Old Parish Church of Peebles

(Peebles Old Parish Church)

Old Parish Church of Peebles
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Old Parish Church of Peebles

A massive Gothic edifice, its size exaggerated by its dramatic position on Castle Hill adjacent to the Tweed Bridge, the Old Parish Church of Peebles dominates the western end of the town's High Street. It was the work of Paisley-born architect William Young (1843 - 1900) and cost £9500. The entrance lies at the top of a broad flight of steps, with a large bell-tower off-centre to the left of the facade. This tower also contains a clock and is capped with a crown, not unlike that of St. Giles Kirk in Edinburgh. The size of the church can best be appreciated from the River Tweed which flows immediately to the south.

The church was dedicated on 29th March 1887 and is now B-listed. This was the fifth parish church in Peebles and substantial ruins of two of its predecessors remain; namely St. Andrew's Old Parish Church (1195 - 1549) and the Cross Kirk (1261 - 1783, serving as the parish church from 1560). A new church opened on the site of the present church in 1784 and this served the parish until its closure and demolition in 1885.

The pleasant interior is formed of buff sandstone ashlar and rich oak. Stained glass is by Glasgow-born Daniel Cottier (1837-91), who influenced Tiffany in New York. It features scenes from the life of Christ, the saints, prophets and virtues, and includes a small rose window above the chancel arch. Hanging high above the nave are the flags of the Peeblesshire Local Militia, which was raised in 1808 to protect against the threat of invasion by Napoleon but disbanded in 1816. An eagle lectern was gifted in 1897 to commemorate the Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.

Music forms an important backdrop to worship; the church has its own Musical Director and active choir. The organ is a French instrument built by Cavaillé-Coll in 1887. It was rebuilt and reduced from three manuals to two by Willis of London in 1937 and then rebuilt for a second time in 1972 by Rushworth & Dreaper of Liverpool. An supplementary choir organ was installed in 1989 by R.C. Goldsmith Ltd. which is operated by a new third manual. Further work in 2002 brought tonal improvements and two new stops were added in memory of Iain Cruickshanks, who served as organist and choir-master.

The church is also the base for an enthusiastic group of bell-ringers. The thirteen bells are unusual. Hung in 1939-40, although not rung for the first time until the end of World War II, they do not swing but are instead struck by hammers which are initiated by a single bell-ringer using a keyboard. They were donated by Dr. Alfred Ernest Maylard in memory of his wife. Maylard was a noted surgeon in the Victoria Infirmary (Glasgow), author of medical books and a founding member of the Scottish Mountaineering Club. He died in Peebles in 1947.

Behind the Church, is a Church Centre, which opened in 1982. This comprises two halls; the MacFarlane Hall seating 220 people, and a smaller hall which can seat 50. This facility is used by a range of community groups.

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