St Conan's Kirk

Christine Smith

Grovedale, Australia

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FEATURED in Favourite Places You Take, Make or Paint 16-06-2013
FEATURED in Highlands and Islands Photography Group 29-06-2013

Camera: Canon EOS 50D, Lens: @ 30mm, ISO: 100, Aperture: f7, Shutter: 1/100

This amazing little church can be found on the north shore of Loch Awe, at the side of the main A85 road to Oban between Dalmally and Taynuilt in Scotland. It is a truly unique building, which was begun in 1881 was only completed in 1930 and now under the control of the St Conan’s Kirk Trust. Built in rough-tooled Cruachan granite rubble with ochre sandstone dressings, it was designed by amateur architect Walter Douglas Campbell, who was the brother of the 1st Lord Blythswood. Up till the 1870s, although the road from Stirling to Oban passed along the north shores of Loch Awe, there was practically no human habitation between Dalmally and Taynuilt. But the arrival of the railway made the loch less inaccessible. The Hotel was built, and a certain Walter Douglas Campbell, younger brother of the First Lord Blythswood, bought from the Marquis of Breadalbane the Island of Innischonan, on which he built for himself a stately mansion-house. Here he settled with his sister Helen and his mother. Local tradition has it that the elder Mrs. Campbell found the long drive to the parish church in Dalmally too much for her, and that her son accordingly decided to build her a church nearby. Walter Campbell was a man of many talents, all of which he devoted to the kirk. He was a most capable if somewhat unorthodox architect, a collector of objects d’art and a skilled woodcarver. The original church, was a small cruciform building, which was begun in 1881 and finished about 1886. It was a comparatively small and simple building, although adequate to the needs of the small congregation. It occupied what is now the nave, and a part of the choir stalls of the present kirk. But Walter Campbell was not satisfied with this. He began to dream of a far nobler building. He started work on this in 1907, and devoted the rest of his life to its execution. He died in 1914, and work had to be suspended during the First World War; but as soon as it was possible, his sister Helen carried out the plans which he had left. She in her turn died in 1927, and the project was finally completed by their Trustees in 1930. Work was necessarily slow, for not only was no labour brought in from outside, but the stone of which the kirk was built was not quarried, but consisted of boulders lying on the slopes of the hill above, which were rolled down, split and shaped on the spot.Walter Campbell was his own architect. He did not allow himself to be trammelled by convention or orthodoxy. Although most of the kirk is in a Norman or Romanesque style, he included not only early and late types of this but other and totally different styles. He was more anxious to achieve beauty than consistency. Rumour even has it that he deliberately tried to include examples of every type of ecclesiastical architecture found in Scotland, and this is perhaps borne out by the circle of standing stones at the entrance gate.
Source: St Conan’s Kirk home page.

Artwork Comments

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