An architectural survey of St Mary’s Chapel, Blairs, carried out in December 2021 on behalf of the Blairs College Chapel Trust has revealed a catalogue of interior and exterior defects, which it is estimated will cost over £2,000,000 to repair.
St Mary’s College, Blairs, was a junior seminary from 1829 to 1986. Although the surrounding land and seminary buildings were sold, the chapel has remained in use as a place of worship.
Bishop Hugh Gilbert, the Bishop of Aberdeen and Chair of the Blairs College Chapel Trust, said:
“The increasing difficulty of meeting the regular running costs of St Mary’s Chapel, Blairs, as well recent identification of further significant problems within the fabric of the Chapel has caused the Blairs College Chapel Trust to give careful consideration to the long-term viability of the building. The Trust, with the help of the parish and other sources, has worked hard over many years to find funding and maintain the property as a place of worship. Regrettably, however, rising running costs, a diminished number of parishioners and a catalogue of serious defects in the building brought to light by the recent survey make it difficult to see how the Chapel can be sustained for its present purposes. The estimated costs of rectifying the current problems exceed £2,000,000, a figure beyond the means of the Trust and, indeed, of the Diocese of Aberdeen or other interested parties.
“While the church has capacity for 250 to 300 people, currently around 30 people attend Mass each Sunday, with only some 20 residing within the parish. Fortunately, St Mary’s is located in close proximity to the parishes of St. Francis, Mannofield and Our Lady of Aberdeen, Kincorth, both of which are around a 15-minute drive away.
“With these considerations in mind and after due consultation, the Trustees have come to the view that the building will have to close permanently. Given the beauty of the church and the historical connection with the former junior seminary, they are fully aware of the sadness this will cause. However, the Trustees know that many will also understand the physical and financial realities in play here. They can also offer the reassurance that nearby parishes will be able to accommodate the needs of the parishioners without undue hardship.
“In order to allow time for any further considerations to emerge, no final decision will be taken until 30 September 2022.”