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Moncur Memorial Church (Church of Scotland)

A Category C Listed Building in North Isles, Orkney Islands

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Coordinates

Latitude: 59.1118 / 59°6'42"N

Longitude: -2.6054 / 2°36'19"W

OS Eastings: 365428

OS Northings: 1025151

OS Grid: HY654251

Mapcode National: GBR M4XN.C4H

Mapcode Global: WH8CV.Y7HN

Entry Name: Moncur Memorial Church (Church of Scotland)

Listing Date: 22 January 2008

Category: C

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 399821

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB51035

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Stronsay

County: Orkney Islands

Electoral Ward: North Isles

Parish: Stronsay

Traditional County: Orkney

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Description

Leslie Grahame MacDougall. 1953-5. Tall cruciform church in prominent location with raised chancel and lower transepts, round arched openings and shouldered gables. Harled masonry; some reinforced concrete; red sandstone basecourse, projecting cills and eaves course. Pair of buttresses to nave (N and S) elevations capped with red sandstone flags. Entrance in gabled porch in SW corner. Dutch-gabled bellcote to S transept. Memorial plaque in W elevation below tall narrow window. Circa 1900 L-plan church hall wing adjoined to N.

Small-pane glazing set in fixed and top hopper lights. Grey slate, red sandstone skews, cast-iron rainwater goods

INTERIOR: plain yet distinguished interior with open timber king-post roof structure set on red sandstone corbels. Tall and narrow round arched windows to nave, paired small clerestory windows to chancel. Central communion table at crossing with pulpit and lectern flanking. Distinctive 1950s light fittings. Timber memorial plaque on W elevation. Stained glass window to chancel depicting The Good Shepherd, by Marjory Kemp of Edinburgh; stained glass border glazing to nave windows.

Statement of Interest

Moncur Memorial Church is a large and distinctive building designed by one of the leading architects of his period. The height of the building is striking, more so as the chancel is set higher than the body of the church. The tall narrow windows further emphasise this verticality. The church is set in the middle of the island of Stronsay and makes a strong contribution to the landscape. The interior of the church is basic but has considerable character through its open roof structure and use of tall narrow light. The church has elements of Catholic design such as the strictly cruciform plan and raised chancel, although MacDougall used these forms in other designs.

The church was built following a bequest from Alexander Moncur whose grandfather, James Mudie, who had been minister of the parish. It is on the site of the previous United Presbyterian Church (as shown on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map) which according to the memorial plaque inside the church, had fallen into disrepair.

The church was originally designed in 1945 to be built in rubble and also included a new hall, very fine manse, and tall, free-standing round tower modelled on St Magnus Church, Egilsay. Drawings and a photograph of the model for this are at the RCAHMS. The overall concept was comparable to the Reid Memorial Church in Edinburgh (see below). This proposal was evidently found to be too elaborate and new drawings were prepared in 1953 (also at the RCAHMS). These, while following the general outline of the original design did involve the addition of several elements, including the butresses and bellcote. The decision to have the walls cement-rendered rather than built in rubble gave the building a more up-to-date feel. The surviving working drawings indicate that the bellcote was built in reinforced concrete, and it is possible that this material was used elsewhere in the building as well.

Leslie Grahame MacDougall (originally Thomson) is an architect of considerable repute who was President of the RIAS during the 1950s at which time he was responsible for the design of several large churches including the category A listed Reid Memorial Church in Edinburgh (see separate listing) and Christ's Church in Oban. His church designs made use of strong verticality and a mix of traditional and modern details. Moncur Memorial Church is very much in this idiom and is remarkable for its remote location. MacDougall's surname was originally Thomson and he changed it to MacDougall in 1953 when his second wife became chief of that clan.

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