Edinburgh Brach visit to the Mansfield Traquair Centre

Like many 19th Century sects who believed that events such as the French Revolution presaged the end of the world, the Catholic Apostolic Church was founded in 1835 with twelve new apostles - who were able to ordain the lesser clergy - at its head.  The church soon outgrew its original premises in Broughton Street and in 1872 the congregation held a competition, which was won by Robert Rowand Anderson, to design a larger successor on Mansfield Place.  Its magnificent vaulted interior allowed ample scope for decoration and the absence of aisles provided the congregation with an uninterrupted view of the colourful services. 

 

Dublin-born Phoebe Anna Moss married Scottish palaeontologist Ramsay Heatley Traquair.  During 1885 and1866 she created a series of murals for the Mortuary Chapel of the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh.  Her murals in the Song School of St Mary's Cathedral (1888-92) won national recognition for Traquair.  However, her best-known work is at Mansfield Place, which was hailed as "a jewelled crown".  It was this work which helped to confirm her international recognition when, inspired by the works of Blake and Rosetti, from 1893 to 1901 she toiled for long hours alone on high scaffolds, complimenting the church's stained glass with gilded depictions of angels that have earned it recognition as the Sistine Chapel of Scotland.

 

Unfortunately, in the expectation that the end of the world was imminent, no thought had been given to the succession so that when the last of the designated apostles died in 1901 there was no-one left to ordain the lesser clergy and the Church eventually died out. The last service was at Easter 1958.  After some years of ownership by the Baptist Church, the building was sold to a property company.  However, neither organisation had much money to spend on the upkeep of the building, which continued to deteriorate.  This went on until 1992 when local residents started to organise a campaign to save the building and its wonderful murals, and the Friends of Mansfield Traquair came into being.  A year later the Mansfield Traquair Trust was formed and in 1998, with the help of lottery and other funding, they were able to purchase the church.  After the refurbishing of the building and conservation of the murals, a sustainable future for the building was achieved by letting the newly-created lower floors to the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, and an events company organises weddings, corporate dinners and other events in the nave.