Reformation in Blantyre

In the 16th century, the Protestant reformation was sweeping Europe led by the likes of Martin Luther and the Scotsman John Knox, taught by Calvin, who has special significance for the Reformation in Scotland. Indeed Knox’s statue resides outside the Church of Scotland Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh.

It must be remembered that most of the first Protestant leaders like Luther and Knox had at one time been Roman Catholic priests. As the Reformation worked its way Northwards the Prior of Blantyre Priory, William Chirnside, embraced the ideas of the Protestant Reformation turning his back on Catholicism. Prior William (and presumably his whole community) left the Priory which became a ruin and has now all but vanished in the North part of Blantyre on the Clyde. Abandoning the building probably utilised for several hundred years, in 1567, William Chirnside moved up to Kirkton (High Blantyre top cross) and the services in the Collegiate Church there now became ‘protestant’. It should be noted that there wasn’t really any established community in that particular area at the time and he very much set the scene for the expansion of Blantyre around the Kirkton area. The total population of Blantyre at the time was only a few hundred people, scattered over the Parish.

In 1791, the parish church, as it now was, recorded as ‘being of great antiquity and in use since the reformation’ was demolished to make way for a new church built in 1793, seating 370. This was replaced in 1863 by the present church to seat 800. This became known as ‘Blantyre Parish Church’ as it was the only church in Blantyre. However, with the building of Stonefield Parish, it became known as ‘High Blantyre Parish Church’ and in 1951 was named ‘Blantyre Old Parish Church’, which is its current name.

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