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- Group Category Details
- See Notes
- Date Added
- Local Authority
- Perth And Kinross
- Planning Authority
- Perth And Kinross
- Little Dunkeld
- NO 3234 41820
- 303234, 741820
William Slater to design of Richard Cromwell Carpenter, 1856-58; tower belfry stage by James Ramsay, 1882; low N aisle and baptistery by Norman & Beddoe, 1883; choir stalls by Rev Edward Sugden 1889; organ by Forster and Andrews 1874, rebuilt by John R Miller 1908. Well-detailed gothic church with 3-bay nave, aisle chancel, square 3-stage crenellated tower and unusually fine interior with Burne-Jones windows by William Morris & Co, stencilling remnants and furnishings of note. Squared, coursed and snecked rubble with ashlar dressings. Raked base course, band course and machicolation to tower, angle buttresses, voussoirs, traceried windows and chamfered reveals.
FURTHER DESCRIPTION: entrance tower to SW with 2-leaf timber door and traceried oculus dwarfed by flanking projecting buttresses; aisle with Burne Jones windows and squat buttresses to NW under swept roof with diminutive ventilators; SE elevation of nave and chancel, latter with hoodmoulded recess below 2-light window; large 3-light window to cross-finialled NE gable.
Fine coloured glass or coloured margins to diamond-pattern leaded lights throughout. Grey slates. Shouldered stack raised in brick at vestry; ashlar-coped skews to stepped roof.
INTERIOR: unusually fine interior with good decorative scheme in place, including open timber roof with simple cross bracing, limewashed walls to nave and aisle, evidence of stencilling at chancel, columned N arcade, fixed timber pews and some tiled floors. Moulded chancel arch with carved head corbels and decorative stone septum with inset railings; sanctuary with stone and marble reredos, single seat sedile and piscine. Carved oak pulpit. Carved circular stone font at baptistery.
STAINED GLASS: much fine figurative glass including Alexander and Evelyn Mary Low Memorial Windows in N aisle designed by Edward Burne-Jones and executed by Morris & Co depicting 'King David and St John' of 1890 (designed 1866 and 1869) and 'Ruth and Mary' of 1904, designed 1886. E window Crucifixion by C E Kempe 1895 and chancel's S wall 'Moses and St John the Baptist' by James Ballantine & Son 1864.
Statement of Special Interest
Place of worship in use as such.
Items 68-100 form B group with items 18-20.
St Mary's Church makes a significant contribution to the streetscape of Birnam which is an outstanding example of an early-mid Victorian Highland resort in a setting of great natural beauty. Sited on slightly raised ground within a small walled graveyard, the multi-build date of the church has resulted in a surprisingly unified composition with some unusually fine interior detail. The architect William Slater was articled to Richard Cromwell Carpenter and took over the practice after Carpenter's death. Slater completed St Mary's at Birnam and St Stephen's at Burntisland to Carpenter's designs, but went on to design a number of churches in his own right, including St Peter's Episcopal Church in Edinburgh and St John the Evangelist in Dumfries.
The village developed largely following the opening of the Perth and Dunkeld Railway in 1856. In 1865 it was noted that the trade of Dunkeld and Birnam had suffered with the extension of the railway. The main development was thus between 1856 and 1863, when Birnam was the terminus.
In 2008 some stencilling fragments were uncovered in the chancel area of St Mary's Church. The Gothic Revival in church building led to many churches being built with complex interior decorative schemes. From the 1830s the spiritual role of the church was promoted by the Oxford Movement and the Cambridge Camden Society and this too gave impetus to the adoption of decorative elements to enhance religious experience. William Butterfield focused colour and decoration on the chancel area of his churches, and this appears to be the course followed at St Mary's. Episcopal churches throughout Scotland adopted this intense decorative style, and some fine examples include St Salvador's in Dundee, St John's in Edinburgh and St Ninian's in Perth (all separately listed). St Mary's architect, Richard Cromwell Carpenter, also designed Lancing College in Sussex, with its magnificent French Gothic chapel.
List description revised 2009 to include new interior information.
Episcopal Year Book. John Gifford Buildings of Scotland Perth and Kinross (2007), pp197-8. Dictionary of Scottish Architects www.scottisharhitects.org.uk [accessed 20.05.09]. David Watkin English Architecture (1990), pp158, 159, 167. www.saintmarymagdalene.org.uk/section/35 [accessed 19.06.09].
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Printed: 26/04/2019 09:31