Beautiful, C14th riverside church of cathedral proportions. War-torn C16. Nave repaired, but E end, transepts, tower left roofless 400 yrs till all restored 1970s. Now whole again - longest parish church in Scotland. 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 is also the nearby Peter Potter Art Gallery and Cafe, and other 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 reminded to send money for that part to be repaired 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. 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 nave became too small to house the growing congregations, and 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 - see the many medieval carvings inside and out (some close-up photos), including the excavated old town crest with goats and grapes, and several green men.There was also much C20 recycling - this time into the church - including matching 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 Torquay; a peel of 8 bells from a chapel in Aberdeenshire (hung in time to ring in the Millenium). New fibre-glass "stone" vaulting was crafted by a Norfolk boatbuilder; and a fine, pipe organ built locally in the Lammermuir Hills. There are graves of Jane Welsh Carlyle and John Brown (C18 Minister of Haddington). The old mediaeval vestry is now the Lauderdale Aisle (an ecumenical chapel built over the Maitland family burial vault).
MUSIC IN ST.MARY'S Wonderful acoustics, that once augmented medieval chantings, now allow excellent recitals/concerts. St Mary's Choir, under the Directorship of Susan Hamilton, sings at most SUNDAY 11am services ; they are joined by St Mary's Choristers once a month. from September to June. Lammermuir Music Festival - SEPTEMEBER 2016. Frequent concerts during the year - see the website.
OTHER EVENTS - NOVEMBER 2016 - Martinmas Fair -
SUMMER OPENING TIMES May 1 until 30 September 2016
Sunday to Friday; 1.30pm - 4pm. 5 minute service at 2.00pm
Saturday; 11am - 4pm. 5 minute service at 12 noon.
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.