St Mary the Virgin Scottish Episcopal Church, Hamilton

Rector: Revd Matthew Little

History of St Mary's

The preliminaries to establishing an Episcopal Church in Hamilton were set in motion when a committee consisting of John Leslie Esq. Robert Graeme Esq. and Captain H. H. Vaughan drew up a circular, copies of which were to be sent to the Rt. Rev. Dr. Michael Russell, D.C.L. Bishop of Glasgow and to, "certain influential Gentlemen and nobility of the neighbourhood" on the 3rd December, 1841. It would appear that Captain Vaughan was the prime mover and there can be no doubt that the impetus for the provision of an Episcopal Congregation came from the military establishment, which is quite understandable in view of the Cameronian Barracks with its quota of English officers in Almada Street.
A committee was formed which sent out a circular letter in 1841, proposing the setting up of such a Church. This attracted the support, among other local notable Episcopalians, the Duke of Hamilton, who donated the organ from the Hamilton Palace.

In 1842 the Bishop of Glasgow, at the Trades Hall, Hamilton, opened a temporary chapel in Church Street. A "Vestry" management committee of prominent local gentlemen was formed, and plans made for a permanent church building on the present site. The foundation stone was laid in 1846 when the dedication to St Mary was also agreed.

The consecration of the new building took place August 1847. Total cost was £2,165, which was £340 over budget. A tower and spire were planned but never built.

The Church building is Early English in style, one typical of the 14th century consisting of a nave and chancel, constructed of dressed stone of a greyish, cream colour. In addition to the large chancel window there are 5 south windows of 2 lights and the west window of 4 lights and ornamented with geometric tracery. The roof is supported by couples with carved ribs, the roof timbers are ornamented with stopped mouldings and chamfering.

The nave is separated from the chancel by an arch of clustered shafts. The chancel is paved with encaustic tiles. A low rail of solid oak pierced with quatrefoils which correspond with the east window tracery, crosses the chancel at the third step.

The main feature of the chancel is the carved stone altar, decorated with carvings of he leaves; the sacred monogram and the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God). The altar slab has five consecration crosses. In addition to the altar are two sedilia or seats for the clergy and the piscina or credence table. The central feature of the stained glass of the east window is the Ascension of Our Lord.

The two remaining items worth mentioning are the Baptismal Font and the Pulpit. The Font is of carved stone based on the one in Ditchingham, Norfolk. It is supported by a cluster of pillars and is decorated on the eight sides of the bowl by the sacred monogram, the dove and Gothic lilies. These flowers are introduced as, "appropriate emblems of the Church's dedication to Almighty God in honour of the Blessed Virgin". The polygonal pulpit is of wood enriched with mouldings. and is attached to the southeast angle of the nave and entered by a staircase concealed in the thickness of the wall.

When the Church was consecrated the Parish Priest modestly, but not inaptly, summed up this building in these words, "The building will be found not un-meet for its sacred purpose.
Anxious to raise a House in some measure      becoming as an offering to Almighty God and suitable for the due performance of the services of the Church, we are convinced that the beauty and fitness of the design and style will approve themselves to the congregation and their friends".

In its early days the Church was closely identified with the Henderson family. The first incumbent was Alexander Henderson, brother to the Church Architect Mr. John Henderson of Edinburgh, and two more brothers William and Robert were the principal builders. A nephew, Charles Henderson, was the first curate and later succeeded his uncle as incumbent in 1872. The Henderson-Hamilton family, suffered tragedy in the Great War years as shown by the memorial plaque and window in the North- East corner.

The building was enlarged in the 1870s to accommodate a growing congregation. The many military memorials around the walls evidence the strong connection of the Church with the barracks, as do the Regimental Old Colours laid up on the West gable. Over its history there have been several leaded windows donated to the Church in family memorials.

At the age of fifteen, Royds won a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy in London. However, she had her heart set on studying at the Slade School. After her time at the Slade, Royds moved to Paris and worked with the English painter, Walter Sickert, before travelling to Canada and teaching in Toronto. In 1911 she returned to the UK and began teaching at Edinburgh College of Art, working alongside S. J. Peploe. In 1913 she married the etcher and portrait painter, E.S. Lumsden. Her work is found on the ceiling of St Mary's Church, but she is best known for her colour woodcuts