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St John The Baptist's Church, Ayr

A Category B Listed Building in Ayr, South Ayrshire

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Latitude: 55.4636 / 55°27'48"N

Longitude: -4.6372 / 4°38'13"W

OS Eastings: 233369

OS Northings: 622021

OS Grid: NS333220

Mapcode National: GBR 39.XWD2

Mapcode Global: WH2PP.RX0X

Plus Code: 9C7QF977+C4

Entry Name: St John The Baptist's Church, Ayr

Listing Name: Bruce Crescent, St John the Baptist's Tower Including Gatepiers, Gates and Boundary Wall

Listing Date: 5 February 1971

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 357191

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB21766

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Ayr

County: South Ayrshire

Town: Ayr

Electoral Ward: Ayr West

Traditional County: Ayrshire

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14th century, with later alterations. 5-stage square-plan tower, previously attached to the original parish (13th century) church. Coursed, squared ashlar. Base course; corbelled parapet, bowed at corner angles, caphouse, spout holes. Square headed window openings; (openings at 5th stage beneath parapet, lancet-arched; louvres; quatrefoil carving).

E (ENTRANCE) ELEVATION: central round-arched entrance; steps to recessed timber door; timber door to round-arched entrance to re-entrant angle to right (ledge provides access); deeply recessed round-arched opening aligned above; plaques beneath; opening infilled; fanlight window to tympanum; deeply recessed rose window at 3rd stage; single window aligned above at 4th stage; marking of gable end of parish church visible above; lancet-arched louvred window at 5th stage. Remains of buttresses and adjoining walls visible to outer right and left.

W (REAR) ELEVATION: 4 single non-aligned openings; 2 aligned arrow-slit openings to right.

N (SIDE) ELEVATION: 4 single non-aligned openings; 3 arrow slit openings to right (non-aligned at 5th stage).

S (SIDE) ELEVATION: 4 single non-aligned openings; 4 non-aligned arrow-slit openings to left; single arrow-slit opening to right. Single opening to crowstepped gable of caphouse to outer left of parapet.

INTERIOR: main features include stone turnpike stair changing direction from SE to SW at 2nd stage; seated alcoves to N and S elevations at 2nd, 3rd and 4th stages; deep architrave moulding to tympanum opening at 2nd stage; X-detailing to moulding of rose window at 3rd stage; timber beams to roof at 5th stage.

Leaded glass windows. Grey slate roof; corniced stack.

GATEPIERS AND GATES AND BOUNDARY WALL: square-plan coped gatepiers to main entrance to NE of tower; 2-leaf decorative iron gates with side lights; gatepiers and iron gate to corner of Bruce Crescent and Eglinton Terrace; various remains of stone walling to E of tower entrance; coped rubble boundary wall enclosing site (some timber fencing to Eglinton Terrace).

Statement of Interest

No longer in ecclesiastical use. Plaque on gatepier reads "The tower is all that remains of the large church of St John. The tower was an addition possibly added in the 14th century. Robert the Bruce attended a meeting of the Scottish Parliament held here in 1315 after Bannockburn. John Knox probably preached here, as his son in law was the minister from 1600-1606 and Mary Queen of Scots had her horses stabled here overnight during her Ayrshire visit in 1563. John Knox's daughter Elizabeth is thought to be buried beside the tower. The church was demolished by the Town Council in 1726 but the tower itself survived and was restored in 1914 by Lord Bute. He transferred the ownership to the Burgh of Ayr in 1949." Between 1652 and 1654 soldiers under Oliver Cromwell arrived in Ayr and took over the tower. Around it, they constructed a vast fort, extending to 12 acres, which was hexagonal in plan (with projecting corners). The plans for the fort were designed by Hans Ewald Tessin (see AA Tait). As shown by Paterson's description and illustrations (THE OBIT BOOK [...] p13), "The body of the church was precisely of the form of a cross. The church was anciently under the immediate protection of the castle of Ayr, which occupied an eminence not many yards distant." The plaque fails to mention the work of John Miller a local antiquarian. Miller acquired the Fort area in 1853 from the Kennedy's, building around the tower, and calling the residence Fort Castle. A photograph of this can be found in Love (p56) and R & J Kennedy (p42). The architect of this work was John Murdoch, who held a practice in Ayr. The 3rd Marquess of Bute commissioned J K Hunter to restore the tower in the early 20th century.

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