Falkirk church has played important role in our history

The Scottish Episcopal Christ Church in Falkirk's Kerse Lane celebrates its 150th anniversary this weekend. It was built by renowned architect Robert Rowand Anderson
The Scottish Episcopal Christ Church in Falkirk's Kerse Lane celebrates its 150th anniversary this weekend. It was built by renowned architect Robert Rowand Anderson

Regular readers of this column will be fed up with me banging on about the beautiful buildings our forefathers have left us to use and enjoy.

I make no apologies for returning to the topic again because this week’s subject involves what is, in my opinion at least, the most beautiful church building in the district. There is plenty of competition – take Stenhouse and Carron for example, or Larbert Old or the modern St Francis in Hope Street.

However, for the appearance, my choice is the Scottish Episcopal Christ Church in Kerse Lane and the 150th anniversary of the building’s opening – which marked the return of the Episcopal tradition to Falkirk after many decades absence – will be celebrated this weekend.

The worst thing you can say to a member of the Scottish Episcopal Church is, “Ah yes, you are in the English Church are you not?”. Get ready to duck if you do. For despite the obvious connection with the Anglican Communion, Episcopalians north of the border look back to periods in the 17th century when the Church of Scotland was strongly Episcopal.

After 1688 things were difficult, especially since most Episcopalians 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 growing number of English workers at Carron Company asked for services that things began to change. Over in Dunmore the aristocratic Murray family had had its own Episcopal chaplains for some years and they began to visit Carron and later Bainsford to serve the people there.

The lovely - and lost - church of St Andrew at Dunmore opened in 1850 and over the next few years the incumbent there led a mission in Falkirk using the hall behind Wilson’s Buildings in the High Street. By the early 1860s, led by Rev W Cave-Browne from Dunmore, the Falkirk Episcopalians raised the £1350 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 man chosen to design the new building was Robert Rowand Anderson, then at the start of a career that would see him become one of Scotland’s greatest-ever architects. This was his first church design 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. The south transept, completed in 1902, contains the Lady Chapel with a most beautiful painted wooden altar as a War Memorial.

The church was officially consecrated 150 years ago on April 13, 1864, by the Right Reverend F B Morrell, Bishop Coadjutor of Edinburgh, and in all the years since the congregation of Christ Church has played an important role in the life of the town and district and will surely continue to do so in the years ahead.