Music has rung out from a mortuary chapel in Arbroath for the first time — against the wishes of its creator.
The stunning 19th century mausoleum in the Western Cemetery was built by Patrick Allan-Fraser after the death of his wife Elizabeth, who died in 1873.
The painter and architect gifted the red sandstone building to the people of Arbroath in 1886 as a non-denominational chapel.
One of his requests in gifting the prominent building to the town was that music not be played.
However, an exception has been made for the first time when the FRIENDS music group performed a concert there on Sunday.
Mr Allan-Fraser and his wife were owners of Hospitalfield House, which is an arts centre in Arbroath.
Next year the chapel’s ownership will transfer from Angus Council to Hospitalfield to help raise funds to restore the building.
Hospitalfield director Lucy Byatt said she thought Mr Allan-Fraser wouldn’t mind music being played for the first time as it gives people more opportunity to see the chapel’s interior.
She said: “When Patrick Allan-Fraser completed the lovely chapel in Arbroath’s Western Cemetery in the late 1870s, he gifted the building to the people to Arbroath.
“He requested that music not be played, but all these years later, as we think about how to make it possible for people to see and experience this wonderful little building, we think that he would understand that music, poetry, readings and much more brings his creation in stone and wood alive.
“When the FRIENDS group approached me to do a concert in the chapel as a fundraiser, I could not have been more delighted and the council also have been supportive.
“I was delighted they had a sell out audience and such a beautiful day for it.”
The building has previously only opened for selected tours, though its exterior is enjoyed by people walking through the cemetery.
It will open to the public as part of the Doors Open Days events on September 2 from 11am to 2pm. There is also a fully-booked tour the following day.
FRIENDS producer James Hutcheson said he had wanted the group to perform in the chapel after visiting during a previous Doors Open Day.
He said: “All the proceeds from the concert will go towards its restoration. The acoustics are excellent.
“A lot of people attending had never been inside before and were absolutely gobsmacked at how beautiful the chapel is.”
Hospitalfield hopes to open the chapel more frequently once its ownership is transferred from Angus Council.
Ms Byatt said: “The building remains in the ownership of Angus Council however the ownership will be transfer to the Hospitalfield Trust in the next six to eight months.
“Angus Council are supporting Hospitalfield’s bid within the Tay Cities Bid to raise the funds to restore the chapel and to make it far more effectively open to the public.”
Labour of love
The baronial style chapel has lots of fascinating details carved into its red sandstone.
In a prominent position over the entrance is a recreation of Elizabeth Allan-Fraser’s funeral procession.
Architect Patrick Allan-Fraser also insisted that the stonework have several ferns which is a reference to his wife’s love of the fernery at their home, Hospitalfield House.
Laura Simpson from Hospitalfield said: “It’s really a labour of love, which took several years to build.
“The decorative crypts on either side hold Patrick and Elizabeth Allan-Fraser on one side and Elizabeth’s parents John and Elizabeth Fraser on the other side of the chapel.
“What always astonishes me when I look round is the ambition and diversity of its design. All of the columns on the top level are completely different. It’s magnificent.”