Bo’ness Parish Church

Old Kirk, Bo’ness

(SMR 283 & 284); NS 9966 8150; NS 9937 8125

TIMELINE:

1636: Congregation established in the town of Bo’ness.

1638: The inhabitants of Bo’ness erected a church at Corbiehall at their own expense, having first consulted with the presbytery.   The minister at Kinneil did duty in this church as well as that at Kinneil.   The building was long and narrow with a single storey – “man height” – the windows were arched.   The mason employed was John Fleeming who received 1200 merks of the total cost of £2,750.  Much of this money was provided by the Sea Box Society who had a loft and stair leading thereto for the accommodation of the “skipperis and mariner­is”

Boness Old Kirk
The original church building with its belfry can be seen in the centre right of this photograph with the churchyard to its right.

1649: A supplication was made to Parliament, and accepted on 9th March, to divide the kirk of Bo’ness from that at Kinneil.

1669: The Kirk and Parish of Kinneil were suppressed.  Kinneil Parish was united to Borrowstouness and the kirk of the seaport declared to be the kirk of the United Parish.

1672-3: The Duke and Duchess of Hamilton built a “spacious isle” for themselves and their tenants at a cost of £1,242.17.4.  James Logan and Robert Andrew did the masonwork.  Later a gallery was added for their colliers.

1761: A proposal to install a second loft above the “sailor’s” loft was reject­ed by representatives of the seamen as it would have obscured the two large windows behind the seating.

1775: The Duke’s aisle of 1672 was taken down and the church almost entirely rebuilt.  The new building was oblong measuring 69 ft by 48 ft inside.  As the Duke contributed to the cost the Hamilton coat-of-arms were placed on the north gable of the church.  It contained galleries and was generally better finished than its predecessor having plastered walls and ceiling.

1776: The new arrangement of the church obscured the windows in the colliers’ loft, which in any case was now too small for them.

1812: Roof largely replaced.

1820: The south wall and part of the east wall had to be rebuilt and the gal­leries reconstructed.

1888: New church opened in Panbrae Road.   The old church was used by the Episcopalian church until the 1920s and converted to the Star picture house.

Bo'ness Parish before steeple
Bo’ness Parish Church before the completion of the tower.

Building began in 1885 and it was opened in 1888.  It is a large Gothic church with Nor­mandy details designed by Messrs Shiels and Thomson, architects, George Street, Edinburgh.  It is constructed of snecked, squared rubble with ashlar dressings, using local stone.  The mason was Robert Russel, Bo’ness.

It is cruciform in plan with additional stair projections flanking the tower.  A four bay nave with aisles has a four stage tower with faceted spire standing at its north end, overlooking the Forth Estuary.  The tower forms the liturgi­cal west of the building, containing a deeply recessed entrance with pointed head and nook shafts.  Above the door is a sculpture of the burning bush, the symbol of the church, and a carving of the Duke of Hamilton’s coat-of-arms, in gratitude of his subscription.  The 175ft tall tower was intended to dominate the coastline, but for many years it stood at only 60ft due to

Bo'ness Parish Church from South East
The Church from the south-east.

lack of fi­nance.  In 1893 £600 was raised to finish it but cost rose to over £900 and so the start of the work was delayed until April of the following year and the tower was completed by Drysdale and Son, builders.  It has paired lancets in the second stage; three tall lancets in the third; and two belfry openings in the fourth.   Angle pinnacles clasp the spire, which has lacarness on alternate faces.   The lancets are also found on the aisles and the lower level of the transepts, with three-light geometric traceried windows to the gallery.   The galleried interior consists of three lofts – the Lairds Loft under the tower; the Mariners in the west transept; and the Miners in the east.   The transept galleries are reached from stairs from the side aisles, passages 9ft wide running on each side from the north entrance.

MANSE

1669: A new manse should have been provided by the Duke and Duchess Hamilton when the Kirk at Kinneil was suppressed, in exchange for the old manse and glebe which were incorporated into the policies of Kinneil House.   This appears to have been delayed until the 1760s.

1813: Manse built on Church Wynd (west of what became Glebe Park) and continued to be used after the new church was built.

FITTINGS

A Breeches Bible is still in the possession of the church.

The 1888 church was finished with pitch pine furnishings.

The oak pulpit inlaid with maple is of Dutch origin and reflects the trade links of the port of Bo’ness.  It was transferred from the older church and now stands in the north corner of the east transept, reached from the vestry door leading into the chancel by a short wooden wheel stairway.

The octagonal baptismal font with its red stone columns was made for the new church in 1888.

A model of a ship thought to date to c1780 hung, as a right of the seamen, above the Sailors Loft or gallery in the older church.   It was transferred by the Sea Box Society to the new church in 1889, in which year it was re-rigged and painted by Captain Campbell of Larbert.   The model represents a merchant ship called the ‘Muirhouse’, which was connected with eastern trade.   It bears the same name as one of the church’s prime possessions in the town.  The ship appears to be disguised as a naval ship for protection.   The masts were repaired again in 1960.

BELL

As well as possessing the bell from the kirk of Kinneil a bell was brought from the older Bo’ness church, being retouched by Mr Cochrane on that occasion.  It bears an inscription.

WINDOW

See separate entry for stained glass from Bo’ness.

SEATING

1820: This church could seat over 950 people.

1888: The church was designed for 1250 people sitting, with over 100 in each of the three galleries.

CHURCHYARD

Land south of the church was bought at an early date for use as a burial ground.   It was divided into two by the construction of Church Wynd some time before 1760 in order to provide easier access to the church for the Hamilton family.   The  graveyard  at  Kinneil was disused  by  1670  and  traditionally inhabitants  of  this  parish  were  buried in the southern  part  of  the  new churchyard  whilst  the  people of the seaport were  generally  placed  in  the northern part, nearer the church.

Shortly after the new church was opened a new burial ground was created a small distance to the south of it with entrances on to Panbrae Road and Dundas Street.  This was later extended to the south with a new entrance on Dean Road.

MINISTERS OF BO’NESS PARISH CHURCH

Nov 1648 Waughe, John Sep 1670
Sep 1672 Hunter, Robert Apr 1676
Sep 1672 Inglis, John
1677 Hamilton, James Feb 1685
1685 Thomson, William Sep 1689
Dec 1687 Potter, Michael 1692
Jan  1694 Brand, John Jul   1738
Apr  1739 Brand, William Nov 1745
May 1747 Baillie, Patrick Sep 1791
May 1792 Morton, John May 1794
Apr  1795 Rennie, Robert Jul   1833
Feb 1834 MacKenzie, Kenneth Nov 1867
Apr  1868

Robertson-Fullerton,                 Henry M.

Dec 1895
Jul   1896 Gardner, Robert Feb 1925
Sep 1925 Smith, William James Sep 1933
1934 Cameron, Lewis Legertwood Legg Oct  1936
Jul   1937 Bayne, John Ferguson Nov 1957
Jun  1958 Robertson, John Archibald Aug 1962
Aug 1963 King, Robert Maurice Nov 1970
Dec 1971 Sutherland, William 1994
1994 McPherson, William
2018 MacQuarrie, Amanda