Many pre-Reformation cathedrals were founded on the pattern of monasteries and religious foundations, and so they have cathedral closes, houses and cloisters to support a sizeable residential community. Patterns of use have changed though, and the Victorian cathedrals had little need for extensive monastic infrastructure, so the buildings around St Mary’s Cathedral were built or adapted for the use and purposes of a modern worshipping community.
Old Coates House
This is one of the most notable buildings around the Cathedral from an historical viewpoint. It was built between 1610 and 1615 by John Byres, and was restored in 1830 by Sir Patrick Walker. It belonged to Barbara and Mary Walker, and was part of their gift to the Scottish Episcopal Church which enabled St Marys’ Cathedral to be built. For some time it was the home of the Cathedral Choir School, which became St Mary’s Music School in 1971. When the Music School moved in 1995 to the larger Coates Hall nearby, Old Coates House became the Episcopal Church’s Theological Institute. It now provides premises for a local nursery school and some housing.
The Song School
This is the small building beyond Old Coates House to the north of the Cathedral. It was built in the 1880s for the Cathedral Choir’s daily rehearsals and it has been in use almost continuously since then. Its walls are decorated with stunning murals by Phoebe Anna Traquair which illustrate the biblical canticle (song) often known as the Benedicite.
The Chapter House
The Chapter House takes its name from the place in ancient Cathedrals where meetings of the Cathedral Chapter would take place (so-called because the meetings were usually preceded by the reading of a chapter from the Bible). This beautiful room is still used for meetings of all kinds, and also for children’s groups on