Kilbarchan Old Parish Church Building

Kilbarchan Old Parish Church Building

Kilbarchan Old Parish Church,

The old Kilbarchan Parish Church building, with its long history and its unique appearance, is of great significance in the heritage of the village. There has been a church building on the site since, and probably before, the late middle-ages when in 1401 Thomas Crawford of Auchinames built a small chapel, dedicated to St. Catherine, in the kirk yard. In the 12th century Kilbarchan Parish Church had come under the jurisdiction of Diocese of Glasgow and later of Paisley Abbey. After the Reformation things changed and in 1590 the church became part of the newly formed Presbytery of Paisley. In the 17th century the Cuninghames of Craigends, as Patrons of the church, had a private aisle and burial place within the building.

By 1724 the church building was in a sad state of repair. The heritors appointed James Baird, a mason from Govan, to rebuild the church. Parishioners assisted in the work. The main body of the church was demolished, leaving only the Cunninghame Aisle, with its crow-step gable upstanding to be incorporated in the new building.  A small bell tower was erected on the west gable and a to-fall was built on the south wall as a burial place for the Houstons of Johnstone Castle.  Eight years later George Houston sold his estate to James Milliken and the to-fall became the burial place of the Milliken family and was thereafter known as the Milliken Aisle. The interior of the church had lofts or balconies at the east and west gables.

In 1792 a separate one storey session house was built in the churchyard.  Apart from the building of an additional storey on the Milliken Aisle, little change was made to the main church building before 1858 when architect, Alexander Kirkland, was appointed to make alterations to the building. The main part of the church was extended on the north by twelve feet and the tower on the north-east corner of the building was added. This increased the seating capacity of around 400 in Baird’s original building to 550.  Robert MacKenzie, the minister from (1895-1934) described the building as presenting ‘an artistic though somewhat quaint and unusual appearance’. It is now a B-listed building.

Since 1858 only minor functional extensions have been added to the exterior of the building which has served as the Church Hall since the new church was built in 1901. In 2018 both church buildings were sold by the Church of Scotland. The 1901 church will be made into flats, but the future of the 1724 old Kilbarchan Parish Church building has not yet been decided. Hopefully, it too will be preserved in some form and continue as an iconic focal point in the village.

© 2019 Helen Calcluth