James Gibbs, 1755, Archibald Simpson, 1835-7 and William Smith, 1875-7. Early burgh church in city centre location incorporating some 12th and 15th century fragments (see Notes), with central former crossing with 4-stage tower with steeple and with adjoining churches to E and W. Granite and sandstone ashlar, some rubble, with channelled quoins to W. Base course.
West Church: James Gibbs, 1755. 5-bay classical rectangular-plan church with pedimented entrance elevation to W with channelled rustication to doorpiece. Round-arched window openings with moulded architraves. Some Gibbs surrounds. Predominantly multi-pane timber windows. Cast-iron rainwater goods with decorative heads and clasps. Lead roof.
East Church: Archibald Simpson, 1835-7, incorporating Andrew Wrycht, master mason, 1438 crypt chapel at East end. 5-bay buttressed, crocketted and finialled Gothic former church. Hoodmoulds, deep-set pointed-arch and rectangular openings with decorative tracery. Separate entrance leads to small groin-vaulted chapel to E (commercial premises 2006).
Steeple: William Smith, 1875-7. Crocketted and finialled square-plan clock-tower with recessed stone spire. Clasping polygonal corner towers. Pointed-arch louvred openings to belfry.
INTERIOR: West Church: rare survival of a substantially unaltered 18th century interior. Barrel vaulted, with groin-vaulted aisles and oak panelled gallery. Massive decorative pulpit and communion table. Pine boxed pews, arranged in square-plan with pulpit to S. Lord Provost's loft to W with Corinthian columned baldacchino.
East Church: archaeological dig in progress (2006). Panelled oak gallery to N, S and W. Several good quality stained glass windows.
Statement of Special Interest
This is one of the most historically important buildings in Aberdeen. With some surviving elements from the late 12th century in the central crossing, it has been gradually altered through the centuries to become a large, prominent feature in the city landscape. The West section of the church is thought to be the only Gibbs building in Scotland and its interior is particularly noteworthy as a rare 18th century survival.
The original church, known as 'The Mither Kirk' dated from 1151 and was one of the largest medieval churches in Scotland. Some remnants of this church possibly remain in St John's Chapel and in the central crossing, which was refurbished in 1990. The crypt, under the East end dates from 1438. The Church was divided into two congregations following the Reformation, with the nave of the old church becoming the West Kirk and the choir, the East Kirk. The West Kirk began to deteriorate and was refashioned to a design which James Gibbs had given to the city of Aberdeen in 1741. Lack of money meant the design was not realised until 1755. The East church was almost completely demolished in 1835 and then rebuilt by Archibald Simpson in 1835-7. In 1874 a fire destroyed the old oak and lead steeple over the crossing and the 1835 Church. Both were replaced by William Smith in 1875-77.
James Gibbs (1682-1754) was one of the foremost British architects of the 18th century. Born in Aberdeen, he studied in Rome and spent most of his working life in England, where he worked with Sir Christopher Wren. He won commissions from many of the most influential people at the time. His public and private buildings are numerous and include St Martin's-in-the-Fields in London and the Radcliffe Library at Oxford.
References from previous list description: Ecc Arch v1 p426. Chapman &Riley pf147. G M Fraser, Archibald Simpson and his Times. Town Council Minutes. APSD. NSA v 12 p33. Little, James Gibbs p154. OSA v 19 p184-5. W Douglas Simpson in Country Life Aug 19th 1965.
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