History of St Andrew’s Garrison Church

1927-1967  “The Current Church”

Church Front
The church front and side as they are today.  Relative to the 1920s building, shown in the photograph below, the nave has been lengthened, the bell tower reduced in height and a statue of St Andrew has been positioned next to the porch

The new St. Andrew’s Church of Scotland Garrison Church was opened by Her Royal Highness, Princess Mary, who was Colonel in Chief of The Royal Scots, The First of Foot, on the morning of Saturday 10th December 1927.  The bronze plaque which was unveiled by Her Royal Highness can be seen in the porch of the church.  (Directly above this bronze plaque is a sculpture of a pelican designed, in 1927, for the new church buildings, by the artist Pilkington Jackson.)  The church was dedicated by the Right Rev. Norman Maclean, D.D., Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

In the pulpit of the church was a metrical psalter for the use of the chaplain and on the flyleaf is the inscription:
"Presented to St. Andrew’s Garrison Church by One James Maclaren who was Christened in the old "Iron Kirk, 1859, by the Rev. Francis Cannon, First Pastor."

Church in 1927 with bell tower
The church on 1st December 1927 - with full bell tower and shorter nave than the present church

Unfortunately the original plan could not be carried out in its entirety because of the economic difficulties of the time. The plan consisted of a wide nave and two shallow transepts; the south transept to accommodate the musicians and the north transept to accommodate the women and children.  The nave had to be built shorter than the architect, Sir Robert Lorimer (who also designed the National War Memorial of Scotland) had intended.  But the church was still able to seat at least 500 people.   Economics again made it impossible to furnish the church in anything but the sparsest way.  So short was the supply of money that the inside walls had to be left unplastered.

As the years passed it became more and more obvious that the church was too small for the number of troops and civilians who, theoretically, could turn up for worship on a Sunday morning.  The chronic lack of space must have been a constant headache for the Chaplains. There were at times as many as four Scottish Battalions in Aldershot Camp.

It is said that the event that finally led to the enlarging of the church was the turning away from the church door of the Cameron Highlanders.  Lt. Col. R. L. MacColl, who commanded the Second Battalion The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, was due to retire in 1933.  On the day of his farewell parade someone blundered and the Camerons arrived last at church and found it already full with men of other regiments.  Sadly Lt. Col. MacColl turned his Battalion about and marched them in silence back to their lines.  The resolve was made that something must be done about the situation.

Money began to he raised again, but very slowly because the economic situation was still not bright.  In 1938 the trustees of St. Andrew’s Scottish Soldiers’ Club decided to make a grant towards the completing of the original design.  This generous gesture prompted the appropriate Committee of the Church of Scotland and The Treasury and they added their contributions.  These grants enabled the building to be completed as the architect had first envisaged it.  Sir Robert Lorimer had died by this time so the task he had begun in 1926 was completed by his Partner Mr. John F. Matthew, F.R.I.B.A., F.R.I.A.S.  The contractors were Messrs. Musselwhite & Son, of Basingstoke, the builders of the original Memorial Church.

The extensions to the church were as follows : - the nave was lengthened by 30 feet, the inside walls were plastered and an entirely new lighting system was installed.  The bell tower, which was a distinctive feature of the church was reduced to roof level; it was felt that it was no longer in proportion with the enlarged building.  The bell was the one which had hung in the old "Iron Church" and had called generations of soldiers to worship.  For some unknown reason it had never been rung during its sojourn in the bell tower from 1927 to 1939.  When it was taken down it was intended to have it cleaned and polished and to set it on a stand in a place of honour in the church.  This was not to be.  The bell mysteriously disappeared and despite a concerted search, by the Chaplain and the beadle, of scrap yards as far afield as Portsmouth it was never recovered.  Since the bell weighed over two hundredweight it is unlikely that it was removed unknowingly.  The stand which was specially made for the bell sits brooding and neglected in one of the storerooms of the church. At this time too the church was completely refurnished as it is today.

The nave - refurbished as it is today

During the period of the extensions the congregation worshipped in a soldiers’ canteen beside Maiplaquet Barracks and latterly in the more congenial atmosphere of The Prince Consort’s Library.

King George
King George VI at the reopening and rededication service in 1939

On Sunday the 5th Feb.1939, St. Andrew’s was reopened and rededicated in the presence of King George The Sixth and Queen Elizabeth.   His Majesty wore the uniform of The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, of which he was Colonel in Chief.  The Officiating Clergy included, the Rev. J. Lynn, C.B.E., D.D., K.H.C., Deputy Chaplain-General, the Rev. A. Fleming, T.D., D.D., the Rev. W. J. Sym, M.B.E., RD.. minister in charge of the church from late 1939 until 1942, and the Rev. A. M. Davidson, M.C., M.A., S.C.F., Chaplain of St. Andrew’s at the time of the reopening.

Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth at the reopening and rededication service in 1939

The photograph of the church in 1927 and those of King George and Queen Elizabeth may be subject to revived copyright.  The church has been unable to identify the photographer(s).  If you have any information on the photographer(s) we should be grateful if you would write to or email the church using the address at the top of the page.

Next:  Church Memorials