St James Roman Catholic Church, St Andrews

National Grid Reference (NGR): NO 50800 17030, map


The Scores
St Andrews
KY16 9AX

Also known as:

  • Church of St James


The Church of St James is on the edge of the cliffs at the west end of The Scores, St Andrews, aligned west-east and in a small enclosure.    Built in the Arts and Crafts Romanesue style, it was the first commission of the architect Reginald Fairlie and contains most of his distinctive trademarks. It replaced a ‘tin church’ (10034) on the site.

Description (exterior)

The church is cruciform, built of stone, laid in a rough course manner. and the roof is slated. The north and south elevations have each three stained-glass windows.  The nave is buttressed, and there are two transepts.   On the west end wall there is an apse with a cross finial on the roof.   Entry is by a porch on the south-west corner above which there is a diamond inset with two shells.    There is a two-stage square tower at the south east corner which features a corbelled parapet and small octagonal spire.    The style of the design recalls the tower of St Salvator’s on North Street.

There is a statue of the Virgin and Child in a recess in the west wall and a statue of St James on the east wall. Above the doors and windows are red strips of tile to suggest rays of light.



Description (interior)

The apse at the west end contains a baptistry.   There is an interior doorway into the nave, which has a braced timber roof.     The roof of the chancel is domed in plaster, painted, and decorated with the words ‘Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus’.    The walls of the nave are plastered and painted white.    The sacristy opens from the north transept, and is also accessible from the altar.    Originally only the area behind the altar was marbled, but now both the chancel and side chapels are marbled, giving the church an Italianate image.   The altar is now central in the chancel, having been moved away from the wall in the early 1970s, following the liturgical decrees of Vatican II.      There is no pulpit, but there are two ambos on either side of the chancel gates.    The north transept chapel is dedicated to the Sacred Heart.   The original chancel gates are now repositioned to give entry to the south transept chapel which is dedicated to Our Lady.   There is a statue of the Sacred Heart beside the north ambo, and one of Our Lady beside the south ambo.

On the north elevation of the church there are three stained glass windows depicting  the Second Vatican Council (easternmost), and  Christ (both of the windows at the western end of the south elevation).    On the west elevation there is window depicting St James.   There are three round headed stained glass windows on the south elevation of the church depicting from west to east St Magnus, St Margaret of Scotland and St Andrew.   

The west elevation of the south transept features a window with four lights depicting St Brigid and St John Ogilvie.   The north transept also features stained glass windows, depicting St Columba and St Mungo at the south side and St Joachim, St Anne and Our Lady on the north side.

Most of the windows in the church were by John Blyth and date to the 1980s, except the windows along the north wall of the nave which are by the Pluscarden Priory Benedictines.

In the vestry there are two windows, which were taken to St James Church from another church in the north of Scotland and are believed to date from the 1830s.



People / Organisations:

Roman CatholicDenomination1910-NOW
Mr Reginald Francis Joseph FairlieArchitect1910
James Robert Hope-ScottBenefactorB1885lawyer, St Andrews, who gave land to RC church of St James. Gave some of his land to be used by the church.
Saint JamesDedicatee1910-NOWPatron of the Hope-Scott family
LomasCraftsman1910marble workers. Marble cladding in chancel and chapel.
Mrs Annette Elizabeth HarmerBenefactorBenefactor of St James RC Church, St Andrews.
She was a relative of the parish priest, Father Herbert Laughton, incumbant at the time of the construction of the stone church. She was also the owner of Canmore (site 6805), opposite the church, which, after her death, passed through the hands of two religious communities as a house of studies before it was acquired by the archdiocese as a Catholic chaplaincy for the university
Saint Philip NeriDedicateeSaint; patron Patron of North trancept side altar in the time of Father Herbert Laughton who, at the time of his ordination, said his first mass in one of the Saint's oratories in London.
Our LadyDedicateeMary, mother of Jesus Patron of south trancept side altar
Saint AndrewDedicateeSt Andrew's day is on 30th November. He is the patron saint of Scotland, Russia and Greece and is also the patron saint of fishermen. The Saltire (national flag of Scotland) is so called because of the x-shaped cross that appears on it, which represents the cross that Saint Andrew was crucified on. Present patron of north trancept side altar
Father Herbert LaughtonBenefactor1910Parish priest of St Andrews 1909 - 1924. Benefactor of the stone church erected in 1910.


  • Church: Build/construction (1910)
    The church replaced an earlier tin church (which had opened in 1885).
  • Church: Consecration (1910)
  • Tower: Build/construction (1910)
  • Church: Addition (1916)
    A memorial to J Ogilvie Fairlie was designed by his son Reginald Fairlie and is placed beneath the statue of the Virgin and Child at the east end of the church.
  • Stained Glass: Installed (1960)
    Windows on northern elevation by monks of Pluscarden Abbey
  • Church: Renovation (1970 to 1975)
    Gardens reorganised; car park established; new heating and lighting.
  • Church: Renovation (1970 to 1975)
    Altar separated from the shelf behind and re-erected in the middle of the sanctuary.
  • Church: Installed (1975)
    New organ
  • Stained Glass: Installed (1980)
    Windows on southern elevation and transepts. Stained glass artist: John Blyth

Archive References:

Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 40816
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 93197
Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 4722

Bibliographic References:

St Andrews:City by the Northern SeaLamont-Brown, R.2006
Buildings of Scotland: FifeGifford, J1988pp. 383-384.
The Catholic Church in St Andrews, 1884-1984Peter King1984
The Good, the Bad and the Holy: Church and Congregation in St AndrewsSt Andrews Museum Exhibition Group2003
Guide to St AndrewsDr. Hay Fleming1980pp. 44-45