Martyrs' Church, St Andrews

National Grid Reference (NGR): NO 50980 16800, map


North Street
St Andrews
KY16 9AA

Also known as:

  • Martyrs' Church of Scotland (1929)
    Union of the United Free Church of Scotland and the Church of Scotland.
  • Martyrs' United Free Church (1900)
    Union of the Free Church of Scotland and the United presbyterian Church of Scotland, forming the United Free Church of Scotland.
  • Martyrs' Free Kirk (1844)
    The church was originally built as a free church.
  • St Andrews' Free Church


Martyrs' Church on South Street, St Andrews, was built in 1926-8 by Gillespie and Scott, influential architects in St Andrews, on the site of an earlier church. It was originally built in 1844 as a Free Church and extended  and rebuilt a number of times in the following 100 years. The first church was completed on this site in 1844 and continued in use until 1851 when it was decided that the increasing congregation numbers needed a bigger and more decorative church. Over the next 40 years the church was improved with an added spire, new frontage and a brand new hall built on the side.

Substantial refurbishments took place in 1887 and during this time the congregation worshipped at Madras College. Nonetheless, further improvements were sought and it was decided that the old church would be demolished to make way for a larger church. The church was demolished in 1925 and it took three years to re-build the new church. During this time, the congregation worshipped in St Mary's Church, (now the Victory Memorial Hall, see separate site).

The new church opened on February 9th, 1928. A new hall was added on the east side of the church in 1933 replacing a house that had been there.  Situated at the east of the church and built by Gillespie and Scott in 1933-1934, the hall was an addition to the newly built church. The entrance is via the main church door that faces out onto North Street.

The church was closed in 2008 as part of a rationalisation by The Church of Scotland of church provision in St Andrews, and the congregation united with Hope Park Church in 2010. The building of Martyrs Church was acquired by St Andrews University and now houses the library's special collections. 

Description (exterior)

Martyrs' Church is a large sandstone structure and fronts onto North Street.  It features a large Scots-Gothic style buttressed, gabled frontage and the slightly later hall is of a similar design. This north-facing gable features a massive pointed-arch stained glass window with fine stone tracery. Entry into the church is through the elaborate porch alongside the north gable. There is a recessed, chamfered pointed-arch doorway and a cross finial above. The exterior of the building has not been altered since it was taken over by the University.

Description (interior)

The interior has been altered significantly since it was aquired by the University of St Andrews and turned into the Special Collections unit for the library. The original pews and other furnishings have been removed and replaced by modern study desks and seating, along with the specialist equipment and storage required. The stained glass windows have been retained, although new lower lighting inside does partly obscure them from view.
The description below describes the interior before the church was closed for worship.

The interior decoration is simple and the church space is very large with a high ceiling.

There are 22 Pews on the left and the right in the nave, each carved on both ends with a three-clove design and having an umbrella stand at the end of each row. The floor is partly carpeted.

There are three heavy, wooden Elders chairs in the centre of the south wall behind the communion table. The central chair is large, cushioned and engraved with a design inspired by nature. This contrasts with the two simpler, smaller chairs on either side. A plaque on the central chair reads:
"In memory of Thomas Berwick Forgan Presented by his widow and family, 9th February 1928".

The communion table is large and wooden having a hollow centre that holds a brass plate and two brass vases. There is a similar clove engraved design, as on the pews, all around the edge of the table. Carved on the edge facing the congregation is "This do in remembrance of me."   On the surface of the table is another plaque that reads: "Presented by the Misses Margaret, Mary and Agnes Berwick, 9th February 1928".

The pulpit is two-tier, the lower section having wooden columns continuing as part of the design of the pulpit. These columns support the upper section, which is in five panels with ribbed carving. Above this are carved floral panels. At the base of the pulpit is carved: "To the Glory of God." The pulpit was donated to the church with a commemorative plaque that reads:   'Memory of James And Martha Warrack'.   A finely embroidered pulpit fall, showing the blue Saltire with a golden crown in the centre hangs from the reading desk.

The wooden font is octagonal, reflecting the pulpit design. The bowl in the centre is silver and engraved: "Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not for such is the kingdom of God." Six of eight panels are of a simple design. Alpha and Omega are carved on the north-facing panel. Three interlocking fishes in a circle are engraved on the south panel. Above is a plaque that reads:   "Presented to Martyrs United Free Church By Mrs Grubb in Memory of her husband Charles Grubb, 9th February 1928."

The lectern bands are of the same design as the pulpit fall. There is a dedication, reading:  "To the glory of God and in Loving Memory of Willie Auchterlonie 1872-1963 and his son Laurie Auchterlonie 1904-1987.   Honorary members and professionals of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. The gift of Bea Auchterlonie".

A hymn board hangs at the corner of the southeast wall, underneath the organ pipes. At the top the wood is engraved with a cross and "Praise".

There is a large organ on the south eastern side of the church.

A screen on the east side of the nave separates a small transept area, which can be used for meetings.

Stained glass

There are 12 main stained glass memorial windows in the church. Each window is numbered starting from the south in a clockwise direction. The windows are named according to the person/persons or groups the memorial is dedicated to.

Below is a brief description of each memorial window:

1. Forgan Window

Designed and executed by Douglas Strachan in September 1929, inscribed with a dedication:   'To the Glory of God and in memory of Robert Forgan and his wife, Elisabeth Berwick; the gift of their son James B. Forgan, Chicago, USA'.   There are three main panels in the tall single lancet window which reach 18 feet high and 2.5 feet wide. The first panel is an image from the New Testament depicting Christ blessing children. The central panel depicts the Transfiguration of Christ on the mountaintop. The third and lowest panel is a scene taken from Luke of the resurrected Christ travelling.

2. Grubb Window

This window was designed by W.Wilson in 1950 and dedicated in memory of Mrs Jessie Roger Grubb.  There are three panels. The left panel shows Martha. The central panel has three scenes; Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, Christ carrying a book with alpha and omega and, at the top, an image of Christ blessing the children. The panel on the right shows Mary.

3. Warrack Window

Designed and executed by Herbert Hendrie of Edinburgh, this window was dedicated in 1936 by Miss Frances Warrack in memory of her sister, Harriet Warrack. The small window portrays a large angel blessing two smaller angels.

4. Scroggie Window

This window, designed by W.Wilson and dedicated in 1956, reads:  'Dedicated to the Glory of God and in loving memory of Robert and Elizabeth Scroggie and their children William, Elizabeth and Nancy'.   It depicts the Nativity, Youth, Baptism and Early ministry of Christ.

5. (Plain)

6. Macdonald Window

This window was designed by Herbert Hendrie of Edinburgh and dedicated in 1936 by Rev. R.G Macdonald in memory of his parents. It comprises three lights:   The first light on the left depicts St Christopher, the patron saint of travellers, carrying the child Christ. The central window shows St Francis of Assisi bearing the stigmata on his hands and feet. On the right, St Nicholas of Myra is shown carrying a crook and a child.

7. Watson Window

This window is by Herbert Hendrie, dedicated in memory of William Watson, a prior treasurer of the church.   It has three lights. Central is the only coloured light; depicting St Stephen, the first treasurer of the Christian Church. The other lights remain plain.

8. Sunday School Window

This window is above the west door of the church and depicts the Good Shepherd with his crook and lamb. It was a donation from the children of the Sunday school.

9. (Plain)

10. Ferguson Window

This window was designed by Herbert Hendrie of Edinburgh, dedicated in 1935 by Rev. Charles L. Ferguson in memory of his brother Rev. James Ferguson and his wife.  This large piece consists of seven lights in a decorated style that is surmounted by tracery. The upper part of the central light and the main theme of the window is the Ascension of Christ. There are also scenes of the nativity and images of several saints and followers of Christ embellished by the highly decorated tracery.

11. (Plain)

12. Roger Window

Above the main door, this window is in memory of John. M. Roger as a gift from his family. The figure of Christ is portrayed sowing seed surrounded by a bird, thistle and background images of crops, angels and a dove.

13. War Memorial and Women's Guild Window

Designed and executed by Margaret Kemp of Edinburgh and dedicated on Remembrance Sunday, 9th November 1947, this window is in memory of members of the congregation that fell during the two world wars.    It has three lights: Central is the war memorial window depicting St Leonard and an inscription from Psalm 124. Left of this panel shows Dorcas and was donated by the Women's Guild and designed by W. Wilson. The right panel, dedicated to the memory of Mrs Gilchrist, President of the Women's guild, depicts Eunice holding book.

14. Berwick Window

This window was dedicated in 1937 in memory of three sisters; Mary, Margaret and Agnes Berwick.    It has three lights each representing a female saint. Left shows St Bride, central portrays St Margaret and right is St Cecilia in memory of Mary Elisa Warrack.

15. (plain)

16. Ritchie Window

This was designed by Sadie Mclellan and dedicated to the Ritchie family in 1989.   The window is a large, very detailed and colourful window known as the "Hymn of the universe." It depicts the majesty and wonder of creation within it. There are a number of symbols and images within it that are often not noticeable at first glance, such as sycamore seeds moving in the wind and the fish.

People / Organisations:

Church of ScotlandDenomination1929-NOW
Mr John MilneArchitect1851-1852Rebuilt church.
Gillespie and ScottArchitect1926-1928architects. Second rebuilding of church.
Free ChurchDenomination1844-1900Originally built as a free church.
United Free ChurchDenomination1900-1929
Free ChurchDenomination2001-2008Until its closure in 2008 the congregation met on Sundays in church. They also met in the Boys Brigade Hall on Kinessburn Road, St Andrews (site no: 10643).


  • Church: Build/construction (1844)
    Church originally built as a Free Church.
  • Church: Build/construction (1851 to 1852)
    Church built on the same site.
  • Church: Renovation (1857)
  • Church: Renovation (1887)
  • Church: Installed (1900)
    Installation of organ
  • Church: Destruction/demolition (1925)
    Part demolished.
  • Church: Build/construction (1926 to 1928)
  • Church: Opening (1928)
    9th February 1928.
  • Stained Glass: Installed (1929 to 1989)
  • Church: Addition (1933 to 1934)
    Addition of the hall.
  • Hall: Build/construction (1933 to 1934)
  • Church: Installed (1991)
    Installation of electric organ.
  • Church: Link (1993)
    Established a link between Martyrs\' Church and Boarhills Parish Church and Dunino Paris Church.
  • Church: Installed (C1913 to C1914)
    Organ case.

Archive References:

Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 93053
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 40795
Records of St Andrews Martyrs Free Kirk Session, United Free and Church of ScotlandReference: GB 227 CH3/1585
Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 4721
Dictionary of Scottish Architects - Online databaseReference: 206871

Bibliographic References:

St Andrews:City by the Northern SeaLamont-Brown, R.2006
Buildings of Scotland: FifeGifford, J1988Page:383.