by Marion Ruscoe (NOSAS)
During a recent NOSAS field trip to archaeological sites on the east of Loch Ness, our attention was drawn to the Roman Catholic Chapel near Whitebridge (NH 49496 17045 – HER ID MHG47419) which is situated close to the Pictish Cemetery there (see separate Blog Post). The architectural style is deceptively simple, suggesting an earlier building date than was actually the case, and perhaps also reflecting a continuity with the croft buildings which must have preceded it. The following is the result of my research into the history of the site and its architecture.
By the middle of the 19th Century there was perceived a need for a chapel to serve the small number of Roman Catholics who lived in Stratherrick. Lord Lovat offered a site for this purpose at the croft at Bridge of Loin and a collection, which raised £49, was undertaken to pay for the new building. Alexander McDonell, a native of Fort Augustus, who had recently returned to Scotland from Australia, contributed a further £391 and in March 1859 there was a call for estimates from masons, carpenters, slaters, plasterers and plumbers for work on the new Roman Catholic Chapel and Clergyman’s House to be built at Dalcraig (Dalcrag) in Stratherrick. The chapel, seating 130, was consecrated in December 1859 and dedicated to the Immaculate Conception.
At a time when other denominations in Stratherrick were building substantial churches in a traditional style and in prominent positions, the Roman Catholic church at Whitebridge is simple, rather modest and set back from the road, so that it is not immediately obvious to passing traffic. It is a single storey building which resembles a croft house. The door is in the west gable and only the lancet windows betray its religious purpose. At the east end there appears to be domestic quarters and this may have been the original clergyman’s house which was superseded by a more substantial dwelling house at a later date. In A Country called Stratherrick Alan Lawson suggests that this larger house was built around 1900. However, although the two buildings are very different in style, the 1st edition 6” OS map shows the footprint of a building which is very like the present one in its entirety so it’s more likely that they were designed and built together.