douglas family’s burials. The east gable has been dismantled, though a skewputt at the south-east angle indicates the level from which it sprang; the wall heads of the south and north walls have been cut down above the line of a roof of shallow single pitch.


1. Ian B. Cowan, The Parishes of Medieval Scotland (Scottish Record Society), 1967, p. 74.

2. Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-99, vol. 11, p. 452.

3. The New Statistical Account of Scotland (1834-45, vol. 11, p. 167), in which the parish entry is dated 1838, says it was ‘built twelve years ago’, and that date is given in the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, vol 3, 1883. 

4. Cowan, Parishes, 74.



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

  • 1. Glenbervie Church, within churchyard

  • 2. Glenbervie Church, Douglas Aisle, exterior, from south west

  • 3. Glenbervie Church, Douglas Aisle, exterior, from west

  • 4. Glenbervie Church, Douglas Aisle, exterior, south wall, traces of openings

  • 5. Glenbervie Church, Douglas Aisle, interior, monument

  • 6. Glenbervie Church, fragment

  • 7. Glenbervie, later church