History

The old churchyard of Bellie is situated some two miles to the north of the planned settlement of Fochabers, and about a mile north of Gordon Castle. The church itself has long since disappeared, having been allowed to fall into ruin following the building of the new church in Fochabers, which opened on 29th October 1797.The church and churchyard at Bellie almost certainly date from the 12th century. Bellie may originally have been an early Christian preaching site, similar to Birnie or Kinneddar, and the first church would probably have had either wooden or mud walls, with a divot-thatched roof.

*This would very soon have been replaced by a stone structure, but the divot roof seems to have remained throughout most of the life of the kirk. Dedicated  to  St Peter,  it  became  the  parish  church  of  Belly,  later  Bellie.   Its  name  most  likely  derives  from  the  Gaelic  words  beal  =  the mouth  and  abh  =  a  river.  Initially, the church came under the patronage of the priory of Urquhart, and later under the Bishops of Moray. The church is shown on Pont’s map of ca 1590. It was rebuilt during the 1720’s into a style which remained until its abandonment in 1797, when the new church in the square in Fochabers, designed by John Baxter, the architect employed by the Duke, came into use.

The proposals for the removal of the church and manse to the town of Fochabers were under consideration as early as 1785, but it was not until 1797 that the new church in Fochabers was finally completed. Following the move to Fochabers the old kirk and its manse were allowed to quietly fall into disrepair and decay, any useful surviving stones being “quarried” by the local people for the building of dykes and other structures.  It was only a very short time until no trace of the original structure remained visible above ground.The Burial Ground continued to be used following the move to a new churchin Fochabers and provided the main burying ground for the parish, being extended firstly in 1929, and then again in the 1970s.

During the course of investigations by MBGRG, parts of what appear to be the foundations of the old church wall have been found, directly in line with the Annand/Hamilton memorial (which is set into what is reputed to be a part of the church wall). Although this work is incomplete, it seems likely that this was the south wall of the church, with the memorial being about half way along the inside of this wall. Eventually it is hoped that the whole outline of the church will be traced

A  more detailed  account  of  the  very  early  days  of   the  Church  of  Bellie  may  be  found  in  the  following  books :-   “The  Story  of  the  Old  Church  and  Churchyard  of  Bellie”  by Bruce  Bishop  FSA Scot.,and  “The  Forgotten  Tombstones  of  Moray Vol. 3”  and  “Monumental Inscriptions  Bellie Churchyard  and  New  Cemetery”   by  The Moray  Burial  Ground Research  Group.

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