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Kirk Of St Nicholas, Union Street, Aberdeen

A Category A Listed Building in Aberdeen, Aberdeen

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Latitude: 57.1476 / 57°8'51"N

Longitude: -2.0996 / 2°5'58"W

OS Eastings: 394073

OS Northings: 806302

OS Grid: NJ940063

Mapcode National: GBR SC7.LN

Mapcode Global: WH9QQ.QLDY

Plus Code: 9C9V4WX2+25

Entry Name: Kirk Of St Nicholas, Union Street, Aberdeen

Listing Name: Union Street, Back Wynd, Schoolhill and Correction Wynd, the Kirk of St Nicholas Uniting (Church of Scotland and United Reformed)

Listing Date: 12 January 1967

Category: A

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 354400

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB19966

Building Class: Cultural

Also known as: Kirk of St Nicholas
The Kirk of St Nicholas Uniting
Kirk of St. Nicholas Uniting
The Kirk of St. Nicholas Uniting
Aberdeen, Union Street, North And East Church of St Nicholas
Aberdeen, Union Street, Kirk of St Nicholas
Mither Kirk
East Kirk of St Nicholas
Union Street, Back Wynd, Schoolhill, Correction Wynd
St Nicholas' Kirk

Location: Aberdeen

County: Aberdeen

Town: Aberdeen

Electoral Ward: George St/Harbour

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire

Tagged with: Church building Cemetery

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James Gibbs, 1755, Archibald Simpson, 1835-7 and William Smith, 1875-7. Early burgh church in city centre location incorporating some 12th and 15th century fragments (see Statement of Special Interest), with central former crossing with four-stage tower with steeple and with adjoining churches to east and west. Granite and sandstone ashlar, some rubble, with channelled quoins to west base course. Church no longer in use as a place of worship as of December 2020.

West Church: James Gibbs, 1755, five-bay classical rectangular-plan church with pedimented entrance elevation to west with channelled rustication to doorpiece. Round-arched window openings with moulded architraves. Some Gibbs surrounds. Predominantly multi-pane timber windows. Cast-iron rainwater goods with decorative heads and clasps. Lead roof.

East Church: Archibald Simpson, 1835-7, five-bay buttressed, crocketted and finialled Gothic former church. Hoodmoulds, deep-set pointed-arch and rectangular openings with decorative tracery. Incorporates crypt chapel of 1438 at east end by Andrew Wrycht, master mason, (now St Mary's Chapel). Separate entrance leads to small groin-vaulted chapel to east (commercial premises 2006).

Steeple: William Smith, 1875-7. Crocketted and finialled square-plan clock-tower with recessed stone spire. Clasping polygonal corner towers. Pointed-arch louvred openings to belfry.

Interior of West Church: a rare survival of a substantially unaltered 18th century interior. Barrel vaulted, with groin-vaulted aisles and oak panelled gallery. Massive decorative pulpit and communion table. Pine boxed pews, arranged in square-plan with pulpit to south, Lord Provost's loft to west with Corinthian columned baldacchino (a decorative canopy).

century fabric. Several good quality stained glass windows. Interior cleared for archaeological dig in preparation for major scheme to remodel the East Kirk as a community/tourist hub (2022). thInterior of East Church: reconstructed 1875-77 by William Smith following fire in 1874. Extensive remodelling and refurnishing of east end by A. Marshall Mackenzie and Son in 1936. Panelled oak gallery to north, south and west, including 17

century woodwork panels forming a long desk, some the work of master craftsman John Fendour. th and 16th century panelling, relocated as part of 1898 restoration works. The chapel also contains fine examples of 15thSt Mary's Chapel (mortuary chapel of Gordon family, previously called the 'Chapel of Our Lady of Pity'): three-bay plan with rib and groin vaults, located in undercroft of East Church. Donated by Lady Gordon around 1438 and restored in 1898 by Dr William Kelly. The walls and furnishings were largely made up of 17

North and south transepts form a central space, respectively named the Collison and Drum aisles. St John's Chapel in north transept adapted in 1989-90 to become the Oilman's Chapel, in dedication to 25 years of the North Sea oil industry. It features bespoke woodwork by Tim Stead comprising a screen, high-backed chairs, a table and a lectern, which are made from laminations of different coloured hardwoods. The first letter of each type of wood spells out 'We remember you'. The stained glass window is by Shona McInnes, 1990.

Other notable interior features include three organs, a carillon of 48 bells, seven mid-15th century effigies, four large embroidered panels dating from the 17th century, a number of stained glass windows, dating from late 19th to mid 20th centuries and a war memorial of 1922. Various benches and panels of medieval and 17th-century date are in different parts of the church.

Statement of Interest

One of the most historically important buildings in Aberdeen. With some surviving elements from the late 12th century in the transepts and central crossing, it has been gradually altered through the centuries to become a large, prominent feature in the city landscape. The West Church is thought to be the only remaining Gibbs building in Scotland and its interior is particularly noteworthy as a rare, largely unaltered 18th century survival.

The original church, known as 'The Mither Kirk' dated from 1151 and was one of the largest medieval churches in Scotland. Some remnants of this 12th century church remain in St John's Chapel and in the central crossing, which was refurbished in 1990. The crypt, under the East end dates from 1438. After the Reformation of 1560 it became two separate parish churches and a dividing wall was built between the nave and choir in 1596. The nave became the West Kirk and the choir, the East Kirk. By the early 18th century, the West Kirk had deteriorated to such an extent that it had to be abandoned in 1732. It was refashioned to a design which James Gibbs had given to the city of Aberdeen in 1741. Lack of money meant the design was not realised until 1755. The East church was almost completely demolished in 1835 and then rebuilt by Archibald Simpson in 1835-7. In 1874 a fire destroyed the old oak and lead steeple over the crossing and the interior of the 1835 Church. Both were replaced by William Smith in 1875-77.

James Gibbs (1682-1754) was one of the foremost British architects of the 18th century. Born in Aberdeen, he studied in Rome and spent most of his working life in England, where he worked with Sir Christopher Wren. He won commissions from many of the most influential people at the time. His public and private buildings are numerous and include St Martin's-in-the-Fields in London and the Radcliffe Library at Oxford.

The interior of St Nicholas' is of outstanding interest as it contains a large number of fine medieval and classical monuments, as well as a wealth of high-quality fixtures and fittings that date up to the late-20th century.

The church retains one of the most important groups of medieval monuments surviving in Scotland. In particular, the seven effigies, dating from 1430-65, have been described as superb examples of their types and form the largest single group of medieval effigies in Scotland. The survival of pre-Reformation woodwork is incredibly rare in a Scottish church. Along with the later surviving woodwork pieces, they demonstrate the evolution of church furnishings and liturgy in Scotland over a 500-year period. The 17th century needlework panels are also a very rare surviving example of an early integrated decorative scheme for a Scottish church.

The Compton organ in the East Kirk is unique within Scotland and is one of a very few examples of its type remaining in the UK. The church also features the largest carillon of bells in the UK. Roof chandeliers, which were built in London in 1755 and were converted for electricity around 1939, were noted to survive in the West Kirk in 2006. These are of special interest as very few lighting systems of this early date survive in Scottish churches. (2022)

Listed building record updated in 2006 as part of the listing resurvey of central Aberdeen.

Further updates to the building description and statement of special interest were made in 2022 with additional information about the interior taken from 'The Buildings of Scotland: Aberdeenshire South and Aberdeen' (2015), pp. 118-127.

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