Forgandenny Church lies about two miles from Forteviot, the ancient residence of the Pictish Kings. Thus it is not surprising to learn that there has been a church here since early times. Only a fragment of the ancient work is left as the building has been greatly altered at various times. On the inside it measures 70ft 7ins long by 21 ft 7 ins wide and accommodates 150 seats. The east wall is in the main Norman masonry. It has a splayed base which returns at each corner but most of this is hidden by rising ground toward the west.
The doorway to the church which is now built up was in the south side near the west end. It appears to have been Norman work and a small piece with double notch enrichment remains. This dog-tooth pattern is frequently found in the outer members of Norman door arches. At some later date a porch has been added when probably the Norman door was dismembered and the fragment now shown was built into the wall. Sometime after the Reformation, a laird’s seat (belonging to the Oliphants of Condie) was projected into the church. This seat was done away with by giving the Oliphants of Condie the porch, which they converted into a burial vault, enlarging it at the same time and making their seat over it with an opening into the church.
The Ruthven vault, situated father east is probably a structure of the 16th century, some closed up windows having features of that period. The foundation of a building was discovered in Victorian times on the north side of the church, exactly opposite the Ruthven vault, suggesting that the simple Norman building had for a time been converted to a cross church.
The bowl of the font still remains. It is octagonal but not equal sided. It measures 2ft 1in overall by about 15 inches high.
The present church of Dunbarney was erected in 1787 to accommodate up to 650 persons with a pulpit in the middle of the south wall. The capacity has been reduced considerably by alterations which have removed two of the three galleries and introduced a vestibule. In 1923 the interior of the church was reconstructed and furnished by Laurence Pullar of Dunbarney and his wife, in whose memory a stained glass window was erected by the congregation. That reconstruction removed the east gallery and located the pulpit and communion table at the east end so re-orientating the seating. The pipe organ, built by John Miller, Dundee, was installed in 1929. The North Gallery was converted into a vestry during the building of the adjoining church hall in 2000.
Previous to the year 1787, a church stood a few yards from the present one. It was erected in 1684 but was replaced on becoming unable to accommodate the large increase in population of the parish in the third quarter of the 18th century. Prior to 1684, Dunbarney parish church stood a mile to the west in the burial ground near the mansion of Dunbarney. The old village of Dunbarney lay in that area but as the population centre developed at the Bridge of Earn, a more convenient site was selected. That pre-Reformation church may have been very ancient. Reputedly, it was constructed of clay and turf.
The first Scottish communion service to be broadcast and the first to be televised took place in Dunbarney Church in 1950 and 1953.
The church records have been placed into the safe keeping of the National Archives of Scotland. Some of the information is available online from ScotlandsPeople.
The Old Parish Registers of Dunbarney are under OPR 347 covering Births/ baptisms 1594 –1854, Marriages / banns 1598 –1698, 1704-1748 and 1850 –1854. Deaths / burials 1598 – 1615, 1850-1854.
Recently a cash book has been inspected and found to contain Marriages from 1831 – 1845 and Deaths from 1831 –1854. These have been extracted and will be available in a publication from Tay Valley Family History Society.
Forgandenny Old Parish Registers are found under reference OPR353 and comprise Births/baptisms 1695 –1854 starting with extracts from an earlier register of children named Oliphant 1654-1695. Marriages 1695-1854. There is no surviving OPR death record.
The National Archives of Scotland also hold the following : Dunbarney Kirk Session Minutes 1657 –1830 and recently added 1831 – 1948 along with cash books 1831-1974 and Communion Rolls 1855-1972. These are under reference CH2/100
Forgandenny Kirk Session Minutes from 1709 –1931 and recently added Session Record Book 1867 – 1959 are under reference CH2/161.
Forgandenny Free Church records 1843-1929 are found under reference CH3/134.
Dunbarney Free Church Records from 1843 – 1930 have been handed over to the NAS only recently.