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St Paul's Chapel

When Charles II returned to Scotland in 1660 the Episcopal Church was re-established as the National Church of Scotland. After the Revolution of 1688 the Church was once more disestablished and dis-endowed in 1689. At that time the Church of St Nicholas, had two separate congregations. In 1692 Dr George Garden, who officiated in the East Church of St Nicholas, was removed from his charge by the Privy Council for 'not praying for their Majesties William and Mary'. Dr Andrew Burnet of the West Church of St Nicholas was deprived of his charge for protesting against the proceedings of the Presbyterian Clergy and imprisoned in the Tolbooth of Edinburgh.

When Anne came to the throne in 1702, as a daughter of the Jacobite King James, the Episcopal Clergy were prepared to take the oath to pray for the Queen. Dr Burnet was released from prison and returned to his former congregation who now met in Trinity Friars' Church.  There was persecution by the Presbyterian Church Courts to suppress the Episcopal Communion until, by the passing of the Toleration Act in 1712, it was once more lawful for Episcopalians to meet for divine worship 'after their own manner by Pastors ordained by a Protestant Bishop' and their clergy could use the liturgy of the Church of England 'without any let or disturbance from any person whatsoever'. Upon Anne's death in 1714 most of the clergy refused to acknowledge George I, although after the Rebellion in 1715 both Dr Garden and Dr Burnet did re-occupy the Church of St Nicholas for a short time under the protection of Jacobite Magistrates.

The failure of the Rebellion led to the ejection of non-juring ministers and the closing of the new chapels. Trinity Chapel was one of these. The congregations being without a Church or clergyman decided to adopt the Toleration Act under which they had operated during Queen Anne's reign.  In 1720 a document was drawn up under which St Paul's was founded. It states 'Resolutions of Burgers, Merchants, Tradesmen and Inhabitants of Aberdeen met together at Aberdeen this 2nd day of August 1720 for settling ane Episcopal Meeting House by a qualified Minister in terms of Law'. They applied for a lease of Trinity Church, but were refused this by the Magistrates, so had to undertake the erection of a new Church.

 

53-57 Gallowgate
By the early 17th Century the use of the frontages had changed to domestic housing. Excavation revealed the backs of 2 substantial stone houses, separated by a tunnel entry. Further back in the yards new buildings were being erected in the 'backlands'. In the later 17th century the frontage buildings were shortened and rebuilt, with massive cellars.  Meanwhile in the backlands, partly derelict buildings were being used by Blacksmiths and Cobblers as workshops. In 1721 the site was bought by the Episcopal Church, and several of the plots were combined, backland buildings we re-cleared, and a new Chapel built. Between 1757 and 1782 the street frontage was rebuilt, and a new tunnel entry into the yards was built. Thereafter most of the former yard area became the entrance court to the church. In 1843 a new manse was erected, and finally in 1866 the church itself was rebuilt.

The Chapel was built in 1721 on the west side of the Gallowgate, on land overlooking the Loch of New Aberdeen.  The church was set back from the road in a garden behind the gateway, which originally stood at 53-57 the Gallowgate.  The church had no spire, but had curious round windows and a rounded pyramid-shaped roof.  (Inset East Elevation)

The majority of Scottish Episcopalians in the 18th century were for the Jacobite Cause, even though by 1745 there were more qualified or juring Episcopalians.  That was probably due to the real politique of the situation as a result of the persecution.  One could be a public juror and attend St Paul’s Loch Street in Aberdeen with its English Office, pray for King George, sing praise accompanied by its Fine Organ, yet quietly pray for the “King over the Water”.  Episcopalian or ‘English’ Chapels had Priests and Bishops in contrast to the Church of Scotland, so they tended to be very grand. St. Paul’s was no exception having a huge Pipe Organ the largest of its kind for decades.

Its congregation came from the West Church of St Nicholas when the Episcopal Church was the National Church of Scotland. The design of the Chapel is said to be the work of a Jaffray of Kingswells.  This was a Quaker Family whose estate lay some 5 miles west of Aberdeen. In 1720, when the decision was taken to erect a chapel, it was an Alexander Jaffray (1677-1741) who was 4th Laird at Kingswells. He was then 43 years of age and was Surveyor for roads and bridges in Aberdeenshire.  He had designed his own house at Kingswells and given advice on architectural matters to Archibald Grant of Monymusk, and he also supervised the reconstruction of the House of Monymusk. His grandson, another Alexander Jaifray, writing his recollections of Kingswells later in the 18th century, says of his grandfather, 'Having a taste for, and some knowledge of architecture, he constructed the house after a plan of his own -'.

Steeped in tradition, Kingswells House stands in beautiful woodland grounds in Kingswells.  History has it that King Charles stopped here for a drink from the well at the front door, thereby giving the present Kingswells area its name.  The manor house of Kingswells bears the dates 1666 and 1855, and was occupied at the time of Charles II. For a long time the house was ruinous, but was restored in 1854.

It may be significant that Alexander Jaffray, 4th Laird of Kingswells visited London in the autumn of 1720. In a letter to Archibald Grant of Monymusk he writes, 'I have not only seen all the fine buildings and gardens here and the method of execution, but have likewise observed the different agriculture through the country', - and later in the letter says, 'I have settled correspondence with the best and most useful artists here and provided myself in all sorts of instruments and books'.  Was he seeking and finding inspiration for the design of the Chapel   

All that remains of Jaffray's work in Aberdeen is the Gateway to the Chapel, which still stands in its original position. The Chapel was described as 'handsome and commodious' and in a modest way did reflect in some measure the style of the later Renaissance design in churches, externally in the general proportion of solid and void of the West facade, and the punctuation given by the smaller 1st-floor windows, and at the East elevation, by the Circular Windows over the entrance doors. Internally this is also seen in the Tuscan Columns of wood supporting the galleries, over which are placed the Ionic Columns supporting the roof, while the plan follows the type of nave and aisles layout seen in many of Wren's Churches, such as Christ's Church, Newgate Street, and St Bride's,  Fleet Street. Its erection was contemporary with that designed by another architect associated with Aberdeen.  This was St Martin-in-the-Fields by James Gibbs, built in 1722. Perhaps the most outstanding feature in its interior was the magnificent Organ Loft and Case.  One visitor about 1725 said it was the only Organ he knew of in Scotland at that time. In the list of subscribers to the organ over a number of years appears the name of the 2nd Duke of Gordon. Among others who subscribed to its upkeep from time to time were the Earl of Aboyne, Lord Irvine of Drum and Farquharson of Finzean.  When first erected there was danger that the Organ might be damaged, so in April 1725 we find the managers giving orders to a carpenter to erect a rail about the Organ 'that it meet with no harm from boys and other people that go on above the bellows'. The organ case has a striking resemblance to one in Wren's St James's, Piccadilly (1682-4 see below).

The Gateway of St. Paul’s, by Candlemakers’ Court.  The whole front of Loch Street looked very different before the Bon Accord Centre and the new houses that were built in the 1890’s

By the late 17th century Wren's St. James’s Church had become a fashionable place to be seen and was much admired by contemporary writers.  John Evelyn wrote extravagantly after visiting the church in 1684 ‘There is no altar anywhere in England, nor has there been any abroad more handsomely adorned.’ The object of his praise is the reredos (ornamental screens), which is considered Grinling Gibbons finest work. 

Gibbons’ sumptuous carved and gilded organ case surmounted by 6 superb figures dominates the west end of the church. The original organ, given to St. James’s by Queen Mary in 1691, was formerly in Chapel Royal of Whitehall Palace.

Some of the Organists at St Paul's made a name for themselves. There was Andrew Tait  who is said to have been author of the well-known psalm tune St Paul, and also John Ross who became conductor and leader of the Musical Society in 1750. This body gave concerts in a hall in Concert Court off Broad Street.  Andrew Tait had founded the Aberdeen Musical Society in 1748. In 1749, the Society leased a house, the ‘New Music Room’ in adjacent Huxter Row. The Society came to an end in 1806.

At the East end of the Chapel was a 3-decker pulpit almost concealed the small Apse containing the Altar raised on 2 steps and enclosed by a rail,.  According to Allan (1949) 'When a 3-storeyed pulpit  was used it was placed towards the middle of the Nave against either one of the pillars, or the North or South wall. From the Restoration onwards it became increasingly common to place the 3-storeyed pulpit in the Middle Alley, in front of the Altar. Although the pulpit stood in front of the Altar it was neither there out of contempt for the Altar nor to exalt preaching at the expense of Sacrament; in any case the 3-decker was something more than a pulpit: it was the place from which the greater part of the liturgy was read'.  Some light fittings seen in photographs seem to be for gas. There was a tap on those at the 3-decker pulpit. The candelabras suspended over the nave appear to have candles. The 1st Gas Company was founded in Aberdeen in 1824.  As no plans or elevations of the old Chapel seem to exist the opportunity was taken to prepare measured drawings from 5 old photographs which had been taken prior to its demolition about 1865. A degree of accuracy was possible by reference to a plan of the City of Aberdeen made from an accurate survey taken in 1789 by Alex Milne. It was possible from this plan to obtain an approximate external length for the Chapel, and by using principles of perspective in reverse to work other sizes from the photographs. The scale of Alexander Milne's Plan was given in Scots statute chains of 24 ells or 74 ft each. The Scottish ell equally 37 inches.

St Pail's Pipe Organ (inset)

 

It was found the length of the Chapel was about 100 ft. Although the scale of the drawings must be considered approximate, the proportions could be nearly accurate.  The intention was to represent the Chapel as originally conceived by the Architect and not included is the aisle which was added to the North side of the Chapel in 1764. The Lofts, or Cocklofts as they were called, which were erected over the main gallery at the East and West ends of the Chapel have also been omitted. In an early map of Old and New Aberdeen by G & W Paterson, dated 1746, the Chapel is shown with a Fleche, and according to Gammie (1909, 306) there 'was a handsome Cupola about 9 feet in diameter.' It seems possible that the Cupola formed a ceiling light within the lower  portion of the Fleche Inset - West Elevation

When the Chapel was built 'seats and desks' from Trinity Chapel, belonging to the Seven Incorporated Trades, were removed to St Paul's and re-used in the Gallery. If there was a passage next the outer wall there would remain space for only 2 rows of pews. The stair risers and treads are conjecture. The pattern shown cannot be far from the original as internal features such as door entrances and exposed stair soffits provide visible clues and confining elements.   The outside cornice is shown as stone because in a photograph of the East elevation there is a suggestion of jointing, but it is possible it could have been a built-up wooden one.  Whether the Upper Arcade should have pointed arches or semi-circular ones presented a problem. There is not sufficient evidence from the photographs to give a definite answer regarding the treatment of the entire Arcade. Several things influenced me in deciding to show the arcade with semi-circular arches. The Lofts appear to be an afterthought and to have been added later to give additional seating before, or when, the North aisle was built in 1764. Alexander Jaffray would have been 87 in that year if still alive, so he is unlikely to have been consulted about such an alteration. The joists supporting the Lofts are exposed, suggesting less care has been taken with them than with the soffit of the Lower Gallery. The panelling to the Loft contains 4 panels between the columns whereas there are only 3 at the Gallery level. If the Loft had been erected at the same time as the Lower Gallery one would have expected but 3 panels. Introducing pointed arches at the Lofts may have been done to allow slightly more light into the area of the Centre Nave. This seems trivial, but not impossible when nondescript development takes place later.  There is more shadow down the left-most arch than there is in the adjoining pointed arch suggesting it could be semicircular.  Pointed arches are out of harmony with the general style of design adopted for the building. 

There is further evidence of a lower standard of design of later work, in the frontage of the Gallery to the North aisle. Although the triglyph motif is in accord with the Doric Column supports it is out of place and unnecessary. No doubt the curve of the gallery made it desirable to restrict the width of the panels, but a better solution would have been to keep them the same depth as for the old Gallery and change their width when they came into the straight part of the Gallery serving the North Aisle.  Although the photographs do not show them, there must have been 4 columns supporting this part of the Gallery, giving 3 bays identical to those facing them in the South Gallery. 


Duchess of Gordon's Family Pew

This heraldic panel for Henrietta Mordaunt, Duchess of Gordon, is from St Paul's Chapel. It dates from the mid 18th century and is made from carved, painted and gilded pine.  The heraldic achievement of the Widow of the 2nd Duke of Gordon, from a pew in St Paul's Chapel, Aberdeen, mid 18th century

In a photograph, which illustrates the interior looking towards the East, a panel can be seen displaying the Coat of Arms of Henrietta, Duchess of Gordon The Arms can be described as follows:- On a lozenge the impaled Arms of Gordon and Mordaunt, dexter: The Arms of Gordon quarterly, first azure, three boar's heads couped or, for GORDON; second or, three lion's heads erased gules, langued azure, for BADENOCH; 3rd or, 3 crescents ascendant within a double tressure flory counter flory gules, for SETON; 4th azure, 3 fraises argent, for ERASER, sinister: The Arms of Mordaunt, argent a chevron between 3 estoiles sable. The lozenge is surrounded by a cordeliere or, ensigned with a ducal coronet and on an escrol azure with the motto BYDAND are set for supporters, dexter a deer-hound argent, gorged with a collar gules, charged with 3 buckles, or; sinister an eagle argent, armed or. All within a robe of estate, gules trimmed ermine, tied with ribbons azure. 

Married in 1706, Lady Henrietta Mordaunt, 2nd daughter of the celebrated General, Charles, Earl of Peterborough and Monmouth, and had by her 4 sons and 7 daughters. Her grace educated all her children in the protestant faith, and on that account received, in 1735, a pension from George ll, of £1000 annually. She died 11th October 1760, at Prestonhall, near Edinburgh, an estate which she had purchased at a judicial sale in 1738, for £8,877, and which she left to her 4th son, Lord Adam. The sons were, Cosmo-George, 3rd Duke; Lord Charles, an officer in the army, died unmarried in 1780; Lord Lewis, a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, but such a keen Jacobite that on the breaking out of the Rebellion of 1745, he declared for the Pretender, raised a regiment of 2 battalions, and defeated a party of Royalists under the Laird of Macleod, near Inverury, 23d December of that year.

In recognition of her contribution to the Chapel Funds, the managers set aside a seat for the Duchess and her family and instructed that the Coat of Arms of the family be 'put upon the breast of the seat'. This was done in 1728. Her son the 3rd Duke of Gordon, was baptised in the Chapel by the Rev John Gordon, the minister at that time.

'a seat for the family to be erected in the Body of the Chapel or in the Front Gallery as my Lady Duchess shall choose and that the Coat of Arms of the family with a Duchess' Coronet shall be put upon the breast of the seat which seat shall be appropriate for the use of the Duchess of Gordon's family'. So the Arms of the Duchess came to be carved in December 1728 or at the beginning of 1729 and have survived to the present day. 

The heraldic importance of the panel lies in showing the Arms of a Widowed woman. No woman, apart from a female Sovereign, can bear Arms on a shield unless they are shown on an inescutcheon as part of her husband's Arms, where they denote the woman to be a Heraldic Heiress.; the inescutcheon of Henrietta Mordaunt is shown on the arms of Alexander, Duke of Gordon.  Female Arms, on their own, are always borne on a lozenge, as seen in the Aberdeen panel, and, if the female is a Widow, they are surrounded by a cordeliere, an interwoven tasselled rope. This was originally the collar of the extinct French Order of the Cordeliere, instituted in 1498 by Anne de Bretagne, after the death of her 1st husband Charles VIII, for widow ladies of noble families, but has long been used generally to symbolise Widowhood. Few armigerous Widows in Scotland seem to have gone to the trouble of having their status shown in this way, though it is understandable that the Duchess of Gordon, Widowed at a comparatively young age, should, when a carved version of her Arms was required, have them surrounded with the cordeliere to fit her new situation. 

The size of the carved panel was determined by the existing panel arrangements on the front of the pew and it is made up of 3 pine boards, varying in width from 8" to 9" by 2" thick, butt-jointed to form one piece 27" by 26". The Arms are carved in relief up to a maximum of 1" in height and coloured with oil paint and applied gold and silver leaf. There are indications on the reverse of the panel that the design was 1st sketched out in pencil to see how the heraldic elements would fit in to the almost square shape.  There is a small locating groove running round the edge of the carved face for the frame which has now been lost. The carving is well done, the proportions of the animal supporters are good, the deer-hound on the dexter side being particularly graceful.  Apart from being carved in pine there is nothing to indicate local manufacture. 

When the Chapel of St Paul was demolished in 1866 to make way for a Victorian edifice conforming to Gothic Revival ritual, the heraldic panel was transferred to the New church and mounted on one wall of the nave. There it remained until 1966, when the 2nd St Paul's Church was sold, and moved to St Andrew's Episcopal Cathedral in King Street, Aberdeen. During recent restoration and cleaning of the Cathedral the panel was unfortunately given a resin-based coating of sand to make it look like a stone carving. This obliterated the crisp detailing and of course hid the heraldic tinctures. The coating of sand has now been removed and the panel restored to its former colourful state; some slight retouching was necessary.  Complete restoration was not attempted where the passage of time has caused the loss of part of the deer-hound's tail, the loss of one tassel from the ribbon holding the robe of estate on the dexter side and part of the bow in the top centre of the panel.  The Arms of Henrietta Mordaunt are the property of the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney.


Worshippers
St Paul's had some interesting people among its 1000 or so worshippers. James Ray, of Whitehaven, who was a volunteer in the Duke of Cumberland's Army, writing in 1745 said 'There are 2 Episcopal meeting-houses, 1 of which is very handsome, having a neat organ and many other ornaments. The other was likely to be attained of treason, but I do not know how it fared. But there were 2 other Episcopal meeting-houses that our soldiers burnt; but with good husbandry and frugality not consuming the pile at once, as was often the case - the wood being industriously reserved to heat our bakers ovens'.  Ray continues, 'What gave the most concern was that so many of the handsomest Scots ladies were attendants at these meeting-houses'.  The well known Gregory family of Dalmaik (Drumoak) were associated with St Paul's.  Originally MacGregors they settled in Deeside and assumed the name of Gregory. When Rob Roy MacGregor journeyed up Deeside in 1714, to enthuse members of his clan for the 1715 Rebellion, he visited his relatives at Dalmaik. Dr John Gregory, Professor of Medicine at King's College, worshipped at St Paul's.  His son James was baptised there in 1761. James became Professor of Medicine at Edinburgh and in 1799 became 1st Physician to the King in Scotland.  It was he who invented the disagreeable but effective Gregory's Mixture. In 1772 the Rev John Wesley went to the morning service at St Paul's Chapel, and wrote, 'Here, likewise, I could not but admire the exemplary decency of the congregation. This was the more remarkable, because so miserable a reader I never heard before'.  During Dr Johnson's tour in Scotland he and James Boswell were having breakfast with Professor Thomas Gordon at the New Inn, Aberdeen. It was Sunday, 22 August 1773. Boswell (1785) records of the Professor 'He had secured seats for us at the English Chapel', and continues, 'We found a respectable congregation, and an admirable organ well played by Mr Tait', which suggests the Chapel was popular and well attended. Dr Johnson (1775, 20) in his journal mentions he 'sat under the Rev John Gordon', and includes this, 'In Aberdeen there is an English Chapel, in which the congregation was numerous and splendid. The form of public worship used by the Church of England is in Scotland legally practised in Licensed Chapels, served by Clergymen of English and Irish ordination, and by tacit connivance quietly permitted in separate congregations supplied with Ministers by the successors of the Bishops who were deprived at the Revolution'.  A member of the congregation in the early days was a young man who later became Bishop.

Kemp, the 1st Bishop of Maryland, USA.  The poet Lord Byron also worshipped at the Chapel when a boy. He lived with his mother nearby in Queen Street, and later in Broad Street, during the last decade of the 18th century. Early in the 18th century Dancing for fashionable society was introduced to Aberdeen.  The Magistrates considered its introduction would be helpful in teaching the young 'manners and good breeding'. Their 1st choice of instructors was not entirely successful so they advertised for a person 'of a sober, discreet, and moral character' as a dancing master for the town. Mr Francis Peacock was recommended by an Edinburgh dancing master, and appointed to the post in 1747. His 1st born, Elizabeth, was baptised in St Paul's in 1749, and subsequently so were another daughter and 3 sons. He is commemorated in Aberdeen by having Peacock's Close named after him.

About 1865 the Chapel was demolished and replaced by a Gothic structure which continued to be a fashionable City Church and, up to the time of the 1st World War, some in the congregation still arrived for the service in their private carriages. The horses were fed and watered in Campbell's Stables (Post Horse Masters) nearby while the owners were at worship.  Col Thomas Innes of Learney was the 1st Lay Representative at St Paul's. As a youth his grandson Thomas, later to become Lord Lyon King of Arms, could also be seen in the congregation with his grandfather. The military funeral of Col Innes took place from St Paul's in 1912

1824 - Robert Kilgour Beadle of St. Paul's Chapel, Hervie's Court, 90,  Gallowgate.

Baker's Seat
In addition to maintaining a "dask" or loft in 1 of the City Churches, as well as in the Trinity Chapel, the Bakers, as will be seen from the following minute, erected a Seat in the old St. Paul's Chapel (Episcopalian):-

17th February, 1725 - The said day the Baxter traid taking to their consideration that this Traid mostly are hearers of the Word of God in St Paul's Chappell in Aberdeen, and that the said Traid have no place for their accommodation in the said Chappell, they hereby authorise and empower their present Deacon and Masters to agree with a sufficient workman for building a seat for the said Traid in the said Chappell upon the public charge of the Baxter Traid, for which this shall be warrant.


Episcopalian Chapel stood between the Ogston and Tennant Factory and what is now the Shopping Centre car Park.  Episcopal or ‘English’ Chapels had Priests and Bishops in contrast to the Church of Scotland.   Ach - Jist Knocket Doon!

Old St. Paul's, Loch Street/Gallowgate - Archibald Jaffray, of Kingswells, produced a design for the 1st Episcopal Chapel on this site in 1720. In 1865, it was superseded by a later building, which faced on to Loch Street but with entrances from the old site in the Gallowgate. Old St. Paul's had a long and distinguished history.  The later St. Paul's (1866) built by A Marshall MacKenzie closed down as a place of worship in 1966.demolished as part of central redevelopment scheme

Loch Street with St Pauls and School, which became the Aberdeen Education Authority's Music Centre, the Co-op Headquarters and Arcade.

House in the Gallowgate for Sale
On Friday the 28th day of August curt. at 6pm, there will be exposed to sale by public roup, within the house of George Ronald, Lemon-tree Tavern, Aberdeen,
That Dwelling House on the East Side of the Gallowgate, immediately opposite to St Paul's Chapel, at present possessed by and belonging to William Leitch, Coppersmith.
Any person desirous of purchasing by private bargain before the roup, will apply to Alexander Crombie, Advocate in Aberdeen, or William Leitch, Coppersmith.
Published in the Aberdeen Journal, Wednesday 5th August, 1812.


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Last modified: 01/09/2013