Innerpeffray Chapel, also known as St Mary's Chapel, stands on the east bank of the Rive Earn a little over three miles south-east of Crieff. It occupies a site of historical importance, where the line of defensive watch towers built by the Romans along the Gask Ridge during their first foray into Scotland crossed the River Earn.
The first reference to a church at Innerpeffray dates back to 1365. Nothing remains of this earlier church except, perhaps, the altar which still stands against the wall at the east end of the chapel.
The lands in the area later passed into the hands of the Drummond family. The chapel you see today was built in 1507 by John, 1st Lord Drummond. As well as paying for the chapel, he paid for four chaplains to pray for the wellbeing of their benefactor and his family, both in life and in the afterlife.
By 1542 the chaplains serving the chapel had formed a "college", in effect a small religious community, and the church had become what is known as a "collegiate church". Its role remained very much as before: a place of worship for the lord and his family and retainers, and a place where the college of priests could pray for the souls of the Drummonds. The new status of the church seems to have been part of Lord Drummond's development of Innerpeffray as a home for one of his younger sons. The following year, 1543, saw the building of nearby Innerpeffray Castle, now an inaccessible ruin.
As originally built, there seems to have been a sacristy on the north side of the chapel. The western third of the chapel formed a small nave screened off from the larger choir at the east end, where the layfolk would have worshipped. A laird's loft was put in place over the east end of the nave, facing west. The larger choir was reserved for the use of the college of chaplains, and was fitted with stalls along both sides. A very unusual feature was the arch at the west end of the chapel, dividing the nave from what is thought to have been an alcove. At some point a room has been inserted in the upper part of the alcove, and traces of the highly decorative painting of the ceiling below still remain.
After the Reformation of 1560, the chapel survived by being converted into a family burial vault for the Drummonds. By 1680 the estate was in the hands of David Drummond, 3rd Lord Madertie. He was a renowned scholar who had built up a collection of 400 books in English, Latin and a range of European languages. These he kept in the chapel until they were rehoused in 1762 in a library built immediately to the west of the chapel by his descendent Robert Hay Drummond, who at the time was Archbishop of York. The following year it opened as Scotland's first free public lending library.
The chapel today is a fascinating example of a collegiate church which avoided falling into disuse after the Reformation. Drummond family crests and memorials adorn the walls, while the discreet medieval altar still sits against the east wall.
Today the alcove at the west end is home to one of the most magnificent old gravestones you are likely to find anywhere in Scotland. And also one of the most poignant. This is the Faichney monument. It was carved by John Faichney, a mason, and commemorates his wife Joanna, who died in 1707 and no fewer than ten of their children who had died before her. The couple are carved on the head of the stone, while the columns on either side of the body of the stone carry small figures depicting each child. The stone originally stood in the churchyard, but has been moved into the chapel to protect it from the elements.