Statement of Special Interest
The former Manse of St Fergus (now known as the Glebe) is a substantial rural parish manse that retains early fabric from the mid-18th century and was enlarged over the 19th century. Each significant building phase from 1766, 1839 and 1860 can be read in the exterior and plan form and gives this former manse interest within its building type. The building has not been significantly altered since the front elevation was added in 1860 by the prominent Aberdeen architect, William Smith.
The former manse retains much of its historic setting, including a visual relationship with the adjacent B-listed parish church of St Fergus. Located at the head of the principal street in Kirktown, the parish church and former manse are the oldest buildings in the village and are an integral part of its history.
Age and Rarity
The former manse of St Fergus previously served as the house of the minister of the parish church of St Fergus (LB16531), which survives to the southeast. The parish church of St Fergus dates to 1616 when it was built to replace the medieval church of Inverugie at St Fergus Links.
The Old Statistical Account, written in 1785, records that the former manse was built in 1766, shortly after the rebuilding of the parish church in 1763, and that the glebe consisted of eight acres of land (p.146). The New Statistical Account, written in 1845, states that the manse had an addition made to it around 1804 and that the manse was then repaired and enlarged in around 1839, when what is now the middle section was built (p.208). The glebe remained of seven to eight acres in 1839. The Dictionary of Scottish Architects records that the manse was enlarged a third time in 1860 by William Smith, when the main southern section was built creating a new front elevation.
The former manse first appears on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1869, published 1872). On this map the manse is shown with the same footprint of three joined rectangular sections with small rectangular extension to the northwest as it exists today (2018). The building functioned as a manse up until 1970 when it was sold for residential use.
In the 18th and 19th centuries and early in to the 20th century manses were buildings of relative prominence, particularly in rural communities such as Kirktown of St Fergus. Manses were used to house the family of the parish minister and would also function as a study for the minister and a meeting place.
Manses are not considered to be a rare building type as every parish was required to provide a house for its minister. However, they are an integral part of Scotland's ecclesiastical built heritage. As large numbers of manses were built or altered following the Disruption of 1843, manses with fabric surviving from before this date are less common. Manses were often altered and enlarged to accommodate the family of the minister and growing community functions.
The former manse of St Fergus is an 18th century manse that was enlarged over the 19th century. Each significant building phase of this substantial manse from 1766, 1839 and 1860 is evident in the exterior and plan form of the building. The footprint of the building is also largely unchanged since the addition in 1860. While the principal symmetrical elevation of 1860 is typical for its date it is largely unaltered. The survival of the earlier 18th and 19th century fabric is rarer and gives this former manse special interest within its building type.
The retention of exterior equipment such as the cheese press and hand mill provide evidence that the manse once had a substantial glebe. These elements are significant for what they can tell us about how the manse and surrounding glebe functioned historically.
The manse retains a visual relationship with the B-listed Parish Church of St Fergus. This is significant for its contribution to the history of the church itself and to the religious, social and historical interest of Kirktown of St Fergus.
Architectural or Historic Interest
The interior decorative scheme of the front section of the former manse retains a number of features from the 1860 alterations. These include a well staircase and decorative cornice.
The central section of the manse which dates to around 1839 has fireplace surrounds and openings as well as window shutters in the ground floor east and second floor rooms.
The outer rooms of the 1766 rear section of the former manse have a flagstone floors.
The interior features of the 1766, 1839 and 1860 manses are standard for their respective periods. However, the survival of these features, particularly those of the 1766 and 1839 sections adds to the special architectural and historic interest of the building in listing terms.
The plan form of the former manse, made up of three rectangular sections with a small rectangular extension at the northwest, remains largely unchanged from the plan shown on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1869, published 1870).
The plan form of the 1860 manse is largely symmetrical with principal rooms flanking a central staircase. This plan form is typical of manses and villas of this date.
The fact that the main building phases of the manse from 1766, 1839 and 1860 are discernible in the plan helps us to understand the development of the building across this period and adds to its special interest in listing terms.
Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality
The sections of the former manse dating to 1766 and 1839 are plain in design which is typical of manses of these periods. The twin gabled addition made to the manse in 1839 is described in the New Statistical Account, written in 1845, as 'handsome…and very commodious' (p. 208).
The quality of the 1839 manse appears to have influenced architect William Smith in his design for the 1860 addition. The 1860 development retained the manses of 1766 and 1839 and followed the same simple style of harled granite with minimal architectural detailing.
William Smith was a prominent architect in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire in the second half of the 19th century. He was the City Architect (Superintendent of the Town s Works) for Aberdeen City between 1852 and 1891 and is best known for his work at Balmoral Castle.
The Dictionary of Scottish Architects records that William Smith, working independently or as part of the architectural firm J and W Smith, designed or made additions to 17 manses in Aberdeenshire between 1845 and 1878.
A manse in Crathie, near Balmoral (LB50758) is an example of a manse built around 1789 that was enlarged by Smith in 1866-1873. At both Crathie manse and the former manse of St Fergus, Smith did not rebuild the existing 18th century manse but added a new front section and used simpler architectural decoration. His addition to the Manse of St Fergus is designed in a simple style with Tudor revival details of the hoodmould above the front door.
Another example of a manse enlarged by William Smith is the Parish Manse in Oldmeldrum, designed in 1878. This manse is very simple in design and its form and setting have been substantially altered. It is not listed.
While additions to 18th century manses are not unique amongst Smith's work the former manse of St Fergus building is a largely unaltered example of his later work.
The former manse of St Fergus and the parish church of St Fergus are prominently located at the eastern head/edge of the village of Kirktown. Kirktown is a small village of one principal street which extends westward from the parish church.
Adjoining Kirktown to the east is the settlement of Newton, now called St Fergus. The planned settlement of Newton was established in 1764 but the majority of the current buildings were built or redeveloped from the 1970s.
The immediate setting of the former manse is largely unchanged since the late 19th century. The former manse sits within its own grounds, set back from the road and surrounded by trees – as shown on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1869, published 1870). While the size of the glebe appears to have been reduced from the eight acres of land reported in the New Statistical Account surviving elements such as the cheese press and hand mill provide evidence of the substantial scale and self-sufficiency of the former manse.
The proximity of the parish church contributes to its historic setting. The manse is inter-visible with the church and this relationship adds to the interest of both listed buildings. Forming a group with the adjacent church, the setting and functional relationship between the two buildings is largely maintained, aiding our understanding of the ecclesiastical history of the village of St Fergus in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The former manse of St Fergus is built of granite, a typical building material for the northeast of Scotland.
Close Historical Associations
There are no known associations with a person or event of national importance at present (2018).
Statutory address and listed building record revised in 2018. Previously listed as 'Manse of St Fergus'.