The Parish Church - A Short History

Strathblane Parish Church (from Guthrie Smith) 18th Century print from Guthrie Smith showing the Parish Church with the village of Edenkill in the foreground - Edenkill means a place sloping towards the church in celtic

By the 13th century Strathblane, according to Guthrie Smith, was a regular parish, provided with a church, endowed with tithes or teinds and further enriched by valuable lands. There may have been a chapel near Netherton dedicated to St Kessog or MacKessog after whom the present RC Church is named. There seems to be no doubt however, that the present church occupies the same site as the Parish Church of the 15th century. Guthrie Smith comments that presbytery and session records are unclear about whether or not this church became the first protestant church in 1560 or if it had been replaced by another building. What is known is that the church that existed in the early 18th century was described as a "mean building - never lathed or plastered... a sorry appearance for a place of worship."

Present Church
In 1799 Dr Gibb the minister brought up the subject of a new church before a willing and liberal body of heritors and in 1803 the present church was built. The architect was a James Brash of Glasgow and the church was built with stone quarried locally from Kirklands Quarry, which is the old quarry up at Loch Ardinning. The contract price was £1,130 and £256 for Sir Archibald Edmonstone's gallery and apartment. It is noted that both costs were exceeded. The church was finished and ready for occupation by the 1st January 1804.

Churchyard
There were improvements made in the churchyard about this time. The wall was built or repaired, and some new ground taken in at the back of the church. The mausoleum of the Edmonstone family was also built. According to Guthrie Smith the oldest date on any gravestone is 1482. Mary Countess of Angus, sister to King James the First of Scotland and wife of Sir William Edmonstone of Duntreath, who died in 1689 is interred inside the church, the place being marked by a plaque on the pew.

1870 Renovations
While this new church was a great improvement on the previous one it was described as being very plain, the ceiling too flat and the seats plain and uncomfortable! The Edmonstone Family substantially altered the church in 1870. The improvements made were: the increasing of the pitch of the roof, the rearrangement of the belfry and recasting of the bell, the alteration of the east window and the pulpit; the opening up of the two side galleries to the right and left of the old Duntreath loft, and the seating of all three, finally the plaster work and painting of the whole church. The other heritors reseated the area of the church with comfortable new pews, the aisles being reduced at the same time from one in the middle and one close to either wall, to the present two thus both improving the appearance of the church and gaining a certain number of sittings.
There were also changes to the service. The practise had been to have a long service in the morning with a break for an hour when the privileged few went to the manse and the others to visit friends or refresh themselves in the Kirkhouse Inn before returning for a further long service in the afternoon. This frequently resulted in the young becoming quite agitated as they were not as able as their elders to fall asleep calmly. Fortunately Dr Pearson the then minister managed to work out a compromise that was accepted by all.
Dr Pearson also carried out further improvements to the churchyard. He ensured there was a gravel path to the church door, the tombstones were all on one level, the Craigend Cage, an eight feet cage covering the burying place of the Smiths of Craigend, was removed due to it being an eyesore. The guard house where watchers were stationed to guard the bodies of the newly dead from the body snatchers was also removed. According to Guthrie Smith when all the work was finished everybody wondered why it had not been done before as it was a great improvement.

Strathblane Parish Church

The KirkHouse Inn was established in 1601. Until the 19th century it was located to the west of the church gates and was no doubt a welcome place to go after a sermon especially as then it was normal practice for the minister to preach for several hours. The inn was often the scene of very scandalous and improper proceedings. In 1774 the keeper of it was in open rebellion against the minister and session. The session tried to bring him to repentance and bound him over to the presbytery. He conducted his own defence and brought counter charges against the minister and stated "he would not allow the minister's hens to eat his corn!" Matters came to an end when after a presbytery inquiry, he was laid under the sentence of lesser excommunication till he should repent and humble himself.

Allocation of seats
When the present church was built in 1803, the seats were allocated and according to Guthrie Smith this was still in force in 1886. The majority of the pews were allocated to Duntreath with others being allocated to Ballewan, Easterton of Mugdock, Middleton of Mugdock, Westerton of Mugdock, Craigend, Dumbrock, Craigbarnet, Carbeth. Leddriegreen had a number of pews where the choir sits now and the Duke of Montrose had a number of pews where the organ is now located. The Edmonstones of Duntreath had their own gallery. At the front of the three aisles were free pews. Even then people did not like sitting at the front of the church and would only sit there if they had no allocated seat.

The new church organ

In March 1910 the new church organ was dedicated. It was installed by Messrs Ingram & Co, Edinburgh in the southeast corner of the church and enclosed in a case of fumed oak, designed in harmony with the structure and furnishings of the church. The installation of the organ had been a mammoth task. The cost had been met by subscription. The church had been closed for six weeks prior to the dedication to allow installation and services were held at the United Free Church. Given the bitterness that had existed following the disruption of 1843 it would appear that there was now a much greater spirit of unity between the two churches, fostered no doubt by the respective ministers of both churches. Judging by the numbers of letters that passed between the church and Messrs Ingram the task had not been without incident and proved to be more complicated than first thought.

The great day came and Thomas Berry Esq. Mus. BAC. presided at the instrument at both services while the Rev J.H.Dickie MA New Kilpatrick Parish Church preached at the morning service. At the evening service the Rev W.B.Moyes and Rev T. Johnson, United Free Church Minister preached. Both services were well attended.

The new organ also had some unexpected problems. Operated by water, the supply used also served Edenkill. The water supply to Edenkill could be stopped if the organ was played as the Church had the first call on the supply. This rarely happened since if the water supply was running low and it could not be used to power the organ, a member of the congregation had to pump the bellows by hand! Matters were resolved when the organ was operated by electricity.

Stained Glass

The Parish Church is well endowed with stained glass and a comprehensive study has been made of this by the Rev Alex Fleming, minister of the parish church from 1982 to 1995. All the windows in the church date from the last thirty years of the nineteenth century or first decade of the twentieth century and are as follows:

The Mary Elizabeth Edmonstone Window

The John Guthrie Smith Window

The William Smith Window

The Edmonstone Family Memorial Window

The Sir Archibald Edmonstone Window

The Rev Dr James Pearson Window

The Sir William Edmonstone Window

The Ministers

The following have been ministers in the present Parish Church :

1791-1809 Dr Gavin Gibb
1809-1835 Dr William Hamilton
1835-1841 Rev Hamilton Buchanan
1842-1873 Rev Dr James Pearson
1874-1886 Rev Daniel John Ferguson
1886-1933 Rev William B Moyes
1934-1948 Rev Frederick Kennedy
1948-1955 Rev Philip McCardel
1955-1969 Rev George Lugton
1969-1982 Rev Malcolm Ritchie
1982-1995 Rev Alex F Fleming
1995-2010 Rev Alex Green
2010-2011 No Minister (Caretaker minister Rev Elizabeth Sutherland)
2011- Rev Richard Begg

©Alison Dryden, Strathblane Heritage Society 2004