Tarves and the Altar Tomb of William Forbes

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Tarves is a very nice small planned village set around a central square and much of it is a conservation area. It has kept its post office and another large family run shop. The Heritage Centre is in part of the Victorian school and has an old petrol pump outside.

An old fashioned Historic Scotland sign points to the Forbes Tomb in the graveyard. This had originally been in the south aisle of the medieval church. By the 1700s the church was in a very poor state and was replaced by a newer building a few yards away. The tomb with part of the backing wall was preserved and now stands isolated in the graveyard to the south of the church. It is now in a protective perspex shed with an opening allowing you to take photographs.

William Forbes had rebuilt nearby Tolquhon Castle as a status symbol of his wealth and position. He designed the tomb as a suitable resting place for himself and his wife. It is one of the best examples of what is described in Scotland as the ‘glorious tombs’ of the Jacobean Age.

The tomb is a mix of Gothic and Renaissance styles, although the way it is set into the wall is reminiscent of medieval tombs. Along the base is a table with carved arches with a skull and cross bones. Above is a decorated arch with carvings of flowers and animals. At the sides are two balusters which look a bit like the carved wooden posts seen on four poster beds. They don’t quite go with the rest of the tomb.

Do look out for the two tiny stone effigies of William Forbes and his wife Elizabeth Gordon on either side of the base of the arch. In the corners are the armorial shields of William Forbes (top left) and Elizabeth Gordon (top right) with their family mottos.

Don’t miss the splendid old tombstones propped up on the wall of the church.

Tarves is a nice little village and repays exploring. The tomb is worth a quick look.

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