From Gothic to Modernist, Two Stirling Churches, 1904 and 1970

The designs for these two churches, separated by 66 years, could not be more different and show the changes in attitudes to church architecture through the 20th century.

The first Catholic Church built in Stirling after the Reformation was situated in Irvine Place on a plot of land bought in 1835 for a church and a hall. Building the Church of the Most Holy Trinity as it was called, began in 1836 and it was formally opened in 1838. This church served the community of Stirling for the next half century, being extended in the late 1850s as its congregation grew. By the end of the 19th century however, it was clear that the Irvine Place building was too small to meet the needs of local people and a new building was planned. The building of the new St Mary’s Church on Upper Bridge Street was partly funded by Lady Murray of Polmaise who made a gift of £25,000 to help pay for its construction. The foundation stone was laid by Archbishop Smith of St Andrews and Edinburgh on 4th May 1904.

The building was designed by Pugin and Pugin, well known for specialising in ecclesiastical architecture who had previously designed church buildings all over Scotland. It is in the gothic style and built of red Dumfriesshire sandstone. The buttressed Baptistery on the right of the front elevation has some very fine stained glass honouring saints and benefactors, the richest being the 5 panels that showing Christ’s baptism flanked by Saints Augustine, Matthew, Ambrose, Mark, Luke, Gregory, John and Jerome. The building interior was renovated and restored in 1987 – 1988.

The original North Parish Church was opened in 1842 in Murray Place, the congregation moving to the present site in Springfield Road, Braehead in 1971. The original church, built on the site of Stirling’s old Blackfriar’s Monastery, was demolished in the early 1970s and part of the Thistle centre now occupies the site. The foundation stone of the original Murray Place building was taken and used as the foundation stone of the new church. This was laid on 4th May 1970 along with a time capsule containing local and national newspapers and other items connected with the church and its history in Stirling. The new building with its striking, modern shape, was designed by Alexander Gordon and William Dey, Architects, based in Edinburgh who also designed Allan Park UP Church in 1963. The original design had a glazed section in the triangle-based pyramidal roof structure but this was removed during a renovation in 1992. There are 3 stained glass panels in each gable window by John Blyth, 1981, honouring the Trinity.

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