History in Structure

Carnoustie Parish Church

A Category C Listed Building in Carnoustie, Angus

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Latitude: 56.501 / 56°30'3"N

Longitude: -2.7175 / 2°43'2"W

OS Eastings: 355929

OS Northings: 734555

OS Grid: NO559345

Mapcode National: GBR VR.QGS4

Mapcode Global: WH7R8.7V6M

Plus Code: 9C8VG72M+92

Entry Name: Carnoustie Parish Church

Listing Name: Carnoustie Church including boundary walls and railings, Dundee Street, Carnoustie

Listing Date: 28 August 2020

Category: C

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 407356

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB52552

Building Class: Cultural

ID on this website: 200407356

Location: Carnoustie

County: Angus

Town: Carnoustie

Electoral Ward: Carnoustie and District

Traditional County: Angus

Tagged with: Church building Architectural structure


Carnoustie Church (formerly Carnoustie Parish Church) was designed by Peter Macgregor Chalmers in 1899 and has a prominent location on Carnoustie High Street (Dundee Street). It was opened in 1902. The design is influenced by Early Christian and neo-Romanesque church architecture with round-arched openings and an arcaded interior. The church has a rectangular plan with side aisles. The entrance front (facing the road) has a square-plan tower at the southeast corner with double round-arched doorways.

The west side has a single-storey projecting aisle and the east side is double-height, with the upper level lit by round-arch clerestory windows. To the rear of the church are a tall chancel and single-storey transepts. A single-storey gabled vestry adjoins the northeast corner angle. The roofs are covered with grey slate.

The interior (seen 2020) has a tall nave and round-arched chancel, flanked by aisles that are asymmetrical in height. The double-height east aisle has a stone arcade with plain stone columns. There is a stone stair with iron railings in the entrance tower leading to the raked gallery which is supported by the arcade. The roof structure is open timber. The pulpit and communion table are carved timber. The lectern is wrought iron. The west aisle has a single-storey stone arcade with a round-arched window at the south end.

Biblical texts are carved into the walls at various locations, above doors, on the stone base of the pulpit and on the font. Stained glass includes war memorial windows by Margaret Chilton and Marjorie Kemp, a round window in the chancel by Douglas Strachan depicting the empty tomb, and a memorial window to Dr George Cecil Dickson. There is a 1902 organ by H.S. Vincent & Son, rebuilt with a new console and additional pipework in 1989 by J.R. Lightbown, with further work in 1999.

Outside of the church there is a low rubble boundary wall with spear-headed iron railings and pedestrian gates. The boundary wall becomes a retaining wall to the rear of the church to address a rise in the ground level.

Statement of Interest

Carnoustie Church meets the criteria of special architectural or historic interest for the following reasons:

Historical development

Carnoustie (Parish) Church was designed in 1899. A drawing of the proposed church in the local newspaper shows the completed church with a very tall spire, although the proposed spire was never completed as intended (Arbroath Herald, 1900). The church first opened for service in 1902 and has been in use as a place of worship ever since. The east transept was designated as St Stephen's Chapel following the Union of Carnoustie Parish Church with the former St Stephen's Free Church (now demolished) in 1969. The new congregation took the name 'Carnoustie Church".

Architectural interest


Carnoustie Church has a deliberately restrained design with simple Early Christian and neo-Romanesque stonework.

By the end of the 19th and early twentieth centuries, Christian churches were seeking to assert a new simplicity in their buildings, making a conscious change from the more common use of the gothic style. At this time, there was also a specific reason in selecting an architectural style for a church with some parishes taking a keen interest in pre-Reformation church design to assert symbolically their continuation and authority as the established church in Scotland. According to Gifford et al., 'the quest for purity led back to the Romanesque, which had a special appeal for rationally minded church goers […]' (Gifford 2012: 43). The simple design and detailing of the neo-Romanesque style of Carnoustie Church has taken into account the change in the architectural emphasis and is a good example of these late 19th century, early 20 century trends.

The church is constructed from brown sandstone from the Carmyllie quarries, located to the north of the town. Many of Carnoustie's 19th century buildings use this material which gives a consistent and regionally distinctive appearance.

The interior is striking, with limited decoration and interior fixtures and fittings which are in keeping with the neo-Romanesque style of the building. The interior walls are exposed stone, rather than rendered, and as such the stonework is of a high quality. The large stone arches and prominent pillars are a particularly prominent feature of the interior. The letter carving and the later stained glass by renowned artists is also of notable quality.

The expansive plan form is distinctive for its addition of side aisles and unusual raked gallery within the raised east aisle behind a row of arcaded pillars. This specific design, which gives the exterior of the church its unusual asymmetrical form, was used again by the architect at the slightly larger St Columba's Church, Blackhall (1902-04) in Edinburgh (LB27318, category B). The interior layout at St Columba's has been described as a distinctively original work (See Gifford et al. 1991, Buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh).

Peter Macgregor Chalmers (1859-1922) was an important church architect in Scotland, working at the beginning of the 20th century. Chalmers was articled to John Honeyman before commencing business on his own account in Glasgow in 1887. He was responsible for many important restoration and improvement works to Scotland's most significant churches and abbeys including those at Iona, Melrose and St Monan's.

Carnoustie Church is a good example of Chalmers's early work and among the first on this scale, demonstrating a wide knowledge of earlier historical church forms that would inform much of his later work. The interior features several stylistic devices that he would develop further in later works including a characteristic use of carved biblical texts and quotations on walls, above doors and on the pulpit and font, and the positioning of the organ near the chancel.

The church remains largely unchanged from the date of its construction, retaining its architectural authenticity and character.


Parish churches tend to be among the most prominently located buildings in any town or settlement and Carnoustie Church, even without its planned steeple, is no exception. It sits in small grounds with the south front facing Dundee Street, which is an extension of the High Street immediately east of the town centre. The church is the largest and most architecturally distinctive building in its immediate setting on the main road.

This part of the town was developed in the latter half of the 19th century and includes a mixture of terraced housing, other former church buildings (former United Free Churches) and various church halls. There is sheltered housing (built around 2013) across the road.

Historic interest

Age and rarity

Churches are not a rare building type and there are thousands that survive in Scotland with around 2,500 which are listed buildings. Most of these buildings are churches from mainstream Christian denominations. From the middle of the 19th century up to the First World War, there was a building boom in churches following on from the 'Disruption' in the Established (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland in 1843. By the early 20th century there was a sharp rise of population in Scotland's towns and cities and new churches from a wide variety of Christian denominations were built. For Carnoustie, the increase in coastal tourism from the middle of the 19th century to the early 20th century also led to several churches being built in the town during this period.

Carnoustie Church is one of a number of churches in the town, some of which are earlier including Carnoustie Panbride Town Church, 1855 (not listed) and Holy Rood Episcopal Church, 1881 (LB22968, category B).

While it is not rare or a particularly early example of a surviving church building for its denomination, Carnoustie Church is a good example of a turn of the 20th century place of worship in the contemporary neo-Romanesque style primarily because of the high quality of craftsmanship in its stone construction and interior features. The later addition of decorative stained glass is also of interest in listing terms.

As an early work by renowned Scottish church architect, Peter Macgregor Chalmers, the building demonstrates various stylistic influences from medieval church architecture that Chalmers would go on to develop further throughout his career.

Social historical interest

Church buildings help define a specific site or location and are often a principal focal point within a settlement or community. Buildings for worship within the Church of Scotland denomination, such as Carnoustie Church, are among the most widespread types of buildings designed for religious worship in Scotland.

Carnoustie Church is the largest of a cluster of church buildings built along the high street in the late 19th century to cater to the large number of tourists visiting the town which was popular for its golf and sea bathing.

Association with people or events of national importance

There is no association with a person or event of national importance.

External Links

External links are from the relevant listing authority and, where applicable, Wikidata. Wikidata IDs may be related buildings as well as this specific building. If you want to add or update a link, you will need to do so by editing the Wikidata entry.

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