East, Old and Inverarity

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History of Church



Our Church

The Chapel of Forfar, built in 1241 was the original church on this site. When  the mother church – Restenneth Priory, built in 710 AD fell into disrepair in  1591, religious   observance ceased there and the Chapel of Forfar assumed the  role of the Parish Church. Thus services have been held on this site for nearly  770 years.

The present building replaced the original in 1789/90. The architect John  Gibson of St Cyrus designed the building to seat 2000 people at a cost of  £2000. Originally the galleries ran round the east, north and west sides with  small high windows I the walls. The stone for the Church and later the Steeple  was quarried locally at Craignathro.

The Steeple & Clock

There is mention of a steeple as early as January 1661, but the present clock tower on the east wall of the church dates from 1814/15 and stands as a proud 150ft high landmark overlooking the town. It was built by contractor Patrick Brown at a cost of £1000, but during the rebuild he was imprisoned for debt. The Town Council advanced money to his guarantors to free him from prison and pay the masons, quarrymen and other employees.

The original brass clock, costing £60 was ordered from James Ivory, Dundee in 1734 but modifications giving it 4 faces were made when the steeple was rebuilt. It was decided in 1855 to light the faces of the clock and in 1860 to install a lightning conductor on the steeple.

The Griffin 

The vane for the top of the steeple had arrived sometime earlier and put on view in the church. It was very attractive with beautiful feathers painted in natural colours. It was made of beaten copper, weighed 144 pounds and measured 7ft 5inches from tongue to tip of tail. 50 years later the colours had faded and it was decided to gild the griffon.




The Bells

In 1657 Robert Strang, a merchant in Stockholm, presented a ‘Great Bell’ to be hung beside the two smaller ones that he and his younger brother had previously gifted. It is alleged that while in transit from Stockholm, the Dundonians took exception to such a gift and felt that Forfar did not warrant such a bell, stole the clapper and threw it in the River Tay. A local blacksmith, however made a new clapper and ‘Lang Strang’ has rung out over the town for 3 centuries since, to mark every great event, national and local, and its tone is unmistakeable. The other 2 bells were known as the six o’clock and eight o’clock.

Click for more pictures of the bells


The Organ

In 1898/99 the church was massively altered to accommodate a new organ, a gift from Mr James Duncan of Coupar Grange. The organ was supplied and built by Foster and Andrews of Hull. The north wall and staircases were removed and rebuilt, the galleries altered and the ornamental ceiling installed – a generous gesture at around £7000 for a very fine design of organ which regularly attracts organist visits from all over the country. He later offered an endowment for the future maintenance of the organ, providing that a pew was set aside for his family’s use. The Kirk Session refused to meet his condition and Mr Duncan withdrew his offer. Click for a close up picture of the organ (the organ was removed in 2016 and is being rebuilt in a church in Poland).

The Communion Table and Chairs

In front of the pulpit stands the carved oak Communion Table with the inscription ‘Gifted to Forfar Parish Church by a member, 3 Dec 1899 in memoriam 28 November 1897.’ The Woman’s Guild provided the five handsome oak chairs in keeping with the Table.


The Stained Glass Windows

In 1887, Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, Sir Thomas Thornton with his brother George of Jeanfield, gifted two fine stained glass windows in memory of their parents and grandparents. These are either side of the pulpit, showing on the left the Genesis story of Abraham put to the test and offering his son Isaac as a sacrifice. On the right is the scene from Acts with Paul preaching in Athens on his second journey. A monogram celebrating the Jubilee can also be seen. There are WW1 and WW2 memorial windows, also others dedicated to a particular family member, and a small circular design of the Church of Scotland burning bush design in glass. This window was removed from the East Church in 1977 when the two churches united and reinstated in the present session house.

The Graveyard

Burials have not been carried out here for many years. The famous botanist George Don is interred here. He died in abject poverty on 15th Jan 1814 and his funeral was one of the largest ever witnessed in Forfar. He was born in Menmuir in 1764, became a clockmaker, but ultimately took up gardening. He rose to the post of chief gardener at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh in 1802 and was elected an associate of the Linnean Society in 1803.
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