Interesting architectural elements
The church was designed by Robert Morham whose family home was nearby in Lauder Road. He was City Architect and as such was responsible for a large number of public buildings in the city as well as the building adjacent to the church, which was planned as the manse for the Robertson Memorial Church (Grange Church) but was not used as such.
Another church design by Morham was the Gothic-inspired Blackfriars St Church in the Old Town. Various fire stations, swimming baths and libraries throughout Edinburgh are attributed to Robert Morham.
The Butterfly was chosen as the theme because it has been used for hundreds of years to represent the soul and reincarnation. The panels show the life cycle of the butterfly, beginning with magnified representations of butterfly eggs, which are different for each species. The caterpillar and its silken threads suggest that life can be fragile and tenuous. These sections are set against a background of butterfly silhouettes, as if in a collection, but which symbolise the crucifixion.
The pupae, some containing the suggestion of human figures, represent the potential of all for spiritual rebirth. The butterflies burst from the pupae, and through the empty silhouettes, becoming more and more colourful as they are drawn towards the light of the last panel, where the last silhouette again symbolises the ascent of the spirit.
The front panels were commissioned by Marchmont St Giles’ Parish Church, to mark the opening of the new Church Centre. The panels on the reverse, facing into the centre, show butterflies again, beginning with a single insect and congregating gradually to form a host, in brilliant colours. This symbolises the Centre as a gathering place.
These Gathering panels were donated to the Church by Margaret and Alison Kinnaird in memory of John, husband and father; an elder and a former Treasurer and Session Clerk of this Church who died in 1995.
Designed and engraved by Alison Kinnaird MBE
The panels are of optical crystal, engraved by copper-wheel and sandblast. They are lit by LEDs, with dichroic colour. Technical assistance with the lighting system is by Robin Morton.
The Tindal Mosaic
Over one million pieces of tessera make up the mosaic and it took about a year to complete the design. The work to create the mosaic from the drawings took a further two months to complete before installation in the church and the dedication of the side chapel and mosaic in May 1965. The mosaic is reputed to be one of the most intricate of its kind in the UK. A leaflet giving an explanation of the imagery used in the mosaic is available in the side chapel.
In late 2009 we learned that another mosaic by Ray Howard Jones on the Western Mail building in Cardiff was lost when the building was demolished. It and the Tindall Mosaic were the subjects of an illustrated article in Andamento, the annual journal of the British Association for Modern Mosaic – (Issue No 4).
(Andamento is the visual flow and direction within a mosaic produced by the placement of rows of tesserae.)
The side chapel in the south transept of the Church was converted with the funds provided by a member, Miss Elizabeth Donaldson, and dedicated in memory of her mother.
At the same time, Professor William S Tindal, an elder in the Grange Church and Professor of Christian Ethics and Practical Theology at New College, gifted the striking mosaic on the east wall of the side chapel in memory of his wife. The Communion Table was also donated by Professor Tindal.
The mosaic was designed by Ray Howard Jones and created by Ernest de Rosa, and has the theme of the Te Deum Laudamus – We Praise Thee, O God.
Stained Glass Windows
Below are some beautiful examples of the Stained Glass windows present in the Church.
The Church has a rich variety of Stained Glass windows mostly dedicated in memory of family members from the early days of the Grange Church. Most of the glass was manufactured by Ballantine and Gardener whose work can be seen in a variety of churches in Scotland and England. A few notable windows include these:
North Wall West End: A memorial to the Morham family who resided in Lauder Road.
East Wall Northside: A memorial window bearing the text ‘Consider the Lilies’, to the memory of Very Rev Dr David Paull, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1915, Minister of the Grange Church and a noted botanist and Fellow of the Linnean Society.
St Giles Room
South End Window: Dedicated in memory of Charles Morton WS, an Edinburgh solicitor, amongst many other claims to fame, he acted on the instructions of Prince Albert in the purchase of Balmoral. His company Morton Fraser continues to this day.
Screen: The centre panel records the Union of the Grange Church, West St Giles’ Church and the Warrender Church to form Marchmont St Giles’ Parish Church in 1972.
The left-hand panel features an image of the Patron Saint of Scotland, St Andrew, while the right-hand panel is dedicated to the memory of the members of the congregation of West St Giles Church who lost their lives during World War II.
The Church has war memorials from the Grange Church and Warrender Church. Sadly the West St Giles’ memorial from the Great War was lost when the church was demolished, the hunt goes on to find a photograph.
A picture album exists of the fallen form the Warrender Church. Research is currently underway to compile a composite Roll of Honour for the three churches which formed Marchmont St Giles’.