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New chapter for Fortrose

21 December 2006

One of the most historic parts of Fortrose Cathedral is being brought back into use thanks to major renovations. The Chapter House and Sacristy, now freestanding but originally part of the cathedral, are the focus of a roofing, internal repair and refitting project that will allow the upper floor to be used as an education room. School parties and community groups will then be able to use the space for a whole variety of educational projects and activities.

Patricia Weeks, Historic Scotland Education Officer, said: "We want the community to get the most from fabulous historic buildings like Fortrose Cathedral.  The upper floor of the Chapter House will be a comfortable and convenient setting where people can take part in educational projects and activities of their own as well as ones organised by Historic Scotland."

The Chapter House, which has a vaulted ground floor that is opened on request for visitors and occasionally used for events, was of tremendous importance as the place where the cathedral’s business was conducted.

After the Reformation of 1560, most of the cathedral rapidly fell out of use with the lead roof and much of the stone being removed and reused.  However, the Chapter House fared differently and has had a number of functions.  It was re-roofed in the 19th century and served as a meeting place for the burgh council until the Second World War.

In January, the old roof will be stripped so rotted sarking (wooden lining between the rafters and slates) can be replaced.  The next phase of the project will involve repairs to the historic wall linings, putting in an oak floor and installing electrical fixtures and fittings.

Stephen Watt, Historic Scotland District Architect, said: "This is part of a long story in which the Chapter House has gone in and out of use a number of times. By replacing the rotted sarking, reslating and re-pointing the chimney we can make sure it is once again fully weatherproof.  We can then move to repair and upgrade the inside so it can be used by the local community once again."

The education room is expected to be open for use in 2007.

Notes for editors
  • The cathedral is in Fortrose on the A832. The gates are open during daylight hours. Keys are available locally. Telephone 01667 460232.

  • Permission to build the new cathedral for Ross was granted by Pope Gregory IX in 1236 but it was probably only finished in 1300. Additions were made in the 1400s. It fell out of use after the Reformation of 1560.

  • There have been several substantial Historic Scotland projects at Fortrose Cathedral in the past two years.


  • This year saw the replacement of corroded Victorian iron rods and plates designed to stop sections of Fortrose Cathedral collapsing. The eight week programme involved creating a temporary internal “skeleton” of props, beams and rods, to hold the 110 foot long 45 foot high medieval aisle steady while the old rods were removed.

  • In 2004 the electrical drive of the clock had to be replaced after it began chiming the wrong hours – including 64 o’clock.


  • In 2005 and 2006 decayed trees round the inside boundary wall of the churchyard were replaced with mature saplings.

  • Other work carried out on the cathedral by Historic Scotland in recent years has included re-pointing, leadwork and the replacement of worn stonework.

  • Historic Scotland has 345 outstanding historic properties and sites in its care. These include some of the leading tourism attractions in the country, including Edinburgh, Stirling, and Urquhart Castles, Fort George, Linlithgow Palace, the Border Abbeys, and Skara Brae.

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Executive charged with safeguarding the nation’s built heritage.  It is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament.

For further information


Kate Turnbull
PR Executive
Marketing and Media
0131 668 8959
kate.turnbull@scotland.gsi.gov.uk