The late Victorian period was one of considerable material and
ecclesiastical prosperity. The two congregations more than recovered
the ground they had lost in the nationwide Disruption of 1843, and a
greater liberality both of mind and of pursuit lead to the introduction
of stained glass windows and pipe organs in both parts of the church.
Considerable additions were made to the communion silver and other
adornments were provided. Some of these were designed and made by local
artists and craftsmen, such as Douglas Strachan, James Cromar Watt and
William Kelly. This trend was greatly fostered by the Aberdeen (later,
Scottish) Ecclesiological Society. The founder-president, Dr James
Cooper, was minister of the East Kirk.
Within six years, the Society had a membership approaching 300 and
members spread across the world from Toronto to Burma; and from
Inverness to South and Central Africa.
Among members of the Society from the West Kirk were the artist
brothers, George and Alexander Reid. George became the President of the
Royal Scottish Academy and was knighted in 1891. Several of their
drawings and paintings depicting parts of the Kirk are on display
around the building.
Towards the end of Dr Cooper’s ministry – during which the Kirk had
been used as a prison for witches, a plumbers’ warehouse and a meeting
place for the Presbytery of Aberdeen – a thorough restoration of St
Mary’s Chapel was undertaken. The original floor level was reinstated,
and its walls were paneled with much of the surviving 16th and 17th century carved woodwork. A granite font and holy table, both embellished with enamels, were also introduced.
In 1898, the Chapel was rededicated during the course of the
celebration of the fourth centenary of Bishop Elphinsone’s act of
dedication of the church.