The area now known as Tweedsmuir Parish was originally the southern part of Drumelzier Parish and known as South Drumellzier. During the early part of the seventeenth century it was decided that a new parish should be created and it was named Tweedsmoor and came into being in 1644 when a Minister the Rev Alexander Trotter was appointed. A new custom-built Presbyterian Kirk was built but was not completed until 1648. As late as 1684 the Privy Council in Edinburgh still referred to this church as the New Tweedsmoor Kirk - this was in the context of Covenanting activity and the Privy Council obviously thought that this new church was responsible for the troubles in the area.
The church was built on the site that had been occupied by the old religion for centuries. It was obviously not of the highest quality as the records show that in it's early days it was quite often "in a ruinious state" as indeed was the manse. The existing church in Drumelzier remained as the Parish Kirk for that parish. Retaining the church of the Old Religion for use as a Presbyterian Kirk was common practice - St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh became the Parish Kirk for four Edinburgh Parishes and subsequently became the High Kirk. Similarly using a site formally associated with the Old Religion for the construction of a new Presbyterian Kirk was acceptable. A notable example of this is Greyfriars in Edinburgh, as it's name suggests, was built on the site of a former Greyfriars Monastry. Not only that but stones from the ruined convent of the Sisters of Siena, that gave its name to the present Sciennes district of Edinburgh, were used in the early construction of Greyfriars Kirk.
Tweedsmuir Parish Church (1874 - Present)
The current Parish Kirk (Established Church of Scotland) was built in 1874 replacing a previous church built in 1648 that is considered as the first post-reformation church on the site. More about this previous church follows below. The mound on which the church is built was known as Quarter Knowe/Chapel Knowe and has a very complex history and it is certain that there was a religous building/site in pre-reformation times - going back to The Dark Ages.
The current Kirk built in 1874 was designed by John Lessels (1809-1883). Lessels was a Scottish architect who designed and modified buildings in Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders. One of his designs was for the porte-cochère at Stobo Castle in 1849 that has similarities with Tweedsmuir Kirk - particularly the towers of the porte-cochère with the vertical slit windows. The Tweedsmuir building is Norman T plan gabled with tower and broach spire, whinstone with red sandstone dressings and spire.
A feature of the exterior of the building along with the angled tower and slit windows is the ornate arched doorway. This has two sculptured heads, that appear to be from Greek mythology, as guardians on either side of the doorway. The head on the left side of the doorway would be the heavily bearded Zeus - King of the Gods with his sister Hestia, a veiled young woman heavily draped - Godess of the hearth and home on the right of the doorway. Closeups of Hestia and Zeus above.
The doorway is said to have been inspired by a doorway at Dryburgh Abbey - see image on left which is one of several similar doorways at Dryburgh.
However the Crown of Thorns window at Melrose Abbey may also have had some influence, particularly regarding the two heads on either side of the doorway - see image below.
The war memorial in the vestibule was made from an oak tree planted by Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford.
The memorial covers most of the east wall of the vestibule - unfortunately due to the small size of the vestibule one cannot stand far enough back to appreciate far less try and photograph the wall. More information on the Memorial can be found the Tweedsmuir War Memorial page of this site. Apart from the War Memorial the vestibule, at one time, also housed the Community Notice Board - George Burnett in his book Companion to Tweed published in 1938 noted the following when entering Tweedmuir Kirk "I wish a law was made prohibiting the fixture in the porches of these old churches of incongrous notices and warnings. The wart disease of potatoes and fever in swine are serious matters no doubt, but they are scarcely intimations of the holiness within. Tweedsmuir Kirk, with its plain whitewash is still a symbol of the uncomprising spirit of the Covenanters."
Inside are some nice stained glass windows, that are described ,from the religious point of view, in a free leaflet available in the vestibule. The first stained glass window to be installed in the church would be the main window in the east gable, by Ballantyne and Gardiner of Edinburgh 1902 - shown on left. This appropriately depicts Saint Paul with bible and sword in preaching mode as this window is dedicated to the Rev. Professor John Ker D.D. (1819-1886), latterly Professor of Practical Training at the United New College in Edinburgh. Although the window depicts Saint Paul the quotation - Glory to God in the highest and Peace on earth and goodwill to all men is from Luke 2:14 in the King James bible. Professor John Ker was unmarried. There is also a plaque on the gable end of the Bield, where he was born, son of William Ker a dairyman and Janet Ballantine. There is a pair of "Elders Chairs" in the Kirk presented by one of his relatives - see below. Although he was buried in Edinburgh his name is remembered on the family headstone in the Kirkyard. There is also a framed photograph mounted at the rear pew at the right hand access door. Above the Ker window is another smallish central light depicting The Lamb and Flag - contrary to what the free leaflet says the cross on the flag is yellow and not red. In this prominent position above the main window - see image above - a red cross on the flag would have been inappropriate for a Covenanting Kirk as it would seem, to some, to allude to Episcopacy.
The double window in the north gable depicts Jesus and Peter with two other disciples - the inscription Feed My Sheep is from John 21:17. This window is in memory of John Martin and Margaret Hope, long resident in the Parish erected by their son John Martin, Chicago USA. (John Martin died in 1850 and Margaret Hope in 1860 - Margaret was also known as Margaret Loch Hope and was descended from the Hope family of Hawkshaws noted Covenanters. Margaret and her two husbands are buried in the kirkyard.
Another window depicts the parable of the Sower and bears the legend In Loving Memory of my forebearers who worshipped in these uplands , dedicated by Nanette Scott-Collins, Scranton PA, USA. Who these forebearers were was a bit of a puzzle. However, diligent research has revealed (Jan 2015), that the inscription, not the window itself, could be in the wrong church!
A sister window to the Sower is the Reaper dedicated to Thomas Geddes a JP in Edinburgh, born in Tweedsmuir in 1838 and d1919. A further Geddes window is dedicated to the parents of the above Thomas namely John Geddes b1909 d1894 and Mary Hamilton b1812 and d1904. This Geddes window has the inscription Be faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life which is from Revelations 2.10. The window depicts an old man reading a Bible - he has armour below his cloak but with an empty scabbard indicating that he is a retired soldier. In the background is a banner with a red cross indicating that he was probably a Crusader - a Crusading red cross would have been acceptable in a Covenanting Kirk.
I believe that there used to be two rows of "Elders" pews on either side of the Kirk and not one each side as at present. These pews would have been for the Elders on one side and for the choir and perhaps a pew for the family of the Minister on the other side. What leads me to this conclusion is that if these pews had been designed for only one pew on each side then the front of these pews would be vertical like the front pew in the body of the Kirk. However these pews have sloping fronts indicating that these fronts are in fact the sloping backs of another row of pews.
An image of 1952 shows that the pulpit used to be on the right hand side of the church and not on the left as at present - see below. The move of the pulpit may have been coincidental with the removal of the above mentioned pews. The image does seem to show that the pulpit used to be more towards the centre of the Kirk and is obscuring part of the east window. The removal of a pew would allow the pulpit to be sited clear of the window as at present.
Also in the church is the 1662 date stone from the original manse. Also a brass memorial plaque to the Rev. David Welsh D.D. who was the Moderator of the General Assembly in 1843 and who famously walked out with 121 Ministers and 73 Elders to form The Free Church. The plaque however, is silent on the forming of the Free Church and Dr. Welsh's involvment! Tweedsmuir claims Dr David Welsh as one of their own but he in fact was born in 1793 just over the County and Parish boundary at Braefoot Farm, Ericstane. His parents- David and Margaret Welsh - did farm Earlshaugh which is at the south end of Tweedsmuir Parish and they and several members of their family are buried in Tweedsmuir Kirkyard. Dr Welsh himself is buried in St Cuthburts in Edinburgh - he died in 1845. There is a framed photograph at the rear pew at the right hand access door. The following two WW1 memorial plaques dedicated to two cousins both named Tom Welsh can be found inside Tweedsmuir Kirk. More information on this family can be found on The Welsh Family of Tweedsmuir page.
There are four further wall commemorative plaques:-
- With Thanksgiving to God in Commeration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Ordination and Induction of the Reverend William S. Crocket D.D. as Minister of Tweedsmuir 31st July 1894 - 31st July 1944. A Token of Appreciation and Gratitude from his Friends.
- With Thanksgiving to God. To the Dear memory of Mary Ross. For duration of Fifty years been helpful wife of the Reverend W.S. Crocket D.D. Minister of this Parish. Born October 4th 1866, Wedded Ostober 23rd 1894, Passed to Higher Service January 5th 1944. A Truly Great and Gracious Women.
- To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of William and Janet Anderson of Glenveg. Both Life Members of this Church. In which William was an Elder for fifty years 1906-1956. The Electric Lighting in this Church has been installed by their family, September 1957.
- To the Glory of God and in loving rememberance of RACHEL G. ANDERSON, Greenbraes, 1895-1977. (Rachel Gibson Somerville married William Anderson of Glenveg in Edinburgh 30-09-1937)
In the church there are two pairs of wooden "Elders" chairs on the platform.
One pair has the following memorial plaque on both chairs:- Francis Waldo Channon, Violinist, born Plymouth 1898, died Edinburgh 1957. Praise him upon the strings, Ps. 150. Does anyone know who Francis was and why he is remembered in the Tweedsmuir Parish Kirk? Research has yielded some further information and this can be found on the Francis Waldo Channon page.
The second pair of chairs has the following memorial plaque on both chairs :- In memory of Jane Ballantyne Boog Watson, elder daughter of William Nairn and Elizabeth Ker and neice of the Rev. Professor John Ker D.D. presented by their daughter Elizabeth J. Boog Watson, 1957.
The font has the following memorial plaque :- To the memory of Jane Heard Mundell, Lilybank Tweedsmuir, 22nd July 1920.
The Communion Table has the following ingraved into the wood :- For the Kirk Tweedsmuir 1903.
The excellent organ has the following memorial plaque:- To the Glory of God and for the Parish and People of Tweedsmuir. Presented in memory of Lawrence and Lella Tweedie Stodart and their son Oliver (Mac). Dedicated on 1st October 1995.
Surviving relics of the previous church are the church bell dated 1773 and three pairs of communion cups. There is also an armorial plaque outside leaning against the north facing wall - more about this very important plaque below in the section on the first Post-Reformation Kirk.
View of Kirk on left showing the modern single gate and below the previous double access gate that has now been redeployed along with the support pillars to give access to the lower portion of the Kirkyard from the car park. The image below is dated to circa 1933. The stone supporting pillars are of dark red sandstone and hence are not likely to be of the same age as the Kirk. Dark red sandstone was a feature of many of the bridges etc built as part of the Talla Reservoir project and I suspect that the pillars and handsome double gates were of that period ie circa 1900.
First Post-Reformation Kirk (1648-1874)
The etching of 1790 by Francis Grose below showing what is considered as the first Post-Reformation church on the site built in 1648 as mentioned in the preamble to this section above. This shows the Manse near the present day car-park and also shows the ancient cultivation terraces on the mound.
The etching by Grose appeared in the two volume "The Antiquities of Scotland" covering the whole of Scotland published in 1790. There are only 188 engraved plates in the books and only five covering the whole of Tweeddale. Grose states that the view was drawn from back of the Bild Inn. A.D. 1790. From Grose's comments it looks as if he was more interested in the setting of the Kirk than the Kirk itself - Nothing can be more romantic than the hills hereabouts; a group of them here represented, when seen in a particular point of view, with a particular light upon them, require small assistance from fancy to make them resemble a Couchant Lion, or some other large four-footed animal, in a cumbent posture. The original etching by Grose was mis-captioned as Tweedmouth Church - the copy of etching in the Kirk has this original caption. Subsequent copies of the etching were changed to that shown above.
The Kirk was the first custom built Presbyterian Kirk in the Upper Tweed area. As can be seen it was very plain and the style was known as a God Box - being about twice as long as broad on a East/West axis with the pulpit being mid-way along one of the long walls. The entrance door being midway along the other long wall. There would be a large window at the East end for light. There would be no stained glass windows and the interior would be painted austere white .
Later a belfry was added at the West End and also a Loft Gallery for the Tweedie/Tweedie Stodart family. The nineteenth century photograph - from Peebles Through Time by Liz Hanson, see References page - shows the belfry and what must be the dormer window of the Gallery. The photograph also shows a plaque above the main East window which must be the plaque presently leaning against the Kirk wall in the Kirkyard. The plaque was undoubtably recovered by the the Rev. John Dick, related by marriage of his daughter Leonara Littledale Dick to the Tweedie/Stodarts of Oliver. He was the Minister of Tweedsmuir Kirk in 1874 when the old Kirk was pulled down and the new Kirk built on the same site. The plaque would originally have been painted but unfortunately none of this remains so any armorial or motto has long gone and identification impossible. The RCAHMS in their survey of 1959 noted the plaque and suggested that it was most probably a relic of a previous church and because of the above photograph I think that their assumption is correct. Recent photograph of plaque below with Tweedie/Tweedie Stodart lair in the background. One feels that there is unfinished business here and that the Rev. Dick had plans for the plaque. It does seem hard to believe that the plaque has lain outside at this location sice 1874 when the current church was built. One possibility is that the plaque was installed in the foyer of the new new church when it opened. The location being the rear wall that backed onto the Tweedie/Tweedie Stodart pew. The plaque being subsequently removed when the WW1 War Memorial was installed in 1920 and placed outside.
List of the Ministers of Tweedsmuir Parish
- Alexander Trotter 1644-1661 (m. daughter of David Ogill minister of Barra)
- Robert Scott 1662-1674
- Francis Scott 1675-1688 (Episcopalian) (m1. Barbara Dalmahoy, m2. Mary Balfour)
- James Thomson 1688-1698
- William Higgins 1698-1721 (m. unknown - had a daughter Christian Higgins)
- James Welsh 1721-1755 (This was James Welsh of Over Menzion, more on Welsh Family of Tweedsmuir page.)
- Christopher Cairns 1755-1761(m. Margaret Simson)
- Thomas Muchet 1761-1793 (m. Joan Douglas)
- James Gardiner 1793-1831(M. Jean Gray daughter of the Rev Thomas Gray Minister at Broughton)
- George Burns D.D. 1831-1843 (m. Esther Crawfurd Whyte Struthers). Left Tweedsmuir to join the Free Church - became minister of the Free Church in Corstorphine in Edinburgh.
- Archibald Tod 1843-1860 (Batchelor)
- John Dick 1860- 1894 (m. Eleanora Littledale - their daughter Eleanora Littledale Dick married Thomas Tweedie Stodart of Oliver.)
- William S Crockett D.D. 1894-1945. (m. Mary Ross)
- George Gray 1945-1959.
- George Bulloch 1959-1980. (In 1960 Tweedsmuir Parish combined with Stobo & Drumelzier Parishes and George Bulloch the Minister of Stobo & Drumelzier became the Minster for the combined three Parishes. In 1977 the three Parishes combined with Broughton/Glenholm/Kilbucho and Skirling to form the Parishes of Upper Tweed.)
- John D Rennie 1980-1996 Minister of Parishes of Upper Tweed.
- Rachel Dobie 1998-2007
- Robert Milne 2008-Present.