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George Street, St Martin and St Ninian Roman Catholic Church, Including Quadrant Walls

A Category C Listed Building in Whithorn, Dumfries and Galloway

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Coordinates

Latitude: 54.732 / 54°43'55"N

Longitude: -4.4158 / 4°24'56"W

OS Eastings: 244547

OS Northings: 540125

OS Grid: NX445401

Mapcode National: GBR HJG6.B1W

Mapcode Global: WH3VM.4BJ6

Entry Name: George Street, St Martin and St Ninian Roman Catholic Church, Including Quadrant Walls

Listing Date: 23 February 2009

Category: C

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 400177

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB51291

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Whithorn

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Town: Whithorn

Electoral Ward: Mid Galloway and Wigtown West

Traditional County: Wigtownshire

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Description

Designed H S Goodhart-Rendel, 1955-8, constructed 1959-60. Symmetrical, cruciform church with distinctive double-bellcote to gable and low rubble quadrant forecourt at street elevation (W) and with external altar and Hew Lorimer crucifix to rear (E). Harled with raised cement margins. Base course, buttresses. Large triangular and pointed-segmental-arched window openings with broad timber astragals. Some small circular window openings.

FURTHER DESCRIPTION: STREET ELEVATION (W): central advanced flat-roofed porch with part-glazed timber swing doors set in sandstone architrave. Wide gable behind with double-bellcote at apex.

EAST ELEVATION: taller section to right with central, stone, carved Hew Lorimer crucifix mounted to wall, with slated canopy above and timber belfry with louvred openings to ridge above. Raised platform to ground with stone altar. Flat-roofed sacristy to left.

Predominantly small fixed windows; some metal casement windows. Grey slates.

INTERIOR: (seen 2008). White-painted walls. 2 flat-roofed side chapels with corner pillars; triangular roof shape over sanctuary. Painted and stencilled lady chapel in blue and gold. Corner lines rising to create polygonal roof shape. High level lighting to sanctuary. Timber pews. Slatted timber doors. Later marble altar and lectern.

QUADRANT WALLS: to street (W). Coped rubble quadrant walls with symmetrical gate openings.

Statement of Interest

Place of Worship in use as such.

This church is the only known work in Scotland by the renowned English architect H S Goodhart-Rendel. Situated at the heart of the village of Whithorn and set back slightly from the road, the curved quadrant walls and symmetrical street elevation of the church present a welcoming and open aspect. This is an unusual feature in Scottish churches. The double bellcote to the street is eye-catching and the rear timber belfry is an unusual addition. The low profile of the building fits well into the streetscape of the neighbouring predominantly 18th and 19th century buildings. The interior is simple, with the altar lit by high level windows to focus attention. The exterior crucifix to the rear is by the renowned sculptor Hew Lorimer and seems to have been planned as part of the original church, with the likely intention of being able to have open-air mass, although there was no exterior altar. The current exterior altar was the original altar inside the church, moved outside in the 1980s.

The interior has seen some change, most notably the moving forward of the altar from the East wall after the Second Vatican II Council in the early 1960s. At that time, a plaster baldacchino was also removed, together with some decorative ironwork.

The church was designed by Goodhart-Rendel and replaced a previous corrugated iron church in the same position. Basil Spence also drew up plans for a replacement church in 1951, but these were not realised.

H S Goodhart-Rendel (1887-1959) was a renowned architect who practiced primarily in the South of England. He became a Roman Catholic early in his career and designed a number of churches, especially after 1945, some with decorative brickwork patterns. He was also a well-known architectural historian who commented particularly on 19th century English architecture. This is his only known work in Scotland.

Hew Lorimer (1903-1997), was born in Edinburgh and was one of Scotland's leading 20th century sculptors. His religious belief was very important to his work and 'Our Lady of the Isles', 1958 (see separate listing) on South Uist is one of his most famous works.

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