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City of the Great King, Jesus House Aberdeen (former All Saints' Episcopal Church), excluding the hall, office block and single-storey additions, 13 Smithfield Road, Aberdeen

A Category C Listed Building in Aberdeen, Aberdeen

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Coordinates

Latitude: 57.1696 / 57°10'10"N

Longitude: -2.1294 / 2°7'45"W

OS Eastings: 392274

OS Northings: 808758

OS Grid: NJ922087

Mapcode National: GBR S70.NS

Mapcode Global: WH9QQ.8281

Entry Name: City of the Great King, Jesus House Aberdeen (former All Saints' Episcopal Church), excluding the hall, office block and single-storey additions, 13 Smithfield Road, Aberdeen

Listing Date: 12 January 1967

Last Amended: 29 October 2018

Category: C

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 354363

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB19935

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Aberdeen

County: Aberdeen

Town: Aberdeen

Electoral Ward: Hilton/Woodside/Stockethill

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire

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Description

A modernist church in a severely pared back gothic style, built in 1935-36 to designs of A. G. R. Mackenzie of A. Marshall Mackenzie and Son as All Saints' Episcopal Church. The church was internally remodelled and extended as St John's Church for Deaf People in the mid-1970s. The building is currently (2018) in use as a place of worship for the Redeemed Christian Church of God Scotland (Evangelical). It is located in a built-up urban setting, in the Woodside and Hilton area of Aberdeen, on the northwestern outskirts of the city. In accordance with Section 1 (4A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 the following are excluded from the listing: the hall, office block and single-storey additions.

Cruciform in plan, the church comprises a nave with aisles and transepts to the north and south, and a chancel to the east. The unadorned walls are built of roughly squared and stugged granite laid to random courses. The roofs are shallow-pitched or flat and are concealed by dressed granite blocking courses set back from the eaves.

The main (east) elevation is blank except for a raised cross of dressed granite and a central gablet rising above the eaves. The south and north elevations each have a full-height transept and a half-height aisle. Both aisles are abutted by single-storey additions (excluded from the listing). The south aisle has a four-light pointed-arch window in dressed granite surrounds. The north transept has a recessed door opening in plain rendered surrounds. The west elevation is entirely abutted by the three-storey office block, added in the mid 1970s (excluded from the listing).

There are tall and narrow windows with shallow triangular arches to the chancel and transepts. The aisles and clerestory have square-headed tripartite windows in dressed granite architraves, which may have been inserted in the late 20th century. The windows are largely uPVC replacements, most of which are mounted behind earlier frames.

The interior, seen in 2018, has been substantially altered. Little of the original 1930s interior remains except for the shallow-pitched roof and the pointed arched openings to the side aisles, crossing, transepts and chancel. The nave has been shortened to the west end, and floors inserted to create office space and a lift. There are late-19th century timber pews (likely reclaimed from another church). The transepts have been roofed to create additional side rooms. A new decorative stained glass entrance doorway and windows have been inserted into the north and south aisles respectively (dated 2000).

Statement of Interest

The church is a notable example of an interwar church which combines subtle elements of modernism in its simple geometry and massing with a pared-back interpretation of a traditional gothic church. In the context of Aberdeen, it is relatively early example of a Modernist style church and is among small number of churches built during this period. It was designed by A. Marshall Mackenzie & Son, one of the leading practices in Scotland and particularly prolific in designing churches in the northeast. In terms of its layout, fabric and immediate setting, the church has been altered but it does retain much of its original character.

In accordance with Section 1 (4A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 the following are excluded from the listing: the hall, office block and single-storey additions.

Age and Rarity

Originally known as All Saints' Episcopal Church, the church was built in the area of Woodside, Aberdeen between 1935 and 1936 to the designs of A. Marshall Mackenzie and Son. Located on the former Hilton estate, construction of the church was made possible through donations left by Emily Johnston, whose family had a long connection with the estate.

The congregation of All Saints first gathered as a Mission from Bucksburn in 1931 and used a small chapel on the Durries policies. The £6,000 donation from Emily Johnston in the mid-1930s made the provision of a permanent church a reality. The foundation stone was laid on 22 August 1935 by the Bishop of St Andrews and the new church was consecrated in 1936. The building is first shown on the Ordnance Survey map published in 1938, with a long, rectangular-plan building abutting to the northwest (labelled as a hall on the1955 Ordnance Survey map). This hall was replaced by the current office block in the mid 1970s.

The area of Woodside was absorbed into Aberdeen City in 1891. During the interwar period, it saw much new housing, built to replace the overcrowded and insanitary housing in the city centre (Sharples and Woodworth 2015: 271). Construction of the church coincided with this new development, which was centred around the existing Stewart Park.

Due to a declining congregation, the church closed on 25 April 1971 and in 1975, the building was reopened as a church and community centre for the Aberdeen and North East Deaf Society. It is thought that the various extensions to the church were added during this time and the name of the church was changed to St John's Church for Deaf People. Further changes were made in 2000, which included the installation of the lift, the stained glass windows and new entrance door to the north and south aisles. The buildings were sold to Jesus House Aberdeen in 2010 and currently function as a church, with offices, a hall and conference facilities (2018).

Following the Revolution of 1689 Presbyterianism was established as the national Church of Scotland and the independent non-established Scottish Episcopal Church was formed. The centre of the Scottish Episcopal Church has traditionally been in the northeast. Aberdeen, therefore, has a large concentration of Episcopal churches. The majority were built in the in 19th century, as the lifting of restrictions and penalties on Episcopalians during this period resulted in a boom in church building across the country. Other examples include: St Andrew s Cathedral, built 1816 and listed at category A (LB19953); St Mary s Scottish Episcopal Church, built 1864 and listed at category A (LB19964); and St James' Episcopal Church, built in 1887 (not listed). During the interwar period, the reconstruction of the Episcopal Cathedral by J. Ninian Comper was the most significant commission for this denomination in Aberdeen at the time.

In the aftermath of the First World War, a minor flourish of church building took place in Scotland larger towns and cities during the 1930s. Occurring across many denominations, this was mainly in response to the major house building schemes underway in and around urban centres such as Aberdeen. In the context of this building boom, the churches varied greatly in terms of architectural style. Some, such as Hilton High Kirk (built in 1935) had a traditional appearance and plan form whilst others, such as the former All Saints' Church and St Mary's on King Street (both by A. G. R. Mackenzie's practice), were more innovative, following new trends in architectural fashion. Although it retains a traditional plan form, the former All Saints' Church is heavily influenced by the design principles of the Modern Movement. Such surviving examples from this period are relatively rare and therefore the building is of special interest in listing terms.

The older a building is and the fewer of its type that survive, the more likely it is to be of special interest. According to the criteria, buildings erected between 1840 and 1945, which are of special architectural or historic interest and are of definite character (either individually or as part of a group), may be listed. As the survival rate increases after 1914, greater selectivity is therefore required.

Churches are not a rare building type. However, those built in the newly emerging modern style before the Second World War are less common. The former All Saints' Church is notable as a relatively early example of a Modernist style church in Aberdeen.

The church has been significantly altered through the later extensions, changes to the internal layout and the loss of original fabric. This has lessened its interest to some degree, however the overall integrity of the original modern design remains largely intact.

Architectural or Historic Interest

Interior

The interior has plain white walls, a shallow pitched ceiling and large pointed-arch openings separating the areas of the church. While there has been later alterations, the elegant simplicity of the early interior remains evident, which is a typical characteristic of modernist church architecture during the interwar period.

The internal fabric and decorative scheme were altered in the mid-1970s and again in 2000. Replacement late-19th century timber pews and chairs have been inserted, along with decorative stained glass windows and a new entrance door to the aisles.

These changes, coupled with the lack of early fabric or decorative features, to some degree lessens the special interest under this heading.

Plan form

In contrast to the plain modern exterior, the church has a conventional cruciform plan, with projecting side aisles, transepts and a chancel. The spaces are divided by a series of pointed-arch openings. While there is no innovation in terms of the internal plan form, this traditional arrangement is in keeping with the architects' intentions for a stripped back interpretation of a gothic church.

The footprint of the building has been considerably altered by the mid-1970s additions to the north, south and west of the church. The internal layout has been substantially altered by the shortening of the nave to create additional offices, and the roofing of the transepts to create additional side rooms.

There is no special interest under this heading.

Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

The plan form of the church is largely traditional, however in terms of proportions, massing, materials and detailing, the church is overtly modern. This is seen in the use of simple geometric forms, the uncluttered internal scheme, and the austere appearance of the exterior, which is devoid of any decorative detailing. Although the church has been significantly altered the overall character of the original design remains intact.

In the interwar period experiments with simplified church designs began to appear. The Modernist approach to church design saw a rejection of traditional forms and overt stylistic detailing, which had preoccupied church architecture since the mid-19th century. It was instead driven by the principals of the International Modern movement, characterised by simple outlines, the use of flat roofs, unadorned interiors and plain surfaces. This approach to the design of new churches reached its full expression in the period following the Second World War after widespread liturgical reform had taken place across most Christian denominations.

The former All Saint's church has been stripped back to essential forms and retains monumentality in geometric massing. The use of rubble is characteristic of the emerging modernism in Scotland which was greatly influenced by Sir Robert Lorimer, who reinterpreted traditional Scottish architecture into essential monumental forms, consistently using rock-faced rubble as a historical motif which referenced Scotland's past. While not overtly modern, this trend is anticipated for example in the early work of Reginal Fairlie at Our Lady of the Assumption and St Meddan, Troon, by Reginald Fairlie, which demonstrates this reinstatement of monumentality and mass in church architecture.

The design of the former All Saints' Church merges modern church design based on Continental precedents (in particular those from Germany and the Netherlands), with traditional conceptions of church planning. It contrasts with the later, overtly modern church designs of the mid-1950s onward in Scotland, such as those by Gillespie, Kidd and Coia, and with the more historicist approach of the likes of Alexander McAnally.

Stylistically the church is similar to the work of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, which is monumental and industrial in character which also applies an austere interpretation of the gothic style. In some respects, it's massing and monumentality also evokes the early 20th century Art Deco turbine halls and factories of Continental Europe. Similarly it has strong parallels with St Monica's Church in Bootle, Liverpool (1936) by F.X. Verlade, which combines subtle elements of modernism with a pared-back interpretation of the Perpendicular Gothic.

In the context of Aberdeen, the former All Saints' Church is a relatively early example of a Modernist style church. Other examples within the city of this period, or just afterwards, include St Mary's Church of Scotland, 1939 (LB19963), St Ninian's Episcopal Church, 1936, and Kincorth South Church (St Nicholas), which was built in the 1940s.

Designed by A. G. R. Mackenzie of A. Marshall Mackenzie and Son, the church is a notable example of the later work of an architectural practice who were prolific in church design in Aberdeen and the northeast of Scotland during the early-mid 20th century. Having offices in Aberdeen and London, the practice was very large and successful, with important commissions including Australia House and the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in London. The practice suffered in the aftermath of the First World War and as a result A. G. R. Mackenzie sought to strengthen the more prosperous Aberdeen office.

During thee interwar period, the practice designed a number of buildings that were heavily influenced by the Modern Movement, such as the category A-listed Northern Hotel (LB20331). In the 1930s they designed two other modern churches in a pared back gothic style; St Ninian's Episcopal Church of 1936 (not listed) and St Mary's Church of 1937-39, both of which are located on King Street in Aberdeen. Stylistically, the former All Saints' Church is very similar to St Mary's Church, which is currently listed at category B. St Mary's is largely unaltered, retaining its early setting and interior decorative scheme, which includes the original pews and stained glass windows.

Setting

The immediate setting of the church has changed significantly from when it was first built in the mid-1930s. Set back from the street on the south side of Smithfield Road, Ordnance Survey maps (published 1938 and 1957) show that the church stood alone except for a hall abutting to the northwest corner. The church was substantially extended during the mid 1970s, with large multi-storey additions to the north and west. As a result, the church is now largely concealed from view, with only the chancel and north transept partially visible from Smithfield Road. Surrounded by mid 20th housing and late-19th century villas, the wider setting of the church has not altered considerably.

Regional variations

The building is constructed from locally sourced granite, which is characteristic of buildings in Aberdeen.

Close Historical Associations

There are no known associations with a person or event of national importance at present (2018).

Statutory address, category of listing changed from B to C and listed building record revised in 2018. Previously listed as 'All Saints' (Episcopal) Church, Smithfield Road, Hilton'.

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