Scheduled Monument

Insch Old Parish Church and associated memorialsSM3004

Status: Designated


Where documents include maps, the use of this data is subject to terms and conditions (

The legal document available for download below constitutes the formal designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The additional details provided on this page are provided for information purposes only and do not form part of the designation. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within this additional information.


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Crosses and carved stones: tombstone, Ecclesiastical: church
Local Authority
NJ 63344 28146
363344, 828146


The monument consists of the W gable of the parish church of Insch and the site of the demolished parts of the church, together with two medieval memorials. The monument was scheduled in 1970 but an inadequate area was included; this re-scheduling corrects this.

The church's presumed dedication to St Drostan may indicate that the site had been associated with Christian worship from an early period, but it is likely that the basis for the later parish church was established during the early stages of the 12th/13th-century creation of the Scottish parochial network. The church was clearly in existence by the time that it was granted to Lindores Abbey in 1191x5 by the founder of that abbey, David earl of Huntingdon, and the provision for a vicar was confirmed in 1257.

In its final form, the medieval church was of rectangular plan, while an offshoot off the northern side of the chancel area shown on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey may have been a sacristy (although an offshoot in that position could also have been a chantry, laird's aisle or a burial enclosure). It remained in use through the Reformation period, albeit presumably with major liturgical re-ordering taking place at that time. A bellcote, dated 1613 (and with the initials MIL for a member of the Leslie family), was added at the apex of the W gable; its piers are decorated with enriched balusters, and it is capped with gablets embellished with pinnacles, volutes and finials. (The bell which used to hang here was dated 1706.) The inscription A[nno] R[edemptionis] 162- on the S skewput of the W gable suggests the addition of the bellcote was part of a larger programme of works, to which the rectangular doorway and pointed-arched window on the central axis of the gable perhaps also belonged.

The church was re-roofed in 1789 and re-seated in 1793, despite the fact that the walls were already showing signs of failure. The church was eventually replaced by a new building on a different site in 1886, after which all but the W gable with its bellcote, and short buttressing stretches of the N and S walls were demolished. However, the original extent of the church is known from its depiction on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey, and is still discernible from the terracing of the ground within the graveyard.

The gable was consolidated in 2004, at which time two medieval memorials were re-secured to the outer face of its base. One of these is a red sandstone ledger slab with a roll-moulded arris, now set vertically against the wall above a rubble plinth. It is incised with a disc-headed cross and the inscription 'ORATE PRO ANIMA RADULFI SACERDOTIS' (Pray for the soul of Ralph the priest). It has been suggested Ralph was a late 12th-century chaplain of the bishop of Aberdeen, and the style of the lettering would be consistent with such a date. It was found at a date before 1866 when a house N of the church was demolished. Attached to the N side of this stone and the plinth on which it rests is the mutilated upper part of a knightly effigy, which is probably of 15th-century date.

The area to be scheduled extends approximately 2m beyond the outer edge of the rectangular church and its N offshoot, as marked in red on the attached map.

Statement of National Importance

The monument's historical significance can be characterised on the following criteria:

INTRINSIC CHARACTERISTICS. Although the upstanding fabric is only partially preserved, our understanding of the final plan is sufficient to provide support for the view that rectangular plans were the norm for churches of parochial scale in north-eastern Scotland; Insch also appears to have had an augmentation to that plan in the form of an off-shoot which may have been a sacristy, a chantry chapel, a laird's aisle or a burial enclosure. The notably fine bellcote, which was carefully retained when the rest of the church was demolished, adds to our understanding of a type of feature which, although common throughout the whole of post-Reformation Scotland, tended to be given its greatest enrichment in the north-east.

CONTEXTUAL CHARACTERISTICS. The church can be understood as a characteristic example of medieval parish church planning, which adds significantly to the statistical basis for the assessment of the range of plan types. Of the surviving fabric, the finest feature is the bellcote, which is one of the outstanding examples of its type and provides an invaluable indicator of the decorative repertoire that might be applied to such features in this region.

ASSOCIATIVE CHARACTERISTICS. The role of lay patronage in the endowment, construction and maintenance of parish churches, both before and after the Reformation is illustrated by David earl of Huntingdon's decision to have the parsonage appropriated to his new monastic foundation of Lindores, and later by the evidently leading role taken by members of the Leslie family in the 17th-century rebuilding.

NATIONAL IMPORTANCE. The monument is of national importance both for its structural and its likely archaeological remains, each of which has the potential to enhance our understanding of the planning and liturgical arrangement of medieval parochial churches in north-eastern Scotland, particularly since an approximate terminus ant-quem for its initial construction is provided by the date of its appropriation. This importance is complemented by the evidence for the ways in which such churches might be adapted and remain in use for reformed worship. It gains additional significance from the preservation of the two medieval memorials now attached to its W wall, which offer a reminder of something of the range of memorials that would once have been housed in many such churches.



The monument is recorded by RCAHMS as NJ62NW 20.


MacGibbon D and Ross T 1897, THE ECCLESIASTICAL ARCHITECTURE OF SCOTLAND, Edinburgh, Vol. 3.

Cowan I B 1967, THE PARISHES OF MEDIEVAL SCOTLAND, (Scottish Record Society), Edinburgh.




About Scheduled Monuments

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Scheduling is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for monuments and archaeological sites of national importance as set out in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

We schedule sites and monuments that are found to be of national importance using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Scheduled monument records provide an indication of the national importance of the scheduled monument which has been identified by the description and map. The description and map (see ‘legal documents’ above) showing the scheduled area is the designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The statement of national importance and additional information provided are supplementary and provided for general information purposes only. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within the statement of national importance or additional information. These records are not definitive historical or archaeological accounts or a complete description of the monument(s).

The format of scheduled monument records has changed over time. Earlier records will usually be brief. Some information will not have been recorded and the map will not be to current standards. Even if what is described and what is mapped has changed, the monument is still scheduled.

Scheduled monument consent is required to carry out certain work, including repairs, to scheduled monuments. Applications for scheduled monument consent are made to us. We are happy to discuss your proposals with you before you apply and we do not charge for advice or consent. More information about consent and how to apply for it can be found on our website at

Find out more about scheduling and our other designations at You can contact us on 0131 668 8914 or at


There are no images available for this record, you may want to check Canmore for images relating to Insch Old Parish Church and associated memorials

There are no images available for this record.

Search Canmore

Printed: 21/07/2024 05:20