Reordering of Glasgow Cathedral choir

M030 Reordering of Glasgow Cathedral choir

Address: Cathedral Square, Glasgow G4 0QZ
Date: 1890–3
Client: Glasgow Cathedral
Authorship: Authorship category 4 (Office) (Office)

B/W photograph of reordered choir of Glasgow Cathedral in 1893

Between 1890 and 1893 a general reordering of the choir of Glasgow Cathedral was carried out. The aim seems to have been to create a setting for Presbyterian worship that was more in keeping with the building's medieval character, as favoured by the ecclesiological movement. From contemporary press reports it seems clear that John Honeyman was personally responsible. 1 He was a scholarly architect with a keen interest in archaeology, and as early as 1854 he had published on the cathedral's architectural history. 2 While the work was in progress, he delivered a paper about the reordering to the Glasgow Archaeological Society. 3 Mackintosh may have been involved with the project as an assistant, but there is no documentary evidence for this.

Some of Honeyman's work has been removed, but photographs record its original appearance. The reordering involved relocating the old central pulpit, laying a new floor of coloured marbles, enclosing the sides of the choir with 'carved oak work' and installing on the site of the medieval high altar an oak communion table carved with a representation of the Last Supper. 4 The final and most prominent element of the scheme was the free-standing reredos of Caen stone and alabaster, which provided a backdrop for the communion table and gave it an altar-like dignity. Made by the sculptor James Young, it consisted of three traceried arches under crocketed gables, with statues at each end representing St Ninian and St Kentigern. 5 Its whiteness and delicacy contrasted starkly with the dark and massive 13th-century piers of the choir.

Some elements of the scheme were funded by private donors: the floor was paid for by William Gilfillan of Galbraith & Winton, the firm which laid the marble; the reredos was the gift of Lady Maxwell of Calderwood in memory of her husband Sir William Maxwell; and the communion table was given by James Garroway. 6 This may explain why not all the work is recorded in John Honeyman & Keppie's job book. However, their cash book records that they received 25 0s 0d on 23 April 1891 from Garroway, presumably in connection with the communion table, and 46 0s 0d for the reredos on 6 June 1893. 7 A payment of 40 0s 0d from the Cathedral Committee was received on 29 September 1890, and another on 14 March 1891. 8

Notes:

1: British Architect, 34, 26 December 1890, p. 493; Glasgow Herald, 25 March 1893, p. 6.

2: John Honeyman, The Age of Glasgow Cathedral, and of the Effigy in the Crypt, Glasgow: David Bryce, 1854.

3: British Architect, 34, 26 December 1890, p. 493.

4: British Architect, 34, 26 December 1890, p. 493; Glasgow Herald, 25 March 1893, p. 6.

5: Glasgow Herald, 25 March 1893, p. 6; <i>British Architect</i>, 39, 31 March 1893, p. 230..

6: British Architect, 34, 26 December 1890, p. 493; Glasgow Herald, 25 March 1893, p. 6.

7: The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: John Honeyman & Keppie / Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh / Keppie Henderson cash book, 1889–1917, GLAHA 53079, pp. 11, 22.

8: The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: John Honeyman & Keppie / Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh / Keppie Henderson cash book, 1889–1917, GLAHA 53079, pp. 8, 10.