The Building of Mansfield Traquair Centre
This afternoon will be laid the foundation of a new church about to be erected by the Catholic Apostolic congregation at present worshipping in Broughton Street. Occupying a commanding site at the corner of Broughton Street and East London Street, where it will be seen to advantage from many points of view, the building in question promises to be of a most imposting character - such, in fact, as will take rank amongst the foremost of our Edinburgh churches. ...
Scotsman, 22nd November 1873
© Copyright The Scotsman Publications Ltd. Full text is available online via The Scotsman Digital Archive
In 1872 the Catholic Apostolic congregation in Edinburgh announced that they wanted to move from their small church in Broughton Street and to build a 'handsome new edifice' on a site at the corner of Mansfield Place and East London Street. The Church tithed ten per cent of its members' income and could afford to build ambitious churches in most British cities. They intended that the new church in Edinburgh should be the most important after the cathedral in Gordon Square, London.
A competition for the new church was announced in The Builder on 6 April 1872. The competition was to be limited to four invited architects. The brief required a building in the 'Norman' style with 'a large double chancel and other features of a ritualistic character'. The result was announced on 5 October in the same journal, with a description of the winning entry by Robert Rowand Anderson. Building work started in the summer of the following year. The foundation stone of the new church was laid on Saturday 22 November 1873. Two thousand people attended the ceremony, and a procession of Angels, Elders, Prophets and Deacons, in their robes, arrived at the site. The appropriate service was conducted and the stone was cut with five crosses and cemented into place.
The first phase of building, comprising the nave with rooms below; the chancel, south chapel and north aisle and the clergy house, was complete enough for the building to be consecrated in April 1876. It had seats for 700 people. In 1884 work began on the buildings at the west end of the nave which had been enclosed with a temporary wall as part of the first phase. The join between the masonry of 1873 and 1884 can still be distinguished. The original scheme was to have a massive square tower against the west wall with a circular baptistery to the south and hall to the north. This was abandoned in favour of a new arrangement of a very large porch, or narthex, with the circular baptistery. A free-standing 'Celtic' circular tower was proposed, but this was never built.
The extravagant baldacchino was built to Anderson's design in 1894, with sculptures and carvings by A Birnie Rhind who had worked with Anderson at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. The baldacchino, a fixed, vaulted canopy supported by four Corinthian columns which originally stood over the altar, is in the apse of the chancel. It is constructed of sandstone, plaster, and iron, and is decorated with red and blue paint, gold leaf, mosaics and sculpture. The mosaics represent the three aspects of the Holy Trinity: Father (Alpha and Omega), Son (Lamb) and Holy Spirit (Dove). Two of the original three sculptures of angels on the gables survive: one with a gilded harp, the other with gilded cymbals. The two sculptures in the alcoves represent St Paul and St Peter.
Mansfield Traquair Centre contains a number of stained glass windows. The windows in the chancel, north aisle and south chapel are of 1876 and 1877 by the Hardman Studio in Birmingham. The three-light 'Transfiguration' window in the south chapel is listed in the Hardman catalogue as having been made in 1848 and then lengthened by two feet by the firm in 1876 for installation in the east window of the south chapel. The initial order came from T G Dickson of 34 York Place, Edinburgh, so this window is most likely to be a translation from the earlier Edinburgh church building (information from the British Society of Master Glass Painters). That the window was moved is probable as the earlier church building has a round-headed, three-light apse window of the right dimensions.
The wheel window in the west gable, the east window of the chancel behind the baldacchino and the narthex window are by Ballantine (1880s). The windows in the baptistery (1905) are also probably by Ballantine.
The Catholic Apostolic Church contained two organs by Ingram & Co, one on the south wall and a small instrument in the south chapel (called the Chancel organ and operated from the same console as the main organ). Click here for a history and specification of the organs. Both organs were dismantled in 1976.
Encaustic tiles are laid on the chancel and chancel aisle floors, in front of the chancel arch, down the centre of the nave and to the south door, and in the narthex. Except at the west and south doors, the nave tiles are hidden beneath the new oak floor. The tiles are increasingly elaborate the closer you get to the altar, reflecting the increasing importance of the spaces. The original tiles were made by Godwins of Hereford. New tiles have been laid (2008) where the clergy stalls used to be in the chancel and where the small organ stood in the south chapel; the new tiles were hand-made using the same materials and methods as the originals by Craven Dunnill Jackfield of Ironbridge Gorge, Shropshire.