Falkirk buildings that found salvation

Camelon's  St Johns Church is one of the buildings at risk in the Falkirk area
Camelon's St Johns Church is one of the buildings at risk in the Falkirk area
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While the future of 27 historic buildings throughout Falkirk hangs in the balance, dozens have been given a new lease of life.

As we reported in last week’s feature, the Buildings at Risk Register lists all the listed buildings, monuments or those in conservation areas that are empty and at risk of being lost.

Many are owned by Historic Scotland, the council, church groups or the NHS and are surplus to requirement so left unoccupied and at risk to anti-social behaviour or arson.

However, there are success stories locally with churches in particular being used for new purposes.

Alex Adamson, project manager at Buildings at Risk Register Scotland, said they have counted 101 change of uses for churches throughout the country.

Alex, originally from Grangemouth, said: “Thanks to culture shifts, in Scotland we need far fewer churches than we did a century ago.

“We often see redundant churches being turned into flats or pubs or shops - there are so many uses.

“In Falkirk there are some good examples of this.

“Our traditional buildings are usually very well built and people like living in homes with character. It can be well worth developers time to take on these projects.

“They are well worth preserving for future generations. Churches are iconic buildings and part of our heritage.”

One notable success story can be found in the heart of Falkirk.

In 1986, St Modan’s Church in Falkirk’s Cochrane Street was left empty when the congregation merged with Falkirk Old Parish Church in the town centre.

St Modan’s had been opened in December 1915 and was designed by one of Scotland’s greatest church architects Dr Peter McGregor Chalmers.

Built in the Romanesque style, it is regarded as a very fine example of his work built with honey coloured sandstone from Brightons quarry.

The building was developed into flats in the late 1990s and local historian Ian Scott agrees they were refurbished sympathetically.

“When a developer takes on a building of importance, there is always a worry that some of the original features and character will be lost but I’m really happy with the way it turned out.”

He added: “We need to do all we can to keep churches from being demolished – they are massively important parts of local history. In fact, Falkirk get’s it’s very name thanks to a church with Faw meaning speckled and Kirk meaning church.”

In Grangemouth, Charing Cross Church, which opened 100 years ago, has been re-developed as a Wetherspoons pub.

The bar has kept many of the original features, while the near-by Grange Church has also been developed into flats.

Other local changes include Denny-loanhead Church and in Maddiston Cairneymount Church, which have been converted into housing, while Dundas Church, also in Grangemouth, is now a funeral home.

Geoff Bailey, Falkirk Council’s archaeologist and keeper of local history, agrees that churches seem to be saved from demolition more than other structures.

He said: “Falkirk has a pretty appalling record at saving historical buildings from the bulldozers but churches are the exception.

“We need to preserve our heritage buildings to retain the character and history of the town. “Many new builds look the exact same the world over, it’s the old buildings that make a place unique and tell the history of the town.

“For example, Charing Cross Church in Grangemouth, which is now a pub, was built in a Nordic Style. This is typical of a port town and recognises the strong links with Norway through the shipping channels.

“The fact that many of Falkirk’s buildings are still standing hundreds of years after they were built is remarkable. Things were just built to last back then and we must do all we can to preserve them.

“The new builds we are throwing up today will certainly not stand the test of time and so if we don’t take care of the old buildings there will be no historical features left for the future generations.

“These buildings tell the story of Falkirk and if they have to change use or be redeveloped to make sure they still stand then that is fine by me.”