The Church of

 

Saint Margaret of Scotland,

 

Braemar

 

The tower of St Margaret's church can be seen behind the ruins of Kindrochit Castle.

Adjacent to the A93 as it passes through Braemar stands the church of Saint Margaret. Grandly built out of local granite stone, the ancient looking church is just a century old. Recently the church has been out of use because of water damage but steps are now under way to preserve this fine church for posterity. This page briefly explains some of the background.

After Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had Balmoral castle built some 150 years ago, Braemar and Royal Deeside became a fashionable place for summer holidays. Many of these visitors came from England so it was decided that a new church was required in Braemar for the Episcopal Church of Scotland. (This church is closely allied with the Church of England.) The site was donated at a nominal feu by the Laid of Invercauld and a small wooden church built about 1880. This church was dedicated in the name of Saint Margaret of Scotland. However, by 1891 it was deemed too small and a stone transept (or aisle) was added to the south side in 1899. However, it was felt necessary to replace the main church by a stone building and this was completed in 1907. (The transept on the north side was retained but a planned transept on the north side was never added.) The architect for the church was Ninian Comper who went on to design some of the finest of modern churches and was given a knighthood for his achievements. The building cost eight thousand pounds and was made possible by a generous grant from a Miss Eliza Schofield.

Comper designed the church so that it did not express the age in which it was built, the purpose being worship not novelty. Many of the features of the church are modelled on other Scottish churches. Thus, for example, various windows are modelled on those of (the former Greyfriars church in Aberdeen, Iona Abbey and Plusgarten Abbey in Moray. The square tower, when open, offers superb view of the village and surrounding hills and glens. Inside the church the impression is of space and light - afforded by the fine windows. There are some fine examples of carved oak, especially the majestic chancel and rood screen, the lectern and some of the doors. Some of the stained glass windows were also designed by Comper as were some of the magnificent vestments. The church stands as a fine example of Sir Ninian Comper's work.

Sadly, with the passage of time and the change in holiday patterns, the congregation has declined steadily so that the church is now too big for the community it serves. Moreover, the church has proved difficult to keep dry, a problem greatly increased by recent restoration work. For safety reasons the church is currently closed to the public and Episcopalian services are held instead at the nearby Chapel of Saint Ninian on the Mar Lodge estate.

However, currently the Scottish Redundant Churches Trust is investigating the possibility of rescuing the church as a premier example of the work of Comper.

Saint Margaret of Scotland

Margaret (1046 - 93) was the wife of Malcolm Canmore, who had based his army at Braemar before defeating McBeth at nearby Lumphanan. (He is also believed to have built a castle at Braemar.) After the Norman Conquest she was forced to flee England. Her destination was the continent but storms forced her ship to shelter in the Firth of Forth. They were received by King Malcolm Canmore, who was so impressed with Margaret that they married in 1069.

Under their reign the court became increasingly civilised and they reformed the Celtic church, increasing its links with Rome at the expense of Canterbury. They founded monasteries, churches and hostels, including the first Abbey on Iona, and increased the authority of Dunfermline Abbey. Margaret encouraged the art of ecclesiastical needle work.

Malcolm and Margaret had eight children, three becoming kings of Scotland and one becoming queen of England. She died at the age of 47 and was buried at Dunfermline. She was canonized in 1250 and has been a patron saint of Scotland since 1673.

The Chapel of St Ninian, Mar Lodge

Saint Ninian's Chapel was built on the Mar Lodge estate at the same time as the lodge itself, the foundation stone of the lodge being laid by Queen Victoria in 1895. After the chapel was built the Duke of Fife, who had married Princess Louise, the grand-daughter of Queen Victoria, conveyed the ownership to the Episcopal Church of Scotland.

The architect of both Mar Lodge and the chapel was Alexander Marshall McKenzie of Aberdeen, who had previously designed Crathie Church. The chapel was built from local materials. The artist for the stained glass windows was John William Lisle and the windows were made by Charles Eamer Kempe and Co of London.

Saint Ninian's was used for private chapel until 1959. Although there are no records of the services, the close ties between Mar Lodge and Balmoral would suggest that it was often used by Royalty. In recent years the chapel has been used increasingly by the Braemar congregation because of the continuing problems with Saint Margaret's church.

The Scottish Redundant Churches Trust

The Scottish Redundant Churches Trust (SRCT) has 3 main aims

a) to safeguard outstanding redundant churches of all denominations

b) to maintain and protect their fabric

c) to provide public access to these churches

The trust was incorporated as a charitable company in January 1996 and purchased its first church in 1998. Among the churches it now owns are those at Sandwick in Orkney, Cromarty East, Tibbermore in Perthshire and Pettinain in Lanarkshire. It is currently considering the purchase of St Margaret's in Braemar.

From a very small beginning the trust is rapidly expanding its responsibilities. It has to be noted that churches coming into its ownership are likely to be in poor condition so that thousands of pounds are required for the repair. The trust receives grants from many sources including Historic Scotland, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Church of Scotland General Trustees and the Pilgrim Trust. The trust welcomes donations from members of the public. For further information contact

The Scottish Redundant Churches Trust. 14 Long Row, New Lanark, ML11 9DD

 

 

  

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Church of St Margaret

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Pages constructed by Mike Franklin, Braemar, 27th January 2002

web Callater Lodge Hotel

e-mail mike@hotel-braemar.co.uk