Today St. Andrew’s Church stands just as impressive as the day it was completed in 1774. In over two hundred years, St Andrew’s Church has prided itself in retaining its important stature within the city and in doing so, moving on in ever changing times.
Within the church walls the past is very prominent, but the main focus is on the future.
History of the Church
Due to the rapid increase in population within the Dundee area, it was felt that another church was required. At that time a large proportion of the community were Members of the Trade Corporations who took an active interest in the welfare of the town, with particular interest in the work of the church.
The town council was approached and refused to make any financial contribution to the erection of another church. It was therefore up to the Trades to take the responsibility for the funding of the church, and in 1774 under the Dundonian architect, Samual Bell, the church was completed. Today St. Andrews Church is the only “Trade Kirk” in Scotland, and is still the scene of the colourful “Kirkin of the Trades” held in November.
Since the 16th century, Trades Corporations were formed for the interest of their masters and families, but moving on the Trades of Dundee have worked together to benefit the local community. In their alliance they were a strong force which emphasised fair trade. In doing so they protected their customers from shoddy workmanship or substandard wares. At the same time they were protecting themselves from outsiders who were in for a quick profit.
As the co-operation between the Trades grew, so did their standing in Dundee, and it soon became evident that their position in the community afforded them some political power, and therefore relations between the Trades and the town council were a bit strained, the council tending to be jealous of the Trades privileges.
The main trades split into two incorporations, one called “The Nine Incorporated Trades” and the other “The Three United Trades”.
St Andrew’s Church stands on rising ground in the Cowgate, originally being on the outskirts of the burgh. The foundation stone was ceremoniously laid on the 4th June 1772 and the building completed in 1774. It was designed by Samuel Bell and probably adapted from plans of 1769 by James Craig, designer of the New Town Edinburgh. The Church is rectangular, built in rubble, perhaps originally harled, with fine stone dressing, twin Venetian windows with ionic pilasters and swags above. There are arched doorways on either side of the central windows and two tiers of smaller arched windows.
There is a splendid west tower with a classical steeple, recessed at each higher level in the James Gibb manner. Above the first stage, the tower becomes octagonal and the corners were decorated by stone vases, slightly smaller than those which remain in position at the corners below. In the past a vase was smashed accidentally by a slater and the others were removed to restore symmetry.
Two similar carved vases are placed on the top of the entrance gate pillars. The spire rises to 139 feet. On the North side of the Murraygate, an old house which looked directly east was demolished to make way for Panmure Street, this house had a tall outside staircase which at the top had a clock and a bell for that part of town. When St Andrew’s was erected the clock was placed for a time in the steeple. The bell was sold to Colonel Hunter of Burnside, his son, General David Hunter gifted the bell to St Aidens of Broughty Ferry when it was erected in 1826. The clock now in St Andrew’s steeple was made by James Ivory, Dundee.
An oval stone on the south side facade is inscribed:
“D.O.M.A. Pastores Presbytrie Artifices Populusque, Taodunensis. A. AE. C. 1772.”
(Under the auspices of God, the best and greatest, We, the Presbyterian Ministers, the Incorporations, and the Citizens of Dundee, have erected this Church, in the year of Christ 1772).
There is a memorial on the front of the building to the Reverend Harcourt Morton Davidson, Minister from 1886 to 1926 who is buried under the pulpit.
The rectangular interior has the pulpit in the middle of one of the long sides, with a semi-octagonal gallery on six Doric columns round three sides facing it. The imposing Communion table was gifted by the Taylor family in memory of Captain Norman Taylor, MC, killed in action in 1917. The brass font commemorates George Ormond, who served as Beadle for over 40 years until 1962.
Thomas Pennant, who saw the Church in the year it was completed, thought it was “built in a style that does credit to the place, and which shows an enlargement of mind in the Presbyterians, who now begin to think that the Lord may be praised in the beauty of holiness”. A modern suite of halls, connected to the Church by a loggia, incorporates the former Glasite Church, acquired in 1973. This octagonal building, known as the Kail Kirk, was completed in 1777 for the sect formed by the Rev. John Glas, formally Minister of Tealing. It has three halls called Raitt, Davidson and the Gasite hall, which is still used for worship.