Falkirk West Church

Falkirk West Church(SMR 281)

 NS 8852 8001

TIMELINE

1767    Falkirk Relief Church                          1847

1847    West United Presbyterian Church      1899

1899    West United Free Church                   1929

1929    West Church of Scotland                   1990

1767: In October 1767 a meeting at Mumrills Farm decided to petition the Relief Church for inclusion in that body.  The Falkirk congregation was the twelfth to join the movement.   Open-air services started almost straight away on land now occupied by the Old Post Office in Vicar Street.

1774: The first meeting place was constructed,  along with a session house,  on ground  feued from Robert Burns of Kirkhouse,  “near the West Port  of  Falkirk being  a part of the lands called Kill Hill” in 1772.   This was a small plain house with a slated pavilion roof.  There were four doors, one at each end, one in front and one at the right side of a little square pulpit of plain wood without ornament.   The floor was simply the sandy ground.   The walls were low and rough without plaster.   The gallery was steep and almost hit the roof joists at the back.

1799:  The old building was considered too small.   It was dismantled and the materials used in the construction of a new meeting house.   Meetings were held in Tent Park or Green to the south during reconstruction.   The new house was designed by Thomas Stirling, architect, Falkirk, who was a member of the congregation.   It was the last building that he worked on as he died from injuries received when the scaffolding collapsed whilst he was inspecting the roof.  The building was to be 58ft by 78ft, the two main windows 7.5ft by 18ft divided into seven panes in breadth by ten below the circle.   The other windows were 4ft by 8ft.   The seating plan was octagonal, and still survives on plan.   The mason was Adam Moir and stone was obtained from the “Eastern Quarry of Falkirk” from Henry Taylor.

1832: The new session house in front of the church included a hall on the upper floor, which was used for various activities and also housed a library.  A pend along the north gable of the church gave access to the churchyard.  The library was reached by an external stair.

1839: The octagonal seat plan changed to a curved form according to a plan produced by A. Black and gas lighting introduced the following year.

1847: Union with Secession Churches.

1874: Interior suffering from effects of a small fire and neglect.   Windows removed, as was the passage in front of the pulpit.  During renovation work the congregation worshipped in the Corn Exchange and later in the Parish Church (in 1810 the Parish Church had used the West Church in similar circumstances).

1883: The old one storey tiled buildings in front of the church were removed and the old session house with the hall above taken down.  The present front erected in the ornate Classical style, better known by the name modern Italian.   The centre portion projects in the form of a pediment gable supported by bold coupled pilasters, fluted and of the Ionic order, resting on pedestals.  In the centre is the main round arched doorway, and above it is a triplet of arched windows lighting the hall.   On either side,  slightly recessed,  and forming the  two wings  of  the front,  are the windows of classrooms,  and above them  the  two remaining windows of the hall.  The finely executed carvings consist chiefly of floral and architectural ornament.  The only figure subject is the head of King David, forming the keystone of the arch at the main entrance.   The architect was James Boucher of Glasgow who had been responsible for the work carried out in 1874 when the new frontage had been first proposed.   The masons were J & A Reid of Larbert.  Sculptural work by James Young, Glasgow.

1895: The  old building in front of the church was bought and pulled  down  as part  of  the  road  improvements,  enabling  the new front  to  be  seen  with advantage.

1899: Union of Free and United Presbyterian churches.

1923: Electric light introduced.

1990: Congregation joined with that of St Andrews, using the latter’s building.

1991: Old building bought by the Peoples’ Church.

MANSE

1789: Designed by Thomas Stirling, architect, on land bought from Robert Burns extending south from the graveyard to the West Burn.   The mason was William Scott, Parkfoot.

1860: Enlarged by three rooms and some outhouses erected.

1906: New manse built on the Parish glebe in Camelon Road opposite to Arnotdale House at a cost of £2000.  Old manse sold for £1000.

FITTINGS

1771: Four pewter cups, two large pewter flagons inscribed “For the use of the Relief Church of Falkirk.  Decr.  19, 1771. Mr. M.B. Minr”.  Also a heavy pewter plate, “M.B., Falkirk Relief, 1771”.

1801:  Mr Hayworth of Carron designed chandeliers for the church, these were sold to Larbert Parish Church for £12 in 1840 when gas was introduced.

1826: 1200 communion tokens of “Britannia” metal purchased.

1840: Ten new pewter cups and four flagons.

1874: Pulpit moved to the south gable.

1877:  Eight plated cups, two of which were later presented to the mission church at Calabar.

1903: Individual cups introduced.

ORGAN

1896: By Bishop and Sons, London.

BELL

In 1816 it was agreed that the Steeple bell of the Burgh could be rung for denominations without bells of their own.

WINDOWS

1862: The West UP Church in Falkirk was renovated internally in 1862.  On either side of the pulpit the old windows were taken out, and in their stead “stained glass of a chaste and elaborate description, but without any pretension to artistic design” was placed. Two large windows in the west wall installed.   One donated by Colonel Nimmo of Westbank, and the second by the congregation.

1874: The stained glass windows moved to the south gable.

WAR MEMORIAL

See separate entry for War Memorial.

SEATING

1799: Arranged in the octagonal plan of Thomas Stirling for 1500 seats.

1839: Plan changed to curving form by Alexander Black.

1874: Seating reduced to 800.

CHURCHYARD

1819: Permission given by Robert Burns to use the churchyard as a burial ground.   West dyke and south wall rebuilt to 10ft high.  Each lair was 2ft 3ins (later increased to 3ft) broad by 7ft long.   Isabel Steel was the first to be buried in the yard.  The last burial was in 1870.

MINISTERS OF THE WEST RELIEF CHURCH

1770 Boston, Michael Jan 1785
May 1786 Browne, John Jan 1821
Jan 1822 Welsh, William Jan 1856
Nov 1856 Wade, George Jul 1892
Nov 1892 Aitken, James Sep 1926
Apr 1927 Grant, William Morton Nov 1967
May 1968 Reid, Martin Robertson Betsworth Coutts 1990

 

G.B Bailey (2019)