Barclay Kirk (Rhinoceroses and Giraffes in Edi.?!)
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A quick urban cache highlighting one of the many architectural beauties in Edinburgh - a Franco-Venetian Gothic Church (Barclay Viewforth).
This area is muggle central so stealth required, particularly on a nice day when the links will be crawling with pitch and putters or when the church is open. The general location is accessible to wheelchairs and prams, but the cache itself is not within reach of children or wheelchair users on their own. Please bring your own pen/pencil.
A Franco-Venetian Gothic Church of great originality designed by F T Pilkington 1862-64. With an apple shaped plan with T-plan appendage containing 2 tiers of galleries, remarkable intersecting King and Queen truss roof construction, tall stone spire with open lucarnes and cavernous portals.
A brief history
The kirk – originally known as The Barclay Church after Mary Barclay whose legacy paid for its construction – stands on the edge of the Bruntsfield Links, an area which used to be forest. At that time, Bruntsfield was well outside of Edinburgh. The main road to London ran along the line of Barclay Terrace, past the wood burners cottages at Wrights Houses which stood on either side of the Golf Tavern (as an aside the pub is an excellent place to have a drink, hire some clubs if you fancy a go on the links and to get cheap and cheerful pub grub).
On 3 December 1858, a Miss Mary Barclay of 7 Carlton Terrace died leaving over £10,000 for the erection of a Free Church. The appointed trustees to consider sites were influenced by 3 facts:
• The expansion and success of the Grove St. Mission (a Free Church Mission) under the leadership of Rev. James Hood Wilson demonstrated that the densely populated area would benefit from a Free Church presence.
• James Hood Wilson’s heart was in the work in Tollcross and Fountainbridge and he was loathe to consider a move. He remained as the first Barclay Church Minister until 1906.
• Perhaps the principal factor was the existence of the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in the area. The erection of the kirk, like so many other church buildings, was a product of ecclesiastical competition rather than cooperation! The church was to rescue the population of Tollcross and Fountainbridge from “papistical ideas” and “romish influence”.
Planning and Building
A Georgian house was demolished to make room for the church and a competition for architects to design the church for this ‘oddly shaped area’ announced. The design brief contained some of the following instructions:
• Use of local stone (Binny and Redhall quarries);
• Provision of deeply inset doors to protect from the wind;
• Seating for 1200; and
• Cost of under £8,000.
In October 1861 the premium of £50 was paid to Frederick Thomas Pilkington for his design. The design won over the trustees for several reasons:
• Full use of the land;
• Uncramped seating space for 1200;
• Cruciform roof; and best of all
• Its 250 foot high steeple – the tallest in Edinburgh at the time. Even today, the only steeple in Edinburgh which is higher is that of St Mary’s Cathedral.
Construction began in 1862, and the topping out ceremony (completion of the roof) was on 23rd August 1864. The first service was held on 29 December 1864.
The exterior of Barclay has been described as “a collection of rhinoceroses and giraffes at a watering hole, with their rumps backing onto the links”. Despite the unflattering description, the exterior has a wealth of detail and a particular use of design to create a pleasant appearance. A more detailed guide on this architectural marvel is available from the Church, which today is home to the thriving Church of Scotland congregation of Barclay Viewforth.
Frederick Thomas Pilkington (1832-1899) was the son of an architect (T. Pilkington) who was architect to the Marquis of Exeter. Barclay was his first major work after leaving his father’s office. It attracted a lot of interest, not all complementary and he may have taken this to heart as he never designed anything as striking. Other works by him include the Penicuik South Church, the tenement on the Junction of Grove Street and E. Fountainbridge, and Moffat Hydro (burnt down).
Heona jngre srngher?
Nyfb frr fcbvyre cvp vs lbh arrq gb!