History

The Church of the Holy Cross was founded in 1898 as a Mission Church of the Diocese of Edinburgh under the leadership of Bishop John Dowden. The first Rector was Canon Alfred Griffiths who had previously been the Canon Precentor at St Mary’s Cathedral, Palmerston Place. Canon Griffiths is represented in the Phoebe Traquair murals in the Song School at the Cathedral.

The initial groundwork for Holy Cross began in 1896 when the Rev’d James Niven, Canon Griffiths’ curate, began holding Episcopalian services in the old Cramond Church Hall, then located in Davidson’s Mains next to the old railway embankment.

Our current site was leased from the Barnton Estate, just beginning its development, on the south west corner of Quality Street and the as yet unnamed East Barnton Gardens. The first building was a prefabricated ‘tin tabernacle’ of corrugated iron, erected very near the corner of the property by the old public well. In 1909 the lease ran out and the property was purchased from the estate.

The present cruciform stone building was begun in November 1912, completed in 1913, and consecrated on 7th December 1913. The ‘tin tabernacle’ was dismantled and taken to Prestonpans to be used as the place of worship for St Andrew’s, the small Episcopalian congregation there.

The church was designed by the Edinburgh architect JM Dick Peddie. It was built of local Corstorphine stone in the style masons call ‘random rubble’ – rough cut stone of irregular shape – with the exception of the four pillars and their arches at the crossing which use ashlars. (Some of the designs can be seen on the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland website.) The interior of the church is the handsome bare stonework; its excellent quality has been commented upon by many.

The church was not completed as designed; it was intended to be about twice the present length, to have a large north Porch and to have a bell tower over the Crossing (the four arches and their pillars at the four corners of the Crossing, to support the tower, are in place). However, after the Great War there were no funds to finish the building as planned.

Initially there were no stained glass windows in the church, but an east window depicting the birth of the Lord in three panels was installed in 1929 as a memorial. In 1990 two contemporary memorial windows were installed on the south side of the Nave. They are of a flowing abstract design, one predominantly in green and blue, the other in red and gold. See The Church page for details of the windows.

Originally, the interior of the church conformed to its cruciform structure: the length of the church lies on an east-west axis; the Sanctuary (the Altar area enclosed by rails) occupied the east end of the church, with the Altar against the east wall (the Church’s principal entrance, the West Door, is at the west end of the church). The Choir sat in the Crossing, in the middle of the church. The principal section of the church, the Nave, which extends west from the Crossing, and the two small Transepts, which extend to north and south from the Crossing, are where the congregation sit. In 1982 the church was re-arranged. The Sanctuary and the Choir exchanged places, with the Altar now being sited in the Crossing in the middle of the church, making it easily visible from all sides. The Choir is now at the east end of the Church behind the Sanctuary. For a congregation whose principal worship is the Eucharist, this present arrangement works extremely well.

Over the years Holy Cross Church has been the recipient of items from other churches that for various reasons were closed. When the Catholic Apostolic Church in Mansfield Place closed in the 1950s its contents were distributed among many churches in Edinburgh. (The church is now the Mansfield Traquair Centre where its Phoebe Traquair murals have been restored.) We received vessels for use in the Eucharist and several items of furniture, including the Sanctuary lamp that hangs above the Altar. When the chapel at The Hirsel, the Douglas-Home estate near Coldstream, was demolished, we were given two large paintings: the Entombment of Christ, and Jesus meeting Mary Magdalene in the Resurrection garden, by the Edinburgh artist William Hole, RSA.

The Church Hall was built in 1964, and its interior has been regularly modernised over the years.

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