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A Brief History of St Michael and All Saints' Church

Our history is the history of two separate congregations – All Saints’ Church, Tollcross and St Michael’s Church, Hill Square – which, although connected in their early days, went their own ways, but came together again to form one congregation in one church building in 1965. What follows is an attempt to tell the story, as far as it is known, of each of those two congregations, of the religious communities associated with them and finally of the united congregation, now worshipping in the building once known as All Saints’ Church, but now known as St Michael & All Saints’ Church.


All Saints’ Church

The All Saints’ congregation was first formed in 1853, when St John’s Church, Princes Street, established a mission school in Earl Grey Street, on the site of the present Central Hall, and used part of that school building for worship on Sundays. It was soon found, however, that a proper church was required for this congregation, especially so since worshippers at St John’s were not very comfortable with the idea that inhabitants of what was then the slum area of Portsburgh, to whom the mission school catered, should attend St John’s itself.

The present church was begun in 1866 to a design by R. Rowand Anderson (later responsible for the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the McEwan Hall in Edinburgh) and opened the next year. What was built in 1866-7 consisted of the present nave and aisles, the transepts, chancel and what is now the St Michael’s Chapel on the south of the chancel. A large steeple was intended to be built at the south west corner but not begun because of lack of money and the west end of the church was finished in rather temporary fashion.

In 1875-76 the west end was finished to a new design (again by Anderson) with the addition of the narthex with a west gallery above. By this time, hopes of raising money for a steeple had vanished and instead there was put up the south west turret which contains the stair to the gallery and, at the top, the church bell.

In 1897 the church was extended by the construction of the Lady Chapel with an organ loft above the north side of the chancel. Anderson was yet again the architect but here he worked in Romanesque style rather than in the early Gothic of the rest of the church.

Incumbents of All Saints’ Church

1867 – 1906: Alexander Drimmie Murdoch (Founder and first Rector)
1907 – 1937: George Edward Wilmot Holmes
1937 – 1949: Harold Brocklehurst
1949 – 1957: Frank Leslie Beardall
1957 – 1965: Ernest William Brady

Society of All Saints

In 1870, at the request of Fr. Murdoch, the Society of All Saints’ (Sisters of the Poor) sent four sisters from Margaret Street, London, to work at All Saints’ Church. They acquired a permanent Mission House in Glen Street in 1875 and worked there and at St Martin’s, Edinburgh, until they were withdrawn to the mother house in 1932.

The Community of St Andrew of Scotland

This was the only Religious Community founded entirely under the auspices of the Scottish Episcopal Church. It was founded by a Mrs Mackenzie, who died in 1904 and who was a member of All Saints’ Church. In 1858, she opened a refuge for girls in Gilmore Place, which later moved to Greenside House, where it remained for many years: the Sisterhood of St Andrew of Scotland was formed in 1865. In the same year, the Mother Superior also established the St Andrew’s Home Mission: from 26th July 1868, this had as its base the Mission Chapel (House of Mercy) in Old High School Yards, Infirmary Street. It is this chapel which became St Michael’s Church in 1882. The Community expanded in 1885, opening a Rescue Preventive Home for girls and women at Joppa, which they ran until 1919. The handful of remaining nuns retired that year to the North College at Millport, where they remained until their return to Edinburgh in 1927. The last of the St Andrew’s sisters died in Oxford in 1949.

The Community of St Peter the Apostle, Westminster

In 1919, the Sisters of this community, originally from Laleham Abbey, took over the running of St Andrew’s Home in Joppa, as founded by the Community of St Andrew. A Chapel was built and consecrated in 1927, and St Andrew’s Home was closed in 1953. In 1932, this same Community took over All Saints’ House in Glen Street (from the Society of All Saints’) and carried on Mission work at All Saints for many years.


St Michael’s Church, Edinburgh

The origins of this congregation are in the Home Mission, started by the Community of St Andrew, and their Mission Chapel. In 1881, the Mission Chapel obtained a constitution, and the Charge was renamed St Michael’s in 1882. The Charge had to wait six years to become an incumbency, when, in 1888, it was able to purchase a church in Hill Square from the Free Church of Scotland and dedicate it to St Michael.

Incumbents of St Michael’s Church

1865 – 1867: served by clergy from St John’s, Princes Street
1867 – 1868: Alexander Thomson Grant
1868 – 1870: Arthur Brinckman
1870 – 1872: John Ludford Gardner
1872 – 1874: James Cranbrooke
1874 – 1875: J. B. Johnson
1875 – 1876: Archibald John Norman Macdonald
1876 – 1878: Barnard Tyrrell Thompson
1878 – 1879: John Wilson
1879 – 1881: George Rogers
1881 – 1891: Thomas Isaac Ball
1892 – 1904: John Faber Schofield
1904 – 1919: Philip Alfred Lempriere
1919 – 1931: Walter Roland Jardine Beattie
1932 – 1939: Basil Edward Joblin
1939 – 1947: Clive Robert Beresford
1948 – 1952: Henry Baylis
1952 – 1964: Charles Henry Scott


St Michael & All Saints’ Church

For nearly a century, both churches continued their own courses, connected only through the religious orders associated with them. In 1965, the decision was taken to close St Michael’s, Hill Square, and, after some discussion as to what should happen to the congregation, the furniture and the money, it was amalgamated with All Saints’ Church, Tollcross.

This union of two congregations provided the church building with its present unusual – and, as far as we can ascertain, unique – dedication to St Michael & All Saints’. Since that time, the church has remained structurally the same, although there have been some changes to the internal fittings, with some of the fixtures from St Michael’s replacing those in All Saints’.

Incumbents of St Michael & All Saints’ Church

1965 – 1971: Ernest William Brady
1971 – 1984: William Gordon Reid
1984 – 1990: Alexander Emsley Nimmo
1990 – 1995: Timothy Alexander Robertson Cole
1995 – 2011: Kevin Pearson
2011 – 2013: David Charles Standen
2014 –         : Martin Douglas Robson


The many interesting features of the church, as it currently exists, can be seen on our Brief Tour of the Church page and illustrated and downloadable (and printable) A5 brochure.

St Michael and All Saints, 28 Brougham Street, Tollcross, Edinburgh, EH3 9JH