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 walk from Haddington town centre is the remarkably restored, very fine C14 church of St Mary. Of cathedral proportions, it lies beside the beautiful River Tyne and near 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.
St Mary's was started in 1383 to replace the much smaller parish church which was damaged along with most of the town in the Burnt Candlemass, but it was itself later severely damaged in the 16th century during the 18 month Siege of Haddington. The huge church was left partially roofless. When peace was restored at last, John Knox is said to have persuaded the townspeople to reroof the nave (west end) of their church. St Andrew's Abbey, still responsible for the east end, could no longer afford the repairs due to the great religious unrest at the time,. So choir, transepts, tower were left in ruins, open to the skies, the crows and all weathers for over 400 years. Stonework was removed from the north transept to build a barrier wall between nave and the choir to enclose the west end. Although removing stone from the ruins could attract large fines, much disappeared over the ensuing centuries and without doubt, some of it is could probably still be found in many local walls and cottages to this day. By the 19th century many of the exposed columns, walls and window mullions had to be stabilised as required. See the pillar that still remains many degrees off vertical!
The repaired nave had many makeovers during the next 400 years to house growing congregations.The arches were raised and the floor lowered (C12 cemetery found beneath) to allow enough height for lofts and galleries to be built on the side walls.The plain Presbyterian church of the 1700s later became a much decorated Victorian church with many fine stained glass memorial windows and other features.
Finally in the 1970s, with much fundraising and sponsorships, the Restoration of the old ruins took place; St Mary's was once again the longest parish church in Scotland. There are still some pre-reformation features - medieval carvings inside and out including the excavated old town crest with goats and grapes, and several green men. The use of much recycling during the restoration saved costs; extra stone came from Edinburgh's closed Caledonian Railway Station (at the west end of Princes Street), a flour mill and a railway bridge; slates from the demolished Glasgow's Gorbals; the 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, painted 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 medieval sacristy is now the Lauderdale Aisle (an ecumenical chapel built over a crypt for the burials of the Maitland).
Wonderful acoustics, that once augmented medieval chantings, now allow excellent recitals/concerts. St Mary's Choir sings at most SUNDAY 11am services; they are usually 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 short reading. Saturday;11am - 4pm. with a 12 noon reading..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
HADDINGTON 700 EVENTS - for the 700th anniversary of Robert the Bruce signing of Haddington's Burgh Status - will be held around the town throughout 2018
Details of Concerts and Exhibitions may be found on the website
SEPTEMBER LAMMERMUIR MUSIC FESTIVAL - see the websites.
NOVEMBER - MARTINMAS FAIR ; REMEMBRANCE SERVICE;