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Visiting The Steeple, Montrose, Scotland: in Gothic Revival style, by James Gillespie Graham, dating from 1832 - 1834

Updated on January 19, 2015
Flag of Scotland
Flag of Scotland | Source
The Steeple, Montrose. At the south end of the High Street
The Steeple, Montrose. At the south end of the High Street | Source
Montrose Basin from the Wildlife Centre High tide fills the basin. Beyond the railway bridge is the skyline of Montrose with its distinctive steeple.
Montrose Basin from the Wildlife Centre High tide fills the basin. Beyond the railway bridge is the skyline of Montrose with its distinctive steeple. | Source

Pinnacles, pointed arches and flying buttresses in abundance

James Gillespie Graham (1776-1855)(1) was the architect for the tower often referred to as The Steeple, Montrose, Angus, in the Tayside region. The imposing structure actually belongs to the Auld Kirk, more fully the Old and St. Andrew's Church, the main body of which dates from 1793, by David Logan. This church building's nave windows were altered in 1860 and the south apse was built at the end of the 19th century.

Executed in High Gothic style, the influence of Augustus Pugin (1812-1852), leading proponent of the style, is generally seen in the profusion of The Steeple's pointed arches and pinnacles, and in the presence of flying buttresses.

The Steeple, executed in sandstone, houses a bell dating from 1678. Various varieties of sandstone had been used in erecting other parts of the Auld Kirk (3).

The Steeple gives its name to the organ of the Montrose Society, a group dedicated to local history and preservation of the town's building heritage.

The Auld Kirk is located at the southern end of the High Street, Montrose. The town's skyline, viewed from several directions, is dominated by The Steeple.

To the visitor, arriving in Montrose, The Steeple gives a sense of sedate order to the Downtown area. It also provides a physical reminder of the historic precedence of the Church of Scotland.

Not far from The Steeple is a plaque commemorating the fact that Scottish nationalist poet Hugh MacDiarmid (1892-1978) (C.M. Grieve) once served as the editor of a local journal, the Montrose Review. MacDiarmid wrote in both Lowland Scots and English; and also joined the Communist Party at different periods of his long life.

I was thoroughly impressed by this quiet, Scottish town. One observation that I would have is that — like Canada — Scotland's north-east coast can be rather cold if visited at times other than during the summer months. On the other hand, the absence of crowds during off-peak periods of the year may prove to be an attraction, and makes the available accommodation options in the town more competitive.

Historically the Dukes of Montrose were associated with the town; elevated to Marquess, James Graham (1612-1650) was a prominent member of the family, who excelled as a soldier and poet.

January 19, 2015


(1) Architect Gillespie was noted for his work in Gothic Revival style and for his church architecture; church buildings which he designed include St Andrew's Roman Catholic Cathedral, Glasgow, St Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral, Edinburgh and the former Highland Tollbooth Church, Edinburgh. He also designed significant buildings in Neo-Classical style at various locations in Scotland and in Birkenhead, England.

(2) In common with the established practice regarding buildings associated with the Church of Scotland in many Scottish towns, the Auld Kirk is also sometimes referred to simply as Montrose Parish Church.

(3) See also:

Angus, UK
Angus, UK | Source

Also worth seeing

In Montrose itself, known as a former royal burgh, other attractions include: the House of Dun; Montrose Nature Reserve known as the Basin, home to species of wildfowl and wading birds; Montrose Museum; Montrose Library; and many others; for its size the town has many examples of statues representing prominent, historical personalities; the town's popular beach is 4.8 kilometres long.

Balmoral Castle, Ballater, Royal Deeside (distance: approx. 56 kilometres) is a residence of HM The Queen, not open to the public, but in a very picturesque area.


How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Glasgow and Edinburgh Airports, where car rental is available. There are air and rail services which connect Glasgow and Edinburgh with Aberdeen. Car hire is available at Aberdeen Airport; Stagecoach Bus operates a service between Aberdeen and Montrose. There are also rail links which connect Montrose with Aberdeen and Edinburgh and beyond. Some facilities mentioned may be withdrawn without notice. Please check for up to date information with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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