Beautiful, C14th riverside church of cathedral proportions. War-torn in C16. Nave repaired, but E end, transepts, tower left roofless 400 yrs till 1970s restoration. Now longest parish church in Scotland again. Carvings,windows. Shop.
A few minutes from Haddington town centre is the remarkably restored, very fine C14 church of St Mary. Of cathedral proportions, it lies in a beautiful riverside setting by the (little) Tyne and near the mediaeval 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.
St Mary's was war-torn in the C16 century during the 18 month Siege of Haddington and was left completely roofless. When peace was restored, John Knox, is said to have persuaded the townspeople to reroof the west end of their church - the nave; there was only enough money to do that. St Andrew's Abbey, responsible for the east end, was constantly asked to send money for repairs but with the religious unrest at the time, could no longer afford it. So choir, transepts, tower all remained in ruins, open to the skies, the crows and all weathers, until the 1970s. Much stonework was removed over the ensuing centuries - although this recycling could attract large fines; no doubt some St Mary's stone is still to be found in many local walls and cottages! From the C19, parts of the ruined columns, walls and mullions were stabilised as required.
The repaired nave, too small to house the growing congregations, has had many makeovers over the past 400yrs; raised arches and a lowered floor (C12 cemetery found beneath) allowed enough height for lofts and galleries. Late C19 and early C20 donations from the congregation provided many excellent stained glass windows.
At last, in the 1970s, after much fundraising and sponsorships, it was possible to restore the old ruins. Once again St Mary's is the longest parish church in Scotland. It has kept many original pre-reformation features - there are medieval carvings inside and out including the excavated old town crest with goats and grapes, and several green men.To keep costs down, there was much recycling during the restoration; stone from Edinburgh's closed Caledonian Railway Station (at the west end of Princes Street), a flour mill and a railway bridge; slates from Glasgow's Gorbals; 3 Burne-Jones' stained glass windows from a demolished church in Torquay; and a peel of 8 bells from a chapel in Aberdeenshire (hung in time to ring in the Millennium); light-weight, fibre-glass "stone" vaulting was crafted by a Norfolk boatbuilder; and a fine, pipe organ of Baroque design, was built locally by an organ-builder in the Lammermuir Hills. There are graves of Jane Welsh Carlyle (wife of Thomas Carlyle), and John Brown (C18 Minister of Haddington). The old mediaeval sacristy is now the Lauderdale Aisle (an ecumenical chapel built over the Maitland family burial vault).
Wonderful acoustics, that once augmented medieval chantings, now allow excellent recitals/concerts. St Mary's Choir sings at most SUNDAY 11am services; they are joined by St Mary's Choristers once a month.from September to June.
SUMMER OPENING TIMES May 1 until 30 September 2016. Sunday to Friday;1.30pm - 4pm; at 2.00pm a 5 minute service. Saturday;11am - 4pm. with a 12 noon 5 minute service..Please check our website www.stmaryskirk.co.uk before planning your visit in case we are closed for a private service. Sunday services are usually at 9.30am and 11.00am.
EVENTS IN ST MARY'S
SUNDAY AFTERNOON CONCERTS at 4.00pm MAY 21 THE SANCHIO SINGERS; JUNE 11 GLASGOW CHAMBER CHOIR ; JULY 16 PRIOR ENGAGEMENT - Folk Group
EVENING CONCERTS MAY 29 GARLETON SINGERS AT 7.30PM
SEPTEMBER 15 -24 LAMMERMUIR MUSIC FESTIVAL - see the websites.
NOVEMBER - REMEMBRANCE SERVICE; MARTINMAS FAIR