Old Kirk, Bo’ness
(SMR 283 & 284)
NS 9966 8150; NS 9937 8125
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”
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
See separate entry for Bo’ness Old Parish Church Windows.
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.
See separate entry for war memorial.
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|
Robertson-Fullerton, Henry M.
|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|
G.B. Bailey (2019)