Old Parish History: There’s been 3 parish churches in High Blantyre over the years. We all know the more “modern” Old Parish Kirk currently there since 1863, but here’s a picture of the 2nd one (which lasted from 1793 – 1863). The 1st church, a predecessor to the one pictured in Kirkton Graveyard was certainly there as early as 1567 for documents exist saying the Prior or early minister Chirnsyde took charge.
The first 2 churches were located within the kirk yard itself. Only the current church was located outwit the walls, in a more westerly position. The Old Kirk graveyard in High Blantyre appears on maps in the 1700s but may have been there a lot earlier with unmarked graves. The oldest marked grave is Rev John Herriot, 90, born 1575 when Mary Queen of Scots was on the Throne! Historical note ref ‘Glasgow Ancient & Modern’ pg 117. “7th May 1587 called upon “Smiddy of Blantyre to mend the Hie Kirk Knock.” (The knocker on the door!) Wouldnt it be brilliant to travel in time just for a minute to see this old building in its original context with just fields and tracks around it.
The first church was described as “a beautiful and substantial building” but no record exists of when it was first built. Likely to have been a few hundred years old by 1785 Rev Stevenson wrote, “it bears evidence marks of great antiquity and is now in the most deplorable condition“. Just 7 years later in 1792 the building was condemned and declared unfit for worship due to decay and rot. It was then pulled down in 1792 and the 2nd one built a year later (pictured). Of note, this would have been the Church David Livingstone himself was baptised in. Generations of people in Blantyre didn’t like the 2nd church. Despite looking pretty in the picture, it was allegedly not as grand as the first building.The architectural style of the first church was described as “akin to the same style of the large Church in Bothwell (St Brides?)”. The Prestbytry of Hamilton condemned it in 1792, to the uproar of the 500 or so residents of Blantyre at the time! A significant year for Blantyre with Monteith taking ownership of Dales Mill at Blantyre Works and the creation years of “The Village”.
Interestingly, at the Kirkton Graveyard, the tomb of Lord Blantyre was kept in the same spot and not moved but covered over with concrete in the 1940s which can still be seen in the kirkyard towards the south east. The current church was designed with the wishes of people of Blantyre to revert to having a substantial stone building that would last centuries. I think they got their wish!