Tullibardine Chapel – A Pre Reformation Gem Well Worth A Visit

In my last Blog about the village and Parish of Blackford , I made a brief mention of Tullibardine Chapel tucked away in the north west corner of the Parish close to the prestigious Gleneagles Hotel . I must admit it one of  my favourite retreats  when I just  wish a bit of peace and quiet away from it all . Tullibardine  can be  described as a “ collegiate church “ .

 East window

                                                                                                      Pre Reformation splendour
A collegiate church sometimes  referred to as a  chantry chapel was a church built by a wealthy nobleman to house a "college" or small community of clerics whose role was to spend their days praying for the health and wellbeing of their benefactor and his family during life and, more importantly, for the salvation of their souls in the after life Many of the collegiate churches that were built in Scotland fell victim to the  Reformation of 1560 . Many became ruins or were transformed into parish churches for the larger community . Very few survived unscathed, and fewer still have remained in their original state over the centuries since. One of the joys of visiting Tullibradine is that in the restoration  work carried out by Historic Scotland , they have included a host of  intersting and informative  panels telling us  not only about the buildings  history but also giving us pictorial reproductions of what the church was like in its pre Reformation grandeur .

Tullibardine Chapel lies about two miles  from Auchterarder . To reach it from there head  for Gleneagles Hotel  and proceed  west on the A823 past the Equestrian Centre for  about half a mile The signpost to the Chapel tells you to follow the unclassified  road . About quarter of a mile on the left hand  side you will find the  Chapel  tucked away  besides West Mains Farm  . OS Reference is NN 910 134 .

It is as a rare surviving example of a collegiate church similar to the  comparitively close Innerpeffray Chapel south  east of Crieff . Tullibardine Chapel was founded in 1446 by Sir David Murray of Tullibardine, an ancestor of the Dukes of Atholl. The Murray family home was at the now demolished Tullibardine Castle. This stood on a site a short distance to the north of the chapel, though nothing now remains of it. By the time Sir David died in 1452 his church probably formed a simple rectangular structure, divided into a chancel at the eastern end and a nave at the west end.

View looking north to the hills The Castle was located here ,

Sir David was buried in his church, and is commemorated by an armorial plaque now placed on the north wall of the chancel. This carries the quartered arms of his mother and father, Isobel Stewart and another Sir David Murray.

The chapel as you see it today is regarded as the  work of Sir Andrew Murray,  grandson of the original builder. In about 1500, possibly to celebrate his marriage to Margaret Colquhoun , he undertook a major expansion of the chapel. He retained the choir at the east end of the existing building, but he replaced the existing nave and built substantial north and south transepts, giving space for more altars. The transepts are so large that the chapel is virtually cruciform in plan. Sir Andrew also built a small tower at the west end of the longer nave.

After the Reformation of 1560 the chapel became a family burial vault for the Murray family who were strong adherents of the Jacobite czuse and supporters  of the Risings of 1715 and 1745. Lord George Murray led the Jacobite forces to their victory over Government troops at the battle of Prestonpans in 1745. It was in the aftermath of the '45, that Tullibardine Castle  was badly damaged and was subsequently demolished . In 1816 the Murray family sold their estates in the area to the Drummonds, later to become Earls of Perth.

The decriptive panels in the interior gave  a superb replication of the Church as it was – a far difference trom the bare stone that greets the present day visitor . The complex  roof structure is quite fascinating . This is mainly medieval with the rafters joined by collars at th wall head . The  transepts on rither side of the  main body of the church have large segmental stone  arches  . The stone slabbed  floors indicate that a number  of  burials have taken place  within the body of the building presumably those of the long deceased Murray family , Other interesting  features and preserved  relics of the old religion include the two stone aumbries and an ogee headed niche in the south transept  which  would in probability  have housed a small religious statue . An aumbry is a stone  container  which held the chalices or other sacrimental vessels used in the Eucharist . There is also a similar one in the delightful Parish Church of St Beans  in Fowlis Wester .
The reason  for its excellent state of  preservation is  no doubt  attributable  to its quiet  location off the  main highway . Well located  for  Auchhterarder , Crieff and  the  villages  , Tullibardine  is worth a  visit – I am sure you will not be disappointed !

                                  Niche for religious statue

An aumbry for  housing the chalises


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