St Mary’s Church, Lybster
St Mary’s Church dates from 1836 and was designed by William Davidson, an architect from an old established Caithness farming family. The church was built to an austere classical design with symmetrical pointed arch openings and a bellcote at the apex of the gable facing the Main Street. Disused since the 1980s, the church is in a semi-derelict condition having briefly been used as a joiner shop and the interior has been stripped out, although the raked gallery at ﬁrst ﬂoor level remains. Fragments of the interior decorative scheme survive, including a stencilled frieze in the entrance vestibule, wood grained panelling and trompe l’oeil arcading to the front gallery.
A community planning day was organised in 2007 to identify ideas for reuse. As a result of this, a potential end user North Lands Creative Glass, a charity which operates a glass-making facility opposite St Mary’s was found. The preferred scheme involved retail space and exhibition area at ground ﬂoor level with four lettable studios located under the gallery, plus kitchen, toilet and ofﬁce facilities. The ﬁrst ﬂoor would accommodate two large design studios and toilets with an archive/general storage area located on a new mezzanine ﬂoor.
Planning Permission and Listed Building Consent for conversion of the church to three dwellings having been granted to convert the disused church to an art gallery with dwelling/ store the external fabric has been repaired.
Architectural Heritage Fund in respect of an options appraisal grant.
Funding was secured from the following organisations: