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Former Innerleven East Church, Den Walk, Methil (Excluding Later Hall Addition to Rear)

A Category B Listed Building in Buckhaven, Methil and Wemyss Villages, Fife

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Coordinates

Latitude: 56.1908 / 56°11'26"N

Longitude: -3.0136 / 3°0'48"W

OS Eastings: 337195

OS Northings: 700256

OS Grid: NO371002

Mapcode National: GBR 2H.FT3K

Mapcode Global: WH7SN.PN5F

Entry Name: Former Innerleven East Church, Den Walk, Methil (Excluding Later Hall Addition to Rear)

Listing Date: 19 March 2015

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 405970

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB52337

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Buckhaven and Methil

County: Fife

Town: Buckhaven And Methil

Electoral Ward: Buckhaven, Methil and Wemyss Villages

Traditional County: Fife

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Description

Robertson and Gordon Architects, 1939-41. Transitional (former) church with wedge-plan, helm-roofed tower and angular roof, located on triangular site between Methilhaven Road and the north end of Den Walk, Methil. Rendered rubble. Later, flat-roofed hall, dated 1963, and adjoining square-plan outshot to the rear are not considered of special interest at the time of listing.

Projecting chancel to centre of symmetrical west elevation, flanked by flat-roofed transepts of bull-faced ashlar. Recessed porches where transepts meet chancel. 2-stage tower to north elevation with polygonal helm-roof and slated cap. Droved, polychromatic ashlar surrounding tower porch entrance. Multi-pane leaded metal windows. Slate roofs.

Statement of Interest

The former Innerleven East Church (1939-41) is a distinctive example of a transitional, proto-modern church of the inter-war period in Scotland and one of the first commissions by the renowned Scottish architect, Alexander Esmé Gordon. The building has an unusual plan-form and stream-lined, angular design referencing European expressionist styles of architecture. It demonstrates a clear move away from historic-revivalist church architecture of the period toward a more progressive or modern design ideology and may be seen as an early manifesto building for 20th century church design, reflecting many of the ideas that would later be captured in Gordon's influential book 'The Principles of Church Building', published in 1963.

Church building programmes in Scotland began to decline after 1900 and more markedly after the First World War and the re-unification of the Church of Scotland with the United Free Church in 1929. However, the expansion of suburban developments and the growth of the coal mining industries of Fife resulted in a comparatively large number of new churches in new communities during the period. Around 1930, church architecture in Scotland, and elsewhere in Europe, began to move away from traditional ecclesiastical designs toward more progressive and stylistically imaginative ideas that were increasingly free from historic revivalism. Innerleven East Church is a good example of this wider, inter-denominational international movement in church design.

Alexander Esmé Gordon was an architect in private practice in Edinburgh from 1937 and served in the 1970s as Honorary Secretary of the Royal Scottish Academy. Gordon formed a partnership with James Robertson in 1938 before entering war service in 1941. Innerleven East Church is a rare early work by this short-lived partnership prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. In his post-war years Esmé Gordon, working in partnership with William Dey, and specialising in church building, wrote a book on the subject in 1963, 'A Handbook On The Principles of Church Building'. In this book he emphasises the importance of the chancel or sanctuary, noting that it 'should be designed with thoughtful reverence, constructed as perfectly as possible and completed to capture the spirit of Eternal Peace and Tranquillity' (p.31) and 'being the central focal point to which all else within the building is directed' (p35). Later examples of Esmé Gordon's ecclesiastical work include the Old Kirk Parish Church (1952) Pennywell Road, West Pilton (see separate listing) and he was closely involved with restoration work at St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh.

Innerleven East Church was built for the congregation of the Innerleven Parish Church. It ceased to be used as a place of worship in June 2012 following a congregational union with Methil Parish Church.

The interior has not been seen (2015). Photographs taken in 2004 held in the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and 2012 on the Scottish Church Heritage Research Website show a paired-back, streamlined period decorative scheme, with a canted, coffered ceiling. Aproned cills to nave clerestory windows. isles converge towards stepped polygonal chancel recess with narrow side lights, integrated seating and stepped ceiling. Chancel flanked by round windows with coloured glass and canted timber grilles at clerestory level. Curved pulpit. Hanging polished metal light fittings. Coloured glass to narrow windows in tower porch.

The circa 1963 hall addition to the rear (northeast) was not considered to be of special architectural or historic interest at the time of this review (2015).

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