Listed Building

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Former Roman Catholic Seminary and Cottage to southwest and roofless outbuilding to northwest, Scalan, Braes of GlenlivetLB8453

Status: Designated


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Group Category Details
Date Added
Last Date Amended
Local Authority
Planning Authority
National Park
NJ 24649 19461
324649, 819461


Built in 1767, with the first floor and attic raised in 1787-8, a 2-storey, 4-bay, rectangular plan Roman Catholic Seminary built in the guise of a farmhouse. There is a single storey late 18th century cottage to the right and a roofless outbuilding to the left, which together with the seminary form a U-plan court.

The seminary is built of rubble stone and is lime harled. The principal (west) elevation of the seminary has irregular window openings and a central 2-leaf timber door. Above the entrance is a small rectangular recess (probably a blocked window from the 1767 building). The first floor windows are slightly larger than the ground floor windows. The north gable has a first floor door (to provide access to the chapel) but the external stair no longer survives.

The windows are predominantly lying pane glazing in timber frames. The roof has Tomintoul slates, straight skews and tooled granite ridge and end chimney stacks. There are two late 18th century single storey, lean-to extensions at the rear elevation.

The interior was seen in 2016. The interior was restored in the 1990s when the layout of the building was returned to that of the 18th century seminary. Most of the internal walls are finished in pointed rubble stone, although there are some areas of walls which retain plaster and layers of old wallpaper. It has panelled doors. The ground floor has stone flags, the first and attic floor are timber. The first floor chapel at the north end and has a small timber altar. There are stone fireplaces at the ground and first floors on the end walls.

The single storey cottage to the right of the seminary dates to the late 18th century. It is built of rubble laid in shallow courses and has harl pointing. The south (entrance) elevation is 3 bays with a central later lean-to porch. There is a 2-bay extension to the east gable. The north (rear) elevation has a single central window. The roof has been replaced with corrugated asbestos sheeting and there are straight skews and chimney stacks to the gables. The interior of the cottage was not seen in 2016.

Statement of Special Interest

Scalan is an important ecclesiastical site in Scotland and is renowned for its critical role in helping to preserve Roman Catholic faith and worship in Scotland during the 18th century. The Seminary and Cottage was built in 1767 and was deliberately designed to look like a farmhouse, so it would not look unusual in the moorland landscape which had small, scattered crofts and farmsteads. Externally, the former seminary remains largely unaltered since the first floor was raised in 1787-8. The building is an important component of a remote group of informally arranged agricultural buildings that together with the North Mill (LB8484) and the South Mill (LB8454) evidence the historical, social and agricultural development of Scalan from the 18th century to the early 20th century.

Roman Catholicism was outlawed following the Scottish Reformation in 1560 and its practice was theoretically punishable by deportation. Scalan is located in the Braes of Glenlivet, which were sufficiently isolated and remote in the 18th century to shelter Catholics. Founded by Bishop James Gordon, the seminary at Scalan was in operation from 1716 to 1799 and trained around 100 Catholic priests. It also served as an administrative centre for the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland.

The seminary was first established in 1716 in a small cottage and, on several occasions in the 1720s, pupils and staff were forced to go into hiding due to the presence of government troops in the area. In 1746, following the Battle of Culloden, the Duke of Cumberland led a detachment of troops who burned the cottage to the ground.

Dean and Taitt in their 1995 article Scalan Reconstructed: Architectural and Documentary Evidence (quoted by Watts) indicate that in 1787-8 the walls were heightened to provide a larger first floor and a tall attic space. The blocked opening above the door and the larger first floor windows indicate this later phase of construction. The small lean-tos at the rear of the building are also likely to have been added at this time. One was used as a chapel and the other as a kitchen. There was also a first floor chapel at the north end of the building. This could also be accessed directly from the outside by an external stair, but this no longer survives.

Scalan was closed by the church in 1799 when the repeal of the Penal Laws made it feasible to set up a larger and more visible seminary. The seminary was transferred to Aquhorthies near Inverurie in 1799 and then to Blairs College near Aberdeen in 1829. Following the closure of the seminary in 1799, Abbe Paul MacPherson established the nearby town of Chapeltown, where a Catholic parish church was established. After the priests moved the seminary became a farmhouse and other agricultural buildings were constructed, including two mills (see separate listings, LB8484 and LB8454).

The category of listing was changed from B to A on the 09/11/1987. The statutory address and listed building record was revised in 2016. Previously listed as 'Braes of Glenlivet, Scalan, Former RC Seminary and Cottage'.



Canmore: Canmore ID 117667

Printed sources:

Walker, D. and Woodworth, M (2015) The Buildings of Scotland: Aberdeenshire North and Moray. London: Yale University Press. p.502.

Online Sources

Scottish Church Heritage Research. Scalan Roman Catholic Seminary, Glenlivet at [accessed 09/08/2016].

Moray Council. Moray SMR - NJ21NW0004 - SCALAN [accessed 09/08/2016].

Watts, J. The story of Scalan at [accessed 09/08/2016].

About Listed Buildings

Listing is the way that a building or structure of special architectural or historic interest is recognised by law through the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

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Seminary and Cottage at Scalan, west elevation looking east, during daytime, on a sunny day.


Map of Former Roman Catholic Seminary and Cottage to southwest and roofless outbuilding to northwest, Scalan, Braes of Glenlivet

Printed: 22/04/2019 18:57