St Andrew's and St George's Church

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St Andrew's and St George's Church

St Andrew's and St George's West Church serves Edinburgh's New Town, in Scotland. It is a congregation of the Church of Scotland. The parish today constitutes the whole of the First New Town of Edinburgh and a small part of the early 19th century Second New Town of Edinburgh. The church building was completed in 1784, and is now protected as a category A listed building.


Two churches, St Andrew’s and St George’s, were planned as principal elements in the New Town of Edinburgh. James Craig’s plan of 1767 for the First New Town laid out a grid pattern of streets reflecting classical order and rationalism. It was the age of the Scottish Enlightenment, and Edinburgh was becoming internationally renowned as the centre of new philosophy and thought. The two churches were intended to be built on Charlotte Square (originally to be named St George Square), at the west end of George Street, and St Andrew Square at the east end. However, Sir Lawrence Dundas, a wealthy businessman, preferred the eastern site for his home and bought the ground before Craig's plan could be implemented. St. Andrew's Church had to be built part-way along George Street, and its place was taken by Dundas House, designed by Sir William Chambers.

The Town Council held a competition for a design for the eastern church, St Andrew’s, which was won by Captain Andrew Frazer and Robert Kay. The church was founded in 1781 and opened in 1784. The church is notable for its elliptical plan which was the first in Britain. There are similarities to William Adam's design for Hamilton Old Parish Church and to James Gibbs' original idea for St Martin-in-the-Fields in London, both of which were circular sanctuaries fronted with porticoes. The architectural style reflects the contemporary 18th century fashion for classical Roman forms. These include the temple-front portico with ceiling rosettes based on examples found in Syria by Robert Wood and illustrated in his Ruins of Palmyra of 1753. The magnificent interior ceiling design, in the style of Robert Adam, also incorporates many features found in Roman and Pompeian interior design, as well as Scottish thistles.

The original design for St Andrew’s Church included a short tower but the Town Council opted for a steeple, built in 1787. It contains a unique peal of eight bells cast in 1788 by William and Thomas Mears at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, the oldest complete ring in Scotland. The bells were refurbished in 2006 and restored to full change ringing. The original Georgian crown glass sash windows with glazing bars no longer exist. Of the replacements the most noteworthy are stained glass windows by Alfred Webster (1913) and Douglas Strachan (1934).


The church was the setting, in 1843, for one of the most significant events in 19th-century Scotland - the Disruption. Fuelled by increasing concern and resentment about the Civil Courts’ infringements on the liberties of the Church of Scotland, around one third of the ministers present at the annual General Assembly walked out, cheered by onlookers outside, and constituted the Free Church of Scotland.

In 1964 the congregation of St George’s Church in Charlotte Square was united with St Andrew’s, forming St Andrew’s and St George’s. The St George's Church building is now used by the National Archives of Scotland. Today, the church hosts an annual book sale for Christian Aid. First held in 1974, in 2006 this event raised over £113,000, including the proceeds of the sale of the script of the Doctor Who episode "New Earth", signed by David Tennant and Billie Piper.

In January 2010 the congregation of St Andrew's and St George's was united with St George's West, Shandwick Place, to form the congregation of St Andrew's and St George's West. Worship is temporarily divided between the two buildings.


The Reverend Ian Y. Gilmour was inducted by the Presbytery of Edinburgh as the new minister on 28 April 2011. He was previously minister at South Leith Parish Church and before that at Drylaw Parish Church, both in Edinburgh.

A recent former minister of St Andrew's & St George's was the Very Rev Dr Andrew McLellan, who was elected Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 2000 and served as H. M. Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland until his retirement in 2009.

The two most recent ministers of the former St George's West Church were the Rev Peter J. Macdonald (1998-2008), who went on to become the leader of the Iona Community, and the Rev Robert L. Glover (1985-1997), who became minister at Chalmers Memorial Church in Cockenzie and Port Seton, East Lothian.


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