The architect of the church was Sir Robert Rowand Anderson. He was Scotland’s leading architect in the late Victorian/Edwardian era. As well as for buildings such at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh, he is remembered both as an educator and for unifying various regional architectural organisations into the Institute of Architects in Scotland.
Rowand Anderson was born in Edinburgh in 1834 and initially trained in law. Whilst serving with the Corps of the Royal Engineers, he studied construction and architectural design. In particular, he had the opportunity to assist in restoration work in Edinburgh Castle.
Later he worked in England under Sir George Gilbert Scott who in 1862 commissioned Anderson to superintend the erection of St James’ Episcopal Church, Leith. 1862 also saw the death of John Henderson, one of Scotland’s ecclesiastical, particularly Episcopalian Church, architects. This left the way open for Anderson’s newly formed Edinburgh practice to concentrate on church building. After a brief partnership in 1873 with David Bryce, it broadened its range, receiving commissions from private individuals and institutions. It quickly developed into a very successful firm with considerable output and acting as a springboard for many architects of the next generation.
In 1902 Rowand Anderson was knighted and in 1916 was awarded the RIBA gold medal. He died in 1921.
Building St Augustine’s Episcopal Church:
1789 The Grammar School was built in High Street by public subscription.
1837 It was estimated that there were as many as 35 Episcopalians in Dumbarton.
1848 A small body of Scottish Episcopalians leased an upper room in Church Street as a place of worship. It was dedicated to St Patrick.
1856 The congregation erected a small Chapel and Parsonage on the Cardross Road, not far from Dalreoch. It was dedicated to St Luke to meet the spiritual needs of a considerable influx of English families who had come to work at the Forge and Foundry in Dennystown and who were housed in the neighbourhood.
1865 The foundation stone was laid for a new Burgh Academy, (to replace the Grammar School), and Burgh Hall on the opposite side of Church Street. Half the cost was subscribed by Peter Denny and John MacAusland.
1873 The present Episcopalian Church, and a Rectory were built on the site of the old Grammar School, between High Street and Church Place. It was dedicated to St Augustine (of Hippo). Dr Stephen, the Incumbent of St Luke’s from 1858, initiated the work.
The church was designed to seat 550 persons. Most of the cost of the building was provided by Capt R D Buchanan of Auchentorlie. However, the chief contractor became insolvent at an early stage of building, and his failure obliged the Vestry to continue the work during a period of exceptionally high prices at an additional cost of £2,000 of borrowed money.
1899 The burden of debt was at last removed, and the church was consecrated on 27th August.
1899-1923 The interior of the church was enriched and architectural features included in the original plans were completed.
Reredos and altar – donated by Major R E Findlay and his two brothers in memory of their parents.
Tiling of the sanctuary and chancel floors – Mr & Mrs Peter Denny
Stained glass window by the font – subscription from Sunday School children.
Stained glass window in west aisle – gift of George Francis Frizell
Brass eagle lectern – gift of George Brown in memory of his sister
Stained glass window in west window – the congregation’s memorial to Dr Stephen, incumbent of St Luke’s from 1858 and Rector of St Augustine’s until his death in 1901
During this period, the congregation also raised funds for other parts of the interior of the church, including new choir stalls, (the old ones going to St Gabriel’s Mission, Govan), rood screen, stained glass in the east windows and carving of the stone capitals.
Between 1901 and 1912, during the Incumbency of Revd C R Robertson, new halls were built at the rear of the church, where a portion of the old Rectory was taken down. A new Rectory was acquired in Kirktonhill. Electric light was introduced into the church. These involved the congregation heavily in a debt which was liquidated mainly through the generosity of Mr Peter Denny.
1992-1997 In more recent years work has had to continue in maintaining the fabric of St Augustine’s Church.
The old church halls became unsafe and were demolished, and the church roof was made water-tight. Inside the church, woodworm infested panelling has had to be removed and the interior stonework cleaned and re-pointed. The rotten nave floor, along with the silt and builder’s rubbish under it, has been removed with both the joists and the floorboards having to be replaced.
1997-Onwards The work continued through The Restoration of St Augustine’s Church. The stained glass was restored, the chancel floor was lifted, rebuilt and retiled. Funds to build an entrance porch, and to introduce access and facilities for the disabled was found, and in August 2003 we re-opened with a flourish to show the world how beautiful our building actually is!
We trust that this beautiful building will be available for worship and for everyone in Dumbarton to enjoy for many years to come. The building is beautifully restored to its former glory and is open again as a place for prayer praise and adoration!