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Torphichen Kirk

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Avonbridge Parish Church of Scotland

History of the Church

 

Avonbridge Church has had many changes in denominational name since it was first built in 1804. Before there was a building, there was a congregation. There had been about 80 seceders in the parish of Slamannan as well as 70 in Muiravonside and 156 in Torphichen in the late 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century.

In 1800 about 59 people in those parishes applied to the Associate Burgher Church to have services in the Avonbridge district, but the request was not granted at that time.

Early in 1803, a meeting was held in the house of William Roberts, Bridgehill. A committee of management was formed with John Hardy, Boagston, as preses, and William Black, Drumtassie, as Clerk. It was decided that they would have their own church in Avonbridge but they had to decide which denomination to join; either the Associate Burgher Synod or the Synod of Relief. The history of the origin of those denominations can be found in any Scottish Church history book.

The preferences of the people of the parishes were tested. A majority of 97 favoured the Associate Burgher Synod, and so the committee of management petitioned that denomination to send someone to conduct Sunday services. At the same time it was decided to build a church on the site where the present church now stands. The first service was held on 13th March 1803, in a barn belonging to Patrick Gray, Middlestrath. That service was conducted by Reverend John Brown, minister of the Associate Burgher church, Longridge.

The Associate Burgher Presbytery of Stirling and Falkirk agreed to the request of the Avonbridge people and promised to send preachers to conduct Sunday services as often as they could. That acceptance of Avonbridge as a congregation of the Associate Burgher Synod took place on 5th April 1803. To help the congregation some members of the Associate Burgher Church in Bathgate were transferred to Avonbridge. At first the congregation worshipped in a tent which was made for this use by James Taylor of Moss-side.

On the 4th June 1804 the congregation asked for permission from the Associate Burgher Presbytery of Stirling and Falkirk to call a minister of their own. This was agreed and so the congregation went ahead with a unanimous call to the Reverend John Craig. The first call was signed by 78 members and 33 adherents. The new minister was to receive 70 per annum and a manse. The first manse was in Blackston Road, Avonbridge.

At this time the church was being built by Charles Shaw of Dalquhairn and Robert Waddell, Holehouse. The total cost of the first church was 198. The church was ready when Mr Craig was ordained and inducted to Avonbridge Church on 6th November 1804. Although Mr Craig was plagued by illness, the congregation must have increased because in 1815 galleries were erected which brought the seating capacity of the church up to 308.

In 1820 the church became a congregation of the United Secession Church, when most of the Burghers and Anti-Burghers came together to form the United Secession Church. In 1834 the membership of the church was 128 with 54 members from Muiravonside, 30 from Slamannan and 44 from Torphichen. The stipend then was 67, and the church had a debt of 165, which was wiped out in 1845. Before that date the congregation suffered from some trouble from Falkirk and Bathgate. Many of the members had been drawn away by the preaching of the Reverend James Morrison who had been brought up in Bathgate where his father had been the minister of the Old Secession Church. This led to the formation of the Evangelical Union Church in Avonbridge in 1844.

In 1847 the denominational name of the Avonbridge Church underwent another change when the United Secession Church and Synod of Relief joined together to form the United Presbyterian Church.

During the ministry of Reverend John L Robertson BD, a mission was started at Crossroads in 1889 which continued for a number of years. A Sunday School was also established there. In 1889 it was agreed that a new church should be built. On 11th September 1889 the foundation stone of the new church was laid by J C Bolton Esq., the Member of Parliament for Stirlingshire. It was built on the site of the first church and had seating for 200 while the small gallery at the west end of the church seated 60. At the east end of the church a hall was built to hold 70 people and under the same roof was the minister's vestry and other conveniences. The church was opened and dedicated by the Reverend John Smith, Broughton Place, Edinburgh. At that time there was still a debt of 160 outstanding. This debt was cleared off 5 years later after a successful bazaar, opened by the Member of Parliament, J McKillop Esq.

Since 1889 the congregation became part of the Church of Scotland and on 1 January 1971 was linked with Torphichen Kirk, with the Rev Tom Crichton then Minister of Torphichen Kirk becoming the first minister of the linked charge.

 

 

Updated by 22 January 2012