St. John’s Episcopal Church is built in the centre of the planned village of New Pitsligo. The village was created by Sir William Forbes of Pitsligo in the mid 18th Century and he was a staunch Episcopalian. It is possible he intended the prominent central plot to be left for an Episcopal Church. A small church was built here in 1835 and was replaced by the current, larger church in the early 1870’s.
The church is aligned east – west and stands in a fairly large plot with a graveyard alongside. There are shrubs and trees around the church and graveyard which can obscure the current church from view until you enter through the gateway from High Street. The land falls away quite steeply to the east which allows for a lower basement vestry (Crypt Chapel) under the sanctuary. The church was built in good qualitycoursed, tooled granite blocks and the roofs are slated.
The church consists of a nave, small tower, side aisles and chancel. The west gable forms the principal elevation. It has a large, central window made up of four tall narrow pointed- arch (lancet) windows with a quatrefoil above.
The two central lancets are tallest and all have small panes of clear, leaded glass, protected by metal mesh. There is a thick, pitched sill or string course below the window, which extends along the gable. The side aisles t the north and south are slightly set back from the nave at the west end. Their west faces have wide pointed arch windows with simple plate tracery and lancet and trefoil openings.
The south elevation consists of the side aisle, a small, square tower, entrance doorway and a gabled bay towards the east end. The tower and doorway are alongside each other at the west end. The tower is attached to the side aisle and has a lancet opening on each face at the belfry level at the top. There is a simple stringcourse below the lancets and a smaller one at the springer level of the lancet arches. The tower is topped by a stone slated pyramidal roof or spire with a small finial. The entrance doorway alongside the tower is pointed arched and has large arch stones (voussoirs) and chamfered margins. There is a covered entrance area between the outer archway and the actual door (sometimes referred to as the narthex), in which there is a ceramic tile floor. The substantial, single leaf wooden door has very large decorative hinge plates and an iron door pull. Within the narthex area is a small, narrow door which leads to the tower. The side aisle of the south elevation has two wide pointed arch windows which are made up of three trefoil headed openings with stained glass. The gabled bay of the south elevation has a single large pointed arch window with three narrow trefoil headed stained glass openings. Below is a sill course and two stepped buttresses, which support the gable. On top is a simple Celtic cross finial.
The north elevation is largely hidden by vegetation and trees but has a similar layout to the south elevation, with a gabled bay at the east end and pointed arch windows in the side aisle. The gable bay has a large pointed arch window which matches that in the opposite south gable, along with a smaller pointed arch window in the side face. The north side aisle has three wide pointed arch windows, which like the south, have three trefoil headed stained glass openings.
The east elevation of the church is notably tall due to the slope of the ground. There is a narrow round ended (apsed) chancel to the centre and a gabled bay alongside. The gable combines the eastyern end of the southaisle and nave, and has a round window with a quatrefoil opening with two lancet windows below. The round ended chancel has five pointed arch windows below the wallhead, which light the chancel inside. hey have trefoil and quatrefoil tracery and stained glass. Below in the vestry (crypt chapel) level are three taller but simpler trefoil headed windows with small panes of leaded glass. Attached to the chancel to the south is a narrow round stair turret which provides access down to the vestry.
Inside the Church
The interior of St Johns, like the exterior, is little altered since the church opened in 1871. The tall narrow nave is separated from the side aisles by robust arcade arches which are supported on granite quatrefoil columns. Apart from the ashlar dressing stones, the walls of the church are plastered and painted, and the floor is covered with patterned, ceramic tiles. The nave has the original wooden chairs still in place, arranged in rows and divided by a central passage.
At the west end a small area is separated from the nave by wooden panelling, which contains the current vestry and kitchen area. There is a finely carved stone pulpit at the east end of the nave, close to the chancel, and there is a side chapel n the east end of the north aisle.
The chancel is raised from the nave and entered through the pointed granite chancel arch. There are wooden choir pews or stalls, which have carved ends. The altar is simple and covered in a cloth and there is no reredos. In the side wall is a simple sacrament house and sidilia. Alongside the chancel is the original pipe organ, contained in a chamber with large pointed arch opening with arcading.
There are many fine stained glass windows in the church, which have mostly been added over the years to commemorate important figures in the churches life. They include a window to William Mitchell, Master Mason who built the church and a window each to nine Rectors of the church. The windows depict various Biblical scenes and figures and there are memorial plaques below many of the windows. Other members of the church and past Rectors are also remembered in numerous wall mounted plaques around the nave and side aisles.
The architect was a well known Scottish church designer – George Edmund Street who designed Haddo Chapel and St Mary on the Rock
The two centrallancets are tallest and all have