Located on the riverside in the centre of Inverness, this building enjoys a prominent location. Many people will recognise it from their walk across the Greig Street Bridge. MAAC studio was invited to inspect the property and prepare a report on the condition of the building and recommend repairs to its historic fabric.
The church was designed by Robert Caldwell in 1837 as the West Church for the Church of Scotland. At the time, the riverside was undeveloped, with only St Mary’s Church to the South and Balnain House to the North, the building would have been surrounded by open space. Greig Street wasn’t formed until 1867.
A key feature of its location was its proximity to St Mary’s RC Church. Whether intended, or by accident, its cold classical, academic style provides the starkest visual contrast, with the more emotional and romantic and Gothic Revival style of St Mary’s which was built just a year earlier. It is a clear visual display of the contrasting approaches to religion.
It is composed as a simple box with a Greek temple façade. The ashlar frontage is framed by giant Tuscan Doric pilasters at the corners supporting an entablature. The advanced portico features Tuscan piers or antae, that frame the inner engaged Ionic columns. The design creates height and visual impact that is needed if it is to make an impression when viewed from the far riverbank. The flanking elevations were very much secondary and more rustic with rubble stonework. The lower level features segmented arched windows intended to convey weight and strength and provide a basecourse to taller more slender windows above.
Towards the rear of the building is a square tower in ashlar stonework with a timber octagonal louvred cupola above. This is a feature that references the tower of the Old High Church on the opposite bank of the river. Visible only from the far riverbank, it reinforces the conviction that the architecture is all about the presentation of an image to the neighbours across the water.
The building was converted to flats in 2005.
Like many historic building it is in a distressed condition arising from the use of inappropriate materials and a lack of understanding of the historic construction and design.
MAAC studio are accredited conservation architects and principal designers working with traditional buildings throughout Scotland.