Stonefield Parish Church

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Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland

Old Blantyre Churches

Stonefield Parish Church

Stonefield Parish ChurchThe foundation stone of the new Church, originally known as the ‘Chapel of Ease’, was laid in May 1878 by the Rev. Stewart Wright of Blantyre Old Parish Church and Provost John Clark Forrest. It was the Provost who donated the land between Elm Street and Church Street where the Church was built. It was completed in 1880.

The Church cost £5,000 to build (in excess of £560,000 in today’s money) and seated 900 people.

Sadly, the Church was destroyed by fire on 3rd September 1979 and demolished in 1980. The new St. Andrew’s Church was built on the site.

In 1902 the bell from Blantyre Mill which used to summon David Livingstone to work, was presented to Stonefield Parish Church as a coronation gift. It continued to be used as the church bell until it was given in 1922 to Low Blantyre Public School. It is now back in the Livingstone Centre.

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stonefield parish church with spireThe present St Andrew’s Parish Church stands on the site of the former Stonefield Parish. By now, ‘low Blantyre’ was growing due to the cotton mills although this tailed off in the 1870s but was superseded by the discovery of coal deposits and the opening of six collieries bringing an income for thousands.

But there was no ‘Church of Scotland’ presence in Low Blantyre, only the Free Church. In 1880, a new 900 seat church (the largest in Blantyre) was opened. The first minister was Rev. Thomas Pryde. It was not, however, opened as a separate parish church, but was rather termed a ‘chapel of ease’ under the wings of Blantyre Parish Church (at High Blantyre). Ten years later it was raised to parish church status and became a separate parish from High Blantyre. The Established Church now had two churches as did the Free Church.

During the first half of the 20th century, Low Blantyre continued to prosper with the many side industries springing up from coal mining. Stonefield Church itself was quite prosperous and well attended by local GPs, businessmen and shopkeepers. The church had strong links with the Cooperative Society. It did not have halls next to it as every other church did. It used halls a short walk away. The Church ran two Sunday Schools: a morning one for the congregation’s children and an afternoon one mainly for miner’s children.

At around the same time Livingstone Memorial Church was also built (1882) and in 1900 became a part of the United Free Church and then in 1929 became a part of the Church of Scotland. A little earlier in 1877 a priest took up residence in Blantyre (the first since 1567!) and after the purchase of land on Glasgow Road a church was erected in 1878. Plans were drawn for a new larger building about twenty years later and the current St Joseph’s was opened in 1905.

In 1949 the fine 3 manual pipe organ from Hamilton Town Hall was dedicated in its new residence having been rebuilt by H. Hilsdon Ltd.In 1949 the fine 3 manual pipe organ from Hamilton Town Hall was dedicated in its new residence having been rebuilt by H. Hilsdon Ltd. Stonefield Church could boast of having ‘the finest organ in Lanarkshire’. Thus it could also attract some of the finest organists. The most famous was ‘Hitler’s pianist’. The story of how Walter Hambock left Germany and arrived in Scotland is told by Jack Webster in an article in ‘The Herald’ of 23rd December 1996. He was a professor of music and set up business in Strichen, Aberdeenshire. Mr. Hambock became organist of Stonefield Church from 1968-1970.

By the 1960’s the last of the coal mines on which Blantyre’s prosperity and expansion relied closed down. This inevitably resulted in a high level of unemployment which had a ‘ripple effect’ on many other businesses in the community.

Church membership at Stonefield Parish Church never exceeded 600 at its height. This was maintained throughout the sixties, but by the mid-seventies was beginning to show decline.

In 1965, Stonefield Parish Church was united with the Burleigh Memorial Church to become ‘Stonefield Burleigh Memorial Parish Church’. A second union took place in 1978 when the Anderson Church joined the union. At that time the church was renamed St Andrew’s Parish Church (Stonefield Burleigh Memorial Anderson Parish Church would have been quite a mouthful!).

In 1976, the Rev James Gregory became the Minister first of the linked charges then of the united congregation.

Stonefield Church Fire 1979On 3rd September 1979, however, Stonefield Parish Church suffered the fate of all the other church buildings and was accidentally set on fire. The roof was being restored at the time when a workman left his blowtorch on while he went for his lunch. The building was just 9 months away from its centenary!

 Stonefield Church Fire 1979 At first it was thought that repair would be possible with a new roof, but soon it was discovered that the whole remaining church would need to be demolished, partly as a result of weaknesses in the walls from the land disturbance caused by mining (the reason why the spire had been removed years earlier). Despite losing their church building, the congregation remained resilient. During the next 3 years they met in the Livingstone Memorial Church each Sunday afternoon.

Extracted from www.standrewsblantyre.com

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Margaret.
When we Travel west from Murray’s Raw’s on the Main Street, the next block was taken up by the Stonefield Church and the Church Manse, they were built in the 1880’s and of course the Street running off from the Main Street was called Church Street.

One of the features of the Church was its steeple, and tower, housing a large bell, which when rung could be heard throughout most of Blantyre. Another feature was the large size masonry stone wall with black iron railings with various gate openings at front and side, the front gates being the most impressive. The church burned down in 1979.

All of these iron railings and all iron railings without exception in the whole of Blantyre, and anything else with iron in it’s content was cut down, early 1940’s, and used in the war effort. This was very necessary at the time but not a pleasant sight to see after it was done, there was a nakedness throughout the whole village and for many many years after the war ended and even up to the present day most of the iron work has never has been replaced. Most of the Population of Blantyre today has no memory of this event and accepts it as is, but these iron railings throughout Blantyre lent a slight Victorian tinge of privacy to the various buildings and surroundings. If you are walking through Blantyre and are passing a wall take a look and you will most likely see small pieces of iron embedded in the masonry. You can also see a fair amount of the iron railings in the pictures in the ‘OLD BLANTYRE’ book.

This is part of a conversation between Thomas Dunsmuir Hartman in Chicago (known as TDH or Drapadew) and Margaret in Queensland Australia on TalkingScot.

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Your Social Comments:

Sheena Thomson: I was married in this church in 1969.

Jane Paterson: Our friends were married there also x

Sandra Goodall: It was a beautiful church such a shame about the fire. I went to Stonefield and St Andrews and a church is about the people so its still a beautiful church.

Helen Henderson Mclaughlin: I was married there a few months before the fire and it was beautiful inside and out.

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Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland

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