A Church With History

A Church With History

As part of our weekly newsletter, Ken Rae (our Church Historian) has been working over the last few years to document more about the history of the Old Kirk.
To start things off, heres a look at our origins and current building.

How often have you sat in the sanctuary of the Old Kirk and looked around you at the walls, the ceiling, the windows, etc and given some thought as to how did this building and congregation get here?

By 1643 a church had been erected in Bo’ness, within the parish of Kinneil and in 1649 the parish of Bo’ness was disjoined (separated) from the parish of Kinneil by Act of Parliament. In 1669 the two parishes were re-united as a parish with the name of Bo’ness Parish. The congregation took the name Bo’ness Old Parish Church in 1929 following the union of the United Free Church and the Church of Scotland.

The present church was built in 1886-8, being opened for worship on 14th Oct. of the latter year. It consists of a nave with aisles, transepts, chancel, and a tower at the north end, and contains a Dutch pulpit said to have been a gift from Dutch sailors, and a ship in the gallery of the west transept, both transferred from the old church.

It is a large Gothic church with Normandy details designed by Shiells and Thomson, architects, George Street, Edinburgh.  Late in 1877 or early in 1878, Robert Thorton Shiells entered into a partnership with James M Thomson.  It would seem that due to the style of Shiells previous work he remained the principal designer until 1984 when the partnership was dissolved as a result of Shiells bankruptcy.  Robert Shiells was involved in the design of at least 15 churches and various significant buildings throughout Scotland.  The Shiells and Thomson partnership won a competition to design the Old Kirk ( further research to determine the nature of the competition)

It is constructed of snecked, squared rubble with ashlar dressings, using local stone. The building is cruciform in plan with additional stair projections flanking the tower. A four bay nave with aisles has a four stage tower with a faceted spire standing at its north end, overlooking the Forth Estuary.

Above the door of the tower is a sculpture of the burning bush, and a carving of the Duke of Hamilton’s coat-of-arms, in gratitude of his subscription. The 175ft tall tower dominates the coastline. The galleried interior consists of three lofts – the Laird’s Loft under the tower; the Mariners’ in the west transept; and the Miners’ in the east.

The timber roof springs from corbelled shafts, supported on alternating round and octagonal columns by pointed arches about 18ft high. The main couples being supported by carved capitals. The chancel arch facing the congregation is 35ft tall with fine carving at the springs and echoes the large traceried window in the gable.

Just think of the number of historic events both good and bad this building and its congregation have faced throughout the timespan since the laying of the foundation stone

Old Kirk