St Mary's Parish Church, Dundee

National Grid Reference (NGR): NO 40190 30150, map



Also known as:

  • East Church
  • St. Mary's
  • Old Church


St. Mary’s Parish Church, Dundee, is one of four churches/former churches within the building known as the City Churches (10888). The earliest church on this site was known as St. Mary’s Church and dates from the late 12th Century (1082). It was largely destroyed in 1548. The site now occupied by St. Mary’s Parish Church, originally the Choir of the 12th Century Church, was rebuilt and used as a jail and library in the late 16th Century. In 1841 the building was again destroyed, this time by fire and in its place St. Mary’s Parish Church was built (1842-4) by Burn & Bryce, also known as the East Church.

Description (exterior)

The Church is made of sandstone with ashlar masonry. A large door to the Church is located on the eastern elevation and has one protruding, pointed column and a tall buttress on each side. The doorway shape is reflected in mosaic tiles laid on the street in front of the church.  Two string courses surround the lower part of the Church; one is interrupted by the door, the other jumps up to form a frame, or hood mould, around the door. A large pointed window with double-Y tracery and a triskele design dominates the eastern wall above the door. The gabled roof is flanked by two spires and decorated with carved stone shapes with a finial at the top. To the north and south of the main door there are simpler pointed windows with Y tracery and a smaller buttress at the wall edge. On the south elevation there are five pointed windows interspaced by a buttress with empty statue niches. These windows vary in design, some with cinquefoils and others with cusp and foil tracery. Another door is located on the western end of the south wall; it cuts into one of the windows just mentioned. Above the wall-head is an upper storey with a five small, gabled windows linked by a carved quatrefoil cresting, below which four decorated water spouts in the shape of gargoyles extend. On the northern elevation there are similar pointed windows but no buttresses. A vestry can be found by the north-east corner of the Church.

Description (interior)

There is a very fine interior, with a timber hammer beam roof, galleried aisles and outstanding stained glass by the best English and Scottish makers.

The church has a large worship space with five tall columns supporting stone arches along the north and south side. A large stained glass window can be seen on the east wall, behind the pulpit. There are two smaller gothic windows with stained glass either side of it, a further four on the south wall and three on the north wall; the upper gallery cuts the smaller stained glass windows in half. At the back of the church (the western end), there are two other stained glass windows set in an arched recess in the wall opposite one another. The window on the south wall is linked to The Guildry of Dundee; the window on the north wall to the High School of Dundee. A final stained glass window can be found in the centre of the north wall, just underneath the wall head. On either side of it are two plain windows. Opposite on the south side are five plain windows.

The Sanctuary is located in the east of the church, set on a raised platform with a step. There is a wooden stand, a Communion Table, a font and a pulpit with a large screen underneath it. Elders’ chairs are laid out in a row to the north, east and south of the Communion Table. Directly above the pulpit is the large stained glass window in the east wall. Also located in the Sanctuary is a Great War memorial housed within a wooden screen-it folds out of the screen and the names of the dead are written on metal plates that mirror pages of a book. Other memorials and plaques are found around the walls and on the stone columns are wall hangings and banners.

The upper gallery forms a curve at the west end, and is supported by blue-painted pillars below. Access is gained by stairwells at the north-west and south-west corners of the building. At the most western end, behind the pews, is the organ by Rothwell and the choir area.

People / Organisations:

Burn & BryceArchitects1842-4


  • Building use (16th Century, late)
    Used as a library and jail
  • Destruction (1841)
    Destroyed by fire
  • Church: Build/construction (1842 to 1844)
    Architect William Burn

Archive References:

SCHRReference: 7844
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 185632
Historic Scotland Listed Building Reports - Online databaseView HS Listing Online: 25382

Bibliographic References:

The Buildings of Scotland: Dundee and AngusGifford, John2012Pgs. 86-92