James Matthews, dated 1853. Well-detailed gothic style church forming small group with graveyard and former manse on edge of Bellabeg village. Cruciform-plan with 4-bay aisleless nave and transepts, 3-stage tower with broach spire in NE re-entrant, small polygonal stair towers, reticulated tracery and deeply moulded doorpieces incorporating simple colonettes. Coursed, squared and snecked rubble with contrasting dressings and long and short margins. Deep base course, part cill courses. 2- and 3-stage angle and dividing buttresses, hoodmoulds, raked cills and stone mullions; boarded timber doors with decorative ironwork.
FURTHER DESCRIPTION: large 3-light traceried windows to Celtic cross finialled end gables at E and W, and polygonal stair tower to outer left angle at W. N and S nave elevations with 2-light traceried windows and transeptal gables, that to S with additional polygonal stair tower.
NE TOWER: full-height 3-stage buttresses flanking 1st stage with dated doorway, 2nd stage with trefoil-headed lancet and 3rd stage with simple-traceried 2-light window giving way to trefoil-detailed arcaded corbel surmounted by mutuled cornice and weathervaned spire, latter with circular window to each elevation and lucarnes above.
Leaded diamond-pattern glazing with coloured margins. Graded grey slates. Ashlar-coped stepped skews and mitre skewputts.
INTERIOR: fine galleried interior with hammerbeam roof, chancel arch, fixed timber pews and collection of monuments, largely white marble on black ground commemorating Forbes family. Galleries to W and S transepts on enclosed bases (probably infilled), that to N supported on 2 simple iron columns, all with arcaded timber fronts; polygonal pulpit and decorative ironwork balusters. Carved wood heraldic panels (from earlier church) of Elphinstone of Bellabeg, and Forbes of Skellater families, dated 1597, 1636 and 1686 (see Notes). Stone in narthex from earlier church erected in '1737 by Charles Anderson of KANDOCRAIG' and depicting memento mori carved in high relief.
Statement of Special Interest
Ecclesiastical building in use as such. Strathdon Parish Church is a little altered example of a finely-detailed parish church by one of the north east of Scotland's principal architects. Matthews' commissions included churches and private houses as well municipal and commercial properties such as Aberdeen Town and County Bank Head Office and Inverness Town Hall. Its fine interior boasts a collection of monuments commemorating the major families of the glen.
Now known as the parish of Upper Donside Strathdon, it was originally called Invernochty Parish owing to the location of the church at the confluence of the Water of Nochty and the River Don. Blaeu's atlas shows a church on this site as early as 1654. Replaced in 1662 and largely rebuilt 1757-9, the building was re-seated for 500 in 1815 and finally replaced with the present church in 1853. Funds were largely supplied by Sir Charles Forbes of Newe, who contributed £1,874 towards the total cost of £2,100. In his introduction to The Geology of Auchernach W Douglas Simpson refers to 'the great family of Forbes that once possessed such vast territorial power on Upper Donside' (p vii), and describes in some detail the 'five carved panels in pitch pine which are understood to have been part of the Auchernach (another Forbes property) pew in the former church' (p viii). He dates all of the panels to 1686.