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Latitude: 57.1475 / 57°8'50"N
Longitude: -2.1029 / 2°6'10"W
OS Eastings: 393869
OS Northings: 806290
OS Grid: NJ938062
Mapcode National: GBR SBS.7J
Mapcode Global: WH9QQ.NMS1
Plus Code: 9C9V4VWW+XR
Entry Name: West United Free Church, 71 Schoolhill, Aberdeen
Listing Name: Schoolhill and Belmont Street, Former Triple Kirks Churches, Including Steeple and Former East Free Church
Listing Date: 12 January 1967
Source: Historic Scotland
Source ID: 354371
Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB19940
Building Class: Cultural
Electoral Ward: George St/Harbour
Traditional County: Aberdeenshire
Archibald Simpson, 1844. Partially ruinous remainder of former 3 adjoining Gothic post-Disruption churches (see Notes), comprising 6-bay gable-ended former East Free Church (commercial premises, 2006), adjoining gable and part wall of former South Free Church to W and tall, free standing prominent landmark steeple to S. Pointed rubble with brick and sandstone dressings to church, brick to steeple.
Steeple: landmark, 5-stage square-plan tower with tall octagonal spire. Angled buttresses. String courses. Tall lancet windows, some openings louvred. Pedimented pinnacles to top stage.
Former East Free Church: E elevation with full height crenellated polygonal LATER entrance porch with Tudor-arch openings with moulded architraves to ground. Pointed-arch lancet windows.
South Free Church gable with tripartite pointed-arch opening to N and partial return elevation.
INTERIOR: (seen 2006). Former East Free Church comprehensively modernised. Timber ceiling to upper storey with decorative carved panels and fan-vaulted moulding springing from corbels.
Predominantly replacement plate glass windows. Grey slates, moulded skews.
Ecclesiastically important, these remaining sections of the former Triple Kirks provide significant and prominent landmarks in Aberdeen city centre. The Triple Kirks were unique in Scotland in being 3 separate, yet adjoining churches with a common steeple. Erected in only 6 weeks, they were built in 1844 to meet the needs of 3 Free Church congregations. One church faced West, one East and the other North. They are especially distinguished by the fine tall brick steeple, constructed, unusually, in brick. Brick is a rare building material in Aberdeen where granite is much more common. The churches were designed by local architect Archibald Simpson who was responsible for many of the Aberdeen's finest Classical buildings. Situated on a narrow, steeply sloping site, the steeple dominates the skyline from various view points around the city, most noticeably from the Union Bridge (see separate listing), and Union Terrace. It is similar in design to that of the Elizabeth Kirche in Marberg.
The three congregations for the churches were drawn from the East and West Kirks of St Nicholas (see separate listing) and the South church. When completed, it was widely admired. Lord Cockburn stated in 1844, 'I was much struck with the view from the bridge down towards the Infirmary of a rude Cathedral-looking mass which contains three Free Churches.' This particular aspect of the Triple Kirks features in the background of Simpson's portrait, confirming that he was very proud of this building.
The Disruption in 1843 occurred when around 400 Church of Scotland Ministers disagreed with the connection of the church to the state and the ability of landowners to appoint ministers. They then formed their own, Free Church of Scotland. This resulted in a requirement for many more church buildings.
Archibald Simpson (1790-1847), along with John Smith, was one of the major architects involved in designing the expanding nineteenth century city of Aberdeen. A native of Aberdeen, he practised predominately with the North East of Scotland. He designed many of the important works in the city including St Andrews Cathedral, The Music Hall and 29 King Street (see separate listings).
The West Free Church was demolished in the 1980s. The East Free Church closed in 1976 and was subsequently converted into commercial premises.
References from Previous List Description: A P S D. G M Fraser, Archibald Simpson and His Times (Notes and Queries 1918). Chapman & Riley p148.
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