The present Erskine Church building was erected in 1905 to the design of Falkirk’s leading architect, Alexander Black. The design is ‘perpendicular gothic’, a popular style at the time, with buttressed square bell tower and handsome west facing gable with a five-light window above a double doorway with wrought iron gates. The building is cruciform in plan and had seating when opened for around 750 worshippers. The site at the junction of Cockburn Street and Hodge Street was purchased from Mr W. Bowie Young and the cost of erecting the church was just over £9,000. The mason work was undertaken by Messrs Ramsay using cream coloured sandstone from Eastfield Quarry. There are stained glass windows by the designers Stephen Adam (1905) and Alexander Strachan (1937) and a pipe organ by Norman and Beard. At the time of moving to this building the congregation was called Erskine United Free Church, being part of the reunion of 1900 which had brought the old United Presbyterians together with the Free Church of Scotland.
The congregation first came into existence as part of the breakaway from the Church of Scotland inspired by the Rev. Ebeneezer Erskine of Stirling who objected to the power of lay patrons to impose Ministers on congregations. This first ‘secession’ took place in 1733 and five years later, in December 1738, seven elders from Falkirk Parish Church along with four others formed a Falkirk congregation of the new Church which was at first known as The Falkirk Associate Congregation. At first the supporters of the church met at Lochgreen, and later at Woodend, Randiford and Easter Seamores but in 1742 they decided to purchase land in Horsemarket Lane, on which they erected a large plain building with room for 950 worshippers. This was the Silver Row building which was to serve until 1905. For years the building seemed to have neither wooden floor nor ceiling but in 1798 there were significant improvements to the internal structure with new pews and pulpit. In 1816 there were further changes with the building being widened by 12 feet, the external walls raised, and the galleries replaced. The church now had room for over 1,200 people. There were further changes in 1868 which reduced the seating but were said to improve the comfort of those attending services. A decade later a church hall was built at right angles to the church across the north gable. It later served as the Olivet Gospel Hall. To the west of the church was the graveyard which was removed in the early 1960s when the Silver Row area was being developed as the Callendar Centre.
Back in 1747 the new congregation had suffered another split with a group known as ‘Antiburghers’ leaving to form their own church. They eventually occupied the Tattie Kirk in the Cow Wynd. The remaining group, the ‘Burghers’ stayed in Silver Row and in 1847 in accordance with a national union, joined with another breakaway group, the Relief Church, to form the United Presbyterians. The Erskine group in Silver Row became the East United Presbyterian (U.P) Church and the Relief congregation became the West United Presbyterian Church. This is the way things remained until the union with the Free Church in 1900. Five years later came the move to the new church as already described. The old building was sold in 1910 for £770 and subsequently became the Electric and then the Roxy theatres. It was demolished in the early 1960s along with the hall.
Ian Scott (2006)
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