Restoration of Iona Cathedral

M044 Restoration of Iona Cathedral

Address: Iona PA76 6SQ
Date: 1891; 1903–7
Client: George Douglas Campbell, 8th Duke of Argyll; Iona Cathedral Trustees
Authorship: Authorship category 4 (Office) (Office)

Colour photograph of Iona Cathedral from N.E.

The island of Iona, where the Irish missionary Columba settled in the 6th century, is regarded as the cradle of Scottish Christianity. A Benedictine abbey was built in the 13th to 15th centuries, later becoming a cathedral. It fell into ruin after the Reformation, but in the late 19th century its hereditary owner, George Douglas Campbell, 8th Duke of Argyll, sought to restore it. He consulted John Honeyman, no doubt because of the architect's reputation as a scholar of medieval buildings. 1 Plans were drawn by John Honeyman & Keppie in 1891, 2 and the practice incurred a number of expenses, including the cost of a visit to London. 3 A job-book entry was begun, but no tenders were recorded and no payments made. 4

On 22 September 1899, before his death the following year, the Duke vested ownership of the ruins in the Iona Cathedral Trust, and in December 1901 the trustees commissioned Thomas Ross to re-roof the choir. 5 Ross appears not to have given satisfaction, and Honeyman, who in 1901 had signalled his continuing interest in the restoration by exhibiting 'Iona: as proposed in 1891' at the Royal Scottish Academy (632), offered early in 1903 to advise the trustees 'non-professionally'. 6 They decided to engage him, and in October his fully-costed programme for the comprehensive restoration of the cathedral and monastic buildings was approved, though lack of funds meant it could only proceed in stages. 7

Tenders for the first stage were accepted in February 1904, the main contractors being E. C. Morgan & Son for mason and joiner work, and William Anderson for slater and plumber work. 8 Work went on during the course of that year, at the end of which Honeyman submitted an account of what had been accomplished: the walls of the ruined N. transept had been built up and the transept roofed; the sacristy had been completed, and the blocked arcade between it and the choir opened up; a floor had been erected within the tower, so the crossing was effectively roofed; the floors had been paved; internal walls had been pointed; and the effigy of Abbot MacKinnon had been restored (at the expense of Mr Duncan MacKinnon), as had the E. window of the S. aisle (at the expense of Miss Campbell of Blythswood). 9 The cost to the Trustees of all this work was 1878 12s 6d, as measured by Douglas, Hunter & Whitson. 10

Photograph of perspective of Iona CathedralColour photograph of Iona Cathedral from S.E.Colour photograph of Iona Cathedral from N.E.Colour photograph of tomb of Abbot John MacKinnon in Iona Cathedral

By now Honeyman was 73 years old. He had retired from the practice of Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh, and his eyesight was failing. In May 1905 he assured the trustees that he could still design, but in future he proposed having 'working drawings and other office work done by my old staff and under direction of my late partner, Mr Keppie'. 11 It is not clear what further work was actually carried out under Honeyman. He submitted a design for a new gate and gate pillars in the first half of 1906, but the trustees decided not to implement it. 12 In 1907, apparently due to a combination of old age, poor eyesight and the diminishing prospect of money being available to complete the work during his lifetime, he tendered his resignation. 13 All the drawings made in Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh's office were handed over to the trustees, who decided in October to pay off the practice. 14

Honeyman stated that he was responsible for designing all the restoration work that had been carried out since he started work for the trustees, 'with the trifling exception of the roof of the sacristy, the drawings of which were supplied by Mr Ross'. 15 John Keppie's role, which began in August 1905, was merely that of a 'reliable co-adjutor'. 16 There appears to be no evidence that Mackintosh was involved in the project.

In the 1906 exhibition of the Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts, Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh showed a pen drawing of Iona Cathedral (1000). The Glasgow Herald noted that it was a 'tiny structure', and briefly described the proposed next stage of the restoration: 'the view shows the nave walls carried up and a roof added; the west window is new.' 17

Photograph of perspective of Iona Cathedral as proposed

In 1908, P. MacGregor Chalmers was appointed architect for the continuing restoration of the Cathedral, and he rebuilt the nave between 1908 and 1910. 18 Restoration of the monastic buildings was carried out under Ian G. Lindsay from 1939. 19

Notes:

1: Edinburgh, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: Iona Cathedral Trustees Archives, accession 2007/266, Trustees' Minute Book 1899–1922, pp. 53–5, Memorandum for the Trustees of Iona Ruins, 21 February 1903.

2: The drawings are referred to in a later minute of the Iona Cathedral Trustees (Edinburgh, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: Iona Cathedral Trustees Archives, accession 2007/266, Trustees' Minute Book 1899–1922, 10 January 1900). A set of drawings of this date by Honeyman survives (Edinburgh, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: AGD/23/630–635). Much later, James Herbert McNair recalled having visited Iona in connection with this work, and it is possible that Mackintosh was also involved (Roger Billcliffe, 'J. H. MacNair in Glasgow and Liverpool', Annual Report and Bulletin of the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1, 1970–1, pp. 48–74.

3: The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: John Honeyman & Keppie / Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh / Keppie Henderson cash book, 1889–1917, GLAHA 53079, pp. 10, 11.

4: The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: John Honeyman & Keppie job book, GLAHA 53059, p. 147.

5: Scotsman, 30 September 1899, p. 10; Edinburgh, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: Iona Cathedral Trustees Archives, accession 2007/266, Trustees' Minute Book 1899–1922, pp. 53–5, Memorandum for the Trustees of Iona Ruins, 21 February 1903.

6: Edinburgh, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: Iona Cathedral Trustees Archives, accession 2007/266, Trustees' Minute Book 1899–1922, pp. 53–5, Memorandum for the Trustees of Iona Ruins, 21 February 1903.

7: Edinburgh, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: Iona Cathedral Trustees Archives, accession 2007/266, Trustees' Minute Book 1899–1922, 6 October 1903. A detailed description and costing of Honeyman's proposals, in the form of a report by MacGibbon & Ross dated 5 October 1903, is included the minutes of the Trustees' meeting on 12 July 1904.

8: Edinburgh, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: Iona Cathedral Trustees Archives, accession 2007/266, Trustees' Minute Book 1899–1922, 23 February 1904.

9: Edinburgh, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: Iona Cathedral Trustees Archives, accession 2007/266, Trustees' Minute Book 1899–1922, p. 93, 'Report by Dr Honeyman, 2 March 1905, to the Iona Trustees, on the work done under his direction during the year to 31 December 1904'.

10: Edinburgh, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: Iona Cathedral Trustees Archives, accession 2007/266, Trustees' Minute Book 1899–1922, p. 98.

11: Edinburgh, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: Iona Cathedral Trustees Archives, accession 2007/266, Trustees' Minute Book 1899–1922, p. 105, copy of letter from John Honeyman to trustees, 5 May 1905.

12: Edinburgh, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: Iona Cathedral Trustees Archives, accession 2007/266, Trustees' Minute Book 1899–1922, 18 May 1906. Two drawings for a gateway, dated March 1906 and inscribed '140 Bath Street', the practice address of Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh, are in the Iona Cathedral Trustees Archives, box 8, 23i and 23j.

13: Edinburgh, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: Iona Cathedral Trustees Archives, accession 2007/266, Trustees' Minute Book 1899–1922, 5 July 1907.

14: Edinburgh, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: Iona Cathedral Trustees Archives, accession 2007/266, Trustees' Minute Book 1899–1922, 22 October 1907.

15: Edinburgh, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: Iona Cathedral Trustees Archives, accession 2007/266, Trustees' Minute Book 1899–1922, p. 152.

16: Edinburgh, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: Iona Cathedral Trustees Archives, accession 2007/266, Trustees' Minute Book 1899–1922, pp. 105–7, copy of letter from John Honeyman to trustees, 5 May 1905.

17: Glasgow Herald, 14 April 1906, p. 5.

18: Frank Arneil Walker and Fiona Sinclair, Buildings of Scotland: Argyll and Bute, London: Penguin, 2000, p. 511.

19: Frank Arneil Walker and Fiona Sinclair, Buildings of Scotland: Argyll and Bute, London: Penguin, 2000, p. 511.