Falkirk Parish Church

(SMR 425)First Falkirk Church

NS 8873 8001

TIMELINE

1929    Falkirk Old Kirk                      1986

1986    Falkirk Old & St Modan’s

2014    Falkirk Trinity

Late 6th century: Oral tradition associates St. Modan with a Celtic cell on the site of the present church which is dedicated to him.

Pre-11th century: The mention of “ablands” in a dispute in 1319 indicates that a Celtic monastic foundation existed here.

1080: “Egglesbreth” (the spotted church) enters the written record.   Known by the Gaelic “Eglais Bhreac” or “Eglais Bhrec”, this had been anglicised.  In the 12th century the Latin synonym “Varia Capella” occurs.  Further corruption led to the name “Faw Kirk”, and eventually to “Falkirk”.

1166: Church bestowed upon Holyrood Abbey.

c1200:  A “sanctuary” or head stone in the church dates to this time.

1242: Church consecrated.

1298: After the Battle of Falkirk the prominent Scots were buried in the kirkyard.

c1450: New church erected.   It was cruciform in plan,  with a tower over  the central  crossing  (the  present  entrance hall) and access  to  the  transepts through  “lofty” arches (N.S.A.).   The south crossing piers are  still  partly visible  and  have broad filleted arrises and masons’ marks,  but most  of  the superstructure  of  the  tower is encased in later work.   The  design  of  the crossing piers,  together  with  a  large roof boss bearing the  arms  of  the Livingstons  of  Callendar  and which may have come from  the  centre  of  the crossing,  suggest  a date in the 15th century.   The boss is now on display at the present church.   The upper part of the tower was of timber covered with slates.

It is evident from the plan and the surviving drawings that the church had been built piecemeal like that at Airth, with aisles added at the patrons’ whim.  The aisle forming the north transept was dedicated to St.  Michael the Archangel; whilst that to the south housed the Chapel of the Knights Hospitallers; both had stone slab roofs.   The south aisle was the burial place of the Livingston family, and was probably erected around the year 1463 when Sir Henry de Livingston was Preceptor of the Order of Hospitallers.   It contained two sets of effigies; one 15th century, and the second late 16th, as well as other family memorials.  The crow-stepped gable was surmounted by a cross and pierced by a large five-light traceried window with a pointed arch.   Angled buttresses on the southern corners added to the ornamentation.   The roof joined the tower at a point higher than either nave or chancel.  The High Altar would have stood in the chancel at the east end of the church (now occupied by the Zetland Tomb).   The raggle of the nave and chancel can still be seen in the walls of the tower.

Post 1590: After the Reformation the interior of the church was altered.   The High Altar was dispensed with and a rail divided the former chancel, now an eastern aisle, from the crossing under the tower.  This new aisle was then used as the burial place for Kerse House (the Zetland Vault perpetuates this usage).  The pulpit would have been centrally placed.

1618: Repairs to the roof of the north aisle and to the steeple.

1633: Walls repaired and re-pointed.

1642: Lofts erected at the east and west ends of the church.  Windows light the new lofts; the east windows were 11.5ft tall and 5ft broad, two western slits 4ft by 5ft, and the new window 4.5ft by 5ft.

1711: Part of the fabric needed propping up.

1738: New steeple designed by William Adam, taking 7211 cartloads of stone.  It included the old clock (scrapped 1883).   It has rusticated quoins and is finished with a pronounced moulded cornice.   It bears an octagonal belfry with bell-cast roof and finial; each of its faces now pierced by a round-headed opening.

1746: Church used as a prison for c300 government troops who were bedded on straw on the floor.

1810: Old church demolished except for the tower, which was retained.

1811: New church opened 8th September.   The plans  had  been  prepared  by GillespieFalkirk Old Parish  Graham  giving  an auditorium church;  Henry Taylor of  Falkirk  was responsible  for the mason work.   The old tower was now central to the south side of the church, with its arches filled in to serve as a porch.  The pulpit was placed in the centre of the north side.  Externally, the angles are emphasised by square pseudo-towers with crenellated tops, the gables surmounted by a matching crow-stepping.  The belfry may have been altered at this time and its flagstaff replaced by a pipe to take smoke from the church’s furnaces.   The cost of the building was nearly £5000.

1872: Parish School handed over to the School Board.

1882: Internal alterations and re-seating.

1892: A two-storey hall designed by R R Anderson added to the south side of the tower.   At the same time a single-storey Guild room was fitted in between the tower and the Zetland Vault; and balanced by a Minister’s Retiring room and Vestry to the west of the tower.  New windows were inserted in the west side of the tower.

1909: Roof of the steeple replaced due to decay.

1926: Boiler house added to the west side of the church.

1950: Internal alterations.  Mahogany pews stripped.

Falkirk with Church1968: The Town Hall to the north of the church demolished undermining the organ chamber of the church, which collapsed and threatened the north wall.   Worship had to be conducted in St. Andrews Church for almost two years whilst the Burgh Council put right the damage.

1972: Lower floor of the hall converted into a meeting room and the Livingstone effigies transferred to the church.

1986: Union with St. Modan’s Church.

1993-5: New church hall opened on the west side of the church.  The N and S gables are finished in grey snecked rubble.

2014: Union with Erskine Church.

MANSE

1745:  Rebuilt on the east side of the churchyard in Manse Place by the town gate.

1851: New manse secured in Maggie Woods Loan.

1956: New manse purchased at 9 Majors Loan.

FITTINGS

1618: 2 Communion cups gifted.

1731: 2 more cups, old ones remodelled.

1892: New pulpit stair.

1896: Pulpit replaced, the central part of the old three-tier pulpit being donated to Laurieston Parish Church.   The dove being transferred to the new canopy.

1950s: New communion table and baptismal font on a raised platform in front of the pulpit.

ORGAN

1884: Harmonium introduced.

1892: Organ installed.  Set in window niches on the north wall on either side of the pulpit, with detached console at the front of the choir.  Cases of pitched pine executed from designs by G Watson of Edinburgh.  Front pipes decorated n gold and colours.  Built by Forster and Andrews of Hull.

1950s: Re-built.

1970: Re-built again as a result of its collapse during the demolition of the Town Hall.

BELL

16th century: Hand bell acquired in 1530.

1663: Bell in bad state of repair and so a new bell brought from Holland known as “the great bell” weighing 248.5 lbs.

1695: Robert Renny paid £6.13.4 for taking down the broken bell and putting up a smaller one cast by John Meikle of Edinburgh.

1740: The two bells re-cast into one bearing the inscription “FOR THE CHURCH OF FALKIRK, 1740/ Ormiston and Cunningham Edini/ FECURUNT.”

1900: Bell turned by Messrs Blackadder, engineers.

1926: Set of thirteen bells gifted by Robert Dollar.   Cast in the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore from Lake Superior Ingot copper and imported Black tin, they weigh 13825 lbs.   Cost $10,500.   They are inscribed as follows:  (1) Presented to the Auld Kirk, Falkirk by Mr. & Mrs. Robert Dollar, San Francisco, 1926.  (2) This is my own, my native land.  (3) Publish good tidings. (4) Sing praises unto our God. (5) Declare His Glory among the nations. (6) Glory to God in the Highest.  (7) Praise God from whom all blessings flow. (8) Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.  (9) Rejoice in the Lord all ye Righteous.  (10) My faith looks up to Thee. (11)  The Lord reigneth; let the Earth rejoice. (12)  Hail to the Lord’s anointed.  (13) Thank God for all His Benefits to us.  The old bell was to be hung in a wooden frame in the vestibule, but was stolen.

WINDOW

See separate entries for stained glass.

WAR MEMORIALS

See separate entry for war memorials

SEATING

1811: Seating for 800 in a semi-circular format.

1882: Seating arrangement changed.

CHURCHYARD

1298: Sir John de Graham and Sir John Stewart of Bonkhill buried in the graveyard after the First Battle of Falkirk.

1629: Kirk yard completely enclosed.

1659: High Street gate constructed with the date on the keystone.

1746: Glengarry buried in the churchyard after the Second Battle of Falkirk.

1820s: Watch houses erected.

1874: Levelled up and ornamental plants introduced.

1959: High Street gate partially re-modelled.

1962: Gravestones cleared away and used as bottoming for the new road into the crematorium.

    MINISTERS OF FALKIRK PARISH CHURCH

1560

Hogge, Andrew

1567

Erskine, James

1574

Forrester Dec 1590

Jul 1593

Bellenden, Adam Jul 1616

Aug 1616

Caldwell, James Oct 1616

1617

Annand, William 1625

Jun 1626

Spittal, Thomas 1646

Nov 1646

Wright, Edward

1663

Callendar, Richard Jan 1686

Sep 1686

Muschet, Archibald 1690

Aug 1693

Crichton, William Sep 1695

Jul 1696

Burnet, William Dec 1714

{Oct 1706

Fullarton, Andrew Apr 1708 as 2nd charge}

Apr 1718

Anderson, James Jan 1732

Aug 1733

Anderson, William May 1741

May 1744

Adams, John Mar 1757

Oct 1759

Aitchison, John May 1787

Oct 1787

Muir, John Jul 1793

May 1794

Wilson, James Jun 1829

Feb 1830

Patterson, John Brown Jun 1835

Jan 1836

Melville, Alexander Dec 1839

Jul 1840

Begg, William Apr 1888

Sep 1888

Carruthers, George Jul 1898

Feb 1899

Loudon, Alexander

Nov 1940

Leslie, Wilson Summers Nov 1965

Jun 1966

Paterson, James Shirlaw
Fisher, Leith M 1989

Jun 1990

Blount, Graham & Sheila

G.B Bailey (2019)