A Summary History of All Saints’ Church, Whiterashes

All Saints’ was established by Major John Ramsay, the Laird of Straloch, (1831-1895) as a school and mission church in 1858.  The attractive building was designed by James Mathews.  In the 1890s and early 1900s, some additions to the structure were made and, most notably, the striking coloured glass windows were created by the great Sir Ninian Comper.  Each window commemorates members or associates of the Ramsay/Irvine family of Straloch.  The impressive ‘East’ Window is a memorial to Major Ramsay himself.  The Straloch family’s close association with the Church was maintained by his sister Christina Ramsay (1833-1905) and by his daughter, Mary who became Mrs Francis Irvine (1859-1938). The School function had ceased after a Board School was set up in Whiterashes in 1876. Whilst the Straloch Estate remained in being and the hamlet of Whiterashes and most of the area around it was to all intents and purposes part of that estate, the Church flourished and had a clear raison d’être.  This was reflected in the fact that All Saints’ had its own priest between 1896 and 1920.  At other times in its 154 year history up to 2012 it was under the care of the Rector of St Mathew’s Church in Oldmeldrum.

After the Second World War, the Church seems to have been used less and less and the building began to deteriorate.  By the beginning of this century, the Straloch Estate was no more and the present situation is that All Saints’ has a congregation drawn from a much wider geographical area than Whiterashes.  It was originally attracted to All Saints’ in the 1990s by the energy and enterprise of Kenneth Chilles who saw that some Anglicans in the area wanted the opportunity of attending a regular service of Evensong.  More recently, the congregation became bound together in other ways – shared interests and beliefs, appreciation of the work of the interim priest-in-charge, Max Paterson, and a desire to keep an important ecclesiastical inheritance alive both materially and spiritually.  Some new strategies were developed after the June 2008 celebrations for the 150th Anniversary.  As well as the regular monthly services of Evensong which Kenneth Chilles had developed, extra meetings, concerts and discussions were held in the Church. 

When the Church was brought back into regular use, a group of volunteers had carried out some repairs and renovations but by 2008 it was clear that more radical treatment was needed if the attractive building and its impressive windows were to be properly preserved.  In 2008-9, therefore, the Church Council organised the professional restoration of the windows and their stonework surrounds together with other necessary work on the fabric.  The windows are certainly a notable feature of the Church but equally impressive in a different way is the pulpit carved in the early 1900s by a local member of the congregation, Ernest Gregory, the grandfather of Kenneth Chilles.  The windows and several other objects in the Church, including the impressive lectern, testify to the strong connection with the families of Straloch.  Until his death in 2003, Major Francis Irvine had maintained that link.

In the period 2011-12, a major change took place in the position of All Saints’ within the Diocese.  Following the retirement of Max Paterson, it became administratively convenient to detach All Saints’ from St Mathew’s at Old Meldrum.  Instead, All Saints’ became part of the Donside group of Churches under the general care of Canon John Walker with lay reader Richard Murray assuming direct responsibility for what became an incumbency with a new constitution and its own Vestry Council. The regular services every month and at the great festivals of the Church together with the additional talks and recitals etc. are now supplemented by weekly prayer meetings.

The Church has recently had reasonably good funds at its disposal as a result of the sale of the ‘Parsonage’ house, formerly part of the property.  As a result, it has been possible not only to have the windows expertly repaired and protected but also more recently to arrange for the building of an extension comprising a disabled toilet, a kitchen and a small meeting room. These new facilities were opened and dedicated by the Bishop in June 2013.

A pamphlet entitled All Saints’ Church Whiterashes.  An Introduction to the Church, its Mission and the Scottish Episcopal Church was produced in 2008 to inform visitors on the work of the Church and its aims.  A Short History of the Church by Kenneth Chilles is also available and contains photographs, inter alia, of the stained glass windows.