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Stow Parish Church, St Mary of Wedale

A Category B Listed Building in Stow, Scottish Borders

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Latitude: 55.6898 / 55°41'23"N

Longitude: -2.8622 / 2°51'43"W

OS Eastings: 345893

OS Northings: 644372

OS Grid: NT458443

Mapcode National: GBR 82GN.46

Mapcode Global: WH7W8.07BZ

Entry Name: Stow Parish Church, St Mary of Wedale

Listing Date: 22 January 1971

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 351316

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB17403

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Stow

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: Galashiels and District

Parish: Stow

Traditional County: Midlothian

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Wardrop and Reid, 1873-6. Near T-plan, First Pointed Gothic church with tall 3-stage spire tower to N, polygonal apse and single transept-aisle to W occupying elevated terraced location above Galawater. Coursed, bull-face red sandstone with pale sandstone ashlar dressings. Plinth; moulded cill courses; eaves course. Diagonal offset buttresses to angles; pointed-arched openings; chamfered cills; decorative sandstone cinquefoil-headed tracery; architraved hoodmoulds with moulded stops; red sandstone voussoirs.

TOWER: 3-stage, square-plan with 2-leaf, boarded timber door to ground, N elevation and single storey conical-capped stair tower to W elevation; clockfaces to N and W elevations; louvred openings to belfry with stone gargoyles to angles; quatrefoil mouldings to parapet above; pinnacled angle turrets; broached, octagonal spire with gabletted lucarnes; weathervane finial.

W (ROAD) ELEVATION: large traceried 3-light window to central gabled bay (W aisle); single-storey gabled porch with pointed-arched and trefoil-headed surround to doorway to left; canted porch at apse and W aisle re-entrant angle. E ELEVATION: large rose window to E central gable; porch following pattern of W elevation to E side of apse. All doors, boarded timber with decorative iron hinges.

INTERIOR: painted walls; cream sandstone ashlar dressings. Boarded timber dado panelling; panelled timber doors. Fine open timberwork ceiling with massive arched timber braces resting on carved sandstone corbels. Pair of moulded arches to W nave aisle (now blocked) with cylindrical pier and decorative capitals. Timber gallery to N. Octagonal timber pulpit with linenfold panels; large timber framed pipe organ above. Decorative timber communion table. Rich variety of 19th and 20th century stained glass throughout (see The Buildings of Scotland: Borders for details).

Stained glass windows (some by James Ballantine and Son - see Notes). Plain and coloured glass leaded glazing elsewhere. Grey slate. Sawtooth stone skews; gabletted skewputts. Cast-iron rainwater goods with hoppers and decorative brackets.

BOUNDARY WALLS, GATES AND GATEPIERS: coped sandstone ashlar walls. Pierced timber gates at main and pedestrian entrances.

Statement of Interest

Ecclesiastical building in use as such. Stow St Mary's is an impressive example of a late 19th century Gothic Revival church by eminent practice, Wardrop and Reid, renowned for their contribution to Scottish ecclesiastical architecture. Its 140ft high spire tower is an iconic local landmark. Costing a substantial £8000, the church was partly funded by Captain Alexander Mitchell-Innes who also donated the land and paid for the nearby Town Hall of 1855 (see separate listing). The Ordnance Gazetteer of 1885 calls St Mary's 'one of the finest parish churches in the South of Scotland'.

The planform and detailing at Stow Church, begun by Wardrop and Brown and completed by Wardrop and Reid, follows that of Wardrop's earlier church at Ayton, utilising 13th Century stylistic elements and the single projecting aisle forming a T-plan. This is unusual in that it breaks from the standard ecclesiological arrangement by having the chancel ending in an apse and the pulpit located towards the middle of the nave opposite the single transept-aisle to W. The fine interior is particularly notable for its ceiling with massive arched timber braces. The timber pulpit and Communion table and chairs (1912 by John Taylor & Sons, Edinburgh) have been relocated to the centre of the nave toward the E gable. The impressive timber pipe organ by Ingram and Co incorporates a central doorway leading to the gabled entrance porch at the east (rear) elevation. Originally seating 700, a number of pews to the south and west axises were removed in 1996 to provide a more flexible meeting space.

James Maitland Wardrop (formerly of Wardrop and Brown) formed a practice with Charles Reid between 1874 and 1882. They both favoured a style closely based on that of David Bryce, and in the short period before Reid's death in 1882 were prolific. It was principally Wardrop who took the lead in rebuilding a large number of country parish churches using this distinctive 'First Pointed' Gothic treatment (also refered to as 'Early Decorated'), notably Cumnock in Ayrshire (1864), Methlick in Aberdeenshire (1865) and Ayton (1866) and Langton (1871) in Berwickshire (see separate listings).

The history of Stow is closely linked to the traditions of its church. In old English, 'Stow' means a 'holy or consecrated place'. When the Scots conquered Lothian in 1018, the church of St Mary of Wedale passed into the diocese of St Andrews. The remains of the now roofless former Stow Kirk, incorporating 16th, 17th and 18th century fabric, is stituated a short distance to the North.

List description updated at resurvey (2009).

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