Alterations to Rothesay Parish United Free Church

M284 Alterations to Rothesay Parish United Free Church

Address: Castle Street, Rothesay, Isle of Bute PA20 9HA
Date: 1907–8
Client: Rothesay Parish United Free Church
Authorship: Authorship category 4 (Office) (Office)

Colour photograph of exterior of Rothesay Parish United Free Church

Designed by the celebrated Aberdeen architect Archibald Simpson (1790–1847), the building now known as Trinity Church opened on 13 July 1845 as Rothesay Free Parish Church. It became Rothesay Parish United Free Church in 1900, and has been known as Trinity Church since 1929. 1

On 29 August 1907, the roof of the church collapsed. 2 Thomas Douglas, described in the minutes of the Deacons' Court as Chief Inspector of Works with the Glasgow architects J. Burnet & Son, was immediately engaged to examine the damage. 3 He proposed John James Burnet as a 'thoroughly capable architect' to repair or replace the old church, but when the repair committee drew up their shortlist, Burnet was not included. There were just two names, both from Glasgow: J. B. Wilson, who the previous year had been awarded the prestigious commission for the new headquarters of the Institute of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Glasgow, and John Keppie. On 27 September, Keppie was unanimously appointed architect for the Rothesay job. 4

Having prepared an initial scheme for the church, Keppie was asked to provide a simpler alternative, confined to re-roofing, and 'without any alterations of the internal appearance'. 5 Although the Deacons' Court preferred the second scheme, they still demurred at the proposed 'new floors, pews, lining, staircases and porches'. Keppie supplied a fresh plan, and a measurer was appointed on 18 November, before the principal tenders were accepted in December. 6

The new roof must have been externally complete by August 1908, when the final payment was made to the slater, but work on the church continued until the end of the year, when a wrought-iron finial by George Adam & Son was attached to the tip of the spire. 7

The original drawings have not come to light, but a tracing of one sheet was made by Ronald Harrison in the 1930s. This shows the new roof in section and elevation, with a plan of part of the ceiling. It resembles a hammerbeam roof, but most of the structural timbers are hidden by a flat, boarded ceiling, higher in the centre than at the sides. There are oblongs of Gothic tracery in the spandrels, and more gothic tracery in the vertical area between the lower and higher ceiling levels.

Notes:

1: Website of Rothesay Trinity Church of Scotland [accessed 21 December 2012].

2: Edinburgh, National Archives of Scotland: Rothesay United Free Parish Church, Deacons' Court Minutes, CH3/486/32, 29 August 1907.

3: Edinburgh, National Archives of Scotland: Rothesay United Free Parish Church, Deacons' Court Minutes, CH3/486/32, 11 September 1907. The repair committee consisted of John R. Thomson (himself an architect), George Martin, A. M. Burnie, James Duncan, A. R. Peacock and the clerk of the Deacons' Court.

4: Edinburgh, National Archives of Scotland: Rothesay United Free Parish Church, Deacons' Court Minutes, CH3/486/32, 27 September 1907.

5: Edinburgh, National Archives of Scotland: Rothesay United Free Parish Church, Deacons' Court Minutes, CH3/486/32, 7 October 1907.

6: Edinburgh, National Archives of Scotland: Rothesay United Free Parish Church, Deacons' Court Minutes, CH3/486/32, 18 November 1907; The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh job book, GLAHA 53062, p. 171.

7: The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh job book, GLAHA 53062, pp. 171–2.