By Stephen Stockdale
Image by Charles Clegg
Intrigued by Mrs Edwina Proudfoot’s Lecture Appeal for volunteers to assist her Scottish Church Heritage Programme I and a few other GAS members found ourselves outside the imposing north front of Kelvinside Hillhead Parish Church in Ashton Road, Glasgow on a cold but sunny morning in April waiting for the good Doctor to appear.
The purpose of this Church visit was a training session and Mrs Proudfoot was here to explain what information she required in order to catalogue the Church for inclusion in her extensive Church records. There are approximately 3,000 Churches and religious buildings in Scotland and most of these have never been documented. Whilst many may be quite plain and ordinary there are features in most that are unique to the individual building, and which may not have been replicated elsewhere.
With the decline in attendance of organised religion in the UK many Churches have been closed and although some have been converted to other uses, many are lying derelict or even demolished, their architectural features and fittings lost forever.
For some thirty years now Mrs Proudfoot has, almost single-handedly, carried out her Research Programme. Such is the enormity of the task, however, that she has decided to recruit members of the public, with or without architectural expertise, to help her in her project, hence her appeal to GAS and my visit to Hillhead on a sunny spring morning.
The session lasted for several hours, since once you settle down to record the salient features of the Church and describe in detail what you are actually looking at you find that it is quite time consuming. Pictures alone are not enough; there is no substitute for describing what the picture shows and where the feature is in context. Sometimes the features are hard to label, so the purchase of a book on architecture proved a worthwhile investment.
It was helped by the fact that this Church was quite spectacular. From looking fairly ordinary outside you entered from a rather dull Vestry into the Nave which was a pool of bright white and coloured light produced by 17 full height pointed arch windows. There were other features, too many to reproduce in this article which were simply delightful and unimagined when looking at the building outside.
At the end of the day we all felt confident that we could compile the information required with some accuracy and Mrs Proudfoot seemed pleased with our progress. Plans are afoot for GAS to co-ordinate research activity within the Places of Worship Project, and I look forward to visiting my next Church and compiling its features for the Project.