Architectural Styles

So far, in this approach to church buildings, I have been concerned primarily with the basic formswhich underlie the generality of ‘traditionally-built’ churches. The first part of this section looks at simple ‘vernacular’ buildings, of traditional construction, in which architectural expression is minimal. This is followed by a discussion of the ways in which basic forms can be ‘dressed up’, and elaborated, to suit changing fashions, and to convey the different messages which denominations wish to convey – wealth; frugality; rationality; romanticism; being up-to-date; being traditional; employing ‘good’ architects; indifference to ‘good’ architecture; competing in grandeur with other denominations; indifference to other denominations, and so on. This section is by no means irrelevant to church maintenance: the detailing associated with different architectural styles can have profound implications for ease of maintenance.
Vernacular Churches
The term ‘vernacular’ is used here to describe buildings with little or no ornament, or architectural pretension. Such buildings were usually constructed by local masons and wrights (carpenters). They were usually on rectangular or T-plans, with gabled or piended roofs, and usually had belfries, if built for the Church of Scotland. Secession churches did not have belfries. 17th and early 18th century churches of this type usually had low walls, steeply-pitched roofs, and small rectangular windows. Later 18th century buildings often had round-headed windows, and in the early 19th century plain pointed windows made an appearance. Early vernacular churches were often, it appears, thatched, but the greater availability of slate during the 18th century resulted in this roofing material coming into general use. [Most gabled churches in the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries had gables standing above the roof-line to form exposed skews. The junction between the roof-covering and the gable could be protected by a fillet of mortar, or by making a lead channel (water gate) along the junction]. In the middle of the 18th century piended roofs, and for larger spans platform roofs, were introduced, but they were never as common as gabled roofs.

St Quivox Church – Auchincruive
St Quivox Parish Church, Auchincruive, South Ayrshire.
A simple gabled building with ‘birdcage’ belfry. Note the external gallery stair. A wing was added to the back, making it into a T-plan building.
Carmunnock Parish Church Glasgow
Carmunnock Parish Church, Glasgow.
A vernacular T-plan church, with external stairs to the galleries. The wing on the left housed the ‘laird’s loft (gallery) and his retiring room.
Innerwick Parish Church
Innerwick Parish Church,
East Lothian.
A vernacular church with simple Gothic detailing.
Bourtie Parish Church

Bourtie Parish Church.
A piend-roofed vernacular church, with ‘Gothick’ (primitive Gothic Revival) windows.
Classical Churches
The construction of classical churches began in Scotland in the 1730s, and was initially a response to the churches of London, designed by such architects as Sir Christopher Wren, Sir John Vanbrugh, and especially by the Aberdeen-born architect James Gibbs, whose church of St Martin-in-the-Fields (now in Trafalgar Square) was extraordinarily influential both in Scotland and in the American colonies.
Classical churches have features modelled on Greek and Roman architecture, and especially on temple design. The adoption of classical forms symbolised rationality and clarity of thought, and was in large measure intended to be a reaction against what was seen by many as the irrational mysticism of the pre-Reformation church. The more elaborate Baroque and Rococo styles which developed from classicism in central and southern Catholic Europe were seen in Scotland as being ‘Romish’, and were not absorbed into church building in Scotland until the later 19th century.
Generally speaking, classical churches were expected to have columns on their frontages, but a modification of this treatment was developed in Italy and Holland, from the late 17th century, in which free-standing columns were replaced by half-pillars (pilasters) were applied to an otherwise plain wall surface. ‘Flat classical’ churches were much cheaper to build than full-blown classical structures, and remained current as a style until the middle of the 19th century. The ‘flat classical’ style became particularly associated with the Secession churches.

Former St Andrew’s Parish Church Glasgow
Former St Andrew’s Parish Church, Glasgow,
modelled on the London churches of James Gibbs, and the first full-blown classical church in Scotland
Glenaray and Inverary Parish Church
Glenaray and Inveraray Parish Church, Inveraray,
predominantly ‘flat classical’, but with corner columns ‘in the round’.
Limekilns Parish Church Fife
Limekilns Parish Church, Fife,
a good example of a ‘flat classical’ church, built for the United Secession Church
Gothic Revival
There are several small churches which can be described as ‘Gothick’, an early form of Gothic Revival. These are typically simple gabled buildings, of piend-roofed buildings, with pointed windows and doors, often with intersecting-arc timber tracery. Churches of this type were being built from the 1790s to around 1820 (see Bourtie, above). True Gothic Revival churches began to be built in about 1813. The first and commonest type of early Gothic Revival building was the ‘English Village Church’, of which there are many, all over Scotland. These are characterised by end or side towers, usually with pinnacles at the corners, and pointed windows, often with English-Perpendicular tracery. Sometimes such churches have timber tracery, while otherwise conforming to this type.

Collace Parish Church

Collace Parish Church, Perthshire, 1813,
an early example of an
‘English Village Church’ type of building

Dunscore Parish Church Dumfriesshire

Dunscore Parish Church, Dumfries-shire,
similar in concept to Collace, but without Perpendicular tracery, and with pinnacles on the buttresses
Glencairn Parish Church Dumfriesshire
Glencairn Parish Church, Dumfries-shire,
a church with a side tower and intersecting-arc timber tracery

English College Chapel
The other common type of early Gothic Revival church is the ‘English College Chapel’. This is modelled on the chapels of some Oxford and Cambridge colleges, where the chapel is embedded in the main ranges of the college, so that only the gabled frontage(s) can be seen. This approach to design was appropriate to churches in urban settings, where only the front of the building could readily be seen. Sometimes the emphasis is on the centre of the frontage; in other cases there are substantial pinnacles on either side of the gable. In the period 1810-1830 this type was favoured by the Roman Catholic and Scottish Episcopal churches. Later it came into very general use, and was often used by United Presbyterian congregations after 1847. The links with its English origins became much weaker over time.

St Andrew’s Roman Catholic Cathedral Glasgow

St Andrew’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Glasgow,
an early and elaborate example of an ‘English College Chapel’ frontage
St Andrew’s Roman Catholic Cathedral Dundee

St Andrew’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Dundee,
a simpler, and less architecturally accomplished example of the type
Sanquhar Baptist Church Dumfries-shire

Sanquhar Baptist Church, Dumfries-shire,

built as a United Presbyterian Church, a simplified example of the type.
Scholarly Gothic Revival
From the late 1830s there was increasing interest in looking seriously at genuine mediaeval churches, both in England and on the Continent. The emphasis which Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin placed on Gothic spires as emblems of true Christianity, and his utter rejection of the classical as a style appropriate to Christian buildings, were ideas which proved influential beyond the constituency to which he was directly appealing. Interest in what I would call the ‘Scholarly Gothic Revival’, as far as reliance on English and Continental models is concerned, became intense from the 1860s to the 1880s, but dwindled thereafter. It was replaced by the use of Romanesque and late Scots Gothic prototypes.

Renfield St Stephen’s Parish Church, Glasgow
Renfield St Stephen’s Parish Church, Glasgow,
an early example in Scotland of ‘scholarly’ Gothic
Queen’s Park Baptist Church Glasgow
Queen’s Park Baptist Church, Glasgow,
a fairly late example of the type, based on a French prototype

After the boom years of the 1860s and 70s, depression set in, and quite a number of churches designed to have spires never got them. Good examples are Govan Old and Hyndland in Glasgow, and Troon Old.
St John the Evangelist Scottish Episcopal Church Forfar Angus
St John the Evangelist Scottish Episcopal Church, Forfar, Angus,
a simple ‘Early English’ church, with a disproportionately large tower, intended to be topped by a spire.
Free Gothic Revival
Though it would be fair to say that many architects chose to relate fairly closely to particular original buildings (though often drawing details from a number of such buildings), others introduced features for which there was no mediaeval warranty, and a few broke away almost completely from specific references to the past. The most notable of these were the Pilkingtons, father and son, the originality of whose buildings can still shock. Not all variants from tradition were, however, as radical as that. Many took ‘correct’ parts of the Gothic architectural vocabulary and assembled them in ways that suited the ways in which Victorian Protestant worship – and associated church activities – worked.

Invergordon Parish Church
Invergordon Parish Church,
built as a Free church, with an unusually tall spire and with the porch in the base of the spire, which is attached to a T-plan church.
New Trinity Parish Church Saltcoats North Ayrshire
New Trinity Parish Church, Saltcoats, North Ayrshire,
a very odd little building, with almost triangular windows, and a small spire tacked on to one corner
Zetland Parish Church Grangemouth Falkirk

Zetland Parish Church, Grangemouth, Falkirk,
another church with the entrance through the base of a tower at one corner of the worship space.
Pugin and Pugin Churches
In the 1890s and early 1900s a very distinctive group of free Gothic Revival churches was built to accommodate the growing number of Roman Catholics in west central Scotland. These were designed by Pugin and Pugin, of London. Most were basilican in plan, with aisled naves and polygonal apsed chancels. The aisles had lean-to roofs. Within this relatively uniform concept there was considerable variation in architectural detailing.

St Peter’s Roman Catholic Church Partick Glasgow
St Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, Partick, Glasgow,
showing the lean-to aisles flanking the taller chancel.
St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church Coatbridge North Lanarkshire

St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire,
with a more elaborate treatment of the entrance frontage.
Late Gothic and Romanesque Revivals
From the late 1880s until the building of churches in stone effectively ended in the early 1930s, many church architects broke away from what had become a clichéd approach to the Gothic Revival. Some chose to make references to late (15th-16th century) Scots Gothic, while others looked for inspiration to more ‘vernacular’ English churches. In parallel other architects developed their designs from the pre-Gothic Romanesque and Byzantine styles.

St Leonard’s-in-the-Fields and Trinity Parish Church Perth

St Leonard’s-in-the-Fields and Trinity Parish Church, Perth,
a late-Scots Gothic- Revival building
Cathcart Old Parish Church
Cathcart Old Parish Church,
a late example of a church designed on the lines of an English ‘vernacular’ building.
The Reid Memorial Church Blackford Edinburgh
The Reid Memorial Church, Blackford, Edinburgh,
another late Gothic church, a very free interpretation of the style
Southwick Parish Church Dumfries and Galloway
Southwick Parish Church, Dumfries and Galloway,
a small and early example of an early Romanesque Revival building.
St Cuthbert’s and South Beach Parish Church Saltcoats North Ayrshire
St Cuthbert’s and South Beach Parish Church, Saltcoats, North Ayrshire,
a large and fine Romanesque Revival building
St Peter’s Scottish Episcopal Church Linlithgow West Lothian
St Peter’s Scottish Episcopal Church, Linlithgow, West Lothian,
a small Byzantine Revival church.
1930s Churches
The economic depression of the early 1930s almost brought to an end the building of churches in stone. Facing brick, rarely used before that time, was generally adopted instead, either as the principal structural material, or as part of a reinforced-concrete-framed building. Where brick was the principal structural material the round-arched Romanesque style was generally used.

King’s Park Parish Church Glasgow
King’s Park Parish Church, Glasgow,
built in brick to serve a new housing area, in Romanesque style.
Croftfoot Parish Church Glasgow
Croftfoot Parish Church, Glasgow,
another example, very differently treated, of a brick Romanesque ‘housing scheme’ church.
St Columba’s Roman Catholic Church North Woodside Glasgow
St Columba’s Roman Catholic Church, North Woodside, Glasgow.
This is an example of a church with a reinforced-concrete-framed building, faced in brick.

Traditional Buildings

There are at least 2000 church buildings in Scotland currently used for worship.
The Church of Scotland alone maintains about 1400 of them. No two are identical, but common factors in their design and construction allow them to be grouped into families, and common problems identified. Some are very simple, little more than sheds, and others extremely complex. Often the complexity of a building is more apparent than actual, this is typically seen when extensive decorative features are applied to a simple structure. Even where there is real complexity, the building is usually made up of a conglomeration of simple units. This module will later show how a simple building can be dressed up in different ways, and then how more complex buildings can be built up from simpler units. Before that, however, this article will describe, briefly the types of construction which are characteristic of Scottish churches, and which are common to a number of types.
Most Scottish churches are stone-built.
There are several techniques for building in stone. In almost all the wall is solid, with inner and outer faces brought to a ‘fair face’, that is to a vertical or near-vertical flat face (omitting details). There is usually a space between the inner and outer faces (the ‘core’) which is filled with less-well finished stone. In such buildings the walls are commonly fairly thick, and may be supported externally by buttresses, which serve to keep the walls vertical, and also, in some cases, to resist the outward pressure imposed by a roof.
The degree to which the stonework is cut to a regular shape varies widely.
In very early churches the stone was often cut into almost cubic blocks, used on both the inside and outside faces of the building. Subsequently dressed stone was often confined to the outer walls of the building, less regularly cut stone being used on the inside walls, which were usually plastered. In many churches built from the 17th to the early 19th centuries the outside walls were also built of less regular stone, covered with a layer of harl to keep water out. In such buildings the margins of windows and doors, and the wall-heads, were usually made of dressed stone. Sometimes dressed stone was used in this way with an exposed skin of less-regularly dressed stone. In the later 19th century there was a revival of the use of dressed stone for internal walls, and where this was not the case brickwork was sometimes substituted for stone for the internal skin and core of the wall.
After stone, brick is the commonest material for church construction.
Brick can be used in the same manner as stone, to make a solid wall, but in the 20th and 21st centuries it has often been used in two other ways. In walls intended to support a roof, the so-called cavity-wall is often used, with inner and outer skins separated by an air gap, bridged by metal ties. In other cases the roof is supported by steel, concrete or laminated timber frames, and the brickwork has only its own weight to support. In that case a single-brick wall may suffice. Concrete blockwork (breeze blocks) may also be substituted for brick for internal walls. In a few instances the external walls are built of concrete blocks. In some late-20th century buildings the walls are almost eliminated, and the roof carried down almost to ground level, in what are called A-frame buildings.
Of the other materials used for wall construction the most important are timber and corrugated-iron.
Some buildings, or parts of buildings, were built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with timber frames, with the spaces between the timbers probably infilled with rendered brick. Sometimes thin pieces of wood were applied to the exterior of a building to give the impression that it was timber-framed. Much commoner was the use of corrugated iron (usually in practice galvanised steel) to form walls, on a timber or steel frame. In these cases the corrugated iron was used both as a skin and as a load-bearing material.

Traditional Buildings - Gables and Plans

This section illustrates forms of building in outline, and then uses specific churches to show how these simple forms are expressed in real buildings. Buildings of modern form and construction are discussed at the end.

The Gabled Rectangle

The simplest type of traditional church building is rectangular on plan, with a pitched roof and end gables. In most examples the edges of the gables extend above the roofing material to form exposed skews. In a few the roofing material is carried up to the outer edge of the gable, and in some late examples is carried over the gable end to form eaves.
Most churches of this type have a belfry (bellcote) at the top of one of the gables, and that gable may be thickened to provide support for it. There may well be a decorative feature, a finial, on the other gable (sometimes on both). The commonest form of finial is a ball.
Innerwick Parish Church East Lothian
Innerwick Parish Church, East Lothian

Sometimes a tower is wholly or partly inset into the gable. This may have a steeple.
Old High Parish Church, Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire
Old High Parish Church,
Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire

The Piended Rectangle

In the later 18th century the greater availability of good-quality building timber, and improvement in joinery skills, led to the adoption of piended (hipped) roofs, with sloping ends as well as sides. These were particularly favoured by the Secession churches, which did not have bellcotes. Where a bellcote was placed on the wallhead of a piended building it was common to have a small sub-roof to avoid having a valley gutter between the bellcote and the roof.
Craignish Parish Church
Craignish Parish Church,
Argyll and Bute

In a few instances churches were built with eight sides (octagonal), with eight sloping roof faces.
Former Glasite Meeting Place – Dundee
Former Glasite Meeting House,
T-plan Churches
Early rectangular churches were quite narrow, largely because of the scarcity of long pieces of timber. To increase capacity the first option was to build internal galleries above the ends, leaving the centre of the building open to its full height. Further increase in accommodation was then provided by building a full-height wing on to the side opposite the pulpit, forming a T-plan building.
Former Nigg Old Parish Church
Former Nigg Old Parish Church,

This became a standard layout for churches until the later 18th century. The wing often contained a gallery for the local landowner (laird), whose responsibility it was to provide the church. Many churches which seem at first sight to be simple rectangular buildings have a wing to the rear. Some piend-roofed churches are also on a T-plan. There is considerable variety in the placing of bellcotes on T-plan buildings. Sometimes the bellcote is at one end of the ‘cross-stroke’ of the T, and sometimes at the end of the down-stroke.

Carmunnock Parish Church,
Cruciform churches

Churches on a cross plan were common before the Reformation. The typical cross plan at that time was the Latin cross, in which one arm of the cross is significantly longer than the other three. The side arms – transepts – were probably introduced to allow east end altars to be added to complement the high altar, at the east end of the main body of the church. After the Reformation the Latin-cross plan became irrelevant, and the larger churches were divided up, or partly abandoned.
It was not until the 19th century that most of the surviving mediaeval cross-plan churches were restored to their original configuration. In the 17th century, however, a number of new cross-plan churches were built, or converted from earlier buildings. These were on the Greek, or equal-armed cross plan. The fourth arm (as compared to the T-plan church) was, apparently, used as a communion aisle. Greek-cross-plan churches continued to be built into the early 18th century, but thereafter this layout was abandoned.
St Andrew’s Parish Church Golspie
St Andrew’s Parish Church,
Golspie, Highlands
Side projections
Projections from the sides of rectangular or T-plan churches are very common. Often these are in essence porches, sheltering doorways. Such projections sometimes also contain one or more small rooms, used as session houses, vestries, or more recently as Sunday School rooms. Others were built as burial aisles, to conform to the post-Reformation prohibition of burials within churches. In several instances the burial vault was in the lower part of the projection, with a ‘laird’s loft’ above. Such projections have sometimes been converted into additions to the worship space
Spott Parish Church
Spott Parish Church, East Lothian,
burial aisle on side of church

Abercorn Parish Church
Abercorn Parish Church, West Lothian, two burials aisles, and a grave enclosure on side of church
End projections
End projections are very common. Some are porches or burial aisles, as mentioned above, but at the ‘east end’ the projections are usually extensions of the worship space. In Scottish Episcopal or Catholic churches, and in surviving mediaeval churches, these are usually chancels or choirs, designed to house altars, choirs (singers) and clergy. Sometimes the end projection is very slight, and perhaps round-ended, in which case it is called an apse. In churches of the late Victorian period and later, end extensions are commonly organ chambers. Vestigial projecting chancels were still being built in the 1990s.
Strathnaver Church – Syre – Highlands

Strathnaver Church, Syre, Highlands,
with a porch on the front end

Scottish Episcopal Church – Largs – North Ayrshire
Scottish Episcopal Church, Largs, North Ayrshire,
with a large side porch, and a chancel to the right

Traditional Buildings - Towers

Towers are features of many churches, especially of surviving mediaeval buildings, and of 19th and early 20th century churches. Often such features are surmounted by steeples, but for clarity steeples are being omitted at this stage. Sometimes towers are completely integrated into the body of the church (see Traditional Buildings – Gables and Plans).

End towers
End towers are features of some 18th century churches, but become much commoner in the early 19th century, when the Gothic Revival (see below) began to be popular. Such towers often have, or were designed to have, clocks, and bells. In most instances, the ground floor serves as a porch.
Collace Parish Church, Perth and Kinross
Collace Parish Church, Perth and Kinross,
An early and good example of a Gothic Revival church with an end tower

The two churches with towers illustrated above have the tower next to the body of the building. In some instances, however, the tower is partly set into the body.
Auchterhouse Parish Church – Angus
Auchterhouse Parish Church, Angus.
Here the tower is inset into the body, and has an external stairway to the gallery.

Side towers
The end tower is appropriate to a church with the pulpit at the end of one of the short walls. Side towers are better suited to churches with the pulpit on one of the long walls. Some churches with such towers are on a T-plan, with a wing on the long side opposite to the tower.
Glencairn Parish Church – Dumfries and Galloway
Glencairn Parish Church, Dumfries and Galloway.
The tower on the side is matched by a wing on the opposite side, not visible in this view.
Towers at a corner

Towers to one side of a front gable are common in urban churches. This drawing shows one adjacent to the body of the building, but often such a tower will be integrated into the building shell, often housing a porch, and sometimes a stairway to the gallery.
Central towers
Central towers were features of many mediaeval churches, such as Glasgow and Kirkwall cathedrals. Situated over the crossing between the east-west and north-south axes of the buildings, such towers housed bells, and may also have been used as landmarks, and as lookout positions. During the middle and later 19th century, and in the early-mid 20th century, some churches were built with such features.
Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church – Torry – Aberdeen
Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, Torry, Aberdeen,
an early 20th century church with a central tower.

Traditional Buildings - Aisles and Transepts

The term ‘aisle’ has three meanings in Scottish church practice. The sense in which it is used here is of parts of a church building to the side of the main spaces, and with the same floor level as those spaces, and separated from them by rows of columns. Sometimes there are aisles on both sides of the church, but often on only one. In large mediaeval buildings the choir sometimes had aisles, but more recently only the nave was aisled. Sometimes the existence of aisles is apparent from the outside of the building, but not always. [see Pugin and Pugin churches, below, for other examples of aisled churches]
Cardonald Parish Church Glasgow
Cardonald Parish Church, Glasgow.
This is an example of an aisled church with separate roofs for the aisles.
The central section is the main body of the church.

Aisles and transepts

In many late 19th and early 20th century churches there are both aisles and transepts. There may in addition be a shallow chancel or organ making the building cruciform in plan. Generally, however, the transepts have a different purpose from those in a mediaeval church, having seating on the ground floor, and often galleries. As described for aisles, there may only be a single aisle and transept, on one side of the building.
King’s Park Parish Church Glasgow

King’s Park Parish Church, Glasgow, a 1930s church
with lean-to aisles and full-height transepts.

Non-Traditional Buildings

After the Second World War there was a massive programme of building public housing, in new outer suburbs of the cities and large towns, and in ‘New Towns’. The building of churches was an integral part of the creation of these new housing areas.
Building materials of all kinds were rationed for some time after the war, and architects struggled to produce designs which provided large amounts of space with minimal quantities of materials.
Many churches of the period were ‘hall churches’, in which the worship space was used for secular purposes during the week.
Among the new approaches to design were the use of flat or curved roofs, covered with roofing felt, and the use of steel frames. Brick was very generally used for walls, either exposed or harled. For the first time, on any scale, cavity-wall construction was used. Reinforced-concrete construction, introduced before the War, became fairly common.
From the late 1950s design became significantly more adventurous, as architects and patrons embraced the ‘International Modernist’ style. This put a premium on clean, simple forms, and led to such visual devices as concealed roofs, and placing rainwater downpipes inside walls. ‘New’ materials, notably copper-cladding of roofs and fascias, were introduced, and the use of unorthodox positions for windows, to create special lighting effects, became common.
The variety of architectural expression in churches built from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s is such that only a few of the more common features are picked out on this website as illustration.
Because of economy in the use of materials, the use of relatively untried methods of construction, and difficulty of maintenance, many churches of this period have had structural problems, and some have had to be demolished.

Non-Traditional Buildings - Rooves

Low-pitched roofs

A low pitched roof has a little pitch or slope in the angle of the roof.
Drumry St Mary’s Parish Church Glasgow
Drumry St Mary’s Parish Church, Glasgow,
A good example of a building with a low-pitched roof.
Concealed flat and low-pitched roofs

The walls of the church extend to hide either a flat or low-pitched roof.
St Bride’s East Kilbride
St Bride’s Roman Catholic Church, East Kilbride,
South Lanarkshire,
a building with a concealed flat roof.

Deep timber or copper-faced fascias

A roof that is clad in a thick layer of timber or copper as opposed to slates, pan-tiles or shingles.
St Mungo’s Parish Church, Cumbernauld.
St Mungo’s Parish Church, Cumbernauld.
There is a deep copper-clad fascia on the link block on the left. The church roof is also clad in copper.

Continuous eaves glazing
This style of glazing was fashionable in the 50s and 60s. Sometimes it was applied to flat-roofed blocks, but it was also used in other types of building, for instance St Mungo’s, Cumbernauld (above), and St. Mary Magdalene’s in Edinburgh.
St Mary Magdalene Roman Catholic Church, Bingham, Edinburgh,
St Mary Magdalene Roman Catholic Church, Bingham, Edinburgh,
Showing eaves glazing.
Set-back plinths
It is quite common in post-War churches to have the body of the church set on a plinth. Often the plinth is of exposed brickwork, the upper part of the walls being rendered. Sometimes, as seen below, the upper part of the building projects significantly over the plinth.
Craigsbank Parish Church, Corstorphine, Edinburgh
Craigsbank Parish Church, Corstorphine, Edinburgh
Monitor roof-lights
Rooflights with vertical glazing, projecting above flat or inclined roofs, seem to have been introduced into Scotland by Gillespie, Kidd and Coia in their St Paul’s’ Roman Catholic Church, Glenrothes. The purpose of such features is to shed light from above on to particular parts of interiors, for instance on chancels.
St Gregory’s Roman Catholic Church, Wyndford, Glasgow,
St Gregory’s Roman Catholic Church, Wyndford, Glasgow,
with a large rooflight, designed for the same purpose as the Glenrothes one.
Note also the eaves glazing strip.
Monopitch roofs

A monopitch roof is, as the name suggests, a roof with a single slope, as opposed to the more usual two (gabled) or four (piended) slopes. Such roofs were popular in the 1950s and 60s for domestic buildings, and were also used in several contemporary churches.
St Andrew’s Roman Catholic Church, Bearsden, East Dunbartonshire,
St Andrew’s Roman Catholic Church, Bearsden, East Dunbartonshire,
Showing two monopitch roofs abutting each other.
Curved roofs

An early example of a curved roof can be found at Roslin Chapel, but this appears to be unintentional; there is every reason to believe that the currently-exposed surface of the vault was intended to be protected by a pitched roof, as was normal in mediaeval and early modern vaulted buildings.
The intentional construction of churches with curved roofs (apart from domes, which are of great antiquity) is in Scotland a war-time and post-War phenomenon. Convex curves are to be found in the Nissen-hut-based Italian Chapel in Orkney, and in two Roman Catholic churches, in Edinburgh and Kilmarnock.
The most extreme examples of the type are the ‘parabolic-hyperbolic’ roof of Hamilton Bardrainney Church in Port Glasgow, and three Roman Catholic churches, in Penicuik, Renfrew and Johnstone. The two last-named have been replaced, after the Johnstone one’s roof failed in a storm.
The Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, Penicuik. Midlothian
The Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, Penicuik. Midlothian
A-frame buildings

One approach to the construction of framed buildings was to make the roof the building, by carrying it down almost to ground level. As in the case of curved roofs, such buildings were never common. The largest, a Roman Catholic church in Maryhill, Glasgow, has been demolished, but three survive, in Paisley, East Kilbride and Rosyth. Rosyth Methodist Church, Fife
Rosyth Methodist Church, Fife

Non-Traditional Buildings - Polygonal

Polygonal buildings
There was a vogue for centrally-planned churches in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, but with rare exceptions the fashion lapsed until the post-war period, when a fair number were built. Most were polygonal, but at least one was circular on plan. In most cases the roofs were covered with roofing felt or copper. St Teresa of Lisieux Roman Catholic Church, Craigmillar, Edinburgh
St Teresa of Lisieux Roman Catholic Church, Craigmillar, Edinburgh
St Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church, Carfin, North Lanarkshire
St Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church, Carfin, North Lanarkshire

Non-Traditional Buildings - Detached Bell Towers

Detached bell towers

Church of Scotland churches were expected to have bells from soon after the Reformation, and most did. In post-war buildings it became fashionable to place bells in detached towers, part of modernist design of church complexes. Often such bell-towers were made of steel, another modernist concept. St John’s Parish Church, Oxgangs, Edinburgh
St John’s Parish Church, Oxgangs, Edinburgh
St Andrew’s Clermiston Parish Church, Edinburgh
St Andrew’s Clermiston Parish Church, Edinburgh

Non-Traditional Buildings - Laminated Timber Frame

Laminated Timber Frame

The heroic period of post-War church building ended in the early 1970s. Many of the more architecturally-advanced buildings of that period had proved defective in keeping out water, and a few have had to be demolished. In the 1980s and 90s, therefore, a more conservative approach was taken to church design. A fair number of church buildings have been constructed with frames made of laminated timber, with minimally-load-bearing walls, of facing brick, or harled common brick. More attention has been paid to rainwater disposal than was common in the heroic period. Buildings of this character usually have concrete-tile roofs.
Partick South Parish Church, Glasgow
Partick South Parish Church, Glasgow,
yet another variant, with a gabled frontage.

Campsie Parish Church, Lennoxtown
Campsie Parish Church, Lennoxtown,
A more complex building, with a front block added to the main worship space.

Types of Church Building - Conclusion

What are the implications of the changes in church design for maintenance? One can distinguish certain features of all types of church that need constant vigilance. These include:
Maintain the integrity of the roof covering, whether this be the traditional slate, ceramic tiles, copper, lead, and stone slab, or more recent concrete tiles, asphalt, roofing felt and coated or uncoated metal. This involves regular checking for slipped and broken slates, slabs and tiles, and cracks in, or other deterioration of other materials. Particular attention should be paid to ridge protection, especially after storms
Ensure that rainwater disposal is effective. This means checking that gutters at the edges of roofs (rhones), and valley gutters (both inclined and horizontal) are clear of obstructions and free from cracking, perforation and breakages. Particular attention should be paid to features which cannot readily be inspected from ground level. Note that rainwater disposal does not end at ground level: where the water goes when it reaches the ground is also important.
Ensure that copes and upstands are fully waterproof. Open joints in these features are common sources of the ingress of water in church buildings.
Ensure that the junction of roofing materials and copes or upstands is well-maintained, and not cracked, perforated, or distorted.
Ensure that the pointing of masonry, brickwork and blockwork is in good condition. Open joints in walls, especially those facing the prevailing wind, can lead to serious ingress of water.
Maintain the integrity of rendering over masonry, brickwork and blockwork. The separation of render from the underlying structure can pose problems of public safety, and result in deterioration of the structure. Detached render can be detected by tapping it: it will return a dull, rather than a crisp sound.
Keep painted or varnished features (including timber fascias and bargeboards) in good condition. Wooden or metal features not properly protected by a sound paint or varnish film can speedily rot or rust. Post-war churches often have steel features, such as bell-towers. These should be kept well-painted to prevent structural deterioration. Painting should be seen as a structural as well as an aesthetic responsibility.
Ensure that window panes, of traditional construction, are kept properly puttied into their frames, and to ensure that the junction between frame and wall is adequately protected by mastic.
Make sure that stained glass windows are adequately supported by saddle bars, and that cracking of leadwork is not becoming serious.
Ensure that both the body of the church, and the space under the floor, is adequately ventilated. It is especially important that perforated ventilators below floor level are kept unobstructed. Failure to ventilate adequately can result in the spread of dry rot, in the growth of mould, and in condensation, which can affect interior fittings and furnishings.
Check for cracking of walls, and to observe if cracks are widening. If they are, the advice of a structural engineer should be sought..
In addition to the foregoing, which I should stress is not a comprehensive list, there are points which are specific to particular groups of churches.
Churches with towers or steeples:
The integrity of the fabric of the feature needs to be checked at regular intervals by an independent expert (that is, one with appropriate experience with no immediate interest in the value of contracts for works).
The points made above regarding open joints in masonry (especially copes), and the integrity of roof coverings apply to these features
The fastening of finials (including weather vanes) should be checked as part of the regular inspections.
Where there are louvres protecting belfry openings these should be well maintained. Defective louvres are a common cause of water ingress.
If there is a bell, or more than one, the integrity of the framework, or masonry, supporting the bell(s) should be checked. Rot or rust (or deterioration of masonry) can weaken supporting structures to a dangerous degree.
The junction between a tower or steeple and a roof can be a weak point, and particular emphasis in inspection should be given to the integrity of lead flashings at this junction.
Finally, one should bear in mind that access to church buildings is also important, and the safety of steps and paths should also be checked for undue wear, and for possible trip hazards.
These lists of points to be checked are not comprehensive. They cover, however, areas where failure to address what are basically ‘housekeeping’ issues can result in the need for expensive remedial works.