As most of you know, plans for the development of St Machar's have been under discussion for many years, and for the last two there has been a display in the Cathedral of the things we might do. However the Kirk Session has found that the complete scheme we originally envisaged is immensely complicated.

We are therefore embarking on a phased programme. The first objective is the embellishment of the interior to prepare the Cathedral for the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the erection of the great heraldic ceiling in 1520. The second is to undertake essential repairs to the roof and the stained glass, and then to clean the ceiling. The third is to build an extension so that St Machar's has necessary facilities such as modern washrooms and meeting space

Photos show a mock up of how the pews will look. The final colour will be darker than that shown.

The Nave

The first phase begins in May this year. The Victorian pews and the concrete plinth on which they stand will be removed. We are going to install a floor which we think will be worthy of the Cathedral, in a beautiful variegated sandstone sourced from a quarry near Hopeman in Moray.

The pews, installed in 1867, were made of cheap white wood, and they are very uncomfortable. The new ones will be made of European oak; they have been designed by Luke Hughes, the most prestigious designer of ecclesiastical furniture in the UK. Their design is intended to achieve much greater comfort for their users. The layout will give more space to get in and out, and will meet current safety standards. The level floor will make it easier for the elderly to negotiate and the designated places for wheelchairs will give their users easy access and a much clearer view of the nave, the pulpit and the chancel.

The Chancel

Much of the Chancel will remain unaffected by the changes. The Communion Table, the elders' pews, the prayer desks, the organ screen and the pulpit will stay. And the recently installed carpet will remain in place, undisturbed by any other works.

What is being provided is a new set of seats for the choir and the organist. They will match in colour the pews in the nave but are designed to accommodate our now large choir and provide them and the organist with adequate space for themselves and of the storage of music. The design and layout has been discussed with the choir, with the Director of Music and with other partners, notably the Bach Choir. Not all of the comments have been incorporated but a number of compromises were agreed in an effort to satisfy concerns.

Arrangements for Worship

The works will be carried out in the period beginning 21st May and will last for up to five weeks. During that time, while there will be limited access to the Cathedral for visitors, worship will be impossible. It has therefore been arranged that morning worship will take place in Kings College Chapel at 11am, from Sunday 27th May until Sunday 1st


The first Sunday, the 27th of May coincides with the University's annual Mayfest Service. So on that date we will simply be the guests of the University at what will be their service. Thereafter, we will conduct our services in our usual way.

Our bi-annual 'Card Communion', which would have been held on the 27th, will now take place the previous week on Sunday the 20th of May, which is Pentecost, the day on which we celebrate the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Evening worship will be held at 6pm in the Dunbar Street Hall.


We are very aware that a number of members were unhappy about the way the proposals for the pews were made known to the congregation and the lack of time for comments. We acknowledge that, and regret it. We had wanted to take advantage of the window of opportunity to get the work done this year. This meant that by the time we had all the necessary permissions assembled we had little time left to share our ideas with the congregation and keep them informed as we went along. It was very far from ideal.

However, we have sought and have received professional advice of the very highest standing: the whole scheme of work is being supervised by LDN Architects of Edinburgh and Forres, Scotland's leading conservation architects. We have received all the necessary permissions from the Church of Scotland.

We are also aware of the length of time it takes to effect change, and we have seized the one window of opportunity that we have to bring about the transformation that is so needed. We are confident that when the new floor and the new pews are installed we shall be impressed with their austere beauty, that when we return to the Cathedral in July the benefits will be clearly seen, and that we shall have done something special in enhancing this special place.