Abernyte Church stands next to a minor road just over half a mile east of Abernyte on a hillside offering superb views south east over the Carse of Gowrie to the River Tay. This places it about five miles west of the edge of Dundee.
The church is cruciform in shape. It stands on the site of a pre-Reformation church, parts of which can still be identified in the fabric. It seems to have been renovated in 1672, then largely rebuilt in in 1736 by David Smart, a Dundee mason and James Morris, a local wright.
They retained the east west alignment and rectangular shape of the existing church and added a bellcote to the top of the west gable. In about 1800 an aisle was added to the north side of the church, forming a north transept.
In 1870 the architect Thomas Saunders Robertson extended and remodelled the church. He added a chancel to its south side, extended the north transept into what became a nave, and turned the ends of the 1736 church into east and west transepts. The end result was the Gothic styled, cruciform church you see today.
The interior of the church features large areas of dark wood panelling and roof beams, and dark wood pews. The pews in the nave all face south towards the chancel and pulpit, and there are additional pews in the east transept, again facing towards the pulpit. The pulpit, lectern and communion table contrast strikingly as they are made from a honey coloured wood. The contrast is completed by the white painted walls and white ceiling panels between the beams.
The interior is enlivened by the striking collection of stained glass in the chancel and two transepts. The bright colours, flowing designs and agricultural themes of the modern window in the west transept help make it particularly attractive.
The surrounding churchyard is home to some superb early gravestones. Best known are the two "butcher's stones". One of these was erected by Patrick Lowson the flesher or butcher in Glen Lyon and Longforgan to commemorate his father James, who died in 1729 and his mother who died in 1736. It stands, severely leaning sideways, to the south of the church and its west face carries a series of spectacular, if slightly gruesome, carvings. The upper and lower portions of the stone carry common symbols of mortality, in this case a pair of angels at the top and an hour glass and crossed bones at the bottom. The main panel has a carving of a heart on which are laid out a set of butcher's tools. Poking in from the columns which run up either side are a series of sheep's heads. These gaze in on a scene in which a steer is being gripped by its throat by a large dog, while the butcher, standing beyond the steer, strikes the blow that will kill it.
The second butcher's stone is propped against the south wall of the west transept of the church. This commemorates Jean Boyd who died in 1746 and William Paterson who died in 1759. The main frame of the stone carries a pair of angels above a shield on which has been carved the figure of a man. Below the shield are three symbols of mortality: a skull, crossed bones and an hourglass. What makes this stone unusual is the carving which occupies its curved pediment, showing three animals, one of which is on its back on a slab and in the process of being cut up by the butcher.
Other fine stones carry depictions of the tools of various trades, including weavers, cordiners or shoemakers, and wrights. The churchyard is also home to a commemorative immortelle, a complex china object standing on a grave incorporating figures, foliage and birds, covered by a glass dome and protected by a wire outer cover. Extremely fragile, these date back to the Victorian era and very few now survive intact.
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Grid Ref: NO 267 311