The Early Years
St Mary’s was founded by the Rev. Frederick George Lee, who was previously Rector of St John’s, Crown Terrace, Aberdeen, in 1863. He and his churchwardens at St John’s had a dispute which was based on Lee’s High Church affiliations, and Lee left, taking a large proportion of the poorer part of the congregation with him.
He set up a chapel, already dedicated to St. Mary, in an old Baptist church in Correction Wynd, and the congregation worshipped there until Lee bought land in the newly laid out Carden Place to build the present church.
He designed the church himself, helped by the architect Archibald Elliot, and opened it as a proprietary chapel on 30th March, 1864.
Lee bankrupted himself with building work, and Bishop Thomas Suther, who had clashed with other High Church clergy, refused to consecrate the new church until the debt was cleared and Lee toned down the High Church decoration. Lee left for London, where he eventually converted to Roman Catholicism.
Trustees were appointed and Thomas Dove Dove was selected by the congregation as their next incumbent, and though he was never sanctioned by the Bishop, he did manage to persuade Bishop Suther to licence, but not to consecrate, the building on 3rd December 1865.
A series of incumbents followed, some High Church, some more moderate, often afflicted with ill health brought on by the Aberdeen weather, and the debt remained, sometimes worse, sometimes better. J.M. Danson in particular applied himself to clearing it, but moved away before his task was complete.