Sydney Mitchell and Wilson, 1904. Church in original and eclectic style with elements of N European Gothic, Arts and Crafts, and Scots vernacular prominent. Vaguely cruciform and quasi-symmetrical, with prominent tower and spire, vestry to E and aisle to W at rear. Variegated random rubble with rough dressings, chamfered ashlar round main windows. Modern church hall adjoining (1953).
TOWER (N ELEVATION): saddleback tower, gabled E-W with ashlar skews and rolled skewputts, surmounted by spirelet comprised of louvred octagonal base and slate roof, bulbous then pointed. N side has carved plaque in lower wall and large 3-light Gothic window above with perpendicular tracery, within round arch and hoodmould. W and E sides both with small twin windows in gablehead with simple tracery and carving, E side with small 2-light window at ground floor, W side with small single window.
N ELEVATION: (excluding tower): symmetrical with central tower, each side with 2-light window to ground floor and twin window to upper level, simple tracery and carving with outer opening foreshortened.
E ELEVATION: forward section in 5 bays divided by 4 raked stone buttresses; entrance door in northmost bay, 2-leaf, vertically-boarded with large and boldly curved iron hinges; 3-light window in next bay, other bays blank; roofslope above with 3 broad swept dormers, quadripartite with perpendicular timber tracery.
Rear section advanced, forming vestry with open entrance porch, doors to church, vestry and cellar. 1 small window to vestry and 1 smaller to cellar.
W ELEVATION: same as E elevation, but with only 3 buttresses and
2 dormers in forward section. Piended aisle projecting at right angles to rear with tripartite window facing N and door to W linking to modern Church Hall.
S ELEVATION: main section symmetrical, with 2-light windows to ground floor and large Gothic window in gablehead, 5-sectioned with perpendicular tracery beneath round arch and hood moulding. Vestry projecting to E right (E) with 1 small window.
Windows mostly fixed with leaded diamond panes, except for stained glass (see Interior). Main roof and tower gabled, vestry roof piended, in graded light-grey slate. 1 tall stepped chimneystack to rear of vestry, 2 small cans.
INTERIOR: exceptional. Broad interior spanned by open timber roof of
7 bays, with tie beams, arcades and arched braces, all stencilled with symbolic designs in blue on cream and vice-versa. N (front) end with vestibule and gallery landing above screened off with diamond panes. Gallery above in 2 bays, supported on timber posts continuing upwards as twisted columns to roof. Main body of kirk in 4 bays with 2 aisles. Southmost bay forms chancel with central communion table below semicircular vault with red and cream stencilling, flanked by veils of delicate loop tracery above pulpit (to E) and choir seating (to W). W aisle (or transept) roofed around central timber post. Furnishings of high quality and mostly original.
3 windows in stained glass: W window ("except the Lord build the house") 1922, Margaret Kemp; E window by Margaret Chilton; E dormer window (New Testament), 1949, John Blyth.
Statement of Special Interest
Ecclesiastical building in use as such. It is hard to believe, not only that this exuberant church is Presbyterian, but that it was originally the Free Church!
The designs by Sidney Mitchell and Wilson apparently "evolved" considerably as work progressed. The west aisle, for instance, was added as an afterthought to accommodate a recent influx of coalminers to the parish. There is an anecdote regarding the stencilled paintwork. The congregation, who largely funded the work, were mostly of the fishing community, and when the building reached the stage of final decoration, the elders were away for the season fishing out of Yarmouth. The designers were left with a free hand and, on the return of the fishermen, there was an outcry from many over the perceived irreverence of the work, to the extent that the decoration was nearly painted over! The decoration is in fact symbolic of the Old and New Testaments and of contemporary Church history, and is explained in the Church's booklet.
The plaque on the front of the Tower is inscribed "To the Glory of God This Stone Was Laid/By Grace Wood 13th February 1904". Mrs Wood was granddaughter of the Rev Dr Thomas Chalmers, who led the founding of the Free Church in the Disruption of 1843. Although the bulk of the local congregation adhered to the Free Church, they were evicted from the Old Parish Church (see separate listing) in 1849, soon building a new Church in School Lane. This proved inadequate by the 1890s and fundraising enabled the present church to be constructed in 1904, by which time (in 1900) the Free Church had united with the United Presbyterian Church to form the Cockenzie United Free Church. This in turn re-united with the established Church of Scotland in 1929, when the building was renamed in honour of Thomas Chalmers.
Sydney Mitchell greatly extended a former church in Gullane in 1908 for another Free Church (now hall); here again the interior woodwork is of exceptional quality with stencilling.