St Margaret's Roman Catholic Memorial Church, Dunfermline

National Grid Reference (NGR): NT 09550 87570, map


East Port
KY12 7QF

Also known as:

  • St. Margaret's Catholic Church


This large church in Dunfermline was built between 1894-6 by renowned architect Rowand Anderson. It was built to provide permanent accomodation for the Roman Catholics in the town and was largely funded by the 3rd Marquess of Bute, who was Scotland's leading Catholic benefactor. Anderson's original plans included a large round tower, based on the 11th century tower in Brechin, but a lack of funds meant that this part of the church was never built. St Margaret's is located in a largely residential area of Dunfermline that has seen much change nearby in the later 20th century. The large urban road, Carnegie Drive, skirts the grounds of the church and there is a large police station and Sheriff Court building a short distance to the north.

J Dowling 2017

Description (exterior)

St Margaret's is a rectangular church, aligned north-south and designed in a traditional 12th century style. It has a four-bay nave with lower side aisles, a tall southern entrance porch and a later apsidal chancel at the north end. The original parts of the church (nave, aisles and porch) are built from roughly-tooled (rock-faced) red sandstone with ashlar dressings and surrounds. The later chancel and other extensions are of yellow sandstone and have mostly smoothed concrete surrounds. The various roofs are all slated.

The tall entrance porch dominates the southern end of the church. It has a round-arched doorway with double wooden doors and in the gablehead is a round rose window. At the junction of the porch and the southern gable of the nave are tall, square corner towers, each with pairs of niches on each face and a pyramidal roof. The south gable of the nave features three trefoil niches and is surmounted by a stone celtic cross finial. The east and west side elevations of the nave are of four bays, with tall, round-arched windows and narrow buttresses between. A simple stringcourse rises to form hoodmoulds above the windows. Attached to the nave are the side aisles with lean-to roofs. The aisles have small round-arch windows and buttresses that match those of the nave.

The later chancel was built in the 1930s, likely under the supervision of Reginald Fairlie, another well-known Scottish architect. Unlike the nave and aisles, the chancel was built from yellow sandstone (weathered grey) and has smooth concrete dressings and window surrounds. The chancel is slightly lower in height than the nave and is apsidal ended to the north. It has large round-arched (Romanesque) windows high up in the facade and a decorative cornice at the wallhead. The sides have round windows and at ground level are pairs of small trefoil-headed rectangular windows. Attached on the west side of the chancel is a lean-to sacristy, while the east side has a later 1970s extension, built with red sandstone and with modern windows.

J Dowling 2017

Description (interior)

The interior of St Margaret's is quite striking, with red and blue painted details and colourful wall hangings and Stations of the Cross. The nave is tall and well-lit by the windows in the aisles and nave walls above. The nave and side aisles are separated by large arcade arches, which feature impressive ashlar masonry. The exposed wooden beams of the nave and aisle roofs are painted bright red. There are fairly plain wooden pews in the nave and aisles, which face the chancel at the north end. There is a gallery at the southern end, reached via a stairway in the porch. The church features a number of stained glass windows, including a large rose window of St Margaret. A number of stained glass windows and panels from the convent at Elie House were moved to the church when the nunnery was converted into private flats in the early twenty first century.

The chancel provides the most elaborate decoration and furnishings in the church. It steps up from the nave in two stages and there is marble tile flooring at the northern end of the chancel, near to the altar. There are arcaded niches or recesses in the side walls of the chancel. The focus of the chancel is the altar at the north end, which is framed by a very impressive stone reredos, which rises the full height of the chancel. This features Romanesque blind arcading, a columnaded temple-like frontage with statues of saints. Small stained glass windows flank the reredos and help light the altar area. The altar is made from two types of marble and has slender comumns at the corners.

J Dowling 2017

People / Organisations:

Roman CatholicDenomination1896-NOW
Sir Robert Rowand AndersonArchitect1894-1896


  • Church: Build/construction (1896)
    Opened on 17th June 1896
  • Church: Addition (1934 to 1936)
    Chancel and west sacristy/ vestry added.
  • Chancel: Build/construction (1934 to 1936)
    Chancel and west sacristy/vestry added.
  • Church: Addition (1939 to 1940)
    Reredos added; also alter and sanctuary decoration.
  • Church: Addition (1973)
    East sacristy/ kitchen added/ further extensions to west.
  • Church: Installed (1990)
    The circular stained glass window of St. Margaret was installed in 1992 and the windows portraying St. Andrew and St. David were installed in 1997.
  • Church: Installed (1996)
    The white marble foundation stone is dedicated 1894 but was laid in 1996 as memorial stone. The marble is said to be from the Shrine of St. Margaret from Dunfermline Abbey.

Archive References:

Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 94321
Dictionary of Scottish Architects - Online databaseReference: M000291
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 26018
Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 4682

Bibliographic References:

Buildings of Scotland: FifeGifford, J1988pp. 186 - 187