Place:Birse, Birse, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

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NameBirse
TypeInhabited place
Coordinates57.063°N 2.729°W
Located inBirse, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

General Info

Birse is an inhabited place in the parish of the same name, where the parish church traditionally was located. The whole parish is rural with very low population density, and Birse is not even really a village so much as a spot with a slightly higher concentration of homes.

For more information, see the page for the Parish of Birse.

Birse Parish Kirk

Earliest records of a kirk in Birse date from 1157, when it was mentioned in a charter of the Bishop of Aberdeen, and was the seat of the Chancellor of the Diocese. A relic from that time, called the Crusader Stone, was rediscovered when the foundation for the present structure was being laid in 1779, and it can be seen today in the vestry. Earlier kirks stood a bit to the south of the present structure. The most recent prior structure was a stone building with a thatched roof erected in 1603.

The present kirk structure, erected in 1779, is a coursed granite structure in a plain rectangular plan, with a slate roof, its primary adornment being a small ball-capped bellcote on the west gable over the entrance. It seats 550. When the church was in use in the 18th and 19th centuries, the pews were arranged lengthwise on the rectangular plan, with the pulpit being in the middle of the long wall. There was a gallery for the Farquharson family, who were the prominent landowners in the parish. (Visitors to the kirk today will find the pews rearranged perpendicular to the length of the building, as is the modern convention.)

The kirkyard contains over three hundred gravestones, mostly upright, with about two dozen or more recumbent stones, and one prominent enclosure for the Farquharson family. The majority of the stones date from the 19th century, though there are a few from the late 18th century. It is thought that the present graveyard is built on top of an older one, so many who were buried here prior to the 19th century lay unmarked or covered over by newer graves. The kirkyard is thoroughly documented in a booklet called The Kirkyard of Birse, compiled by Sheila M Spiers, put out by the Aberdeen and North East Scotland Family History Society (publication #AA104). The Society also provides an online index of names with dates (though you must get the booklet to find the complete inscriptions).

In 1863, a kirk was built at Finzean, which was a more populous part of the parish (and closer to the Farquharson seat at Finzean House). In 1902, Finzean became a separate quoad sacra parish, but Birse and Finzean were reunited in 1987 (together with Strachan), with Finzean being the parish kirk. Birse Kirk is no longer used as a church, but was recently purchased by the Birse Community Trust for preservation and use as a community and for-hire meeting hall. Visits may be arranged through the trust.