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Listed Building

The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site only. All other information in the record is not statutory.


Status: Designated


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  • Category: A
  • Group Category Details: A - (see Notes)
  • Date Added: 14/12/1970


  • Local Authority: Edinburgh
  • Planning Authority: Edinburgh
  • Burgh: Edinburgh

National Grid Reference

  • NGRNT 24120 73484
  • Coordinates324120, 673484


Sir George Gilbert Scott, completed by John Olrid Scott, 1874 -1890. Chapter house by J Olrid Scott 1891; W spires 1913-17, Charles Marriot Scott (see Notes). Significant ecclesiastical gothic revival cathedral, drawing on early gothic sources and constructed on a monumental scale. Cruciform plan with 6-bay nave; side aisles with stepped buttresses; large crossing; 2-bay transepts; chapter house to NE. Composition dominated by central lucarned spire with flying buttresses and octagonal belfry; two further similar towers to W. Squared and snecked sandstone with some ashlar quoins. Gothic Revival exterior characterised by tall pointed arch windows with quatrefoil at clerestory. Restrained tracery with single colonettes. Buttressed set-back corner angles throughout. Interior work by GG Scott, JO Scott, George Henderson, J Pittendrigh McGillivray, Hippolyte Le Blanc, Robert Lorimer and Sir Eduardo Paolozzi.

W (ENTRANCE) ELEVATION: symmetrical 6-part elevation with buttressed towers flanking 3-part entrance. Large deeply recessed and intricately carved doorway to centre flanked by blind arches in similar recesses; all with gablets over. Tympanum shows Christ in a mandorla. Four lancet windows with wheel window over; all set in carved arched recess.

WEST TOWERS: three tall stages all with blind arcading; 2-bay to lower 2 stages. Angled buttresses supporting corbelled turrets and pinnacles to corners of octagonal lucarned spires.

INTERIOR: scholarly gothic revival, drawing on early gothic sources. 6-bay nave with buttressing quadripartite vaulted aisles to side. Alternate round-plan and octagonal-plan plain piers with foliate capitals supporting pointed arches. Corbelled colonettes at apex of arches and from pier capitals crossing triforium and clerestory to support timber tunnel roof. Paired pointed arched openings at triforium with central column and bundled colonettes to side. Paired pointed arched windows at clerestory with quatrefoil above, all set within pointed arch; various surround detailing, some saw toothed. Diagonal arches to corners of crossing with clustered colonettes supporting concrete vault; oculus to centre. Decorated compound columns to chancel. Sexpartite vault, ribs extending down to corbel supported by colonettes between triple lancet windows. Lady Chapel to S aisle by George Henderson (1897-8) with Romanesque altar and metal screen by Singer and Sons. Hanging Rood by Robert Lorimer, 1922. Stained glass by Clayton and Bell, Burlison and Grylss, and CE Kempe. Triple lancet and rose window to S transept by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, 2002.

CHAPTER HOUSE: John Olrid Scott 1890-91. Octagonal plan; buttressed with broached corners and octagonal roof. Octagonal lierne vault to interior with single granite column to centre.

Statement of Special Interest

St Mary's Cathedral forms and A-group with Easter Coates House and the Song School and Walpole Hall (see separate listings). Ecclesiastical building in use as such. St. Mary's Cathedral is a significant example of the scholarly Gothic Revival style of Sir George Gilbert Scott and one of very few examples of this style in Scotland. The choice of an English architect and a predominantly English style is unusual, however the sources for the building are predominantly Scottish (Holyrood and Dunblane amongst them) reflecting the position of the Episcopalian Church by providing the building with explicitly Scottish roots set within a broader English context. The choice of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott as the architect for St. Mary's was a direct result of this close association between Scottish Episcopalianism and the English Church. This unique background makes St. Marys one of very few Gothic revival churches in Scotland built in the fashion for 'correct' Ecclesiological design and its importance is emphasised by the scale of the design and its situation in the heart of the Western New Town. Other comparable examples in Scotland include St. Ninian's Cathedral Perth and College of the Holy Spirit, Cumbrae (see separate listings).

The design for St. Mary's was chosen by limited competition involving six architectural practices (Sir George Gilbert Scott, G. F. Street, Peddie and Kinnear, John Lessels, Alexander Ross and William Burges). The money for the commission was a bequest of the Walker Sisters (heirs of Sir Patrick Walker on whose land the nearby Walker Estate was developed) on the condition that it be used to build a cathedral. Scott won the competition with a design that originally included only a single tower, and was later amended to include the two W towers in 1874. Work began on site in 1874 with Edwin Morgan as clerk of works and a London builder G.W. Booth. All apart from the W towers and chapter house was complete by 1879 at a cost to that date of £110,000. The chapter house was completed in 1890-91 by John Olrid Scott (Sir G.G. Scott's son) and the W towers in 1913 -17 by Charles M Olrid Scott (Sir G.G. Scott's son), both to the original designs. The interior is particularly fine, with contributions by a number of well known architects and designers. One of the most striking memorials to the interior is a large recumbent figure of Dean Montgomery dating from 1900 by J Pittendrigh McGillivray; the large Romanesque marble base is by Hippolyte J. Blanc. The later windows in the S transept are by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, dating from 2002.

Sir George Gilbert Scott (1811 -1878) was one of the foremost Gothic Revival architects of his day. After beginning his career by designing poor houses Scott was inspired by the work of A.W.N Pugin and his first notable work in the Gothic Revival style was the Martyrs Monument in Oxford. He went on to work on a number Gothic buildings, of which St Mary's is one of the most high profile alongside the Albert memorial in Hyde Park. His only other Gothic Revival building in Scotland is Glasgow University. Scott later adapted his style to incorporate European influences alongside the Gothic. The best known of these works is the 'Midland Grand Hotel' at St. Pancras Station in London. Scott hoped that a new style may emerge from his more eclectic use of a range of sources. His use of the Gothic was however influential and his son, (later Sir) Giles Gilbert Scott won the competition for Liverpool Cathedral with a Gothic inspired design at the age of only 22, in 1901.

(List description revised 2009 as part of re-survey)



Ordnance Survey, Large Scale Town Plan, (1893 - 94); J Gifford, C McWilliam, D M Walker, The Buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh (1988) p. 364; Youngson, The Making of Classical Edinburgh, (1988) p. 215; West End Community Trust, Edinburgh's West End, A Short History, 1984. RCAHMS broadsheet 13, Miles Glendinning, Alison Darragh, St. Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh, A Short History and Guide, 2002; (accessed 13/5/2008); Country Life, Hubert Fenwick, Monumental but Not Romantic, 25.10.1979; Foskett, The Pictorial History of St. Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh 1814 -1964, 1959; J.A. Shaw, In the end the beginning: an account of St. Mary's Cathedral Edinburgh 1814 - 1964, 1964; David Cole, the Work of Sir Gilbert Scott, 1980.

About Designations

Listed Buildings

We list buildings of special architectural or historic interest and these are selected according to criteria published in the, Annex 2, pp74-76.

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