1.3.1a Tweedsmuir First Parish Kirk Founded in 1644 Completed in 1648.

The Kirk was founded in 1644 as a Covenanting Kirk.  A Minister the Rev. Alexander Trotter was appointed to the Parish "fully equipped with all parochial necessaries."(1)  However the Kirk was not completed until 1648.   One must presume that the Mininster was provided with a manse ie an existing building at which he conducted services, weddings etc until 1648?  The birth and marriage records for the Parish commence in 1644 with deaths the following year. There is only one other Parish in Peeblesshire that has earlier vital records dates than Tweedsmuir and that is Innerleither that has some dates in 1643.(2)  The first birth recorded in Tweedsmuir is that of Jannet daughter of Adam Bell on 14-01-1644.   The first marriage was between Marion Laidley and William Thomson on 08-10-1644.   The first death recorded was that of John Scott 25-02-1645 ie he was buried while the Kirk was being built.   However, the site would have been a burial ground for the area for centuries, possibly for millennia.  It should be noted that the year 1645 was the year of the great plague - see Section 20 Great Plague.  There were gaps in the Kirk Session records as well as the birth/death/marriage records during the Killing Time when there was the planted Espicopalian minister, Francis Scott.  More about this time on page 9 Covenanters in Upper Tweed.

The etching of 1790 of the Kirk by Francis Grose(3) below also shows what must be the Manse near the present day car-park.  The Rev. Gray, Minister of Tweedsmuir writing in the Third Statistical Account stated "The original tiny manse became incorporated in the present glebe buildings, on one stone of which is carved the date of 1662, when no doubt some alterations were made for its second occupant."(10) Image on left.

The glebe buildings that were at the location of the present day car park were demolished in 1957 and it must have been at this time that the date stone was recovered and placed in the Kirk. (Although the Third Statistical Account was published in 1964 - the entry for Tweedsmuir by the Rev, Gray was written in 1951 - hence the Rev. Gray would have seen the date stone in situ on the glebe building and was probably the one responsible for the recovery of the stone and placement in the Kirk.) 

The etching also shows the artificial terraces around the mound.   The terraces were noted by the RCAHMS in their survey of 1958(4) and suggested that they could be cultivation terraces and that they had been disturbed by the digging of graves.  On the etching the terraces look well defined ie they do not look ancient. Subsequently in the mid nineteenth century, as was the fashion, trees were planted, see page 23 Formal Walled Gardens, that would again disturb the terraces to give what we have now. The terraces are not on the RCAHMS Canmore archive.

The etching by Grose appeared in the two volume "The Antiquities of Scotland" covering the whole of Scotland published in 1797.  There are only 188 engraved plates in the books  and only five covering the whole of Tweeddale.  Grose states that the view was drawn from back of the Bild Inn. A.D. 1797.  From Grose's comments it looks as if he was more interested in the setting of the Kirk than the Kirk itself - Nothing can be more romantic than the hills hereabouts; a group of them here represented, when seen in a particular point of view, with a particular light upon them, require small assistance from fancy to make them resemble a Couchant Lion, or some other large four-footed animal, in a cumbent posture.   The original etching by Grose was mis-captioned as Tweedmouth Church.   Subsequent copies of the etching were changed to that shown above.

The Kirk was the first custom built Presbyterian Kirk in the Upper Tweed area.   As can be seen it was very plain and the style was known as a God Box - being about twice as long as broad on an East/West axis with the pulpit being mid-way along one of the long walls - this location was for acoustic reasons.   The entrance door being midway along the other long wall.  There would be a large window at the East end to provide light.  There would not have been an organ or any stained glass windows and the interior would be painted austere white.


W e do know a little about the interior in its later years from the entry by the Rev. George Burns in the 1834 Statistical Account(5) that stated "It accomodates 160 individuals, and about 30 free sittings are afforded by the communion seats, which,however,have lately been removed to make way for a stove during the severer months in winter; but in summer, when required for the greater attendance at that time, they are replaced."  The following was noted by Mary Tweedie-Stodart(6), grand-daughter of the Rev. John Dick, who came to Tweedsmuir in 1860. "it was a white washed barn-like building with a small belfry at one end.  Inside and up one side were the old fashioned square pews, and at one end was a small gallery belonging to Oliver.    There was a stove in the middle of the church with a long chimney through the roof, and it was often red-hot.   Many of the shepherds took their dogs to church, and these occasionally fought around the stove, causing a great smell of singeing." 



The communion seats mentioned by George Burns in 1834 and the old fashioned square pews mentioned by Mary Tweedie Stodart in c1860 are presumably the same items of furniture.  They were probably of the style shown on the left in the remarkable Durisdeer Parish Church showing square pew on left with normal pews on right.   Durisdeer is in Dumfriesshire near Drumlanrig Castle.





In the nineteenth century photograph - from Peebles Through Time by Liz Hanson,(7)- shows the belfry and what must be the dormer window of the Gallery.  The Kirk looks in a remarkably good condition.   This is confirmed in the 1855 entry in the OS Name Book that states "Small plain building situated on a gentle eminence called the knowe.  It is the Parish Church and was built in the year 1648.  It is in very good repair, the average attendance is 120 of whom 100 are communicants.   The Rev. Archibald Tod is the Officiating Minister"(8)   If it was in very good repair in 1855 why did it have to be replaced nineteen years later in 1874?

I think that the dormer window of the Oliver gallery was in fact originally an entrance door accessed by an outside stair. 

The plaque shown above the east window of the Kirk shown above is covered on the Armorial Plaque page.

The Kirk was noted by the RCAHMS in their survy.(9)

More Photographs in the Tweedsmuir Kirk Picture Gallery

List of Ministers.

Alexander Trotter 1644-1661 (m. daughter of David Ogill minister of Barra)

Robert Scott 1662-1674

Francis Scott 1675-1688 (Episcopalian), son of the above Robert Scott, (m1. Barbara Dalmahoy, m2. Mary Balfour) (Minister during the Covenanting era- The Killing Time.)

James Thomson 1688-1698 (Ordained at the Crook Inn)

William Higgins 1698-1721 (m. unknown - had a daughter Christian Higgins)

James Welsh 1721-1755 (This was James Welsh of Over Menzion, more on Welsh Family of Tweedsmuir page.) (Batchelor).

Christopher Cairns 1755-1761(m. Margaret Simson)

Thomas Muchet 1761-1793 (m. Joan Douglas)

James Gardiner 1793-1831(M. Jean Gray daughter of the Rev Thomas Gray Minister at Broughton)

George Burns D.D. 1831-1843 (m. Esther Crawfurd Whyte Struthers).  Left Tweedsmuir to join the Free Church - became minister of the Free Church in Corstorphine in Edinburgh.

Archibald Tod 1843-1860 (Batchelor)

John Dick 1860- 1894 (m. Eleanora Littledale - their daughter Eleanora Littledale Dick married Thomas Tweedie Stodart of Oliver.)


1)  Renwick, Robert; Historical Notes on Peeblesshire Localities, Watson & Smyth, Peebles, 1897. p321.

2)  Scott, Sheila, Compiler; Monumental Inscriptions for Peeblesshire, Scottish Genealogy Society, Edinburgh, 1993. p27 and p118.

3)  Grose, Francis; The Antiquities of Scotland, Hooper & Wigstead, London 1797. Vol 2 p224.

4)  Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland; Inventory for Peeblesshire No 387, Edinburgh, 1967. Vol 1 pp 179-180.

5)  Burns, George, Rev;  New Statistical Account for Scotland, 1834 - Parish of Tweedsmuir. p68. 

6) Scott, Sheila; Tales of Tweedsmuir, Glimpses of an Upland Parish in the Past, Biggar, 1995. p6.

7) Hanson, Liz; Peebles Through Time, Amberley, Stroud, 2011. p92.

8) Ordnance Survey Name Book, Peeblesshire, Tweedsmuir, HMSO, 1855.  Vol 44 p19.

9) Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland; Inventory for Peeblesshire No 488, Edinburgh, 1967. Vol 2 pp216-217. Canmore ID 49802 and ID99064 for Kirk. 

10) Gray, G. J. W, Rev.; Third Statistical Account of Scotland, County of Peebles, Collins, Glasgow, 1964. p191.


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