St Mary’s

St Mary’s was the first major cathedral to be built from new since the Reformation in the 16th and 17th centuries. It was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, and English Gothic revival architect who designed and renovated hundreds of buildings over his lifetime, mainly churches but more controversially workhouses too. Situated in the West End of Edinburgh’s New Town, the cathedral is the see of the Bishop of Edinburgh who is one of the Episcopal Church’s seven bishops. Prior to this, the Episcopalians used an old woolen mill in Carrubber’s Close after the 1689 Glorious Revolution saw St Giles Cathedral come under control of the Church of Scotland.

The construction of the cathedral was originally paid for by Mary and Barbara Walker, a pair of spinster sisters and the foundation stone was laid on 21 May 1874. The twin spires were named in their honour when they were completed in 1917. The cathedral is one of the finest and beautiful stone buildings in all of Scotland.

In 1985 however it became clearer that the cathedral had become somewhat worn and tied and was badly in need of repair It was for that reason the St Mary’s Cathedral Workshop was established with two aims. Firstly to restore the cathedral to its former glory and secondly to provide an opportunity for skilled stonemasons to pass their skills on to the next generation. The scheme is known as Young Hands for Old Skills. Over the past few years, the cathedral’s stonework has been restored in several areas including the Chapter House, Central Spire and the South Transept. Restoration of many of the other areas of the Cathedral is ongoing.

It has been a great opportunity for many trainee stonemasons, with as many as 12 being on the scheme at any one time. The apprentices serve a four year apprenticeship and this results in a SVQ (Scottish Vocational Qualification) if successfully completed. Not only does the cathedral’s stonework get the refurbishment and renovation that it needs using tried and tested traditional techniques, it also ensures that these techniques are handed down to the next generation for future use. Unfortunately, many other cathedrals across the UK have been subject to restorations that have been less than adequate, using modern mortars that damage the surrounding stonework. Thanks to the excellent training on offer at St Mary’s, it will ensure there are stonemasons that understand the use of traditional lime mortar on these amazing old buildings.

Today the cathedral continues its ongoing restoration but is still a fully working cathedral and place of worship. It is the only Scottish cathedral that maintains a tradition of daily choral services, drawing choristers from its choir school. It’s been innovative too, the cathedral was the first in the UK to employ girls in its trebin line as well as boys. The choir school is now separate to the cathedral and is known as St Mary’s Music School but still supplies choristers to the cathedral. Today the cathedral is a popular place of worship as well as a popular tourist destination.

Did you know that James Allan Stonemasons (Edinburgh) are one of the leading Edinburgh stonemasons around? If you need some stonework restoring, get in touch with us today. We also provide lime pointing, Church stone repairs, chimney repairs and wall repairs.

Why Choose Us:

  • We have over 30 years hands-on experience as stonemasons
  • We have a full range of expert stonemasonry and sandstone restoration skills
  • We only use lime mortar for re-pointing, sandstone repairs and building work
  • We choose our team based on the quality of their work and quality of their character
  • Flexible Quoting: we come at a time that suits you, even on the same day if required

Stone Repairs

Do your stones’ need repairing due to weathering and old age? If so, we can bring them back to new again. As James Allan Stonemasons (Edinburgh), we can offer you two effective methods for repairing your stones, which are part Indenting and lithomex.

Lime Pointing

Properly executed Lime Repointing of masonry using lime mortars is critical to the long term health of stone structures. It is strongly advised that repointing is carried out using proper lime mortars & correct technique and preparation.