Alterations to St Philip's United Free Church, Portobello

M269 Alterations to St Philip's United Free Church, Portobello

Address: Brunstane Road North, Portobello EH15 2DL
Date: 1906–7
Client: St Philip's United Free Church
Authorship: Authorship category 1 (Mackintosh) (Mackintosh)

Photograph of nave at St Philip's, Portobello

Built originally as Portobello Free Church, St Philip's was designed by John Honeyman and opened in 1877. 1 It is an ambitious Gothic Revival building in the Decorated style, with nave and aisles and a S.E. tower and spire. Following the union of the Free Church and United Presbyterian Church in 1900, it was renamed St Philip's United Free Church. It later became St Philip's, Joppa.

In 1904, Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh were consulted about the installation of an organ. 2 They prepared plans for a new chancel to accommodate the instrument, but eventually in 1906 the Deacons' Court decided not to proceed with this costly scheme. 3 Instead, they took the advice of Mr Lee Ashton (organist of St Paul's, York Place, Edinburgh), who suggested installing the organ within the existing church, 'on the platform behind the pulpit'. 4 Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh were retained as architects for the new scheme, which involved moving to one side the carved stone pulpit added to the church by Honeyman in 1885. 5 The deadline for completion was 21 September 1907, and the new organ must have been in use by 5 November, when the Deacon's Court authorised the sale of the redundant old instrument. 6

Mackintosh was evidently responsible for the organ project. In July 1906, the Deacons' Court minutes speak of a site meeting with the organ builder (W. J. Burton of Winchester) and Mackintosh, 'for the purpose of consulting and arranging with them as to the disposition of the brackets, the grouping of pipes and the design of the organ case to be prepared by Mr Mackintosh with a view to preserving the amenity of the church'. They record Mackintosh being instructed to 'prepare plans for the necessary power room', and the organ committee being authorised to 'dispose of [i.e. deal with] Mr Mackintosh's design for the organ case'. 7 Much of Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh's job-book entry is written in Mackintosh's hand, which tends to confirm that he was the partner in charge. 8

The organ was removed from the church in 1961–2. 9 No drawings for the case have come to light, but photographs suggest it was an unremarkable example of Gothic Revival woodwork, with none of the individuality that Mackintosh had brought to the fittings at Bridge of Allan church two years earlier. It is possible that the unadventurous design was based on an earlier one by Honeyman (a payment of 18 5s 0d for unspecified work in connection with the church is recorded in the firm's cash book in 1901). 10

Photograph of nave at St Philip's, PortobelloPhotograph of organ case at St Philip's, Portobello

The building was gutted by fire in December 1998. Restoration was nearing completion in August 2001, and the church is now back in use (2014). 11

A report on the condition of St Philip's was produced as part of the Mackintosh Buildings Survey, led by the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society and carried out between 2015 and 2016. 12

Notes:

1: W. Allan Maclean, St Philip's, Joppa: The Parish and the Church, Edinburgh: St Philip's Joppa Parish Church, 1976, pp. 52–3.

2: Edinburgh, National Archives of Scotland: St Philip's, Portobello, Deacons' Court minutes, CH3/957/4, 5 April 1904.

3: Edinburgh, National Archives of Scotland: St Philip's, Portobello, Deacons' Court minutes, CH3/957/4, 12 July 1904 and 5 June 1906.

4: Edinburgh, National Archives of Scotland: St Philip's, Portobello, Deacons' Court minutes, CH3/957/4, 18 June 1906.

5: Edinburgh, National Archives of Scotland: St Philip's, Portobello, Deacons' Court minutes, CH3/957/4, 18 June 1906; W. Allan Maclean, St Philip's, Joppa: The Parish and the Church, Edinburgh: St Philip's Joppa Parish Church, 1976, p. 61.

6: Edinburgh, National Archives of Scotland: St Philip's, Portobello, Deacons' Court minutes, CH3/957/4, 2 July 1907 and 5 November 1907.

7: Edinburgh, National Archives of Scotland: St Philip's, Portobello, Deacons' Court minutes, CH3/957/4, 30 July 1906.

8: The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh job book, GLAHA 53062, p. 108.

9: W. Allan Maclean, St Philip's, Joppa: The Parish and the Church, Edinburgh: St Philip's Joppa Parish Church, 1976, p. 74.

10: The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: John Honeyman & Keppie / Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh / Keppie Henderson cash book, 1889–1917, GLAHA 53079, p. 67. According to W. Allan Maclean (St Philip's, Joppa: The Parish and the Church, Edinburgh: St Philip's Joppa Parish Church, 1976, p. 61) the plans for the organ were made by Honeyman, but Maclean may have inferred this from the 1904 Deacons' Court minutes, which refer to the architects as 'Messrs Honeyman & Co.'

11: St Philip's, Joppa: http://stphilipslab.fraser-rennie.co.uk [accessed 25 February 2001].

12: A copy of the report (MBS43) is held by the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society, Mackintosh Queen's Cross, 870 Garscube Road, Glasgow G20 7EL. The Mackintosh Buildings Survey was funded by The Monument Trust.