Where are we?
A few minutes walk from Haddington town centre is the remarkably restored, very fine 14th century church of St Mary. Of cathedral proportions, it lies beside the beautiful River Tyne Riverside Walk and near to the medieval Nungate Bridge. Wide, sunny and grassy banks and the adjacent St Mary's Pleasance Garden make wonderful picnic settings. There are several eateries not far away.
What will a visitor experience? What should you try to see?
If we are closed take 20 minutes to look round the outside of the building.
- Wonder at the fact that from 1549 up until the early 1970s the whole of the east end of this cross-shaped church, including the transepts which stick out to the sides and the choir which sticks out eastwards, was a roofless ruin and it was possible to look right through from side to side. It was ruined during The Siege of Haddington. You can read about this battle and the restoration of the building on panels inside the church or on our website.
- Admire the bullet holes and cannon damage that is still evident on the outside.
- Study the stonework. Look at the quirky stone carvings. Can you see “Green Men”? Look for the “Compressed Crucifixion” relief, just outside the West Door, with cross, nails, and crown of thorns.
- Look for the Grave of John Brown - The central one of the three tall obelisks just outside the west door. He was an 18th century Minister of another Haddington church and was author of the "Self-interpreting Bible".
If we are open and you only have 5 minutes:
- Stand inside the West Door and admire the view along the length of the longest parish church in Scotland.
- Take in the atmosphere of this ancient sanctuary which was completed about 1450.
- Spot the tall arch, this side of the crossing that was walled up, on advice from John Knox, for 400 years to provide a rectangular, post-reformation Presbyterian kirk.
- Wonder at the ceiling of the restored church, beyond the tall arch, which is made of fibre-glass panels and even the “stone” supporting ribs are made of a plastic resin.
- Study the story panels with etchings of the ruined church and some brief stories. Note the timeline above.
- Look up to right of the panels and note the scallop shell engraved on the stone pillar. What is its significance?
If you have 20 minutes:
- Do all of the above. Then collect a plan and guide sheet and move on down the right of the church.
- Look at the panels on the pillars. They help you visualise the view of the church from these positions in medieval times.
- Behind the curtain on the right hand wall is the stair to the bell tower.
- The original bells are said to have been taken by the English army in 1549.
- There is a panel telling the story of the new bells, fitted in 1999 in time for ringing-in the millennium.in 2000.
- Move on to stand at the centre of the church and look round. Admire again the soaring interior from this viewpoint.
- Admire the stained glass. It includes a Burne-Jones' stained glass window from a demolished church in Torquay. If you have more time you can pick up a descriptive leaflet and study the windows further.
- Admire the tapestries made by our craft group.
- Look up at the fine pipe organ, of Baroque design, which was built locally by an organ-builder in the Lammermuir Hills. Will you spot the date of its installation? (1990)
- Note the historic flags fixed to the pillars. Each has a description on its pillar.
If you have 40 minutes
- Do all of the above and then move over to our Storyboard Area just beyond the South Transept.
- On the way note the Young Church area in the South Transept and look at any displays or puzzles laid out.
- From the Storyboards you can learn about
- The origins of the town of Haddington.
- The Burnt Candlemas when our mother building was destroyed.
- The building and dedication of this church.
- The story of the “Rough Wooing” when Henry VIII had the ambition to betroth his infant son Edward to the infant Mary Queen of Scots.
- The eighteen month Siege of Haddington when much of the church was destroyed.
- The Treaty of Haddington which promised the infant Mary to the infant Dauphin of France.
- John Knox’s advice to wall up the western end of the church, restore it and use it as a rectangular, post-reformation church.
- The campaign to restore the whole building after 400 years in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
If you still have some more time wander on and enjoy some further points of interest: (There is a very useful leaflet with a clear plan, showing these and other quirky points of interest.)
- The John Brown Self-interpreting Bible and John Brown’s pulpit.
- The squint pillar.
- The tapestries at this end, created by Dovecote Studios, originally of Corstorphine.
- The grave of the wife of Thomas Carlyle, Jane Welsh Carlyle, an academic in her own right.
- The Lauderdale Aisle (Chapel of the Three Kings) – an atmospheric ecumenical chapel with an altar and with a burial crypt below for the Maitland Family – the Earls of Lauderdale. There are life-sized marble effigies and a panel listing where the various Earls are buried.
Move up past the glass vestibule where toilets are available
- Take in the Display Cabinet where you can see examples of the artificial stone used in the restored roof along with historic Communion vessels. The Queen has visited twice and signed the Visitors’ Books on display.
- Turn around and step towards the nearest pillars. The panels on the pillars show the view in Victorian times. Note the substantial stone Pulpit which was used at this time and the stone font directly across the church. Look across to the windows opposite and make out their original lintels. You will see that the roof has been raised to make extra height for the galleries which ran right round in Victorian times to give extra seating.
- Study the model of the restored church as you move on up this side.
- You might be interested in the burial records laid out here.
Visit the Gift Shop as you complete your visit. Much of the merchandise is craft work made by our own “Crafty Folks” who meet in the church on a Thursday morning.
Please Sign the Visitors’ Book to complete our record of the amazing range of folks who choose to visit our historic church.
It lies on top of our collection box where your donation would be appreciated.
EVENTS IN ST MARY'S Many musical and community events use the church as an inspiring venue. Wonderful acoustics, that once augmented medieval chantings, now allow excellent recitals/concerts.
St Marys At 4 is a series of Sunday teatime free concerts, organised by the church from spring to autumn. Refreshments served afterwards.
Other Events to look out for:
SEPTEMBER - LAMMERMUIR MUSIC FESTIVAL - (www.lammermuirfestival.co.uk)
NOVEMBER - MARTINMAS FAIR ; REMEMBRANCE SERVICE;
DECEMBER - CHRISTMAS SERVICES AND MUSIC EVENTS
Check the St Mary’s website http://www.stmaryskirk.co.uk for details of other Concerts and Exhibitions.
To make a booking of the church for a concert or recital, recording, lecture, exhibition or drama performance please e-mail email@example.com or telephone the church office on 01620 829354.
Parking on street
Accessible parking or drop-off point at North Door