Trinity College Church

Trinity College Church, Edinburgh. South West View. Drawn by Robert William Billings (1813-1874) and engraved by J. H. Le Keux; Click on image to enlarge it.

After the church of St. Giles, the ecclesiastical structure next deserving of attention for its antiquity is the collegiate church of the Holy Trinity, which, in modern times has come to be styled the College Kirk, notwithstanding that there were other two ecclesiastical foundations of this kind in Edinburgh. This edifice occupies a most unfortunate situation in the low ground east from the North Bridge, and the principal access to it is by the Low Calton. It was founded in the year 1462, by Mary of Gueldres, widow of James II., for a purpose sufficiently explained in her charter, wherein she declares that the work was begun

for the praise and honour of the Holy Trinity, of the ever-blessed and glorious Virgin Mary, of St. Ninian the confessor, and of all the Saints and elect of God; with consent and assent of the illustrious prince, James, King of Scots [slain at Roxburgh], our late husband, of pious memory, likewise for the souls of all the kings and queens of Scotland, deceased, also for the salvation of the illustrious prince our son, James [III.], the present king of Scotland; for the salvation of our own sold, those of our father and mother, ancestors, and all the sons and daughters succeeding to and descending from them; and for the salvation of the reverend father in Christ, Lord James [Kennedy, a grandson of Robert III.], present bishop of St. Andrews, our dearest cousin; and for the souls of all those whom consanguinity, affinity, or benefits, have endeared to us; and of all those whom we have any way offended in this life, to whom we are obliged to make satisfaction; and for the souls of all the faithful deceased.

By the deed of foundation, this pious woman established a regular priesthood for the service of the church, consisting of a provost, eight prebends, and two singing boys. The duties of these functionaries were likewise carefully noted in the charter with a minuteness which presents us with a lively specimen of the attention then paid to the mere formalities of worship. The establishment was well endowed with the profits of land in a vast number of places, but especially of those belonging to the chapel of Soltra. The first provost was Sir Edward Bonkle, as appears from the parliamentary records, he having applied for power to oblige payment of his tithes in Tiviotdale. James IV. in 1502, gave some additional revenues to the institution. At the Reformation, the provost and prebends appear to have had the sagacity to change with the current opinions; yet, by this abandonment of their profession, they did not save the revenues of their house in the general scramble for church property. In 1567, the Regent Murray gave the whole to Sir Simon Preston, provost of Edinburgh, and he generously gave the same to the town-council or common fund. It seems, however, that the provost of the establishment had still a claim on the revenues (as was often the case in these disorderly times,) and he had to be brought up by the council for an annuity of £160 Scots. This transaction was concluded in 1585, and by a confirmatory charter of James VI. in 1587, the magistrates restored an hospital which had formerly belonged to the establishment, and which exists to the present day. It is situated contiguous to the church on the south, and is noticed in the list of charitable institutions.

Left: St. Giles Cathedral: The Choir, Looking East. Right: North Aisle. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Being purified of its altars and other insignia of Roman Catholicism, the Trinity collegiate church was fitted up as a place of public worship for the reformed citizens of Edinburgh, and is still the parish church of a particular district. The elegance of the structure, which is of the best Gothic order, surpasses that of St. Giles, though unfortunately the building has a great defect in form. It consists only of the choir and transepts, and exhibits an unfinished wall closing up the nave, which remains to be rebuilt. The interior is only fitted up with seats on the bottom of the area, leaving the massive and handsome pillars freely exposed to view. On one of the buttresses are seen the arms of Gueldres quartered with those of Scotland. The body of the royal foundress lies interred in an aisle on the north side of the church, and beneath the floor repose the ashes of several persons distinguished in Scottish history.

St. Giles Cathedral. From Edinburgh revisited, by James Bone, with lxxv drawings by Hamslip Fletcher. (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1911), p. 15. Click on image to enlarge it.

By becoming the inheritors of the revenues and immunities of the old collegiate foundation, the town-council of Edinburgh acquired the patronage of the parish of Soltra or Soutra, which it still retains, and as that parish is now joined with Fala, the presentation of a minister is taken alternately with the patron of that parish.

Old and New Grey friars' Church.

It has already been stated, that to the monastery of Greyfriars, situated on the south side of the Grassmarket, there were attached some fine gardens, which ascended with a gentle acclivity to the High-rigs, or fields south of the city. The Friary being demolished in 1559, the gardens were conferred by Queen Mary on the town, to be used as a public cemetery. Till the year 1612, the ground was therefore appropriated to this purpose, when, on account of the increase of inhabitants, a church was built by the city in the centre of the open area. It was not, however, till 1722, that it was constituted a parish church with a distinct parochial district. A short time before it was thus exalted in dignity, May 7, 1718, its spire, which had been reared at the western extremity, was blown up by a quantity of gunpowder, which had been lodged in it by the town for security. Instead of rebuilding the steeple, the town-council resolved on adding an additional church, which was accordingly finished in 1721. Having also appropriated to it a particular parochial division, the two churches were hence styled the Old and New Greyfriars' churches. The edifice is internally of the Gothic construction, with heavy pillars and arches, but outwardly it has only the appearance of a plain slated house of an oblong form. The entrance to both places of worship is by a common porch in the centre. It is worthy of being remarked, that in the year 1638, the famous National Covenant was begun to be signed in what is styled the Old Greyfriars' Church and also that, in the latter part of the last century, the celebrated historian of Charles V. was one of its ministers. The surrounding burial-ground has been already noticed as an object of curiosity.

The Tron Church.

High Street and Tron Church. From Edinburgh revisited, by James Bone, with lxxv drawings by Hamslip Fletcher. (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1911), p. 113. Click on image to enlarge it.

Notwithstanding the additions which had thus been made to the original number of churches, more were still required for the accommodation of the inhabitants, and in 1627 two new churches were begun by order of the magistrates, one on the Castle Hill and another on the south side of the middle of the High Street. From want of funds, the former was ultimately given up, and its materials were used in rearing the other, upon which we find the following inscription over the main entry:

“AEdem hanc Christo et Ecclesicae sacrarunt cives Edinburgen. Anno Dom. mdcxli.;" — that is, "The citizens of Edinburgh dedicated this building to Christ and the church, in the year of our Lord 1641."

From want of funds, the building was not completed for twenty-six years after its foundation; yet it appears to have been employed for public worship long before the expiry of that period. It acquired the homely appellation of the Tron Church from a tron or weighing beam which formerly stood near the spot, and to which it was customary to nail false notaries, and other malefactors, by the ears. The structure, when at length finished, was above mediocrity in taste, and being the first church which had been seen in the town not of Gothic architecture, it must have been considered at the time as on a bold plan. It presents a handsome front to the High Street with a main and two side door-ways, with four semiGothic windows and the base of a turret in the middle, ornamented with pilasters. From the top of the square tower rose a pointed structure of wood covered with lead, of which several fac-similes may be seen throughout Scotland. This tower was furnished, in 1678, with the clock then taken down from the steeple of the Weigh-house. As already stated, a serious accident overtook the steeple of the Tron Church on the occasion of the great fires in November 1824, when the burning embers blown from the fire of the neighbouring houses, lodged in the upper part of the spire and broke out into a flame next day, destroying every thing liable to combustion in this part of the structure. In 1828, an exceedingly handsome new stone spire, rising to the height of 160 feet, and faulty in no respect except in the want of a more taper termination, was reared on the old walls from a plan by Messrs. Dicksons, architects. The tower is square for a certain length, and of mixed architecture; afterwards it rises in an octagonal sharp steeple, surmounted by a gilt ball and vane. A clock is situated at a convenient height, with a dial plate on each side, formed of dimmed glass with gilt letters in relief, and lighted with gas on the inside, after sunset.

Originally, the houses of the High Street were contiguous to the Tron Church on each side, but by the opening of South Bridge Street on its east side, and the opening to Hunter's Square on the west, it now stands separated from all other edifices. It has been mentioned that before the South Bridge was constructed, the church was skirted on its east side by an alley called Merlin's Wynd, which opened a passage to the Cowgate. The name of this obscure thoroughfare is referable to an ingenious Frenchman of the name of Merlin, or Marlin, who had been employed to pave the High Street for the first time with stones, and, having reason to be proud of his work, afterwards requested that he might be interred under it. Such a simple desire was conscientiously attended to by the proper authorities. Merlin was buried in the High Street, at the head of the wynd bearing his name, and opposite the north-east corner of the Tron Church, where a square stone, in the figure of a coffin, pointed out his grave to the passengers, till the opening of the South Bridge occasioned a levelling and complete renewal of the pavement, by which Merlin's work and his monument were at once swept away.

Lady Yester's Church.

In consequence of the building of the new church on the Castle Hill being abandoned, the inhabitants still required church accommodation, but the funds of the town being exhausted, it was left for the piety and beneficence of an individual to amend the deficiency. Dame Margaret Ker, Lady Yester, in 1647, founded a church in an open piece of ground, on a field south from the Old Town, and now forming the north side of Infirmary Street. She gave the magistrates fifteen thousand merks for the erection of the house, and made a grant of a thousand merks per annum for the stipend of a minister. In 1655, the church had a particular district set apart for its parish. The original edifice becoming ruinous, was rebuilt in 1803, in a plain style without a spire. It now forms one of the regular city churches under the patronage of the town-council. At one time it possessed a small burying ground, which has been discontinued, and, we believe, partly feued out for buildings.

St. Andrew's Church

is situated in the New Town on the north side of George Street, at a short distance from its eastern termination. This edifice was reared in 1781 for the accommodation of the inhabitants of the recently erected streets. The body of the building is of an oval form, and was originally without a spire; but such an ornament was afterwards added in front. The spire of St. Andrew's Church is reared on a base and pediment partly resting on a range of four exceedingly handsome Corinthian pillars, and rises to a point at the height of 168 feet. The design of this elegant erection, which is one of the finest objects in the sky line of the city, was prepared by John M'Cleish, Esq. surgeon. The parish attached to this church was formerly part of the extensive parish of St. Cuthberts.

St. George's Church

, was the next ecclesiastical structure which was reared in the New Town, having been founded in the year 1811, and opened in 1814. It occupies a conspicuous situation in the centre of the west side of Charlotte Square, and forms the terminating object of George Street on the west. The edifice is in a massive Grecian style, of a square form, with a front of 112 feet in length, in which is a lofty portico supported by four pillars and two pilasters of the Ionic order. Behind this opening rises a circular tower, with a lead-covered dome, to the height of 150 feet, and intended as a miniature imitation of St. Paul's. The heaviness of the structure was intended to have been relieved by small towers on the side buttresses. The church cost no less than £33,000; but as it contains 1600 people, who pay high seat-rents, a profitable return is made to the town. It has also a parochial division out of St. Cuthbert's parish.

St. Mary's Church

This edifice is situated in the centre of Bellevue Crescent in the northeast extremity of the New Town, near Canonmills, and was opened in 1824. The body of the building, which can hold 1800 people, is of an oblong shape, and it has a front of considerable elegance, consisting of a portiGO with a range of pillars of the Corinthian order, supporting a pediment from which rises a lofty spire which is at first of a square and afterwards of a circular form, and is elegant in its details; yet, when taken altogether, is far from being satisfactory. From want of funds or some other cause, it has been closed in too rapidly by a species of dome, which gives it a stumped or docked appearance. This church has likewise a parochial division taken from the parish of St. Cuthbert's.

St. Stephen's Church

While St. Mary's Church was a place of worship for the eastern part of the Second New Town, a still more recent structure, under this title, sentinels the western district. The situation of this building is unfortunately and necessarily low; yet its appearance at the bottom of a long descending street is not without a certain degree of imposing effect. The architecture is of an anomalous order called Mixed Roman, and from an obtuse angle, which is turned to the street, rises a tower of august proportions 1624 f eet W height, and terminated at the top with a ballustrade, from each corner of which springs an elegant double cross. This church was opened in 1828; cost £25,000; holds 1600 persons; and its parochial division was also from St. Cuthbert's. The foregoing comEDINBURGH. 365 plete the number of city churches till the year 1831.

St. Cuthbert’s Church

The church of St. Cuthbert, situated on the low ground betwixt the west end of Prince's Street and the castle of Edinburgh, is among the very oldest ecclesiastical establishments in the ancient province of Lothian. The date of the church may be referred to the end of the seventh century, when the country was in complete subjection to the Anglo-Saxons, among whom the worthy Cuthbert was held in high esteem. The original church, or perhaps that which succeeded to the original, was removed about the year 1770, and the present edifice erected on its site. The antiquity of the church of St. Cuthbert is established by records of the twelfth century. Macbeth of Liberton, who flourished in the early part of the reign of David I., (1124,) and who has been confounded by Arnot and all who have followed him with the usurper of that name, who was slain about seventy years earlier, granted to the church of St. Cuthbert the tithes and oblations of Legbernard, an extinct church, which cannot now be traced. David I. also gave a grant to St. Cuthberfs church, "juxta castellum," the whole land under the same castle, namely, "a fonte quae oritur juxta angulum gardini zeg. per viam," from the spring which rises near the corner of the king's garden unto the road." These grants were made before the foundation of the Abbey of Holyrood. When that house was established, the church, its kirktoun, chapels and privileges, were conferred on the monks of that establishment, and formed their most valuable apanage. The parish was the most extensive in the Lowlands of Mid-Lothian, including all the territory on each side of the city, as also the modern parochial divisions of Liberton and Corstorphine, and the church was the richest of any in Scotland, that of Dunbar excepted. It was a free parsonage till it became subordinate to the canons of Holyrood, who put it under the care of a vicar, and took charge of its subordinate chapels. Besides the vicar who served the cure, the church had various chaplains, who had certain duties to perform at different altars, reared by the piety, and supported by the munificence of private individuals. Among these was an altar dedicated to St. Anne, which had a chaplain on whom an annuity of fourteen merks was settled, in 1487, by "A'illiam Towers of Inverleith. We learn that there was also an altar dedicated to the Holy Trinity. Among the outlying chapels belonging to it, were one dedicated to our Lady, at the foot of Lady Wynd in Wester Portsburgh, St. John's and St. Roque's Chapels on the Borough-moor, a chapel at Liberton, and another at Newhaven From the canons, the patronage of the church passed to the crown.

In the course of ages, the ancient extent of the parish has been greatly impaired by the erection of new parochial districts. The parish of Corstorphine, of Liberton, part of that of Duddingston, of the Canongate or Holyrood, of North Leith, and those New Town parishes above noticed, have all been taken from it as exigency required. As regards those parishes recently segregated, they are only independent so far as ecclesiastical matters are concerned. The parish still extends about two and a half miles west from the church, and is fully four miles in breadth. It encompasses the city on both sides, and possesses nearly the whole of the precincts of the palace, with the exception of Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags.

The parish church of St. Cuthbert’s, more commonly called the West Kirk, from its lying on the west of the metropolis, is a plain edifice, of a huge size, with a double slanting slated roof, and, having two tiers of galleries, it can accommodate a greater number of hearers than any other place of worship in the country, or at least is only matched by the famous meeting-house of the Queen Anne Street Congregation, Dunfermline. To relieve the homely appearance of the structure, some years after its erection, a lofty spire was added to its west end. All around, is the spacious buryingground of the parish. By the authority of an act of parliament, part of the parochial glebe is in the course of being feued, much to the advantage of the clerical incumbents.

Chapels of Ease to St. Cuthbert’s

A considerable portion of the parish of St. Cuthbert’s has been built upon in modern times, especially on the south side of the metropolis, and on its north-west quarter. The population of this parish outnumbers that of any other in Scotland, with a single exception, and there is sufficient extent for establishing out of its ample bounds many other parochial divisions. As an arrangement of this kind is not easily made, its inhabitants have been accommodated with Chapels of Ease, dependant on the mother church and its session. The first Chapel of Ease which was erected was built in 1757, at the Crosscauseway, a suburb to the south of Edinburgh, now incorporated with the town. The house was raised by subscription, and it was agreed that any one who contributed £5, should have a vote in the presentation of a minister. Arnot, either ironically or good-naturedly, calls the chapel "a plain genteel building." Whatever be its merits in point of external appearance, it had the precious advantage in the eyes of its founders of being very cheap, the whole cost being only about £1200. By an addition made to its west side, it now accommodates a large congregation. On the end next the street it has a small turret furnished with a clock and bell. Around it is a small cemetery, for which the session of the chapel, by a strange act of weakness, procured a bishop (Falconer,) of the Scottish Episcopal Church to go through the usual forms for consecrating the ground; "this office of consecration, it seems," says Arnot, in his own peculiar tart way, " either being inconsistent with the principles of a presbyterian clergyman, or that he was not deemed sufficiently sanctified for the function."

A second Chapel of Ease for St. Cuthbert's parish was erected at a short distance from the above,- on the west side of Clerk Street, (a continuation of Nicolson Street,) in 1823, which is calculated to contain 1800 persons. The body of the chapel measures 162 feet in length, by 73 in breadth. The front towards the street is of Grecian architecture, with a spire rising to about 110 feet in height, which is furnished with a clock and bel£ At present, this is , among the first objects noticed by a stranger in entering the town from the south or Carlisle road. There is no burying-ground attached to this edifice, but within the parish, about a quarter of a mile to the south, a large field has recently been adapted for the purposes of a cemetery. A third Chapel of Ease for St. Cutnbert's was built in 1823, in the north-western part of the New * The church of St. Cuthbert's has two ministers, who are paid like the other clergy in landward parishes, by the heritors. The reason that the present wide district is not partitioned into new parochial divisions, is, because the heritors cannot be compelled to support the clergy of these parishes also, and unless a provision of this kind be made, the Teind Court will not sanction the establishment of new parochial districts. Hence, Chapels of Ease, of which the chaplains are paid by the produce of the seal. Town, near Stockbridge, for the accommodation of the increased population of that quarter of the metropolis. It stands in the line of Saxe-Cobourg Place, and is a neat unpretending edifice, with a belfry. It can afford accommodation to about 1350 persons.

The Canongate Church

Canongate Church. From The perambulator in Edinburgh With pictures by E. S. Lumsden. (New York: Knopf, 1926), facing p. 90. Click on image to enlarge it.

We have already seen in the history of the chapel of Holyrood, how that venerable place of worship came to be disused as the parish church of the inhabitants of the Canongate. On that occasion the parishioners, until a new kirk could be built, resorted to Lady Yester's Church. For about fifteen years they continued to do so, but at last losing patience, they applied to the king, (James VII.) beseeching him to interfere in giving them a new place of public worship. They represented that a person called Thomas Moodie, had bequeathed 20,000 merks in 1649, to the town-council, for the building of a church, and that such had not yet been done, and praying that his Majesty would now compel the council to build them a church out of the accumulated funds. His Majesty thereupon ordered the council to build a church in the Canongate, and seeing a necessity for complying with the mandate, a piece of ground was forthwith bought on the north side of the Canongate, near the middle, on which a church was reared in 1688. This edifice was begun and proceeded with during the religious heats which ushered in the revolution, and in the form chosen for the building we have a tangible monument of the slavishness of the city functionaries, who, for the purpose of ingratiating themselves with James, with their accustomed prostitution of principle, erected the church in the form of a cross, with a nave, transepts, and chancel. On the outside, however, the building is plain and un ornamented, and is without a spire. On the pinnacle of the gable next the street is fixed a very awkward emblem namely, a horned deer, with a cross erect over its forehead, which, however, is the crest of the Canongate, in allusion to the Monkish fable we have related regarding the miraculous cross which was put into the hand of David I. while hunting the stag. The cost of the building was about £2400 sterling. The church has two ministers, one of whom is nominated by the crown, while the other is appointed by the town-council and proprietors of houses in the Canongate.

Around the church is a spacious burying ground in which repose the remains of many distinguished persons in particular, those of Robert Ferguson, the Scottish vernacular poet, whose grave is west from the church, and is marked by an upright stone erected at the expense of Burns. We may also mention Adam Smith, and Dugald Stewart. The Canongate has a Chapel of Ease, situated at the head of New Street, and there is another for the accommodation of this populous part of the city at the foot of Leith Wynd. Near this latter place, and adjacent to the north-west corner of the Trinity College Church, stands.

Lady Glenorchy’s Chapel

This is a plain square edifice, without any outward semblance of a church, which was founded and endowed by the pious lady whose name it bears, in the year 1772. The house was opened in May 1774. It was the intention of the foundress that the clergyman of the chapel should be in communion with the kirk of Scotland, but not under its presbyterial authority, and to accomplish this end, there was much profitless altercation with the presbytery of Edinburgh. To pass over uninteresting details, the result now is, that the house is simply a Chapel of Ease under the government of the presbytery and other church courts, with the provision that the sitters and session nominate and pay the clergyman, and dedicate the collection to their own poor. The only distinction in the order of the services is, that the holy communion is celebrated six times a-year.

The Gaelic Chapel

The only place of public worship in Edinburgh, in which the services are conducted in the Gaelic tongue, for the accommodation of the numerous Highlanders of the lower classes, is a chapel situated in North College Street, of modern erection. It is a Chapel of Ease under the control of the presbytery of Edinburgh and church courts.

Morning Lectureship.

In the year 1639, a pious merchant in Edinburgh, named David Mackall, bequeathed five thousand merks (£194 sterling,) to the magistrates, in trust, for purchasing lands, the rents whereof were to be applied to the maintenance of a clergyman of the presbyterian church, to preach every Sunday morning at six o'clock, or such other hour as was agreeable to the magistrates. These personages, however, were long in acting on the will of the testator; they allowed the money to accumulate till 1703, when, by the ordinary rate of interest, it should have amounted to £16,000 sterling. They then appointed two morning preachers or lecturers, at salaries of forty guineas each; but, about the middle of last century, they reduced the number to one, with a stipend of £50. It is worthy of remark, that the only clergyman in Edinburgh who prayed for Prince Charles Stuart, while that adventurer possessed the city with his troops, was the morning-lecturer, a person of the name of Hog: in consideration of this, the prince said he would give him a kirk as soon as he himself should come to his kingdom. A morning-lecturer is still employed at this salary, and preaches every Sunday morning at eight o'clock, in one of the city churches, though, as may be supposed from the habits of the present times, he rarely commands an audience of more than half a dozen persons.

Every Sunday evening there is divine service and preaching in one of the city churches, conducted by one of the established clergy of the town alternately. Every Tuesday evening at six o'clock, and Friday forenoon at eleven, there is preaching in a similar manner in one of the churches.

The churches of Edinburgh, above noticed, are all under the patronage of the town-council, who not only build and support the edifices out of the common funds of the burgh, but also pay the stipends of the clergy from the same source. By a general annual statement lately put forth, the cost of conducting the services in the thirteen churches was as follows: . . . .

It will be perceived that the town funds are annually enriched to a very great amount by a profit from the city churches, which are indeed an excellent object of mercantile speculation. It is alleged by the persons engaged in this traffic, that there is a necessity for an over plus of returns, in order to cover the expense of rearing new churches. But this is certainly a fallacy, for the city rulers procured a liberty of extending the royalty and taxing its inhabitants for ordinary cess, on the condition of building churches to the people. In recent times a considerable clamour has been raised against the payment of the tax for the clergy, and the payment of seat- rents at the same time, (for the tax gives no title to a seat,) but with a lamentable want of confidence and unanimity in seeking the revision of so obnoxious a civic arrangement. By the heartless process of making the churches mere sources of pecuniary profit or return, an effect has been produced which could have been easily foreseen, namely, the expulsion of the poorer classes of the people, as well as those not in very good circumstances, from places of public worship connected with the establishment.

Scottish Episcopal Church

The Communion, generally known by this title, is the descendant of that which was disestablished at the revolution of 1688, for its pertinacious adherence to James VII. By an act of Parliament passed in 1792, restoring the toleration bill of Queen Anne, the free exercise of public worship was ensured to the Communion, which since that period has increased very considerably in number. At present there are 100 congregations in Scotland, comprising an amount of 55,000 souls. The tenets of the body are precisely the same as those of the church of England, whose liturgy and forms of worship are used. The country is divided into six comprehensive dioceses, each governed by a bishop, with the assistance of arch-deacons, but both these classes of functionaries are at the same time, with hardly an exception, ministers of congregations. One of the bishops acts as primus or perpetual moderator of the convocations of the church, and Edinburgh is, or will be generally selected as the place of these meetings. In this city the bishop of the united diocese of Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Fife, constantly resides. At present the office is held by the Right Reverend Dr. Walker, who also acts as professor of divinity to the Communion. In Edinburgh, the number of chapels is six, one of which has three clergymen, while another has two, and the remainder one each. These are supported chiefly by the produce of the seats, and are appointed by the managers of the respective chapels. Before the removal of the disabilities from the Scottish Episcopal clergy in 1792 there had sprung up several congregations in Edinburgh, inclining to this persuasion, who were either ministered to by clergymen who had been ordained by bishops in England, and had taken the oaths of allegiance, &c. or by old nonjuring clergymen; the latter serving at the risk of prosecution. The oldest place of worship superintended by an authorized clergyman, was one called Baron Smith's Chapel, founded and endowed in 1722, by John Smith, Esquire, Lord Chief Baron of Exchequer, and which stood at the foot of Blackfriar's Wynd in the Cowgate. In 1746, other two chapels were established. In 1771, a large edifice with a spire was built by subscription, near the foot of the Cowgate, on the north side.

Interior of Old Chapel, Cowgate. From Edinburgh revisited, by James Bone, with lxxv drawings by Hamslip Fletcher (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1911), facing p. 206. [Note: this has been correctly transcribed, but one of our readers, Roger Edwards, has kindly pointed out that it is, in fact, an illustration of the Magdalen Chapel at the Grassmarket end of the Cowgate — which was not a Scottish Episcopal church, but the headquarters of the Scottish Reformation Society.] Click on image to enlarge it.

The chapels of the nonjurers were more obscure in their situation, and do not require particular notice. About the beginning of the present century nearly all the independent English chapels in Scotland came under the authority of the Scottish bishops, and among others, the whole of those of Edinburgh. Shortly after this event, new and more commodious places of worship began to be erected, and at the present time, only one of the old chapels continues in use. It may be noticed first.

St. Paul's Chapel, Carrubbers' Close.

There is reason for supposing that the Episcopal Chapel in this place is as old as the period of the Revolution, when it is understood to have been erected for the use of the deposed Bishop of Edinburgh and clergy. It is at least certain, from its Baptismal Register, that- it existed at the date 1735, since which time it has continued a place of worship. It may be reckoned the oldest chapel in Scotland devoted to the use of a congregation of Episcopalians. Carrubbers' close is in the High Street, and the third below the entry of the North Bridge. Before the building of the New Town, it was the place of residence of many titled and respectable families. The chapel is a very plain edifice, and has nothing particu.. lar in its appearance, but it may excite some moral interest in the visitant from having been long the chief place of public worship in use by the Jacobites of the last century. It is provided with an organ.

St. Peter's Chapel

This is a plain modern place of worship, situated in Roxburgh Place, in the south part of Edinburgh, and in formed out of the space of two flats in one of the ordinary buildings in the street. It has also an organ.

St. John's Chapel

St. John's Chapel, is situated in a very conspicuous and excellent situation at the west end of Prince's Street on the south side, overlooking the church of St. Cuthbert's which stands in the low ground nearer the castle. This edifice was founded in 1816 and finished in two years, at an expense of £ 15,000. It is the most elegant and tasteful place of public worship in Edinburgh, as regards both outward appearance and internal construction. It is of the florid Gothic style, from a design by Mr. William Burn, architect, and measures one hundred and thirteen feet in length, by sixty-two in breadth. On both sides of the building are buttresses with pinnacles, and there are similar ornaments on the summit of the inner wal£ Both above and below are well proportioned windows. To the western extremity is attached a square tower, rising to the height of one hundred and twenty feet, with ornamented pointed pinnacles, and having windows in the sides. At the bottom of the tower is the main entrance, which is reached by a flight of steps from the end of the Lothian Road. The entrance is also of Gothic construction, beautifully arched. On the outside of the walls, in vacant spaces, there are niches of elegant execution. The pillars supporting the arches in the inside are finely and lightly formed, and the middle roof shows some exquisite tracery, mouldings, &c. The great window at the east end is thirty feet high, and is filled with figures of the apostles in stained glass. The upper rows of windows above the pillars are also of stained glass. The place for the communion service, beneath the large window, is fitted up with carved wood in a manner equally tasteful, and is furnished with an Episcopal chair, as this is the chapel in which clerical ordinations usually take place. Above a gallery at the west end is a place for the choir and organ, both of which are of great powers and under good management. Beneath the chapel are a number of vaults entered from the south area, and around is a sanall burying ground. A vestry, of Gothic construction externally, is attached to the east end of the chape£ The late right Reverend Dr. Sandford, bishop, was clerical incumbent of this place of worship.

St. Paul's Chapel, York Place.

This edifice is also of Gothic architecture, and is situated at the east end of York Place, corner of Broughton Street. It was founded in 1816, andfinishedin 1818, at an expense of £ 12,000, raised by subscriptions in the congregation, which removed to it from the large chapel in the Cowgate, then sold to a Relief congregation. Its design was furnished by Mr. Archibald Elliot, and is not so happy as that of St. John's. It measures 122 feet 9 inches in length by 73 feet in breadth over the walls. The outer buttresses are surmounted with ornamented pinnacles, and at each of the four corners of the inner walls rises a small circular turret of open stone-work, in one of which there is hung a bell, which was formerly used in the chapel-royal of Holyrood House. The interior is more plain than that of St. John's. The pulpit and reading desk are isolated in front of the communion table at the east end, and either from their being ill disposed, or from the construction of the edifice, the sound of the speaker's voice is often much lost. Along both sides are galleries, and at the west end is the organ-loft, and choir. The organ, which was originally of German construction, is of great compass, and reckoned the finest in Scotland in point of tone. The situation of this chapel is unfortunately somewhat hampered. One of the present incumbents of the chapel is the Reverend Archibald Alison, author of the Essays on Taste; and another is the Reverend Dr. Morehead, author of many esteemed works.

St. George's Chapel

This is a small and strangely fashioned chapel, standing on the south side of York Place, near its western termination. The body of the edifice, which does not rise to the height of the houses, is nearly circular in form, and in the inside there is a gallery nearly all round. The finishing is Gothic. The house was built in 1794 by subscription; at one time the Reverend James Grahame, author of the beautiful poem entitled the Sabbath, was a candidate for the pastoral charge.

St. James' Chapel

, is of modern date, and consists of an ordinary building in the line of street, at the north-west corner of Broughton Place.

Roman Catholic Communion

There are fifty-seven Roman Catholic clergymen in Scotland, most of whom have different stations, and the whole are governed by four bishops, as vicars-apostolic, each having special districts; one of the bishops is settled in Edinburgh, along with (at present) four clergymen, the whole of whom take charge of one congregation. About forty years ago, there were exceedingly few persons of this persuasion in Edinburgh, and these were chiefly French refugees, two or three old ladies of =quality of decayed families, and some Highland porters. From that period to the present time, and especially within the last fifteen years, the increase of Roman Catholics has been immense, principally, however, from the vast immigration of Irish. Till the year 1813-14, the members had a miserable chapel in one of the closes of the old town, but at that time a large and not inelegant edifice was raised by subscription and collections at an expense of £8000. It is situated at the head of Broughton Street on the west side, near the corner of York Place, and stands back from the thoroughfare. It presents to the street a gable of Gothic construction with buttresses and pinnacles, rising to a height of seventy feet. Recently two side-pieces have been added, also in the Gothic taste, and covering the entrance to a cemetery and side apartment. The length of the building within the walls is 110 feet, by 57 in breadth. The interior is an open area closely seated, with a gallery partly occupied by a large organ and choir at the east end. At the west end is situated the altar, which is surmounted by a remarkably good painting by Vandyke, representing a dead Saviour in a reclining posture. It was a donation of Miss Chalmers, daughter of Sir G. Chalmers. The decorations of this place of worship are very plain, and, what is somewhat remarkable, in the centre there is a pendent lustre of gas lights, which somehow appears incongruous with the antiquated ceremonial of the worship. Within the rails of the altar lie interred the remains of the late Bishop Cameron, a person justly held in esteem for his many virtues by all classes of Christians in the metropolis.

United Secession Church

Edinburgh is the seat of a Presbytery and Synod of this respectable communion of presbyterian dissenters, and the number of congregations in the city is nine, with as many meeting-houses, some of which are of handsome construction. Those worthy of distinct notices ere as follow:

Nicolson Street Chapel

This: building, which was founded in 1819, stands on the site of a former chapel on the west side of Nicolson Street, near the Crosscauseway. It has a broad and lofty Gothic front to the thoroughfare, with pinnacles rising to the height of ninety feet. The arch of the door-way is Saxon, springing from the heads of two saints, carved in relief. The interior is spacious and neatly fitted up. For many years the Rev. Dr. Jamieoon, compiler of the well-known Scottish Dictionary, was the minister of the congregation. The building cost £6000.

Broughton Place Chapel

This is a commodious large edifice, situated at the east end of Broughton Place. The building, which is quite modern, has a Grecian front, with a portico and range of Doric columns. The house holds 1600 persons.

Rose Street Chapel, is a handsome spacious building of Grecian architecture, standing in the eastern division of Rose Street. It replaced an older chapel in 1830.

Cowgate Chapel

This was formerly occupied by an Episcopal congregation, already alluded to, from whom it was bought. It has been reconstructed, so far as regards the internal furniture; but by an exertion of good taste and liberality, the oil paintings which decorated a recess on the east side, and which were the work of Runciman, have been retained. The other chapels are at Stockbridge, at tne head of the Lothian Road near the Canal Basin, (both of which are of modern construction,) at Bristo Street, and at the Potterrow.

Associate Synod of Original Seceders

This body makes Edinburgh the seat of one of its presbyteries, and it has two congregations in the metropolis, both of which are at present ministered to by men of distinguished abilities. One chapel is situated at the foot of Infirmary Street, and has for its clergyman the Rev. George Paxton, professor of divinity to the communion, and author of a work entitled, Illustrations of the Holy Scriptures. The other chapel is built in Richmond Street, and is under the pastoral care of the amiable and estimable Dr. M'Crie, author of the live3 of Knox and Melville.

There is also a congregation belonging to the Original Burgher Associate Synod, and one to the Cameronian communion.

The Synod of Relief

Edinburgh is the seat of a presbytery of this body, and the town has five places of worship belonging to the communion, all of which are substantial, and some of them handsome, modern edifices. They are respectively situated in College Street, James' Place, Bread Street, Roxburgh Terrace, and Brighton Street. Besides these there is a chapel with a congregation which separated from the Relief body in 1829, under the pastoral care of the Rev. John Johnston. The quarrel which brought about this schism is remarkably curious, and forms the chief incident in the history of Scottish dissent in the nineteenth century. The congregation, with consent of the clergyman, having set up an organ to aid and direct the psalmody, the matter was brought before the synodal court of the party, which ordained that either the instrument should be removed, or that the minister should be expelled the communion. Mr. Johnston chose the latter alternative, and his congregation unanimously approved of the decision. The organ, therefore, continues in its place, and is the only instrument of music in a presbyterian place of worship in Scotland.


Besides the foregoing churches and chapels in Edinburgh, there are others belonging to miscellaneous sectaries. There are two chapels of Scottish Independents, respectively situated in Albany Street and North College Street; one of English Independents; four of Baptists; one of Methodists, situated in Nicolson Square, a spacious modern well-built edifice; one of Bereans; one of Unitarians; one of Glassites; one of New Jerusalem Temple; one of Friends; and a Jews' Synagogue. Altogether, the number of ministers in the Established Church, including those of the Chapels of Ease, is thirty, and the amount of those not in the establishment, is forty-five. The fast days of the kirk in Edinburgh, are the Thursday before the second Sunday of May, except when the month begins on Monday or Tuesday, then the first Thursday; and the Thursday before the first Sunday of November.

Last modified 1 October 2018