The first church building of any note was that which was opened by Dr. Morison in 1844. The foundation stone was laid by the same man on 4th July 1843, on the site of the original chapel, which as we already know had been around since the middle of the 17th century. The Portlethen Church that you see on the hill today may only be a little over 160 years old but the site itself has been in use as a place of religious worship since 1635.
Perhaps a church was located here even earlier than 1635 because I discovered many references stating that “there has been a church in that district from time immemorial”. There is even a reference that there was a family chapel in place before the Scottish reformation which intimates that there was a church on this particular location as early as 1500.
There remains one mystery in respect to churches and chapels in our area – St Ternan’s Chapel which was located on the coast near to Findon shore. This was the site of a chapel and, reputedly, a burial ground. Unfortunately the last remaining ruins and foundations were cleared away in the 1800’s and there is nothing left to see on this site today.
I’ve attempted to find literary references in respect to St. Ternan’s Chapel but so far I’ve found very little, save for Ordnance Survey map references indicating the location of the site. The one other reference that I did find in relation to this chapel came from the book “The Episcopal Chapel at Muchalls” by John Paul Hill where it is stated that “this congregation is partly composed of the descendants of those who worshipped at St. Mary’s, Cowie and of those who worshipped at St. Ternan’s Chapel, Finnan. They joined together and worshipped in Muchalls’ earliest chapel about 1624”.
There is also a newspaper article from the Aberdeen Journal on 2nd January 1894 about the Dean of Brechin, William Hatt, and within that article there is a reference to St Ternan’s Chapel which makes the following statement. “The congregation over which Dean Hatt officiates, although one of the poorest, is among the most interesting of the Scottish Episcopal charges. Its history stretches back to the preaching of St. Ternan on the braes of Findon in the fifth century”.
From this statement it would appear that the holy stuff has been going on, in a variety of forms and guises, around the Portlethen district for well over 1600 years.
Views of the interior of Portlethen Church in the 1960's.