The current building dates from 1909, but Crown Court Church has been on this site since 1719.
The church originally owned the whole block of ground on the corner of Russell Street and Crown Court, with the original church facing into Crown Court. However, in the early 20th century the Fortune Theatre bought the corner site where it now stands. Crown Court Church retained a right of access from Russell Street and the entrance corridor, lined with portraits of past ministers, dovetails with the stage of the Fortune Theatre.
The current building was designed by the architect Eustace Balfour, of Balfour and Turner, and is Grade Two listed. It is built of red brick with Portland stone dressings and a slate roof; the interior in Free Style. The gallery and supporting pillars are an early example of the use of steel framing encased in wood.
On your left as you enter the sanctuary from the Russell Street corridor is a stone plaque commemorating the “raising of the Kirk of the Crown of Scotland”, laid on 12 May 1909 by former Prime Minister Arthur Balfour MP (Eustace Balfour’s eldest brother).
Next to that is Crown Court’s Grant of Arms, issued by the Lord Lyon King of Arms on 11 November 1975. On the shield are the Burning Bush, emblem of the Church of Scotland; the galleon of Lorne, acknowledging the efforts of the Campbells of Argyll towards raising the funds to rebuild the church in 1909; and below that the Portcullis – emblem of the City of Westminster where we are located. Further down the same wall are two stone memorials, which are the only remnants of the previous building.
Our baptismal font is made of Iona marble, reputed to have been the last quarried on the island, and the Communion Table has an inset of the same stone.
The 36-stop, three manual organ was built in 1909 by Bevington, rebuilt in 1961 by Kingsgate Davidson and renovated in 1992. It is one of a number of church organs funded by grants from the Scottish / American philanthropist and steel magnate Andrew Carnegie.
The arms above the Communion Table are the Royal Arms of King George I, who was monarch when the first church was built in 1719. The white horse in the lower right quarter represents the house of Hanover. Below the Arms, the St Andrew’s Cross with the thistles intertwined represents Scotland and the roses represent the link with England.
Our pulpit, with its passageway underneath, is modern and was donated by the grand-daughters of John Cumming (1807-1881), perhaps our best-known minister.
Looking upwards, facing the communion table, you will see three sets of colours. Closest to you are the colours of the Royal Caledonian Schools, whose residential facilities in Bushey closed in 1998, although the organisation itself continues as the Royal Caledonian Education Trust. In the middle are the colours of the 1st Battalion the Scots Guards, laid up at the fortieth anniversary of the Armistice in November 1958. Furthest away are the colours of the 2nd Battalion the Scots Guards, laid up in September 2003.
On the rear wall is a plaque in memory of the soldiers of the Ninth (Scottish) Division who died in the Great War and subsequent conflicts. This is the only memorial to the Division apart from the cairn of undressed stones at Point du Jour, near Arras, in the Pas de Calais. There is also a memorial to the 29 members of the congregation who fell in the Great War.
On the left of the Russell Street door is a memorial to James Braidwood, an elder and Sunday School Superintendent who was also the First Superintendent of the London Fire Brigade. He died while fighting the “Great Fire of 1861” at Tooley Street, remembered as second only to the Great Fire of London itself.
A further plaque commemorates James Mein, a pew holder at Crown Court who subsequently became leader and elder of the congregation at Ebenezer in New South Wales, the first Presbyterian church built in Australia.