Polmont North Parish Church

1844 to 1969

Polmont Old History Book Church in 1750 ©
THE decision to build a new church was taken for a variety of sound reasons - the old Kirk was damp, ill-arranged and too small to seat all the communicants - 749 - at once. It could only seat 607. And so the present Kirk, built in 1844 at a cost of £2,217 and insured today for £57,000, came into being during the ministry of the Rev John Ker. Dr Thomas Walker, a former Army surgeon, was convener of the Heritors' Property Committee at the time. The foundation stone, which can be found in the base of the south tower (to the left of the main door) is inscribed, "Founded 10th May, 1844".

Typical of the early Victorian period in some respects the Kirk is unique in having twin spires - on its eastern front. Compared to the old Kirk the present building can seat 900 worshippers. Designed by Mr John Tait, architect, Edinburgh, it was built by Mr William Thorburn, mason, Polmont. The stone used in the building was quarried at Brightons and Maddiston. The maintenance of the Kirk and manse, originally the responsibility of the Heritors, is now, of course, the responsibility of the congregation.

The Kirk itself is distinctive. Looking towards the pulpit the eye beholds two magnificent, stained glass windows. One, to the left, was gifted in 1876 by Walter Scott, Glendronach, Aberdeenshire, son of Alexander Scott of Gilston, "in affectionate remembrance of his youthful days at the Parish School of Polmont". It depicts the Annunciation, and shows, in the upper part, the Angel and the Shepherds with the Star of Bethlehem shining down, while the lower section shows thistles. The window to the right, which depicts an apostolic scene, was gifted "in memory of Johan Theodor Salvesen, born at Mandel, Norway, 8th August 1820, died at Polmont House 23rd December 1865, and of his daughter Fredrikke Marie, born at Grangemouth 20th May 1855, died at Franzensbad, Bohemia, 4th Sep¬tember 1873". A Greek temple and a Roman soldier can be seen in the background. In the upper part the Dove represents the Holy Spirit descending from Heaven, while lilies of the field, symbolising purity, can be seen towards the lower part of the window.

The Kirk bell, which has summoned the congregation to worship for 99 years, was gifted by the Logan family of Clarkston, Avondale, one of whose daughters, Margaret, married the Rev John Ker, whose ministry in the village spanned worship in both the old and new churches. Hung in the south tower, the 15-cwt bell, cast in London, bears the following inscrip¬tion:- "In memory of William Logan of Clarkston in this Parish, and Janet his Wife; gifted to the Parish Church of Polmont by their surviving sons and daughters 1870."

Polmont Old History Book Church in 1750 ©The Kirk furnishings are particularly impressive. The Communion table, subscribed for by the congregation and dedicated in 1928 to commemorate the ministry of the Rev James Buchanan Mackenzie BD, minister of the Kirk from 1893-1926, is made of Austrian oak, and is designed in the early 18th century Scottish Renaissance style. The pipe organ was installed in 1931 when opportunity was also taken to raise the chancel floor. Two chairs, one for either end of the Communion table, were presented in 1950 by the family of the late Captain and Mrs Harvey of Weedingshall and by the Trustees of the Boyd family of Little Kerse.

The choir stalls, together with a bronze plaque, were dedicated in 1951 to commemorate those members of the congregation who made the supreme sacrifice during the 1939-45 war. Five years later a new pulpit was added to commemorate the ministry of the Rev James W M William-son, MA, minister of the Kirk from 1926-1953. Also made of Austrian oak the pulpit has carved pillars enriched with ecclesiastical emblems depicting strength, holiness and beauty. The centre panel bears a coloured carving representing the Agnus Dei resting on the book with the Seven Seals. An old Scottish religious emblem, "Three fishes", is carved on the right-hand panel, while the panel to the left shows a carved dove representing the Holy Spirit. A small oak table, the gift of the late Mr John Walkinshaw, stands to the right of the Communion table. The above furnishings were designed by the late Mr Henry Wilson, for many years a member of the Kirk Session, who took a lifelong interest in the design of church furnishings.

The baptismal font, dedicated on March 1, 1964, was presented by Mrs M Bell of Northpark, Polmont, in memory of her husband and mother. The church plate, or some of it, dates almost as far back as the building of the old church. The six, solid silver cups are the oldest part of the Communion plate. Two were gifted in 1750 by James Murray, Portioner, Redding; two, in 1845, by the Misses Spiers of Polmont Park; and two, in 1890, by William Learmonth of Bowhouse, Grangemouth. Six silver pattens were presented in 1924 by Captain Thomas Harvey of Weedingshall, and three years later an anonymous donor presented individual Communion cups. Some pewter, considered to form part of the Kirk's original Communion plate, lies in bank vaults.

As far as can be ascertained the oldest gravestones in the churchyard are dated 1734, three years after the old Kirk was built. One of them bears the following inscription:

"Altho by Adam's fall man was broght lo
From Jesse's stem the Tree of Life doth grow
To deaths, not death to those in Christ that die
Yea, even when they dissolved in dust to ly,
They rest in hope, the morning draws near
Then all the saints in Glory shall appear."

The churchyard is considered unique by having two Temptation grave - stones within its bounds. The subject is symbolic of early Christian Celtic times, and both stones, carved in strong relief, depict the Tree of Life with fruit and leaves, and a serpent twined around the trunk. Eve stands to one side and is shown taking fruit from the serpent and handing it to Adam. Around it are carved gardeners' tools and a lily bearing the inscription, "Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." One of the stones, dated 1790 on the reverse side, lies against the south boundary wall while the other, which bears the date 1754 on top, lies west of the old church.