St. Brycedale Church

National Grid Reference (NGR): NT 27900 91680, map


Address

St. Brycedale Avenue
Kirkcaldy
Fife
Scotland

Also known as:

  • St. Brycedale United Free Church (1900)
  • St. Brycedale Free Church (1881)
  • St. Brycedale Church

Introduction

This late nineteenth century Gothic church is visible from a great distance and as such serves as a local landmark. Situated at the top of Kirk Wynd, it is an aisled church with a substantial tower at the north east and twin towers to the south. It is surrounded by a gravel car park.

St. Bryce Church was originally built as a Free Church by James Matthews of Aberdeen between 1877-81. The congregation had formed in 1843 when it broke away from the Old Parish Kirk (site number: 2453) and built a church in Tolbooth Street (site number: 10454). In 1900 the Free Church united with the United Presbyterian Church to become the United Free Church. In 1929 the United Frees rejoined the Church of Scotland, and St. Bryce remains Church of Scotland to this day.

In 1989 the Kirk undertook major renovation work to install a floor at gallery level in order to move the church upstairs and convert the ground floor into a community centre. Original features such as cast iron columns and stained glass were retained in this work. In 2000 St. Bryce united with the Old Parish Kirk and the church retains both buildings, using St. Bryce during the week and the Old Kirk building at weekends.


Description (exterior)

The church is constructed of ashlar sandstone with a slate roof.     It is a large Gothic Revival building with a nave and aisles. It has a tall sixty metre tower, with angle buttresses on the corners, and a spire with small windows set within (lucarned).    Associated with the steeple are the pyramidal-roofed twin towers on the southern elevation, which combine to give the church a striking appearance.  

In the north elevation the arched north door is flanked by two arched windows with cusped lights. The large geometric north window sits just above the string course. A single quatrefoil light is situated just below the apex of the roof. The roof is surmounted by a decorative cross. The upper section of the south end mirrors the north, but with a rose window in place of the arched geometric window. The lower section of the exterior is obscured by later buildings around a car park to the east.

The east and west aisles mirror each other. Each has six two stage bays divided by five buttresses. The bays contain two single light cusped windows in the lower course and a large arched geometric window in the upper course.  

The tower is of three stages and is constructed of rough coursed sandstone and buttressed on each corner. Twin lancet openings in first and third stages and large single lancet in second stage. The tower is surmounted by a prominent spire and four pinnacles. Gargoyles protrude from under each pinnacle. A metal plaque between the two lancets on the first section dates the church to 1888.

The two south towers are identical and consist of three courses with an arched door in the lower stage. There are three lancet windows in the middle stage, the upper two intruding into the second string course.

 


Description (interior)

The original interior was very spacious and had galleries on three sides.   It was divided into a nave and aisles by arcades supported by slender cast-iron columns.   Over the nave is a wooden pointed tunnel-vault with ribs.   The organ is the main feature at the southern end of the nave and there are various stained glass windows dating from 1881 (Adam and Small) to 1922-3 (Douglas Strachan).   Since conversion in 1989, the upper part now containing the church retains its character while the downstairs has been adapted as a community centre.   There is a large entrance vestibule from the north door, various meeting rooms, and a cafe in the eastern aisle.   The stained glass windows have been retained, both in what is now the church upstairs, and the community centre downstairs.  

In the Quiet Room in the community centre, is a memorial window to Robert Nairn, executed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones from Morris & Co.   The window shows the Waters of Babylon and depicts exiled Israelites making their way to the palaces of Babylon.   There is another Burne-Jones in the east aisle (now the cafe) which shows The Call and Burial of Moses.

Another notable window in the east aisle is the 'Missionary Window' which is a memorial to Provost Patrick Don Swan, who laid the foundation stone of the church.   The window depicts missionary Carstairs Douglas preaching to a Chinaman, with the Union Flag shown behind Douglas.

Upstairs in the church are two notable stained glass windows.   In the south end is the only window which is original to the church, a large rose window with text in a central quatrefoil "God is Light".   This window has a diameter of eighteen feet.

At the north end is a large pointed arch window with stained glass which was inserted in 1924 as a War Memorial, by the artist Douglas Strachan.   The window shows a scene of war depicted in bold colours in a modern style.   William Wallace is portrayed on horseback at the right of the central figure, the archangel Michael.   At the centre towards the top is shown a phoenix rising from the flames.

A hall abuts the church at its south east corner and is built in the same style.


People / Organisations:

NameRoleDatesNotes
Mr James MatthewsArchitect
Church of ScotlandDenomination1929-NOW
United Free ChurchDenomination1900-1929
Free ChurchDenomination1881-1900
Mr Patrick Don SwanBenefactor1878Well known Provost of Kirkcaldy, laid the foundation stone of the church in 1878. Memorial window by Burne Jones in the east aisle.

Events:

  • Nave: Build/construction (1878 to 1881)
  • Hall: Build/construction (1880)
  • Stained Glass: Installed (1881 to 1924)
  • Church: Build/construction (1881)
  • Tower: Build/construction (1881)
  • Church: Installed (1892)
    Organ by Brindley and Foster.
  • Church: Alteration/conversion (1893)
    Some alterations carried out by James Gillespie.
  • Church: Installed (1923)
    North window installed.
  • Church: Alteration/conversion (1988)
    Ground floor converted to community centre and church moved upstairs.

Archive References:

NameReferenceNotes
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 94283
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 36373
Dictionary of Scottish Architects - Online databaseReference: M009832
Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 4635

Bibliographic References:

NameAuthorDateNotes
Buildings of Scotland: FifeGifford, J1988p. 281
The Kingdom of FifePride, G.1999pp. 52-53
Kirkcaldy\'s Churches Brief HistoriesKirkcaldy Civic Society1999p. 27
St Brycedale Church KirkcaldyLivingstone, P. K.1957