Early history of the churches
The earliest religious activity in the parish was probably at St Bennet’s Chapel which stood near Craiguth Well on the north shore of Munlochy Bay. The names Bennetsfield and Clach Bhenneit , the old Gaelic name for Matheson’s Stone are reminders of that time.
From notes in the record of the Presbytery of Chanonry “The church of Avoch belonged to the Abbey of Kinloss”. Its prebend was held by the Chantor of the Cathedral of Fortrose.
At Ormond Castle in this parish there was a chapel of St Mary near to Our Lady’s Well. At Killen there was a chapel of St John.
(Prebend is the income from taxes (tithes or teinds) on local produce such as grain or livestock.)
Avoch Parish Church
The Parish Church dates from 1670, when the first church was built on the present site. The present building is the third on the site – the first two having been destroyed by fire. The building dates from 1870, and is built east-west, whereas the previous two were built north-south.
The records go back to 1728.
Along with Sir Alexander Mackenzie, James Douglas Fletcher, owner of Rosehaugh House, was a great benefactor to the village and sat upstairs in the church in a padded pew. Leather bibles with the name ROSEHAUGH in gold lettering were used by himself and members of his staff.
In the Church yard, Sir Alexander Mackenzie and his family are buried, as is the Fletcher Rosehaugh family vault.
Also in the churchyard is the “Cruickes” baby where many a granny takes her grandchildren to see the baby.
Avoch Congregational Church
The Congregational Church is situated on the main street through the village fronting directly onto the street, and with its church hall set back off the road. Services were originally held in the “Parkie” by the Haldane Brothers. If it rained, the followers moved to under the bridge beside the Station Hotel. The congregation was gifted a cottage by Sir Alexander Mackenzie, on the existing site where the church was eventually built. Sir Alexander also provided financial assistance for the church. It is documented by Alexander Dewar, the first Congregational Church minister at Avoch that “Sir Alexander Mackenzie, the new proprietor of Avoch Estate, was a much more liberal man than his predecessor.” More…..
Avoch Free Church
The third large church in Avoch, and the first to be seen when entering the village from Munlochy, is the Free Church
This is no longer in use as a church but is a private residence, having been converted by local craftsman Robert Douglas in 1986-1988, with plans developed by local architect Douglas Murray. The house was purchased by a third Douglas – Douglas Maclean and his wife, who latterly resided in the west wing of the building, and have since moved away.
In the 1990s and up till 2004, the building housed both a family home and a busy office for a local business, Highland Business Networks Ltd. The staff of the business then moved to new offices in Inverness, and the office accommodation converted to a second family home.
From the 1930s the building was used as the village hall, and has seen many a dance and other local village activities. The balcony is still in place, now housing an upstairs lounge. The rose window at the west end was created by a local firm specialising in hand-made stained glass – Northern Lights. When the building was purchased in 1988, the window had been bricked up, and internally the ceiling had been lowered from its original height (probably to enable strengthening of the roof frame which was weak) and cut straight across the window opening. The Macleans had the ceiling raised by creating a barrel vault, and had a new window designed and installed. The plans for the conversion work were developed by Strathpeffer architect Douglas Murray.
There is a close link with James Douglas Fletcher, and with Alexander Ross, the architect who designed the Cathedral in Inverness. Following the Disruption of the Church in 1843, the Free Church approached Sir James John Randall MacKenzie of Rosehaugh requesting a church site – but this was refused. A new site was later agreed with James Fletcher, the then owner of Rosehaugh, for a rent of 1/- (5p), and Fletcher provided £500 towards the building costs. There was one proviso – that they engage the architect Alexander Ross of Inverness. The church opened, in 1873, free of debt.
Avoch Gospel Hall
The Gospel Hall is a newer building, located in the Dock area.