Ian Scott: Special birthday celebrates 157 years at Falkirk's Christ Church

Regular readers of this column will be used to me going on about all the handsome buildings our forefathers have bequeathed to us – buildings like the beautiful Christ Church in Kerse Lane which opened for worship 157 years ago.

Thursday, 30th September 2021, 12:30 pm
Christ Church in Kerse Lane which opened for worship 157 years ago.
Christ Church in Kerse Lane which opened for worship 157 years ago.

This weekend the congregation are marking the completion of an important restoration project which should ensure that the building will be safe and secure from leaks, drips and damp inside and out for another century or more.

The building has a very interesting history as does the Scottish Episcopal Church itself.

Despite the connection with the Anglican Communion in England, Episcopalians north of the border look back to the 17th century when the Church of Scotland was strongly Episcopal and where the struggles with Presbyterianism lasted until 1688.

Christ Church chancel and apse.

After that things were difficult especially since many adherents supported the Jacobites and lost out after the defeat of Prince Charlie at Culloden.

In Falkirk the support given by the Livingstons of Callendar House came to an end and it was not until a number of English workers at Carron Company asked for service that things began to change.

Meantime in Dunmore the Murray family had their own Episcopal chaplains and they began to visit Carron and Bainsford to serve the people there.

The lovely (and lost) church of St Andrew at Dunmore opened in 1850 and the vicar led a mission in Falkirk using Wilson’s Buildings in the High Street.

By the early 1860s the Falkirk congregation had raised the £1,350 needed to build a church of their own on land gifted by William Forbes III of Callendar whose family continued to support the church in the years that followed.

The designer of the new building was the celebrated Robert Rowand Anderson, then at the start of his long career.

This was his first church and some say his greatest.

Using the Norman style with nave, chancel and semi-circular apse surmounted by a bellcote at the east end and ceramic Celtic cross at the west, Anderson added red sandstone banding to the natural material to create a beautiful effect.

Inside, the walls are lined with glazed brickwork in pale browns and reds and later features like the wrought iron screen, pulpit and cross, the brass eagle lectern and some very attractive stained glass, help to create a rich, warm and welcoming atmosphere.

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The south transept, planned from the beginning but not completed until 1902, contains the Lady Chapel with a most beautiful painted wooden altar as the congregation’s War Memorial.Over the decades the cast iron rainwater pipes and guttering suffered badly and after years of temporary repairs the congregation decided that if their beautiful sanctuary was to survive then major surgery was required.

Given the status of the building PVC was clearly not an option so cast iron was essential.

At one time the congregation would have been spoiled for choice in Falkirk district but not nowadays.

The straight down-pipes and gutters were easy enough to locate but the semi-circular apse was a challenge.

Fortunately our last surviving foundry, Ballantines in Bo’ness, solved the problem.

This Sunday, October 3, the congregation will hold a special service at 10am to mark the 157th birthday of the church and the successful completion of the project.

In the afternoon the church will be open from 2-4pm to welcome members of the public who would like to see the inside of this beautiful place.

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